The Alexandrine Dilemma – Mark Pesce’s message for Librarians.

I’ve just finished reading Mark Pesce‘s latest post, The Alexandrine Dilemma, his keynote for the New Librarians Symposium that he delivered on Friday. As I was reading I was nodding my head in agreement. In it, he identifies the issues facing the library profession. How do we adapt to a changing landscape when information will be online and not available in print form and how do we make this vast repository of information accessible and manageable to the population, many of whom are going to be overwhelmed.

Mark discusses the growth of Wikipedia and the future for paid subscription encylopedias like Brittanica. I’ve been saying something similar in my school environment as we analyse useage and question the need for expensive databases.

Watch carefully: over the next decade we’ll see the somewhat drawn out death of Britannica as it becomes ever less relevant in a Wikipedia-dominated landscape.

I couldn’t agree more. I wonder if it will even take a decade.

He provides us with the focus we need to adopt for the world that is evolving;

All of which puts you in a key position for the transformation already underway. You get to be the “life coaches” for our digital lifestyle, because, as these digital artifacts start to weigh us down (like Jacob Marley’s lockboxes), you will provide the guidance that will free us from these weights. Now that we’ve got it, it’s up to you to tell us how we find it. Now that we’ve captured it, it’s up to you to tell us how we index it.

He goes on to discuss how we respond to a world where information is located on the web but needs to be ordered in some way to make it accessible.

Without a common, public taxonomy (a cataloging system), tagging systems will not scale into universality. That universality has value, because it allows us to extend our searches, our view, and our capability.

This taxonomy is the part that I am struggling with right now. How do we tag websites with a common system that makes them accessible to all. The subject heading system that accompanied the Dewey Decimal System of operation is not flexible enough to meet the needs of a population that will be used to the tagging system of folksonimies operational in Delicious and Flickr and various other applications.

So how do we do this? I don’t know just yet.  Right now I’m wondering what we as a library are going to do? How do we introduce a  tagging system into the systems that our libraries run with and are these organisations that we pay to support our collections even thinking about this yet? I hope so.  

If you are a Teacher-Librarian and even if you’re not, you should visit Mark’s blog and read this post. There is much more in it than what I’ve drawn on here. Lots to contemplate.     

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3 Replies to “The Alexandrine Dilemma – Mark Pesce’s message for Librarians.”

  1. Network and Media Literacy becomes ever-so-pressing, and yet we debate the pros and cons of filtering. Metadata has always been critical to web publishing (ask advertising), so in many ways ‘tagging’ has been around since we started to track ‘eyeballs’. I think the real issue here is the lack of TLs that are either being trained, or able to grasp the importance of it. I am not sure the ‘web’ itself will agree a common system, due to the competing nature of commercial content for ‘eyeballs’ and the continuing development of various browser platforms. I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the Open Source Community. I think it will get worse before it gets better. Few teachers can navigate the web, let alone scaffold learning with tags and social bookmarks. Guess your students will be the lucky ones.

  2. I read Mark’s post after you ‘tweeted’ it Jenny….I have had a struggle with what the role of TL will be in schools in the next few years . I agree with Mark’s statement that TL’s need to “move out of the libraries and into the streets” or in the case of schools -move into the everyday teaching and learning that goes on in every class, every day. In addition, they need to ‘move into’ the day to day management of the data and information required of the whole learning community within a school- the leaders, teachers, parents and students. Assisting in managing all types of data and information generated by the community. This still doesn’t happen enough.

    Mark’s statement ‘Librarians will become partners in information management, indispensable and highly valued’ reflects a vision of what the role can be, once TL’s move out from the four walls of the library building and embrace the dynamic, evolving, information rich learning community & play a part in managing the information and data within. I liked his statement: ‘Consider: the more something is shared, the more valuable it becomes. The more you share your knowledge, the more invaluable you become. That’s the future that waits for you.’ This is what a learning community is all about…this is the future I want- for myself & the school in which I work.

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