Boundaries and the future role of libraries (and of knowing)

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Fri, 06/20/2014 - 13:13

Professor Gary Marchionini made a number of interesting remarks in his guest of honour talk at the biannual LIDA conference in Zadar. Marchionini made some remarks on the future role of libraries as institutions collecting people. By collecting people he referred to managing and helping to curate our personal data, information and cyber identity. As a part of this focus on people (instead of e.g. documents) Marchionini discussed a possible task of managing both positive and negative boundaries: by leveraging trust by clearly articulating boundaries and e.g. by being user-centred and enforcing policies simultaneously encouraging participation

Together with these observations of boundaries, from my perspective one of the most interesting of his remarks related to the role of libraries as helping people deal with their information gaps (and learning to fill these gaps) and various types of overloads: lifeload, workload, cognitive load and collaborative load. In my mind these thoughts resonate well with my own considerations about the boundaries of knowing and how these borders and limits are both helping and hindering us knowing things. Further, they provide a frame for communities to know things together, to reach consensus and shared understanding of different things. In the contemporary society these boundaries are changing fast and they become less physical and more social and technical. Overload and effective capability to collaborate with others, whether it would be collective talko work or more egoistic broadcastselfism, become key factors in how the the boundaries of knowing are shaped in the contemporary society. In this respect, I think Marchionini put rightly a lot of emphasis on the importance of dealing with collaborative load and the significance of the competence of doing things together.