I have finally caught up on all my reading, amongst which was a very thought provoking post by John Blyberg entitled “Library 2.0 Debased“, which in turn was inspired by Kate Sheehan’s post “Are librarians culturally self-aware“. I recommend you check out both posts as well as the comments, there is some interesting reading there.
Anyway, the biblioblogosphere was buzzing over John’s post and I had read quite a few posts about it before I actually read the original. Normally I wouldn’t necessarily blog about the same thing, especially when there are so many others who have already done so, but after reading the post for a second time, then on reading some indirectly related content and mulling over it a bit more, I felt I had something more to contribute to the discussion.
Just as I was getting started, more came in that added to the mix – The essence of Library 2.0 from Meredith Farkas at Information Wants to be Free, Web 2.0 and Library 2.0: Its’ all about the stuff from Philip Bradley at Phil Bradley’s Weblog and Nobody ever said from Walt Crawford at Walt at Random. Again, I recommend you check them all out.
As a result, I am rethinking my whole attitude to Library 2.0. There has been a lot of difficulty in defining it, mainly because the term and the attitude it is supposed to define (user-centric, meeting them where they are at, etc) has come at the same time as the tools and many have been unable to separate the two or see that there has been any distinction between them. My overriding thought is whose fault is it that the message got lost? I know that I have been leading that bandwagon from my small perch and so I have some responsibility in that blame.
It has become cool, hip, its cutting edge, so if you are a happening library, you are doing Library 2.0. Understandable. The tools are ubiquitous, easy to use, are being used by our users and are mostly free. How can you not want to be all over them?
A lot of talk in the above mentioned blog posts is about vendors jumping on the bandwagon – which is understandable from their viewpoint – they’re giving libraries what they are asking for, whether they really know what they want or not. Is this a bad thing?
John Blyberg talked about how SOPAC hasn’t worked as he planned, but that’s part of being in libraries and in cutting edge stuff. As he says, we have to take risks and try things, some will work, some won’t and we will learn and move on to other things. Doesn’t mean we stop experimenting. As Meredith points out, just because it doesn’t work in one library, doesn’t mean it won’t work in another. Unfortunately, it usually takes time and resources which are in short supply in most libraries, making them reluctant to allocate them to things that may not work. Which makes me think that is why library vendors have such interest in their new Library 2.0 services – pay someone else to do all the work, cheaper and quicker. (questionable, but I am sure there are people out there who would think that way).
Which brings me back to the heading of this post. Ryan Deschamps at The Other Librarian posted We asked for Library 2. 0 and got Librarians 2.0. At the time I posted on it – Library 2.0 – its far from over, but now I think Ryan was right, to a certain extent it is, even here in Australia where it is still relatively new. If we want to stop the bandwagon leading our libraries astray and see them focussed on users and services, then maybe as individuals we need to drop the Library 2.0 and focus on being Librarian 2.0’s – at work and outside of it and just help our libraries to utilise and adapt the Web 2.0 tools that are appropriate for our users and our services. Our libraries should always have that focus anyway – regardless of what tools are available – its not one size fits all.
So my part will be to drop Library 2.0, but continue to be a Librarian 2.0, instituting Web 2.0 tools in my library as our users needs are assessed and I find that Web 2.0 is the best option. If Web 2.0 tools are not the best option, then we wont’ go there – at least I will try to make sure that doesn’t happen. As Phil Bradley said, they’re just stuff.
These are exciting times, with exciting new tools to play with. So I will continue having fun with them, inside and outside of work. However, I will also keep my focus on our users and do my best as a public librarian to provide them with best service possible – whatever means that will require – Web 2.0 or not.
There’s more in this discussion, but can’t get my head around it all at this time. Would love to hear your thoughts on it. For those of you going to VALA, hope to see you there!