Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Active Collections

To carry on with one of the thoughts I had on Slaw last week, I'm intrigued by the concept of building active collections. That is, rather than building content collections with static items, that a new (additional) form of collection development can exist that may be more suited to the dynamic nature of the web -- an idea I'd like to call an active collection.

Active collections would focus on the publication source rather than the individual content item. Be that an industry association, some other authorizing body, or an individual content publisher such as a blogger. Source authority would be king. And that through mixing the output of these authority sources, and then filtering down for keyword concepts, that we may offer a better mousetrap for surveying the modern web.

In recent years, I would argue, there has been a fundamental shift in the way we consume content. The process has become much less precise, with almost a serendipitous quality. When we consider the fact that web-publishing is so easy, and the quantity of commentary so great, our challenge is now two-fold. It's not enough to simply craft collections, we now must offer methodologies (productized & branded if possible) to cull through this vast commentary in an automated way. We need to do this not only for ourselves as Librarians and collection builders, but also for the clients we serve.

And the way we do this is to re-focus ourselves on Publisher and Author authority. We evaluate entities on the various metrics available defining reputation, including many of the traditional authority metrics that Librarians have always used.

In the past I've always used RSS as my tool of choice when describing the concepts of mixing and filtering; but obviously technologies change, and now I may just as well describe RSS as the tool of the moment. What's consistent is the idea of authority source outputs as a fundamental building block for collection development. RSS just happens to be the best current technology to access this entity publishing stream. Mix up the authorities into a giant cluster, and grind out to the desired level of subject specificity. Not that difficult of a concept really.

And to that, I would like to welcome feedback from my fellow blogging librarians and library science academics. What do you think? Can collection development become productized? Do we have something to offer the dynamic web, and that may help the average web user not be so overwhelmed?


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