Having just read Chapter 2 of Spreadable Media, I have two concepts that are resonating with me and making me think of school library implications. The concepts of “appraisal” and “residual value” were prominent in this chapter.
“Appraisal” is the act of attributing value to something. The interesting thing about “appraisal” is that the process shifts between contexts: the same object can have different values. The example of a gift is used in a few places in the chapter. A gift has a clear monitory value when purchased. When the same gift is then given to another, the value becomes one of building relationships or possibly one of potential reciprocity. In a library, objects certainly have a monitory value when purchased, but the value to the user is quite independent of that ascribed by the publisher or retailer who is selling it. One would think that, in most cases, the value to the author is also very different again.
What is the value of an object in a school library? The value, I would argue, is entirely in it’s use or function. I want to use an object in the library so that I can learn something. The quantity and quality of that learning equates to the value I put on that object. What I get out of that object may be something very different from another user, based on my experience and need for that information. The format that the object is in also affects it’s use and therefor it’s value. A digital object may have greater use/value if my need is to extensively search a large body of text or copy, paste and rework the text in some way. If I am looking for a protracted, uninterrupted read, a physical object may have greater value.
A school librarian has two roles in relation to “appraisal.” The traditional role has always been in appraising content for the library based on the predicted needs of the users of the collection. Perhaps a more important role, in this day and age, is in the teaching of others to become “appraisers” in their own right. Free and open access to information objects means that each user has to think more about what value each object brings and what aspects contribute to that value in their particular context.
The second concept, “residual value,” has interesting implications in the school library setting. One primary concern of librarians has been to ensure that their collections are current. The rationale is that a newer object contains more up to date and thus more accurate and relevant information. The concept of “residual value” in this context says that the value of an object may change quite drastically over time. A book profiling a community published today has a completely different value than the same book published a hundred years ago. Today’s book gives us up to date information that allows us to see where that community is now and where it might be headed. Yesterday’s book gives a snapshot of history that may emphasize aspects of the community that are long forgotten and shed light on the priorities of that community at the time.
“Residual value” also talks about taking older objects and reworking them for a new context. These kinds of objects have a very different value than the primary object. This is not something new, in basic concept, in research. Primary documents have been considered more authentic and “accurate” than secondary source documents in research for years. But this concept puts a different value on secondary sources. The value of a secondary source is different than that of the primary. A secondary source may put a primary source in context or help explain aspects of that source not plainly evident in the primary source. The ways in which primary sources are reworked has proliferated as people remix music, recut or even re-film movies or re-write stories in the form of fan-fiction. Not only do librarians have to re-evaluate the types of objects contained in the school library, but they also need to deal with how they teach students to appraise these objects for their own use.