Anti-Systemic Distributed Libraries

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Anti-systemic refers to the refusal to organize knowledge around a single hierarchical knowledge tree. Distributed means the book can be located anywhere, but they are virtually connected through computer catalogs.

This approach has been pioneered by the University of Openness

The University of Openness' distributed library project

"“Unfortunately, the traditional library system doesn't do much to foster community. Patrons come and go, but there is very little opportunity to establish relationships with people or groups of people. In fact, if you try to talk with someone holding a book you like – you'll probably get shushed. The Distributed Library Project works in exactly the opposite way, where the very function of the library depends on interaction. How it Works: Users create accounts complete with bios and interest enumerations, then list the books and videos that they own. Those users are then free to browse the books that others have listed – sorted by proximity, interest, and book commonality. If a book or video is available, a user can check it out directly from the owner. There is an ebay-style feedback system for managing trust – users who return books on time get positive feedback, while users who damage books or return them late get negative feedback. These points create an overall “score" that lenders can use to judge the trustworthiness of a borrower.

Moxie, a Californian hacker and anarchist wrote a piece of software to catalogue and share books in his community. Since 2003 many small libraries have started using this (and related) pieces of software to catalogue their books and provide their communities with a system for sharing, lending and reviewing their collections of books, videos and music. There are now over 20 Distributed Library Project servers around the world. Using this as a starting point, the Antisystemic Library is starting to develop this software to allow people to archive and provide access to their collections of zines, maps, books, media and other resources. The next stage of development will be the publication of these archives on the Semantic Web, along with their interconnected cataloguing systems." ( )


The Anti-systemic Library project of the University of Openness

"The principals of an anti-systemic library is that it does not have a catalogue, i.e. a hierarchical organisation of knowledge, instead it allows each library, each archivist and each researcher to use their own archiving and searching systems, based on their own bibliographies, languages, interests, politics and codes. The libraries that use these principles considered as a whole can be called 'The Anti-systemic Library'.

The Semantic Web initiative is attempting to produce an information network with 'enriched' semantic coherence, while at the same time allowing local information to be described and enhanced locally. For example, describing my book collection, I use the category 'fascist propaganda' and someone else uses 'nazi counter-propaganda', or a word in a non-english language that means something similar. If we both use a computer readable syntax to describe our collections, we can programme a robot to link our libraries together. This robot would be able to read all our catalogues and infer that since we all have a number of identical books in these categories, that there is a semantic connection between fascist propaganda, nazi propaganda and the non-english word - and that the collections might be usefully grouped together." (