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Collaboration 2.0?

Submitted by Tom Peters on March 30, 2006 - 11:13am

Paul Miller

Near the conclusion of the Computers in Libraries Conference in D.C. last week, Paul Miller (pictured at your left) from Talis, a United Kingdom-based library-automation vendor, presented an interesting session about the challenges of Web 2.0 to libraries.

Based on a recent public-opinion survey conducted in the U.K., nearly all respondents indicated they trust libraries, museums, and archives—the core cultural institutions of developed nations still garner trust. In the study and in other public-opinion studies, however, respondents indicated they are much less likely to actually have visited the Web site of a library, museum, or archive. In addition, for only five percent of the respondents to the U.K. study, visiting the library was their preferred method for gaining access to the Internet.

These results prompted Paul to ask: If libraries are trusted so much by the general public, what went wrong online? Why is usage of online resources and services provided by libraries and other cultural institutions lagging so far behind usage of commercial online providers of information services?

The short-term solution Paul offers involves disaggregating, then recombining in new and more useful ways, our monolithic library systems. Miller says the information systems used in libraries should function like Lego building blocks. We should be able to build what we want and need, not just the picture on the box.

When Paul addressed a potential long-term solution to the current library-systems conundrum, his remarks became very interesting. Basically, he challenged the library profession to engage in a deeper form of collaboration.

In the current parlance, we could call this collaboration 2.0.

Miller noted that librarians excel at more straightforward forms of collaboration—such as resource sharing via interlibrary loan and group discounts for e-resources. But to collaborate in a meaningful, profound way to develop a shared platform for future library systems, we need to nurture and participate in a community dedicated to the culture of collaboration.

To help get this new form of collaboration rolling, Talis has developed a Shared Innovation Web site, "A community site for all those interested in Library 2.0." Talis encourages everyone who contributed ideas, scripts, APIs (application programming interfaces), and other resources to this virtual collaborative community to share their contributions under a Creative Commons license.

This all sounds wonderful, but at my back I always hear the haunting refrain of a song sung by a local Iowa City band when I was in graduate school and working as a cook in a restaurant and bar, "I'd join the revolution, but I don't trust you guys."

Technorati tags: cil2006, library2.0, library 2.0, web2.0, web 2.0

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Comments (4)

I tend to agree with you.

I tend to agree with you. It is hard to believe that a vendor would be so generous without strings attached. I would support such an effort if it was independent of any vendors.

It's interesting/refreshing

It's interesting/refreshing to see that Talis do seem to operate in a much more open fashion than other vendors do.

For example, our vendor deliberately operates a closed mailing list and a closed customer web site, whereas Talis has an open forum for all of their products (

Hi, Paul. Thanks for your

Hi, Paul. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Actually, I disagree with you on the 'distrust factor'. Based on my experience with a wide variety of collaborative projects over the past two decades, I've come to the realization that mistrust, misunderstandings, personality clashes, money woes, and other lamentable developments are not only inevitable with any collaborative effort worth pursuing, but sometimes ultimately good for the effort and the eventual outcomes. It's good to get these nasty and negative thoughts out on the table for discussion within the community. Eventually it makes the community stronger, I believe.

In my last paragraph I should have clarified that my devil's advocate sense of mistrust is not directly specifically at you, Talis as a company, or at this particular initiative. Actually, I admire you for 'throwing down the gauntlet' to the profession that a deeper form of collaboration--beyond sharing print resources and collaborating to get better prices and terms for e-resources--is needed to develop better information systems. I simply wanted to point out that even the more ardent supporters of collaboration--of which I include myself--need to admit that this underlying sense of mistrust does exist. As I have stated numerous times in various talks and publications, the *ideal* of collaboration is right up there with Mom and apple pie, but the reality usually is nasty, brutish, and arduous. Again, this is just my opinion, based on my experience, but I think only those collaborative efforts that face the reality early on and squarely have a reasonable chance of attaining meaningful, sustainable outcomes.

I'm willing to give Talis

I'm willing to give Talis the benefit of the doubt solely on their generosity in providing our community with a terrific set of white papers.

This seems as good a time as any to say 'Thank you.' And even *if* the initiative with which Tom takes issue is a user-driven exercise in new product development -- isn't that a good thing?