Serving network people

Lorcan 2 min read

agnic.pngA few months ago I was pleased to give a short presentation [ppt] over dinner at the Agnic Tenth Annual Meeting. I was looking forward to it as I had interacted with Agnic colleagues closer to the beginning of that 10 year span, and generally I like going to events where I am sure to learn something. As it turned out, I was sorry that domestic circumstances meant that I could only attend for my slot.
I had only twenty minutes to talk about libraries and networking. I decided to focus on three things. In the intervenient months I have blogged about two and a half of the three things I chose to talk about 😉

  1. In the flow. The library wants to ‘fit in’ with the working practices of their users. In the network world this increasingly means fitting in with emerging network workflows (net-work-flows?). These may be demand-side user combined workflows pulled together from RSS feeds, toolbars, and the growing number of network services like Flickr. Or they may be supply-side pre-fabricated flows, as in a learning management system for example. Users expect services to be visible in their environment, not to have to break into the library environment.
  2. Recombinance all the way up .. remixing all the way down. ‘Fitting in’ or being in the flow really requires making resources available in different ways. Resources need to be ‘interoperable’, a much used word. I like to think of interoperability as ‘recombinant potential’: interoperability supports the ability to recombine or remix resources. This is true at a variety of levels. Think of the following ‘stack’: metadata schema, metadata, content packaging standards, content, network services, business processes, organizations. At all these levels we are experiencing the need to flexibly recombine to support new organizational and service configurations. So, we want to merge metadata from several sources in new aggregate services. We want to combine content from several sources in course materials or exhibitions. We want to combine different network services in portal frameworks. We may want to outsource, or cooperatively secure, new processes (e.g. digital preservation). In all cases, interoperability, or recombinant potential becomes important. Ensemble approaches are increasingly required.
  3. The network and the library: deep collaboration and sourcing. This has a double focus. The first to do with the complexity of the changing environment: now more than ever libraries benefit from ‘pooling their uncertainty’, leveraging the wisdom of the (network) cloud of libraries. This plays into the second focus, that as libraries build out their services in a network environment they increasingly will rely on deep collaborations and sourcing. This continues existing library practice. Libraries have always relied on each other and on third party suppliers. As they need to provide rich services in an increasingly complex environment, with level funding, they will likely develop more complex collaborative and sourcing arrangements. Virtual reference is an interesting example here.
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