a paper, perhaps…

I’m tossing ideas around in my head for a paper, having been inspired by a recent CFP, I am turning my thoughts to something of a thinkpiece rather than a focus on specific technologies. Though on re-reading the CFP, I see that it’s primarily concentrating on web 2.0 (W2.0) in libraries, whereas the paper taking shape in my head is situated more in the Library 2.0 (L2.0) space, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a different sort of space. While L2.0 may well have been inspired by the W2.0 movement, certainly there are some who see L2.0 and W2.0 as interchangeable, I’m more interested in the bigger issue of L2.0 as a development and perhaps a means to rediscover some of what librarianship is about. That sounds a little vague, and is still vague in my head, more the forming of ideas, which need a better expression. One idea that has occurred to me is that I need to look to the history of librarianship, and here I’m thinking more in an Oz context, and look at the roots of the library movement and see whether they’re reflected in L2.0 or whether L2.0 suggests a new direction. Also too, I’m keen to situate L2.0 within a historical backdrop if at least, to soften the technology obsession. Already I’m starting to sense that this is not a paper I can finish off in a couple of weeks and may be better to properly develop for a later publication.

There was an interesting article in ALJ (May 2005) on the history of public libraries in NSW which I’m yet to read in detail. One thing that initially caught my eye was a quote from Watkin Tench in 1791:

“In a colony which contains only a few hundred hovels built of twigs and mud, we feel consequential enough already to talk of a treasury, an admiralty, a public library and many other similar edifices, which are to form part of a magnificent square.”

I sense that this was the first recorded mention of the idea of a public library in Australia, coming as it did three years after the establishment of the penal colony. One of the areas of librarianship in which my scholarship (oh such lofty words I use) is somewhat poor, is its history; I know by oft quoted names, some of the familiar faces that led to the world we know today: Metcalfe, Horton, Leeson, Cuthro, Dixson, and of course the almighty Mitchell. As an aside, there’s a book out this year on the history of the Mitchell (been trying not to buy and kicking myself for not doing so). The dilemma I have is that I was initially looking to ground my L2.0 thinkpiece with some historical foundation, whereas now I have a sense that I need to read further in order to understand the progression of librarianship in Oz and where L2.0 might fit in. I’d like to think L2.0 ideas have always been there, simply re-contextualised, but then I look at some of the earlier ideas of libraries as a means, and a destination, for education, and I wonder whether I may need to rethink my initial hypothesis. Dunno, I think I’ve spent more time on this post than I have on the actual paper. As I say, I’m still mulling over ideas and looking for particular thoughts I can give expression to; I don’t yet know what shape the paper will take beyond the initial, guiding idea. Plenty more reading to do and I get the sense there may be a few papers to be mined.

3 thoughts on “a paper, perhaps…”

  1. 1791! You librarians don’t waste any time, do you!

    It sounds very ambitious to pull this off in a fortnight, but it sounds like a paper I’d like to read when it’s done.

  2. The good thing about the CFP is that I’ve got a bunch of ideas churning away. I have decided not to worry about the special issue and instead do some reading and see what sort of things I end up with.

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