Another Reason for IL Instruction and Why Open Source Rocks

Happy Monday. Wow, it is back to work time again. But never fear, faithful reader, I have some news and tidbits that should make sliding back into work mode a little more palatable.

First up, check out this article about how more information leads to less knowledge. So the basic thrust of the argument is that now, with people literally swimming in information via the web, we still have people that remain willfully ignorant of various concepts and that we are devolving to argue facts instead of the meaning behind the facts. I love the term “agnotology,” coined by Robert Proctor, a historian of science at Stanford. Agnotology is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”

Now if anything cried out the need for information literacy instruction, the fact that agnotology has now been coined cries out loud and clear. Information literacy is the key to creating knowledge out of the morass of information that is omnipresent in our lives.

This could make you feel a little overwhelmed by the herculean task that faces those of us in the information sciences professions, especially those who teach information literacy. But I say, what an opportunity to teach and yes, another point to make the case for our relevancy in society. But if you are still feeling a little overwhelmed about all the work there is to be done, check out this article from WebWorker Daily about marking the end of your work day in order to accomplish more and actually stop working at a reasonable time. Though not all of us work at home each day, these are still great tips for any of us who are tempted to work 24/7. It’s not healthy to work that much and it is great to have some ritual that lets your mind and body know that it is really time to quit work. Besides which, most everything can wait until morning. As one of my friend’s boss says, “Failure to plan on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part.” So back away from the computer and go for a walk.

Raise your hand if you are interested in design? Interested in art? Really, you’re not? Well, then skip this paragraph and move on. For those interested in how art, and more specifically colors, affect our emotions and productivity, check out this New York Times article, Reinvent Wheel? Blue Room. Defusing a Bomb? Red Room. It basically delves into the interesting and sometimes odd research area of how color affects emotions and reactions. So if red increases accuracy and blue increases creativity, maybe I should have a maroon office so I get the best of both worlds. Just kidding.

Luckily, the title of the above article leads into this next bit of information. Or mainly, leads to my rant about silos of information in libraries and everyone trying to reinvent the wheel. Why this small rant? I got this article in my RSS feed this morning on open source solutions for libraries. That didn’t make me annoyed; as everyone knows I fully support open source solutions for libraries, especially with the outrageous costs of some vendor products. I even think LibLime is wonderful, although it is not responsible for the invention of Koha, it is now a vendor and support provider for Koha and some it developers now work on Koha, though.

My big gripe is that, in this age of shrinking budgets and staffing levels, multiple libraries are trying to reinvent the wheel. Why? Why can’t librarians just all work together on the same platform and pool their collective intelligences? It frustrates me to no end that everyone is trying to work on the same problem in their little silos instead of looking around to see if anyone else has already invented the wheel.

Take Koha for example. It was developed in New Zealand and implemented in 1999-2000. It has been through multiple versions, and is a stable, open-source, fully-featured ILS system. It can be scaled to any sized library, can be used in consortia, and actually looks great. So why are other libraries insisting on homegrown systems when they could be helping to make Koha better? There is even support for this open source system, note the reference to LibLime above.

Let’s all stop re-inventing the same wheel. Or in other words, instead of everyone storming off to Mount Doom on their own, why doesn’t someone text Frodo and Sam first to see if the mission has been accomplished? Then we can all get back to improving and collaborating existing systems, have that all elusive goal of interoperability, and get back to helping our patrons make sense of the latest information that has blasted them on the web.

That’s all I’m really saying.

See you later in the week.