I’m at the code4lib conference this week and I’m writing this as a reminder to myself for next year that, well, I just don’t care…
I don’t care about the latest faceted search. I don’t care about the latest Open Source OPAC replacement. I don’t care about the latest Open Source ILS. I don’t care about project updates or software demos. I don’t care about API/standards/vendor/LC/OCLC bashing. I don’t care about reinventing the 20th century training wheels that library coders are so obsessed with (it’s their job after all).
The people here are great, and I care about them both individually and as a class — I have a genuine affinity for library geeks of all kinds and this is, after all, a conference that tends to filter out everyone else. So it’s not like it’s not nice to be here, but the information being presented is useless to me to the point of irritation. And despite the fact that I like so many of the folks here, there’s definitely a cliquish feel to the whole thing with the hugely active IRC back channel of ongoing commentary (which really should be displayed where everyone including the presenters can read it), and the in-jokes (dongles). However welcoming, it can be a hard place to be a newbie.
I want to stand up and shout “Folks. Listen. The world has moved on!! Deal with it.” I haven’t felt the need to set foot in a library, except for a meeting, in the last 10 years. I haven’t used a library OPAC or ILS, except for the purpose of researching the system itself in at least a year. I have logged into a university library to get access to subscription-only journal articles, but I actually found those articles in Google. My library’s only utility to me is as the proxy gatekeeper for ACM or Elsevier, and these days it only keeps me out.
Many of the presentations and discussions are about alternatives: full-text vs. metadata; cataloger-created metadata vs. user-created metadata; Open Source vs. commercial; Google vs. the OPAC; data distribution standard A vs. standard B; marc vs. everything else. There’s a corollary notion that interoperability means everyone has to agree at some level. What really needs to happen is that everyone needs to get used to the idea that the ideal world in which everyone supports a few standards and data formats is the one we used to have, or imagine we had, and it’s gone. And it’s not coming back.
What we have now is chaos. Many, many people are working very hard to maintain control over increasingly chaotic data and less-and-less predictable user behavior. They’re trying to hang on to users, even scholars, who are increasingly getting their information through Google or YouTube. They’re trying to figure out how to deal with steadily increasing digital collections, steadily decreasing user satisfaction, tone-deaf vendors, and sinking budgets.
Let it go. Chaos is good. Keep your systems open and flexible. Watch. Listen. Integrate instead of compete with Google. Integrate data from the social networks. Share everything. Aggregate. Watch. Listen.