"Library 2.0" and Wikipedia
A Logical Definition of "Library 2.0"

The Problem With Models

David Rothman needn't be uneasy about disagreeing with me -- I do it frequently myself.  He suggests that I'm being too hard on the Casey/Savastinuk L2 article.  He may be right.  I certainly don't really believe that C&S intended to say that there was a view of librarianship that was opposed to reaching users or seeking user-input.  But what I'm trying to get at here, with my critique of the term "Library 2.0" is not about what they intended to say, but rather about what they did say.

Many years ago, when I met Germaine Greer, she gave a brilliant extemporaneous talk that remains one of the most thrilling performances I've ever seen.  She was talking about the power of language and about how damaging and then healing it can be, and how "every time you use a word, it carries with it the weight of every other time that word has ever been spoken."  Words exist within a web of language and carry with them a context and connotations that may not be what the speaker intended.    Witness the current furor over Michael Richards' use of the word "nigger" or whether or not the situation in Iraq is a "civil war" or whether what we're helplessly witnessing in Darfur is "genocide."  These debates matter because the words carry powerful associations that can't be escaped.

So you may not intend to call up a dysfunctional Library 1.0 model when you start eagerly talking about Library 2.0, but you can't escape it.  When you say that "Library 2.0 is a new model," part of the definitional context must be an old Library 1.0 model, and if you're going to distinguish 2.0 from 1.0, then the latter has to be essentially what the former is not.  This opposition is not some relic of a linear way of thinking, it's built into the structure of the language.   If you don't want to call that opposition into being, then you need to be more careful about the words that you choose to use.  Otherwise you're drifting into Lewis Carroll territory

David challenges my assertion that the definition that Casey & Savastinuk give of a Library 2.0 service applies to "the goal of every service and every organization."    He says, "I think that every organization has paid lip service to this goal, while far too few have actually applied it with commitment and follow-through."    My point exactly (as I say further down in the piece).  The question is, why have they not applied it with commitment and follow-through, and what do we need to do about that?

The Casey & Savastinuk article (and much of the Library 2.0 discussion) suggests that what we need is a "new model of librarianship."  This is a distraction.  We don't need a new model.  We need to figure out why we have such a hard time of living up to the ideals of the old model.

We need to figure out ways to make our organizations more nimble, our leaders (and I mean leaders at all levels -- some of the most enterprising and dynamic leaders I know are fresh graduates) more willing to take risks and promote innovation, and give our colleagues more opportunities to experiment in a supportive environment.   And while I hate to keep harping on "50 years of management and organizational development literature", that's where the real work on these issues has been done.   

I am thrilled, as David suggests I ought to be, with the passion of people like Casey & Savastinuk, who are pouring energy and time and attention into figuring out how to make our organizations better.   And it's pretty clear that everyone who has participated in the L2 discussions shares the same general goals.  But I take language very seriously.  It's powerful.  When we use it badly, we undercut our efforts to reshape the world.  Throwing the cloak of "Library 2.0" over the problem and suggesting that it represents a new raft of powerful answers is a delusion and a distraction.



Scott, how ironic you should cite Germaine Greer when discussing the power of language. Several months ago, when Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) met his untimely death, Germaine Greer wrote a shocking op ed in the Sydney Morning Herald. On the day of his funeral, no less, she wrote a piece accusing him of being one of the worst exploiters of the environment on the planet.

Now you can argue whether or not her position is true or false. But to use such abusive language on his day of burial struck me as one of the most callous and cruel uses of the language that I had witnessed in many a year. She showed no human compassion, no mercy, not even the slightest bit of decency. It was in fact one of the most cruel and vindictive op ed pieces I have ever read. It takes a great deal to shock me, but I was truly shocked by her utter lack of compassion for Irwin’s family. She certainly demonstrated, that day, the power of language to hurt.


Scott says: “But by defining it as ‘Library 2.0′ and as a new model, they necessarily place it in opposition to the old model, which must have been Library 1.0 and which, by the definition of 2.0, must have been a model of librarianship that was opposed to reaching users, evaluating services, and making use of customer input.”

For a philosophy major, this is an astounding statement. Every day we see new and improved products. Just look at computer software. A new, 2.0 version comes out. Is it completely different from the previous version? No. Is it "opposed" to what the previous version did? No. Usually the best parts have been kept, bugs have been fixed, and new features have been added. All designed to attract more customers.

Perhaps it is the term "model" that annoys you. Even here, car makers come out with new models every year. None are completely different or "opposed" to the previous year. Again, best features are kept, new feature are implemented.

A model number or version number are merely tags to distinguish between versions. In this case, if "Library 2nd edition" was used, would you be more comfortable? New editions are not "opposed" to previous editions.

T Scott

Leaving aside the question of whether a conceptual model of a profession is the same use of "model" as this year's model of a new car, I still have the same question: What are the salient features of "Library 2.0" that distinguish it from "Library 1.0"? Why are they so significant that they warrant dividing the entire history of librarianship into a version 1.0 and a version 2.0? And what is useful about a term that seems to have such a wide variety of potential meanings?

T Scott

Or let me approach it this way, using the terms that you suggest: According to the LJ article, Library 2.0 represents a "new model" the "heart of which" is "user-centered change". So "user-centered change" must be the "new feature" that warrants distinguishing 2.0 from 1.0. The LJ article further defines that new feature as "Any service, physical or virtual, that successfully reaches users, is evaluated frequently, and makes use of customer input..."

If I say that the key new features of my brand new car are the GPS, the integrated iPod dock, and a 6-speed transmission, doesn't that imply that the previous version of the car lacked those features?

But if both Library 1.0 and Library 2.0 have services that reach users, are evaluated frequently and make use of customer input, what sense does it make to call 2.0 a "new model"? If L2 is a new model, as defined by those features, then L1 must be lacking them; if L1 isn't lacking them, then L2 isn't a new model -- unless the new features are something other than what is described in the article.

If one were to argue that blogs, wikis and social software enable us to do a better job of reaching users and making use of customer input, I'd be inclined to agree. But the LJ article is making a much stronger claim for "Library 2.0" than that.


Perhaps it is the term "model" that annoys you. Even here, car makers come out with new models every year. None are completely different or "opposed" to the previous year. Again, best features are kept, new feature are implemented.

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