I'm putting together presentation for the upcoming BC Libraries Conference in a couple months. It's a follow up to "Starting now to Imagine Libraries in 100 years". I have proposed to ask the controversial question: what's our Plan B? What happens if we can't get the licenses and items that will make up our Collection for our communities? Here's the blurb from the Conference Program:
If, in some dystopian future, we no longer have the role of husbanding our community's store of knowledge; if we are no longer the "Bibliotheque" because we don't have the bibliographic material, either print or digital, what do we do? If we faced a future where we can't provide a "License to Read" because we can't get the licenses, and the public commons of information is being enclosed by private interest, what would be our Plan B? Would we fight? Would we band together with like-minded institutions and remake the commons with open access and open source? Would we do something else for our community: turn "learning into action", or somesuch? In this session we will look at possible futures of information and libraries in our communities and at comparable histories of change and dislocation that can relate to information and our communities. Using assumptions and brainstorm results from this presenter's BCLC 2011 session as inspiration, we'll challenge ourselves to tackle these unhappy scenarios and decide what we want to do. There are many threats to the library as we know it and we can meet these threats in many ways. The future is not something to shrink from, but something to meet head-on. Should we be afraid, or should we move forward with our convictions and our community's support.
But now, in addition to fighing back, or building from open sources, or turning to programs and "learning", a fourth possibility is arising in my mind. I'm reading Too Big to Know by David Weinberger. He's taking the rise of digital information to a further conclusion: that the meaning of knowledge is being changed by the net. Here's a perfect quote that encapulates his thesis: "The property of knowledge as a body of vetted works comes directly from the properties of paper. Traditional knowledge has been an accident of paper." (pp. 53-54). Wow! So, what about my Plan B. While we are worrying about how the library will keep track of the information for our communities that can feed their knowledge, Weinberger says knowledge is all different now because of the net. It's not contained in documents; it's not held by experts. Does we have to have a Plan C? Or is this just another way of developing programs and "turning learning into action" ?