on libraries and newspapers and life boats …

'Library books' photo (c) 2008, CCAC North Library - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Clay Shirky, author of the books Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus, had a very interesting post on Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis. While his post deal specifically with the crisis being experienced by traditional news organizations, his piece made me think a lot about how traditional libraries (and librarians) are very much experiencing very similar threats to their very existence.  How do news organizations and reporters thrive in a world where everybody is a reporter?  How do libraries and librarians thrive in a world where everybody Googles?

Reporters and news organizations don’t seem to have consensus about how this can be achieved and neither do libraries and librarians.  Last week, Buffy Hamilton, the Unquiet Librarian, wrote and posted Why I Am Not Signing the “Save Libraries” Petition and much hand wringing and (sometimes) angry discourse ensued–read the comments and you’ll see what I mean.

With this context in mind, Shirky’s article is a must read for librarians!

Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis

Dean Starkman has written a lengthy piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, assessing the writings of a group of us he calls the “Future of News” movement. That essay, Confidence Game, focusses principally on Jay Rosen and me, both of NYU’s Carter Institute, and Jeff Jarvis of CUNY, though noting some similarity of vision with Emily Bell of Columbia, Dan Gillmor of Arizona, and John Paton, publisher of the Journal-Register Company. (Unmentioned fellow travelers include, mutatis mutandis, Steve Yelvington, Chris Anderson, Amanda Michel, Steve Buttry, Jonathan Stray, and Alan Mutter.)

Starkman doesn’t just criticize us (though he does that, at length.) He also puts forward a Burkean defense of institutional tradition as a store of embedded wisdom, arguing for the continued relevance of existing news organizations, especially newspapers, in something very close to their current form.

Full post available via Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis « Clay Shirky.

So, as librarians, are we doing fine with plan A or do we need a plan B? If we need to go to plan B, what should it be?

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