Thursday, 24 July 2008

Why is change so slow...

Too often, when I see the "new things" that libraries are coming up with these days I too often less than surprised. Don't get me wrong, there are some great things that libraries and librarians are trying out and implementing in terms of new services, new functionality on their web pages and catalogs, and new media and tools being used on the floor and in the back room. But very very little of it is internally born. It's all just repurposing and reinterpretations of what others are doing.

For example, there are some changes rippling through online catalogs, adding the possibility for users to add tags, reviews, place in bookbags, manipulate their own personal displays... That's all great but these have all been done before: Amazon, Google,, etc. That's not to say that we shouldn't be adding these features, but why does it take us so long to do it and why don't we come up with features of our own. Well I'll tell you a couple of reasons why:
  1. At least for any technological area, libraries usually do not have enough skilled staff, money, and/or time to produce the code (let alone develop code innovatively), manage hardware, or purchase either of it.

  2. Librarians, like everybody else in this world, have a hard time reinventing themselves, exploring new areas, trying new things, or doing things in a different way. It takes effort to "go where no one has gone before" and if there's nothing pushing you there, why would you go?

  3. And even if we have the will and the resources, large groups of people have a kind of inertia that have to be overcome even if everyone in the group is game. It's like silly putty: if you pull it quickly, it'll snap, but if pull slowly, it will stay together and even flow like a liquid. Or maybe it's like spider legs: one leg can be moved easily but if the spider wants to go anywhere in one piece, all its legs have to move with the same common goal, all working together. Or something like that.
We are changing though. Libraries are staking out new territory, trying out new widgets, bring gaming systems into their collections and whatnot, so I guess I shouldn't be too hard on us. It's just frustrating when I see where "I" think we should be going and everyone else isn't going there fast enough to suit my style... maybe I'm that one spider leg that is going all wonky? Maybe I should be paying attention to where all the other legs are going?!? Wait for me, guys!

No comments: