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?


Library 2.0 spectrum thingie – asking for your input!

OK… so my Library 2.0 Spectrum post has garnered a good number of comments on this blog and in Flickr – some positive, some negative, all useful. And so far, the graphic I created seems to be a useful pursuit, if for no other reason than it gets people thinking about libraries and change, so I think I’ll continue to pursue it for awhile… but only with your help!

Here’s where you can help – I’m seeking input from you, my readers: Listed below are things that need to change on the graphic – please help me figure out how to change it. If this works the way I think it will work, I’ll get some good comments from you, and we’ll be able to create more of a collective “here’s what we think” graphic. And if not… ehhh.

Stuff that Needs to Change:

The name:
spectrum didn’t work for some, did work for others. Continuum and Evolution were both suggested. Originally, I was thinking of Field (as in, where are you standing in the L2 field…), but then decided that would be too goofy, even for me. What do you guys think works best?

My choice of icons: Many strong reactions from these! I chose a yellowed, parchmenty book to represent traditional libraries and (unfortunately) chose an iPhone to represent the “I get it” side. Some of you were a bit miffed by my choices.

So I ask you – what icons would you use to represent:

  1. traditional libraries
  2. The complete Library 2.0 library – this should focus on participation, community and conversation and NOT on a specific piece of technology (like, say, the iPhone)

The use of the word Luddite: oops. Sorry. My geek bias was probably showing there. I definitely want to start off with traditional libraries, but I don’t want to associate that positive base with a luddite (someone who “fears or loathes … new forms of technology” – from If I remove “Luddite” and keep in “Traditional Library” – will that make the left side of the spectrum less negative? Remember, I AM attempting to show a someone who really doesn’t get Library 2.0 of this side of the spectrum/graph.

On the other end of that, I think I should remove most of the techie terms (ie., web 2.0). Because being Library 2.0 isn’t about using cool tools, as more than one commenter pointed out (and I agree with). It’s more about a change of focus than about new technology. Thoughts?

That’s all for now – your comments are appreciated!

Am I a 2.0 Librarian and the Library 2.0 Spectrum

Recently, I was asked “am I a Library 2.0 Librarian” by someone… and that started off a flurry of thought, mainly because I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that question. For starters, you can’t answer the question by simply dividing the room into tech geeks and non-tech geeks. Knowing xhtml and css does not make one a Library 2.0 librarian! In the same way, you can’t divide the room by age – there are older librarians who “get it,” and younger librarians who don’t.

You can also play the “you might be a 2.0 librarian if” game. Let’s do it now – You might be a 2.0 Librarian if:

  • you have a Library 2.0 job. That one’s a no-brainer – if your job consists of implementing emerging web 2.0 and other trends, you’re probably a 2.0 librarian.
  • You don’t have the job title, but you implement emerging trends anyway. This could be as part of your job, or something you do as part of your professional interests/activities.
  • You don’t do it on-the-job, but you do it personally… you have a blog, a facebook account, multiple IM accounts, etc.

But this yes/no game only covers the more extreme examples. There are many librarians who aren’t extreme geeks. They don’t understand the whole range of web 2.0 tools, but they might understand parts and pieces of it. For example, they might understand the need for IM reference, or for a MySpace teen page.

Library 2.0 SpectrumSo – what I’d like to suggest is that there’s a library 2.0 range, or spectrum (click the image to see a larger version of the spectrum). Every library and librarian is somewhere on this spectrum – either on the more traditional, luddite side, or on the “participation, web 2.0” side.

Library 2.0 Spectrum
My Library 2.0 Spectrum has seven points. In reality, there are many more! These seven points on the spectrum can help you understand where you are in relation to Library 2.0, and where you might be headed. Here’s an explanation of it:

  1. On the left-hand side of the spectrum are the Luddites. These are very traditional libraries and librarians who really don’t understand the need to change and/or adapt to emerging trends.
  2. next up is the librarian who grudgingly realizes that online databases and search engines are useful tools, and that email reference is a good thing to do.
  3. Here, the library/librarian discovers that some customers primarily visit the library’s website, and that the library has alot of non-traditional library usage.
  4. The Lightbulb – This is a major point on the Library 2.0 spectrum. Something “clicks” – The library/librarian realizes that the organization/librarian needs to change to meet emerging customer needs. They start trend-watching, and are ready to experiment. At this point, they might not know what to do next!
  5. At this point, the library allows staff to “do stuff” – ie., start a library blog, start pilot projects with emerging technology, and maybe decide to keep customer comments open. As a librarian, you are taking a Learning 2.0 course.
  6. At this point, pilot projects are finalized, and implementation is underway. As a librarian, you have embraced many of these concepts – you have an IM account, you regularly read blogs, you are not afraid to participate in the digital world.
  7. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone has “arrived” on the far right of my spectrum… but this side is for libraries that have embraced and implemented participation, trust, and community wholeheartedly. For librarians, you can talk turkey with Stephen Abram :-)

So… where are you on this spectrum? Where’s your library? How do you bump yourself up to “the next level?”


My Boss is Blogging!

Rob Banks, the Deputy Director of Operations at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (and my awesome boss), has started a blog called Library Admin Musings.

Everyone should read it (and I’m not saying that ’cause he’s my boss – really :-). Why? Read this from his first post: “I am intrigued and often excited
about the possibilities of new technologies and trends, frequently
referred to as Web 2.0 and/or Library 2.0. Many people do a great job of commenting on these issues and I do not want or need to duplicate their efforts. However, I have not found a regular discussion of those trends from a library administrator’s point of view. 
this blog can provide a place for people to look at these technologies
and trends and comment on the possible hopes and fears related to
implementing them in our libraries.

How’s that for starting with a small goal? Seriously, Rob and my library’s director, Gina Millsap, have been discussing technology, tech trends, and library 2.0 transformations for probably 2 years now, and have started implementing goals and organizational priorities that stemmed from those discussions (my job is one of those implementations).

In fact, they are giving a SirsiDynix Institute presentation in September – Dump the Org Chart: get ‘Er Done!: Management for a 2.0 Library. here’s the blurb for the talk: “Did you get your MLS in the previous century? Is there a digital divide
in your library, not just for customers, but for staff? Are innovation
and risk organizational values or … not so much?” Should be pretty interesting!

So – go subscribe right now, and start participating in the discussion … especially if you are a manager or administrator.

And I’ll leave you with this: how many of YOUR supervisors have a blog?