Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So what would a 2.0 library look like?

I don't think I need to mention the numerous discussions about library 2.0 in the recent months. Many libraries are using 2.0 tools and developing a library 2.0 model. I wonder, in the end, what it would look like when it would be considered implemented. Granted, any movement for change is one, in which, there isn't a destination, but a constant movement towards some sort of "Nirvana" if you will. A goal in which all of what is desired is implemented and working as it should.

What is a 2.0 library?

What do I know about this? Not very much. However, I have some kind of idea of what it could look like and it is not so much about the tools. If we look at the issue in a macro term, we stop thinking about a library and we begin to think about service. We then begin to think about what type of service is best for a community. The 2.0 part is how that service is communicated and implemented. How much control is relinquished so that the individuals in that community decide the best library services?

What libraries are doing now?

Libraries have begun strategic planning, performance based budgeting, and even the Balanced Scorecard. These are all attempts to provide an open conversation so that the library is always aware of the needs and can implement it. What if this piece is removed? Instead of people telling the library what they would want, what if they had direct control in implementing the service?

ILL 2.0
An example of this type of trust can be considered in allowing patrons to order ILLs at will. They have direct control of the interface and can order what they want. The library with the book processes the order, the book is sent to the library, and the patron picks it up. This would require very little staff involvement. The library had the book, the patron orders the book, the book is then available at that patron's library. In order to keep tabs on the system, some libraries have a limit on the number of ILLs a patron can have within a given time period. (I have also heard the term that ILL "sucks the life" out of circulation staff, which is why there are these limits.) There is a project called the Arizona Portal Project that looks to make this process even easier. Using, a patron could log into a general account and search for any type of material. The search would be organized by type of material and then by location. A patron could then choose to go to their local library and pick it up, have the item sent through interlibrary loan (2 weeks), have it send via FedEx overnight (from libraries that would agree to do that), or just order it from Amazon. I will blog more about that project later. However, if all libraries had one entry port, one portal, that would control all library content and location, that would greatly reduce the hassle patrons currently have using their libraries.

Collection Development 2.0

What if you did this with collection development? Allow patrons to order what books they wanted for the library to own? Currently, a library would take a purchase slip, which goes to the librarian, who would order it. Take out that step and have the patron order it directly. Same steps with ILL. It could be done through EDI and the local ILS in conjunction with the library's vendor. This is a little extreme and would need some tabs on the process (like a patron could order only so many books, requires a card in good standing, etc.)

Programming 2.0/Space 2.0
What about programming? A patron wants a program, have them perform the program, or contact the programmer to come down and the library helps with advertisement and other administrative items. Something that is very easy to implement is a community room. Most libraries have a community room that they may use for storytimes or for meetings. Your room should have temporary furniture that can be put away and stored. It should also have Wi-Fiin it. This way, if patrons want to come in and do something on their own, whether it is to have a club meeting, have an impromptu storytime, or set up a Wii tournament, they would have the space to do so. Providing the equipment is another step. Patrons could bring their own and the library can adapt its resources so that is always freely available. (WI-FI is great for tournaments since people can play against anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access) Space is the key, both virtual and physical. A library should be able to provide new technology tools and provide bandwidth to spare.

Reference 2.0
Reference could work the same way, having resident experts that can provide reference help on topics. This is already done on sites like yahoo answers. Either have a micro version in your community, or just integrate it into your service. This is something available online already. Librarians can go into that pool, but we didn't fill it. Unless it is something that is very specific (often a local question or a subject specialty) or something for someone who is not tech savvy(which there are numerous and always will be) the answers are often online.

Equipment 2.0
Tools are the second key part. A successful library should be able to provide and sustain new technologies, provide training of those new technologies, and provide space for collaboration and the ability to play with these new technologies. There will always be the need to provide a simple access point. Libraries provide this now simply by providing computers and bandwidth. It would be nice if, at some point, libraries would be seen as the top place to access and play with new technologies. All that would really require are up to date computers and lots of bandwidth. What is a library, a warehouse of information (and recreational) tools and access tools. Give the public the power to order what they want and arrange the services that they want.

ILS 2.0
The social opac should allow a patron to set-up their account originally using their library barcode number and a pin. After that, they should be allowed to set up their own unique username and password that only they would know. They could set up a profile and make it public if they wish. It can provide items they have tagged or commented upon in the catalog, books they have ILL'd, books they have read, books they have reviewed, books they have requested or ordered, articles from databases they have saved or shared, and other thoughts on how the library can improve their services. Some rewards for participation can be extra services like longer check-outs, increase the amount they can ILL or order, or other type of credits. Of course, this user profile could be found on the open web if the user enabled it. If not, it would just be a regular private account no one could see. This would also have to integrate into current social networking sites like a Facebook app, OR, these social networking pieces could be integrated into the ILS account interface.

What is the difference between libraries that exist now and a library that is 2.0?

The difference between library services provided with current tools (like strategic planning) and ones that provide services in a 2.0 type model is the difference between benevolent despotism and a democracy. Benevolent despotism makes all the decision, but the leader must be nice enough to allow input and provide services needed by the people. A democracy puts all the options on the table and lets the public decide (often by majority).

So what are the barriers? Money and staff time are major barriers. This is often the reply for libraries who cannot implement new technology initiatives. This isn't a simple solution. A library that can create this environment will need to do the following:

1. Have enough money as a buffer to provide this level of service
2. Be able to cut funding in other areas to provide that funding in these areas
3. Provide a long term plan to allow space, equipment, and flexibility to change.

Where to begin or the evolution of the library

1. Get a building (through bonds, renovation, or just use your house), get materials (books, movies, music, etc.), get technology (computers with Internet access).
Most libraries in the United States have those three elements. This is the beginning of library services. In the beginning (and it may still be now), a library consisted of books and a building.

A brief history

Andrew Carnegie began funding of public libraries around the turn of the century. However, all over the country, citizens have used and will use their desire and know-how to build a library and provide the service. Across the country, people will use their own homes, volunteer their own time, and use whatever books they can get their hands on to offer reading materials and more to their community. My library began in 1912, it received no Carnegie funding. The Woman's Club (yes that is how it is spelled) decided the community needed a library. They went out into the desert and collected stones and they built the community's first library. Desire drives that. A desire to have a better community.

2. Over time, a library will need to establish a funding agency.
Libraries are often built by volunteers often through the organization of a Friends group or a trust. In communities throughout my county, a library has been built or renovated with local funds to get started. They are run by volunteers. County money will often buy books or help with projects, but those who operate the library are unpaid. They do it because they are passionate about it, because they love it. These libraries will either establish a tax revenue through a millage or by merging with a local municipality. Thus developing recurring revenue. Over time, this will lead to paid staff, sustained revenue for materials, and reliable technology.

3. The library is sustained
The revenue will increase, paid staff will take over for volunteers, a head librarian, manager, or director will lead the library. Often, in small communities, these paid staff will not have an MLS, but again, they will have the drive and desire to build good services.

4. The library expands
Whether the library is a standalone library, or connected to a larger library agency, the library will need to expand and break off from its origins. This will include a new building, built to be a modern library, with plans for materials, staffing areas, more technology. This can happen through investments over time, revenue from taxes, or a bond measure. The library building expands, or builds additional locations, staff members expand, materials expand, and technology expands.

A brief story
This stage is usually the comfort zone for most libraries. The library has support from the community, the library provides services and collections that are used. If the library's budget is not threatened or cut, there is no desire to improve services. Furthermore, if the library's service level is just newly established, there is a reluctance to move forward (a "wait and see approach"). Steady reliable services are better than taking risks on services or cutting legacy services. If no crisis emerges, a budget cut, or if there is constant crisis (constant threat to services), the library will not want to change its environment. The original goal of the library founders would seem to be accomplished, established library services. This is how most libraries will operate currently.

5. The library is reactive
Not satisfied with merely providing basic services, the library desires to provide improved services that match-up with the needs of the community. This establishes a library as a service and not merely a warehouse of books and materials. The library watches the statistics and provides programs, materials, and services and reacts to the need. Christian living books get high check-out rates? The library buys more. It follows the philosophy that patrons vote with their library cards (and their feet).

6. The library is proactive
The library seems to always be behind the curve. Over time the library has provided good services based on the desires of its patrons, but the services are numerous and spread out. The library needs to focus and understand the general needs instead of just piecing together some reactive services. The library develops a strategic plan by gathering members of the community. Community leaders, patrons, library staff, friends members, and library board members are gathered with an outside moderator to determine the next few years of library services. After its completion, the library develops services to build the needs. This may require reallocating of resources, cutting programs to develop new programs, or in the best case, more funding. The library builds its services based on the needs of the community.

7. The library scans the horizon
Library admin and staff keep up on library trends and are familiar with most library trends and general user trends. They keep up with technology. When service is requested or otherwise needed, library staff should be aware of the service and know how to implement. It should be aware of 90% of the process including cost, staff resources, and amount of time it will take to implement. New items are implemented based on user and staff input.

8. The library experiments
The library is a learning environment. New programs, services, and collections are brought to the attention of admin regardless of their position. Job positions have duties, but there are extra activities and duties that go beyond the job. Any position can plan pieces of library services. This is usually the result of an established program, plan, or environment that allows staff to plan and react for their public. Decision-making is pushed down. All levels of library staff are aware of the objectives of the library and understand the service model. Library decisions and actions are more reactive. Library experiments with reducing as many barriers to service as possible.

9. Library increases user control
Patrons begin to have direct control of some library services. Full staff control of these services must begin before user control. This enables library staff to train the public on how to use these services.
Books and materials can be checked out without staff help (self-check)
Account issues can be resolved without staff help (unless a major issue arises) like paying by debit card online.
ILL's can be placed directly
Collections can be ordered directly
Reference questions are asked and answered by library users as well as all levels of library staff
Programming space is up to the users, an empty room that they can bring their ideas into whether it is storytime, club meetings, or gaming.

10. Superpatrons help guide library services
Library staff provide the vast majority of services, but patrons who have the knack will be permitted extra privileges to decide library services. This is something that is on a small scale as many will not have the skill to get to this level (maybe 1% of the library's patron base). Library will still provide all the same services, but it will enable and empower patrons to take an active role in library services by actually doing some of them.

Does this mean libraries need to follow this road? NO! I believe this is a path to next generation library services. Libraries will be able to serve their patron base by simply offering books and materials plus access to technology. Many libraries do not need to be proactive and can simply be reactive. However, if a library could follow this path, it would be a path to truly outstanding library services.

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