By Meredith Farkas | December 1, 2005
It’s interesting to watch the lack of dialogue between librarians who are rah-rah Web/Library 2.0 advocates and those who think it’s all a bunch of hot air. It’s like two parallel conversations, with no intersections between the two conversations. The pro-2.0 people don’t defend the concept and the anti-2.0 people don’t seem to acknowledge any legitimacy of the idea. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I totally understand why people dislike the whole Web 2.0 concept. Two months after my first post about Web 2.0, I still see it as being 90% hype, especially when so many of the Web 2.0 products are not particularly useful and do the exact same thing (love that Web Two Point Oh! spoof!). I get excited when I see an application that would really be useful in my everyday life, but that doesn’t happen very often. AJAX is cool in that it keeps you from having to reload an entire page when you just need to change one part of the page. But it’s about more than fading titles and moving logos, and what it is about isn’t revolutionary. Is being perpetually in Beta a good thing? It seems like Web 2.0 is about putting out a lot of barely useful, half-finished applications in an attempt to capitalize on the foolishness of venture capitalists and other investors. Maybe when I see more really well-thought-out applications that aren’t in Beta and that actually do things that are useful for my life, I will change my opinion.
However I see a difference between Web 2.0 and Library 2.0. Library 2.0 is obviously not about making money; it’s about improving services to our patrons. And I disagree with the Ross Singer’s idea that Library 2.0 “trivializes some actually exciting and useful work.” I’ve heard a lot more talk lately about the exciting things techies are doing in libraries than in the past. Coders are “the new black.” Over the past couple of months, people really seem to be talking about the lack of usability of library middleware in a different way — as if we can change things. People have been talking more about making the library more transparent. I love the ideas about using patron-contributed content to . If a buzzword is going to get librarians to talk about this stuff, then I’m all for it.
I agree with the people who complain that Library 2.0 is too vague. I think you’ll find as many different definitions of Library 2.0 as there are people defining it. Here’s the way I defined “Library 2.0″ in an interview for the HigherEd BlogCon Wiki. My apologies for use of the ultra-”new media” term “paradigm shift”:
The idea of Library 2.0 represents a significant paradigm shift in the way we view library services. It’s about a seamless user experience, where usability, interoperability, and flexibility of library systems is key. It’s about the library being more present in the community through programming, community building (both online and physical), and outreach via technology (IM, screencasting, blogs, wikis, etc.). It’s about allowing user participation through writing reviews and tagging in the catalog and making their voice heard through blogs and wikis. It’s about making the library more transparent through its Web presence and its physical design. We need to make the library human, ubiquitous, and user-centered. This involves a change in our systems, our Web presence, and our very attitudes. It will take a lot of work for a library to be completely 2.0, but the idea should inform every decision made at the library.
I’m sure lots of people see Library 2.0 differently. It’s because of this vagueness that I wanted the Library and Information Resources track of HigherEd Blog Con to be a “roadmap for Library 2.0.” I want to challenge people to concretely define what a 2.0 library should look like. I want people to know what competencies 2.0 librarians should have. I want to see concrete ideas of what we all can do to make our libraries more 2.0. I’m not a fan of buzz words, especially one that is related to Web 2.0, but I’m excited about the dialogue about our libraries that has come from the Library 2.0 meme.
So for those of you who are proponents of Library 2.0, please accept the challenge to clearly define the concept and submit a proposal for HigherEd BlogCon. Perhaps this conference can finally put to rest the idea that Library 2.0 isn’t really about anything.