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Libraries and museums

Confession: I like books. I like museums. They possess a spirit of inquiry, of possibility. They are also obsolete in their traditional form. In fact, any industry that is content-based is experiencing tremendous change – a shift in value from the content itself, to conversation about, and interpretation of, the content. When I make these declarations at conferences, my relationship with librarians becomes mildly strained. Which is unfortunate. Of all academic fields, libraries have reacted more significantly to the change of information and knowledge.
Libraries today hardly resemble what they were only a decade ago. Sure, there are stacks of books…but I usually see more learners at the banks of computers than anywhere else. I don’t think libraries quite have the right model yet…but “learning commons”, learner support, experimentation with new learning technologies (I’ve encountered numerous institutions recently where the Second Life initiatives are driven by libraries), digital repositories, and focus on digital literacy skills are a great start. Short article: Libraries at the Cutting Edge.
In terms of museums, we are seeing a similar change in making content open and accessible. Large museums provide excellent educational material online. Recent initiatives are adding greater levels of “socialization” to artifacts, allowing learners to connect to others with shared interests. Have a look at these resources: Museum Open Learning Initiative…and Museum 2.0
Knowledge artifacts are context. Whether it’s a book, a piece of pottery, a painting, or an ejournal, our first questions, relate to meaning. Obviously, there are aesthetic aspects – beauty, awe, a connection to our history. At its core, libraries and museums become curators of understanding, not curators of artifacts. Not sure why they don’t talk more to each other…they are both climbing the same mountain.