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David Lee King

Starter questions for Ultimate Debate 2009



I participated in a panel at ALA2009 with some cool people called The Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 Fulfilled its Promise? It was fun! I was sent “starter questions” beforehand – and of course, since this was a live discussion, we hit them in different ways.

I thought you might find my “starter answers” interesting, so here they are:

What does Library 2.0 mean to you?

How am I supposed to answer that? It means … “a job!” I usually say it’s two things: 1. web 2.0, as it affects libraries; and 2. some of the underlying philosophies of web 2.0, but applied to non-techie things in a library. Ideas like patron-centered change and participation in the creation of content and community. Doing things a different, non-librarian way would be included here. Things like getting rid of Dewey.

What are we trying to solve with these technologies?

Connecting with community online. Old style websites connected patrons to info. 2.0 sites still do that, but also let you: interact with the content; interact with the creator of that content; and interact with staff and other patrons. It’s sorta like … visiting the library. For real. You can actually “do stuff” there. For me, that’s the goal – when you visit my library’s website, you should be visiting the library. I look at 2.0 tools as helping us get there.

Will these technologies help libraries or are they just hype?

None of the major, popular tools are hype in and of themselves, I don’t think. Yes, they can be HYPED, but they’re not hype. Facebook and twitter being mentioned on Oprah and Conan O’Brien? Hype. Me conducting real business using those tools? Not hype.

Which libraries are leading the way in implementing 2.0 technologies?

TSCPL! Darien Library. Lots of other libraries doing parts and pieces of this…

Are there particular types of libraries (academic, school, etc) that are more involved?

Not sure there’s a more/less involved thing. But it’s different angles to similar problems. Public libraries are doing a lot with blogs for public consumption, and doing a lot with IM reference and gaming. I know academic libraries are focused on making courseware more social … not sure I really know if there’s larger emphases in general with academic libraries or special libraries (would love for someone to chime in here!). There are a TON of tools, and everyone’s using them in a different way, to meet different goals.

Do these technologies make the most sense for a particular user base? Who is best served by them?

Particular user base? Not really – it’s more a specific skill-level base, which stretches across many user bases. Please no one tell me that you should use Facebook to attract college students … my MOM is is a big-time gamer on Facebook, for peet’s sake! There are national demographics you can look at – so more younger than older, but that’s changing.

“Who is best served by them” – figure out what target audiences YOU want to reach, then match the tool to the group. Young professionals? Twitter and Facebook. 35-year old moms? Facebook. Want more interaction on your website, more community interaction? Blogs and people who have computers!

Where is the profession in adopting 2.0 technologies?

We’re all across the board. There’s people like the ones giving this presentation … and there are librarians that would rather not ever touch a computer, let alone a cell phone. Poll – how many people don’t know how to send a text message on your phone (ok – this works better in a presentation than in my blog… I know ALL my readers can send text messages … right?)? How many KNOW of someone you work with that can’t do that? … and txt messaging is one of the older 2.0 technologies.

What are the barriers we face?

Staff not wanting to change and staff not leading the way. I know an urban public library where the web guy and the director want to do things, but they say “our staff won’t buy that.” Do you hear that? They’re letting the staff control what happens… even though they’re in a hip college town.

Wrong thinking about patrons. Librarians tell me – “oh, our patrons don’t do that.” But then, I find out that they’re only talking about “the regulars.” You know, those 100 or so people that you know by name, that use your services heavily every day. We have those. We also did a GIS studay, and found out our biggest potential growth segment in Shawnee county are the upper middle class types who live outside of the city. Many of them aren’t yet our patrons. We need to be asking THEM what they want … not the people coming in the door every day.

Why are some libraries not having success implementing 2.0 technologies?

Didn’t set strategy and goals.
didn’t assign more than 1-2 people to do it
didn’t focus on a target audience
Considered it “extra work”
Wasn’t part of their annual review
wasn’t a priority for individual/for the library

Or… poor content. Can’t write well = no one’s going to read your blog

Are Library 2.0 technologies worth it?

YES. Is having multiple daily conversations with your community worth it? Is answering real questions of your patrons worth it? Is allowing your patrons to add their own thoughts and creativity to something worth it? How about having a new, fairly inexpensive service point/branch? YES.

What aspects/technologies are most or least worth the time to implement?

Really depends on the organization and the customers you’re aiming at. This is key. Example – Is txt msg reference service to senior citizens worth it? Probably not.

What is more hype than substance?

Again, nothing’s hype in and of itself. Ashton Kutcher is hype. Twitter is not.

What is one 2.0 technology you would suggest to libraries?

Two things: What’s new blog. Facebook Page.

What’s next after 2.0?

Nirvana. Joke! Seriously…
– becoming ubiquitous. More people reading RSS feeds … when the print newspapers all disappear sooner than we all think. You’ll want to figure out RSS then, to save the reader’s time.
– Becoming easier. Video on the web – 4 years ago, it was pretty advanced stuff. Today, it’s a Flip camera and youtube. Simple.
– A lot more crazy change. I don’t think we’ve hit the peak yet in terms of technology changes. I think the rollercoaster’s just starting up the hill.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • academic liberrian

    Interesting that your barriers are so opposite ours – “Staff not wanting to change and staff not leading the way.” We have staff who teach 2.0 tools outside, not allowed to use them (well). Barrier for us is fear of loss of control by IT managers and unwillingness to dilute our image by having content on 3rd party sites with different domains. We seem to have no problem having licensed content there, why not services?

  • academic liberrian

    Interesting that your barriers are so opposite ours – “Staff not wanting to change and staff not leading the way.” We have staff who teach 2.0 tools outside, not allowed to use them (well). Barrier for us is fear of loss of control by IT managers and unwillingness to dilute our image by having content on 3rd party sites with different domains. We seem to have no problem having licensed content there, why not services?

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