The end is nigh – A blog post about session 9 of ‘Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society’ – module #INM380 at #citylis

As I write this my last day of lectures at #citylis looms. However, you still need to hear about last week’s session, which was comprised of two guest speakers: Matt Finch and James Baker.

I won’t try to describe what Matt does for a living as you might not believe me, but you can read it from his own hand here. Matt gave a very engaging and inspiring presentation describing some of the events and activities he has made happen around the world, particularly ones promoting literacy and public libraries as vital community resources.

This chimes with the overarching theme of the #INM380 module, namely that digital technologies are changing the way that the information ‘industries’ have conventionally worked, giving rise to many challenges and opportunities, not least for public libraries, which need to widen the scope of what they do if they are to have a secure future. According to Matt, some of this might involve zombies and burlesque artists. In fact, he’s already proved how that can be a great success. Perhaps my favourite policy of his was taking the trouble to go back to the catalogue and improve metadata on a library’s stock and make sure that patron’s search results give better results. Focus this on titles of particular interest to young and Google-savvy readers and it could make a real difference.

James Baker is a digital curator at the British Library (BL) and has spoken at #citylis before and always has many interesting things to say on the subject of digital humanities, although he doesn’t like that term. He provided a very good example of how to grasp the issue. The BL has many large datasets as part of its collections – both metadata on its own materials and discrete datasets. Take its Digitised British newspaper collection – far too much text for any human scholar to process, but it can be done computationally.

When you start to think what could be done like this it seems a great pity that the majority of the BL’s 56 million catalogued items will likely never be digitised, at least not before technology advances enough for us puny humans to be redundant anyway.

In which case we might all be holed-up in our remaining public libraries as our digital overlords debate what to do with us. So, until that distant time, if your local library organises a zombie apocalypse, shuffle along as they’re training you up for the FUTURE.

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