Have We Emerged Yet?

budAndy at the Agnostic, Maybe blog (you are reading Andy’s blog, right? Good stuff there) recently posted Deconstructing Library 2.0 – and asked some good questions (I left a couple of comments).

Jenny Levine at The Shifted Librarian responded with a whole blog post (yay! Jenny posted! Jenny posted!). I almost responded in her comments, but needed some more time to process my thoughts. I’m not sure they’re processed yet. But I’ll throw this out – maybe y’all can help, and add to the discussion!

I’ll start us off with some observations from Jenny’s post. She quotes Andrew Burkhardt at the Information Tyrannosaur blog (yet another interesting blog to read) who said “The time has come for libraries to be social on the web. Social is the new normal. It has become mainstream and people expect it. Library 2.0 is not dead, it has just become boring and commonplace. And to quote Clay Shirky, “tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

Then Jenny goes on to say this: “The hard part, though, is that Library 2.0 doesn’t really replace anything … the opportunities these new tools afford us are in addition to everything we’re already doing, which causes problems, because we don’t get additional resources to implement them … That means being out in your community physically and digitally …”

My question is – are we there yet? I don’t think so. Remember my recent Facebook post? I pointed out that successful library Facebook Pages have staff members actively pushing out content and participating with their users in Facebook. There were some shining examples, and there were some, for all practical purposes, dead pages, too. Maybe those libraries ran into Jenny’s reality of Facebook being “… in addition to everything we’re already doing, which causes problems, because we don’t get additional resources” … so they dropped they thing they didn’t find to be important.

Or maybe, for those libraries, the technology has not yet “become boring and [more likely] commonplace.”

Here’s what I’m noticing when I speak at a library staff day event. I’m usually brought in to speak about “emerging trends and transformations” (translation – web 2.0 tools, services, and underlying philosophies). At these libraries, there’s usually a small cluster of staff that “get it” and are glad I’m there. There’s also usually a couple of staff that think that I’m somehow ignoring the digital divide, forgetting about people who need reading glasses, or even making library services tough for old and poor people.

Then there’s everyone else. For the most part, this larger group hasn’t really adapted to emerging tools, services, or philosophies (but are very willing to learn and to experiment). This is where the new stuff isn’t yet commonplace. For example, maybe some of them have personal Facebook profiles, and use them to reconnect with high school buddies, or maybe their daughter who lives out of state. But when I introduce them to using an organizational Facebook Page to connect with their community – to “be the library” to those people, in that digital space … well, that’s a whole different enchilada.

It’s the very same reaction that some staff might have if they were told to get out of the building, attend a local community focus group … and represent the library while there. It’s different like that … in the same way.

So, my tally on the good stuff mentioned in those posts:

  • “The time has come for libraries to be social on the web” – Yes, definitely.
  • “Social … has become mainstream and people expect it.” Yes and no. A growing segment of our community DOES expect it – but maybe not our traditional “regulars” who visit our physical spaces.
  • “Library 2.0 doesn’t really replace anything … the opportunities … are in addition to everything we’re already doing” – Yes, definitely.

Emerging = growing pains. For many of us, I think that’s where we are right now. We are emerging in many ways, and will continue to do so. But that emerging thing brings a lot of growing pains with it – new things to learn, new priorities, new philosophies to adapt to our organizations, new jobs being created to meet new needs.

Yay! and Ouch! at the same time. What do you think?

  • http://www.buttepubliclibrary.info/ Catherine McMullen

    Yes, dealing with this issue too. Social web is a “plus” not an “instead of.” It's a way to reach possibly a new group of patrons not the same patrons (or maybe the same patrons in a different way).
    I was contacted this week by one of the largest libraries in our state wanting to jump into 2.0. I'm excited to hear that but I was contacted by a volunteer not a staff member, and one of the biggest concerns was how much time would this take and what will the library do when the volunteer is done volunteering. Valid concerns but the project is being viewed as an add-on not a part of regular library services.
    I'm going to be talking to librarians next Friday about HOW to set up 2.0 accounts for their libraries but I think the WHY especially the WHY should we is so important.
    You need buy-in and support from staff on all levels to make it work.

    I think being social on the web is quickly going to be just like providing services over the phone. Answering the phone isn't an add-on or handled by a special committee at your library. It's part of communicating with patrons and providing services, an everyday part of the job.

  • pollyalida

    Absolutely agree. I see the same split of groups when I speak and train. But I do see much more acceptance now too. As we see these tools and ideas barreling into the larger culture around us, more and more people are eager to experiment and are open to exploring how libraries might use these tools. I also try to steer clear of the “library 2.0” label now and talk about outreach, being where our customers are, response to customer 'wants & needs' and ways to help us do our own work more efficiently.

    When library 2.0 inevitably gets mentioned, I just say it's what, at our best, libraries have always tried to do, meet their community's needs in as responsive a way as possible, using whatever tools they have at their disposal. 20 years ago that meant learning to incorporate email into our workstream, many argued against that (I remember those arguments and policy setting sessions all too well!). I suspect that telephone met with similar arguments. But I'm not quite old enough to remember that one. :)

    Regardless, I think the Library 2.0 “movement” re-energized our community and got people thinking about what libraries will have to do to adapt to the changes in the world around us. And unfortunately it also caused some real backlash by those who thought they were being told they had to implement every shiny new tool just to be cool, which was never the message. Change will never happen as fast as some of us want it to, but it will happen. We just need to keep listening and sharing and talking.

  • beccalovesbooks

    Great post David! My thoughts – I see more of the “everyone else” category. My simple question is…how do we bridge the gap and bring “everyone else” over to our side?

    Maybe this is utopia, but shouldn't libraries, before venturing out into the social atmosphere, be 100% on board with all members of the staff? If it's going to work, there needs to be support from fellow staff members and everyone should see the importance.

    So, I ask again…how do we bridge the gap?
    (I think I need to start blogging again and writing these thoughts down)

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  • taxonomylady

    When I teach on these topics, I see a lot of wavering between creating a committee to determine if they should/want to incorporate “Library 2.0” into their services and the “just do it” mentality. I try for the middle ground. These tools seem simple enough in the beginning, but to use them effectively to build and engage community requires effort and know-how. Sometimes it is better to do nothing, than to do something poorly. Lack of followers or engagement can be used to justify why “library 2.0” is a waste of time by staff (or peers at other institutions) who never though it was a good idea in the first place. Furthermore, these tools reflect the library brand. If you're never updating your Facebook Page or your Twitter account, what does that say about the rest of the library's services? Will people wonder if you have new books? Will they think you're not paying attention to them, to trends, to technology?

    The good news is that there is no right answer. There is no magic number of posts that one should make, or tools that must be used. Everyone is experimenting right now, including the corporate world (who typically adopt emerging technologies more quickly than libraries).

    My advice? Start small, start with a goal, and define your measure of success. Without purpose, it's just play.

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    The time has come for libraries to be social on the web. Social is the new normal. It has become mainstream and people expect it. Library 2.0 is not dead, it has just become boring and commonplace.