Sunday, October 4, 2009

#15. Article Critique

I'll start with the first article by Rick Anderson, entitled "Away from the 'icebergs'." I've mainly got criticisms for this article, but I think he's right when he says this: "No profession can survive if it throws its core principles and values overboard in response to every shift in the zeitgeist. However, it can be equally disastrous when a profession fails to acknowledge and adapt to radical, fundamental change in the marketplace it serves. At this point in time, our profession is far closer to the latter type of disaster than it is to the former."

But to say that libraries need to cut down on their "Just in Case," collections, while also saying that patrons will demand access to everything and libraries should be prepared to give it to them, he doesn't acknowledge the disconnect. It's like people not wanting to be taxed a lot, but still wanting the government to enact loads of programs. They're opposing notions. I don't think libraries should avoid a realistic examination of their policies, but to avoid the ridiculousness inherent in "everything all the time," without addressing the practical implications (i.e. cost) and flights of logic, makes the article seem like empty talking points about how it's important that libraries move into the future.

I'm ambivalent about the one-button commands. Not everything requires training, but it all requires learning. It's paradoxical that the intuitive buttons on the iPhone are so hard to replicate on other interfaces. Simplicity is difficult to pull off. A miscalculation about making something easier can remove necessary complexity or make something more confusing that it needs to be. For example, if someone uses Dreamweaver to make a "good" webpage, they don't really know how to make a webpage. Some things need to built on a strong foundation.

He's right that a stripped down, simplified interface would be helpful (like the iPhone), and I'm likely more critical of this article because I dislike this sort of tone more than anything, but there are many different types of users at a library. It's not just tech-savvy undergrads using the collection (and not all undergrads are tech-savvy). That doesn't mean things can't change, it means that new features need to be so intuitive (e.g. iPhone, iPod) as to need no instruction, or they need some form of tutorial or instruction. I'd suggest making learning tools (like podcasts and tutorials) more engaging, while also thinking about how to simplify the complex processes.

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