February 24, 2010

Library 2.0: Not Just for Users

Filed under: blog — Tags: , — tsladmin @ 8:53 am

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.”


  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 […]

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  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 […]

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  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 […]

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  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 = […]

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  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 […]

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

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  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! […]

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  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! […]

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  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 […]

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