It’s a funny ol’ world, isn’t it? Just when you think an idea has run its course or become so commonplace that it’s nearly invisible, it comes back into the spotlight, like John Travolta.
There seems to have been a resurgence of blog posting and discussion on Library 2.0–what is it? is it meaningful or just empty rhetoric? is it a definitive state of being? do you have to be for it or against it? Don’t call it a comeback, but all this 2.0 cogitating has got me thinking, and if I’m going to discuss this elsewhere, I feel I need to set my thoughts down on the topic. Of course, I’ve posted some of my thoughts on Library 2.0 before, so some of this will be covering old ground–a review (or a relapse).
What is Library 2.0, Mr. Smartypants?
I’m going to go with Darlene Fichter’s Einsteinian equation: Library 2.0 = (books ‘n stuff + people + radical trust) x participation.
Does Library 2.0 involve new technologies? Y’know, like Web 2.0?
I don’t think so, no. I think a library can use new technologies and tools (like blogs, wikis, IM, SMS) to achieve “2.0-ness,” but only if those tools are the right tools for the job. The job being: incorporating the ideas and concepts behind Web 2.0: the library as an interactive, user-friendly platform; an architecture of participation that encourages users to add value to the library as they use it; social networking; perpetual beta.
But if Library 2.0 isn’t inherently about technology, isn’t it just a buzzword for what libraries have always done?
To a certain extent, yes.
Wait, let’s back up a bit. Have libraries always been user-centered, open, interactive, responsive? No, not at all. Libraries were traditionally about exclusivity, closed and guarded materials, librarian-centered collections. That’s why Andrew Carnegie started building his public libraries, to open library collections to all social and economic levels of the public and make libraries more democratic, more user-centered. Throughout the 20th century, libraries have become increasingly user-centered and responsive. So in that sense, yes, Library 2.0 isn’t new. Of course, Tim Berners-Lee has questioned the concept of Web 2.0, since he always intended the World Wide Web to be like this. “If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.” At the same time, I personally feel that using the Web in 2007 is different than using the Web in 1997. The basic principles haven’t changed, and the basic technologies and techniques are the same, but there are new features and new ways of using these technologies and techniques. (I’m typing this post on my laptop, which runs on Ubuntu 7.04. The browser I’m using is Swiftfox version 188.8.131.52. These aren’t radically different from previous versions, but there are noticible differences between the latest versions and the previous ones.)
Library 2.0 = (books ‘n stuff + people + radical trust) x participation, where the “books ‘n stuff” are different than they used to be, now including downloadable audiobooks, podcasts, online digital videos, video games, and more. The “people” are changing, too. We have new ways of interacting with each other, new ways of getting (and disseminating) information, new ways of using technologies both old and new. And “participation” is changing. The basic concept of modern libraries may not have changed, but there are noticible differences in the things that make up that concept. (If you don’t agree with me, keep in mind that you’re disagreeing with something I wrote and published in a way that wasn’t possible, and was scarcely imaginable, when I was a kid.) These changes are generally due, at least in large part, to changes in technology, so if people make Library 2.0 sound like it’s about technology, it’s maybe understandable, no? But I still think it’s entirely possible to have a library be about (books ‘n stuff + people + radical trust) x participation without using Web 2.0 technology.
Hey, wait! Earlier, you said “achieve ’2.0-ness’”! Do you think Library 2.0 is some sort of “state of being” that one reaches?
No, I really don’t. It was just a convenient way for me to phrase what was in my head. Basically, I think Library 2.0 is what libraries have been for a while now, but acknowledging and being excited about the fact that the times they are a’changin’.
I don’t know if that’s all clearer to everyone else, but in the process of writing this post, I’ve made my own thoughts clearer to myself. I will now treat myself to an ice cream bar.
That’s all, folks!