Avatarred and feathered


I used to joke a couple jobs back that I loved running the corporate Amazon account. A clash of great people I valued most highly. And when you mash them up at the Amazon interface boy do the algorithims get bemusing.

Data of the people; that’s the catalogue now. THe FACEbook eh, the update your profile, YOUR ACCOUNT. Library data is an anathema to this. The tradition of trust, and shyness, inside library services is all about dumping personal data and not to observe or intrude. An oft forgotten measure of the quietness inside the library. Shh.. its not confidential… its.. ANONYMOUS. I remember struggling with this as a systems lib. Well no sorry I don’t archive ANYTHING about you. That is NOT how we handle personal data.. stuff data yes but people — we look away.

But realistically do I expect libraries to reconcile themselves to the idea of opening up their data.. not the independently meaningless bibliographic data.. but instead the informative story that datasets of real human interaction at the library might tell. Would we? Could we? It is a more profound question than most outside our set might think.

Its a major service point of the library– the looking away, the anonymity. When I first went on public library hiatus in 1997 I fell into a really great college system instead — loved that. For years after I would tell the story, sort of derisively, that public libraries are –largely — anonymous organizations. Unlike higher ed where discernable goals are there and shared objectives mapped out, where attendence has some predictability and so on the public library is everybody at once, and unknown somehow a negative. That thinking I had has shifted. Liberty of access in private is so key in many sites please, please, please for young people especially.

As faux communities crop up and feign knowing me they are interfering with knowledge. The library open data challenges will poke away at the tradition and perhaps it will wane. But it would be rather wonderful if we could find a best case to connect users to the management of their own identity and speak to the story they share in at a library under their controls. That the programmers around would touch on the identity management piece with a little know-how from the library traditions of service, without prejudice.

Maybe I’ll beg someone to tackle it among the discussion of their Philosophy for Programmers course.

WIth cool tools like Lemontree will we get a taste for something different, ever.. libraries? I contest there is really only ONE thing wrong with library software its a BIG wrong, but just the one. We are overly vesting in databases of stuff that people happen to interact with… when libraries are really people organizations.. and they need decent identity databases filled with people who incidentally interact with lots of stuff from all over. Will we soon, or ever, settle into to such a change. I doubt it… and *I think* I likely hope not. Its complicated!

whacha think?

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