Librarians have always been good at describing, classifying and grouping things together. Whilst they use formal overarching rules and structures to organise information and items, their clients have varying ranges of skill in navigating and accessing resources structured in this way. As technology has progressed, the need for clients to know how these seemingly antiquated systems work have steadily decreased with the rise of keyword searching.
But librarians aren’t the only ones describing and organising information and content, nor library clients the only ones who want access to information. Everyone can curate their own content we do it every day in a myriad of increasingly sophisticated ways. We curate information when we send or share a hyperlink to content to someone that we think they might like or find useful, when we add bookmarks to our web browsers or use a social tagging service like Delicious, Digg or Technorati, when we subscribe to RSS feeds, when we create lists of our favourite material held in our library (the National Library encourages users to create their own lists of favourite material found in their catalogue) or create a gallery of favourite images on Flickr.
If someone approached me even five years ago and explained that one day in the near future I would be filtering, collecting and sharing content for thousands of perfect strangers to read — and doing it for free — I would have responded with a pretty perplexed look. Yet today I can’t imagine living in a world where I don’t filter, collect and share.
Similarly, Maria Popova says that utilising a range of sources to find useful information works for her:
I live and die by Google Reader, where I exercise something I call “meta-curation” – hand-picking a list of consistently interesting sources, then letting them do their own curation of specific content, and consuming that. I do the same on Twitter, where I’m obsessively selective about whom I follow – I have more than 16,000 followers and only follow 250 or so people because it’s a content discover platform for me, not a social networking mechanism. I only follow interesting linkers – people who share links in at least 90% of their tweets – and use that to find content I wouldn’t normally discover via my RSS subscriptions.
Librarians have been curating content for time immemorial. Users and every day people are rapidly playing an increasingly active role in curating their own content. Libraries need to work with their users to utilise the finding and organising power that they have in bringing resources together.