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This has been a fascinating dialog on the function of intermediaries in the
delivery of technical products. I am not a technical writer; I guess you could
say I'm a technomediary. I'm a librarian. Like a technical writer, I am a
pilot boat navigating between the deep blue sea of technology and the shoreline
of usability. Because the territory we occupy is still treacherous, murky,
unfathonable to most travelers and casual tourists, our work is stressful, our
position often untenable. If we fail, the passenger runs aground on the shoals
of frustration and dissatisfaction.
If I do not design and control the access points in our online library catalog,
the patrons founder in the flood of information available. Without proper and
user anticipatory (second guessing) documentation and instruction, the library
is no better than a pile of books at a flea market. The parallels between the
work of the tech-writer and the librarian are striking (If I were a tech-writer
that would have been my lead sentance, right? :-) )
It struck me like a bolt at work today as I was doing "authority work," the
library equivelent to technical documentation of the program/product. I made
myself a note: "collocation." Co-location, all information sharing a common
quality is grouped under a UNIQUE, CONSISTENT, heading. Sound familiar?
What I want to suggest here is that the best way for us to describe ourselves
may be as "intermediaries," the word implying mediation and that which brings
together the parties to a transaction. That's what librarians do when they
make it possible for a patron to find an item in our collection/system that
meets hiser needs, to find it in a timely manner, and to find everything
relevant to hiser interest and not be finding too much that is irrelevent to
What do you think? Our work is very much akin, eh?
npArry -at- colgateu -dot- bitnet
nparry -at- center -dot- colgate -dot- edu