Occupying Technology

December 14, 2011

A few years ago an earnest-sounding college student called the ALA Library to gather information about librarianship as a career, adding that she didn’t want to work with computers. We all have days we’d be happy to see our technology replaced with pen and paper that doesn’t crash. But that is not our world, and it behooves us to understand not only the technology we use but the power it gives us. (And yes, I did advise the student that most library jobs involve some use of computers.)

The Big Picture

Scholars Charles H. Davis and Debora Shaw have assembled an approachable and logically structured discussion of the intersection between librarianship and technology in the descriptively titled Introduction to Information Science and Technology. Starting with a review of what “information” and “technology” mean—including the observation that we use both pervasively throughout our lives, even away from the library—the authors review the major concepts of how information is sought, used, organized, and presented. They continue with discussions of computers and networks, applications, and evaluation of the systems. Davis and Shaw go on to summarize the various information policy frameworks that affect our use of technology. What’s important here is the synthesis, in lucid detail, of the major current issues not normally presented in one place.

Indexed. American Society for Information Science and Technology. 288 p. $59.50 (ASIST Members $47.60). 978-1-57387-423-6.

Standards to Stand Behind

Information networks that succeed do so because standards underlie every aspect of the operation, from the outlet into which the machine is plugged to how information can be displayed in an accessible fashion onscreen. Sociologist Lawrence Busch explores these concepts and more in Standards: Recipes for Reality. He looks at the power of standards in all aspects of life, as well as the interrelated topics of certification, licensing, and “stamps of approval.” Busch also examines the ethics of standards and the need to balance predictability against too much conformity, and he posits criteria for fair and effective standards—ones that are collaboratively developed, actionable, and tested.

Indexed. MIT Press. 269 p. $35. 978-0-262-01638-4.

The Bridge to RDA

Describing Electronic, Digital, and Other Media Using AACR2 and RDA is a practical guide for using both the old standard (AACR) and the new (RDA—Resource Description and Access). Mary Beth Weber and Fay Angela Austin have prepared a commonsense guide to using the new code. Following a summary of the principles, the authors offer explanations and examples on a format-by-format basis, with references to published documentation. But because the book was written before there has been extensive implementation and review of the impact of the new code, it may not age well, though it will serve as a useful starting point and a bridge until there's a larger pool of knowledge about using RDA.

Indexed. Neal-Schuman. 319 p. $75. 978-1-55570-668-5.

Social Connections

And just how is the cataloging community going to build that larger pool of knowledge? Likely by exploiting the power of social organization. In some cases we librarians have figured out how to use a variety of collaborative, technology-based tools to build community, but we also struggle—just as other organizations do—with adapting various platforms that are essentially personal networking apps into tools to advance the mission of our libraries. We are not alone. In The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees, Anthony Bradley and Mark P. McDonald provide a strategy map to becoming a social organization by forming a vision for what can be accomplished by collaborating in a community that is fluid and outside the normal bounds of an organization chart, using the “collective genius” of the community to move forward.

Harvard Business Review Press. 256 p. $35. 978-1-4221-7236-0.


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