Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Wild New Site


Recently I've been a bit absent from the blog while I've been working on somethings in the background. Some of those things haven't congealed yet, but I'm happy to announce that one of the has. I'm happy to announce that I have a new site, A Wild Book Chase.

A Wild Book Chase, represents a centralization of my web presence. Previously I've been blogging hear, and using a Wordpress site as a sort of show case site. With the launch of A Wild Book Chase, I have merged the two on a Drupal site. In addition to blogging and pointing out my own cleverness, I will also be posting a large section of my, Bibliography of Science Fiction Translated into English, and creating a  U.S. Government Information Pathfinder 2.0.

I may still post on this blog occasionally, using it as a laboratory to test my thoughts... then again, maybe it's time for a tumblr.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Severability part II: One insitution, indivisible

This is the second article in a three part series of on the idea of severability in the library. In the first part of the series I outlined the concept of severability and attempted to outline how such an idea could be applied in the library setting to re-envision the library as an institution and reconstruct our services from the ground up. In this, the second part of the series I’m going to double back on myself and make a counter argument; that the different parts Libraries are un-severable. 

In the first piece in this series I wrote that I believed that the idea of severability could be a useful concept in helping libraries move forward in tough times. Defining what an institution or business is at its core has its applications, but in cultural institutions like libraries and museums it becomes difficult. The reason for this is that culture itself is complicated.

In explaining it I feel like I’m going to get all Doctorish (as in, The Doctor), and start spouting nonsense about wibbly wobbley timey whimey… stuff. To sum up my argument: severability requires temporal clarity: An institution like a library, serves multiple purposes, constituencies, ideologies and temporalities. It not only has a set of texts that are based in multiple temporalities, its semiotic identity is also a web of historical and future images which are both, attached to it as an institution and core parts of its nature. As a result, it becomes almost impossible to achieve the clarity needed to apply the concept of severability.

The library isn’t indivisible because of the hopes, dreams, and ideologies we place into, there are many similar institutions that reductive processes can be applied to.  Libraries have immunity because of its unique construction. In many ways libraries are the original cloud. Cutting them is just as difficult.
In essence I believe that organizations have temporal orientation. I say orientation rather than location because organizations and institutions exist across time. They’re own nature largely define their orientation. 
For example preservation organizations serve the past, service organizations serve the present, and producing organization/leadership organizations serve the future. Libraries serve all three. 

By seeking to provide access to past information to all its constituents, to provide the current best information, and to provide the ability of patrons to develop new information, libraries are necessarily seated in all three. Libraries must preserve the information resources so that future generations can access them. At the same time library mission statements lay out a clear commitment to serving the immediate needs of stakeholders in the present. As new resources are developed librarians integrate them into their collections so that they are useful in the future. Finally, most scholarship on literacy includes techne related to production as part of their definition. Libraries as literacy organizations must promote the ability to produce and use information in their constituents. Libraries use the knowledge of the past, in the present, with the goal of building a better future.

The unseated nature of the library means that cuts deeply effect the institutions commitments to its multiple temporalities. For instance cuts to cataloging/metadata departments in order to maintain or increase user services may result in a degradation of long term findability of items. Findability matters because an un-findable item effectively does not exist.  As another examples bulk purchasing contemporary titles, without planning for preservation of older work can lead to a space shortage and unnecessarily aggressive weeding. Finally, libraries have in the past made the mistake of discarding valuable materials after “preserving them” in a modern format, only to find that the material was either, incorrectly preserved, or that the medium chosen lacked durability. Showing that future focus on technologies can be an otherwise robust institution’s Achilles’ heel.

In conclusion, what can you cut? Nothing. The library can and should remain; one institution, indivisible, with knowledge, and learning for all.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I'm in the process of centralizing my online presence. While we wait for the new site, here's a video about our network identity and it's commodification.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Severability Part 1: What can you not cut?

Severability; This is the first part of a three part series. Each peace examines a concept in service to an argument I intend to fully illuminate in the 3rd part of the series. This first part examines the idea of severability as a metaphor that can be used to clarify missions, jobs, tasks in the library.

Severability is defined by marion websters online dictionary as:  capable of being severed; especially : capable of being divided into legally independent rights or obligations. In the context of this post though it’s a technical term that denotes the ability of sections of a law to remain viable if separate parts of the law are struck down upon judicial review. This idea of severability in this realm  originated in contract law.
The concept of severability becomes useful as a metaphor in librarianship when we are faced with budget deficits and institutional cutbacks. Traditionally librarians have faced such periods with a do more with less attitude. The viability of such an approach is currently under threat due to the protracted nature of underfunding.  Some libraries and library systems have been operating under severe budget constraints for nearly a decade.  Questioning what we can sever out of provides the profession and these institutions an opportunity to find and focus on core functions.  When asking the questions evaluating severability, it’s important to remember, that we are not asking, what can we do without, but what can’t we do without?

Practically, severability is reliant on the ability of a separate parts of the statute to have separate mechanisms for enforcement.  What this means is that when evaluating severability, after a core mission has been determined, by determining what our absolute core function is,  we conceptualize our organization. This time by by asking what facilitates that core mission.  In essence, stripping our institutions to the core function allows for us to focus on developing those institutions in an agile framework, where we focus on delivering core services, and then build on those in a series of iterations, while engaging stakeholders. This allows the library to fluidly rebuild itself into its new identity and clarified role.

Different libraries will obviously come up with different answers to this question, a university library, might look a bit more like a traditional book warehouse, while a public library might look a bit more like a community center.  Wiping the board clean and engaging in radical redesigns of libraries missions isn’t just work for radicals; it’s an essential thought exercise for leaders. It is essential not just for moving our institutions into the future, but also for stewarding our past and steering our present.