Paul Hagon on ALATechSource

Paul Hagon, the National Library’s senior web designer, has a lot of interesting ideas on the ways that libraries might be able to utilise emerging technologies. Paul recently spoke to Michael Stephens over at ALA TechSource and made an important point about the way that libraries provide their information to users, primarily through a search box interface. But how easily is information available and findable through such interfaces? Paul suggests that there are a multitide of other avenues to finding and gaining access to information and asks,

How can we easily provide this information to others to use? There are too many applications for us to be building them all. I think this is the important part. We should just be the ‘pipes’ that provide the information.

Michael asked Paul about what he thought libraries could do to start moving in that direction. Paul said:

I would love to see libraries opening up their information for others to use in an easier manner. Currently libraries are both the custodians of information, and also the custodians of how you access that information (eg: through a traditional catalogue/search interface). Libraries can still be the custodians of the information and retain that authoritative role that they should have, but they shouldn’t necessarily be deciding how people access that information. There are a lot of smart people out there building clever applications. Let them use the information how they want. Good ideas come from anywhere.

Read the full conversation here.

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One thought on “Paul Hagon on ALATechSource

  1. I agree with Paul. Most Libraries (and the NLA in particular) are custodians essentially of government records or data sets.
    It is the will of government to allow the public to re-use and re-purpose these data sets and hopefully improve their usage and useability. See http://data.australia.gov.au/

    It is not always necessary for the holding institution to make individual data elements available in a useable way, but it is beholden on them to make the data set available upon request in a form that it may be used as the receiver sees fit.

    My current work is about looking at exactly this subject and so I give you this example. Australian Hansard is available at:
    ParlInfo (http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/)
    and
    OpenAustralia (http://www.openaustralia.org/)

    So users have a choice and may decide which search and functionality better suits them.

    Libraries have put huge resources into catalogues in recent years, few to better effect than the NLA. However, there should always be a place for the public to try something different. Even though that something different would probbaly be an App or other tool to select and provide access to discrete data elements.

    That being said I would say that Libraries should continue to be custodians of content as well as custodians of the means to access it.
    Just because others options may be around, we must not lose sight of our responsibilities. Libraries are not repositories (that is the role of archives) but are the conduit between people and the information they require.

    I don’t think we are doing a bad job of this. We have opened our catalogues to the world, via search engines etc. and are providing greater access to knowledge than ever before.

    We should also always be aware that non-librarians may not always have an understanding of what we do and more importantly why we do it. Technology is the servant of Libraries, not the other way around.

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