Library 2.0 Debased

John Blyberg Has Been Feeling, for awhile now, that the term Library 2.0 has been co-opted by a growing group of libraries, librarians, and particularly vendors to push an agenda of “change” that deflects attention from some very real issues and concerns without really changing anything. It’s very evident in the profusity of L2-centric workshops and conferences that there is a significant snake-oil market in the bibliosphere. We’re blindly casting about for a panacea and it’s making us look like fools.

The true pursuit of Library 2.0 involves a thorough recalibration of process, policy, physical spaces, staffing, and technology so that any hand-offs in the patron’s library experience are truly seamless.


You have to first decide what your core functions are; and only then look around for which technologies in particular can help you get to where you need to be.

Too much discussion of L2.0 seems to go in the opposite direction. It comes off sounding like: how are we going to build our library around blogs, wikis and social networks -- rather than the other way around. Add to that an element of individual affirmation and self-discovery more appropriate on occasion to a revival meeting than a PD, and you have a picture not of innovation but of its caricature.

Worse, there seems to be a sense of one-up's-manship among the most ambitious -- a race to see who can adopt the largest number of these things, irrespective of their appropriateness, and irony of irony, such behavior is considered for some reason as "cutting edge".

Personally, I'd sooner have a chicken without its head picking technology as some of these blunderbuss approaches.

While aggressive futurism is unpalatable for many, I find the "no action, talk only" aspect of all things 2.0 to be its worst factor. Creating a blog does not equal real progress.

The library 2.0 "movement" has no focus on creating new technologies that actually work for libraries, and the talk that goes on misses the point of the thing: dialogue between library and users: the only edge the library has is that people visit libraries to speak with experts, not one another.

Ahh. But it was fun while it lasted. It's the dot com bust in miniature. Two dozen of our colleagues have been able to make flash-in-the-pan names for themselves by driving a rather empty agenda.

I heard many good ideas at ALA this past summer, but came away thinking "this is wonderful, but when do they actually work with users?" As the recent Michigan survey indicates, Facebook is not the next library service frontier, and that's the Facebook users talking. We need to be cognizant and competent in both our knowledge of the available applications, but I don't see a true paradigm shift (OK so I play Bullshit Bingo too) yet.

If there's a concern and an unmet need I've gleaned from all this, it's that there are users whose method of communication is virtual, and we should make a good faith effort to accomodate them, but within reasonable expectations. I can say that there's a ridiculous element that we currently experience with Question Point. That's the user in the library (maybe 15 feet from a service desk) using a "virtual" tool to solve a problem that could be addressed in 1/3 the time at that nearby desk. If I'm being insensitive to those user's social prediclictions, too bad. As I tell my new staff and interns, this isn't about information, organizing information, or data (or even books,) this is about people.

Richard Kaplan
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

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