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?

What’s a Content Curator?

good bookRohit Bhargava, blogger at the Influential Marketing Blog and author of Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How Great Brands Get it Back, just posted Manifesto For The Content Curator: The Next Big Social Media Job Of The Future? You should go read it.

Rohit explains that a “Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.” OK – you and I both know these exist already, right? That’s what librarians do … especially special librarians in corporations (well, those that have them, anyway). But do they really?

Read Rohit’s job description for this person – it’s a bit different than your ordinary librarian job:

In the near future, experts predict that content on the web will double every 72 hours. The detached analysis of an algorithm will no longer be enough to find what we are looking for. To satisfy the people’s hunger for great content on any topic imaginable, there will need to be a new category of individual working online. Someone whose job it is not to create more content, but to make sense of all the content that others are creating. To find the best and most relevant content and bring it forward. The people who choose to take on this role will be known as Content Curators. The future of the social web will be driven by these Content Curators, who take it upon themselves to collect and share the best content online for others to consume and take on the role of citizen editors, publishing highly valuable compilations of content created by others. In time, these curators will bring more utility and order to the social web. In doing so, they will help to add a voice and point of view to organizations and companies that can connect them with customers – creating an entirely new dialogue based on valued content rather than just brand created marketing messages.

What do you think? Are librarians doing this now? Yes, we are for print stuff – we have that down pretty well. But how about for online & social media content? I don’t think so. I don’t think ANYONE has this nailed yet!

Thoughts? Share on my blog or on Rohit’s way-cool blog.

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.

Ignoring our Digital Community

Lately, I’ve been hearing librarians say some interesting things about incorporating emerging online trends into their already hectic work lives. They’ll say “wow, this is cool” when I give a presentation – but when implementation time arrives – when these busy people actually need to start incorporating some of these new things into their work day, here’s what I sometimes hear (warning – simulations of real stuff I hear):

“we don’t have time to write blog posts – we’re busy serving customers” or “I’m extremely busy answering real patron questions all day long, so I don’t have time left to [fill in the blank with a 2.0 tool]”

I understand what they’re saying. It’s difficult to believe this new-fangled, 2.0-ish stuff is relevant when you are sitting at a busy service desk with a line 20 people deep, or when you have waiting lists for computer use. Library 2.0 is about building community? Visit a public library branch any day to see community building in action. Attend a program, join the bookclub, participate in an adult literacy or ESL program as a volunteer tutor or learner. That’s community building. Sometimes, emerging 2.0 tools and services seem to get in the way of all this busy, real-time activity already taking place.

Ok, wait a sec. This is davidleeking dot com we’re reading, right?

Yep… I see a small problem in the stuff I just said. Most of our library communities have a quickly-growing number of library customers that are actively participating in the emerging web – they are already creating content, participating, and interacting – with each other and with the companies and products they use. They are your library’s digital community.

The problem? We don’t have anything for our library’s digital community to do! OCLC‘s recent report, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World says this about our physical libraries: “Offline, libraries are vibrant social spaces. They are hubs of community activities and provide a venue for open exchange and dialogue” (8-5). But online? How many libraries can say they provide “vibrant social spaces,” hubs of community activity” or “a venue for open exchange and dialogue” in our digital spaces? Not too many.

Why is this? I think we’re simply not focusing on that growing digital community. Yes, we ARE focusing on customers (that’s a good thing)… but many of us are only focusing on our library’s regular in-house customers (that’s a bad thing). It’s quite possible that by focusing primarily on library customers who visit the physical library, we are ignoring our growing digital population.

Let me use my library as an example. We certainly get our fair share of traditional walk-in customers – our parking lot is ALWAYS FULL. But we also have a huge number of digital customers. Remember what we do with holds? We mail them out – you never have to physically visit our library to check out a book (cool, huh?).

Those items our customers are putting on hold come from our digital community – most likely customers who used our online library catalog from home or work. That’s just one example of living, breathing members of our digital community using our digital library. And they are a growing digital community. What else do we offer them? Thankfully in my library’s case, quite a lot currently (with more to come next year).

Let’s develop this a little further by perusing OCLC’s report a little more. OCLC provides some amazing insight into our growing digital communities:

  • “The vast majority (89%) of the 6,163 general public respondents have been using the Internet for four years or more” (page 7-1) [update – Michelle reminded me that OCLC surveyed online users… the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research shows that 73% of the US are Internet users, for what it’s worth)
  • “The majority of the online population surveyed have moved from “digital immigrant” status to fully naturalized digital citizens. Nearly two-thirds of the general public respondents over the age of 50 have been online for seven years or more, and nearly a third have been using the Internet for more than 10 years” (page 7-1)
  • “The Web community has migrated from using the Internet to building it.” (7-1)

Did you hear that? Most A majority of our library customers have used the web for at least 4 years. And most of those customers (read the report for the stats) have grown beyond simple clicking and surfing… they are interacting, creating, and participating… at other websites.

The gist of the report is this – the web has moved on, and libraries need to catch up. “To entice users to the online library, libraries must expand their social activities, allowing users to easily share and create content and collaborate with others. They must build a high-value presence on the Web, a strong enough brand to compete…” (8-5).

First steps? Stop ignoring your library’s rapidly-growing digital community. They might not be current users of your physical library – how can you reach them? What do you have to offer them? Can you offer them something that would keep them coming back for more?

I think so.

Information Tomorrow has finally arrived!

Information tomorrow: reflections on technology and the future of public and academic librariesCool beans! Rachel Singer Gordon’s newest book, Information Tomorrow: Reflections on Technology and the Future of Public and Academic Libraries, just came out. I know, because I received a copy in the mail today.

And why did I receive a copy? Because I wrote one of the chapters! My chapter is chapter 10, An Experience to Remember: Building Positive Experiences on Library Web Sites. It’s about… you guessed it… experience design and library websites. If you read the chapter and still want more, never fear – I’m 2/3’s of the way through a whole book on the topic. So hold on to those longings :-)

But please don’t stop at my little chapter! There are a bundle of amazing authors in this book, including:

  • Stephen Abram
  • Lori Bell
  • Steven J. Bell
  • John Blyberg
  • Robert Bocher
  • Daniel Chudnov
  • Jill Emery
  • Meredith G. Farkas
  • Megan K. Fox
  • Beth Gallaway
  • Joseph Janes
  • David Lee King
  • Jenny Levine
  • Tom Peters
  • Dorothea Salo
  • John D. Shank
  • Michael Stephens
  • Rhonda B. Trueman
  • Jessamyn West
  • Alane Wilson

Wow – just wow. I’m thrilled to see my name in this smorgasboard of emerging library delight.