Thursday, January 24, 2008

The jig's up, we cheated: Library 2.0 recanted

Funny how we all follow trends so tightly. After John Blyberg and others come out and say that library 2.0 didn't work and neither did tagging, etc. , the flood gates open. Yes, it's not working. One library myspace just gets spam, only librarians visit flickr pages,etc. The library users are no more inclined to use the library than they did before. In fact, they hate us more for being in their splaces! Every time they see a library in their space, we really just look like businesses trying to market to them or like spammers. They look at us and go, "What are you doing here?"

The problem is that we didn't wait for the users to do this; we did this for them thinking they wanted it. It is a typical problem for many libraries. We are guessing and have a tendency to do so with our users. We think they want Facebook or order a literary classic and they turn around and ask for the latest bestseller.

We tried to get their attention using these tools, but we don't utilize them in a way that works. I try to use any video or photos to help patrons see something they may have missed. The reality is, if they wanted to be there, they would have made the time. It just ends up being cute, not essential.

Much of the web 2.0 concept came from complaints about big organizations like Dell and the burning laptops.
Dell says, "It's an isolated incident." The public shows them it is not through all these web 2.0 tools, and it works! It sparked the biggest recall in history. Sony loses billions on this and changes an industry.

We aren't Dell; no one feels that way about us. We are not seen as some overarching faceless oppressor, or we weren't important enough to care that much about. Which is it?

Library 2.0 is about changing our systems and providing more interaction with our public and feedback. Good libraries were doing that anyway. They are open to change and make the change based on the need. It isn't that difficult. The technology tools afford another way to provide contact, but it is only a technology contact, not people contact.

The reality is that most people love their libraries and that they don't have a big enough issue so that it ends up in a blog or is spread around, only librarians do.


Crash Solo said...

I agree with a lot of what was said in the blyberg post, and with what you are saying here, but i think it's important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Web 2.0 shows that social technology is in an explosion right now - tons and tons of new things being thrown out at us at a rapid rate. Some of it will stick, and the rest will fall away. The handful of sites, tools and technology that remain after this next bubble bursts (and i think that time may be coming soon) will be the basic models for the next generation of computing. I think for libraries, it's really important to analyze each possible tool with the focus of your library's services in mind, based on the theories of information science - is it a tool that improves your services? Is it a tool that adds value to your services? Or, is it just a cosmetic thing, a fun thing, a distraction?

Of course, some tools don't look like they would be useful on the surface, but reveal themselves later as being potentially a great tool - Librarything, for example - people catalog their own books. That's fun. But now, Librarything offers their tag information to libraries, to add tag searching to their OPAC - so instead of depending on your users to generate tags (manga, anime, shonen, time-travel...) you have a bank of user generated tags already in place, with natural language searching a real possibility. Plus, if your users want to add to the mix, they can.

That's only one example, i know - but it shows where we can actually make use of web 2.0 in the library, without being invasive or asking our smaller user group to do a bunch of work.

An area worth exploring, conceptually, i think is in a type of internet collection development - using sites like to create browseable lists of internet resources that would appeal to local users - or Google Maps of places that users always want to get to (notaries, court house, post office, other libraries, etc.)

Collecting information, organizing it, making it accessible to our unique user groups - that's what we do, and we do it great. We can do it with the Internet, too, and use Web 2.0 tech to help us. What we can't do is just hang out online and wait for people to think we're awesome just for being there.

I could go on and on... Thanks for keeping a good blog - keep it up!

Jeff Scott said...

Thanks for the thorough comment. I appreciate it. This post was done a little tongue in cheek, but some people are being a little too serious about the whole thing. There are a lot of great tools for library 2.0 and a great philosophy of always looking to improve. The problem is that some tools don't work, some do. Determining the difference results in frustration. I think we need more clear and concrete direction here on the entire concept, some results from libraries that state what works and what doesn't, and then we can have something to grab onto. That is what I have been trying to do in some of my past posts.

Thanks again for the comment!