Library Issues

Joe Janes Keynote, IL2007

Joe Janes
Reference 2.0

Very nice…at Internet Librarian, but not using slides.

He’s pimping:

New session at ALA: take everyone who longs for the “good ole days” and wants the National Union Catalog, lock the doors, and send them away. Think of the jobs then available!

Ready reference might be over.

“An academic is the sort of person who would face the Apocalypse with a historical overview”

1876: people can’t find the information they need. 2007: people can’t find the information they need.

First libraries to offer reference: special libraries, then public, lastly reference. No reference desk in academic libraries before 1910.

Reference is designed for a world with lots of information that is unfindable. That isn’t today…today we have lots of information that is FINDABLE.

Going to be an ever more digital world, and it is worth assuming that everything will be digital.

Lots of ways to get at information, at every level you can imagine.

We are trained to find wholes…we are going to increasingly find parts.

“If you aren’t editing Wikipedia articles, keep your mouth shut.”

Provide services to the kind of people who want your service.

“Get out of the freaking library.”

Be somewhere and everywhere.

Libraries have to provide space: meeting space, study rooms, etc.

Somewhere and everywhere, in and out, wholes and parts, more and better.

A Modest Proposal: For the people who dive deep, for the people who care: That’s when we do “real” reference.

For now, print is our secret weapon.

Weed those reference collections, put them in the ciculating collection.

For quick reference, concentrate on moving them forward.

For the people who are not information users, leave them alone.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

3 replies on “Joe Janes Keynote, IL2007”

[…] Librarian conference, which recently wrapped up in California. Of specific interest to me were notes on the lecture given by Joe Janes of University of Washington, who has written much (that I admire) on this subject.  His lecture […]

[…] Dmitri Roussinov has an excellent article on the state of the art in question-answering systems that respond to natural-language queries in his “Beyond Keywords: Automated Question Answering on the Web” in the September issue of Communications of the ACM. The article moves beyond the typical “closed domain” (or “fixed corpus”) QA systems tested in TREC competitions to consider automated open domain (or “open corpus”) QA systems, most of which are still in research prototype stages. Roussinov concludes that open domain QA systems need to address the following technical challenges: scalability, credibility, and usability, and that the next ten years will see these challenges solved. So does this mean the end of mediated online “ready reference” in libraries, as Joe Janes has already remarked in another context? […]

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