Thursday, July 27th, 2006

There is no shelf.

I just finished listening to the latest Talis Library 2.0 Gang podcast (on headphones though, so Tim wouldn’t wince at the sound of his own voice), this week on tagging and folksonomies. I’m struck by one thing that Casey Bisson mentions. He relates a story of a patron asking if they can put all the books he’s interested in, and just those, on one shelf–the answer of course, is to laugh, of course the library won’t be rearranged just for that one person!

In a virtual library, however, you can pull all the books you’re interested in, and just those books.

In a library, each book has a call number, which places it on the shelf somewhere, next to the other books that have similar “aboutness.” I might start looking for At home in the studio: the professionalization of women artists in America in the history section, because I know the author is a historian–but I wouldn’t find it there, because the Library of Congress Call Number is an N (Fine Arts).

The answer to the patron at Casey’s library, is that it doesn’t matter where the books are physically located in the library – as long as he can pull them together intellectually.

For the purposes of shelving, in a library, At home in the studio is “about” fine arts – it can only be on one shelf, after all.

If that book was in my LT catalog though (and it is), it can be “about” multiple things–there doesn’t have to be one essential place that it lives. I could tag it (and I have) so I could find it when I was searching for my history books, and when I wanted my art books. It can be on both “shelves”, on any shelf – because there is no shelf (oh, postmodernism)…

Ok. Enough rehashing. Go bend spoons with your mind.

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