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Internet Librarian 2013 – Opening Keynote – Inspiration Architecture: The Future of Libraries
Peter Morville

The conference’s opening keynote began with Morville saying that the internet has not improved with time. The internet he remembers is a different internet – we had such big dreams. It was a time of promise and hope. We’ve lost some things along the way. His hometown lost its newspaper and their biggest bookstore. Online we’ve lost the “national park for ideas and innovation.” The internet has become increasingly commercial and we’ve lost our privacy along the way.

Information Architecture isn’t enough, but it’s still important. In the 1990s, we talked about IA as structuring and organizing websites. That definition was right for the time but has caused us trouble ever since. Our community has spent so much time arguing over definitions that we have a hashtag for that process: #dtdt (defining the damn thing). We’ve been moving toward a medium-independent definition of IA. One example: “Where architects use forms and spaces to design environments for inhabitation, information architects use nodes and links to create environments for understanding.” (Jorge somebody-or-other).

Morville has worked with the LoC for several years. He wrote a report that the LoC’s information was fragmented and there was a huge problem with findability. The LoC embargoed his report and wouldn’t allow it to be widely disseminated. As our websites become more core to the work of our organizations, people and politics become a huge part of being able to push forward.

Education is changing. Access to information and research is changing. We need to figure out ways to bring parts into a whole that is larger than the sum. He recommends the book Making Learning Whole by David Perkins and also Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen. MOOCs are an opportunity for collaboration between teachers and librarians.

When students are given a research question, they go to Google (of course). It’s fast, easy, and familiar. But it’s also limited, has inaccurate metadata, and has limited advanced search capability. We’re starting to see the results of our reliance on Google. We’re graduating people into the workforce who don’t really know how to search. Librarians are the only ones who speak Boolean. Someone’s going to solve the single search box problem eventually, maybe the MOOCs will do that…

We have an information literacy gulch.  This huge difference in people’s ability to find, organize, and create resources.  We’re painfully aware of the growing gap with respect to income.  Information literacy widens that gap.  He agrees with Larry Lessig that some of these problems can only be solved by striking at the root—corruption.    But part of the problem is culture—we wear blinders.  There is a limited set of information and ideas that we are open to.

We need to explore the limits of information. How do we effect change when information is not enough.  One of the most effective ways of changing behavior is changing the environment.  Immerse yourself in another culture—that’s a great way to take off those cultural blinders.  The book Nudge talks about using psychology to influence choice.  There’s a lot of nudging going on online.  What does it mean when results are sorted by “featured”?  Willpower is more important for academic success than IQ… (true, that).

The Ann Arbor District Library is in a phase of change.  When the current director (Josie Parker) took over, in order to rebuild credibility she set out to build “a culture of generosity.”  Their branches are beautiful buildings. They have contests with “the forgiveness of fines” as a prize.

Libraries, like national parks, teach us that we all benefit when our most valuable treasures are held in common.  With national parks all we need to do is preserve the wilderness that already exists.  But with libraries we’re talking about creating something entirely new.  For this work, we need information architects.  Somebody’s got to focus on that single search box, but that’s not enough.  We also need inspiration architects.  We need folks who can lift us up and inspire us by reminding us that our ability to create and share knowledge and ideas is truly wonderful and amazing.  For that, he’s counting on all of us.

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