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The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data

In this book, Ronald Day offers a critical history of the modern tradition of documentation. Focusing on the documentary index (understood as a mode of social positioning), and drawing on the work of the French documentalist Suzanne Briet, Day explores the understanding and uses of indexicality. He examines the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data.

Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, “the father of European documentation” (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media’s use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robotsto embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social “big data” as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

The Internet lets us share perfect copies of our work with a worldwide audience at virtually no cost. We take advantage of this revolutionary opportunity when we make our work “open access”: digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open access is made possible by the Internet and copyright-holder consent, and many authors, musicians, filmmakers, and other creators who depend on royalties are understandably unwilling to give their consent. But for 350 years, scholars have written peer-reviewed journal articles for impact, not for money, and are free to consent to open access without losing revenue.

In this concise introduction, Peter Suber tells us what open access is and isn’t, how it benefits authors and readers of research, how we pay for it, how it avoids copyright problems, how it has moved from the periphery to the mainstream, and what its future may hold. Distilling a decade of Suber’s influential writing and thinking about open access, this is the indispensable book on the subject for researchers, librarians, administrators, funders, publishers, and policy makers.

About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929

Today on almost every desk in every office sits a computer. Eighty years ago, desktops were equipped with a nonelectronic data processing machine: a card file. In Paper Machines, Markus Krajewski traces the evolution of this proto-computer of rearrangeable parts (file cards) that became ubiquitous in offices between the world wars.
The story begins with Konrad Gessner, a sixteenth-century Swiss polymath who described a new method of processing data: to cut up a sheet of handwritten notes into slips of paper, with one fact or topic per slip, and arrange as desired. In the late eighteenth century, the card catalog became the librarian’s answer to the threat of information overload. Then, at the turn of the twentieth century, business adopted the technology of the card catalog as a bookkeeping tool. Krajewski explores this conceptual development and casts the card file as a “universal paper machine” that accomplishes the basic operations of Turing’s universal discrete machine: storing, processing, and transferring data. In telling his story, Krajewski takes the reader on a number of illuminating detours, telling us, for example, that the card catalog and the numbered street address emerged at the same time in the same city (Vienna), and that Harvard University’s home-grown cataloging system grew out of a librarian’s laziness; and that Melvil Dewey (originator of the Dewey Decimal System) helped bring about the technology transfer of card files to business.

Libraries have existed for millennia, but today the library field is searching for solid footing in an increasingly fragmented (and increasingly digital) information environment. What is librarianship when it is unmoored from cataloging, books, buildings, and committees? In The Atlas of New Librarianship, R. David Lankes offers a guide to this new landscape for practitioners. He describes a new librarianship based not on books and artifacts but on knowledge and learning; and he suggests a new mission for librarians: to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities. The vision for a new librarianship must go beyond finding library-related uses for information technology and the Internet; it must provide a durable foundation for the field. Lankes recasts librarianship and library practice using the fundamental concept that knowledge is created though conversation. New librarians approach their work as facilitators of conversation; they seek to enrich, capture, store, and disseminate the conversations of their communities. To help librarians navigate this new terrain, Lankes offers a map, a visual representation of the field that can guide explorations of it; more than 140 Agreements, statements about librarianship that range from relevant theories to examples of practice; and Threads, arrangements of Agreements to explain key ideas, covering such topics as conceptual foundations and skills and values. Agreement Supplements at the end of the book offer expanded discussions. Although it touches on theory as well as practice, the Atlas is meant to be a tool: textbook, conversation guide, platform for social networking, and call to action.Copublished with the Association of College & Research Libraries.

From Theory to Practice

Knowledge in digital form offers unprecedented access to information through the Internet but at the same time is subject to ever-greater restrictions through intellectual property legislation, overpatenting, licensing, overpricing, and lack of preservation. Looking at knowledge as a commons--as a shared resource--allows us to understand both its limitless possibilities and what threatens it. In Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, experts from a range of disciplines discuss the knowledge commons in the digital era--how to conceptualize it, protect it, and build it.Contributors consider the concept of the commons historically and offer an analytical framework for understanding knowledge as a shared social-ecological system. They look at ways to guard against enclosure of the knowledge commons, considering, among other topics, the role of research libraries, the advantages of making scholarly material available outside the academy, and the problem of disappearing Web pages. They discuss the role of intellectual property in a new knowledge commons, the open access movement (including possible funding models for scholarly publications), the development of associational commons, the application of a free/open source framework to scientific knowledge, and the effect on scholarly communication of collaborative communities within academia, and offer a case study of EconPort, an open access, open source digital library for students and researchers in microeconomics. The essays clarify critical issues that arise within these new types of commons--and offer guideposts for future theory and practice.Contributors:David Bollier, James Boyle, James C. Cox, Shubha Ghosh, Charlotte Hess, Nancy Kranich, Peter Levine, Wendy Pradt Lougee, Elinor Ostrom, Charles Schweik, Peter Suber, J. Todd Swarthout, Donald Waters

Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet

Scholars in all fields now have access to an unprecedented wealth of online information, tools, and services. The Internet lies at the core of an information infrastructure for distributed, data-intensive, and collaborative research. Although much attention has been paid to the new technologies making this possible, from digitized books to sensor networks, it is the underlying social and policy changes that will have the most lasting effect on the scholarly enterprise. In Scholarship in the Digital Age, Christine Borgman explores the technical, social, legal, and economic aspects of the kind of infrastructure that we should be building for scholarly research in the twenty-first century.
Borgman describes the roles that information technology plays at every stage in the life cycle of a research project and contrasts these new capabilities with the relatively stable system of scholarly communication, which remains based on publishing in journals, books, and conference proceedings. No framework for the impending “data deluge” exists comparable to that for publishing. Analyzing scholarly practices in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, Borgman compares each discipline’s approach to infrastructure issues. In the process, she challenges the many stakeholders in the scholarly infrastructure--scholars, publishers, libraries, funding agencies, and others--to look beyond their own domains to address the interaction of technical, legal, economic, social, political, and disciplinary concerns. Scholarship in the Digital Age will provoke a stimulating conversation among all who depend on a rich and robust scholarly environment.

Christine L. Borgman is Professor and Presidential Chair in Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure: Access to Information in the Networked World (MIT Press, 2000).

Information retrieval in the age of Internet search engines has become part of ordinary discourse and everyday practice: “Google” is a verb in common usage. Thus far, more attention has been given to practical understanding of information retrieval than to a full theoretical account. In Human Information Retrieval, Julian Warner offers a comprehensive overview of information retrieval, synthesizing theories from different disciplines (information and computer science, librarianship and indexing, and information society discourse) and incorporating such disparate systems as WorldCat and Google into a single, robust theoretical framework. There is a need for such a theoretical treatment, he argues, one that reveals the structure and underlying patterns of this complex field while remaining congruent with everyday practice. Warner presents a labor theoretic approach to information retrieval, building on his previously formulated distinction between semantic and syntactic mental labor, arguing that the description and search labor of information retrieval can be understood as both semantic and syntactic in character. Warner’s information science approach is rooted in the humanities and the social sciences but informed by an understanding of information technology and information theory. The chapters offer a progressive exposition of the topic, with illustrative examples to explain the concepts presented. Neither narrowly practical nor largely speculative, Human Information Retrieval meets the contemporary need for a broader treatment of information and information systems.

The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship

Questions about access to scholarship go back farther than recent debates over subscription prices, rights, and electronic archives suggest. The great libraries of the past—from the fabled collection at Alexandria to the early public libraries of nineteenth-century America—stood as arguments for increasing access. In The Access Principle, John Willinsky describes the latest chapter in this ongoing story—online open access publishing by scholarly journals—and makes a case for open access as a public good.

A commitment to scholarly work, writes Willinsky, carries with it a responsibility to circulate that work as widely as possible: this is the access principle. In the digital age, that responsibility includes exploring new publishing technologies and economic models to improve access to scholarly work. Wide circulation adds value to published work; it is a significant aspect of its claim to be knowledge. The right to know and the right to be known are inextricably mixed. Open access, argues Willinsky, can benefit both a researcher-author working at the best-equipped lab at a leading research university and a teacher struggling to find resources in an impoverished high school.

Willinsky describes different types of access—the New England Journal of Medicine, for example, grants open access to issues six months after initial publication, and First Monday forgoes a print edition and makes its contents immediately accessible at no cost. He discusses the contradictions of copyright law, the reading of research, and the economic viability of open access. He also considers broader themes of public access to knowledge, human rights issues, lessons from publishing history, and "epistemological vanities." The debate over open access, writes Willinsky, raises crucial questions about the place of scholarly work in a larger world—and about the future of knowledge.

A preface to this paperback edition is available on the MIT Press website.

Instant electronic access to digital information is the single most distinguishing attribute of the information age. The elaborate retrieval mechanisms that support such access are a product of technology. But technology is not enough. The effectiveness of a system for accessing information is a direct function of the intelligence put into organizing it. Just as the practical field of engineering has theoretical physics as its underlying base, the design of systems for organizing information rests on an intellectual foundation. The subject of this book is the systematized body of knowledge that constitutes this foundation.

Integrating the disparate disciplines of descriptive cataloging, subject cataloging, indexing, and classification, the book adopts a conceptual framework that views the process of organizing information as the use of a special language of description called a bibliographic language. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is an analytic discussion of the intellectual foundation of information organization. The second part moves from generalities to particulars, presenting an overview of three bibliographic languages: work languages, document languages, and subject languages. It looks at these languages in terms of their vocabulary, semantics, and syntax. The book is written in an exceptionally clear style, at a level that makes it understandable to those outside the discipline of library and information science.

Digital Libraries and Electronic Publishing series

Computer Support for Building Collaborative Knowledge

Innovative uses of global and local networks of linked computers make new ways of collaborative working, learning, and acting possible. In Group Cognition Gerry Stahl explores the technological and social reconfigurations that are needed to achieve computer-supported collaborative knowledge building--group cognition that transcends the limits of individual cognition. Computers can provide active media for social group cognition where ideas grow through the interactions within groups of people; software functionality can manage group discourse that results in shared understandings, new meanings, and collaborative learning. Stahl offers software design prototypes, analyzes empirical instances of collaboration, and elaborates a theory of collaboration that takes the group, rather than the individual, as the unit of analysis.Stahl's design studies concentrate on mechanisms to support group formation, multiple interpretive perspectives, and the negotiation of group knowledge in applications as varied as collaborative curriculum development by teachers, writing summaries by students, and designing space voyages by NASA engineers. His empirical analysis shows how, in small-group collaborations, the group constructs intersubjective knowledge that emerges from and appears in the discourse itself. This discovery of group meaning becomes the springboard for Stahl's outline of a social theory of collaborative knowing. Stahl also discusses such related issues as the distinction between meaning making at the group level and interpretation at the individual level, appropriate research methodology, philosophical directions for group cognition theory, and suggestions for further empirical work.

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