It’s time for productivity not publicity

I’ve written here a time or two about apps developed by libraries to highlight unique collections. Three prominent examples:

All of these are well-designed and effectively promote their respective libraries to a readership that is increasingly online and mobile. As a first step to demonstrate, at least partly, what is possible in the mobile world, they are impressive.

Suddenly, however, I begin to have issues with these sorts of library products. Part of my misgiving about them is that they are demonstrations. They are tools for promoting the library collections but they are not the library collections themselves. They are surrogates and even billboards for tangible collections sitting on library shelves.

Obviously, a great deal of the digitizing that libraries have done to date has been focused on unique and valuable collections. Digitization has always been advertising for what was great and special about any particular library. It has been a means of creating online exhibits, as it were. But it is precisely that goal that makes library digitizing and app development of limited value to library users. Advertising and exhibits can be interesting, informative, and motivational, but, in the end, they do not take the place of actually using the library. They do not even especially aid or enhance use of the library in any immediate sense.

Part of what makes the Google Book project so interesting is that it has the audacity to digitize the entire library (many libraries, in fact). It is the library in a way that most library digital projects and products are not. Aside from lacking a collection scope that would serve more user needs, most library digital products are also short on functionality. They are not intended to enable users to do things with information. I think it is time that we start to build apps that will help users do things with information.

Some of what I envision has, up to now, been left to vendors and commercial interests to develop. Some may be beyond the financial means of libraries. Some is just plain hard to do. I think we shouldn’t let those things stand in the way of trying. Collectively, we ought to be able to push the envelope more than we have thus far.

Some of the things library mobile apps ought to enable:

  • Discovery of library collections across all kinds of formats
  • Authentication for and use of licensed digital collections
  • Annotation and note taking
  • Citation management
  • Sharing and conversation via social media
  • Remixing and mash-up of content

We can talk a lot about the digital library, the virtual library, but until the tools we offer to users actually enable use, we are only advertising for the physical library and hypothesizing about a digital future. It’s time to give users real productivity tools and make the digital library a reality.

Tweet Connections

So, I’m talking up social media as a collection development tool. It would be appropriate, then, that I share a few links that will help you use Twitter in the service of your collection development duties.

The first of these was mentioned by one of our readers. (Thanks, Lucy!) It comes from Early Word, a blog hosted by Nora Rawlinson, editor of Library Journal. The first Tuesday of each month at 4:00 p.m. EST, Early Word hosts “Galley Chat” on Twitter. You can follow it with the hashtag #ewgc.

Two other useful tools are directories of bookfolk on Twitter compiled by Jennifer Tribe, co-founder of Highspot, a consulting firm:

These, of course, should not be considered comprehensive lists. There are other bookfolks out there, for sure. But they are good spots to get you started following a lot of great publishing tweeps. Tell us about other good Twitter and social media resources for books, libraries, and collection development.

Provocative Statement Number One

As we kick things off here at Collection Connection, we want to make sure to keep things provocative, just to stimulate interactions with the library collections community. Maybe push your buttons a bit.

Thus, here is provocative statement number one: collections librarians, especially directors or heads of collection development, just don’t do social media. As we think about the most notable bloggers out there, the most unique voices on Twitter, the must-see Facebook pages, none of these is coming from the collection development community. You’ve got a lot of IT folks in that category, directors of innovation or emerging technology, user experience librarians, school media specialists. But where are the voices of innovation for library collections?

Maybe we are thinking about this all wrong. Maybe technological innovations ARE where the exciting collection questions are coming from. Maybe collection development librarians are totally wedded to traditional media such as professional journals. Maybe they are just too busy reading license agreements and balancing budgets to worry about Tweeting. Maybe the social media world is too extensive and fractured for us to even know about the interesting voices out there.

Whatever the case, we think it is a shame that the collection development community doesn’t have a larger presence in the social media landscape. Certainly, scholarly journals, trade publications, and monographs continue to have their place in our discourse. There are, however, a lot of cutting-edge discussions in librarianship and other fields happening in social media. We think library collections should be a big part of that discussion, and that those involved in collection development processes should be engaged in the conversation. The social media realm doesn’t negate more traditional media venues, but it can add a degree of immediacy to topics that are in constant flux.

We hope you’ll join us in this conversation about library collections. Start right now by commenting on this post. Let us know if you agree or think we are totally off the mark. Tell us about those important social media voices for library collections. And tune in here often to see additional provocative statements.