Collector or Digital Librarian?

Do you think more often of your date of birth or date of death?
Do you think of the start or the end?
Do you think of the project or the deadline?
Do you think of your journey or your legacy?
How much substance is there in your soul verses value in your impact on others?

I imagine these are the differences between the Collector and the Digital Librarian. The collector seems to want to experience, to learn and also to share. The collector discovers, understands and reveals to others.

The digital librarian has no long term memory other than what is captured in the library. Where the collector lives for life’s expressive expanses, a digital librarian is designing for not-being-here-anymore. When a doctor says, as the end nears, “you should get your affairs in order…” it is gloomy, foreboding, and tragic to the collector. The Digital Librarian says, “That is all I ever do.”

It is not that the Digital Librarian does not want to live forever—in fact that may be the driving emotion—it is just the method to live forever is not corporal, it is informational. We fight mortality through trying to share, and share permanently.

In creating the Great 78 Project, I have wanted to keep the notes of what records were in whose collections. I believe this may be the most important thing—more important than the recordings—what records were together?

If we want to understand a time or a life, it is made up of those groupings. As a Digital Librarian I want to illuminate for others those lives, those perspectives — I want to not lose those past lives through reorganization. But I don’t think I will be the one to learn from these lives, those choices, those perspectives. It will be other people, or even machines that will learn from these assemblies.

Bill Dunn said in the mid 1980s, “The metadata is more important than the data itself.” Astonishing—how did he know? He came up with the term “metadata” with Mitch Kapor around that time.

Collections are metadata and metadata of great value if these reflect a life’s choices. Those life’s choices may be the most valuable part of the Great 78 collection.

As a Digital Librarian, I feel I should, I must preserve this, share this.

But it is not for me, it passes through me. I am a Digital Librarian, not a collector.

I hope I do a good job during my brief stay on this earth.

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One Response to Collector or Digital Librarian?

  1. Excellent sentiments, Brewster! Key point in many fields “But it is not for me, it passes through me. “

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