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.

LITA’s Top Tech Trends

Tags: #ttt09 #toptech #ala2009

Livestream was at – – check it out after the fact!

Clifford Lynch, John Blyberg, Roy Tennant, Joan Frye Williams, Eric Lease Morgan, Geert van de Boogaard

Mobile Computing:

  • John: mobile devices, etc have already outstripped normal PCs. We are comfortable with ultra-mobile devices. Next step is what does that mean and how does it affect us
  • Geert: Lots of challenges for libraries. You can make an iphone app. Delft is making their own download station for mobile devices
  • Joan: transformatin, not information, is the point. The way stuff is delivered will change – but being engaged with people won’t change. Public libraries are delivering experiences far more than information
  • Roy: isn’t throwing either his iphone or laptop away – uses both for different purposes.
  • Joan: a transformation – Palmer House Hilton doesn’t have free wifi – Joan will never stay there again.
  • Clifford: computation is moving off devices & into the cloud. The CLoud is still new – what are we going to put there, what are we comfortable with, etc…
  • Eric: use different devices for different purposes
  • John: look at mobile & computing devices from the point of view of how they’re being used by people. We already rely of third-party systems – right now, they’re just locally-based. It’s no different than storing info in the cloud.
  • Geert: mobile devices – use it to consume culture. You can do alot with designing for mobile.

Open Everything:

  • Eric: Temper the notion of free everything with a little reality. Some orgs will want more control. It’s not one or the other – it’s a both/and. There will always be a market for selling stuff, others will put it out for free – there will be a balance.
  • Joan: doesn’t think the markets will be the libraries – the markets will be the end users. They are less fussy. EBSCO underwrites NPR! SOme companies are moving away from us, and going directly to the end user.
  • John: yes but. That’s currently where the focus is. But … we’re building our front-end tools on the back-end of tools that haven’t been updated in a long time.
  • Geert: in 10 years… you have an easy way to build and distribute software ie Apple’s App store. Get users or 3rd parties to develop simple software to serve people’s needs – could be a good model for the future.
  • Roy: Pretty much agrees with Eric.
  • Clifford: sorry – Clifford’s talking, but I’m not getting it. Something about scholarly publishing

Now a lightening talk section – each speaker is going to talk for 3-5 minutes


  • opportunity in library land to explore humanities to a greater degree.
  • Think about generating computing power in new ways. Using the heat generated from a PC to heat a greenhouse… hmm…
  • and other stuff


  • sense-making is important
  • Following on Twitter is a good verb
  • using tools to construct narrative from shorter snippets of info
  • quick response tags – the b-tags. Point of need info.
  • learning snacks. Doesn’t demand a lot of the user’s time, but gives them what they need – an immersive but brief experience
  • People used to go online – now they just are online


  • looking backwards …
  • Codec Synt… that old Bible that’s online. Reconstructed virtually, spanning multiple libraries. This type of thing can get more interesting in scholarly work
  • Bandwidth is becoming a problem… (I think it’s always been a problem, but whatever). More video, more cloud, etc.
  • continued sudden implosion of stuff under current economic situation. (ok – Clifford didn’t say “stuff”).


  • Future of journalism & what that means for libraries and users.
  • opportunity for libraries to get involved in the process.
  • idea of intense rapid trending. ie., twitter trending. Iran elections and twitter. Saw the extremism/rioting take place … but it wasn’t just the iranians saying it – it was the world – because that’s how the tool works. Influence of the crowd isn’t always a good thing.
  • Started to engage the end user from an experience design viewpoint. Used to use the term customer service. Now discussions are around experience design. And it’s moving from online experience design to offline experience design.


  • research what the user is doing and where’s he getting it. in US people are using media 6-8 hours a day. You need to get a picture of where the user is getting and using media…. get a picture of it, then translate it back to your building, your library
  • digitization of cultural heritage. Huge collections, powerful stuff – big challenge for libraries getting that cool stuff online
  • peer-to-peer downloading. doesn’t know of a library that’s getting into this. That’s where our users are getting content … so we should be there too.


  • The flow: being in the flow (like Twitter). It’s gone in a month or so. Email has a flow, but it gets trapped in ponds (folders, inboxes). Twitter is just gone. How do you study the flow of info, for example with twitter and the Iran elections?
  • The cloud: just another round between centralized and decentralized computing. There used to be mainframes … in a way, they’re coming back via a cloud. For libraries – alot of our server rooms will be going away. We’ll have a shift in staffing. More IT staff will move into public services, since we won’t have to have server rooms.
  • The rain: tough economic times. Force really tough decisions with resource allocations. Make the hard decisions, not the easy ones. Easy but bad – 15% cuts across the organization. Harder but better – do strategic reshifting of staff and budgets. Be prepared for when we come out of the finance hole.

Semantic web:

  • Roy: thinks it’s a bit much. Linked data – that’s a better concept. Do the little things that haven’t really been done yet.

Revitalizing the Library Experience – ALA2009

Speakers – Joan Frye Williams and George Needham

The Classic Objections:
– it will never work
– we tried that…
– our patrons etc won’t like it ..
– etc

Stop thinking of the Library Experience as the library experience. When we talk about that, we usually focus on what we do.

They’ve visited lots of libraries, and found out there’s not often a true customer focus.

We need to think more about what the user does, and who they are!

Joan mentioned TSCPL! They love our mission statement – “you know us, and we know you.” (cool – I wrote that part :-)

Being held back by confidentiality – we often go for ignorance & call it privacy and confidentiality

The independent user is invisible to us.

Re-imagine the user experience!!! Yes. The experience belongs to the user.

If we imagine the user as our audience, we get mad when they don’t applaud us. Interesting thought…

Patrons should start feeling successful right when they walk into the library – just like when they use google (ie., there’s no user manual for google)

situational signage

Shouldn’t have to use our jargon just to get started (hmm… databases fails here…)

Environments that learn from and adapt to the user is the right way to go

New ways to experience library service – layered services. A way to unfold what the library offers

Time: layer services depending on how much time the patron has
Ex – quick start guide vs complete manuals
So – set up libraries for both the “I have no time” patron tot he “I can spend a day here” patron

Place: layer services by place.
– the users aren’t remote – the services are.
– the library experience takes place outside the library.
– all social networking, web, etc certainly does. iPhone apps, Facebook are examples
– Showing barcodes on signs – scan it with phone, get local info – b-tags.
– me – could you set up a b-tag for a “fact of the day” and put it in a park/mall/on the street/in a school? Hmm…

Make sure it’s always about them, never about us

First Impressions:
– how does your place look on a first impression?
– how many of you use the same doors/bathrooms as the patron?

Get out from behind the desk

Org chart/service points – circ desk, ref desk, etc. For the patron, it’s all part of the same story.

First point of contact – driving around building, walking into the library, etc. Who does the intercept? Usually the shelver.
– deploy staff around the library, standing up – you will increase the number of interactions
– make this intercept so that everyone, building, etc can make that intercept universal

Triage – figuring out some choice to make.
– we act as if we are the arbiters of triage (ie., the reference interview). Instead, most people do this themselves. You watch the other people instead of talking to staff. It HAS to be self-service.

I have a stupid question… translation – your library, setup, etc  just made someone feel stupid. Not a good thing.

Outcomes: When a patron needs to use a computer to do a job search, the goal isn’t to find a guide or do a job search … it’s to find a job.

Patrons are looking for staff that want to enter into their success…
– gave an example of an academic library – student said here’s what you do – find a librarian you can work with, who seems to care, and they will help you ace any class. Didn’t say they will help you find a book… They are looking for success, and we need to set up our libraries that way.

Main goal – get people to come back – it’s all about relationships… not stuff.

Revitalize your point of view.

“Libraries are at a crossroads” – actually, everyone’s at a crossroads. Successful libraries help guide people through their crossroads. There are a lot of common ones – ie., birth, marriage, divorce, retirement, getting a job, etc.

Wane Gretsky – “I don’t skate to the puck, I state to where the puck is going to be.” Libraries can do this, too – we know some common transformations/crossroads – so how can we be there at those crossroads for them?

Communication of meaning – that’s the business we’re in. Google can’t do this. We should be building this across the community. It’s not transactional, it’s not about the stuff. The setup of transformation is a heck of a job to be in.

Staff is also at a crossroads:
– start treating people like they’re smart and independent.
– presumption of innocence – don’t defend against potential disaster.
– the reference desk – feels like the seat of shame.
– respect and remember their preferences.
– look for ways to say yes.

Give respect and get respect – you have to treat every connection as if it has a transformative potential.

The library experience has that long, transformative view. It’s not about the transaction.