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What we need is a barn raising.

The following is a plea to the IA community back in 2015. I have kept the post as it was written back then, but wanted to add this context to say this is no longer an active project looking for support. There is however an update on this project from later in 2015 worth reading if you have interest in what happened as a result of this post (Updated in 2020 for Posterity)

I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries. 

~Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Did you know that the Information Architecture Institute’s library has the largest listing of IA resources on the internet? With 547 resources listed, it spans our collective history from 1977 to present day.

Did you also know that it is 29% deprecated and that many of the authors who have been writing about IA and surrounding topics for the past few years have never been submitted or submitted themselves to be included in the IAI library? This author included.

This is a major problem.

Our history as a practice is stuck in a poorly organized, out of date, folksonomic nightmare. Our categories don’t have enough depth and relevance. One in three links is broken. Our lexicon is not specific enough and is outdated and unconnected to the guidance that people seek when they come to us for help.

The IAI library may serve as the single best example of #IArony that exists online today. This reflects badly on our abilities to do what we say we do best and keeps those interested in continuing our legacy from getting started. It ultimately leads students and junior practitioners to other sources, like my inbox and yours.

In its current state, the library feels less like a curated authority on information architecture and more like a tool for self-promotion of your own content. Practitioners are less likely to rely on it as a viable resource and thought leaders are less likely to contribute their work. This is why I have never submitted myself, and I know many other writers and thinkers in our industry who feel the same way.

The real tragedy of a deprecated, stagnant library is that no one is empowered by it. We need an IAI library that truly represents the vitality of our field; a library that empowers and connects academics and practitioners.

I have a dream that this library will invite new voices and those from different backgrounds and experience levels to speak up and share their perspectives on information architecture. A girl can dream but only a community can make this kind of dream a reality.

Our digital barn needs raising.

When farmers deal with the aftermath of fires or natural disasters, they often turn to a methodology called barn raising. This is an entirely volunteer effort in which a community rebuilds a barn in a matter of hours or days to save the farmer the expense of time and resources in doing it through a more traditional building process.

In thinking about how to save the IAI Library, the concept of a barn raising has been haunting me. Because we all know some form of the adage “many hands make light work”. It is my opinion that if we try to find a small group of volunteers to do the load of this work, it will take forever and honestly, might never get done. The anxiety of tackling this effort alone has kept me up nights. But if we spread this task across many people doing smaller tasks, we could perhaps get it done in a month.

How can you help?

We are looking for two types of people to help:

  • People who know a lot about information architecture (thought leaders, teachers, mid- and senior-level practitioners)
  • People who don’t need to know much about IA but want to get involved (students, junior practitioners, generalists, outsiders)

The tasks we need tackled will all be achievable within a half day of your time (4 hrs). We will plan for our barn raising to take place over a month, to allow you to spend just 1 hour a week in helping us, if that makes sense in your schedule.

All these tasks will require nothing more than internet access and the ability to access Google documents. You won’t be forced into a conference call or Basecamp commitment or spammed with group emails. I promise. Cross my heart.

You will simply get a succinct, achievable four hour task to complete. If you want more tasks once you are done, we will have plenty more for you to do. (ps. I love you.)

UPDATE 8/15: We have been totally overwhelmed by the number of people who came forward and offered to help. Over 100 people signed up before the end of our registration period. The first batch of assignments have been sent out to the first 60 who joined, but don’t worry there are more to come. We have left the sign up form open for now, but will not be sending out additional assignments until Sept 1.

ps. A special thanks to Rachael Hodder for her assistance in architecting this massive effort.