That chic geek Michelle Boule has a dandy of a post on the ALA Techsource blog that riffs off of the Library 2.0 principle “beta is forever.” I think the principle is an important one. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that “beta is forever” is the defining principle of Library 2.0. Because without the idea of “beta is forever,” there’s really no point in using the term “Library 2.0.”
“You must be willing to try, fail, and try again,” Michelle says, and then later says, “Building beta is more about flexibility and allowing the participants—not the creators—to redefine the meaning of the service. Planning beta is about allowing for failure, success, and change.” This is crucial. Libraries have always tried to gear their services and programming to their users, and libraries have always done their best to tweak and their services and programs. At least ideally. We need to kick that attitude up to 11. We need to not take it for granted, not get complacent. Heck, I’ve seen it in my own library: a sense that we have to have all of our ducks in a row and have all the wrinkles ironed out before we present anything to the public.
I think that’s a sucker’s game, though, and it leaves a very important factor out of the equation: our patrons. “Beta is forever” means always being mindful that what we do, we do for our patrons. “Beta is forever” means openly bringing our patrons in on what we do. And “beta is forever” means always keeping in mind that what we do is never finished, never perfect. Things can always be tweaked, adjusted, improved upon and expanded.
And that’s what Library 2.0 is all about. Tacking “2.0″ to the end of “Library” isn’t about being cool and trendy and with-it. It’s about openly acknowledging that libraries, their services and programs, and librarianship in general are never done being tweaked, adjusted, improved upon and expanded. Maybe libraries used to be all or mainly about books, and librarianship used to be all about cataloging and reference. It’s just not so anymore. Libraries and librarianship are not static things. Libraries are more like Firefox and Ubuntu. We’re talking about Library 2.0 this year, but in six months, we’ll be on Library 2.5, and a year from now it’ll be Library 3.0.
We know we want to always offer our patrons the best services and programs. We need to be absolutely open about that. We need to include our patrons, because who better to improve services and programs than the people who actually take advantage of them? We need to set ourselves up to smoothly incorporate updates and upgrades, tweaks and adjustments. We need to not worry about being perfect or final.
Because beta is forever.