Thoughts on “Library 2.0”

January 6, 2006 at 7:53 pm | Posted in libraries | 1 Comment

It has almost become obligatory for librarian bloggers to write about Library 2.0 (check out Tame the Web and Library Crunch for many discussions of L2). I wasn’t going to get involved (we’ve all heard that before), but it seems to be a discussion that is growing and continuing and maybe here to stay. I was initially ambivalent about the concept – essentially latching onto Web 2.0 language and applying it to library situations – but the more I think about it, the less I like Library 2.0, particularly as a way of talking about where libraries might be headed. Michael Casey at Library Crunch has remarked that Library 2.0 is not about technology:

Library 2.0 is a service philosophy – a theory, if you will – that attempts to guide libraries in their effort to win new users while, at the same time, acknowledging that our current service offerings are insufficient and inflexible.

I agree completely with the sentiment, but think that the terminology is pointless. “Library 2.0” as a term seems to represent a feeling that technology will save libraries from irrelevance, that without technology libraries are nothing (the philosophy behind information commons in some ways). Technology is a tool – wavecrests on the ocean, but not the ocean itself; I fear that adhering to “Library 2.0” conceptually, we will come to mistake the waves for the ocean, as it were. Technology can never replace service, but it can enhance it. That’s why it seems to me that we should be focusing on the service philosophy that underpins what we want to indicate when we say “Library 2.0” – that librarians and libraries need to be more open and responsive to their respective communities rather than blithely running along inside of some insular feedback loop. If I were to talk more broadly about librarianship today (and I may at some point), I wouldn’t focus on the tech stuff/social software, but on the groundswell of discussions focusing on the user (e.g., the user is not stupid if they can’t use our catalogs or prefer to search using a Google interface – see, for example, Meredith’s post on “dumbing down the catalog“). By taking a bigger-picture approach (stepping back from the techne and looking at the underlying intention), we create a more inclusive philosophy of librarianship, one that can accomodate libraries running library 1.0 (or 0.0!) all the way to library 2.0.1 and beyond.

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  1. I appreciate your comments and I just want to say that I have always agreed that Library 2.0 is so much more than technology. I hate to repeat myself but I hate to think L2 is going to be seen only as a technology-driven tool. As I said in a recent post, “Library 2.0 is not tech-centric but does attempt to take full advantage of the Web 2.0 tools only now becoming available. Library 2.0 is a model for library service that reaches out to new users (Long Tail), invites customer participation (participatory service), and relies on constant change (perpetual beta).”

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