Dangerous literature for Library staff

Posted on June 29, 2008. Filed under: collaboration, Everything is Miscellaneous, libraries, library 2.0, sharing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Having read various blog postings, including one by Martin Weller about “Everything is Miscellaneous: The power of the new digital disorder” (EiM for short), I asked for a copy for my birthday. I am currently 1/2 way through it and think that it is set to become a classic, a must read for anyone with an interest in information. It is easy to read and thought-provoking: Is everything miscellaneous? Should we aim to make everything miscellaneous? Should we be allowing our users to categorise everything? How should we do this?

The book is quite challenging. A few years ago I managed the implementation of document management policies and procedures supported by a document management system in the Library that I work in. We produced a folder structure and a set of file and folder naming guidelines. These aim to help us to organise our information effectively, retrieve documents more easily and reduce document duplication. One of the things that we said was that staff must not label folders “miscellaneous” or documents “Joe Blogg’s report”. Weinberger asserts that organising information in folders is not efficient in the digital world. Every person has a different view of the world. Assigning multiple (unlimited) tags is more efficient; file names become less important.

I am so enthusiastic about “Everything is Miscellaneous” that I want everyone in the Library where I work to read it so that we can discuss it and work together to decide how to shape our strategies for both our online and physical information resources. I would like staff to look at the challenges that we are facing and think about how we should move forward. I have enlisted the help of a couple of colleagues to spread the word and help to enthuse other people. So far we have managed to persuade 17 to buy the book (currently we are eagerly awaiting a bulk Amazon order); at least 4 more are going to read the Library’s copies. So almost a quarter of Library staff will be reading the book and hopefully more will join us.

For fun we plan to ask people to take pictures of themselves with the book in interesting places (whilst on holiday, or away at conferences for example) and we will put these into a flickr group. We will be asking staff to share their favourite quotes from it.

Karen G. Schneider’s post at ALA TechSource: “This is, I repeat, a dangerous book. Ban it, burn it, or take it to heart. The most dangerous part of this book is not that Weinberger says these things, and so much more: the danger comes if we don’t listen.” http://www.techsource.ala.org/blog/2007/05/weinbergers-well)-ordered-miscellany.html sparked off an idea. With the help of a few colleagues, I am going to set up a “dangerous” literature group for Library staff. The group will read and discuss things that it’s dangerous for people working in libraries not to read. EiM will be the first book.

We will also be doing a “dangerous” literature display for the Library staff room, to include EiM and other literature relevant to libraries, the information profession & the digital revolution (e.g. “Wikinomics” by Don Tapscott and “Ambient Findability” by Peter Morville). We will summarise each text and our thoughts on it and will include our favourite quotes from it.

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One Response to “Dangerous literature for Library staff”

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I’m not a librarian or an information manager, but I found this book fascinating. The ideas are not just about how we deal with information, but really about how we view our world and our relationships. Anything that shifts our reality can be considered dangerous.


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