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:
- 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?