Monday, October 09, 2006

Reaction to Today's Discussion

There's something that kept with me today after class ended. In thinking about how the web can be/should be integrated into public libraries, I get stuck on a question of value. The Internet has immense potential as an educational resource, a source of entertainment or a chance to form a social network, and so on. However, how can it be brought into a library without have librarians filter it's content or at least what's a matter of public access within the library? And this is the part that gets me: How do you ask a librarian to 'filter' the Internet? You can't without assuming a certain judgement of value, because what's useful will depend on who's looking to use that information, right? In the old days of publishing there was that hierarchy of standards and system of approval in place, but that isn't so with digital information. Nobody's censoring or limiting the web, and that is what's truly great about it--the vast potential to access anything and not just what some academy or stuffy publisher deems a quality read.


At 7:28 PM, Blogger lwinkle said...

I wasn't finished writing when my computer decided to publish that last entry, so I'll sum it up like this: Is it fair, or maybe ethical is a better word, to ask librarians to filter online data? Wouldn't there be an inherent judgement of value in carrying out the filtering? Personally, I stand by the idea of freedom to information without personal biases being imposed on the seeker, even if I disagree with who I'm helping. What standards or criteria would librarians follow to screen the Internet in a neutral way?

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Andy G said...

It’s a good, hard question. I hope we’ll discuss some of these things week 8 with “articulating values”. I think there’s an ethical dilemma.

On the one hand, helping patrons to make Internet judgments feels ethically dangerous: since it happens in real time, there’s less chance for reflection or discussion to make sure I’m not using inappropriate personal bias.

On the other hand, if I know a patron will look for his/her information on the Internet, and I know of places that are generally recognized to be authoritative, there’s an ethical risk if I choose to let the patron stumble into known-false information.

To some extent I feel that the library’s historical objectivity has been a well-intentioned illusion. Every time you choose to include or exclude information, even if it’s just for budgetary reasons, you’re making a subjective judgment (hopefully based on objective data). Sometimes those judgments are hidden from us since the publisher makes them; sometimes librarians make the judgments in helping to decide what will go into permanent collections. The internet forces us to make those judgments faster.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger lwinkle said...

That's a good point, about the well-intentioned illusion. I suppose everytime you answer a patron question rather than point them towards resources to find it on their own, you're making a judgement call. Whether this judgement was based on facts and evidence, authoritative sources, or just plain fluff, you can't help but let some value slip into the equation. With all that information floating around on the Internet, we'd never survive if someone didn't make a few decisions, right? I just hope we have the right intentions at heart.


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