“Whenever possible, use tools that already exist”

In  Rebecca’s blog on this MOOC she recently posted a summary of Sarah Ludwig’s guest lecture on Hyperlinked Library Communities. In the post, entitled “Reinventing the Wheel“, Rebecca highlighted three key messages from the guest lecture:

  1. Whenever possible, use tools that already exist.
  2. Go to the users; don’t expect the users to come to you.
  3. Be as present online as you are in the physical community

I very much agree with the second and third points (although the third point reflects a physical library environment – there are other environments in which the focus may, in any case, be based around online interactions).

But the initial point needs unpicking, I feel. I would agree with the dangers of developing new tools – which will require users to learn new interfaces and new ways of working – when existing tools are already available which can do the job.

The danger is that this will stifle innovation. What would be the point of Tim Berners-Lee developing the Web when Gopher already existing which provided a global information system based on the Internet?

Or, moving to today’s environment, are we suggesting that librarians should not consider social web environments beyond Facebook, Twitter and similar services?

Perhaps a more appropriate response would be to adopt the slogan “Developing new solutions is difficult and expensive and prone to failures. Make use of existing tools unless there are clear reasons not to and ensure that you articulate what those reasons are“. Would that be an approach which would be relevant in a library environment?

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One thought on ““Whenever possible, use tools that already exist””

  1. I think Sarah speaks for a certain kind of librarian and library environment where the resources, related both to skill and money, may not be available to build your own digital tool or system. Though I tend to agree with you that we should not dismiss opportunities to innovate when possible.

    Perhaps this gets at a bigger issue in LIS education, a soapbox I’ve visited quite a few times in my career, about hard technology skills of LIS professionals?

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