Towards the self-aware library

It’s the Context, Stupid. This is the mantra Paul Saffo used as a title in one of his essays almost two decades ago. It was on the beginning of Internet, years before Google had built an impressive digital empire on the back of its powerful search engine. But today context has never been so important in providing information to our users.

The future belongs to neither the conduit or content players, but those who control the filtering, searching, and sense-making tools we will rely on to navigate through the expanses of cyberspace. Paul Saffo, Wired, Issue 2.03 | Mar 1994

As a university library we have one essential advantage to Google. We know the learning environment our users are into, because we have an important paper on creating it, or at least we know better than others. But to convert this advantage into something real this knowledge has to be materialized, it has to be programmed in some way. We need to teach the library machine to show what we expect of her. Our users have individual information needs and the library may be able to provide different resources depending on the learning environment they are in to satiate it.

Library has to be self-aware of its contents and of its context. Who I am (or what I have assuming it’s a digital organism) and where I am are the two questions that the library has to answer in order to provide better content. Maybe the idea of a single search box, the open window to all contents, is not only a lost battle won by Google but not the important one to be fought for libraries. And we have to build the tools to win this one.

About this post

This post was first published on LibTechNotes, a blog from the Library team at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya to share our everyday findings, solutions and inspirations.