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David Lee King

Library 2.0 – Is it Techie Or Not?



There has been much good discussion on my blog lately about 2.0 stuff. I even made it into the cool discussion going on in Greg Schwartz’s Uncontrolled Vocabulary show, and it’s spawned at least one videoblog post – so if nothing else, it’s a very 2.0 discussion!

A central issue that keeps popping up in this discussion is one of technology: how is the concept of Library 2.0 related to technology? Is Library 2.0 all about the tech … does it even need tech to exist? I’m going to jump off the deep end here and tackle this issue separately from the other 2.0 spectrum stuff.

First off, an example completely outside the library realm.
I drive a car. The car has a computer in it. The computer and the engine that runs the car was created by someone much smarter than me. In fact, the car and the engine were probably created by some type of engineer. So… by driving the car, does that make me an engineer? NO! Does it make me a “car creator?” NO – I know absolutely nothing about how cars work. I think I could change the oil if my life depended on it, and I can change a tire… but other than that, I’m definitely not “car-creator” material.

I can, however, DRIVE the car (though my wife wonders about that ability at times). I have “car-user” skills. There are two sets of skills going on here: car-creator skills and car-user skills.

Now let’s compare that back to Library 2.0…

And use blogging as an example. Blogging is seen as a very 2.0 activity, and one that’s a starting point for many libraries and librarians. I’d certainly include blogging as a solid Library 2.0 activity.

I think my car skills example mirrors blogging skills in many respects. There are two skill-sets needed for blogging. First, there are “blog creators.” Someone has to write the blog software code, someone else has to install the blog software on a server, and yet someone else maintains that server and the server operating system. Those skills are the “techie skills” of blogging. And those skills occur BEFORE the actual blogging begins.

Then, there is the “blog user.” This person’s job starts AFTER the techie person has finished his/her job. The “blog user” actually uses the blogging tool to blog – they write blog posts, respond to comments, create categories, and delete comment spam. Is this person a techie? No – at least, not in the same way as the server/coder dudes.

The skills needed to blog successfully are the ability to write, and to do so with a human enough voice that people actually want to respond. And maybe the ability to know what to write about. These are not techie skills!

Going a bit further with this, what are the other skills needed for being a “blog user?” “Well, David – you blog by using a computer and the Internet – that’s pretty techie stuff.” Right. But the actual skills being used – are those techie skills?

To do the “act of blogging,” you basically do two things:

  1. type
  2. hit the “publish” button.

That’s all. That’s such an extremely basic competency in a library setting that it’s usually a given – most library job ads include the “can use Microsoft Office Suite” line as a given – they won’t even look at you if you don’t have this basic skill.

Most of the other 2.0 competencies I listed earlier would also fall under the “entry level not really techie” skillsets, too… except maybe for the “understanding basic HTML/CSS” one. Even the ability to edit an image – yes, that’s definitely using software… just like using Excel is using software. But is it a techie skill? I’m not so sure about that.

So I ask again – is Library 2.0 a “techie” activity? Looking back at the key principles listed in the Wikipedia entry for Library 2.0, here’s what I find:

  • Browser + Web 2.0 Applications + Connectivity = Full-featured OPAC
    (Techie skill if the library does this themselves, but not if they buy it from a vendor)
  • Harness the library user in both design and implementation of services (Non-techie)
  • Library users should be able to craft and modify library provided services (Non-techie)
  • Companies wanting to do business with public or academic libraries should not be creating proprietary software; Library 2.0 is not a closed concept. (Non-techie)
  • Constant change is replacing the older model of upgrade cycles (Non-techie)
  • Beta is forever (Non-techie)
  • Harvest and integrate ideas and products from peripheral fields into library service models (Non-techie)
  • Continue to examine and improve services and be willing to replace them at any time with newer and better services. (Non-techie)
  • Rigidity breeds failure (Non-techie)
  • Harness The Long Tail (Non-techie)

So one more time – is Library 2.0 a techie activity? What do you think?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://alreadygone.blogspot.com/ Cindi

    I think that Library 2.0 is not techie, for all the reasons you elucidate above. The “stuff” that we’re doing on the web now used to be very techie, but the evolution of the web has lowered the price of entry when it comes to tech skills. Think about the early tools for online content creation and how much easier it is to do these things now:

    personal web pages
    Then: geocities.com, fortunecity, angelfire
    Now: blogger, wordpress

    photo editing and sharing
    Then: photoshop, html (or ftp and usenet!)
    Now: flickr, photobucket, picasa

    video creation and sharing
    Then: RealServer
    Now: YouTube, blip.tv

    connecting with like minds
    Then: listservs, usenet
    Now: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Meebo Rooms

    Like I said in my video post, Library 2.0 is more than the sum of its technology and customer mindset parts. I tried to create a graphic that would illustrate the evolution that I think librarians undergo and ended up with another video (better view on blip.tv). A still image just wasn’t good enough to demonstrate the organic nature of the process.

    Thanks, David, for turning me into a video blogger. :)

  • http://alreadygone.blogspot.com Cindi

    I think that Library 2.0 is not techie, for all the reasons you elucidate above. The “stuff” that we’re doing on the web now used to be very techie, but the evolution of the web has lowered the price of entry when it comes to tech skills. Think about the early tools for online content creation and how much easier it is to do these things now:

    personal web pages
    Then: geocities.com, fortunecity, angelfire
    Now: blogger, wordpress

    photo editing and sharing
    Then: photoshop, html (or ftp and usenet!)
    Now: flickr, photobucket, picasa

    video creation and sharing
    Then: RealServer
    Now: YouTube, blip.tv

    connecting with like minds
    Then: listservs, usenet
    Now: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Meebo Rooms

    Like I said in my video post, Library 2.0 is more than the sum of its technology and customer mindset parts. I tried to create a graphic that would illustrate the evolution that I think librarians undergo and ended up with another video (better view on blip.tv). A still image just wasn’t good enough to demonstrate the organic nature of the process.

    Thanks, David, for turning me into a video blogger. :)

  • http://marklindner.info/blog/ Mark

    “Browser + Web 2.0 Applications + Connectivity = Full-featured OPAC
    (Techie skill if the library does this themselves, but not if they buy it from a vendor) ”

    I’d say it’s a miracle if the library does it; as in a library is not a “them.”

    So, where exactly is the difference between someone with tech skills at a library doing it versus someone with tech skills at a vendor doing it?

    I have no doubt you can find one. When you do, that might be where a difference lies. Perhaps.

    If the 2.0 goal is connecting and empowering users then why exactly does it matter whether it is done by library personnel or simply bought by library personnel?

    If we assume that formula for a full-featured OPAC is reasonable (and I will for the sake of argument), then it is irrelevant as to its “techiness” whether it is created in the library or bought. I would argue that it matters in other ways (local support, having tech qualified staff, …), but who creates it is irrelevant to whether or not it is a tech skill to create it. It simply is.

    But again, if a library can do it (or anything at all) I’m calling it a miracle.

  • http://marklindner.info/blog/ Mark

    “Browser + Web 2.0 Applications + Connectivity = Full-featured OPAC
    (Techie skill if the library does this themselves, but not if they buy it from a vendor) ”

    I’d say it’s a miracle if the library does it; as in a library is not a “them.”

    So, where exactly is the difference between someone with tech skills at a library doing it versus someone with tech skills at a vendor doing it?

    I have no doubt you can find one. When you do, that might be where a difference lies. Perhaps.

    If the 2.0 goal is connecting and empowering users then why exactly does it matter whether it is done by library personnel or simply bought by library personnel?

    If we assume that formula for a full-featured OPAC is reasonable (and I will for the sake of argument), then it is irrelevant as to its “techiness” whether it is created in the library or bought. I would argue that it matters in other ways (local support, having tech qualified staff, …), but who creates it is irrelevant to whether or not it is a tech skill to create it. It simply is.

    But again, if a library can do it (or anything at all) I’m calling it a miracle.

  • http://librariansmatter.com/ Kathryn Greenhill

    I think that to be a Library 2.0 pioneer, you needed to be very techie, and at the start it was about these techie tools. In the last 6 months, more libraries seem to have moved out of the pioneer, experimental phase and into the production phase of L2 services.

    Before this, the prominent bloggers and users of L2.0 were techie sorts and had to be. They understood the tools and understood that these tools would bring new attitudes – but they had to get the rest of the library world understanding the new tools before the new attitudes would flow.

    The tech tools are what enables things like “crafting and modifying library provided services” and someone on the library staff needs to know the tech tools out there to be able to say no to proprietary software.

    In the production phase, you do not need to be techie to:
    *understand the need for Library 2.0
    *ensure there are staffing and resources to serve our customers in this way
    *to be a front line worker delivering service using Library 2.0 tools (eg. writing blog posts).

    A year ago, Library 2.0 was similar to the time way, way back, when I was in a library demonstrating the internet to the executives in my parent organisation. I did need to be techie – I had to bring in my modem from home, know how to use trumpet winsock and how to create a sample html page etc. I would rather have just “used the stuff” than know how to set it up – but to get the resources to use the stuff, I had to know how to run it – there was no-one else in the organisation able to.

    This has been similar with many Library 2.0 services – to get tools that enable conversations with our users, get them appreciated by other library staff, get a “proof of concept” happening, there is a lot of techiness involved in both setup and education. We’d rather just use it, but for many of us, knowing how it works underneath and how to stop it falling over is essential if we are going to get our colleagues using it with confidence.

    In your blogging example I think you have left out a layer, which is where many of us work and it is about technology. For an internal library blog, for example, you install the blog software, set up a template, use hex code to determine the colour scheme, add items to a sidebar, get a feedburner feed, maybe a sitemeter, set up the .htaccess file so that it can only be read by a certain IP range.

    Yes, we’d all rather Jane from IT did this bit, but in many organisations, there is no Jane and for us it is about knowing more techie stuff than we want to just so we can get the services up and running so that someone eventually employs a Jane.

  • http://librariansmatter.com Kathryn Greenhill

    I think that to be a Library 2.0 pioneer, you needed to be very techie, and at the start it was about these techie tools. In the last 6 months, more libraries seem to have moved out of the pioneer, experimental phase and into the production phase of L2 services.

    Before this, the prominent bloggers and users of L2.0 were techie sorts and had to be. They understood the tools and understood that these tools would bring new attitudes – but they had to get the rest of the library world understanding the new tools before the new attitudes would flow.

    The tech tools are what enables things like “crafting and modifying library provided services” and someone on the library staff needs to know the tech tools out there to be able to say no to proprietary software.

    In the production phase, you do not need to be techie to:
    *understand the need for Library 2.0
    *ensure there are staffing and resources to serve our customers in this way
    *to be a front line worker delivering service using Library 2.0 tools (eg. writing blog posts).

    A year ago, Library 2.0 was similar to the time way, way back, when I was in a library demonstrating the internet to the executives in my parent organisation. I did need to be techie – I had to bring in my modem from home, know how to use trumpet winsock and how to create a sample html page etc. I would rather have just “used the stuff” than know how to set it up – but to get the resources to use the stuff, I had to know how to run it – there was no-one else in the organisation able to.

    This has been similar with many Library 2.0 services – to get tools that enable conversations with our users, get them appreciated by other library staff, get a “proof of concept” happening, there is a lot of techiness involved in both setup and education. We’d rather just use it, but for many of us, knowing how it works underneath and how to stop it falling over is essential if we are going to get our colleagues using it with confidence.

    In your blogging example I think you have left out a layer, which is where many of us work and it is about technology. For an internal library blog, for example, you install the blog software, set up a template, use hex code to determine the colour scheme, add items to a sidebar, get a feedburner feed, maybe a sitemeter, set up the .htaccess file so that it can only be read by a certain IP range.

    Yes, we’d all rather Jane from IT did this bit, but in many organisations, there is no Jane and for us it is about knowing more techie stuff than we want to just so we can get the services up and running so that someone eventually employs a Jane.

  • http://librariansmatter.com/ Kathryn Greenhill

    (No, you wouldn’t put a sitemeter or a feedburner feed on an internal blog at all. Doofus! …Note to self…checking editing after you change an idea in a post, but before pressing “submit comment”, is a non-tech skill worth learning)

  • http://librariansmatter.com Kathryn Greenhill

    (No, you wouldn’t put a sitemeter or a feedburner feed on an internal blog at all. Doofus! …Note to self…checking editing after you change an idea in a post, but before pressing “submit comment”, is a non-tech skill worth learning)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/scampion Steve Campion

    Web 2.0 tools are (or were) techie. Library 2.0 is social. It’s the social environment that is opening up for libraries using these tools. (And you can make a good argument that ‘social environment’ and ‘techie’ are mutually exclusive terms!)

    So must you be techie to get your library to thrive in the social web? Not at all. In fact, my experience shows me that the more a techie gets wrapped up in the tools, the more he loses sight of the social environment.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/scampion Steve Campion

    Web 2.0 tools are (or were) techie. Library 2.0 is social. It’s the social environment that is opening up for libraries using these tools. (And you can make a good argument that ‘social environment’ and ‘techie’ are mutually exclusive terms!)

    So must you be techie to get your library to thrive in the social web? Not at all. In fact, my experience shows me that the more a techie gets wrapped up in the tools, the more he loses sight of the social environment.

  • http://gathernodust.blogspot.com/ Jeff

    I like these examples much better. In my opinion 2.0 is simply being following trends to serve patrons (proactive) and going where the users are and providing those services (reactive). That doesn’t mean technology. If users are complaining that they need a bookmobile, you build one. If a patron wants a book, you buy it, but you need to stay ahead of the game to know what they are going to ask in the future. To me that is 2.0, the technology pieces seem to muddy the waters.

  • http://gathernodust.blogspot.com Jeff

    I like these examples much better. In my opinion 2.0 is simply being following trends to serve patrons (proactive) and going where the users are and providing those services (reactive). That doesn’t mean technology. If users are complaining that they need a bookmobile, you build one. If a patron wants a book, you buy it, but you need to stay ahead of the game to know what they are going to ask in the future. To me that is 2.0, the technology pieces seem to muddy the waters.

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  • http://otherlibrarian.wordpress.com/ Ryan Deschamps

    I think there is a pratfall in your analogy David. While driving a car is not necessarily an engineering (or even a mechanic) feat, the people who are enthusiastic about cars often know alot more about their insides than your average driver.

    There is a side of library 2.0 that wants people not only to write and push “publish” but also to be enthusiastic about it, and eventually to learn more. Yes, even going so far as understanding more complicated things like XML, PHP, & server maintenance.

    Of course different folks will take different trajectories on their learning curve. . . some may get into really effective journalizing, or pro-level photography and/or film editing. But my impression has always been that library 2.0 is about continuous learning. The blog is merely one avenue toward that end.

  • http://otherlibrarian.wordpress.com Ryan Deschamps

    I think there is a pratfall in your analogy David. While driving a car is not necessarily an engineering (or even a mechanic) feat, the people who are enthusiastic about cars often know alot more about their insides than your average driver.

    There is a side of library 2.0 that wants people not only to write and push “publish” but also to be enthusiastic about it, and eventually to learn more. Yes, even going so far as understanding more complicated things like XML, PHP, & server maintenance.

    Of course different folks will take different trajectories on their learning curve. . . some may get into really effective journalizing, or pro-level photography and/or film editing. But my impression has always been that library 2.0 is about continuous learning. The blog is merely one avenue toward that end.

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