UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Reflections on the Inside-Out Library on National Libraries Day (#nld13)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 February 2013

Lorcan Dempsey's slidesToday is National Libraries Day – a “culmination of a week’s worth of celebrations in school, college, university, workplace and public libraries across the UK“. This morning I woke up to steady stream of tweets using the #nld13 hashtag from the people I follow on Twitter, typified by this one which I spotted at about 08.30:

I #lovelibraries because they welcomed me as a child, educated me as a teenager and sustain me as an adult. #NLD13

Since it is National Libraries Day it was appropriate to see see a tweet which referenced a recent talk by Lorcan Dempsey, former UKOLN Director. In a recent talk presented at the Bobcatsss 2013 conference in Ankara last month Lorcan Dempsey revisited the concept of the Inside Out Library. Lorcan described how this was an idea he has spoken about previously, and cited his presentations on “The Inside Out Library: Libraries in the Age of Amazoogle” (MS PowerPoint format) presented at the 34th LIBER Conference in July 2005 and “The Library and the Network: Flattening the Library and Turning It Inside Out” (MS PowerPoint format) presented at the ACCESS 2005 Conference in October 2005.

In the slides Lorcan provided the following quotation from Seán O’Faoláin written in 1994:

 People should think not so much of the books that have gone into the National Library but rather of the books that have come out of it. A library, after all, feeds the people that go in there. 

A little research showed that Lorcan used this in a paper on Library places and digital information spaces: reflections on emerging network services in Alexandria, 11(1), 1999 – and a preprint of the paper is available on the UKOLN Web site.

Although it is 19 years since Seán O’Faoláin made this observation, Lorcan’s thoughts on the importance of revisiting not so much the resources in the library (which were physical objects in the 1990s) but on the ways in which the needs of library users are being addressed is particularly true in today’s political, economic and technical environment.

It is now several years since the “Library 2.0” term was coined but I do wonder the extent to which Library 2.0 which have been adopted in libraries are restricted to syndication technologies, such as RSS, and the notion as “the Web as the platform” is being lost, as libraries seek to replicate functionality at a local level and fail to gain the benefits of scale which working at a global level could provide.

To updated Seán O’Faoláin quotation for National Libraries day in 2013, should we not be saying:

 People should think not so much of the technologies that have gone into the Library but rather of the global technologies that come out of it. A library, after all, feeds the people that go in there. 

I should add that I appreciate that for public libraries in particular there will be a need to ensure that appropriate physical resources are provided. But aren’t things different in academic libraries?

Lorcan’s slides are available on Slideshare and embedded below:


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One Response to “Reflections on the Inside-Out Library on National Libraries Day (#nld13)”

  1. fred6368 said

    The problem with Library 2.0 was that it wasn’t a meme map (which was a developmental structure) as outlined by O’Reilly in What is Web 2.0? It was the word Library with a load of bubbles around it, and very little understanding of a developmental process that would take you from the present state of affairs to a participatory one. The Framework for the Future proposal that I worked on (in a small way), was pre-2.0 and had more useful developmental ideas. The x2.0 (and worse X3.0) tsunami has mostly been pointless – adding 2.0 to an existing way of doing things does not not make it collaborative and participatory.

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