Sunday, July 24, 2005

PWL - Now or Never

At risk of continuing the conversation solo, I'll present some ideas about the mid- and long-range possibilities that turning PWL into reasearch cubicles will prevent. Admittedly, these possibilities are reachable in multiple ways, and that means to me CLIS regardless of its retaining PWL or not needs to consider team-based approaches rather than unilateral action that will divide with or without pesky graduate students like myself.

A second floor of more office space will prevent the actualization of the work of the College's founder and followers over the last 40 years. That the PWL couldn't stand some serious improving goes without saying, but closure is at odds with student wishes and faculty and staff identified recommendations, as I understand results of past student surveys and internal CLIS documents. Current student leadership is working hard to discern what the will of the student body is, and I'm eager to learn it myself.

So, Jenny Preece wants CLIS to grow nationally and internationally as a research center in the academic area of information studies, for the College to reflect the wave of technology-driven changes to a profession turning its back on the library model and embracing the temple of the personal computer and web server? OK. Those issues can not be ignored, and there's obviously an important place for those possibilities at CLIS. Technology is the cool tool, certainly.

Nonetheless, technology is not the only tool, and it is not a substitute for other skills and experiences, those that can not be transmitted in binary code, those that have justified the building of brick and mortar Universities for hundreds of years.

For technology in the real or in the abstract to displace and distribute what is already distributed by the Internet and fragmented in the black box of your central processing unit (CPU), is to reduce not increase the production potential of your human resources. You can disassemble the production process with technology at many points, but the task of reassembling the whole into a "new and improved" widget becomes a Frankenstien-like task controllable by only a few and subject to the weaknesses and sutures of thought of a closed system.

The crux of my point simply put is that instead of a College mobilizing its intellectual (and other) resources to face and solve a range of very challenging and interesting problems in the science of leveraging information in a competitive marketplace, we're taking the creative space away from each user and placing it behind the doors of a closed laboratory that is by invitation only. That very abstract thing is what is lost mid- and long-range and what CLIS supporters must unfortunately now struggle for the chance to have a say in its resolution, now or never [long live, Roy Orbeson].

Mid- and long-range, I'd rather see PWL become a place that openly invites business (carefully), professional organizations, individual alumni, current students from the other information-related disciplines, current students from non-information-related disciplines (what would those be, I wonder?) to be given the tools for problem solving issues in archives and library management. Faculty have tons of resources and competitive structures inside and outside the university to work for their laboratories. Let library students have theirs.


Blogger CLIS Student said...

Anyone who thinks CLIS is anything other than a business is dreaming. The bottom line decides CLIS policy and students are a distant and minor concern.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Dear clis student:

Thanks for writing. Yeah, it's a business for sure. It sure feels like students are distant and minor sometimes, I agree.

I think what the product is and what the raw materials are that go into the business of making leading information professionals is at issue here.

Looked at from that perspective, students have more of a leveraging role in part because they are in significant ways more in control of the raw material than they give themselves credit for....

This case is a tricky one. I hope you continue to follow the issue and share your thoughts on the blog, whatever your perspective might be.

Good luck,

1:30 PM  

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