Libraries and the continued importance of curatorship.

From Wally at iNode: we are going to be more about data, early parts of the scholarly communication process, and “We’ll still be doing the “special collections and archives” thing as that will be a large part of what differentiates libraries.” His whole post is worth a read, but i think it only goes part of the way. While we might have reduced institutional footprints, I also believe that what will set us apart is the idea of curatorship. This is the dreaded “gatekeeper analogy that many in the library world are trying to diminish, but the idea is worth a second look. In an information environment that is too large for people to comprehend, then we need some way to organize things to understand it. Included in this is the idea that while we can lease a lot of content, it is worth considering that we don’t need access to everything (the Google approach), but just to the things our patrons actually need. Maybe we as librarians need to talk to our faculty rather than rely upon vendors to tell us what they think our faculty needs. This is curatorship, being a gatekeeper to make sure that important resources are not spent on what is not needed.


Rebeca Horton at the Curator Magazine blog quotes a 1994 Wired article by Paul Saffo, which is worth re-quoting here:

The scarcest of context resources will be something utterly beyond the ken of cold algorithms — point of view. “Point of view” is that quintessentially human solution to information overload, an intuitive process of reducing things to an essential relevant and manageable minimum. (emphasis added by Horton)

That is worth considering. Horton applies this to the design of information design, which is ultimately done by a human being, who reflects upon how data is visualized, mapped, filtered, etc. Even though this is done by computers, the design is still human, starting which what information to process and onwards. There is still a human curator. Librarians who are connected to their faculty and students don’t need to fear their role as curators. It is an important part of what we do.  The creation of a point-of-view is part of creating new knowledge that can be acted on, not just the passive intake of data. The manipulation of data is a reflective task that is part of progress, not a hindrance to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s