Archive for Starfish


I haven’t downloaded Koha yet, as my fiancĂ©e and I have traded paiuters for the afternoon. (I am not sure I understand why, but she is doing her job on mine, and I am importing CDs onto hers.)

Here is an example of Koha in action (Athens County Public Library).

What is that action you ask? Koha is “a full-featured open-source ILS.* Developed initially in New Zealand by Katipo Communications Ltd and first deployed in January of 2000 for Horowhenua Library Trust, it is currently maintained by a team of software providers and library technology staff from around the globe.” (per their website)

Meaning: anyone can use it; anyone can contribute to it; and it is free.

I love open-source software, as I think that it employs Starfish organizing to its fullest. Basically, it is user-driven and collaborative rather than top-down and authority-powered. And, with the input of many, it is more likely to be intuitive.

Further, because it is free, it is a great resource for smaller libraries.

I want to play with it, and I am not sure yet what I want to do. I am envisioning some kind of project, but the only thing that comes to mind is an insane catalog of my books, CDs, etc. But there must be something more Grand I could do with this!

*An ILS is like Innovative Interfaces or SirsiDynix, an Integrated Library System, which basically means that the cataloging is connected to the circulation and the billing is connected to the patron load &c. It’s a platform that houses and connects all the different modules a library needs.


You can’t go back…

you can never go back.

I’ve been thinking about my last post, and I am seriously asking myself what I did before the internet existed. And I realize that what I did was live a completely different life.

I am actually in that gap between Gen X and Gen Y, and basically, I get to decide where I want to land. So, I was in high school when people started to use e-mail, and it wasn’t until I was well into college that I started to use the internet for some of the things I do now: to find out what happened on TV last week when I wasn’t looking; to download music; to chat with people; to take quizzes that end up pissing me off; and to watch videos.

I don’t know when I made the transition into using the internet as my primary reference tool (by, in descending order of frequency, typing a question into Google; checking Wikipedia; IMing someone; or using an online database) and my primary mode of communication. It was a slow progression, aided by my purchase of a laptop in 2006. Like I said yesterday, I didn’t really do any of these things before the internet. If I didn’t know something, I either called my sister, looked in the encyclopedia (which has the same number of errors, at least in nature articles, on average, per entry as Wikipedia), or said, eff it, who cares.

Now, though, I don’t want to wait, I don’t want to say eff it; I want to know where my high school biology teacher is, I want to know whether Sufjan Stevens ever says anything in interviews about his sexuality, and I want to know whether what I felt was really an earthquake and if so, where it was. My brain is now attuned to this, and I really can’t go backwards here, nor do I want to.

So, are you?

So, are you?

So, here’s where libraries come in: libraries, as research institutions, are operating from an old model. This model says that librarians are the keepers of the knowledge, and yes, that they can show patrons how to do their own research, but that there are certain places where reliable knowledge can be got, and few valid sources. Which, I get. There are things that are “empirically true,” and there are reliable sources.

BUT! This is like the spider/starfish thing. Telling people that the spider has all the knowledge is presumptuous at best. I am looking for instant gratification, in terms of information. And I know that print media or even up-to-the-minute databases aren’t going to give me quotes from Alf.

Which is why I see the role of reference librarian shifting toward something more like information-evaluation librarian. (Note to self: come up with pithier name for job.) People have a clearer idea how to search for information on their own, and how to contribute their own information to the collective wisdom of the internet, but many people don’t have the skills to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources and information (which is why Snopes (make sure you’ve got pop-up blocker enabled) is awesome and necessary). I envision library and information science professionals as instructors but also as creators of new search engines, new ways to index, and how about something so new I can’t even imagine what it is! Give us some new code that will blow our minds entirely!

(I just want to acknowledge that I am coming from a really privileged position, what with having a computer, and internet access and, hey, even basic literacy, not to mention computer literacy. So, as a result, I get to have another code to use to figure things out. And I think it should be available to everyone who wants it.)