online retail influencing libraries 11.21.2005, 12:07 PM
posted by ben vershbow
The NY Times reports on new web-based services at university libraries that are incorporating features such as personalized recommendations, browsing histories, and email alerts, the sort of thing developed by online retailers like Amazon and Netflix to recreate some of the experience of browsing a physical store. Remember Ranganathan's fourth law of library science: "save the time of the reader." The reader and the customer are perhaps becoming one in the same.
It would be interesting if a social software system were emerging for libraries that allowed students and researchers to work alongside librarians in organizing the stacks. Automated recommendations are just the beginning. I'm talking more about value added by the readers themselves (Amazon has does this with reader reviews, Listmania, and So You'd Like To...). A social card catalogue with a tagging system and other reader-supplied metadata where readers could leave comments and bread crumb trails between books. Each card catalogue entry with its own blog and wiki to create a context for the book. Books are not just surrounded by other volumes on the shelves, they are surrounded by people, other points of view, affinities -- the kinds of thing that up to this point were too vaporous to collect. This goes back to David Weinberger's comment on metadata and Google Book Search.
bob stein on November 21, 2005 1:18 PM:
hmmm. i wonder if a smart hacker on some library's staff has used Amazon's APIs to link the Amazon user database to the library's card catalog? seems like a natural development. also, wonder if anyone has done any work linking library card catalogs to related resources on the web. i'm not talking about an unstructured Google search, but handmade links on impt. topics; e.g. if someone is researching the debate on evolution, might they be referred to PZ Myers, Pharyngula?
Daniel Anderson on November 21, 2005 7:37 PM:
Your post reminds me of why I like Billy Collins's poem, "Marginalia." The poem points to the conversations that take place as readers jot their reactions in the margins of books,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
The comments in the margin show the arguments and interactions we'd like to see between readers and writers, but in the end what matters are the human traces we might find in books.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer . . .
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."
I like the question you raise about reader-tagged possibilities for libraries. Thinking about that kind of filtering in terms of how library users go about searching really highlights the need for anyone concerned with research to try to make sense of some of these changes that are happening. What do we make of and how might we reshape those connections from the margins.
Peter Merholz on November 23, 2005 11:18 PM:
Not just online retail. Look at the Seattle Public Library. Or the work that MAYA did for the Carnegie Libraries. It's clear that they are influenced by the third-place success of Barnes and Noble and Borders.