Community and the Digital Experience

I’m knee-deep in wading through a bunch of articles and books on various aspects of experience design for the book I’m writing on digital experience planning, and I just had an epiphany today: I’m insane!

(No, wait – that’s not it…)

Ok – so I’ve been thinking about experience lately, both for my book and for the library website my library is currently redesigning. And we’ve been talking a lot about “experience.”

So what was my epiphany (hee – I just used the word “epiphany” twice in one blog post)? The type of experience a library website delivers. Because there’s more than one type of experience that can be delivered via the web.

Here’s what I mean. Go take a peek at the website for the newest Harry Potter movie (just promise to come back here!). That site clearly presents a type of experience – it’s all about fun, entertainment, projecting a theme through sound and cloudy, dark images, etc – it’s all about the experience of entertainment.

That’s a great digital experience – but that’s not what I want on my library’s website. No, that’s the wrong type of experience. So I continued thinking about digital experience and presentation for a library website (or any content-rich site, for that matter) – what type of experience should we be creating?

And then it dawned on me (yes, this is when the heavens opened and I had my epiphany (ha – did it again): the movie site is mimicking the actual movie… so a library site should mimic the actual library. And what type of experience happens in a library?

One of community. And conversation. And participation.

Those things happen here at the library EVERY SINGLE DAY. There’s an amazing amount of interaction between the library staff and our patrons – ideas being shared, information being found, meetings being held, and questions being asked and answered.

And that – that – is the experience I think libraries need to work on creating in a digital environment, be that in Second Life, in MySpace or FaceBook, or on the library’s website. Look at CNN and USAToday’s recent redesigns – they focus on community. Why? Because those newspapers exist to inform their user communities. And why not interact with those communities? That only makes sense.

It makes ok sense for a newspaper. But for a library? Community is our lifeblood. Our goals, as I see them, in the emerging digital age are to:

  • create a sense of community in our digital spaces
  • create and nurture conversations in our digital spaces
  • allow participation in our digital spaces

Do these things, and your digital doors will swing just as wide as your physical doors do now.

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Non-Librarians Notice Library 2.0

Rohit Bhargava, author of the Influential Marketing Blog, has noticed library 2.0. He provides a list of why he believes in the idea of library2.0:

  1. Everyone is a content creator and creating content is easier than ever.
  2. A new wealth of content online means finding things is more difficult.
  3. Algorithms and automated methods of search are no longer adequate.
  4. People are relying on each other to catalogue information and make search better.
  5. The professionals dedicating to indexing content, trying new search
    tools and generally helping connect people to information are the
    librarians.

Readers – this is what someone outside our profession thinks of libraries, librarians, and library 2.0! Much of this is what we generally say to each other – just refreshing to see us getting noticed outside the building.

Two Stupid Stories for Friday

1. Blogger Kicked out of Stadium for Live Blogging the Game – dude kicked out of baseball game for live blogging… I guess they noticed his laptop? I’m calling this stupid because gee… you don’t actually NEED a laptop to live blog… you can do it with your cellphone. Video, text, pictures – all can be easily used to live blog an event. And I doubt officials plan to check everyone’s cellphones at the gate!

2. Time Magazine’s 5 Worst Websites article: Time Magazine actually called Second Life a website. That’s like calling Dungeons and Dragons a book.

What do these two stories have in common? Old media and organizations attempting to deal with and make sense out of web 2.0. They’ll figure it out eventually…

Basic Competencies of a 2.0 Librarian: Why Learn this Stuff?

There’s some good discussion going on related to my two posts on the Basic Competencies of a 2.0 Librarian. For example, the author of the Library Shrine blog says this: “Judging by the questions we do get, most of the competencies David Lee King suggest seem kind of unneccessary.” And an anonymous commenter said “What’s the point in knowing these skills, if they can’t be used on library computers? … So until the library’s computers are capable of supporting the tasks on this list, it’s ridiculous to ask librarians to know how to do these tasks.”

I didn’t make something clear in my previous posts, so I will attempt it now. When I created this list, I was thinking about librarians producing content. The library world is beginning a transformation from a single focus on content-storing-and-retrieval to a more varied focus where creating content is also important. This is happening for many reasons… one reason being the ease of digital content creation that web 2.0 tools allow. Librarians, especially librarians hired to do 2.0-ish stuff, are being asked to create content – write blog posts, create screencasts and podcasts, experiment with video, and teach other library staff how to do these things.

So that’s where my list came from… and that leads to the other question I received: why learn these things, when you can’t do them on public PCs? At my library, for example, they’re correct – no one can come up to a PC, plug in a microphone, and start recording a podcast (not yet, anyway – get back with me in a year or so). So why should staff learn to do things at the library that patrons can’t do?

Here are my reasons:

  • Professional development – to keep your skills up – what if you suddenly need a new job? Many libraries are starting to ask for these skills, and learning them will place you at the head of the pack.
  • saving time – some of these skills can actually save you time. RSS, for example – do you check new/hobby/library websites often? If you subscribe to those pages via RSS, the updated info comes to you, so you can read them at YOUR convenience. Just one example of many.
  • be relevant to the next generation – National trends show that people under age of 30 do 2.0ish things at home and on other websites (hence the popularity of Flickr, Youtube, Facebook, etc, etc, etc.). These people expect the same level of service and freedom when they visit the library. And (probably more important) they also expect the person who works with the library computers ALL DAY LONG (ie, a reference librarian) to understand 2.0ish things, and to be able to answer their questions.
  • teach the current generation – People older than 30, employees asked to do new things at work, etc… they need to learn to do these things. Why not teach them at the library? For example, Topeka teaches MySpace and Blogging Basics classes, and we’ll probably expand those offerings.
  • be a community leader – I’d guess that many people in Topeka have probably not heard of web 2.0 – but they HAVE most likely come into contact with it – RSS feed and Subscribe buttons can be found in many places on the web, many businesses are starting blogs, many people have used customer reviews on Amazon, etc – can’t we be the leaders? Can’t we be the resource people come to when they want to know more about a topic? Isn’t that what a library is for?

OK – those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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