Foolishly Optimistic

Sometimes when I talk to others I feel a bit foolish for being so optimistic – the thing is that I believe in libraries and librarians and always think that that others feel the same way I do. In the latest Library 2.0 Gang podcast, I deemed 2009 as the year of open. I honestly believed that we were finally on the right track in the library world. I had spoken to hundreds of librarians this year about open source and open data and always got positive responses. I have read online about all of the great open endeavors libraries were participating in. But today I feel less optimistic – like maybe I have been viewing these great steps with blinders on. This from Ed Summers on lcsh.info:

On December 18th I was asked to shut off lcsh.info by the Library of Congress. As an LC employee I really did not have much choice other than to comply.

Back in May I added this resource to my bookmarks and thought it was a pretty neat tool. Now, it’s gone and I’m not the only one who finds this a bit disturbing. Tim Spalding (who has been speaking out for the freedom of information in libraries for ages now) says:

The time has come to get serious. The library world is headed in the wrong direction. It’s wrong for patrons—and taxpayers. And it’s wrong for libraries.

And Richard Wallis states:

LOC should have listened to Ed in the first place and taken the high ground in leading the work in to creating a semantic web of data with their valuable publicly available data. At the end of his post Ed hints that LC is still considering running a service like lcsh.info at loc.gov, but it’s not there yet. Why-o-why did they not learn from his work and ride the wave of introducing their own service based on his great initiative. Instead they present to the world a short-termist not-invented-here attitude, that reminds me of other well established leviathans of the world of library metadata.

Today I feel like I did a few years back – negative and downtrodden – like no matter how hard I try or believe, libraries just aren’t going to change … the simple idea of sharing is just too hard to grasp. Maybe I’m being over-dramatic … but it’s these kinds of things that find a way to push all of the great strides we’ve made this year (Howard County going open source, SOPAC2, etc) out of my head and makes me depressed.

This reminds me of a spat my sister and I had ages ago. When my sister was younger we had very different tastes in music. I was listening to Indigo Girls in the car one day and my sister, hearing “The hardest to learn was the least complicated” said to me – “That makes no sense!” And I said, “It makes total sense.” Today, we see that the library world is having an awfully hard time learning something very very simple.

4 comments

  1. Libraries have been going in the wrong direction for years, privatising far too much information. It’s just accelerating, spreading to the core of the public sector (like LoC) and even starting to affect the common sector (like OCLC).

  2. Hey Nicole, hang in there. I just listened to that Library 2.0 gang podcast yesterday morning on the treadmill and was so glad to hear your voice after reading you for years. Don’t give up the fight, but I feel your pain!

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