Public Libraries Matter: And We’re Already Trying to Do More

Last week, David Vinjamuri posted Part II of his two-part series on public libraries. I had some serious criticisms of Part I, so I’m happy to see that he goes some way to redeeming himself this time around.

Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More by David Vinjamuri

His essay hits several nails squarely on the head, most especially his vision of libraries as community spaces and central forces in the ecosystem of reading. And he’s correct that libraries must establish larger cooperative communities between disparate systems.

This is not to say, though, that he gets everything right in Part II.
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Data Handling in Electronic Systems – Inspiration for a Paradigm Reassessment

At my library, we’re currently working on a project in conjunction with several other regional knowledge institutions to put online our full collection of historical documents regarding the Civil War in Missouri and Kansas. One piece of functionality we’re creating is a way to visually represent the relationships between people, places, and things within this pool of data. These visualizations are based on a relationship database that we constructed, using a basic semantic structure: “Object A [relationship] Object B” and we can verify this relationship with “Document X”. Thus, for example:

Iskabibble Jones is married to Bridgette Jones and we know this because of information contained in Bridgette’s letter dated …

Only, instead of statements, we represent this all graphically with links to images and documents. It’s a pretty nifty function!

The way we’re building the database for this relationship visualization tool is representative of how online data gets handled in general. It illustrates the fundamental paradigm that has governed computer development from the beginning – and, indeed, the development of mechanized data handling even before the advent of computers.
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Collection Development in a Digital Age

One of my current obsessions is the changing nature of our relationship to information. I keep coming back to this topic. We’re currently witnessing the greatest change in how we use and value information since the advent of printing – and maybe even since the invention of writing.

(Yes, I’m being overly dramatic about it but I actually do believe this.)

I’m curious to see how collection development for libraries evolves in the Digital Information Age. Not just in terms of format and access changes, but more essentially – how will the Digital Information Age affect the techniques we use to determine what our patrons need in the first place?
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Misquoted Darwin

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”—Charles Darwin

A friend of mine recently posted this quotation on Facebook. I commented that this is one thing that too many people get wrong about Darwin’s theory—too many people assume that survival of the fittest means survival of the strongest. But that’s not necessarily the case.

I was all set to write a blog about all the other commonly held misunderstandings that people have about the Theory of Evolution. First, though, I wanted to verify the quotation my friend had posted.

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Context Matters!

In library school, we spent a lot of time discussing the nature of data and information, debating the differences and relationships between them. This may seem frivolous to some, but remember that the essence of librarianship is to curate and provide access to quality information in a community. While there are many competing definitions of information, most people are willing to accept some version of this:

Information is data put into context.

It’s the “put into context” part that’s important here – raw data doesn’t really tell us anything in-and-of itself; it must be placed into meaningful context in order to be useful.

Context is everything.
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Education & the Importance of Open Discussion

I want to share this article. Given the irreducible importance of the role that libraries play in education and the promotion of open discussion in our society, I think the points elucidated here apply to us, as well.

Charles Negy, Professor, Says Students Showed ‘Religious Arrogance And Bigotry’ In A Letter Later Posted On Reddit (The Huffington Post, posted online on August 16, 2012)

While I may not be entirely comfortable with the professor’s focus on Christians and intolerance (I know many, many Christians who despise intolerance and close-mindedness; likewise, I know many close-minded and intolerant people from other religions) I deeply appreciate what he has to say about the absolute importance of open debate and critical thought.
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