February 24, 2010

Library 2.0: Not Just for Users

The con­cept of “Library 2.0″ has been around long enough now that we’ve gone through all the stages and argued it to death, as noticed by Andy Wood­worth in a post titled Decon­struct­ing Library 2.0. That’s a good thing, and you should go read his thoughts on the subject.

No mat­ter which side you of the debate you come down on, you can prob­a­bly prove your case. Me? I agree with Andrew Burkhardt when he notes, “The time has come for libraries to be social on the web. Social is the new nor­mal. It has become main­stream and peo­ple expect it. Library 2.0 is not dead, it has just become bor­ing and com­mon­place. And to quote Clay Shirky, ‘Tools don’t get socially inter­est­ing until they get tech­no­log­i­cally boring.’ ”

In his paper Par­tic­i­pa­tory Net­works: The Library As Con­ver­sa­tion, Dave Lankes said that “libraries should focus on the phe­nom­ena made pos­si­ble by the tech­nol­ogy,” not the tech­nol­ogy itself, which I think is a pretty good way of think­ing about “Library 2.0.” Maybe that’s where we are now, which would be a great way to con­tinue the dis­cus­sion, hope­fully with­out the moniker. I think sev­eral of us thought that’s what we were doing, but it didn’t come across that way.

The hard part, though, is that Library 2.0 doesn’t really replace any­thing. Like so many library ser­vices, the oppor­tu­ni­ties these new tools afford us are in addi­tion to every­thing we’re already doing, which causes prob­lems, because we don’t get addi­tional resources to imple­ment them. To serve as many of your users as pos­si­ble, you have to be in as many of the places where they are as pos­si­ble. That prin­ci­ple has been the phi­los­o­phy behind this site from day one, eight years ago. That means being out in your com­mu­nity phys­i­cally and dig­i­tally, and that’s one of the pieces of L2 that I think was never ade­quately explained.

We’re already pretty good at get­ting out from behind the phys­i­cal ref­er­ence desk. We know how to do it, and we know how we could do it bet­ter given more resources. I worry that this is less true in the online world, and that’s where I always hoped L2 would help. As much as I sup­port, love, and advo­cate for user-centered plan­ning and design, my big regret about the whole “move­ment” is that it hasn’t focused more on how L2 helps staff.

So that’s what I tend to con­cen­trate my own pre­sen­ta­tions on — the prac­ti­cal ways in which these new tools can help you. I’ve been a big pro­moter of RSS since 2002, and I still don’t under­stand why libraries don’t use it more. Yes, one of the ben­e­fits of syn­di­cat­ing con­tent is that your users can sub­scribe to it, but equally impor­tant for me is that it allows me as an orga­ni­za­tion to get my con­tent off my web­site so that it’s more vis­i­ble where my users are. Most impor­tantly, it auto­mates that process so that I don’t have to spend pre­cious resources man­u­ally updat­ing a mul­ti­tude of sites, inevitably for­get­ting about one of them. The fact that I can syn­di­cate lists of new mate­ri­als from my OPAC any­where with­out human inter­ven­tion? Priceless.

Why should your library have a blog? There are many ben­e­fits, but my biggest rea­son is because it gets your cur­rent news and announce­ments in a syn­di­cated for­mat, the dis­play of which you can auto­mate any­where. You can eas­ily recy­cle your con­tent to Twit­ter, Face­book, else­where on your web­site, and more. Talk about a great way to get out into your com­mu­nity — how about dis­play­ing your cur­rent news on the vil­lage, park dis­trict, school, or a depart­ment web­site with­out any ongo­ing effort on your part? That’s a huge win-win in my book. And as some­one who man­u­ally gen­er­ated archives for daily posts before there were “blogs,” let me just sing the praises of auto­matic archiv­ing for a moment. If you’re not using a blog for press release-like infor­ma­tion, do not pass go. There’s a bet­ter way that makes you more effi­cient and has all of these ancil­lary ben­e­fits with cher­ries on top.

Being able to offer inex­pen­sive options for chat ref­er­ence so that you can con­cen­trate on imple­men­ta­tion rather than bud­get? Win. Being able to embed that chat win­dow on your web­site, in data­bases, on Face­book, etc., with­out a huge effort? Win times one mil­lion. Putting imme­di­ate, syn­chro­nous access to a librar­ian back into the cat­a­log by embed­ding a chat win­dow there? Win times infinity.

Hav­ing easy-to-use alter­nate announce­ment chan­nels where you can also talk with and hear from your users (eg, Twit­ter)? Full of win. Same thing with social book­mark­ing (deli­cious — all of your library’s book­marks in one place, search­able, embed­d­a­ble), social pic­tures (Flickr, where you no longer have to worry about resiz­ing images), wikis (cheap intranet pos­si­bil­i­ties), embed­d­a­ble sub­ject guides with syn­di­ca­tion (LibGuides), and more. They all have the poten­tial to make your job eas­ier. How often does that happen?

So, Andy is right to ask ques­tions about Library 2.0 and reflect about its impact, as are the com­menters on his post. For me, though, one place L2 has failed is in mak­ing staff under­stand that these tools can offer big ben­e­fits for them, not just library users. If we’re adopt­ing tools to make our­selves more effi­cient (which I think is the best way to eval­u­ate imple­men­ta­tion for staff), then that counts as suc­cess in my view. If it reaches new users, offers new ser­vices for exist­ing mem­bers, or makes things bet­ter in gen­eral for users at the same time, then we’re really doing some­thing right. That piece is more dif­fi­cult to mea­sure, which makes the L2 debate some­what moot, since no one can really prove or dis­prove it. But when done well, Library 2.0 should help you in your job, too.

I hope we see more arti­cles and pre­sen­ta­tions about that, instead of rehash­ing point­less and divi­sive debates about names, gen­er­a­tions, and “sides.”

Be Socia­ble, Share!


  1. Great points, Jenny! Please keep on talk­ing about how these things help staff. It is much needed.

    Comment by david lee king — February 24, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  2. Jenny, I whole­heart­edly agree and was glad to see you cite the work of Dr. Lankes. The frame­work of par­tic­i­pa­tory librar­i­an­ship pretty much impacts every aspect of my library pro­gram (see http://bit.ly/4xll1W ). I incor­po­rate web 2.0 tools as a means for advo­cacy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but it is also an impor­tant ele­ment of my infor­ma­tion lit­er­acy instruc­tion as we explore emerg­ing forms of author­ity (think­ing about social schol­ar­ship) and in teach­ing stu­dents who to use web 2.0 tools to cul­ti­vate their own per­sonal learn­ing net­works and as a way of teach­ing stu­dents how to man­age and nav­i­gate the infor­ma­tion landscape.

    I also love how Laura Cohen frames “Librar­ian 2.0″ in her “man­i­festo” at http://bit.ly/17jESB. For me, “Library 2.0″ is not really about the tools or “Oh, look, shiny!” kind of think­ing, but rather more of an organic and service-oriented phi­los­o­phy that embraces pur­pose­ful and thought­ful change.

    In think­ing about the impact of “Library 2.0″, I can hon­estly say that my library pro­gram and the ser­vices I offer to my stu­dents, as well as the con­tent I teach and how I teach it, would not be the same with­out “Library 2.0″. I feel that the use of these tools and this “mind­set” if you will has caused me to be proac­tive in cre­at­ing mul­ti­ple entry points of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and access to my library while encour­ag­ing stu­dents to become more par­tic­i­pa­tory learn­ers and in cre­at­ing con­ver­sa­tions about infor­ma­tion, lit­er­acy, cul­ture, and learn­ing in the library.

    Comment by Buffy Hamilton — February 24, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

  3. […] The Shifted Librar­ian – Library 2.0: Not Just for Users […]

    Pingback by CBS Bibliotek Blog – Innovation & Ny Viden » Blog Archive » Læsestof om web 2.0 som værktøjer for personalet — February 25, 2010 @ 5:00 am

  4. Thanks, David. When I was writ­ing this, TSCPL was one of the libraries I was think­ing about that does specif­i­cally use L2 tools for staff as well as users, so I hope you have time to share some con­crete exam­ples at some point.

    Comment by jenny — February 25, 2010 @ 5:48 am

  5. Buffy, I’m glad you com­mented on Dave Lankes’ work. It’s good to see his recent talks get­ting more vis­i­bil­ity. He has some very impor­tant things to say, and I’ve been quot­ing him in my pre­sen­ta­tions for a while now.

    I also agree with you about Laura Cohen’s approach. I think so many peo­ple caught on to the ben­e­fits of the new tools (blog­ging, RSS, social book­marks, web-based chat, etc.) that it might have looked like we were focus­ing on the tools, when what we were really try­ing to do was high­light what they could do for libraries. When we said things like blog­ging will help you do “x” and RSS will help you do “y,” it sounded like “ooh, shiny,” even though the point we were try­ing to get across was the x and the y.

    So your approach makes a lot of sense, and you’re doing great work. You were my poster child for tak­ing full advan­tage of L2 tools and using RSS well to syn­di­cate con­tent across mul­ti­ple sites in my last pre­sen­ta­tion (pdf). Your stu­dents are very lucky.

    Comment by jenny — February 25, 2010 @ 5:59 am

  6. […] recent blog post­ing, Library 2.0: Not Just for Users, dis­cusses and pro­vides addi­tional links on the topic of how Library 2.0 is evolv­ing with current […]

    Pingback by Library 2.0 and technology « Kernel Panic — February 25, 2010 @ 8:14 am

  7. This is a great point. Our blog (http://libtechtalk.wordpress.com/) was orig­i­nally cre­ated to help our library staff use new tech­nol­ogy in their work, both ser­vice ori­ented and inter­nal admin­is­tra­tion. While library 2.0 can be used to improve inter­ac­tions with patrons/users/students, it is equally impor­tant in how the library, as a busi­ness, is run. In response to the com­ment above, we have many exam­ples on our blog of how staff can imple­ment new tech­nolo­gies (or find new imple­men­ta­tions of old technologies)for both inter­nal and exter­nal work at the library.

    Comment by Carissa — February 25, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  8. […] Levine at The Shifted Librar­ian responded with a whole blog post (yay! Jenny posted! Jenny posted!). I almost responded in her […]

    Pingback by Have We Emerged Yet? | David Lee King — February 25, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  9. Hmm. I’m not well-versed on these issues, but as some­one who is on the writ­ing end of it, it occurs to me to won­der how these new meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion by librar­i­ans could be used to get the word out about lit­er­ary or his­tor­i­cal works that do not have major pub­lish­ing houses behind them. On a sec­ondary point, I won­der how decreased library fund­ing (as out here in Cal­i­for­nia) will affect the changes being dis­cussed in this post. Money, sadly, impacts everything.

    Comment by Shelley — February 25, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  10. Ter­rific. I’m still talk­ing about the 2.0 stuff and have also shifted to talk­ing more about staff and less about… gee­gaws. How it helps you do out­reach. How it really can help you save money [on stamps! on shop­ping!] and how it helps you show the com­mu­nity back to itself which is pow­er­ful stuff. Now that wid­gets are com­ing around as a really user-friendly way to use RSS, I’m hop­ing we’ll see this sort of thing take off for library web­bish stuff. See you in AK.

    Comment by jessamyn — February 25, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

  11. […] : Agnos­tic, Maybe - Decon­struct­ing Library 2.0 The Shifted Librar­ian - Library 2.0: Not Just for Users David Lee King - Have We Emerged Yet? var linkwithin_site_id = […]

    Pingback by Library Views 圖書館觀點 » Library 2.0 已死? — February 28, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  12. […] ensued, and other voices chimed in with their own blog posts on the topic, includ­ing the incred­i­bly thought­ful and artic­u­late response from Jenny Levine.   While we all may have dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tions of what exactly the term “Library […]

    Pingback by It’s in the Way That You Use It: What Library 2.0 Means to Me « The Unquiet Librarian — April 7, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

  13. […] to share infor­ma­tion eas­ily. In answer­ing the ques­tion: Why should your library have a blog, The Shifted Librar­ian argues […]

    Pingback by The Blogger-Librarians at San Francisco Public Library « To Blog or Not to Blog — April 19, 2010 @ 7:58 am

  14. […] com­bi­na­tion with other tech­nolo­gies such as RSS Feeds. For libraries, blogs are use­ful means to “get out into your com­mu­nity”, as well as “ways to engage cus­tomers and push fresh con­tent to users”. For patrons, […]

    Pingback by To Blog or Not to Blog « To Blog or Not to Blog — April 19, 2010 @ 8:49 am

  15. […] Library 2.0! Emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies are becom­ing more and more inte­gral parts of the library world, and being a user/proponent of those tech­nolo­gies makes this another excit­ing sell­ing point for me! One of the best courses I have had thus far was Dig­i­tal Media Con­cepts and Pro­duc­tion with Dr. Lisa Tripp. Blog for class? OK! Start a Twit­ter account and con­nect with other infor­ma­tion pro­fes­sion­als? Yes, please! Learn and use dig­i­tal media soft­ware to cre­ate mul­ti­me­dia projects? Done and Done! […]

    Pingback by Ever heard of a Librarian who doesn’t read? – or – What I’ve learned in Library school so far. « The Infornado — May 26, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  16. Jenny,
    Catch­ing up this sum­mer on read­ing. This arti­cle was great. Your points are valid and I hope oth­ers that use libraries are lis­ten­ing.
    Was inter­ested in your com­ments RE RSS feeds to free up librar­i­ans time, but it makes sense.

    Comment by Betsy — July 30, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  17. […] Library 2.0! Emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies are becom­ing more and more inte­gral parts of the library world, and being a user/proponent of those tech­nolo­gies makes this another excit­ing sell­ing point for me! One of the best courses I have had thus far was Dig­i­tal Media Con­cepts and Pro­duc­tion with Dr. Lisa Tripp. Blog for class? OK! Start a Twit­ter account and con­nect with other infor­ma­tion pro­fes­sion­als? Yes, please! Learn and use dig­i­tal media soft­ware to cre­ate mul­ti­me­dia projects? Done and Done! […]

    Pingback by Ever Heard of a Librarian Who Doesn’t Read? – OR – What I’ve Learned in Library School So Far. « Hack Library School — January 18, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

  18. […] fool­ish in loudly advo­cat­ing what should be obvi­ous – respond­ing to pub­lic demand. Still, another librarian-blogger says Library 2.0 is about using tech­nol­ogy to help the librar­ian become more effi­cient in service […]

    Pingback by A Definition of Library 2.0 in Only 800 Words | yclibrarynews — April 3, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

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