Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Postmodern Librarian?

Are we in the postmodern era? Nicholas Joint's Digital Libraries and the Future of the Library Profession seems to think so. In it, he argues that unique contemporary cultural shifts are leading to a new form of librarianship that can be characterized as "postmodern" in nature, and that this form of professional specialism will be increasingly influential in the decades to come.

According to Joint, the idea of the postmodern digital library is clearly very different from the interim digital library. In the summer of 2006, a workshop at the eLit conference in Loughborough on the cultural impact of mobile communication technologies, there emerged the Five Theses of Loughborough. Here they are:

(1) There are no traditional information objects on the internet with determinate formats or determinate formats or determinate qualities: the only information object and information forat on the internet is "ephemera"

(2) The only map of the internet is the internet itself, it cannot be described

(3) A hypertext collection cannot be selectively collected because each information object is infinite and infinity cannot be contained

(4) The problem of digital preservation is like climate change; it is man-made and irreversible, and means that much digital data is ephemeral; but unlike climate change, it is not necessarily catastrophic

(5) Thus, there is no such thing as a traditional library in a postmodern world. Postmodern information sets are just as accessible as traditional libraries;: there are no formats, no descriptions, no hope of collection management, no realistic possibility of preservation. And they work fine.

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