Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Library 2.0 -- Quality and People Still Matter!

Library 2.0 has become quite the buzz-word, following Web 2.0. The article in Library Journal (here) is a handy explanation. The term can encompass a lot of meanings.

The heart of Library 2.0 is user-centered change. It is a model for library service that encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation in the creation of both the physical and the virtual services they want, supported by consistently evaluating services. It also attempts to reach new users and better serve current ones through improved customer-driven offerings. Each component by itself is a step toward better serving our users; however, it is through the combined implementation of all of these that we can reach Library 2.0.

The main focus is user-participation, user-generated information. An example would be the new tag clouds being added to OPACs to enrich the Library of Congress Subject Headings and added entries provided by catalogers. Users can add tags to a book’s entry on the catalog, for instance, and search by and see what others have added for tags. Some OPACs also allow users to review books, much the way Amazon’s website does.

Other pieces are

* Using technology to push information to users (well that’s not so new, but blogs and wikis are new),
* Recognizing the “long tail effect” – rather than doing collection development just by what is circulating, recognize that you now have technology that can help niche patrons find older materials, and stuff of interest to a smaller group.
* Constantly evaluating services and creating feedback loops for services where patrons can tell you how well they work.

Check the Library Journal article for some terrific links and extra reading.

The March 2007 issue of Information Outlook (Special Libraries Association), vol. 11, no. 3, p. 40, and online with a member password at link, has an article on marketing in Library 2.0, by Jill Konieczko. She says

* Ready, flexible access to information
* Library professionals become partners with their patrons, with common goals
* Tools such as wikis, RSS feeds and tagging allow patron participation and engagement
* Relevance is key

But Ms. Konieczko notes that technology does not supersede the need for excellent service. When the library is well-run,

* Faculty have research support, books and online resources as needed;
* Students have enough books to learn research skills, space to study and meet; and
* Deans are not swamped with complaints and crises over the library.

Librarianship is straddling two worlds and will be for probably another twenty years. We still have, need, and love books. Much of what is in print will not be transferred to a digital form for many years, and maybe never will be. We need to manage both types of information and continually re-educate ourselves about technology, copyright and licensing. Since I became a librarian, we have moved from mainframe computers and dumb terminals to personal computers, and through innumerable iterations of operating systems and software. We moved from card catalogs to library automated systems, and everything continues to evolved and change.

Library 2.0 presents an exciting new way to think about and evaluate library services. But the bottom line is still: Excellent Service And Great Staff!

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