Proposals for Updating the Role of Libraries in the P2P Age

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Annemarie Naylor:

"When Carnegie made grants to libraries in the C20th, he described them as ‘instruments for the elevation of the masses of the people’. Libraries were to provide access to learning and advancement for people who would otherwise have limited opportunities – specifically, for education and self-improvement. Carnegie intended, then, that the purpose of a library should be educational, and Carnegie envisaged a facility open to everyone in a community who wanted access to books and learning. The Provision of access to information, knowledge and learning continues to characterise perceptions of the role of librarians in the C21st. And, although libraries are evolving to become read/write, providing access to multi-media and media manipulation tools, we’ve yet to see a thoroughgoing disruption of the C20th institutional boundaries of libraries. That is, we’ve yet to see established a bona fide #p2p platform for the purposes of knowledge exchange founded upon commons principles.

Some libraries have begun to co-locate conventional ‘intellectual property’ with the tools to generate more of the same. Aligning themselves with the pursuit of traditional economic growth even has some libraries formalising that mission: But, intellectual property creates an artificial scarcity of knowledge – and, it subjects innovation to legal restrictions for the purposes of profit maximisation: Traditional intellectual property, in effect, overlooks the long tail - - where locally rooted knowledge and know-how is concerned.

The rise of corporate search would have us believe that the long tail – access to all the world’s knowledge – is no longer mere aspiration. But, search engines control the placement of information listing via algorithm, and limit the diversity of information sources to please advertisers. In effect, search represents the very antithesis of the library as an untrustworthy, automated intermediary. Ironically, search also harnesses the long tail of locally rooted knowledge and know-how to profit from collective intellectual property in the form of #bigdata – uprooted from its origins in time and space and disfigured to discern global trends. This, in turn, is giving rise to concerns about the uses to which our collective IP are being put: How, then, might the library become a trusted #p2p platform for the purposes of producing, exchanging and consuming knowledge and know-how?

Information is, according to some, neutral – and, it is only valuable or powerful when coupled with insight: If information is neutral, and we need to ask the ‘right’ questions to derive genuine insight from it, perhaps we should start here: Then, perhaps we might usefully introduce an Oracle Machine - - to the #blockchain to establish #p2p knowledge exchange underpinned – once again – by locally rooted #humansearch." (via email, May 2014)