My Take on SWIFT

Many of the librarians that I admire have chimed in on the ITI/Computers in Libraries/Otter Group debacle. I’ve read over lots of the documentation provided, including the FAQ that was mailed out to attempt to assuage our concerns.

On the surface, the idea of a consolidated site for information on the conference seems like a good idea. So why the enormous pushback from the liberati? Several reasons:

The first is the one that David Lee King and others pointed out…the licensing agreement for SWIFT was onerous, to say the least. While they have said the agreement is changing, there is no evidence of said changes yet.

The second is more substantial. It harkens back to Tim Spaulding’s discussion of the difference between tags in LibraryThing and Amazon. Why did the tags in LibraryThing work, and in Amazon they did not? Because the tags in LibraryThing are my tags, they are your tags, they are tags that are used to describe things that are important to you, things we/you own. They are personal.

The tags in Amazon are not…they are potentially things you own, but they are not personal in the same way. There is a low ownership consideration with Amazon…as Tim points out, they don’t even have a way to export your tags.

SWIFT, in its way, is similar. It is a service asking for users….not users asking for a service. It is not personal, it is not needed, and it is not ours. Some of this is an issue with the method in which SWIFT was presented (poor marketing) and some of it is simply that it is a tool that no one needed.

Identify a need, then present a tool. Not the other way around.

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 “My Take on SWIFT”

This is all true. Also, the fact that the thing seemed b0rked from the get-to. When I first logged in (weeks ago) I couldn’t figure out how to change/update my profile. It brought in a strangely blurry version of my Facebook photo without asking me. There is no obvious first thing to do.The thing just lacks curb appeal.

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