Library 2.0.0.3

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 2.0.0.3. 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!

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The End of the Inning

Ladies and gentlemen, the day has arrived. May I humbly present to you the all-new, all-different…Johnson County Library website! (Humbly presented because I honestly had little to do with it besides giving a thumbs-up to various design factors and adding some content here and there. The lion’s share of the credit goes to the other brilliant and talented people in the Web Content Team bullpen.)

And may I not-so-humbly (because this one I had much, much more to do with, in terms of look, layout, and content) present the one, the only…JoCoKids, the Johnson County Library website just for kids! I’m very proud of this one, both for its look and its interactive features. Will kids actually leave comments on the site? Only time will tell, but I sure hope they do!

It’s been quite an exciting ride up to this point, and our work is far from over. We have a whole slew of “second phase” things we want to do with the sites, and we have other partnership sites we’ll be redesigning. But for just a minute, I will rest my figurative feet and take a little breather.

UPDATE: MPOW’s brilliant Communications Manager got the approval of our director to do some “guerrilla marketing.” She arranged to have teen volunteers go to all 13 of our libraries and use stencils and spray chalk paint to put graffiti all over the parking lots announcing our new website. I took a couple of pictures of their handiwork. The local news came ’round to cover this. How often does a library website launch get media coverage?

Rounding Third and Heading Home

In case anyone’s been wondering, work has been going very well. We’re just a couple of days away from our big website relaunch (and launch, in the case of the new children’s site). So, for the past few weeks, work has been particularly demanding of my attention, and as a result, I want to have as little to do with libraries and the internet as possible when I’m not at work. I’ve been filling my not-at-work time with other pursuits: TV and movies, video games, house and yard work, and reading. And not blogging, or even really thinking about things to blog about. My opinions on library matters these days are about as strong as a can of Milwaukee’s Best. If I have a backlog of blog posts demanding to be written and posted, they’re packed away in the dusty closets of my mind.

After our new websites have been officially launched into cyberspace and I’ve had some time to relax and shake my sillies out, normal blogging will almost certainly resume. But for now, my leisure time needs to be library-free.

Another Tech Day Wrap-Up

I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday. I was not feeling up to writing about going to NEKLS Tech Day the day before. I’m feeling better now, thank’s for asking, and so, once more, here we go with…NEKLS Tech Day 2007.

The Good: I got to hang out with my witty, amusing coworkers. I got to see old friends. I got to hang out with Mr. Royce Kitts. I got to copresent with two of my teammates on developing our new websites and using paper prototyping and usability testing to get input and buy-in from staff and patrons.

The Not-As-Good: As always the NEKLS crew put on a great, educational, fun conference. But unlike the past two conferences, I didn’t leave feeling particularly inspired or enthusiastic. Maybe I’ve just been too preoccupied with our website redesign (with the rapidly approaching go-live date only two weeks away). Maybe the ground that was covered in the talks and presentations on technology and Library 2.0 ideas is ground that I’ve covered too many times already. Whatever the reasons, I had a good time at Tech Day this year, but I didn’t have a great time like I did the previous two years. So it goes.