By Meredith Farkas | January 10, 2006
Since the fall, I’ve pretty much been processing my thoughts about Library 2.0 on this blog in real-time. If one is going for ideological consistency, it’s probably not the best way to do things, but it is the most human way. I’ve been learning and reflecting and sharing those reflections with you. Walt’s excellent piece on how the thinking about Library 2.0 has evolved really helped clarify some of my own thoughts on the issue. My first reaction was that I’m not a fan of buzzwords, but if this particular buzzword got people talking about social software and improving services to patrons, then I was all for it. The concept seemed murky to me at the time and I didn’t really know what libraries were supposed to do to get to 2.0, but I thought it would get fleshed out as time went by. When I was asked to chair HigherEd BlogCon, I thought it would be a great opportunity to use a conference as a platform for describing what Library 2.0 is and how we can get there. I thought the main architects and proponents of Library 2.0 would be eager to share their ideas about Library 2.0 and social software in a conference that was designed to reach the largest number of people possible — anyone with an Internet connection. The whole idea of an online conference seemed pretty 2.0 to me, and I really hope that some of the idea people and the people who are doing terrific things in the libraries will step up and participate. I think it’s a great opportunity to bring all this stuff (both theory and practice) together in one place and to share it not only with librarians but with people involved in other areas of education and technology.
The more people have defined Library 2.0, the more confrontational the rhetoric has seemed. This “be a 2.0 library or be irrelevant” makes it sound like if libraries don’t join the movement, they are doomed. And what Jenny Levine wrote about the “L2 opponents” who feel “confusion and fear” over Library 2.0 really surprised me. Jenny is a nice person, a rational person, and I was really surprised to see what looked line a line in the sand being drawn. I really hope that Library 2.0 isn’t a polarizing force in the blogosphere because we all need to continue sharing our good ideas and success stories. From what John Blyberg has said, and correct me if I’m wrong, Library 2.0 means providing the same level of service to the elderly and the Boomers, but improving services only to young people. That really does concern me, because so many libraries also need to be providing better services to people over 40. And it’s not just an issue of age. What about providing services to people of different cultures, people who speak different languages, people with disabilities, people who’ve never used the Internet, homeless people, jobless people, people trying to start their own business, etc? We haven’t just been ignoring the young and the tech-savvy, and all I keep hearing is that we aren’t serving that demographic. But what about everyone else? We shouldn’t pretend that every library has the same specific gaps in service provision and that every library should use similar approaches to fill those gaps.
Based on what I’ve seen in my first semester working at my library and heard from students and faculty, here’s what I think are the most important things we need (or need to do) to serve our patrons better. Remember that this is only my biased view of the situation:
- An Open URL Link Resolver would make it SO MUCH easier for students to find what they’re looking for in our databases.
- We need to create instructional materials (Web guides, handouts, screencasts) on how to do research and search the databases. I’ve created some for the distance learners, but we don’t have any for the on-campus undergrads yet.
- We need to stop ignoring the fact that students are using Google for their research. We should teach them more advanced search strategies for searching the Web and how to critically evaluate what they find there. Ignoring the issue or saying “don’t do that” won’t make it go away.
- We so need wifi in the library.
- We need a full on PR campaign to make the library and its services more visible at the University.
- We need to do more liaison work to convince the faculty of the importance of information literacy instruction.
- We need to do more education of faculty as to what is available at the library. They can’t tell their students about it if they don’t know themselves.
- More information literacy courses tied to specific assignments. Students will only absorb information like that when it has a specific and immediate application (like a research paper).
- Make the reference desk more approachable.
- Make our Website more usable and useful.
Look, I would love to have people tagging the catalog, I’d love to create a blog for the distance learners and I’d love to introduce the faculty to social bookmarking for their classes, but in the hierarchy of needs, that’s not where we are. Creating tag clouds when our students don’t know how to use our databases is insanity. Are the goals listed above Library 2.0? I don’t know. Maybe Library 2.0 better applies to public libraries. I’m not worried about following a model, but following the needs of our patrons. I just want to help our students to do well academically and in later life. Our mission is to support the academic needs of the students and faculty of the University. The methods we will use for to meet that goal will change as populations change, but the mission never changes. I keep hearing that Library 2.0 requires a fundamental change in a library’s mission, but I don’t know how we should change ours.
Maybe Library 2.0 will inspire libraries. Maybe it will lead to great things. Maybe it will create false divisions where there are none (like the librarian who isn’t a Library 2.0 proponent but is change-oriented, user-focused, and info social software). Maybe the Library 2.0 label will turn people off outside of the blogosphere. Or maybe it will just get in the way of people understanding concretely how to improve their library. Jeff Barry of Endless Hybrids wrote the following:
I have absolutely no problem with the concepts behind all the Library 2.0 talk. Indeed, the concepts are great but it’s the term that I oppose. Sure, one can say that it’s just semantics and we don’t really need to worry about it. But as long as advocates use buzzwords to describe the concepts then there is the danger that the concepts are misunderstood while people try to understand the buzzwords.
I’m just going to keep trying to make things better at my library and share good ideas with other librarians. And I hope everyone continues to do the same, whether they’re doing it with Library 2.0 or without it. Because it’s now how you get there, but that you got there at all that matters. We all want to make libraries better, right?