An Archivist’s 2.0 Manifesto?

The most recent issue of American Libraries has an article by Laura B. Cohen called “A Manifesto for Our Times.” Ms. Cohen is a library blogger, and last November she published “A Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto” on her blog. The article itself is short, but interesting, as is the manifesto.

So, fellow archivists, below is the librarian’s manifesto, shameless copied and modified minimally for us. I ask you, can we adopt this? What changes would we need?

  • I will recognize that the universe of information culture is changing fast and that archives need to respond positively to these changes to provide resources and services that users need and want.
  • I will educate myself about the information culture of my users and look for ways to incorporate what I learn into the services my archives provides.
  • I will not be defensive about my archives, but will look clearly at its situation and make an honest assessment about what can be accomplished.
  • I will become an active participant in moving my archives forward.
  • I will recognize that archives change slowly, and will work with my colleagues to expedite our responsiveness to change.
  • I will be courageous about proposing new services and new ways of providing services, even though some of my colleagues will be resistant.
  • I will enjoy the excitement and fun of positive change and will convey this to colleagues and users.
  • I will let go of previous practices if there is a better way to do things now, even if these practices once seemed so great.
  • I will take an experimental approach to change and be willing to make mistakes.
  • I will not wait until something is perfect before I release it, and I’ll modify it based on user feedback.
  • I will not fear Google or related services, but rather will take advantage of these services to benefit users while also providing excellent services that users need.
  • I will avoid requiring users to see things in archivists’ terms but rather will shape services to reflect users’ preferences and expectations.
  • I will be willing to go where users are, both online and in physical spaces, to practice my profession.
  • I will create open Web sites that allow users to join with archivists to contribute content in order to enhance their learning experience and provide assistance to their peers.
  • I will lobby for an open catalog that provides personalized, interactive features that users expect in online information environments.
  • I will encourage professional blogging in my archives.
  • I will validate, through my actions, archivists’ vital and relevant professional role in any type of information culture that evolves.

I think the only addition we may need is a point about exploring the issues related to including records produced by 2.0 in our collections.

What issues do you see here–or are you ready to sign on right now?

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17 thoughts on “An Archivist’s 2.0 Manifesto?”

  1. I like it. I wish there was a more clear statement there about “I will promote the understanding and use of archives to the public”, but a lot of the web initiatives already in there sort of cover that idea.

  2. Wow — I’d like to see Archivists embrace this one: “I will avoid requiring users to see things in archivists’ terms but rather will shape services to reflect users’ preferences and expectations.”

  3. I like it — especially it’s focus on connectivity, both among professionals and between archival provders and archival users. It has a slight smack of bleeding edge, though.

  4. Hi “t” –

    Was it the “experimental” and “not wait until something is perfect” that’s giving you that bleeding-edge vibe, do you think? Or was it something else? I can see your point, but given how risk-averse archivists tend to be, I don’t think we have to worry about anyone going too far out on a limb.

    I wonder if we might also want to add something about valuing the contributions and needs of all our potential users–or something about not presuming to know what uses will be made of our materials. Something along those lines.

  5. Hah! My point was more along the other end. People get very starry eyed about technology. That’s not what archivists (or most professionals) are about. But your second point about contributions of the user and the user focus of the manifesto is good. You might also consider including a bullet about not being locked into our own profession, but looking to others for new ideas about how to do things.

    Some specific thoughts follow.
    ————————————————
    +I will recognize that the universe of information culture is changing fast and that archives need to respond positively to these changes to provide resources and services that users need and want. (true in life in general, but esp. relevant here).

    +I will educate myself about the information culture of my users and look for ways to incorporate what I learn into the services my archives provides. (excellent and needed focus for archivists)

    +/-I will not be defensive about my archives, but will look clearly at its situation and make an honest assessment about what can be accomplished. (I like the second half, but the first half confuses me)

    +I will become an active participant in moving my archives forward. (absolutely; and maybe even indicate that in most organizations this involves evolving notions of teamwork, management, and worklife)

    – I will recognize that archives change slowly, and will work with my colleagues to expedite our responsiveness to change (is this focused on institutions, individuals, both? I’m unlcear as to what “expedite our responsiveness to change means)

    +I will be courageous about proposing new services and new ways of providing services, even though some of my colleagues will be resistant. (excellent! you might think about including a commitment to learning component)

    +I will enjoy the excitement and fun of positive change and will convey this to colleagues and users. (nice! we tend to forget that our vocations are personally energizing)

    +/- I will let go of previous practices if there is a better way to do things now, even if these practices once seemed so great. (I think their is a tendency to see this as backward looking, ie old stuff. We should also be willing to jettison new stuff that we find is not useful to us.)

    +I will take an experimental approach to change and be willing to make mistakes.

    + I will not wait until something is perfect before I release it, and I’ll modify it based on user feedback. (good. I like the emphasis on the centrality of the user)

    – I will not fear Google or related services, but rather will take advantage of these services to benefit users while also providing excellent services that users need. (this is what I meant by bleeding edge – google is google; are you talking about the selection of appropriate services to meet user needs? About not being afried to use new services?)

    +/- I will avoid requiring users to see things in archivists’ terms but rather will shape services to reflect users’ preferences and expectations. (Again, the emphaiss on the user is good, but there are places where users may not have a borad picture and their preferences/expcectations are unrealistic or even wrong)

    +/-I will be willing to go where users are, both online and in physical spaces, to practice my profession. (what is this getting at? collections? reference? outreach? advocacy?)

    +/- I will create open Web sites that allow users to join with archivists to contribute content in order to enhance their learning experience and provide assistance to their peers. (this is another technology dependent clause. What is really going on here is the part of the sentence that follows “sites”)

    +/- I will lobby for an open catalog that provides personalized, interactive features that users expect in online information environments. (ditto)

    – I will encourage professional blogging in my archives. (what activity are you encouraging here – communication, collaboration? and why just blogging? )

    +/- I will validate, through my actions, archivists’ vital and relevant professional role in any type of information culture that evolves. (Is this about making sure archivists maintain a seat at the table in information-based professions or is it that you’re advocating for a vital role for archivists in the broader culture?)

  6. What a great manifesto!
    I have taken the liberty to put it on an archival community of Dutch archivists (and some librarians) and I guess we will translate it into Dutch.
    I believe these “rules” are a great starting point to look at ourselves and the way we should change towards the new technology and the new public that is coming to us.

    So a heartfelt “thank you” for sharing this!

    http://archief20.ning.com

  7. I’m running a day late and a dollar short, but I’m nonetheless pleased to have discovered ArchivesNext and the SAA 2007 wiki.

    Here’s something that may be relevant to a “2.0 Manifesto”, though I doubt anyone will have time to take a look at it between now and the big trade show: it’s from Dylan Tweney, the senior editor for business at Wired News. Back in June he addressed OCLC’s RLG Programs group on “The Information Universe and What It Wants” and linked to various versions of that talk on his blog, “the tweney review”. Though librarians were presumably the intended audience, archivists may want to take a look:

    http://dylan.tweney.com/2007/06/05/the-information-universe-and-what-it-wants/

    Anyway, I hope to meet some of you folks in Chicago. I’m up for lunch on Thursday.

  8. As Luud de Brouwer already pointed out, the manifesto is now translated into Dutch. We wondered, however, why the original manifesto for librarians has not been extended to include archivists too, rather than creating separate manifesto’s for both professions?

  9. I’m fully in support of the Archivists’ 2.0 Manifesto! Excellent direction — though as professionals, in the information profession, one would hope that staying abreast of current technologies and their innovative uses would be a given.

    The profession of archiving is certainly no exception from most other professions in the necessity of responding to the impact and usefulness of information technologies and a user-centered focus. I would hope archivists work at creating a more daring, innovative-friendly image. The web, technological isssues, and, in particular, Web 2.0 technology has already significantly impacted the knowledge required of archivists. As professionals responsible for organizing and sustaining records of societies and culture, I encourage archivists to value themselves and view themselves as leaders in the information age, not followers, hiding in musty back rooms.

  10. I like this manifesto too. I think that the very important things happen in these last years are very good represented in it. Like the manifesto says “the universe of information culture is changing fast” and I think that the change is the more important aspect of every future approaches. The normal sense we can feel in front of all these changes is a sense of disorientation, but if we could pass through this first moment, we could also “enjoy the excitement and fun of positive change”, like Kate said.

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