OCLC Research  

Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

November 1, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 37
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


The Next Level  (External site)

The New Yorker   •  October 18, 2010

Too little, too late. Big box stores are dying, Blockbuster just filed Chapter 11, and Netflix is pushing streaming video for all it's worth. The media landscape is littered with companies that thought they had plenty of time to evolve to new technological realities. As author James Surowiecki notes, "Sometimes you have to destroy your business in order to save it."

Short and worth a read. Just after joining OCLC in 2005 I attended an Executive Management course at Ohio State University (officially it is The Ohio State University) and we worked on a Blockbuster case study. Our study group concluded that they wouldn't be around for more than the next 5-7 years. Not a bad guess. If you wonder why we knew and they didn't I think the "internal constituency" obstacle described in this article is the key. ( Michalko)


Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson on Where Ideas Come From  (External site)

Wired   •  September 27, 2010

Sideways evolution. Kelly and Johnson talk about innovation and the concept of the "adjacent possible": "At any given moment in evolution—of life, of natural systems, or of cultural systems—there's a space of possibility that surrounds any current configuration of things. Change happens when you take that configuration and arrange it in a new way," says Johnson. "Which is why the great inventions are usually those that the take the smallest possible step to unleash the most change," adds Kelly. As the cultural curation world goes digital, we should be looking for incremental changes that could lead to big transformations.

Much of this conversation between these two very interesting thinkers proves that innovation is not the result of the solitary genius but emerges from connected groups of people working in collaborative networks. At the end there's a characterization of the university system as a remarkable engine of innovation. I would like to hear these two take that as a topic sentence for an extended discussion. If it's true, will it be true in the future? Why? ( Michalko)


Who Has Innovative Ideas? Employees.  (External site)

MIT Sloan Management Review   •  August 22, 2010

Innovation communities. Who's most likely to have good ideas about how to make your organization work more effectively? The people who work there, of course. Here are some suggestions on a framework for eliciting, evaluating and implementing suggestions from the rank and file.

A credible set of suggestions. It did strike me, however, that the "internal constituency" problem within existing enterprises is in constant conflict with the collaborative networks of connected people mentioned above. All these suggestions are an attempt to dampen one or strengthen the other. A tough thing to do. Ask a CEO. ( Michalko)


U.S. Library of Congress: Copyright Is Destroying Historic Audio  (External site)

OS News   •  October 8, 2010

Sound advice. Current U.S. copyright law makes legal preservation of audio recordings almost impossible, concludes a study by the U.S. Library of Congress, which calls the provisions "restrictive and anachronistic" in our current digital age. The result is a "dismissive attitude toward the law in communities that can hardly be characterized as rogue elements of society." What can we do as a community to change this impasse?

For those of us who only skimmed the 181 page report this is a nice digest of the main points in the Gordian knot that has been tied around audio recordings. ( Michalko)


If Libraries Are Screwed, So Are the Rest of Us  (External site)

Digital Book World   •  October 15, 2010

Nurturing readers. Ann Arbor District Library IT Director Eli Neiburger says the role of libraries is to serve as community platforms: "The purpose of libraries when they were created was not to purchase commercial content for use by the community but to store and organize the content of the community. Popular materials have fueled a huge boom for popular libraries, but libraries were created to protect and ensure access to things like [local texts and history] for the communities that produced them, not to subsidize access to the hottest new clay tablets from Babylon . . . The 20th-century [library] brought the world to its community. The 21st-century library brings its community to the world."

Another apologia for the book warehouse partially redeemed by the understanding about what still remains of local value in library circumstances—the community of readers. Whether the library can move, and move with that community, in the shift to ebooks remains to be seen. ( Michalko)


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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