Monday, June 21, 2010

Still more silos

Over at Off the Shelf, leala talks about digital asset managers, and how librarians and archivists are reinventing the wheel.

She's right, but doesn't take it far enough. It's not just DAM that others have been doing longer and better, how about records management? Talk to anyone in a regulated business - banking, stocks, medical care - and they'll be astonished that we don't know about systems they've been using for years.

How about project management? We never mention it in LIS schools, but we do a lot of it, mostly badly. Yet there's tons of expertise from big businesses to small construction firms.

But we own cataloging, right? Not at all, look at anyone else's catalog, from Amazon to Zappo's shoes. Better interface, better database, better metadata. Yes, they do put money into it, but don't we sink a lot into out catalogs and systems, too? And do they work as well?

Some years ago, I took on a large photo collection that had been neglected for 15 years, full of duplicate images and numerous captions for each image. A nightmare, but being young and foolish, I took it on. I drew up a workflow chart, like I did for building rehab (gotta make decisions about wiring before you plaster, decide where the kitchen will be before you plumb) and got it done in a year with two workstudy students. It was all in the planning and analysis, not one person starting at one end and going linearly until he retired, but three working simultaneously. The archivists were astonished - guess no one had worked construction. Or retail, where you plan your floor before you put out merchandise.

There are a lot of skills lacking in LIS programs, but prevalent in the "real world". Maybe we all should spend time there before going for out degree. Or listen to our fathers and mothers, who have done the same thing with different stuff.

It's very likely that instead of a second subject MA, we need a complementary MA - business, IT, something that will give us the vocabulary and knowledge to find what we need, outside the library.

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