The library of Alexandria started out as a museum and the “librarians” began as curators. In many ways, librarians have always been curators of their collections – bringing the right materials together to tell a story, allowing the pieces of the collection to complement and contrast each other thus better defining themselves, writing up guides to their collections and acting as docents when explanations were called for.
As our collections are changing, our role as the curator is – I believe – coming to the fore again. Now we’re being asked to curate collections of apps for the devices we check out, such as iPods and iPads. We’re assembling dioramas of software for our information commons computers. And most importantly, we need to be ready and willing docents who will show patrons how to make sense of these gadgets, apps and software programs.
I have all this on my mind because my library is quickly moving head first into providing iPads for check out. But we’re not only checking them out, we’ll also be training entire departments how to use the iPads they purchase themselves. We’ve been asked for app recommendations and iTunes tutorials, classroom use demonstrations and scenario descriptions.
I feel like we’re an art museum trying to put together an exhibit for a whole new art movement that hasn’t really been defined yet.