Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reflecting on the Archivist 2.0 Manifesto

I don't think I've previously commented on the Archivist 2.0 manifesto. The manifesto has 17 points and it is partly inspired by the American Libraries article “A Manifesto for Our Times," by Laura B. Cohen which explored similar issues.

From my perspective, I think there are a few points that are particularly interesting.

I will educate myself about the information culture of my users and look for ways to incorporate what I learn into the services my archives provides.

Researching users has been an interest of mine for quite some time. I would love to get paid (or just have it as one of my major job duties) to do user research and stay informed about new trends in the information culture. Arguably, I make the effort to stay informed anyhow though.

# I will take an experimental approach to change and be willing to make mistakes.

The development of professional standards like RAD or AACR2 encourage a culture of perfection, but I'm fine to leave that behind. I would like to see archives embrace a culture of pilot projects - including allowing staff time to think about new approaches.

# I will not wait until something is perfect before I release it, and I’ll modify it based on user feedback.

This has the vital benefit of bending and reshaping services to meet user needs.

# I will be willing to go where users are, both online and in physical spaces, to practice my profession.

Archivists really need to hear this. But let's be thoughtful too. Does it make sense to establish a presence in the World of Warcraft game? I know that a group of scientists recently held a research meeting in that environment (here's the amusing titled Science article: Slaying Monsters for Science). What about social networking websites like Facebook or MySpace?

# I will create open Web sites that allow users to join with archivists to contribute content in order to enhance their learning experience and provide assistance to their peers.

I want this badly but whenever I've mentioned to people, there seems to be quite a bit of resistance. From those conversations, I think there is a technical solution that addresses everybody's concerns. Make user generated content modular (i.e. you can use it or toggle it off); that way, users who want to use the official, "plain" finding aids or database can still have that

# I will lobby for an open catalog that provides personalized, interactive features that users expect in online information environments.

This strikes me as interesting idea but I think it would be difficult to design. Perhaps archives could ask for help?

# I will encourage professional blogging in my archives.

Yes, yes, and yes. Blogging should remain optional, of course (can you imagine mandatory blogging? Ugh!). The key to this point is only partly about the technology. The best blogs have a real persona powering them and that sense of connection is a great deal of the reason that keeps me coming back to blogs. I can't think of any Canadian institutions where professionals directly blog about their institutions, but last week I read about a senior person blogging at the Federal Reserve (aka the US Central Bank, more or less) in the United States. If that kind of organization has/allows professional blogging, then information organizations should at lest be open (if not outright encouraging) of the notion.

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