I'd like to see just a little more imagination and a bit more historical perspective on the part of the Library 2.0 enthusiasts. Certainly, making good use of the latest tools & gadgets & gizmos to do a better job of reaching out to our communities and providing better services is something we should all be doing -- but this isn't really anything new.
The move from closed stack libraries to open stacks was a tremendously radical move towards empowering library users. So was the replacement of the book catalog by that marvel of human ingenuity, the card catalog. I suspect that telephone reference was considered nervy and cutting-edge when it first appeared (and was probably fiercely resisted by reference librarians who feared that it would interfere with their ability to provide the level of service that they were accustomed to).
What strikes me about much of the Library 2.0 discussion is how library-centric rather than user-centric it is. Ten years ago, when I first took this job, in one of my very first presentations to my new colleagues, I said,
Our job is not to build a better library. Our job is figure out how to make the very best use of our particular skills, tools, talents and abilities to help the people in our community do a better job of getting and managing the information that they need. Sometimes that means that we'll be doing things that everybody expects from libraries, but sometimes it means we'll be doing things that nobody ever associated with a library. And sometimes it means we'll stop doing "library" things, because they're not really the things that our people need the most.
What strikes me about much of the writing on Library 2.0 is that the writers haven't yet quite clued in to the fact that the library itself is just a tool. For centuries, ever since those ancient Sumerians started trying to figure out how to store the clay tablets from one harvest to the next so that they could report back to the king how many barrels of beer they'd brewed compared to last season, having a place to store the records -- a library -- and effectively managing it (with the latest technology available) has been central to how librarians served their communities. The radical shift we are now facing is that, for the first time in human history, librarians need no longer be constrained and defined by the walls of the library.
We don't know yet if blogs & wikis are just this season's gopher & veronica, or will, like the broadsides of 16th century London, morph into something as powerful as the MSM of the late 20th century. By all means, use all of the available tools, just don't get hung up on thinking that the tools provide the magic. Librarians do.
I'm not concerned about the "future of libraries". All this talk about continuing to be relevant bores me. What I am deeply concerned about is the health of our communities, our educational institutions, and our culture. To tend to that, we need radically aware librarians, deeply rooted in an understanding of the traditions of our long history, but with a clear focus on what we can provide to the communities we're a part of. "Library 2.0" implies that Web 2.0 tools will create a radical paradigm shift in what libraries are. But they're just tools. I'm much more interested in Librarian 5.0 -- the librarian beyond walls.