At the Washington Library Association conference last week, Walt Crawford and Sarah Houghton-Jan shared the breakfast stage for a discussion of "traditional" v. Web-based services and balance. There was more agreement than dis-, which was not surprising. There were a couple of noteworthy moments, imo:

1. When Walt off-handedly mentioned theSlow Library Movement, there was a spontaneous burst of applause and cheers from the audience. Very interesting! Slow Library was not the main topic of discussion, was not elaborated upon, was only mentioned in passing ...and yet it got an immediate emotional response.

Slow Library is not the antithesis of Library 2.0. As one of the Slow bloggers put it, "Slow Library helps clarify where Library 2.0 fits in a broader view of libraries." It's that balance thing.

2. When asked which L2.0 technology has been the biggest disappointment, both Walt and Sarah agreed that the interactive, user-contribution OPACs have not generated the anticipated response from patrons. The user reviews and recommendations that work so well for Amazon don't seem to translate to use of the library catalog. Is it a (perceived) privacy issue? Is it that writing book reviews for the library feels too much like homework or civic duty?

I think it has a lot to do with critical mass and centralization. The energy of adding content to the host of library catalogs across the continent is too splintered, too diluted. It could take years to build enough of a user-generated content base to be useful and interesting and it will always be confined to the local community.

In the pursuit of balance and L2.0, it is important to determine which efforts fly best in the hyper-connected online community, which work best on local ground, and which find that sweet spot of melding both worlds.

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Comment by blgThree on April 26, 2007 at 12:49pm
Seems like the key word in all this is local ---whether we're talking the OPAC or Slow Library. I'm guessing that the WLA audience response comes from some sense that we're losing local flavor in the face of cyber-homogenization. If Slow Library is akin to Slow Food (as Walt and I presume), then quality and local connection are the focus.

John's comment on the "local stamp" of the interactive OPAC shifts the emphasis for me. I see that it doesn't have to be about trying to compete with Amazon as Review/Rating Central --it could be more about the character and interests of the library's physical community.

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