Friday, January 16, 2009

Library social media wins one

Update: We can't make it to today's Nylink/NYPL event. Get your tshirts at ALA Midwinter or by asking for one.

Big news. As you may have heard, OCLC has reversed itself and delayed its new Policy due to take effect in February. They will be setting up a "Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship"*, with broad member consultation promised. At best, they've heard the message and may end up embracing truly free and open library data. (A man can dream!) At worst their strategic retreat gives free-and-open data proponents time to articulate and broaden their case.

For people like me who have been pluging away at this for months and feeling increasingly depressed about what seemed the library world's inevitable slide into data monopoly, it was a big, big win. The LibraryThing team went out to Silly's. That's a party.

Social media won. Content aside, however, it was a big win for library "social media," particularly the "biblioblogosphere."* OCLC's new Policy was rushed through so quickly that it effectively bypassed traditional library-world tools, like professional conference. Press coverage too was minimal, late and mostly dependent on the blogosphere. Even the hastily-convened ARL/ASERL panel hadn't spoken yet when OCLC felt the need to reverse course. The blogosphere was running ten- or twenty-to-one against the Policy.

Other social media also played their part. From the trendy, excitable Twitter to the cliquish Facebook to that forgotten workhorse of professional communication, the Listserv. Even AUTOCAT, which many of the Library 2.0 types I hang out with consider past hope, showed little support for the policy and much criticism. And over them all, the Code4Lib wiki was pressed into action tracking and aggregating what everyone was saying, allowing arguments to build on each other and makin it crystal clear to everyone that they were not alone.

Of course, we don't know why OCLC changed course. There's a rumor going around that important library director or two said they wouldn't abide by it. It's also possible that ARL/ASERL is going to come out solidly against it, and OCLC saw it coming. But even if the ultimate decision rested with some powerful people, they must have drawn on the blogosphere for information and support. Maybe the payoff from all those library-sponsored professional development courses won't come from helping patrons get on the MySpace bus, but from getting the library world off a train to nowhere.

So, open-data people. You're not alone. You have power. The library world is listening. What do you have to say?

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Blogger Susanf said...

Our "social mob" is cool. It is fascinating to watch the process unfold. Social media is rising. Could we do the same for DRM? Funding of libraries? Cost of digital materials?

1/16/2009 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karen Calhoun was in Ottawa last week...rumour has it that she had meetings with higher-ups at Library and Archives Canada. Perhaps this contributed?

1/16/2009 3:46 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...


1/17/2009 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Library leadership & professional communication works hopefully, but did we need social media to *do it* ? i.e. totally? I don't believe so...however all communication certainly helps.

1/18/2009 12:15 PM  
Blogger Merriwyn said...

I think we probably did need social media to do it, to an extent, because of the previously mentioned point that it was done so quickly that no-one was able to talk about it in traditional forums like conferences. The fact that there were virtual communities where people who found out about this could voice their concerns and pass the message on made getting the message out so much easier, and provided people with the important message that they were not alone in their concerns. The fact that these were existing public communities helped make it clear that this was a serious concern shared by a large number of library types.

1/19/2009 7:11 PM  

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