SciFi Authors talk about Information Technology – ALA 2011

One of the great things about large library conferences is the author events. I was able attend the LITA (Library & Information Technology Association) panel, Science Fiction and Information Technology at ALA this year. Organizers gathered many heavy hitters in the science fiction world together to discuss their takes on where information technology is going especially with relation to libraries. The panelists consisted of David Weber, Bill Willingham, Carrie Vaughn, John Scalzi, Orsen Scott Card, Jim Ottaviani and Gail Carriger.

Many issues were discussed from print media to social networking sites to copyright issues. Some of the authors shared amusing anecdotes about how they view libraries and especially librarians. John Scalzi stated that if aliens were to visit our planet that we should take them to a library, not to the government or to the hospital. Everyone else would have a ton of question for the aliens. He says that librarians would ask the aliens questions on what they wanted to know. He said that we would always need librarians to have someone to connect people to information. Loved that this is coming from a someone outside the library science field. (Loved Scalzi, he was hilarious!).

The topic of conversation then moved towards digitization. While many are in favor of digitization as a way to increase access to information, there are some pitfalls. Orsen Scott Card asserted that digitization does really create anything. He remarked that the move towards digital forms of media actually causes historic sources to dry up. For instance, there are fewer people keeping journals, writing letters et cetera. I am not sure I completely agree with him. New forms of communications are taking over. Now, we have e-mails, text messages and our social media profiles that show what we thought and how we lived.

The issue of access for scholarly publications also was discussed. One of the panelists, Jim Ottaviani, is currently a reference librarian at an academic library. He talked about how information is transmitted in today’s digital environment. In my opinion, there needs to be greater access to scholarly publications. The cost of accessing this kind of material is still at a very high cost. That cost is then the burden of the educational and research institutions. It was noted by a few panelists that many scholarly publications would do well to reduce barriers to access for the greater good of educational and scientific inquiry.

I completely enjoyed this panel. One of personal favorite authors, Gail Carriger was an unexpected treat. I enjoyed hearing all of the authors perspectives on information science and where they think the technology is taking us as a society. It is always interesting to hear perspectives from those outside the library environment. (Exception is Jim as he is a librarian.). I would highly recommend this panel to be offered again next year. LITA did gather a great panel of authors and I am sure would do so again.

On a semi-related note, here is a great interview with John Scalzi from Library Journal.

About Theresa

I am a reference librarian currently working in North Carolina. I have always been passionate about history, education and the value of books in all of their forms. I also love how quickly we can access information through the immediacy of the web, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to growing in my chosen profession.
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One Response to SciFi Authors talk about Information Technology – ALA 2011

  1. Amanda says:

    Card might have been talking about the “digital dark age” concept. If we rely on relatively complex and unstable media storage like a computer tape, we probably won’t be able to access the data in 300 years unless we continually migrate data to newer media. A good example of this problem is the household level data for the 1960 US Census. It was stored on magnetic tape (mistake #1) and they got rid of all the paper copies (mistake #2) and even the computers that could read the tape (mistake #3). Figuring out how to recover data off of your old USB stick will be an interesting problem for future historians. 🙂

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