Edition 2022.04

I've decided to change the schedule for LLLotW because, well, Fridays doesn't work all that well for me. So welcome to the first Thursday edition.

Toward a Critical Turn in Library UX

This is a really interesting piece in College and Research Libraries about User Experience work in libraries, and the need for some more sophisticated approaches and critiques.

the positioning of the UX practitioner as the only person who can reveal and remedy the user’s “pain points” not only substantiates the self-legitimizing discourse of UX but also neglects to interrogate the power relations that lie behind this positioning.

I also found this commentary about some ramifications of positioning libraries as “services” really interesting:

The labeling of the entire library as a service, including collections and physical spaces, exacerbates the issue, flattening and subsuming the pink-collar emotional labor of library workers until it becomes immaterial, made manifest and considered only in the moment of exchange, of consumption. Perhaps in an attempt to validate the user’s experience as different from but equally worthy of the expertise of the service provider, this framework also invalidates expertise; expert knowledge can only be gauged through the user’s experience of it.

Decolonizing the Internet’s Structured Data – Summary Report

This is a really great report from an event that took place prior to WikiDataCon in 2021. The report makes clear that participants mean “decolonize” [sic] literally, and that this is urgent work that needs to be resourced properly as a priority. It also has some important points about how people involved in data and information work need to understand what we're dealing with:

We framed structured data as pieces of ideology, not as neutral categories that classify the world in a certain way

(my emphasis)

And also a warning:

Be aware that a community-centered vision for structured data may be irreconcilable with the agendas of some individuals and organizations invested in structured data, especially those using it for profit over human well-being.

Distributed Version Control and Library Metadata

This one is a blast from the past by Galen Charlton way back in 2008.

I'm including this because it's fascinating to look at what Galen was proposing 14 years ago and look at how library resource description has actually moved in the opposite direction: more centralised, and more tightly controlled by gatekeepers – it's just that the gatekeepers are now more likely to be venture-capital funded multinational sofware companies instead of state-funded libraries.

I also like this because it makes a very clear association between the technical work of library cataloguers and the technical work of software developers. If nothing else, it's not a bad way to show that “technical services” people in libraries have nothing to be intimidated by and no need for some sense of inferiority when it comes to software development practices. Yet another reason why “non-technical” as a phrase to mean “not a computer programmer or computer system administrator” is a rather unhelpful phrase.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.