What are libraries?

I wanted to address the question "How are libraries and librarianship described in computer science literature?" To accomplish this goal I first downloaded about 4,000 pre-prints from arxiv which had been self-described by their authors as being about digital libraries. I then extracted the underlying plain text from the PDF documents and concordanced for the following phrases:

  • librarians are
  • librarians were
  • librarianship is
  • librarianship was
  • libraries are
  • libraries were
  • library is
  • library was

I then removed all the text up to and including the given phrases, removed duplicates, and sorted the results. In the end I had a quick-and-dirty list of pseudo-definitions. Some of the more interesting are listed here:

  • a center of information, science, technology, art and culture [5]. an informati
  • a collection of information sources in a place." * a collection consists of obj
  • an external stored procedure wrapped in a table -valued stored procedure sphtm_
  • becoming less important to universities, while publishers have roughly maintain
  • constantly evolving in response to scholars' needs. * convenience transformatio
  • interested in building special event-centric web collections that humans can co
  • taking the lead in offering courses in using, managing, and disseminating data
  • today on the front lines of efforts to preserve data products and link them to

(The complete list is available at ./libraries-are.txt.)

On one hand, the results are not surprising. On the other hand, I would not be able to articulate all of these simple definitions, and I believe the enumeration can be the beginning of an interesting discussion.

For extra credit, one could acquire a different set of content -- say, bunches o' articles from the traditional library literature -- apply the same concordancing process, and compare the results.

Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <emorgan@nd.edu>
Source: This was originally shared on the Code4Lib Slack channel (October 28, 2022).
Date created: 2022-11-14
Date updated: 2022-11-14
Subject(s): libraries and librarianship;
URL: https://distantreader.org/blog/what-are-libraries/