Information | Mixology

Information | Mixology: Another Librarian Blog?

After years of blogging about labor and employment events and resources at UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Library fall 2012 seemed like a good time to add a fresh stream of commentary on libraries, information, society and the Internet.

If that sounds like a mouthful, that’s an intentional effect I’m going for. Here’s why:  the library has always been a leading crossroads for ideas and knowledge exchange, and the more you mix together, the deeper the conversation. Indeed, it’s more than just “mix” and “remix,” as Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University often says. According to Lessig (pardon my abridgement) we start with the media “mix” –everything that assaults us every day. Next, Internet technologies empower us to “re-mix” that media in new, fascinating and downright weird ways.

I agree with Professor Lessig. But I’ll raise him one further. It’s no longer just the remix: it’s mixology.


The cocktail culture is at a zenith in 2012. “Mixology” is all the rage these days, from Bushwick to Burbank, and the San Francisco Bay Area is a top destination.  For example, artisanal drinks at Bar Agricole in the SOMA district may typically include multiple house-made bitters, infused vodkas, lemon rind, muddled herbs of uncertain origin, and more—as well as a golf ball-sized glacial ice cube that is crystal clear (watch out: they melt slowly). So the “mix” is rich and diverse, with every element contributing to a new experience. All in all, a good libation: put a visit on your next itinerary in San Francisco.

Bar Agricole’s mixologists will try anything to enhance a well-crafted cocktail; it’s my position that information professionals should look at society with the same spirit of discovery, and use everything available to survive and thrive. After all, we have library cafes and Apple has Genius Bars, so why not have a library-based, artisanal and crafted cocktail lounge?

Perhaps that’s beyond the scope of a WordPress “wrapper,” as we have not perfected virtual tippling. Perhaps we can settle for the loosened conversation that can form when friends meet and enjoy good times—something else the Internet and the blogosphere are good for.

Artisanal Information?

Yes. The library profession enjoys vibrant debate and discussion about its own future and its long term roles in education and society. This is a strong point and it serves us well. However, careful observers of social trends and the impact of new technologies always raise their eyes and peer across conceptual and disciplinary boundaries to see what others are facing, what their dreams are, and what survival strategies they employ. I try to look beyond boundaries when I write my column for Computers in Libraries, on the topic of digital libraries.

When I do, here’s what I see: disruptive technologies are a dislocation for all professions, not just ours, and in some ways we’re doing better than many others are. So when I speak of Information mixology, I do not limit the mix to what the information professions are saying to each other; I want to synthesize what all knowledge workers are thinking about and doing. An artisanal approach requires a questing mind.

For Instance

Libraries don’t exist in a vacuum, and other share similar challenges. Here’s one example of my thinking, published by InTech in 2011:

Convergence and Divergence Among Digital Libraries and the Publishing Industry.  IN Digital Libraries, Methods and Applications, InTech, 2011

In this chapter I discuss how the commercial publishing industry and the library profession have each responded to disruptive technologies—and how they can learn from each other.

The travails of the publishing industry have always fascinated me, and nowadays they are seizing change as fiercely as librarians do. It was not always so. As a librarian who was formerly a bookseller, I have been struck by how quickly librarians embraced digital technology, and by the many missteps that publishers made early on.

But things change fast:  Stephen Abram, speaking at the online Library 2.0 conference in early October, foretold that publishers may begin to add metadata that is superior to the library profession’s output. And why not? There is nothing stopping them.

On the other hand: There is nothing stopping librarians from acting as full-scale publishers, in fact we are already pretty far down that road. Walt Crawford wrote about it in ONLINE, Nate Hill blogged about it on the PLA Blog, and I wrote a column called “Publishers in Libraries” in Computers in Libraries magazine (see April 2009 on “My Columns” page on this blog.

All This and More

Libraries and publishers—indeed, “libraries as publishers” is a topic I’ll return to on this blog. Here are a few other topics that intrigue me:

  • The Information Society
  • Information Professionals and Their “Competitors”
  • The Political Dialogue of Library Funding
  • New Roles for Libraries and Librarians
  • Breaking New Ground—in every field
  • Communicating the Library’s Value Point
  • “Library Skill”
  • Bleeding Edge Technologies that can Surprise

I look forward to posts, comments, shares, tags, guest columns and more mixological vehicles for information exchange.

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