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January 05, 2006



Very good post. I interpret Library 2.0 to mean taking advantage of new interactive technologies to provide outreach services to patrons in innovative ways. This certainly evokes the feeling of, "what were we trying to do before now?" and I agree with you about reaching out to patrons instead of pulling them in. However, you know how librarians and professionals and general like cutesy names for "revolutionary" ideas that seem to be common sense - knowledge management, anyone? If sticking a label on it gets people excited about service possibilities, then I'm all for it.

I think there is some potential in the "Web 2.0" tools to promote the services of librarians, separate from the physical library and not linked to a specific institution. For my own part, I've started answering some Yahoo! Answers questions with a moniker including the word "librarian." It's a subtle form of promotion, but I was concerned about the quality of answers, particularly on health topics, that some users were providing. My challenge to other librarians (http://womenshealthnews.blogspot.com/2006/01/yahoo-answers-challenge-for.html) to do something similar was pointed more toward my new librarian colleagues as a tool for keeping reference skills sharp, but I'd be happy to have you join in! :)
R. Walden

T Scott

Thanks for the invitation -- I may do that!

While I appreciate the point about any label that gets people motivated is good, and I've worried about being too persnickety with it, I think I'm too much of a word freak to say that just any label will do. Words are powerful, and when the word is vague and cognitively empty (which I think "Library 2.0" is) then, instead of helping to focus our thinking, it keeps our thinking vague as well. "Web 2.0" is actually very clear and specific, so I understand the appeal of the analogy -- I just don't think it works. To the extent that it has generated a lot of discussion about roles and services, that's a good thing, but I think we'd be better off deciding the term wasn't such a good one after all, and move on.



Have you read the essay "Ontology is Overrated," by Clay Shirky?: http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html

Shirky talks about "adding the shelf back" in the digital world--Creating elaborate cataloging schemes for digital objects, just as we did for physical objects. He argues that this isn't necessary anymore, and that we need to let go and become comfortable with user-defined categories.

This is tough medicine for librarians enamored of intricate classifications. Similarly, it is hard to let go of the notion that people should still come to library buildings. We seem to be at the beginning of a long curve of professional readjustment to the realities and potential of the Internet age.

Paul Miller

"But the power of these tools is that it makes it possible in many, many cases to provide services to people without forcing them to come to the library".

Absolutely, and part of a very interesting post.

The current generation of tools are a means to an end. They are a way to take some of the value from which visitors to the physical building benefited (and continue to benefit) and offer it to those who need it elsewhere. This moves beyond the notion of delivering library services via an online manifestation of the library through its website, and begins to see them available alongside and integrated with complementary offerings from other parts of a university or government, or services such as those from Amazon, Google, or eBay. None of these tools are perfect. Few of them, by themselves, are even that special.

There have certainly been technological advances before, and you list several of them, but Library 2.0 seems - to me, at least - to denote a quite remarkable convergence of technologies, of general capabilities amongst a growing cohort of the population, of changing attitudes, and of potential.

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