Monday, May 26, 2008

Why do Libraries Have Crappy Websites?

In this Bloggingheads link, Aaron Swartz notes that libraries have crappy websites. Swartz invented RSS and Reddit, so I think he's an authority on literature databases. It is interesting that Libraries, who should have the most pointed experts in this subject, are manifestly inferior to Google, Amazon and Netflix in creating a database that users can access to find things they want. They seem happy with the objective of merely providing information, not providing it in an efficient way (ie, it's there, if you are patient enough). I guess, 'Library Science' is a good example of the aphorism that any field with 'science' in its title is not a science. I know in my library system, there's a lot of stuff in it, but if I haven't been to the site in the past 6 months, I forget how to get access to the right pages, and I'm stuck. The search tool is terribly unforgiving if you don't put the search phrase spelled correctly, or gives you way too many items ranked arbitrarily.

It's sort of like if you found that economists were the worst investors, or psychologists the least happy people, accountants made the most tax mistakes. It tells you there's something rotten in the academic paradigm, and that for generating good ideas, science needs competition and feedback from outside the field [this is one reason why I'm skeptical of String Theory, where there are no new predictions, and it is only even understood by fellow string theorists, who clearly don't want to throw away years of specialized training by saying the field is a waste]. Cloistered, self-referential fields of study that seem to go on happily, demonstrating nothing of interest to those outside their field, are all too common, and this applies to many sub-threads in even the most successful academic fields.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Librarians by nature are "maintainers", not "builders". Also, they are monopolies and not competitive.