Category Archives: Information

Entropy


Rotating Kitchen by Zeger Reyers

This is interesting and poses various questions. Firstly, if it is going to continue to rotate until February, are they going to replace the perishables, because the stench is going to be unbearable by then (unless the room is refrigerated, or I suppose the perishables might be faux food-stuffs).

Secondly, is this rotating kitchen an apt metaphor for the work of librarians? If you accept that it is, I see two possibilities. Either librarians organise the world of information to the pristine, pre-rotation stage, and then constantly battle to maintain their system according to the pre-rotation rules that have been laid down. Or they approach the world from the perspective of someone walking in mid-rotation, and proceed to do their best to organise what they find, according to some pragmatically determined rules which would seem to make sense at the time that they begin organising. The latter option sounds like the most sensible (if you accept that information is inherently disorganised, and getting more so), whereas the former seems to represent what actually happens in libraries – formal categorisation has to be constantly updated, whilst fundamental rules are not altered.

As new professionals, we have entered the profession at a time when organising information has to be done whilst we are double-blinded. It used to be the case that no-one knew the content of information going produced in the future, but made allowance for it in their system. That is still the case today, but in addition, information of entirely new kinds in formats that are unreconisable to current systems is being produced (for example dynamic data-sets, tweets, waves ……….). Organising the rotating kitchen of old looks remarkably simple in comparison to the challenge of dealing with the heterogeneous online information of today.

It also appears that there are other information organising tools that are not approaching the rotating kitchen as outsiders. Google and its competitors are in many ways driving the rotation, whilst also giving users (of the kitchen?) a way to navigate to what they want. I think we can only harp on about their failures at decent organisation (which do unquestionably exist) if we can demonstrate that we are able to do a better job, or at least provide a model of organisation for the new rotating kitchen that Google etc do not provide – I’m not sure librarians have achieved that yet.

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