Beta Post

On with an IUL2.0 post, this time on the subject of Library 2.0. This post is more of a rant than a discussion- hence, a beta post.

True, it’s been almost two years since I’ve worked in public services but working with teens in a very small public library taught me two things:

  1. patrons (whether 15 and blue-haired or 55 and clean-shaven) are extremely resourceful
  2. as a librarian, I need to learn how to anticipate patron’s needs (patrons certainly give me plenty of material to learn from!)

One quote that I thought thoroughly exemplified Library 2.0 came from Chip Nilges’ article, “To more powerful ways to cooperate,” in which he quoted Tim O’Reilly as stating, “users add value.” Content is being created at an alarming rate and our patrons seem to be the largest contributors. They are creating artwork, writing blogs, presenting research, and authoring programs. And our users are clever. They are excellent self-promoters and they are not content to merely find an outlet to archive their work. They are tagging, sharing and creating social networks, in which information is being quickly exchanged and further manipulated. Our patrons are savvy when it comes to making web 2.0 resources work for them.

Great, so how are we currently helping our users? Are they coming through our doors or would they rather ask a question via instant messenger or at a virtual library branch in Second Life? Are our users looking for books and articles or are they also seeking podcasts and streaming video? Can we do anything for our patrons that a simple google, slideshare or youtube search can’t already do? Librarians know that our OPACs contain a wealth of information but studies indicate that they are simply not being used. Are our services truly helping our patrons? Do our discovery tools require too much training and expertise in order to be used to their fullest extent? This brings me to my second favorite quote in the readings: “if our services can’t be used without training, then it’s the services that need to be fixed—not our patrons” (Anderson, “Away from the icebergs”). This is an awesome mantra for user-centered services.

Now for another question: what else can we do to help our users? Well, I’m not sure. The technology is there but it is still being developed with application to the library environment. There are many projects running in beta (I love the phrase “perpetual beta”), such as WorldCat Local, which are forcing the librarians to reevaluate how we do business. I wonder though, is THIS library 2.0? It’s a stepping stone at least.

Alas, this post offers no answers and no truly original thoughts but it did allow me to rant in gratuitous manner. Food for further thought I suppose.