Libraries and Discovery

Chris Bulock
Sep 26, 2014 · 1 min read

I read two things today that relate to libraries’ role in discovery. The first was an Ithaka S+R brief authored by Roger Schonfeld: Does Discovery Still Happen in the Library? Roles and Strategies for a Shifting Reality. The piece contrasts the view held by most library directors that it’s important for libraries to be the starting point of research with the reality that most academic users are starting elsewhere. His advice for libraries trying to do discovery better than Google is basically, Don’t. I simplify, but the alternatives mentioned at the end include current awareness services (which I can really get behind) and greater personalization.

The other piece was a post by David Weinberger in the Digital Shift: Let the Future Go. At first, I thought this piece was going down a familar path, as the first section seems to be saying it’s a shame so many people use Google and Amazon, because librarians know books better. I quickly realized this was not what he was getting at though. The rest of the piece is an acknowledgement that Librarians will not define the ways in which people seek out information, but we can contribute to them in valuable ways.

And it all gets me wondering. Wondering about the real utility of that big search box on my library’s website. Wondering about how we can invent or better use recommender services. Wondering if opt-in personalization for library systems would allow us to respect our users’ privacy, agency, and better enable them to do the things they want to do.

    Chris Bulock

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    Electronic Resources Librarian at CSUN. Libraries, electronic resources, open access, and publishing.