Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Online libraries are not libraries at all"

David Weinberger, author of Everything is Miscellaneous, which he dedicated to librarians, has an interesting, if somewhat disjointed opinion piece about libraries up at KM World.

Weinberger thinks that traditional libraries are nothing more than glorified warehouses--gilded in mystique because of their inefficiency and the "awesomeness of librarians." He points to books repeatedly as the source of the problem--they define us in the binary categories of authors and readers, they bind up information that wants to be free, they force us to spend hours meandering in stacks on the hunt.

Online libraries, he thinks, will be more different than similar to traditional libraries. With no bindings, readers will be free to discover and note their own connections among resources using tagging, comments, reviews, and features yet undreamed of. Instead of treating materials with care, Weinberger (noting that he is speaking metaphorically) says

Online libraries want books marked up, taken apart, coated in minty chocolate, and sucked on between innings at Little League games.
I love that.

Yet in the midst of this discussion, he also says that online libraries "won't be Libraries 2.0, a new and improved version with zippy features, albeit lacking the smell of must and varnish." It sounds like he's defining Library 2.0 as the same electronic OPACs and databases we've used for the past 20-30 years! To me, those are more like Library 1.0--or maybe even a beta test, albeit one many libraries have lingered in for far too long. Maybe that's why he can't tell the difference?

For all his admiration of librarians, I think Weinberger needs to spend more time in the biblioblogosphere reading what we think about the future of "online libraries" and how librarians who have at one time or another used the "Library 2.0" buzzword are implementing tags, comments, and reviews in their catalogs and elsewhere, and playing with the current Internet technologies and applications to enable better connections between and among their patrons and resources.

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