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Olivia Frost, Katrhin Grzeschik und Boris Jacob beim Interview
Olivia Frost, Kathrin Grzeschik und Boris Jacob beim Interview

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Spieldauer/Running Time: 21min 33 sec

Olivia Frost im Interview.

LIBREAS spricht mit Olivia Frost über ihr Studium im Berlin der 60ger Jahre, ihre Arbeit an der School of Information in Michigan, das Verhältnis der Uni zur Wirtschaft, Web 2.0 und die Buddenbrooks.

LIBREAS talks with Olivia Frost about studying in Berlin during the 60s, her work at the School of Information in Michigan, the relation between industry and university as well as Web 2.0 and the Buddenbrooks.



- Transkription zum Interview -

Aufnahmedatum/Recorded: 10.05.2007
Veröffentlicht/Published: 18.06.2007
Interviewer: Boris Jacob
Transcript: Kathrin Grzeschik
Foto: Ben Kaden
Interviewee: Prof. Olivia Frost / Dean of School of Information, University of Michigan
Sprache: Deutsch/Englisch

LIBREAS: Wir freuen uns heute Frau Olivia Frost zu begrüßen, sie ist promovierte Bibliothekswissenschaftlerin und Dekanin der School of Information an der University of Michigan. Prof. Frost, sie haben in den 60er Jahren an der Freien Universität in Berlin Germanistik studiert. Wie gefällt Ihnen die Stadt und wie haben sie ihre Veränderungen miterlebt?

Olivia Frost: I’ll be answering in English because it’s been a long time since I had the chance to practise my German. I understand very well but I’m not as fluent in speaking it as before.

I came to Germany soon after completing my undergraduate degree and I spent a year as a Fullbright student at the Freie Universität and I had grown up in New York for most of my life and when I came to Berlin I felt right at home. Because Berlin is a big city, its a sophisticated city, its a city that had a sense of humour and its very much like New York sense of humour, and so when I got into a taxi cab the cab driver started giving me some Berlin humour I felt right at home because that’s just the way a New York taxi driver would talk. It has that same irreverent sense of humour. It doesn’t ... It is not hesitant to make humorous remarks about all kinds of subjects. So I felt right at home in Berlin and I enjoyed my stay in Berlin very much.

And this was a time in Berlin when the wall had gone up and I lived with a family that was separated by the wall. Half of the family lived in East Berlin and half of the family lived in West Berlin. I could go back and forth since I was a U.S. citizen and so I was honoured to be able to go to the Eastside of the family and tell them how the other half of the family was doing. And those were very exciting times, when Berlin was divided. And of course over the years I’ve seen Berlin undergo tremendous change and it’s been exciting to see manifestations of that change. When I first came to Berlin and I attended lectures the students so respectful of the professors. They would stand when the professor came into the room and they would be very polite and respectful. That was the early sixties. Then I came back in the late sixties and the students were throwing paint at the faculty. The faculty member would be trying to lecture and the students would be throwing eggs, paint ... it was totally opposite to what I had seen before. Now things have returned more to normal, so its interesting to see how life has evolved and of course the difference in the political situation has been tremendous, to see the wall come down and the freedom of movement that is now possible and all kinds of interesting political changes, so I’ll stop there but just say this is been a fascinating city to experience.

LIBREAS: Unterhalten wir uns ein wenig über Ihre School of Information. Auf den [Internet-]Seiten ist zu lesen “her research, teaching and service areas focus on ways on providing intellectual access to information” – was bedeutet für Sie intellektueller Zugang zu Information?

Olivia Frost: Now for me intellectual access to information means ways of providing access to the content of information, as compared with providing access to the physical values: So cataloguing, classification, organisation of information. How do you provide access so that the user of information comes easily into contact with the content of information and that can be anything from the Anglo-American-cataloguing-rules to the Dewey Decimal Classification to Google, Search Engines, there are all kinds of ways of providing intellectual access to information? And that’s what has fascinated me all these years and that’s what my research is focused on.

LIBREAS: Sie sind seit 1977 an der University of Michigan und arbeiten seit langer Zeit auch in der Ausbildung von Informationsspezialisten. Wie haben sich die Anforderungen an diese über die Jahre verändert?

Olivia Frost: It’s been really fascinating to see the ways in which the teaching of information has changed over the years. When I joined the faculty in 1977 the name of the school was ‘School of Library Science’ and I taught cataloguing, classification, other people taught reference collection development and we still teach those these days, but we teach so much more and nowadays the scope of the school has broadened so much.
The school is much more extensive in what it considers as the realm of information. So now when we think of information studies our students are studying economics, psychology, law, history all kinds of subjects that are important for librarians and other information specialists, to have a broad understanding. So, this is the most important change that I’ve seen is that we are much broader than our narrow speciality of librarianship. The field of librarianship and information has really broadened to a large extent. And this is part of what we call the “information school movement”.

LIBREAS: Ja, mit der Idee fühlen wir uns am Institut für Bibliotheks- und Informationswissenschaft natürlich auch sehr gut. Können Sie uns vielleicht noch etwas über Ihre Beziehungen zwischen der iSchool und der Wirtschaft in den USA erzählen?

Olivia Frost: The difference between the ... between industry did you say ... or the relationship between industry and the institute or the school is quite a strong one. We have industries such as Microsoft, Google, Intel working with us, they hire our students as interns, the students do a summer “Praktikum“ with them, they earn money, they get experience. Our faculty work with industry to develop research, sometimes the research becomes profitable and there is transfer of information .... development of new ideas that becomes profitable and faculty members can gain from that, the university can gain from that. We have ... did I mention that some of our students get jobs in industry, so there is a rich relationship between industry and the university. But also this is just one of the ways in which the university helps provide resources to support the instructional programme. And the U.S. universities and European universities are very different in this way. In that in the U.S. universities there are many more sources of financial support. Including not only industry but also student tuition, Alumni giving, foundation giving and so there are many ways in which universities in the U.S. receive funding to provide support. Far less of the funding comes from the state and ... in fact less and less from the state now and more and more the financial support is coming from other sources.

LIBREAS: Ihre Studenten verlassen die School of Information mit einem Masterabschluss oder Doktortitel. Welche Berufschancen haben Ihre Absolventen?

Olivia Frost: Our students have ... had excellent success with getting good jobs once they have completed their degree. And our master students I would say about ninety percent of them get very good jobs when they graduated or else they go on and they pursue a doctorate. They do many different things, they ... some go into libraries, some go into archives, some start their own corporation, they are entrepreneurial, some of them work for government, many of them work for industry and so there is a wide range of job opportunities that are available to our students. The students who get a doctorate usually go into teaching and become professors in universities. We have had a hundred percent employment with our doctorate students. So they have also excellent career opportunities.

LIBREAS: Erzählen Sie uns bitte von einigen Projekten, in denen sich Ihre iSchool engagiert. In der “Cultural Heritage Initiative for Community Outreach”beispielsweise, der “Internet Public Library” oder dem “iSchool Project”.

Olivia Frost: The project that I did personally in my own research was a project called “CHICO” which stands for “Cultural Heritage Initiative for Community Outreach” and the goal of that project, was to make cultural heritage accessible to a broader audience. So for example cultural heritage could be art, could be music, could be dance, could be literature, most of the time it was multimedia kinds of cultural artefacts.
And in these projects I had my students working with museums, with community art groups, with community music groups and students would put this material on the web and then they would design instructional programmes to make the cultural heritage more accessible. So if there was a cultural heritage project on art in ancient Roman times the students would gather materials to put that material into context so that school children, say a ten or twelve year old child could understand where that art came from, what its significance had, how it relates to their lives. And so we tried to make the cultural heritage more accessible, especially to children by taking intellectual content, putting it on the web and then designing resources to make that content become more meaningful.

The “Internet Public Library” is a project that was begun in our school, it was the first public library on the web. And today if you do a google-search for library, what comes up first is the “Internet Public Library”. It even comes before the Library of Congress. It’s one of the most readily accessible libraries in the world. And so this is another project that was done with our students. The students gain experience and they learn about collection development, about cataloguing, about reference services. They do reference service, virtual reference using the Internet Public Library as a teaching resource, just like my “CHICO” project it’s an opportunity for students to get involved in projects and put their classroom learning into practise. Those are the two projects that I think that exemplify the kind of work that we do at our school.

LIBREAS: Können sie uns noch etwas über das “iSchool”-Konzept” erzählen?

Olivia Frost: “iSchool” stands for ‘Information School’ and this is representative of schools in the U.S. mainly, which started out as library schools and then have taken a much broader look at the curriculum and included information for many disciplines, and have focused on the technology and have a technology relates to the needs of people. So connecting people information and technology is a common them in information Schools. Michigan was one of the very first schools, if not one of the first school to develop such an approach and now more and more schools are taking this approach and here at Humboldt you have the beginnings of an information school where a former library school is becoming much broader in its focus. This is also taking place in other parts of Europe and just two weeks ago I was in India at the University of [Meysore] and they have a similar school there that started out as a library school and is becoming an information school and focusing more on information technology and a multidisciplinary aspect to information education. There are also schools in China, in Japan and all over the world – this is becoming a very important phenomenon and is making information schools more important. When we were library schools, people didn’t pay as much attention to us because they didn’t see the relevance for how information affected everyday life. But now with the information school movement it is easier to see the connections, not only between libraries and information but also all kinds of information in the way in which people live their lifes.

LIBREAS: Sie sind momentan beim Aufbau einer Professur, die sich mit ‘Community Information’ beschäftigt. Können Sie uns diesen Forschungsschwerpunkt etwas genauer erklären?

Olivia Frost: ‘Community Information” is a very new concept and so we’re just working out what this really means. We were a few schools, Michigan is one, Illinois is one and there are a few others that are using the term ‘Community Information’ and are preparing students to go into community information jobs. And probably what distinguishes this area of information is the use of information technology to improve the lives of communities. Usually its underprivileged communities, people who are poor, who do not have access to resources in where IT can help that community gain a better quality of life. So typically these projects involved the use of IT to give people better access to information and allow them to get more resources, to communicate with each other, to do things they were formerly unable to do, using IT. So, for example we had a project in India, where some of our students went out to India and helped people who are very poor develop ways of using IT to get access to information about how they can sell their Goods, what prices would be best, market information like that, that was available. Using simple technologies like mobile phones or very simple computers. We’ve had similar community information projects in parts of the U.S. like American-Indian Reservations, where the technology structure is poor. In Central America and as I mentioned in India, and it’s just now becoming a field, but it’s hard to say just what the intellectual basis of this field is at this point, because it’s still evolving. But it would probably be characterised as IT applied to people’s lives, to improve the quality of their life, and to improve the life of communities in this way.

LIBREAS: In Forschung und Lehre haben Sie sich besonders mit der Erschliessung und Vermittlung non-textueller Medien beschäftigt. Welche Chancen bieten dahingehend das Web 2.0 und seine Photo- und Video-Communities?

Olivia Frost: At the school of information we are very excited about the opportunities that are presented with Web 2.0 technologies and in fact we just recently created a new specialisation called ‘Social Computing’ in which students learn about the use of Web 2.0 technologies to create communities to enable intellectual exchange, social exchange between members of the communities and there are many examples of this in libraries especially but also in other areas of information and we felt that this was important enough that we should develop a new specialisation, so that students can get an intellectual grounding in this area and so students learn not only the technical aspects of Web 2.0 technologies but our students also learn about the social implications, psychological implications, legal implications, different areas that have many disciplines, that are important when studying this kind of phenomenon. So this is “social computing” the term we’ve used which incorporates a lot of the Web 2.0 applications and looks at the broader impacts of these technologies.

LIBREAS: Eine letzte Frage: Welches ist Ihr deutschsprachiges Lieblingsbuch?

Olivia Frost: This is a very easy question for me to answer, because my favourite book in German or any book is ‘Buddenbrooks’ which I learned, which I read when I was a student of Germanistik and Thomas Mann is my favourite author and this is a book that I have enjoyed reading over the years. I enjoyed it when I was 20 years old and reading it in class and I still enjoy it now. So this is my favourite German book.

LIBREAS: Frau Prof. Frost, wir danken für das Gespräch!

Olivia Frost: You’re very welcome.

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