This morning a “friend of the blog” and I were having a conversation about how to help get a conversation going on my blog. Someone else had suggested that I should not post too often–I need to give people time to mull things over and formulate comments. If there’s a new post up already, they may not feel like commenting on an old one. This morning, my friend suggested that instead of replying to people’s comments in another comment (as I usually do), I should reply in a post, to highlight the conversation for others. So, I’m giving that a try.
The intrepid Peter Van Garderen (of archivemati.ca) has written several comments lately. When I saw his name, I admit, dear readers, that I was worried. In a reply to a comment on this blog I had written:
And I do like archivematica’s blog–but he seems so smart that he kind of intimidates me.
It turns out, not only is he smart, he’s nice too. In responding to the “What do archivists want?” post, he concluded based on his experience:
. . . I can’t speak for more traditional archivists and what follows is a gross generalization but I would venture to guess that the majority, if they stop to think about it, feel some sort of ethical responsibility to the records themselves, as witnesses or voices from the past. They are motivated by some subconscious urge to impart order on the volume of information which they are preserving. They are driven by this idea that one day their collections will finally be properly organized, if only they could waste less time on the reference desk! Therefore, I think the motivation is more inward that outward. I taught as an adjunct at archives school for six years and I can say quite confidently that almost all people who end up at archives grad school, myself included, have some obsessive compulsive traits, we just need to use our powers for good
What do you have to say about that, readers? I agree that most of the archivists I know love to organize the things in their lives–and that tendency could account of some of the stories one hears about obsessive rusty-paper-clip removals. And I know that most of the archivists I know do feel a kind of “ethical responsibility to the records themselves, as witnesses or voices from the past.” The question is–do most archivists feel it is their primary responsibility to preserve those voices or share them? Or both? (And, yes, it isn’t a simple black or white decision. They’re related, obviously. The question is, is there a tendency to favor one over the other? If given complete freedom, which activity would most archivists rather spend their time doing? And does that have an impact on how fast they’re willing to interact with users in a 2.0 fashion?)
Peter also commented on the last post about the discussion about change in libraries–I won’t try to summarize it–please read it and go to the link he posted. But, he concluded with:
However, after researching, presenting and discussing about this topic for the past year and a half with archivists in both North America and the Netherlands, my impression is that archives administration/bureaucracy will actually be less of a hurdle (to opening up archives systems to include Web 2.0 technologies) than the technical capacity to enhance existing systems, project funding and copyright will be. In fact, I think copyright is the largest elephant in the herd.
Leaving aside copyright (would that we all could!), I still see the issues of enhancing existing systems and funding as related to prioritization of resources. How do managers make their decisions about how to allocate resources? Should a staff member spend time trying to figure out how to do a podcast or processing a collection? If publishing that podcast is going to require more server space, is that more important than—something more traditional and tangible?
Yes, there are technical challenges, and certainly no one I know of has all the resources to do everything they’d like to do, but I’m interested in hearing if there are other reasons archives aren’t moving forward with 2.0 efforts. Maybe I’m wrong, and everyone out there is just champing at the bit to move forward, and technology and money are all that is standing in the way, but I really suspect that there is more to it.
Any thoughts on that, readers, or as Paco FernÃ¡ndez Cuesta wrote on archivista, “El debate estÃ¡ servido”!