Four short links: 18 May 2011

Future Libraries, Innovation History, Entity Extraction API, and Outside Insight

  1. The Future of the Library (Seth Godin) — We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime. Passionate railing against a straw man. The library profession is diverse, but huge numbers of them are grappling with the new identity of the library in a digital age. This kind of facile outside-in “get with the Internet times” message is almost laughably displaying ignorance of actual librarians, as much as “the book is dead!” displays ignorance of books and literacy. Libraries are already much more than book caves, and already see themselves as navigators to a world of knowledge for people who need that navigation help. They disproportionately serve the under-privileged, they are public spaces, they are brave and constant battlers at the front line of freedom to access information. This kind of patronising “wake up and smell the digital roses!” wank is exactly what gives technologists a bad name in other professions. Go back to your tribes of purple cows, Seth, and leave librarians to get on with helping people find, access, and use information.
  2. An Old Word for a New World (PDF) — paper on how “innovation”, which used to be pejorative, came now to be laudable. (via Evgeny Mozorov)
  3. AlchemyAPI — free (as in beer) entity extraction API. (via Andy Baio)
  4. Referrals by LinkedIn — the thing with social software is that outsiders can have strong visibility into the success of your software, in a way that antisocial software can’t.
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  • Miguel Marcos

    Nat, I read Godin’s article and I agree with your remarks. I hope he takes notice and, perhaps, redirects his message, especially given his (I suspect) broad audience.

  • Go back to your tribes of purple cows, Seth, and leave librarians to get on with helping people find, access, and use information.

    Thank you for dispatching this malarkey with intelligence and venom.

  • I’ve been in the library industry for the past 20+ years. I didn’t take the librarian article as being aimed at existing librarians, who, as you point out, already know everything he stated. If his point was to wake up librarians to the new future, then yes, it was a waste of space.

    I saw it as a call for those currently unrelated to libraries to consider a job as a librarian, whether at a library proper or in some other capacity, potentially as a business: “For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.”

  • Bokuno

    I don’t agree with everything Seth said about libraries, but I think you missed his point. How much is your library spending on print materials, compared with digital materials? How much time do your librarians get for technology training? Most American libraries are woefully unprepared for the increasing demand for digital resources — not to mention helping people access them. Most librarians are still struggling to support the Kindle and the iPad, with very little hope from library administrations. Libraries as institutions are resisting changes that librarians as individuals are way past ready to embrace.