Antifragile Libraries pt 2: Antifragile librarianship

In my last post we considered the idea of Antifragility and how libraries might consider making our collections more anti-fragile. Today I’d like to discuss how we take the antifragile concept further by considering an antifragile approach to discovery, as well as exploring librarianship as a tool for antifragilism.

Arguably, the whole idea of libraries, particularly public libraries, is inherently one of antifragility. The public library allows those with an interest in knowledge or ideas to pursue that interest, without requiring the individual means to fund it. The more our world changes, the more valuable the public library becomes as a source of ideas, information and inspiration. Our communities become stronger and more resilient as they share and discover old skills, new ideas and inspiring stories. Continue reading

Technolust – the fifth column of the information counter-revolution

I’m going to start with a story about growing up in Tasmania in the 1990s.

The economy wasn’t great, with unemployment at around 11%, no economic growth to speak of and a high State debt. In these formative years, I was surrounded by both the defeatists and the hopelessly optimistic. Many said that the Tasmanian economy had no hope and had been on the downward slide since the end of Transportation. Others dreamed of the One Big Project that was going to save us all: the Mt Wellington cable car, the Oceanport cruiseship terminal, the enormous pulp and paper mill, the largest catamaran factory in the world.

The Oceanport company turned out to have $1 to its name, the catamaran company went bankrupt, the pulp mill dream ultimately saw a prominent businessman gaoled for bribery, a Premier resign in disgrace and the state’s largest company fall into receivership. The cable car dream quietly slinked away, only to return recently as the economy again started to go sour.

But in the intervening decade, Tasmania’s economy flourished. There was no One Big Project that achieved this. There were however lots of small projects. There was the ongoing success of the King Island Dairy. There were dozens and dozens of independent bed and breakfasts serving a growing tourist trade. There was the ever expanding Taste of Tasmania and Ten Days on the Island festivals. There were interstate expansions of home-grown beer and seafood brands Boags and Tassal. There was no one big project, just one big vision – a vision based on contested but broadly shared values of wholesome clean produce, pride in work and lack of pretention. Tasmanians still complain about their economy, but the improvement is obvious to someone like me who left 12 years ago.

Tasmania’s problem wasn’t a lack of big projects, funding or infrastructure.

It was a failure of self-belief. Continue reading

Not just an Academic question: Why Open Access matters for public libraries

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on Open Access for a while. The recent tragic death of Aaron Swartz seems like an appropriate time to do so.

I didn’t know a lot about Aaron Swartz before his death. I’d read about him ‘stealing’ millions of JSTOR articles, but hadn’t remembered his name. Now that I’ve read more about him, one thing has become clear: whilst Aaron Swartz will be remembered as a hacker, he should be considered a librarian hero. Continue reading

A failure of imagination – the problem with format neutrality

I often hear librarians promoting their ‘modern librarian’ credentials by saying “it’s about the information, not the container”.  By this they tend to mean that librarians in a world of instantly downloadable ebooks, subscription journal databases and multiple other formats for audio, visual and written works should be format-neutral.  That we should not be concerned about in which formats information is available, as long as it is available somehow. But what if it is about the container? Continue reading