onsdag 26 juni 2013

Presentation for DOCAM'13 is now up on Youtube

My presentation on the topic "Documentality as inscribed acts; ontology, technology and practice of professional codes of ethics in librarianship" is now uploaded on youtube.

The recordning was made for the Annual Meeting of the Document Academy, held in Tromsö, Norway 19-22 june 2013, due to the fact that I could not attend the conference in person.

The project on the documentality of librarianship ethics is in process now, and I will get back, not least here on NDL, with comments and reflections related to it further on.

The presentation itself start about 50 seconds into the clip. Enjoy:

tisdag 25 juni 2013

The Swedish Dewey Project - short comment on its final report

During the last five years the National Library of Sweden (KB) has been running a project to prepare the Swedish library sector for the use of Dewey Decimal Classification, DDC. Now the final report of this project has arrived, and it is an interesting read.
The overall aim of the ”Swedish Dewey Project” was to develop the tools to make it possible for libraries in Sweden to introduce DDC. The decision to actually do has, however, been left to each library.  As of today, some 30 libraries has left the Swedish SAB-system and introduced DDC in their classification practice and/or shelving. Almost all of them are research libraries, only two public libraries have yet taken the step.
The reasons for the proposed transformation of Swedish classification practice has been threefold: the international character of bibliographic practice, rationalisation – to reduce double classification in parallel systems, and increased quality in classification practice. The argumentation is simple, but relevant: most of the literature in research libraries are already classified in DDC when bought; the DDC is the the most widely spread classification system in the world, today used in more than 135 countries and translated into some 30 languages; it is well kept and frequently updated.
The change to DDC is singularly the most significant change in Swedish library life during the last century, at least if we look at collection manangement and the organization of stock. We know from experience that such changes are not easy to accomplish, nor is it easy to make everyone happy. When KB decided in 2008 to change into DDC, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding the aim and consequences of this decision. The public libraries in particular, felt left in a situation that they neither had asked for, nor knew how to handle – the need for DDC was expressed exclusively from primarily large research libraries. Reading the now published report has really nothing to add to this uncertainty – are the public libraries expected to use DDC or not? However, that is not a question to be answered in this report.
The project can be said to have focussed on two primary targets – (1) translation into a Swedish version of DDC, and the development of system requirements for it to work in a Swedish environment, and (2) education of librarians. On both these issues, the project seems to have been rather successful. The problems described concerning translation and conversion of codes appear quite forseeable, and the educational efforts have been constructed in a dialogue with both the library sector and representatives from the Library and Information Science educational departments. One practical detail which should not be undersestimated is the translation of the textbook Dewey Decimal Classification: Principles and Application by Lois Mai Chan and Joan S. Mitchell – this book is now being used in the basic training in classification i Swedish LIS educations, preparing new librarians in DDC from the very start of their professional life.
One thing that is worth noting in the felt shortcomings of the project is how they mostly seem to come from lack of resourses and short sighted planning horizons from the National Library. Parts of the project simply seem to have been carried through in spite of, and not because of, the National Library Management. For that, huge credit must be given to Magdalena Svanberg and her colleagues who have lead the project through to its end with admirable dedication, determination and skill.
Now that the final report of the Swdish Dewey Project is ready, we can see that it also triggers questions. What now? Will KB strategically uphold the development of the Swedish DDC? Will further initiatives be taken to argue for the benefits of DDC to an evidently reluctant public library sector? Are there any such benefits?

The final report of the Swedish Dewey Project is here, (in Swedish).

The picture below is a snapshot taken as I was given the opportunity to welcome Magdalena Svanberg to the LIS department at Linnaeus University in march 2011 for a lecture and discussion, as part of the educational programme of the Swedish Dewey Project - an occasion much appreciated by our students.

Joacim Hansson, LNU and Magdalena Svanberg, KB

söndag 23 juni 2013

Society and the humanities - a eulogy

Summer is over us and with it, a short relief from the burdens of administration. Some call it vacation. Others use this period to think and write. This is also a good time to reflect on the conditions under which we work in the humanities and at the universities at large.
The faculty where I work, the Arts and Humanities Faculty at Linnaeus University is a good one - nice, creative people who produce much and good research. But, in the eyes of the university management and in the eyes of national research policy makers, it is a rather bad faculty. It does not attract enough ”external funding” for them to be happy. For that, the factulty will be fiscally punished in the upcoming budget. The fact that the lack of ”external funding” does not seem to affect the research outcome in any negative manner (quite possibly the opposite) goes without recognition.
Research today is formulated as a form of competetion, where the singular most critical success factor is the attraction of ”external funding”. For the humanities this is absolutely devastating. Forcing humanistic scholars to engage in the quest for money from research councils that spread their graces over less than 10 % of the submitted applications is nothing short of a waste of time. Besides, every active scholar knows that the only thing that counts in the long run is the quality of the published research - the results, in whatever environment they will find their place. The system today fosters another priority; that of expected research. It is more important to submit suggestions for research than to actually go through with them. Although that might not be the intent of our present political decision makers, it is for sure the outcome, since most applications will gain no interest what so ever by the research councils.
Today there is a discussion in Sweden about the role of the humanities. It is a kind of ”debate” which occurs every now and then. This time around the main question is not only the usual attempt to show an intrinsic value of the humanities to society (we’re ”good”), but also how we can adapt humanistic research to the present system of research finance – how to make the humanities attract more ”external funding”. No one asks the question ”why should we?”.
Research is not a competative endeavor – especially not that of humanistic and cultural studies. The obvious alternative to the present system is to directly provide the universities with the funding needed by their active scholars. The ones populating the diverse and fluid structures of disciplines within these fields - doctoral students, lecturers and professors - are the ones who should decide what research to persue. The present system forcing us to constantly scribble down applications for ”external funding” is of course highly political and a direct enemy of the slow, creative process that is the mother of all humanistic scholarship. Achieving scientific results takes time, and the constrains of tight time limits and evaluation demands is not beneficial for neither process nor results.
Some say that this is an idealistic way of reasoning. I don’t think it is. By saying that it is, one is admitting the necessity of the present system, that ”this is the way it is”. That is a highly unintellectual stand. I (still) believe that society is shaped not by economic standards, but by the will of its citizens.  The power over politicians of administratrators and financiers is strong though, and by admitting them to set the rules, cultural studies and humanities research are bound to lose. We see their triumph all around us. We live today, at least in Sweden, in a society which is filled with people who despite their good (often university) educations are cultural ignorants. Hundreds of thousands well equipped and capable of doing their task in the production apparatus, but unable to relate it to an overall reason or to associate with the depth of human experience accessible to us through religions, literature, ethics, art, philosophy, drama and music. These people are easy to manipulate, something which of course has been noted by several thinkers during the last century, such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Elias Canetti and Zygmunt Bauman. Fostering citizens like that may be economically productive, but in the end it is socially devastating. Thus, it is not the humanities that is the problem. It is the politicians turned technocrats, treating research like industrial excercise, treating culture as a burden – they are the problem.

So, in the firm belief that society always is the result of our collective intentions, I propose a shift of focus. No more should we ask what humanities can do for this society, but what this society of ours can do for the humanities. If so, we have a starting point. It is, basically, a matter of integrity.

Alas – summer: in a spirit of love and strength I leave you this time with Alfred Schnittke’s brilliant paraphrase (K)ein Sommernachtstraum.

By the way, on this particular recording, made by Malmö Symphony Orchestra in the mid 1980's, my father plays bass trombone:


tisdag 11 juni 2013

Clip from Professorial Inauguration Lecture of 2010 now on Youtube

A 30 minute excerpt of my inaugural lecture as professor in Library and Information Science has been discovered and uploaded on Youtube. The full lecture was just over two hours long, and the part now found is from around the middle of it.
The lecture was given in may 2010 at Linnaeus University in Växjö, the day before the formal inaugural ceremony.
The clip is in Swedish.

A written version of the lecture has been published in Humanetten and later also in the book Folkets bibliotek?