Search Blog:

Fear and loathing in Seattle

Having attended the annual SLA conference for 17 years, I thought Seattle was excellent. About on par with the last time the show was in Seattle. Hmmm, maybe it's something in the city's air.

One observation from the conference was that there seemed to be a general feeling that attendees were either really excited about social media and the transforming role it will play in advancing the world of knowledge management, or threatened by the lack of control implied by these technologies.

These feelings are reminiscent of the initial reaction to Web technologies, and the fear and apprehension felt by special librarians worried about disintermediation.

With the advent of the Web, many librarians felt their role as "information middlemen" would be compromised, and the fact that everything is now available on the Internet seemed to threaten the fundamental underpinnings of disciplined research and library science.

Responding to this great new medium in the special library market, content publishers created lavish new Web-based user interfaces so they could sell more content directly to knowledge workers. The hope is that the world would move to this view:

In reality, this vision did come to pass in some places, such as purchasing books online (, real-time news (RSS), and basic business information access (Hoovers). But for the professional knowledge worker, the result looked more like this:

Most knowledge workers can't live in this world because they don't want to manage relationships with 10 vendors, learn the search syntax of 10 content repositories, and all the other responsibilities needed.

The result was the role of the special librarian became more important -- not less -- and those who embraced this new technology put themselves and the organizations they supported at the forefront of a great new opportunity: the opportunity to create the virtual library.

The result was this picture:

This broader view allows an organization to centrally manage information subscriptions. It also lets information specialists manage the information flow, and add value to that flow by doing things such as adding new, high-quality information sources and removing low quality resources.

This means knowledge workers get a one-stop shop for critical information. The result: greater organizational impact.

My next post will discuss how the dread of social media is similar to the dread of disintermediation, and why and how librarians can flourish in a world of user generated content by creating and managing a Social Knowledge Network. So stay tuned!

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...