Recent Posts



“I Am an Aggregator”

In our discussion posts this week, my classmates and I have been discussing which aggregation tools we use to help us control the flow of information, particularly in the online environment, where the sheer number of possible information sources threatens to drown us in a sea of ones and zeros. We use Drupal, Google Reader, TappedIn, Wallwisher, Netvibes, old-fashioned RSS feeds, and a host of other applications. Is it paradoxical that I was overwhelmed by all the information about the tools available to help us defeat information overload?

Remember when the phrase “too much information” came into the vernacular a few years ago? It was generally used when someone you didn’t know that well told you more than you ever wanted to know about their tragic childhood/tragic sexual exploits/tragic difficulties with their G.I. tract. But now “TMI” is just the status quo.

That’s why I found an article published earlier this week in The Atlantic particularly interesting. In Derek Thompson’s “What People Don’t Get About Working in a Library,” an unnamed librarian is quoted as saying:

I am an aggregator, a citation machine, a curator, a specialist in whatever it is you want to know about.

If she’s right (I’m taking a guess at this librarian’s gender, based on the demographics of the profession), then it is, in fact, vital that information professionals be conversant with the tools of aggregation because, to everybody else, librarians are the tool of aggregation.

As hesitant as I am to call myself and everyone in my future profession a tool, it’s true. The Oxford Dictionary Online defines an aggregator as “a website or program that collects related items of content and displays them or links to them.” Replace “a website or program” with “a person,” and I think you’ve got a really good definition of a librarian – much better than the ODO‘s, in my opinion. (“A person in charge of or assisting in a library” is just a bit too bland for my taste.)

So, librarians, are we ready for our Spartacus moment? Stand up wherever you are, in the story circle, behind the reference desk, in the computer lab, and say it with me.

3 Responses to “I Am an Aggregator”

  1. jfong

    *stands up* “I am a tool! No wait… I am an Aggregator!”

    Thanks for the read. That Atlantic article is interesting because generally the average person has no idea what librarians do, myself included (half joking– I have a terrible time articulating what we do to quizzical friends/relatives).

  2. Alida V.

    What a wonderful way to describe one’s profession. I would add to this though that we are an aggregator with natural intelligence because aggregators help people keep up with what they know, but we can show them what they are missing in their information stream.

  3. rachelbalko

    That’s a really good point, Alida. With electronic aggregators, the user must tell the aggregator exactly what it wants to follow or know about, and the tool simply delivers that. As librarians, the user tells us what they want, and we can suggest additional or alternate resources that may work even better. Maybe we should have a tagline: Librarians. The ultimate thinking machine.

Leave a Reply

Spam prevention powered by Akismet