Learning Blog #5a: Amateur Librarians too?

A reoccurring theme for me this semester seems to be the mass amateurization of professions.  Clay Shirky wrote of journalism that is was “less a profession than an activity”, ” and in his book The Big Switch, Nicholas Carr seems to agree. Carr writes that:

“(A)s user-generated content continues to be commercialized, it seems likely that the largest threat posed by social production won’t be to big corporations but to individual professionals-to the journalists, editors, photographers, researchers, analysts, librarians, and other information workers who can be replaced…” (p.140).

Carr goes on to imagine a world where the universal computer grid concentrates “wealth in the hands of a small number of individuals…widening the divide between the have and have-nots”(p.145).  There is some sense that we are already there, in the current resession libraries across the country are seeing there budget and staffs downsized, and public libraries struggle to identify themselves as still vital in people’s lives. So we have various libraries focussing on becoming “Idea Stores” or (as St. Paul Public is doing, focusing on being partners in education.)  There is no doubt that libraries need to evolve and grow and will no doubt look much different in 10 or 20 years.  However I do have some home in both librarianship and crowdsourcing (journalists, editors, and photographers are on their own.)

Librarianship will remain if for no other reason the mountains of information that will need to be organized and understood. In Carr’s vision (as I understand it) this will either be done for free by hordes of amateurs (crowdsourcing) or by professionals in the large companies that are controlling it (i.e. Google). To me this seems limiting; yes there are certainly areas where crowdsourcing can work but this presupposes that A)someone can initiate and organize it, B) all projects will incite identical interest.

Tagging Library of Congress photots or helping transcribe menus from turn of the century NY City restaurants http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/Dining-Commons-The-New-York-Public-Librarys-Ambitious-Menu-Database-Project  are very exciting projects. But organzing the hundreds of other projects that citizens are interested in,well that”s probably still a pretty good job for a librarian.

Also, if wealth is going to be concentrated in the hands of “a small number of individuals” than we’re going to need all the help we can get!

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