Unintended consequences: Unlimited access, invisible work and the future of the information profession in cultural heritage organizations


  • Paul F. Marty

    Associate Professor
    1. Florida State University, where his research focuses on the evolution of sociotechnical systems and collaborative work practices; digital convergence and the evolving roles of information professionals; and involving users in the co-construction of distributed, digital knowledge. He can be reached at through his website, http://marty.cci.fsu.edu
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Editor's Summary

Information professionals are challenged to deliver simple yet expansive results for the end user, who is typically unaware of increasingly complex systems behind the scenes. Visitors to libraries, museums and archives expect free and unlimited access to resources, but know little of the museum as an information source and the information professional as a service provider, compiling, organizing and delivering the resources of cultural heritage organizations. Changing mindsets are necessitating a change in the ways these organizations interact with visitors, prompting the need for more active engagement with resource users and even collaboration in developing resources. While technological change is fairly easy, sociological change is harder. Information professionals must challenge long traditions and deeply held philosophies to meet public expectations for expanded access to museum resources. But they must also advocate for their own contributions, using socio-technical skills to leverage their work through new platforms and channels to gain broader community recognition, respect and value.