More, better, faster, cheaper, whatever

September 15, 2006 at 2:25 pm | Posted in conference presentations, future of libraries, more better faster cheaper, RLG | 1 Comment

The RLG Programs blog pointed me to the online presentations from the recent RLG Members Forum, “More, better, faster, cheaper.” I love the fact that they’ve made mp3s of many of the presentations available online–so much more useful than just someone’s skeletal PowerPoint slides, and I’m working my way through the presentations gradually.

I really enjoy the keynote speech by Mark Dimunation, the chief of the rare books/spec coll section at the Library of Congress. Lately some cringe-worthy ideas have been coming from LC (not the fault of most of their employees, of course) and it was refreshing and inspiring to hear from someone there who still believes in traditional library strengths and services.

I particularly enjoyed his story about (paraphrasing wildly, sorry) a young, enthusiastic digital librarian type who, at a presentation to LC staff about the digitization project he had been working on, lamented the need for organization and categorization of the material, even having controlled subject access….until someone at the back of the room piped up with, “Hey, kid, you mean like LCSH?” Har.

Here’s the quote that is getting quoted elsewhere and I think it’s pretty good:
“Most of us in this room hold substantial arrearages of research materials that are inaccessible, because they lack some level of cataloging description. Most of us, including this speaker, still work with a bibliographic catalog that is only partially converted to digital form. It is difficult for me to carry my collections into the 21st century when we haven’t yet finished the work of the 20th century. […] We cannot jettison the work at hand in mid-stream, just because the future is coming. Posturing toward the future does us little good. We cannot embrace the future empty-handed. We must bring the past forward into the greeting. It is time for us now to work quickly and to work smart.”

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