Saturday, July 9, 2011

Arthur Winzenried - Visionary Leaders for Information


Winzenried begins his chapter to his book- Visonary Leaders for Information - outlining the historical perspective of libraries.

There are many examples of libraries or archives that have been managed throughout history. They are often housed in glorious buildings and some of which travellers are lucky enought to visit even today. His main point in beginning with the history of libraries to give sense of what has been before and how the modern context is something that is different from the "traditional" idea and to large extent, function of a library and therefore, librarians.

"These early libraries or archives maintained a collection of physical records in some degree of ordliness for the use of government bureaucracies and selected scholars. With restrictions on materials, writing skills and the other factors of the times, those collections were necessarily finite and thus "mangaeable".' page 1

One of the many challenges that faces the 21c librarian is to not have the population still view the function and scope of the librarians in the same manner - that they manage finist resources - mainly physical resources such as books and that the scope and function of a librarian and libraries is contained with the four walls of a building during the open hours of that institution. As Winzenried points out that they the previous idea and function of libraries had a formula which "was simple and widely understood' and these preconceieved notions may be very hard to change.

In terms of the management model that was used within libraries by librarians, after the Industrial Age "allowed an increasinly fixed and predictable management model that was AUTOCRATIC AND METHODICAL'. page 2 This may be somewhat comforting to many as it is inherently predictable and as Winzenried points out it even had the "assembly line" thinking behind many of the processes that occured in the library - the stacking, ordering, processing of items could have individuals assigned to that task and never overlap - and of course, achieving the aim of being "highly organised and efficient' p. 3 which all good libraries should be!

With the growth of materials that libraries were housing, there was a call for an effective categorising system which would streamline the storage and retrieval of items and along come Melvil Dewey (1876) and his influential system which is now commonplace in many libraries across the globe. Yet as with the previous centuries, libraries collections still reamined "physical and finite' p 3 And in the twentieth century this did not really change - only the advent of "new technologies alllowed more convenient means of locating items in these larger collections and users came from a greater variety of classes, places and societies. Larger libraries and card catalogues were an almost universal expectation for the first half of the twentieth century" p 3.

Shifts in the latter half of the twentieth century, especially with the rise of the "personal computer" has impacted on libraries and management functions of librarians. PCs meant that accessing of library materials through computer searches could be done in a matter of seconds rather than a drawn out process. Data entry of all the catalogued information for the millions upn millions of items became an additional function for librarians.

Digital developments meant that much of the data entry could now be achieved through scanning of the information - reducing errors and rapidly speeding up the process. "All of thse technologically driven changes took place over a rather limited time, becoming part of a new climate of change that was set to challenge traditional management tools" p.4 And coupled with that is that this rapid change has NOT seen that rapid change in the core understanding of what a librarian does. Lee and Winzenried state that with all the technology often used every effectively within libraries, the library person often is seen by many as something of a computer guru - yet within schools this is often not the case. Colleagues and students limiting the scope and function of the librarian as someone who just stacks books on the shelves and can recommend a good book or help with an assignment. And this comes from the fact that libraries "generally fulfilled the same functions in the same way' p 4 with very few changes - so why would the average library user view the library or those who work in them any differently than they have been.

The development of the internet or the web has seen probably the most profound impact on libraries and the management of these for librarians. 'The ease with which information can be circulated and the extent to which it can be circulated is the major "new" feature of the present information landscape. ... For the information manager, managing something that is self-perpetuating is in itself something of a 'new' and different concept' p. 5 So libraries now have a large part of them which is no long physical or finite - and this has enormous ramifications of those who need to manage the information and resources of these institutions.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Katie,
    I was wondering if you have finished with the Winzenried text you have written about above? I need it for my next module but it is out of print and I can't find it anywhere. I found your blog and noticed you were from Mittagong and hoped you might be interested in selling the text onto another student. I live in Sydney but my Mum and Dad live in Bowral so I could arrange for payment and pick up easily. Please let me know if you're interested. Thanks, Lizzy (