Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is Loss a Part of Library Life

Someday, I think I am going to get myself kicked out of the club – the I Heart Preservation club.

I saw on the always insightful and thought-provoking blog for AudioVisual Preservation Solutions a post about a new online video - Archive – about the Internet Archive featuring interviews with its founder, Brewster Kahle. I had seen the video earlier and it is a worthwhile watch. In it Kahle says something which gets highlighted in the blog post along the lines of the cause of loss being institutional failure.

Empty Bookshelves, by Flickr user svenwerk
I remember hearing these words when I first watched the video and thought that this was an interesting and potentially useful approach. Days later, when I read those same words on the blog post I had a different thought – the thought which just might finally get me kicked out of the club. Maybe the idea that loss is a failure is wrong. Or, if not wrong, perhaps seeing loss as failure is only one dimension of the issue. What would happen if we saw loss as part of the natural information economy / ecology / ecosystem.

I guess this is perhaps just a rephrasing of my suggesting object life cycles should include not just creation and preservation, but for it to truly be a cycle it should involve some aspect of destruction.

I don’t think it is too far a stretch to make a loss/death comparison. Desiring loss or death does not seem particularly healthy, but neither is denying them, or considering either necessarily a failure.

I don’t want to suggest this is my final and only opinion on information loss, but I don’t think viewing loss as a failure is necessarily the only right answer either.

All that being said, I can’t close this post without saying I am very grateful for Brewster Kahle and the incredible work the Internet Archive does, and am also grateful for the thoughtful posts written by Joshua Ranger. It would be a deep shame if any of their work was lost any time soon.

1 comment:

  1. I think you may have struck upon an interesting concept of society as unpopular as it will be to librarians. All one needs to do is think of the job skills that no longer exist, except in pioneer villages and re-enactment groups - wheelright, blacksmith, weaver, etc. As much as society, well technically librarians, would hate to think of information being lost, it happens to some degree already. Will the Internet cause it to happen on a much larger scale? Who really knows, but the role of librarians will absolutely be changed because of it. Thanks for sharing.