Friday, March 14, 2008

What Is Library 2.0?

#15 of the 23 Things training focuses on Library 2.0. What does this term mean? I've explored several of the OCLC articles in the Discovery Resources and found interesting ideas and resources to explore.

Rick Anderson's words resonate with me:

"We need to focus our efforts not on teaching research skills but on eliminating the barriers that exist between patrons and the information they need, so they can spend as little time as possible wrestling with lousy search interfaces and as much time as possible actually reading and learning....If our services can’t be used without training, then it’s the services that need to be fixed—not our patrons. One-button commands, such as Flickr’s 'Blog This,' and easy-to-use programs like Google Page Creator, offer promising models for this kind of user-centric service."

Most Web 2.0 applications are intuitive and easily mastered. Why do we have classes to teach customers how to use the library catalog and databases? Why are they needlessly complex? Why can't cookies be used to speed logins? Amazon offers one-touch ordering of a computer that costs $1000, but to access an article on a library database I have to expertly guide and diligently click my mouse and enter a 13-digit library card number and a 4-digit PIN. Is it any wonder my students would rather use Google and Wikipedia?

Michael Stephens (pictured with his ever-present Mac notebook!) writes about Librarian 2.0 who "uses the Cluetrain Manifesto."

I visited and checked out the 95 Theses. Although these are directed at commercial businesses, I found many concepts in the list that librarians can easily embrace. I found the focus on the power of the human voice very meaningful at this time when my colleagues and I are being informed that our own words are ineffective in ensuring customer satisfaction:

"Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

"But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about 'listening to customers.' They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf."

Stephens also addresses our need to be more flexible and spontaneous:

Librarian 2.0 "recognizes how quickly the world and library users change with advancing technology. Project timelines that stretch on for months simply do not work in Library 2.0 thinking. Perpetual beta works well for the library’s Web presence. This librarian redesigns for ease of use, user involvement and easily added/re-configured pieces."

Michael Stephens' contention that Librarian 2.0 embraces Web 2.0 tools demonstrates that SPLS still has room to grow in our services:

"This librarian uses Instant Messaging to meet users in their space online, builds Weblogs and wikis as resources to further the mission of the library, and mashes up content via API (Application Program Interface) to build useful Web sites."

I chuckled when I reached the end of Dr. Wendy Schultz's article. She follows the library far into the future when the latest incarnation will be called Library 4.0:

"Library 4.0 revives the old image of a country house library, and renovates it: from a retreat, a sanctuary, a pampered experience with information—subtle thoughts, fine words, exquisite brandy, smooth coffee, aromatic cigar, smell of leather, rustle of pages—to the dream economy’s library, the LIBRARY: a WiFREE space, a retreat from technohustle, with comfortable chairs, quiet, good light, coffee and single malt. You know, the library."

To balance and conclude this discussion of Library 2.0, I'll offer two contrarian viewpoints.

The Annoyed Librarian dismisses Michael Stephens and other "twopointopians:" "I think we can now see the intellectual content of library 2.0. [Note the lower case "l."] I haven't been hearing much from the twopointopians lately, and now I suspect it's because they've been playing videogames, apparently an important part of both library 2.0 and social networking."

A contributor to PUBLIB noted:

"Librarians, ever eager, in their inexhaustible insecurity, to emulate the latest fad to prove their hipness and coolness, have come up with 'Library 2.0,' a term which, as near as I can tell, means we will embrace all the various social-networking sites and tools to reach our patrons, in a sort of vast, blissful emailochattic, facebooky, myspaceish, ningytwittery, blogospheric, flickristic, picasametric, mahalodic, youtubian, wikidly informational" climax.

The library of the past is gone. Intelligently planned and implemented change will ensure our continued value to our communities. However, change for the sake of change is pointless and stressful for everyone.

Enchanted by the glow radiated by those new ideas and programs presented in ALA conference sessions? Ignore the spin and look for the facts. As I recently discovered on a trip to the ghost town that is the Perry Library, all that glitters is not gold.

My respectfully tendered advice is to continually dialog with our communities and with all library staff members as we plan future services and collections. The best change usually is effected through consensus and buy-in.


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Anonymous said...

See here or here