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Do Libraries Matter: On Library & Librarian 2.0

Submitted by Michael Stephens on November 18, 2005 - 2:14pm

Michael Stephens Head ShotAllow me to direct your attention to this white paper that Ken Chad and Paul Miller just posted at Talis: Do Libraries Matter? The Rise of Library 2.0 (available in PDF format).

It’s from the conference where they demonstrated Whisper that Jenny wrote about here. It's time to continue the conversations (and start them if you haven't already) about improving library services for the future via social software and some forward-thinking about library users.

Chad and Miller propose that, “ Library 2.0 is a concept of a very different library service that operates according to the expectations of today’s library users. In this vision, the library makes information available wherever and whenever the user requires it."

Amen. This U.K.-centric paper applies to U.S. libraries as well. Change is afoot for sure. And this is what many of us on the bandwagon have been saying, especially last week at Chicago Public Library’s SIR program. The discussion continued this week for me as well. I flew down to Texas to present to a class at the University of North Texas, where I’m currently working on my doctorate.

The Principles of Library 2.0
These are the discussions that must take place in YOUR library. How will you change or improve services to match this new model? Chad and Miller detail four principles; let’s look at them and ponder what libraries need to be thinking of sooner than later.

  • 1. The library is everywhere.

I’m reminded here of the libraries that seek to have a definite presence in their communities, from the public library to academic institutions. Outreach via technology, beyond the bricks of the libraries’ walls—to users at home or students in the commons area—should be the goal of every organization. I kid you not, we cannot hide behind a reference desk or within a fortress-like building anymore.

Thus, the IMing library is “out there" in ways we’ve never seen before, as is the SMS-ing library. Watch this technology closely as well. During a discussion Wednesday night in Dr. Brian O’Connor’s doctoral seminar, one student pointed out how easy it was to text Google from her phone and how she’d used it that day to find information.

“Did you even think about the library?" I asked.

Her answer: “No…"

  • 2. The Library has no barriers.

What barriers are we putting up that prevent our users from getting the information they need? Are you closing off resources and systems within your building? Make sure your users can get to your stuff no matter where they are—and make the systems easy to get to!

And what other barriers are in place in your buildings? What messages are you sending? No cell phones. No IM on public PCs. No talking. No working together on the workstations. No THANK YOU, I’ll go to Starbucks.

  • 3. The library invites participation.

[Insert raves about Ann Arbor District Library’s collaborative Web presence here!] Really, this is the model, and I encourage you and your colleagues to have this discussion in your next strategy meeting for sure. We need to ask ourselves, “How can we reach out and get interactive with our users?" Don’t be afraid. Your users won’t bite.

Are you planning for a new building or for a new technology initiative? I'm sure your technolust is in check, but are you involving your community from the get-go? Is the project/plan blog keeping folks "in the know" about how their tax dollars, student fees, or funding is being spent?

Also, from the information sources and blogs I subscribe to in my aggregator, the idea of tagging the library catalog springs up time and time again, from sample tag clouds to actual implementation. This blows me away and yet makes so much sense. Why not let users collaborate on how we present our holdings?

Dr. O’Connor and I actually pondered ways a library might present a tag cloud for the physical browsing of a library collection: a hand-held device that reads RFID tags and creates a visual representation as a user moves amongst the stacks? a representation of the cloud via plasma screens?

  • 4. The library uses flexible, best-of-breed systems.

Component-based software, not “monolithic" ILS here, writes Chad and Miller. Sometimes I think we make decisions about tech in libraries without much thought about the big picture. How does one system interact with all the others in place? How, for example, do we explain to iPod owners that the big money we spent on an incompatible service doesn’t get content to their players?

We need to open up discussions with the professionals at our ILS vendors, database providers, and subscription services and ask them: “Are you making the best product you can that will work for all of my users no matter where they are?" Inquire about built-in RSS feeds, tagging, and user commenting while you’re at it. The vendors that get it are, hopefully, already communicating future innovations as these.

Chad and Miller seek to further the discussion with this paper. If so, I’m in! I would add the following for their consideration and yours:

  • The library encourages the heart.

As we reach out to users, we must remember all of the folks we serve. To me, Library 2.0 will be a meeting place, online or in the physical world, where my emotional needs will be fulfilled through entertainment, information, and the ability to create my own stuff to contribute to the ocean of content out there—the Long Tail if you will. Librarian 2.0, then, will be available to guide me and teach me to use the systems provided by the library to do just that. As Abram said, librarians will provide clarification: “Librarians need to position themselves and the library to help with finding the answers to: how? and why?"

  • The library is human.

Users will see the face of the library no matter how they access its services. Librarians will guide them via electronic methods as well as in person, and they will no longer be anywhere near the stereotype we still see in movies or on television. Versed in the social tools, able to roll with each wave of change, this librarian will encourage and educate future users. Isn’t that the kind of librarian you’d like to be?

  • The library recognizes that its users are human too.

Hooray for loud spaces in libraries that might be full of collaboration and conversation! Congrats to the administrators that build meeting places of comfortable spaces for all generations, from arcade-like meeting spaces on gaming day to a comfy chair and lamp where I might plan my next trip via the collection of travel books and a laptop connected to the Web. Well done to the folks in libraries that see we still hold up some sacred cows that just might be building barriers and seek to change this.

Finally, Web 2.0 allows us to have this discussion, across blogs, comments, and through IM, where I found Michael Casey this morning. Author of LibraryCrunch, I told Casey about this post and sought his input. "What else do librarians building Library 2.0 need to do?" I wondered.

“We also need to look at all of the services we offer and ask ourselves, ‘Do they still serve our customers?’ and 'Do they serve a large-enough group that our ROI is positive?’ he queries. “Library 2.0 is, perhaps above all else, the idea of constant change. Not only constant library change, but the recognition that our communities are constantly changing and that our services to them must change proportionally."

Chad and Miller sum up their white paper: “Put simply, libraries must now begin to use these Web 2.0 applications if they are to prove themselves to be just as relevant as other information providers, and start to deliver experiences that meet the modern user’s expectations."

Our users have expectations. Our communities are changing. Libraries—and librarians—must change as well. Please put a discussion of Library 2.0 on the agenda for your next staff meeting! Your users and staff will thank you for it!

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Comments (16)

Great Article, wonderful

Great Article, wonderful information

Enjoyed the articles about

Enjoyed the articles about phishing and library 2.0 and the needs of libraries to stay current on new information technologies. sk

I wonder where Library 2.0

I wonder where Library 2.0 puts the population which is new to our culture, unfamiliar with basic computer uses, requires lots of assistance to perform basic information gathering functions, may not understand information infrastructure at all let alone enough to accept a role in tailoring it to their current needs? I was interested in the comments of Sara and hope that Library 2.0 has a bigger vision...

I'll be interested in what

I'll be interested in what other teen librarians think about the collaborative use of internet computers by their teens. Some of our teen librarians have expressed a wish that our libraries had been built with a soundproof room for that kind of activity because they think adult patrons would object to the noise that would accompany such usage. We might be able to use laptops in our meeting rooms, but that would not be possible for much of our open hours, because our meeting rooms are heavily used already for library and community meetings and programs. Peg

Great article about libs!

Great article about libs! Waiting for Web 3.0 :)

I've mixed feelings about

I've mixed feelings about 2.0 .. yes, "get out there" ..why we started e-ref in '97, do blog, flickr, craigslist, aren't happy with chat ref going nowhere (IM probably better for the audience we want to reach). But did I see the apotheosis of Library 2.0 the other day? a web site that doesn't even have the word library anywhere in the top third of page ..(the word catalog is a heavy tip off, tho'). The L-word finally appeared down in the tiny text .. >>Our users have expectations. Our communities are changing. Libraries—and librarians—must change as well. Actually, in our area we find the library is running *ahead* of much of the population. It's not just the seniors .. younger families, with fears of the dangers of the 'Net for their children, are retrenching, limiting access, etc. (They go to PTA workshops on how dangerous the Internet is ..) In one week I had two different patrons tell me why it had taken them so long to get to the library: "I was afraid to...its all computers now and I don't know how to use them." "I don't read much ..[so don't belong here?!]" "That's why we're help you," the librarian told both of them. Library 2.0 feels to me as if it is playing only to the (well heeled, with toys) 20-40yr crowd. We can mess around with the long tail, but we had better, at the same time, hang on to a central identity and a universal service model. If we don't know who we are and where/why we anchor...the public sure won't.

I'm fascinated by this

I'm fascinated by this discussion of Library 2.0. What fascinates is the idea that anything presented in it is novel in the slightest. These ideas are the core of what librarians have been discussing for quite some time. Read the last decade of Library Journal or American Libraries. Ask Michael Gorman of the ALA. And being posited by a library vendor is fine except that it ignores the remaining goverment fiscal implementation process of new software, one additionally burdened by processes that makes it responsible to taxpayers and unfortunately also responsible to uphold legacy systems.

What a great thread. I agree

What a great thread. I agree with Dan that the for-profit sector shouldn't be immediately tagged as the enemy. (I don't think they should be knighted the way Google has been, but that's another story.) The Talis document was refreshingly on target in both its sense of doom--we do have to change and we have to change quickly--and in its positive change-oriented suggestions. The point about all those integrated library systems and their lack of ubiquity and duplication of effort... mmmm good.

I posted about MYPOW and

I posted about MYPOW and Library 2.0 on my blog at:

So i was just looking round

So i was just looking round the Library 2.0 sites, with a glass of wine, just trying to find out what people had done with WS and authority control, when I clicked through to this infamous blog.
As a mere techy at Talis I couldn't help, but want to respond to: "A company dedicated to making money from libraries" and “money-hungry software company�. Not respond directly, because firstly Paul probably gets it right in his response and secondly I dont really know enough about it, but instead by giving you a taste of the atmosphere in the development group. I joined Talis a year ago, because in interview they where promising to do some really cool stuff. They where not wrong.
As far as I can tell Dave E, Ken C et al. have assembled a pool of some worryingly clever people, to really try and stir things up, and we are having fun trying. Of course I want Talis to make money from Libraries now and in the future, if not we all move on. I dont care how much fun it is I still want to get paid. In the mean time though, I'm buzzing at what we are doing now. As a regular supporter of, and contributor to the open source movement (if you use a Radeon graphics card on Linux, then you have sampled my wares already, as one example), I get what Talis want to achieve. It just makes sense. Why should we in the library community/industry all repeat ourselves, and why should you guys keep your stuff - knowledge, skill, data locked up? To truly unlock the libraries, and for it to work it has to be truly open and standard.
You’ve got to get involved it may even be you guys that end up bringing order to the chaos. Sorry about the last ranting sentence, its in my domain at the moment, (imagine if mr Berners-Lee had spoken to you lot about 'See' and 'See Also' from the start). Wheres it going to take us all? dont know. But its fun trying to get there.

I am going to write a post

I am going to write a post on my babyboomerlibrarian blog concerning academic libraries and Library 2.0 and how MYPOW is striving to get there before these ideas were even outlined by Talis.

Paul,rnrnI wrote a


I wrote a response to Michael's post here last night outlining four basic rights libraries should be entitled to when it comes to their ILS.

My main concern is that, as easy as it might be for vendors to provide these things, they will not do it because they stand to earn higher profits by maintaining control over the development process.

Sooo.. I'm glad this is mentioned in the Talis whitepaper:

There’s a saying that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Web 2.0 applications buy into this idea completely. Individual components are made available to all application builders to ‘mix and match’ and create new value-added applications.

The use of open standards enables these applications to scale to truly global proportions, taking advantage of distributed architectures and a large pool of appropriately skilled developers.

Hopefully Talis is truly committed to those statements, because from a library's point of view, we're paralyzed without it. Bear in mind, Paul, that when you are a not-for-profit organization and you're at the mercy of what seems to be a money-hungry software company, it feels like a very precarious position.

Also, your statement, I am not aware that Talis, Sirsi/Dynix, Innovative and all the rest force libraries to buy our products, is not fair. Yes, we pretty much do have to buy from that pool of products until projects like Koha are ready for primetime.

You're right about the need to coax along the Library 1.0 bun-and-halfglasses, though. We really don't have time to wait for them to retire. But Library 2.0 is not about replacing 1.0 technology. It's about adding additional functionality and if that is threatening to some people, then it means it's good technology.

Regarding the Talis white

Regarding the Talis white paper, when we speak in terms of revolution, in this case a revolution in the way library services are conceived and delivered, I am hesitant to look to those companies that fueled library 1.0 as the purveyors of ideas that will bring about our understanding of library 2.0. I appreciate many of the comments made in the Chad and Miller paper, but I imagine that the development of library 2.0 – and the inherent nature of free and open source content, applications and services – rather scares any company currently built upon older, closed, proprietary service delivery models.

A company dedicated to

A company dedicated to making money from libraries should be viewed with some caution when they begin touting an idea, which at its core is one of openness and defined by free services, as their own brainstorm. That's not to say input from a for-profit company isn't appreciated; just that we must be wary of any iteration of Library 2.0 that may be proprietary or closed. Ultimately, Library 2.0 should be defined and shaped by librarians and library users.

Hi Michael - I think that

Hi Michael - I think that your summary of the article was excellent and I'm glad that you brought it to everyone's attention! It is through discussion like this that librarians have begun and will continue to shape Library 2.0

Laura & Michael - I agree

Laura & Michael - I agree with your points. It's fascinating this document is coming from a vendor/company. The principles, however, did speak to me, as did Miller's other articles. I'd like to see librarians run with the principles, make them their own, and add more as I attempted to do. Thanks for commenting.