Content | Frame

Commentary on Libraries, information, Society and the Internet


After years of blogging about labor at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Library I launched Information | Mixology on the WordPress platform, in fall 2012.  21017 is like a good time to refresh this blog, and thus it has a new name: Content | Frame.

Here’s why:  the library has always been a leading crossroads for ideas and knowledge exchange, and the more you mix together, the deeper the conversation. Indeed, it’s more than just “mix” and “remix,” as Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University often says. According to Lessig (pardon my abridgement) we start with the media “mix” –everything that assaults us every day. Next, Internet technologies empower us to “re-mix” that media in new, fascinating and downright weird ways.

In 2012 I agreed with Professor Lessig. But I’ll raise him one further. It’s no longer just the remix: it’s mixology. But since then, I see valuable content morphing in ever direction. It occurs to me that framing content has become important as the content itself. From a historical perspective, libraries framed not only content, but provided access on top of that. Content | Frame will assess not only library skill in its own professional dialectic, but also as a mirror to society, the marketplace of ideas and the Internet.

Meet the New Frame, Same as the Old Frame

The library profession enjoys vibrant debate and discussion about its own future and its long term roles in education and society. This is a strong point and it serves us well. However, careful observers of social trends and the impact of new technologies always raise their eyes and peer across conceptual and disciplinary boundaries to see what others are facing, what their dreams are, and what survival strategies they employ. I try to look beyond boundaries when I write my column for Computers in Libraries, on the topic of digital libraries.

When I do, here’s what I see: disruptive technologies are a dislocation for all professions, not just ours, and in some ways we’re doing better than many others are. So when I speak of framing content, I do not limit the mix to what the information professions are saying to each other; I want to synthesize what all knowledge workers are thinking about and doing. An artisanal approach requires a questing mind.

For Instance

Libraries don’t exist in a vacuum, and other share similar challenges. Here’s one example of my thinking, published by InTech in 2011:

Convergence and Divergence Among Digital Libraries and the Publishing Industry.  IN Digital Libraries, Methods and Applications, InTech, 2011

In this chapter I discuss how the commercial publishing industry and the library profession have each responded to disruptive technologies—and how they can learn from each other.

The travails of the publishing industry have always fascinated me, and nowadays they are seizing change as fiercely as librarians do. It was not always so. As a librarian who was formerly a bookseller, I have been struck by how quickly librarians embraced digital technology, and by the many missteps that publishers made early on.

But things change fast:  Stephen Abram, speaking at the online Library 2.0 conference in early October, foretold that publishers may begin to add metadata that is superior to the library profession’s output. And why not? There is nothing stopping them.

On the other hand: There is nothing stopping librarians from acting as full-scale publishers, in fact we are already pretty far down that road. Walt Crawford wrote about it in ONLINE, Nate Hill blogged about it on the PLA Blog, and I wrote a column called “Publishers in Libraries” in Computers in Libraries magazine (see April 2009 on “My Columns” page on this blog.

All This and More

Libraries and publishers—indeed, “libraries as publishers” is a topic I’ll return to on this blog. Here are a few other topics that intrigue me:

  • The Information Society
  • Information Professionals and Their “Competitors”
  • The Political Dialogue of Library Funding
  • New Roles for Libraries and Librarians
  • Breaking New Ground—in every field
  • Communicating the Library’s Value Point
  • “Library Skill”
  • Bleeding Edge Technologies that can Surprise

I look forward to posts, comments, shares, tags, and guest columns.

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