Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Browsing Now (2)

Browsing and serendipity are not limited to the book stacks. Skimming and scanning are habits of mind, and can lead to unexpected discoveries anywhere. Like millions of other people, I use Twitter to bring a mix of relevant and entertaining content to my attention. While Twitter's brief messages and links rarely include books, they do provide a loosely-shaped browsing experience that often leads to useful information I might not find otherwise.

On January 12th, 2012, a small snapshot of my Twitter feed included the following.
@lorcanD: "NYT Windows phone app is very nice, while the Guardian's is lazy."
@ChuckProphet [musician]: "Sometimes Christians are so mean."
@GreatDismal [author]: "Signed Hungarian completist's amazing collection of my work in Hungarian. Many rarities I hadn't seen before."
@GreatDismal: "Sorry I wasn't tooled up to sign tablets." (A problem later rectified--above).
@latimes: "James Joyce moves into the public domain, mostly." [link]
@lorcanD: "the future of collections and collections management. interesting pres by Caroline Brazier of BL. ppt" [link to powerpoint]
In less than a minute, I gleaned several unexpected thoughts (autographing books is changing), developments ("Joyce's unpublished work, particularly his letters, will [now] be available to scholars"), questions (there are people who use Windows phones?) and two substantive links, without actively searching for any of them. Echoing David Weinberger's characterization of the web, these were "small pieces, loosely joined."

So browsing itself continues to advance and morph, as do the formats and content found. Pictures, news blogs, opinions, observations by interesting artists, even an occasional book. But the prize of this day's group of links proved to be the slides from Caroline Brazier's presentation on "Collect/connect: the future of collections and collections management." It's a substantive exposition of the changes facing libraries, prepared to inform the British Library's 10-year strategy. But it also showcases some additional attributes of professional information and grey literature in the early 21st century. Ms. Brazier's work is:

  • Timely. Delivered on October 27, 2011 in Adelaide, Australia.
  • Authoritative. Authored by the Director of Scholarship & Collections at the British Library.
  • Linked from a trusted source. Lorcan Dempsey's tweets regularly turn up interesting targets, indicating context and format.
  • Topical. Future of tangible and digital collections, curating a discovery layer.
  • Graphical. 39 slides with minimal text. Images, tables, and graphs drive the message. (Grey literature a true misnomer here!)
  • Freely available. Like a library. Amazing how much valuable content fits this description.
  • Multi-media. A full MP3 audio is available to accompany the slides.
  • Easy to share. Links, extracts, copies.
  • Useful. A powerful new graphic for thinking about shared print.

A browsing nugget, January 12, 2012
  • Discovered serendipitously. Scrolling through dozens of unrelated entries, far from the book stacks, far from the library.

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