Making Libraries Visible on the Web | The Digital Shift

Making Libraries Visible on the Web | The Digital Shift

By Ted Fons on August 12, 2016

In Library: An Unquiet History, historian and curatorial fellow for Harvard’s metaLAB Matthew Battles describes Melvil Dewey’s impatience with inefficiency in library work in the 1870s. “To Dewey, local interests and special needs were less important than the efficient movement of books into the hands of readers,” he writes.

That crisp statement of purpose should be an inspiration to the current discussions around making library collections and programs visible and available on the web.

A visitor to Libraryland looking at project websites, reading journals, and listening to conference  presentations might think that our only goal is to build new databases that use RDF triples and semantic web ontologies and express our frustration with some guy named Marc. There is clear passion for change, but we’d have to explain to our visitor that all of this technical activity has a genuine outcome in mind: to connect readers to the wide variety of collections and services that libraries offer, even when the user is starting from a search engine on the open web. The work to replace outdated methods of managing library metadata will allow more readers to connect to library collections and services more often, wherever they are searching.

Rachel Fewell, central library administrator for the Denver Public Library, describes it this way: “We are in an in-between world where we have two groups of people: [the] ones who already go to the library and the ones who never think about the library.”

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