Final thoughts on Bush article

After reading my blog post from the first week, I decided to re-read the Bush article to see if my overall interpretation of it had changed from taking this course.  From that re-read, my initial interpretations remained much the same expect for few new additions.  My first blog post discussed how things have not changed since Bush wrote his article.  The amount of information available to researchers is staggering and it can be difficult to navigate and find the essential information needed for research.  The Bush article proposed a new technology, the memex, to help deal with this overwhelming amount of information.  Although the memex was never created, the idea to use technology to increase access to information has not changed.  Technology continually improves and libraries are trying to use that technology to enhance access for their patrons.  My first blog post discussed this and the course further strengthened these interpretations.   Digital libraries are a newer technology that can help patrons gain access to the information that they need in a more efficient way.

Something new identified while re-reading the article was Bush’s discussion on how libraries are organized in a way that is not comparable to how the human mind works, which “operates by association.”   He explained that libraries organize information by subject and that the information can only be located in one place.  This can make finding information difficult because information may be related to other information but as it can only be stored in one location, a decision has to be made on where to place that information within the library.  While the organization of the library and the ability to navigate it has changed a lot since Bush wrote the article, room remains to improve the accessibility of that information.  One thing that could help is tagging and Bush put forward an idea that is very similar to it.  He proposed that it would be better to organize information closer to how the mind works by allowing the individual to create “trails” to allow them to link different items together and this seems to be very similar to tagging.  Different people can take information and link them together by placing the same tag on both items.  When other researchers later find these pieces of information, they are easily brought to the other piece of information through the similar tag that exists between both items.  Tagging could be very beneficial as it could increase the ability for researchers to find the information they are seeking.  While tags have been introduced in some of my other courses, this course really demonstrated how valuable they can be.  While completing the first two assignments, I noticed how tagging could be important in increasing the findability of your collection and how the inclusion of more tags further increased that findability.   Therefore, while the library’s use of subject headings is very useful, information’s findability and interconnectivity could be increased if patrons added tags to records as they conducted their research.  One downside to this is that we cannot make patrons add tags to records and many choose not to.  As a result, while tagging would allow for increased access, we cannot make patrons tag records and they sometimes seem reluctant to do so.

Overall, digital libraries would allow patrons to gain better access to the information they are seeking.  This course really taught me the overall value and importance of digital libraries and changed my interpretation of them.  Before this class, my interpretation of digital libraries was mere extensions or online branches of the typical “brick and mortar” library.  This course demonstrated how they can be much more than that.  They can be a way to increase access to specific collections and information.  This is especially important for archives, who can present their varied collections online.  Digital libraries also allow users to gain improved access to books, dissertations/theses, and other information that has been digitized.   As collections are placed online, they are no longer locked up in a warehouse where access to them is limited.  They can be accessed by anyone who searches for them.  In addition, their findabilty is increased through tagging and the application of appropriate metadata.    Digital libraries could be a method to achieve Bushes optimistic goal of allowing researchers a better way to navigate and access the information they need to complete their work.

Bush’s idea of using technology to increase access and navigation of information is becoming a reality, due to new technologies, but there is still a long road ahead.  Additionally, the future of digital libraries appears to look fruitful but there is still a battle ahead of them before they can reach their full potential.  One thing they need to overcome is the existing copyright laws that restrict access to information.  Anything can be digitized and placed online but due to strict copyright laws, doing this could result in potential lawsuits.  Digital libraries are at a disadvantage when it comes to copyright, as the laws are so restrictive, but optimistically changes will be seen in the future.   This change could occur because technology is ever increasing, expanding, and improving.   With this increased technology, people are becoming accustomed to the promptness with which information is delivered to them.  In addition, with the existence of stronger/wealthier organizations, like DPLA and Hathitrust, libraries have someone who can lead them in their fight of better services for their patrons.  In the future, with people demanding information ever quicker, technology changing at astounding pace, and stronger organizations that can lead libraries in the fight, the disadvantage that libraries are currently experiencing will eventually change in their favor.  In the future, I like Bush, see an optimistic outlook, where patrons will have better access to information and will be more able to navigate its confusing maze of abundance.

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