Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Enough!

I admit it, I do have enough of the librarian gene to want everything perfect - but not enough to insist on it. In a perfect world, collections would overflow with metadata, everything would be available 24/7, librarians would be rich, archivists would be regarded as gods, and cats would never hack hairballs in dark doorways for their nearsighted owners to find in the middle of the night.

So much for Eden.

I didn't start out to be a librarian, my "day job" degree was in education so I'd have a fallback when I was in theater. Technical theater teaches you everything you REALLY need to know to work in a library. People skills and management skills. The importance of workflow. Pitching in when things get down to the wire. Sharing what you know. Keeping good records. And most importantly - when to say "good enough".

When is it okay to let someone go onstage with a stapled hem? When the alternative is canceling the show. Good enough. You can finish it tomorrow, or the next day. It's not important enough to stop everything you've worked for so long. It's good enough.

Librarians haven't gotten hit over the head as hard as archivists have with "More Product, Less Process". But they will - actually, ARL just did a webcast on it - apparently the "Hidden Collections" initiative didn't light the fire they wanted. Google Books certainly has lit it. "Silos of the LAMS" fanned the flames.

When LC and NARA started posting things on Flickr and You Tube, people started to get the idea. You don't need to know everything about something to make it public. Finally. Duh. Don't put your good stuff in a box and then chain a pit bull to it, and whine when people refer to you as "dusty old archives". You've never let people in to look.

Yes, I know exactly how precious those unique items are. Digitize them and no one will have to travel a thousand miles and handle them. Your bosses will know what cool stuff you have. People will stop them on the street and tell them. When was the last time that happened to you?

It's the WORLD WIDE web - let your collections out. Stop protecting your turf, for fear of having to learn yet another new thing. Don't fear the reaper - or the harvester. I know all the arguments about income control, identity, and copyright. Deal with it.

Thus endeth the lesson. We're in the midst of the biggest intellectual revolution since Gutenberg said "Hmm...what if...?" Be part of it. Fight for it.

Oh, brave new world!

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