Library 2.0

the future of libraries in the digital age


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I’m curious what resistance to Library 2.0 you’ve seen.

The correspondence that goes to American Libraries (as opposed to a specific person at the magazine) goes through me, and I've lately seen some backlash to coverage of 2.0 issues--coverage of Second Life will bring a haughty "I have quite enough to do in the first life, thank you very much" response, for example. One that really intrigued me was from a woman spectacularly peeved that a column should suggest participation in Second Life, when she's already so busy doing “real” library work. She went on to list some of her library activities, among them a newspaper column and a radio show.

If a newspaper column and radio show are real library work, why not Second Life? Don’t they have the same outreach and promotional goals? Yet this woman clearly didn’t see it that way.

To me, the term “2.0” has the connotation of new, cutting-edge techy stuff that’s hard-to-understand and requires a radical shift in thinking. That’s not my experience with 2.0 applications, but I suspect that others share that impression or its worse counterpart – an “us vs. them” mentality (e.g., “I’m not one of the Library 2.0 people, therefore they are inexorably wrong in all things.”).

Have you seen similar response?

The 2.0 applications I’ve used can be interpreted as only changes in method, rather than changes in ideas. (My blog is just a collection of articles, just like the magazine, distributed in a somewhat different way; Myspace is a way to network, rather than a new concept called “networking”.) One of the great virtues of Helene Blowers’ Learning 2.0 course was how it broke down Library 2.0 into simple, digestible chunks; I wonder if resistors would be more amenable to Library 2.0 if they were introduced to it in these chunks rather than as a whole.

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I am one of those folks who doesn't quite "get" the whole Second Life thing. I tried, and in addition to still not understanding the appeal, I discovered that my propensity towards motion sickness left me nauseated. Second Life is not for me.

I am willing to try just about any tool that will help libraries ( or is just cool.) However, that doesn't mean I think everything that is labeled 2.0 is necessarily fabulous or is appropriate for me and my organization.....
I met some resistance in a recent class. Before discussing library 2.0, I asked the participants if they'd been hearing the phrase and what they thought about it all. One person was quite annoyed by the term and the idea. He said he felt libraries have always been responsive to user needs and involved users in developing new services. He was put off by the idea that this is something that had just been 'invented'. It was the perfect comment for that moment! It gave me the chance to try to dispel the notion that this is only about technology and hype and 'cool', but about improving existing services, developing new services, reaching existing and new users, and building on what we already believe in. It was a fun class!
Has anyone read this document? (

It describes the library (of the future) as a "conversation" between its users and staff. I'm a distance ed librarian, and I was truly inspired by the notion.
Not only do I encounter a lot of resistance, but also many, many professionals who have no idea what I'm talking about when I mention 2.0, social networking, or the like. It's sad, sad, sad.

As for resistance, 2.0 stuff is way outside a lot of people's comfort zones, which makes them scared to death to give it a try. I talk to a lot of people who barely know how to use their browser (and many who don't even know how many buttons their mouse has) - they are extremely intimidated. The whole "no time" argument is usually just a good cover for that fear of the unknown, I think.

Then there is the issue that many folks (around here at least) really don't feel comfortable with the level of transparency and intimacy involved in 2.0. They see it as totally loosing privacy and control, and again, that's really scary for a lot of people.

For the most part, I think that educating other professionals about emerging technologies and leading by example are the best ways to combat these fears. Let's show them the benefits and what 2.0 can do for them (and their patrons), and at least some of them are bound to come around. The others never will.
I think Second Life has a "learning curve". I have had people complain about Second Life that have not actually tried it. They assumed it was a game. They were intrigued when I told them about the musicial performances, collaborations, conferences, poster sessions, etc. The audience may not be appropriate for all organizations.

I would think a person that does newspaper columns and radio shows would see it as just another communication method to reach a specific audience - but I guess not.

My library is getting ready to implement a wiki for our subject guides and an internal knowledge bank for the reference staff. I got the impression from one or two that had concerns was that the major concern was it would be a change. The fear of change prevented them from even discussing if it was better or worse than our current system.
i'm not so sure that 2.0 means cutting edge tech stuff - i was reading tom frey's bits on library 2.0 and have to agree that there's another whole level that really relates to community involvement and engagement at a very local and real level (as in, tactile experiences like seeing photos on a real wall in a real building) though i'm already arguing that his own ideas aren't totally actionable (my own rant is up as well on zilla at
We're just about to embark on a version of Helene Blowers' Learning 2.0 and to me, one of the key elements - if it's to succeed - is to show people how it relates to what they already do. Like you said, it's a change in method, not in ideas.
Another important aspect is that this is supposed to be technologies that are geared toward the non-tech user. You shouldn't have to have a degree in Computer Science to be able to use any of it and what's more important - you shouldn't have to feel like you have to have one. Which is why I think the down-to-earth approach of Learning 2.0 is the way to go.
I don't know if it is resistance as much as the effect of the "technology ratchet". As more new technologies (and they range in learning curve from fairly simple - like using RSS to subscribe to feed - to more complicated and time consuming - like learning to navigate and participate in SL) librarians are feeling the ratchet tightening around them. So the reaction is to ignore or write off the value of the new technologies. Librarians may not even feel they have the time to get to better understand what they are and why they are part of a 2.0 environment. And, if there is no compelling reason to explore these technologies - and it's pretty difficult at this point to convince any librarian that being in SL will benefit the majority of their patrons - heck - you can't even convince most people that having a library blog will do that - so is there a strong reason to invest in Learning 2.0 when most librarians feel they have more value sitting at the reference desk or teaching an instruction session. At least there is concrete involvement with a user. So I don't know if "resistor" is the right word to use to describe those who have yet to delve in to the world of web 2.0. I might think of them as those who have yet to re-think their priorities to determine if what they always do still makes sense - or if new methods and modes of connecting with users need to be introduced.
I agree Gen. Building the community is proving to be the difficult part (although you wouldn't think that by looking at this network). We are having some similar problems with our adult students. They may know what blogs or wikis are, but getting them to use them has been a challenge. Many of these students are in accelearated five or eight week course, so they are already getting info overload as it is. We're hoping to get the faculty more involved, with the idea that students are more willing to do something if a faculty member suggests or requires it.
As some have already commented, there is a lot of "stuff" that feels dumped on front line library staff--who are in many cases struggling to keep the doors open and the books and DVDs shelved. I personally don't like the whole "Library 2.0" name, which seems to imply that we needed an upgrade from Library 1.9. But I find the concepts very familiar ones from the first libraries I worked in. Interestingly, those libraries were still operating in the 1980s very much as they had in the 1920s--in a way that truly involved the community. That's the part of Library 2.0 that I find useful and interesting, particularly for very large libraries. How can the local branch library stay or become knit into the life of the community around it? Many of the technology tools we now have can assist us.

I guess my thought about the librarian who objected to the idea of particpating in Second Life is that it's good that she's reading _American Libraries_ at all! (I don't get Second Life either, but that's OK with me. I still like to read about it.)
I would agree that Library 2.0 consists largely in changes of methodology. Hence the resistance that individuals feel tends to come from the perception conveyed that the methods they've been using up to this point are not adequately effective.

Similar to the anecdote of resistance that you reference about getting a first life before you get involved with second life -- I was speaking with an editor yesterday about whether or not she'd find it useful to engage with this community. Her response was on the order of a groan and the question, "Oh, do I have to?" Engaging with others, whether through Ning or through Second Life, necessitates learning new methods, which takes time. Regardless of whether or not a tool is intuitive to use, you still have to slow down long enough to figure it out. The best way to introduce L2 tools may be to wait until a point of need arises and see if the "digestible chunk" can be demonstrated as a solution to that particular problem.

Nothing new there, I know, but...
Good point Royce. There is no harm in trying. And it is only through experimentation that you'll find the right tool for the job. That may mean Library 2.0 in some cases, or it may mean old fashioned library 1.0 in others.


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