Via the Powerhouse Museum blog comes the bad news that George Oates has been laid off from Flickr (along with a lot of other people laid off from Yahoo this week). George was the person in charge of Flickr’s much-publicized collaboration with the Library of Congress. That’s bad news for the projects George has been spearheading, but I doubt she will have any problem finding a new position, even in these tough economic times.
What this does spotlight, though, is what I feel has been some magical thinking on the part of the library and museum community regarding collaboration with corporate entities. Blinded by the wealth these companies seem to command, non-profit institutions forget that corporate dominance can be fleeting. In the short term, libraries and museums should definitely be experimenting with publicizing themselves through commercial services. But believing that commercial services like Flickr, or even Google Books, represent long-term solutions to fulfilling library and museum missions is a mistake. In the worst case, it may lead to the non-profit institutions being marginalized without providing any real long-term replacement.
Google may believe it will be around for 300 years. But in a year when we’ve seen some of the best-known and longest-surviving corporations disappear in a matter of days, we should treat such boasts as the ranting of a corporate Ozymandias.