Fonds versus Function: The Evolving Nature of Provenance and Original Order

For almost two centuries, the concepts of provenance and original order have been the hallmarks of archival thought and philosophy. These concepts date back to 1841, when the French historian, librarian and archivist Natalis de Wailly called on archivists to “respect des fonds.”[1] When translated from the French, respect des fonds means “respect for the collection.” As expressed by de Wailly and many others since the nineteenth century, respect for an archival collection emphasized respect for the individual, family or organization responsible for the creation of an archival source. The origin of this source became its provenance; a term which has been subsequently used by other disciplines such as archaeology, art history, and museology. A concomitant respect was reserved for how an archival source was originally conceived and organized by its creator. This was a collection’s original order; the order by which a creator decided to catalog their own materials. This ordering was deemed to be logical and conclusive by the archivist.

These two principles were subsumed into the idea of the fonds. More broadly construed, the fonds can be understood as a dual-ordered principle containing a certain kind of religiosity. For instance, traditional archivists would forever hallow the revelation of the archive, or how an archival unit or collection was revealed to them from the moment it came into their care. This professional calling, almost religious in its construction, meant that preservation was the archivist’s sole responsibility. In other words, collections were meant to stay fixed in their original form without being altered, rearranged or reinterpreted. In short, archives were never meant to be remade, according to the classicists of the profession.

Over time, however, the principles of provenance and original order have changed. In some cases they have been done away with entirely. But we can see how these concepts grounded the archive and led to the idea of recorded fixity, so crucial to the modernist-positivist stance on archival custody. This stance, if we recall, asserted that archives were these “building blocks” of historical narrative that lead to an elusive yet absolute value. Namely, the “evidentiary” value as articulated by T. R. Schellenberg. For instance, when considered in their aggregate or final archival form, records were believed to embody objective truth. Thereafter, nonintervention and preservation became the clarion calls of the profession. But if records are to be preserved in their original form, in accordance with the ideas of provenance and original order, then there can be no room for reappraisal.

With the especial intervention of postmodernism into the archival profession, archives have been subjected to criticism and the possibility of reappraisal. For instance, textual criticism released records from their ideological moorings and the considerably laissez-faire attitude which predominated during the modernist period. As Heather MacNeil writes: “[t]his scholarship argues in various ways that cultural texts – whether literary, artistic, or architectural – are not fixed or stabilized at one moment in time; rather, they are in a continuous state of becoming, as they are resituated and recontextualized in different environments and by different authorities.”[2] As MacNeil aptly demonstrates, archives are invariably cultural texts. Historically, however, archives escaped this appellation because they were presumed to have reached an apotheosis of meaning. Collections that were aggregated and well- defined, whether having originated from an individual, family or organization, were deemed absolute and unimpeachable. Indeed, in the modern tradition of Jenkinson and Schellenberg, provenance and original order were used as justifications to protect the concept of evidentiary value.

The fonds has been the standard guiding principle for the arrangement of archival collections for many years. Arrangement, for just as long, has been a singularly significant act; an act with considerable socio-historical import. For example, as archivists took collections into their custody, each collection’s relative value went unquestioned. This was part and parcel of modern archival theory and praxis. Collections were considered to have an objective meaning that was unique in their particular historicity, and this objective meaning was meant to be preserved in perpetuity. But MacNeil shows how objective archival arrangement is a flawed starting point. For instance, the irony of arrangement is that the historical use of purportedly “evidential” archives relies on a certain degree of subjectivity. Indeed, no custodian or researcher is purely objective when using an archive. Even as archives are consulted for objective purposes, like writing a sanctioned state history, for example, their original order is slowly altered through the transference of custodial environments. MacNeil says: “[t]he orders given to the records by their various custodians – or at least what survives of these various orders – are as relevant to the present meaning and authenticity of the archive as the order given to the records by its creator.”[3]  This fact completely undermines the concept of original order.

MacNeil’s article is helpful in illustrating the point that archives do not have fixed meanings. Instead, archives accrue meaning depending on who is using them, whether that person is a researcher or a custodian. This phenomenon also underscores the postmodern idea of différance as articulated by Jacques Derrida; the important postmodern figure cited by many post-custodians, namely Terry Cook. Différance, for example, asserts that cultural texts only have meaning when individual readers come into contact with them. This idea applies to archives as well. Indeed, in order to truly guarantee preservation, archives must continually be used or activated. When archives are thusly activated, they invariably adopt new meanings through the process of being “resituated” and “recontextualized.” This is an important analysis, and it should be a clear objective for archival studies in the twenty-first century. Still, provenance and original order have historically codified archival schemas of arrangement which have privileged singular narrative representations. Out of the fonds, archivists have circumscribed historical narratives in a single act; the act of appraisal. Although archival collections may gradually lose their original meanings through the subjective nature of human activity, cultural hegemony can be sustained through certain normative and institutional fonds.

A safer approach to archival appraisal, arrangement and description can be found in the functional approach to archives. This approach is central to a post-custodial vision of archival care. For example, functional analysis treats records as distinct entities, stripping them of their ontological wholeness as presumed by modern archival theory. MacNeil concluded her article with a nod to functional analysis by stating: “…while an understanding of the functions records fulfilled in their original environment informs our understanding of how to treat them over the long term, such understanding should also remind us that the records no longer fulfill those functions.”[4] Here, MacNeil is saying that archives serve an originary function which is unique to the individual or entity responsible for the creation of that archive. For example, a personal letter may possess an emotional salience that only the author can understand. Likewise, a business contract may signal an obligation which is only applicable between two persons. When items like these are archived, however, they acquire cultural meanings which supersede the strictly personal meanings that were attached to the archive’s originary function. In other words, when time disassociates the archive from its creator, usually through the process of the creator’s own mortality, the archive undergoes a change. This change is not insubstantial. Indeed, either an archive can retain its original meanings by being sealed away after the creator’s death, or an archive can assume new meanings through the activations of a wider public.

The functional approach to archival management is promising because it holds the entities that create records at a critical distance. For example, archivists who subscribe to institutional functional analysis will research the institutions that fall under their scope. As Marcus C. Robyns’ explains: “…the archivist first determines what the institution does and how it does it. He or she then identifies and decides the relative value of the institution’s key functions and from this analysis resolves the location and relative value of the records that document these functions.”[5] Before, as archivists worked from the dual-ordered principle of the fonds, relative value was largely ignored in favor of evidentiary value. But functional analysis isolates the relative importance of an institution’s functional activities. From this starting point, records can be carefully selected for archival appraisal.

In institutional functional analysis, respect for provenance is still adhered to as records are linked to their creators. But instead of being described as part of a larger contingent of records, functional archives are considered worthy of description all the way down to the item level. In other words, singular archival records can acquire a life of their own in terms of context and representation. This is an important development because it allows for an archive to showcase other historical actors; not just a series’ owner like a government office or a “distinguished” donor.

One may wonder how the functional approach can commence when it’s point of departure for arrangement and description is item-level analysis. After all, it is well-known in the profession that describing archives at the item level is grossly impractical in terms of staff time and resources. This reality was overwhelmingly demonstrated by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner in their seminal article More Product, Less Process.[6] But functional analysis is misunderstood if one believes that the functional approach necessarily means dissecting every sheath of paper that enters into an archive. Instead, functional analysis is a forward-thinking strategy. For instance, after writing and revising institutional or administrative histories, archivists can determine which of the functions of an institution will be more likely to produce valuable archives. This was the process undertaken by Robyns and Jason Woolman at the Central Upper Peninsula and Norther Michigan University (NMU) Archives. After identifying various administrative functions that fit into the overarching mission of the larger academic institution, retention schedules were created to help guide the selection of records with relative importance. However, the authors of the NMU study warn that effective functional analysis requires cooperation and good working relations between archivists and the creating entities within their scope. This dynamic is not always guaranteed. Still, the functional approach to archives is a method that helps ensure meaningful collections. Through functional analysis, new meanings can take shape as well as new revelations that were previously hidden in the initial reveal of the fonds.

While functional archives certainly present a promising alternative to the dogmatism inherent in the modern view of the fonds, there are legal issues that arise in terms of access. For example, Steven Bingo illustrates that archival donors seldom wish for their collections to become destabilized in meaning. By way of Helen Nissenbuam, Bingo writes: “[c]ontextual integrity… is violated when information divulged within one context is recast in another context, particularly of how the information is allowed to flow in radically different ways.”[7] This idea of contextual integrity can problematize the creation of a postmodern, functional and interactive archive. Indeed, the concept of provenance often revolves around aspects of donor privacy, such as confidentiality and agreements to donor rights. In short, there are moral and legal parameters to allowing the context of an archive to change. Bingo offers some helpful suggestions for mitigating donor risk while at the same time enhancing collection value. Fruitful conversations can come from donor/archivist collaborations, where the donor can be apprised of provenance and functional analysis, and the archivist can determine how to best provide prudent access. But privacy and access are issues which will continue to be of paramount importance for archivists, especially as the profession moves away from modern theories of appraisal, arrangement and description.

Bibliography

Bingo, Steven. “Of Provenance and Privacy: Using Contextual Integrity to Define Third Party Privacy.” The American Archivist Vol. 74 (Fall/Winter 2011): 507.

Greene, Mark A. and Dennis Meissner. “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing.” The American Archivist 68, (Fall/Winter 2005): 208-263.

MacNeil, Heather. “Archivalterity: Rethinking Original Order.” Archivaria, The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists 66, Fall (2008): 1-24.

Millar, Laura A. Archives Principles and Practices. Chicago, IL.: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2017.

Robyns, Marcus C., and Jason Woolman. “Institutional Functional Analysis at Northern Michigan University: A New Process of Appraisal and Arrangement of Archival Records.” The American Archivist 74, (Spring/Summer 2011): 241-256.

Internal Citations

[1] Laura A. Millar, Archives Principles and Practices (Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman. 2017), 45.

[2] Heather MacNeil, “Archivalterity: Rethinking Original Order,” Archivaria, The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists, Vol. 66 (Fall 2008): 2.

[3] MacNeil, “Archivalterity,” 17.

[4] MacNeil, “Archivalterity,” 21.

[5] Marcus C. Robyns and Jason Woolman, “Institutional Functional Analysis at Northern Michigan University: A New Process of Appraisal and Arrangement of Archival Records,” The American Archivist, Vol. 74 (Spring/Summer 2011): 244.

[6] Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner, “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing,” The American Archivist, Vol. 68 (Fall/Winter 2005): 208-263.

[7] Steven Bingo, “Of Provenance and Privacy: Using Contextual Integrity to Define Third-Party Privacy,” The American Archivist, Vol. 74 (Fall/Winter 2011): 507.

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The Heart of Archivy and Social Memory

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As an interested student, it is perhaps difficult to arrive at a study of archives when the current literature, written by some of the profession’s most respected faculty, explicitly denies the authority of archival records. But many authors working from the postmodern perspective argue that such denial is necessary for becoming a good archivist. These authors also assert that, far from being nuggets of objective truth, archives are often sources of misinformation and intellectual deceit. As Francis X. Blouin, Jr. notes in Archivists, Mediation, and Constructs of Social Memory, archivists have been agents of the modern nation-state, complicit with dominant cultural and political aims for many generations. In more recent times, however, – owing to the growth of the Annales as a method of historical inquiry, as well as the emergence of counter-cultural thinking in the latter half of the twentieth century – academics have moved to study archives not as a place where study originates, but as an “object” of study.

In the modern era, archival thought was dominated by Sir Hilary Jenkinson, or Jenkinsonian ideology. Jenkinson was against the idea of archivists determining the value of documentary records. In other words, he was against the appraisal process, so important to the profession today. But Jenkinson was against appraisal for admittedly pragmatic reasons. For instance, he surmised that the bulk of records coming into archives from the many bureaucratic entities of the WWI postwar era could not be adequately processed by archivists. It was, Jenkinson reasoned, far too much work for such a modest field and its practitioners. Therefore, instead of intentionally stripping archivists from a very important duty, Jenkinson attempted to alleviate a burden; the burden of record inundation and the administrative suffocation that would result. Still, Jenkinson had mistaken thoughts about the nature of records. He believed that records were these “building blocks” of historical, objective truth. That is, historical truth was not to be found distilled into any singular document, but would instead eventually be revealed through the aggregation of records. This was believed to be a natural sequence, requiring patience and good stewardship from archivists. Therefore, Jenkinson’s attitude toward appraisal was considerably laissez-faire. The principle he exercised was absolute nonintervention into the war-tested process of records management. This positioning of the profession ultimately stripped archivists away from appraisal, which was a task deemed more suitable for records managers.

Another thought, offered by Paige Hohmann in On Impartiality and Interrelatedness: Reactions to Jenkinsonian Appraisal in the Twentieth Century, is that Jenkinson was simply a product of his time. In the postwar era, for example, there was great nationalism rooted in society with concurrent strong belief in government and presidential morality. This background made it easy to subscribe to a prevailing empirical positivism. The culture was also characterized by a nascent Weberian economy whereby, in the words of archival scholar Fiorella Foscarini in Understanding the context of records creation and use: ‘Hard’ versus ‘soft’ approaches to records management: “labor was rationally divided and fixed sets of responsibilities were assigned to every individual office in accordance with written rules and regulations.” In other words, this development in the society allowed for an increasing divergence of “specializations” or “departments,” where people adopted rigid work roles and were meant to act as distinct working units in a rather industrial machine.

The history of archives is very much the history of established powers. The elite groups of history are always comprised of select men or women. This leaves out a plethora of other histories, namely folk histories, which have escaped thousands of years of human documentation. But this did not go unnoticed in the latter half of the twentieth century. Leading postmodern figures such as Jean-François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, as well as poststructuralists like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, moved away from viewing history as an empirical study, focusing instead on cultural institutions and social interactions with various power structures. The idea of social memory began to take precedence over authoritarian history, and more abstract notions of individual pasts were considered over and above any unchallenged acceptance of a uniform past. This allowed for the possibility of recontextualizing or imagining when thinking about history (an important concept when talking about the activation of archival records). Derrida, in particular, spoke of archival gaps in the historical record when he wrote about the absence of archive. To summarize this concept of absence, records which are not made are often more important than the records that are made, because gaps represent a wider conception of thoughts and feelings in historical time and thus a more accurate glimpse of social memory. It is also imperative to think about gaps in terms of “silences,” demanding to know who has been silenced.

Power often obscures truth, and because archives have traditionally been the products of political power, archives cannot be assumed to be coterminous with social memory. If an archives is filled with records that obscure truth, it behooves the archivist to redirect the means of archival study. Instead of being neutral agents of obscurantism, archivists need to provide space for the effective mediation of records. Unfortunately, this is difficult in a capitalist economy where archivists exist within larger business structures and are forced into “dealing with corporate goals, standard requirements, and technological constraints on the one side, and records creators… on the other” (Foscarini). This problematizes the ability to provide uninhibited mediation. But archivists should be mediators. They should connect individuals with opportunities to activate records for recreation, social justice, rituals of healing and commemoration, etc. etc. If this objective comes up against corporate restraints, mediation becomes impossible, and archivists are made to exist in a vacuum.

Terry Cook has written in ‘We Are What We Keep; We Keep What We Are’: Archival Appraisal Past, Present and Future: “appraisal is the very heart of archivy, what gives it life, allows it to survive, from which all other functions follow, and that appraisal has been absent for too long from the archival corpus of ideas.” Cook, as a stalwart defender of social memory and justice, maintains that archivists must not lose out in claiming the right to act as appraisers of record history. For if anyone can determine the value of cultural products, there would inevitably be a culture war where groups would seek to elevate themselves and destroy others. Because creators of the historical record have traditionally had power, archivists must stand as a last line of defense in tempering the kind of power that marginalizes and silences others, considering in that wake politics of class and ethics, as well as principles of nondiscrimination and inclusive democracy. Indeed, archival records are not static or fixed. They are relational and suspect. Physical archives require activation. Archival absences require imagination. Where the latter is concerned, the process of imagining history needs to rely on an established critique of archival processes, which goes straight back to the appraisal question; a question thoroughly mired in democratic philosophy.

LIS Professionals and Social Justice

As we have already seen, the raison d’etre of libraries is to serve the public by providing information resources that support the individual in their search for knowledge. Underlying this goal is the promise of patron privacy, inclusiveness, and the ability to gain unrestricted access to freely loaned materials. Seldom, however, do libraries actually understand their collections on an intellectual basis beyond pure subject analysis and derivation of access points. Indeed, the resources may be sitting there on the shelves, but their content and larger societal implications may elude the busy LIS professional. In this elusion, there may be consequences, as libraries and librarians have been targeted in the recent past for their purported role in providing information resources which have served a decidedly non-utilitarian purpose (i.e. channeling racism, religious intolerance, hatred, xenophobia, etc). Therefore it is important to think of a library collection from a social justice perspective.

This is exactly what John Buschman and Dorothy A. Warner do in On Community, Justice, and Libraries. They admit that sometimes the core values of the ALA produce unintended outcomes. But they invoke the philosophy of John Rawls to explain how libraries can act as arbiters of social justice rather than unwitting accomplices to moral turpitude.

RawlsWe live in a pluralist society where religious, philosophical, and moral ideas are not equal among all citizens. Indeed, this is an inevitable result of living in a homogeneous society. But Rawls reconciles the concept of democracy with incompatible members of society. According to Rawls, a just society is one that distributes primary social goods fairly. We can understand these goods to be, not commodities tied into market systems, but goods of an intrinsic moral worth, such as liberty and equal opportunity. Rawls brings an institutional focus to the concept of social justice. So what libraries do and how they do it in a given community is meaningful in a democracy.

So how should LIS professionals reorient their work, making it less of a rote process of bibliographic output and control to circumscribing information resources within a wider social justice framework?

The work of Karen Schmidt et al. in Approaches to Selection, Access, and Collection Development in the Web World: A Case Study with Fugitive Literature provides one example. This group of Librarians from regional Chicago libraries focused on collecting “fugitive literature” in the form of information resources published or disseminated by hate groups and political fringe groups. While this collection strategy was unsavory and perhaps daunting, it illustrates a group of LIS professionals willing to immerse themselves in literature that deals explicitly with social justice (in this case a body of divisive literature that injures the realization of social fairness). They worked to understand the origins and meanings of this primary source material, sadly current in our society, in order to describe it and make meaning out of it. Their collection emanated from groups as varied as the New Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, Jewish Defense League, Council of Conservative Citizens, American Renaissance, the National Socialist Movement, and various KKK affiliations.

Their web collection strategy relied on deep thinking. Indeed, when collecting resources that belong to other communities, it is necessary to wipe the slate clean. LIS professionals must become true ethnographers, as diving into a collection strategy with preconceived ideas will result in a biased interpretation of materials, which will muddle the social justice lens. Another hurdle for LIS professionals to be aware of in this regard is the existence of linguistic differences. As Schmidt et al. noted, different cultures will likely use unique vocabulary to describe their beliefs and valued resources, which in stringent membership communities such as hate groups are heavily codified. For instance, in the hate group literature, no one conducting the study knew what the number 88 stood for in the white supremacist groups. This is an example of the need to conduct deep research, not just on Web resources, but on all informational resources generally.

Information Needs and Information Seeking

In Donald Case’s chapter, Information Needs and Information Seeking, we are introduced to some of the foundational theories of information-seeking behavior from Robert Taylor, Charles Atkin, Nicholas Belkin, and Brenda Dervin. Following Case’s logic, it is assumed that information-seeking behavior is based on an underlying need, analogous to Abraham Maslow’s definition of needs. While there have been scholars who have questioned the idea that searching for information has anything at all to do with needs, I think that there is indeed a primal itch or an innate human instinct toward knowledge. Or perhaps better stated, there is an innate instinct toward gathering information in order to make sense of the world around us. In Andreas Ekström’s Ted Talk on the moral bias behind our search results, Ekström mentions that we become human in the process of searching for knowledge, a particularly salient quote when considering this question. Indeed, Maslow insisted that the urge for self-actualization was deeply entrenched in the human psyche. Self-actualization is, of course, contingent on personal knowledge, and knowledge, as we have seen, requires information gathering.

The problem with any part of cognitive science is that there is a tendency to only accept objective data and to dismiss out of hand as unscientific anything related to qualia; feelings and mental states that cannot be measured in concrete, empirical terms. For example, some scholars maintain that there is a problem with quantifying information needs because these behavioral states emanate from a first-person view of phenomenal conscious activity, and there is no empirical way to determine if what one is experiencing (in this case an expression of needing to know something) is truly a need or not. Well, this thinking veers dangerously toward solipsism, which I have always had a problem with. We can argue that needs are mental or physical states that are expressly felt and immediately recognizable (i.e. hunger, thirst, warmth, etc.). But if we allow that it is possible to be unaware of one’s needs, then the question opens up into wider terrain.

People seek information for different reasons, and they filter and interpret information in different ways. If we follow the school of thought that considers information-seeking behavior to be driven by nothing more than a rational judgement that some uncertainty exists that can be resolved by specific information, we are ignoring other contexts in which information-seeking can occur and function.

dervin

This is why Brenda Dervin’s sense-making theory is important. Dervin’s theory identifies the information-seeking process with emotions, as well as cognitive processes. Dervin’s information seeking illustration explains the theory visually. In Dervin’s research, the search for information is based on a need that arises within a person. This need can be intrinsic or extrinsic based on the person’s situation. The situation is the starting point of the information seeking process. For instance, a person may seek information because they are in a class in graduate school. The process of searching will be influenced by past experiences and previous knowledge.

Sense-making theory emphasizes emotions and feelings. The bridge to the outcome will be influenced by environmental and biological factors. Maybe health will deteriorate or mood will dampen, which will make the information-seeking process seem more arduous and burdensome, and this strain will inevitably color the results or outcome. On the other hand, strong heath and a positive attitude will likely result in faster and more thorough information processing.

Dervin’s sense-making theory is based on everyday life, so it is not context specific or spatially oriented. Time and space are infinite factors. As an example, in undergraduate school, there were times when I had to drive a distance to procure a book at another academic library because my research project was dependent on said book, and it could not wait or my outcome (my term paper) would suffer. Indeed, the search for information may be quick or it may be long, depending on the query and the scope of the question. In Ekström’s words, one may be looking for an “isolated fact,” or they may be searching for knowledge, which is a much more complicated and intricate thing. But knowledge is part of what makes us human, and it is driven by an innate need.

Becoming Librarian 2.0

cioran_in_romania

Emil Cioran

In Becoming “Librarian 2.0”, Helen Partridge et al mention that an increasing number of positions in libraries are becoming more and more technologized. As technology is always changing, there is a professional call for librarians to be “nimble” and on their feet in regards to acquiring technological competencies. In other words, to be a 21st century librarian, one must be willing and ready to adapt to change. This requirement forces the LIS professional into a very self-reflexive mode. In past ages, jobs would require a circumscribed set of skills, or a finite amount of knowledge for workforce readiness. But Librarianship is a field in flux, and LIS professionals are constantly reevaluating what they know, and if that knowledge is still relevant. Almost on a daily basis. With the fast pace of technology, it seems that what the LIS professional knows is never good enough, and that a constant reinvention of their professional identity is imperative for success. Indeed, we must be in a state of becoming, willing to trade our old competencies for new ones. In a way, this is very disruptive to the development of a secure sense of self. I am reminded of a quote from the pessimistic philosopher Emil Cioran: “Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows” (A Short History of Decay). Still, this requirement to change is not all bad. For example, technology has reduced the barriers to service that existed between librarians and users. A “social web” has now emerged which facilitates a more participatory culture (Partridge et al, 316).

The Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto:

One of the wonderful things about this field is that you do not have to be an IT expert to be a successful Web 2.0 librarian, or a “Librarian 2.0” as Partridge et al term it. Indeed, Laura Cohen’s 2006 Manifesto attested to this fact. In her manifesto, there is an emphasis on meeting users and bringing library services to them in new, networked spaces. But there is no need to be a technological guru, as adopters of the Manifesto have focused “more on interpersonal skills and less on technological competencies” (Partridge, 317). At most, the Librarian 2.0 must be able to manipulate and use new media platforms like blogs and social media sites. There are no professional requirements to know how to code or troubleshoot technical problems related to computers, unless these are simple connectivity issues with clientele. Indeed, the technology competencies for librarians only call for “the ability to engage with and use technology to meet client and community needs” (Partridge et al, 318). This is not a very tall order.

Partridge et al attempt to define Librarian 2.0 on their own terms, identifying the skills, knowledge, and personal attributes required. Their focus groups arrived at some thematic conclusions that echo the original Manifesto by Cohen, and the subsequent literature on Library 2.0. The main conclusion from Partridge et al was that, while a fundamental understanding of popular technology is required to be a Librarian 2.0, IT skills are not. Following this consensus, the LIS professional should be expected to stay abreast of Tech trends. Of course, this does not require a computer information degree. It simply requires a readiness to learn.

As for the rest of the requirements, they are pretty boilerplate, I think. The other Librarian 2.0 competencies mentioned by Partridge et al are independent of knowing how to operate technology. These are the liberally-applied skills of Research, Communication, Teamwork, User-Focus, and Business savvy, combined with the right Personal Traits for Librarianship. These last requirements are not reliant on any technological acumen, but are traditional Library school skills which can later be applied to the technological environment. Indeed, the authors even note that their respondents agreed that most of the competencies required to be a successful Librarian 2.0 were not in any way new competencies, or based on greater knowledge of Information Technology. But I disagree with the authors assumption that the Librarian 2.0 is a “guru of the information age,” only because I think the term “guru” connotes a deeper understanding of computer technology. Still, the takeaway is that becoming Librarian 2.0 has “less to do with technology and more about quality transferable skills and interpersonal abilities” (Partridge et al, 332).

Finally, another thing that struck me was that participants in the Partridge et al study noted that the LIS profession was organic, and not artificial or robotic in any automated or “do it yourself” sense. I think this fits well with my interpretation of Frank Webster’s technology argument, of which my opinion was that an information-driven society is more dependent on organic networks (constituents of people) and less on the technology itself.