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David Lee King

Has Elvis Left the Building?



Gee whiz. Every now and then, someone decides to share that some new-fangled “library 2.0″ project didn’t work out … and others start claiming “After John Blyberg and others come out and say that library 2.0 didn’t work and neither did tagging, etc., the flood gates open.” Huh?

It might be good to remember two things:

  1. If one 2.0 project doesn’t work as expected, that doesn’t mean that “library 2.0 didn’t work” as a whole.
  2. Social 2.0 projects require “Elvis” to leave the building.

Here’s what I mean. For #1 above, realize this – not every blog, wiki, IM reference service, Second Life project, or podcast that your library creates will be a blazing success. Some will be dismal failures. And that’s great! Why? Because you learned something, and you can take that knowledge and move on to the next project.

John Blyberg might be correct when he says “SOPAC was by-and-large a success, but its use of user-contributed tags is a failure.” Why does he think it was a failure? Because it’s not used by that library’s community. He’s not saying tagging in catalogs is bad in general (at least, I don’t think he’s saying that). He’s saying that a particular library’s 2.0-ish experiment wasn’t successful (though I’m sure they learned something about building stuff – that’s always a good thing). Make sure to read the comments to that post – he goes on to say that larger-scale tagging that can be added to catalogs (i.e., LibraryThing for Libraries) is much more useful than the SOPAC’s localized version.

How about #2? Who’s this Elvis guy? Elvis is the librarian – has he left the building? Or is he still sitting behind the oak reference desk, waiting for patrons to visit? You cannot participate if you haven’t “left the building.” What does it take for librarians to be successful in the digital space? Well… we have to go there. Not just randomly peek in once in awhile, but actually be present and active in that space.

Here’s a lame example – lots of people read my blog. It’s taken four years for that to happen (well, and me not spewing forth stupidity too often – that also helps) – four years of me thinking, writing, reading, and participating on other librarian blogs. That was active participation rather than passive flirting on the 2.0 block.

When you start hanging out in a new social circle, what’s it take to be respected there? You have to actually DO some things, like hang out with them, share yourself with them, build them up, be authentic, etc – you have to spend a significant amount of time just “being” in that social circle in order to be accepted by the new group. Social networking tools are the same – because we’re NOT DEALING WITH TECHNOLOGY. We’re dealing with people.

If you want people to comment on your library’s blog post, to friend your MySpace page, or to watch your YouTube videos… you have to actually tell your community they exist. here are some examples:

“No one subscribes to our RSS feeds!” Well – have you told them what RSS is and what they can do with it?

“No one watches our YouTube videos on bibliographic instruction!” Well… have you embedded the video on your website (I’ve seen some libraries that don’t do this)? Have you introduced them to your videos at all? Are your videos extremely boring?

Have you left your library building to visit community groups to introduce them to your new offerings? Have you asked your community how they want to participate?

The title to this post is “Has Elvis Left the Building?” Has he?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/ Meredith

    Hey David, I don’t think most people are saying that Library 2.0 is a failure or tagging is a failure. I think John, me, and others are saying that the focus should be more on our own users and less on specific tools. I think it’s critical to be aware of 2.0 tools, but they are just tools. You don’t walk around with a hammer looking for nails, just like you don’t implement blogs, wikis, etc. for a population that really doesn’t want them.

    I don’t think the failures of social tools are just problems with marketing or execution. Sometimes the population just doesn’t want it. Every library’s population is unique. However, you’re right that some libraries have put tools out there without thinking enough about how to make them engaging. I’ve seen some REALLY boring library blogs.

    Your question “Have you asked your community how they want to participate?” is exactly what we need to be doing. :)

  • http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/ Meredith

    Hey David, I don’t think most people are saying that Library 2.0 is a failure or tagging is a failure. I think John, me, and others are saying that the focus should be more on our own users and less on specific tools. I think it’s critical to be aware of 2.0 tools, but they are just tools. You don’t walk around with a hammer looking for nails, just like you don’t implement blogs, wikis, etc. for a population that really doesn’t want them.

    I don’t think the failures of social tools are just problems with marketing or execution. Sometimes the population just doesn’t want it. Every library’s population is unique. However, you’re right that some libraries have put tools out there without thinking enough about how to make them engaging. I’ve seen some REALLY boring library blogs.

    Your question “Have you asked your community how they want to participate?” is exactly what we need to be doing. :)

  • http://roycekitts.blogspot.com royce

    Hey David!

    I remember about a year ago when I was full on into the 2.0 buzz. I was so mad that my boss and everyone else didn’t get it. I felt like there were all these barriers that really made me rethink getting an MLS.

    But now a year later, I am starting to sober up. I am glad we got a blog going for readers advisory and for our reference staff. The stats show the public blog is well visited, and staff goes to the reference blog early and often. Both are a success. 2.0 is more than just tools, needs, participation, etc….to me it means a willingness to learn new things and not being too afraid to fail.

    I also happened to smarten up as well, going to graduate school will do that to ya. Now I think about what my community wants and needs first, and then about how we can accomplish that.

    Hmmm, I hope this post made sense, I am currently reading about international information transfer and it seems to have jellied the brain a bit.

    Later.

  • http://roycekitts.blogspot.com/ royce

    Hey David!

    I remember about a year ago when I was full on into the 2.0 buzz. I was so mad that my boss and everyone else didn’t get it. I felt like there were all these barriers that really made me rethink getting an MLS.

    But now a year later, I am starting to sober up. I am glad we got a blog going for readers advisory and for our reference staff. The stats show the public blog is well visited, and staff goes to the reference blog early and often. Both are a success. 2.0 is more than just tools, needs, participation, etc….to me it means a willingness to learn new things and not being too afraid to fail.

    I also happened to smarten up as well, going to graduate school will do that to ya. Now I think about what my community wants and needs first, and then about how we can accomplish that.

    Hmmm, I hope this post made sense, I am currently reading about international information transfer and it seems to have jellied the brain a bit.

    Later.

  • http://www.blyberg.net John

    David,
    I have noticed that my post has been interpreted at an admission that L2 is a failure. That’s not at all what I meant to suggest, and I think you articulate that very well. I don’t think I ever said that Library 2.0 “didn’t work out” as Jeff Scott claims. On the contrary–it’s infused the profession with just the sort of agitation it needs.

    There are probably more factors that go into the success and failure of a particular social networking endeavor that we can possibly understand at this point and, as Meredith points out, it’s not always a lack of marketing impetus. But the fact that we don’t understand what imbues a 2.0 initiative with success only tells me that we have more to learn. And we can only learn by doing and sharing, openly, our successes and failures. A fundamental charge of the Library 2.0 discourse is for libraries and librarians to understand the relationship our users have with information so that we can help them along in their endeavors.

    Like you said, David, we are dealing with people, but we are dealing with technology as well, it’s just that the human connection is the technology’s payload. Library reference had traditionally been about the vehicle and the destination (the book and the fact), now we’re seeing more people come in to the library in search of the vehicle, the journey, and fellow travelers–they’re not overly concerned with where they’re going.

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

    I am not necessarily saying Library 2.0 didn’t work out. It is more a reflection of putting the cart before the horse. Yes you can put up a myspace and promote it, but if nobody goes to it, why are you doing it? I think librarians just need to wait for their patrons to ask about it or bring it forward. It is just like I said in my post, if we are asking for people to watch our youtube video and they are asking for James Patterson, we don’t know what our users want. As Meredith said, every population is unique. Some libraries may not buy James Patterson because he doesn’t circulate (I am not sure where that is, but I will go with that example.) All libraries are local, all collection development is local, all services are local, that’s our strength we need to understand that.

    Also, I agree with the marketing piece. Libraries don’t market well enough. How does anyone know you have anything if you don’t tell anyone about it?

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

    I am not necessarily saying Library 2.0 didn’t work out. It is more a reflection of putting the cart before the horse. Yes you can put up a myspace and promote it, but if nobody goes to it, why are you doing it? I think librarians just need to wait for their patrons to ask about it or bring it forward. It is just like I said in my post, if we are asking for people to watch our youtube video and they are asking for James Patterson, we don’t know what our users want. As Meredith said, every population is unique. Some libraries may not buy James Patterson because he doesn’t circulate (I am not sure where that is, but I will go with that example.) All libraries are local, all collection development is local, all services are local, that’s our strength we need to understand that.

    Also, I agree with the marketing piece. Libraries don’t market well enough. How does anyone know you have anything if you don’t tell anyone about it?

  • http://www.ibiblio.org/secretlibrary Darren

    Nicely articulated David. I appreciate Meredith’s comment “… they are just tools. You don’t walk around with a hammer looking for nails.”, I agree that we shouldn’t confuse the value of the tool and its purpose, and would add that it’s really great that we have that hammer because when it comes to hammering the things we need to hammer the phone, the reader’s guide, and the reference librarian’s forehead are poor substitutes.

  • http://www.ibiblio.org/secretlibrary Darren

    Nicely articulated David. I appreciate Meredith’s comment “… they are just tools. You don’t walk around with a hammer looking for nails.”, I agree that we shouldn’t confuse the value of the tool and its purpose, and would add that it’s really great that we have that hammer because when it comes to hammering the things we need to hammer the phone, the reader’s guide, and the reference librarian’s forehead are poor substitutes.

  • davidleeking

    Great comments, all!

    Meredith – I agree – the focus should be on your library’s local community, 100%. I also don’t think most libraries are in touch with their communities as a whole. Yes, they’re in touch with the people that visit the physical library – the ones checking out books. How about the rest? How about the non-library users in their communities? Why aren’t they library users, and what do they want to do?

    Which I know you agree with… just sayin.

    John – I noticed some misinterpretation too, which is what got my dander up enough to post. I love it when you think out loud – that’s useful stuff!

    So – how DO we start to “understand what imbues a 2.0 initiative with success”?

    Jeff – Well… you DID misquote John as saying that… which is why I posted to clarify.

    If nobody goes to your MySpace page, does it mean no one cares about it, or does it mean the library has done a terrible job of getting the word out? For most US communities, I’d guess the latter.

    And just to be complete – Royce and Darren, you both ROCK :-)

  • davidleeking

    Great comments, all!

    Meredith – I agree – the focus should be on your library’s local community, 100%. I also don’t think most libraries are in touch with their communities as a whole. Yes, they’re in touch with the people that visit the physical library – the ones checking out books. How about the rest? How about the non-library users in their communities? Why aren’t they library users, and what do they want to do?

    Which I know you agree with… just sayin.

    John – I noticed some misinterpretation too, which is what got my dander up enough to post. I love it when you think out loud – that’s useful stuff!

    So – how DO we start to “understand what imbues a 2.0 initiative with success”?

    Jeff – Well… you DID misquote John as saying that… which is why I posted to clarify.

    If nobody goes to your MySpace page, does it mean no one cares about it, or does it mean the library has done a terrible job of getting the word out? For most US communities, I’d guess the latter.

    And just to be complete – Royce and Darren, you both ROCK :-)

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  • 2.0?

    I’m noticing more than ever that we are conflating “Library 2.0″ with “library uses of Web 2.0″. Library 2.0 is this, yes, but also gaming, embracing alternatives to physical formats, friendlier signage, and the general application of “perpetual beta” to any library activity. No? Am I the only one who thought this?

  • 2.0?

    I’m noticing more than ever that we are conflating “Library 2.0″ with “library uses of Web 2.0″. Library 2.0 is this, yes, but also gaming, embracing alternatives to physical formats, friendlier signage, and the general application of “perpetual beta” to any library activity. No? Am I the only one who thought this?

  • davidleeking

    Hey, 2.0 – I’d agree with you. This discussion has pretty much centered on the web 2.0 activities in libraries. Though I’d surmise that not everyone agrees what library 2.0 is – some limit it to just web 2.0 activities, others include the stuff you did (I’d lean more towards your side).

    I’m thinking my next blog post might have to do directly with marketing (not that I know anything about it). For me, a no-brainer library 2.0 activity would be to agressively market library databases outside the library walls, in the community – the whole targeted thing. That would be a very new, unusual, L2.0-ish thing for many libraries.

  • davidleeking

    Hey, 2.0 – I’d agree with you. This discussion has pretty much centered on the web 2.0 activities in libraries. Though I’d surmise that not everyone agrees what library 2.0 is – some limit it to just web 2.0 activities, others include the stuff you did (I’d lean more towards your side).

    I’m thinking my next blog post might have to do directly with marketing (not that I know anything about it). For me, a no-brainer library 2.0 activity would be to agressively market library databases outside the library walls, in the community – the whole targeted thing. That would be a very new, unusual, L2.0-ish thing for many libraries.

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  • Some Guy

    “How about the non-library users in their communities? Why aren’t they library users, and what do they want to do?”

    We asked them.

    We sent out 1000 surveys to registered voters in our service area and got over 450 back. Short version: 90% like what we do, but 33% never use the library and never will.

    BUT THEY STILL RETURNED THE SURVEY and gave us mostly positive marks.

    They know very well what we do, its just not for them. What’s wrong with that? We can’t do everything. Why commit huge fractions of our resources (hiring a whole marketing department, more newsletters, advertising, loaning out cars) to convince them and move that fraction to 25%, let alone 30%?

    We provide the best programs, collections and services we can. We provide more of those that get the best response.

    But we can’t do everything. We only have so much time and money. And if our patrons don’t WANT it? So far, they haven’t been complaining that we don’t have a branch in Second Life — most of our patrons are still trying to figure out how to get their margins right.

    I’m a non softball, soccer, etc. player but I don’t want the city rec department to cut its budget in half or try to woo me with “reading parks” or something.

  • Some Guy

    “How about the non-library users in their communities? Why aren’t they library users, and what do they want to do?”

    We asked them.

    We sent out 1000 surveys to registered voters in our service area and got over 450 back. Short version: 90% like what we do, but 33% never use the library and never will.

    BUT THEY STILL RETURNED THE SURVEY and gave us mostly positive marks.

    They know very well what we do, its just not for them. What’s wrong with that? We can’t do everything. Why commit huge fractions of our resources (hiring a whole marketing department, more newsletters, advertising, loaning out cars) to convince them and move that fraction to 25%, let alone 30%?

    We provide the best programs, collections and services we can. We provide more of those that get the best response.

    But we can’t do everything. We only have so much time and money. And if our patrons don’t WANT it? So far, they haven’t been complaining that we don’t have a branch in Second Life — most of our patrons are still trying to figure out how to get their margins right.

    I’m a non softball, soccer, etc. player but I don’t want the city rec department to cut its budget in half or try to woo me with “reading parks” or something.

  • davidleeking

    Some Guy: Agreed – some people will simply not want to participate in any way, shape, or form. But I wouldn’t focus on Second Life – I’d focus on your basic library databases (ie., ProQuest). I’m guessing your library has some, and probably pay a good amount of money for them every year.

    Do your customers know about them? Do the businesses in your area know about them? Does the Chamber of Commerce know about them? How about the schools/colleges in the area? And if not… do you have a plan to introduce those groups to your databases (that doesn’t involve a bookmark at the circ desk)?

    Just some questions I’m thinking about lately…

  • davidleeking

    Some Guy: Agreed – some people will simply not want to participate in any way, shape, or form. But I wouldn’t focus on Second Life – I’d focus on your basic library databases (ie., ProQuest). I’m guessing your library has some, and probably pay a good amount of money for them every year.

    Do your customers know about them? Do the businesses in your area know about them? Does the Chamber of Commerce know about them? How about the schools/colleges in the area? And if not… do you have a plan to introduce those groups to your databases (that doesn’t involve a bookmark at the circ desk)?

    Just some questions I’m thinking about lately…

  • http://www.reddinet.co.uk/ Internet Research

    I like the analogy of being the hammer. Sometimes we do sit there looking to find the nail we can hit. But sometimes you need to hammer in a screw or the triangle into the circle hole.. It dosn’t always fit perfectly but you get it in there.. maybe a little shifted and broken, but we need to be able to apply ourselves to all situations.

  • http://www.reddinet.co.uk Internet Research

    I like the analogy of being the hammer. Sometimes we do sit there looking to find the nail we can hit. But sometimes you need to hammer in a screw or the triangle into the circle hole.. It dosn’t always fit perfectly but you get it in there.. maybe a little shifted and broken, but we need to be able to apply ourselves to all situations.

  • http://www.myrcpl.com/ Scottie

    Some “social initiatives” are gimmicky fluff, unfortunately. While you still have to try some things and get out of your comfort zone, I think you also have to have not just end results in mind, but you have to think through the process.

    How will this work? is easy enough to determine.

    What will make people want to do this? is much more abstract.

    Social tagging is a concept that’s not intuitive for the average user. Teens, sure. But teens are out tagging content on social networks, not coming to the library to go through the catalog and tag things.

    The hard part soemtimes is knowing when to stick with it and when to move on and try something else.

    I’d guess you didn’t stick with this blog for 4 years specifically hoping for measurable results- you did it because you enjoy it and feel compelled to share info with the rest of the community. It works because it’s nurtured and has time devoted to it, etc.

    Many people install social networking applications and – without marketing them or doing much more than posting a notice in the “news” section- expect patrons to start using them. What reason do we give patrons to use something like tagging?

    If we’ve built a community of discussions and threads and interactions where people want to do more to develop the content, that’s when tagging can work. But we seem to be putting the cart before the horse in a lot of instances.

    [quote]For me, a no-brainer library 2.0 activity would be to agressively market library databases outside the library walls, in the community – the whole targeted thing. That would be a very new, unusual, L2.0-ish thing for many libraries.[/quote]

    I am 100% with you here! I’m amazed that even people who work in our libraries aren’t aware of the resources we offer.

    But we can’t just send the message “We have databases.” For the average patron, that means nothing.

    I’m thinking of a series of articles (promoted to the local media) that each focus on a different database, what’s contained in it and how it can be used.

    I just have to convince my PR department to get on board… ;)

  • http://www.myrcpl.com Scottie

    Some “social initiatives” are gimmicky fluff, unfortunately. While you still have to try some things and get out of your comfort zone, I think you also have to have not just end results in mind, but you have to think through the process.

    How will this work? is easy enough to determine.

    What will make people want to do this? is much more abstract.

    Social tagging is a concept that’s not intuitive for the average user. Teens, sure. But teens are out tagging content on social networks, not coming to the library to go through the catalog and tag things.

    The hard part soemtimes is knowing when to stick with it and when to move on and try something else.

    I’d guess you didn’t stick with this blog for 4 years specifically hoping for measurable results- you did it because you enjoy it and feel compelled to share info with the rest of the community. It works because it’s nurtured and has time devoted to it, etc.

    Many people install social networking applications and – without marketing them or doing much more than posting a notice in the “news” section- expect patrons to start using them. What reason do we give patrons to use something like tagging?

    If we’ve built a community of discussions and threads and interactions where people want to do more to develop the content, that’s when tagging can work. But we seem to be putting the cart before the horse in a lot of instances.

    [quote]For me, a no-brainer library 2.0 activity would be to agressively market library databases outside the library walls, in the community – the whole targeted thing. That would be a very new, unusual, L2.0-ish thing for many libraries.[/quote]

    I am 100% with you here! I’m amazed that even people who work in our libraries aren’t aware of the resources we offer.

    But we can’t just send the message “We have databases.” For the average patron, that means nothing.

    I’m thinking of a series of articles (promoted to the local media) that each focus on a different database, what’s contained in it and how it can be used.

    I just have to convince my PR department to get on board… ;)

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  • http://www.socialnetworkinglibrarian.com/ AnnaLaura Brown

    what a great post. This hits the issues with library 2.0 right on the head.

  • http://www.socialnetworkinglibrarian.com AnnaLaura Brown

    what a great post. This hits the issues with library 2.0 right on the head.

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  • http://www.blyberg.net/ John

    David,
    I have noticed that my post has been interpreted at an admission that L2 is a failure. That's not at all what I meant to suggest, and I think you articulate that very well. I don't think I ever said that Library 2.0 “didn't work out” as Jeff Scott claims. On the contrary–it's infused the profession with just the sort of agitation it needs.

    There are probably more factors that go into the success and failure of a particular social networking endeavor that we can possibly understand at this point and, as Meredith points out, it's not always a lack of marketing impetus. But the fact that we don't understand what imbues a 2.0 initiative with success only tells me that we have more to learn. And we can only learn by doing and sharing, openly, our successes and failures. A fundamental charge of the Library 2.0 discourse is for libraries and librarians to understand the relationship our users have with information so that we can help them along in their endeavors.

    Like you said, David, we are dealing with people, but we are dealing with technology as well, it's just that the human connection is the technology's payload. Library reference had traditionally been about the vehicle and the destination (the book and the fact), now we're seeing more people come in to the library in search of the vehicle, the journey, and fellow travelers–they're not overly concerned with where they're going.