Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Creating, Maintaining, and Sharing Personal Libraries

purple sweetgum leaf

I've been pondering how personal collections (libraries) are changing, and I think it comes down to sharing: It used to be more difficult to share items from a personal collection because of concerns about loss or damage. Now, however, with digital copies and high-speed networks, sharing your collection can be much easier.

So, what does this mean for public & institutional libraries? If folks are now able to share easily amongst themselves, what purpose do we have? Are we providing resources for those who do not participate in those sharing networks for one reason or other? Are we exposing people to new resources that they might not have encountered in their networks? More importantly, are librarians part of these networks? I believe librarians now have the responsibility not just to keep up with, collect, and maintain materials, but also to disseminate them by engaging in networks.

Unfortunately, many (I hesitate to say most) people do not consider the organization of their collections terribly important. For a lot of people it slides to the bottom of their priorities list. In librarian terms, this means the metadata is often a mess.

To put this in more concrete terms, I can think of a number of tools I use to organize my own personal libraries: delicious to organize my collection of web sites, Visual Bookshelf to organize my leisure reading, zotero to organize my scholarly projects and citations, iTunes to organize my music, etc. But I don't know of one tool that brings my collections together, lets me connect to people I know, and allows me to share all that information. Is it Ning? FriendFeed? Where is the one tool or set of standards to support this? Maybe an important component of information literacy (which is now getting attention from the president) is exactly how we should all be creating, maintaining, and sharing our personal collections.


  1. Great questions, Olivia, and great observation about the missing link in our technology. This question about what role we play in a sharing world is a good one. I see it differently, I guess. Rather than a gatekeeper, I see myself as a matchmaker. I put people in touch with information, sources, technology that facilitates their sharing. And that's a pretty important role to play, I think. And I can't think of anyone else who does it. Can you? Does that mesh with what you are thinking?

  2. Thanks for commenting -- we are definitely on the same page! The gatekeeper mentality has never made sense to me either. And no, I can't think of anyone else who does this. (It's a tricky role to define, too.)