Final Thoughts

What I wrote about Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” essay at the start of the semester still holds true, I don’t think I’d change anything other than expand upon my response to it.  His conception of the potential of the memex machine to create associative trails that will gather what we seek, while creating these rich connections between similarly indexed information still impresses me as visionary.  Throughout this course, as we’ve discussed topics like retrieval and the need for robust metadata; the work we do to place these resources where they can be accessed easily has impressed me as one of crucial steps in the process of information management as digital librarians.  I appreciated this course’s discussion of findability and hold these challenges to be crucial to the usefulness and results we can make of all our labor.

When we spent time discussing preservation, evaluation and selection, I was drawn to consider the overwhelming nature of the prospect of making critical decisions about what materials should be digitized first, what items can wait, and those we needn’t bother with.  This places us as information professionals with a great responsibility to manage these projects well, select appropriate materials, and take on the daunting task of deciding the future access afforded a book, audio recording, or film.  Bush seemed content to create microfiche of his private collection of books and maximize their potential by using the associative trail to recall at a moment’s notice anything he desired.  I think Bush felt that he would be using the memex to create connections to the research materials any academic could desire, without realizing that we could quickly become overwhelmed with the volume of potential material made available.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn more about large scale digital library projects, like HathiTrust, the Digital Public Library of America, and Google Books.  It was certainly a perk to witness the roll out of the DPLA in April and see that project come together with added partners joining throughout the semester.   Digital Libraries of this scale impressed me with their thoughtful planning, and months, even years of broad discussion and collaboration.  Many have commented on the willingness of projects like the DPLA and HathiTrust to tackle difficult copyright issues.  I’m certainly glad that they are showing caution and behaving strategically around the issue of copyright.  Google’s example of acting first with their digitization projects, without author’s consent, and then offering an almost insulting payment in return is personally offensive and hopefully will not be duplicated.  Authors and orphaned works deserve more.  I hope that we as information professionals can stay engaged at a grass roots level and find ways to support institutions like the DPLA.  Even if this just means low risk activities like trying to stay on top of the discourse and aware of the battle lines.

When I considered taking this course my initial interest surrounded issues of access.  I’ve been attracted to the potential that digital libraries to grant access to innumerable resources and see connections made between remote communities.  That potential still intrigues me though I now can appreciate some of the complexity of issues surrounding making these resources readily available.  I’m certain we are entering into the library profession during a fertile time of transition as we are driven to redefine how we offer our services and make materials available.  Digital libraries strike me as still in the nascent stages of evolution and considering the way information and access to it has exploded in the past 20 years, I’m confident the future library students will be just as intrigued by the “ visionary but antiquated concepts” we held in 2013.

I appreciated this course for its ability to present some of the big issues related to Digital Libraries.  I’d be misleading if I didn’t confess that I still feel largely unprepared to offer the technical insight and broad project management expertise to be of use to a potential employer for a digital library project.  I’m certainly more confident at sitting at the table and hearing the discussion.  Being a matter of days from completing my SLIS studies has certainly lent me a contemplative frame of mind.  Did I learn enough?  Where have I fallen short?  What experiences proved useful?  Where do I need to turn next?  Undoubtedly I want to stay engaged with the issues surrounding digital librarianship and continue to pursue the tools I’ll need to develop.  Thankfully I’m attracted to librarianship as a profession because I’m certain that it will support me in my desire to continually grow and learn more.

Thanks everyone for an engaging course, and thank Sarah for presenting such a useful context and readings with which to discuss digital libraries.  I really enjoyed reading everyone’s contributions to the blog and the questions posed by the discussion leaders.  I wish you all well in your future endeavors, whether its graduation, a job, or a much needed summer break.


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