Lost and Found at the Brooklyn College Library


I spent a day last week in an auditorium at the Brooklyn College Library surrounded by librarians donning “Hello My Name is” tags and mulling over topics ranging from Facebook to the NSA. It started out on a good note, I was happy owing to the absolutely perfect warm/grey/water-y-without-being-rainy weather. And I didn’t get at all lost. Until I got a little lost and almost went into a nearby high school. This clearly would have been a catastrophic if hackneyed turn of events. What if they didn’t let me leave? I would have to take algebra, I would get hassled by mean girls, no one would like me, yada, yada, yada; hilarity ensues. It turned out upon further inspection (reading the sign) that it was none other than my mother’s high school which would add a whole other Back to the Future-y layer to the scenario, but I do eventually find the library and there is free coffee! The program, presented by Brooklyn College Library, METRO and the Brooklyn Museum focused on how libraries are inviting users to contribute, communicate and collaborate (a positive thing) and the interplay between cutting-edge technologies and privacy (a worrisome thing). The program was actually very good.

David Lankes of the Information Institute of Syracuse (IIS) spoke about “participatory librarianship” positing that knowledge is created through conversation and librarians should be mediators and participants in these conversations. He talked about re-conceptualizing the library catalog to promote dialog as social networking sites have.

Next up was a presentation by Jasmine de Gaia of OCLC. Jasmine spoke about the myriad of shiny hip social networking applications (blogs, google API’s, Facebook) that WorldCat is using to move the valuable records in its database (contributed by libraries throughout the world) into the virtual landscape where people actually are. I don’t remember the numbers but I’m sure you can imagine the surge in WorldCat use when it was added as a facebook application.

After lunch, our own Deirdre Lawrence and Shelley Bernstein were up talking about “Brooklyn Museum’s Innovative Electronic Community”. Deirdre spoke about our experience with blogging and Shelley spoke about Brooklyn Museum’s participation in The Commons on Flickr. The Commons was launched partly to gain insight into how social tagging and community input could benefit the participating institutions, its users and the Flickr community. The LC is incorporating data contributed by users into their records; it will be very interesting to see what they do. And what we do as we see what the Flickr community bring to our own records.

The day ended with a talk by Christopher Calabrese of the ACLU called “The Growth of Surveillance in Our Society.” This is the utterly petrifying side of a linked-in, hooked-up, hyper-connected world. I suggest taking a look at the ACLU’s report. Cheap technology, amped up information flow that can be easily aggregated and pumped into data bases and a culture of post 9/11 fear has created a perfect storm, a “surveillance industrial complex” as it was termed. The answer, it seems, really isn’t to go find the nearest yurt but rather to enact comprehensive and technology specific privacy legislation.

And that is my report. Professional development can be totally fun.