Aug 03 2012
The Internet Needs a Librarian
People are beginning to recognize the fact that the world of Internet Connectivity is not exactly the utopia we dreamed of in the 1990s. In fact, the dangers of personalization by “algorithm gatekeepers” is now causing some of us to be anxious about our filter bubbles. (See Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” in this TED talk.)
Eli Pariser is making a great point about personalization; however, I notice he calls the gatekeepers of the old information hierarchy “editors”. I believe a better term for the professionals who are trained in information access, storage and retrieval would be “librarians”. In fact, the checklist he pulls up looks like something I learned in library school. Imagine a world where people actually realized there are core values of librarianship that could benefit them. What a concept!
I am not blaming Mr. Pariser for ignoring librarians in the connection between relevant, nonbiased, high quality information and the lack thereof online. I merely remind us all that some people are specifically trained to acquire high quality, diverse, challenging, thought provoking resources and those people are called librarians. Unfortunately, the perception of sitting at a circulation desk with a stamp pad is stuck in the minds of many who just didn’t realize how a library is made in the first place. But, the Internet was not made by librarians and has no caretaker who is trained to provide the best.
Today- everyone can be a librarian, an author, a journalist, a newscaster, a musician, an artist, an actor…or whatever online. Content curation sites are sprouting up like weeds. And speaking of weeds, librarians are trained to “weed” the library with the goal of helping the “living organism [Ranganathan]” maintain a healthy circulatory system. There is no weeding of the Internet. It is more like a garbage dump than a garden.
Sites like Scoop-it, are so popular now, educators are providing content creation lessons for students and businesses are utilizing them.
The point is to help others navigate through the sea of chaos! So, we should think about what we are adding to a topic or how we are helping others weed out the nonsense and cultivate the best content. In other words, we really are all librarians now! But I still say, “the Internet needs a librarian”.