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?