Power to the people picture


My last post talked about how Library 2.0 can empower our users. Yesterday, I found this image from Michael Porter which eloquently makes the same point.

If you think the “for the library” bit is pushing it, check out Ed Vielmetti’s Superpatron blog. He organised the first Library Camp (unconference) and has been instrumental in some of the developments at the Ann Arbor District Library site.

2.0 Patrons Want uploaded on September 12, 2007 by libraryman

What’s new about Library 2.0? Shift in power.


I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think Library 2.0 is a dumb name for a set of very useful new ways to look at our libraries. I’ve tried to define it a couple of times here (Library 2.0 on under $5 a day) and here (What is library 2.0 and Library 2.0 plus? ). If you want to read more about it, Jennifer Macaulay’s excellent Library 2.0 Roundup – Redux has a great wodge of useful links.

Now that more people have heard about Library 2.0, there are dissenting voices. This is good, it means the evolution of the idea is going from “let’s define this” to “let’s deny/engage/discuss this”.

In the last couple of weeks there are two questions I am hearing:

1) If Library 2.0 is about being user centred, how is that different to what we always have done? Haven’t libraries always been about being user centred?

2) Isn’t Library 2.0 just about a bunch of new tools, and what is wrong with the ones we have? (Often followed by – “I don’t have time to learn about new things with all the things I have to do already”).

Very important questions, I think – which I would answer glibly “yes, we have always been user focused and Library 2.0 gives us new tools to help our users” and “There’s nothing wrong with the old tools, it’s not all about new tools, see 1) above”.

So, if being user centred is not new, and Library 2.0 isn’t only about new tools, what is new about it? Why should we lift our heads from the stuff we are already doing and take notice of it? To me, the new element that Library 2.0 brings to our libraries is a shift in power balance – between us, our users, suppliers, software vendors, non-users.

Users are able to control parts of our library that they previously could not. Librarians are now able to control spaces outside our buildings. This is different.

Here’s some places where I think power relationships have changed.

The power of the user to choose

There have never been so many alteratives to libraries as information resources – from government documents to encyclopedic entries to opinions of other people – all online. When users reach for an information source, the convenience of these services often outweighs the quality of our library sources.

Challenge: To use new web tools to increase the convenience of access to our information resources.

The power of the librarians to control code.

Libraries have developed Open Source Library Management Systems like Koha and Evergreen. People like John Blyberg, Casey Bisson and Dave Pattern are tweaking existing software to perform in ways that are better than the vendors envisaged.

This is different to the bad old days when some of us developed our in-house ILMS – there is more expertise, companies devoted to supporting Open Source products, a whole movement of Open Source developers, and librarians who understand the concepts and have the skills to specify products.

The power of the user to create their library

With the technology to add comments, ratings and reviews to items in our catalogues, users can “author” the catalogue and other library resources alongside librarians.

The power of librarians to speak with our own voices

Social software generally involves an informal voice, where any hint of b*llshit or corporate speak is firmly put in its place. As librarians, we can use our own voices rather than corporate speak – through blogs, wikis for our users and providing classes in tools users want to know about.

The stakes are high – do it right and you have far more engaged users and generate trust. Do it badly and you risk displeasing your boss or sharing waaaay too much information or just being boring.

The power of librarians to be in our users’ space

Obviously we should never invade our users’ space without invitation, however services like chat reference, widgets and gadgets let us offer our services using the users’ tools, instead of making them come to us.

The power of librarians to risk

Tools released in beta (for example gmail) allow them to have more features, with not every feature perfect. The user base becomes a live testbed. If a tool is imperfect, but does a few things really well, users are far more forgiving then they would have been five years ago.

This doesn’t mean that we should try every half baked idea that comes our way, but losing the “culture of perfect” does give us more scope to try newer things sooner. This doesn’t exclude using our professional judgement or evaluating services – it makes this even more valuable.

The power of librarians to collaborate

New web tools make it much easier to collaborate with a wider group of people quicker. It’s not just “what we’ve always done but faster”, it’s a new way of creating communities of practice where overseas librarians can become colleagues.

The power to use our library buildings in a new way

The library is no-longer defined by its bookstock in a physical building. More libraries are using new tools to create virtual branches – where user instruction and access to resources happens online.

Conversely we are capitalizing on our buildings as hubs of our communities, looking at where we fit in a physical “social network”. A loosened-up, more collaborative online world is helping us to realise that we can create something similar with our built space – more open, more focused on the needs of the user – rather than the needs of librarians to control bookstock.

It’s one thing to have the power to do these things, quite another to actually exercise that power. The real question about Library 2.0 is “at what point do we change a service or new web tool from “can be done” into “should be done”? A topic for another day I think.

What is Library2.0 and Library2.0+ ?


I think Library 2.0 is used to describe two concepts. One is applying Web2.0 at your library. The other is the flexible, nimble, evolving, user-centred library, kickstarted by Web2.0 concepts and attitudes. One day the second will have its own name.


Janus face
Janus Uploaded on August 11, 2005 by Marvin (PA)

Laura Cohen has been thinking about whether Library2.0 is just a derivative of Web2.0 and that’s all there is to it, The best part of Library 2.0. She disagrees, but believes that many people see it as no more than this. She would like to extend it further and add “timeless adaptability” into the mix. Within her definition

libraries evolve wisely and nimbly to meet users’ evolving needs as their information culture shapes these needs.

To me, there are two concepts called “Library 2.0” – at the moment more or less covering the same libraries doing the same thing, but which will diverge at some point. The second concept will one day need its own name. I have buzzword fatigue and I’m happy to call it Library2.0 for now, but only for now. To differentiate it here, I’m calling it Library2.0+, but I think it deserves something that will date it less and is friendlier.

CONCEPT 1 – Library2.0 – Web2.0 in your Library

The first concept Library 2.0 definitely involves the elements taken from Web 2.0 and the attitudes and expectations it brings – but not all of the time and not in every institution if it doesn’t fit their community.

  • 24/7 access
  • Social networking
  • Read/write web
  • The ‘net not a single PC as a workspace
  • User controlled tagging
  • Collaborative creation
  • “Humanized” institution where you can hear the voices of real people inside it
  • Focussing on the needs of the user, not what suits the organisation best
  • Mashing up and value adding on top of available software
  • Focuses on open source, not propietary software
  • Profiles, ratings, reviews, chat, “friending”
  • Perpetual beta
  • Tools like RSS, wikis, blogs, forums, photo sharing, SMS
  • Access via many devices – mobile, handheld,desktop,telephony

So, one version of Library 2.0 is “Web2.0 in a library”.

CONCEPT 2 – Library2.0+ – Flexible, nimble, evolving, user-centred libraries

The second concept involves some of what we have always done, and some rethinking. Web2.0 is a catalyst, but not the only element of this.

For years, libraries have worked in a collaborative, user focussed way, implementing high usability standards – we are already Library2.0+ in some ways.

Some of Library2.0+ is tossing out a few of our traditional core functions because they have been replaced (eg. google and reference work..not quite!!) or sharing our core functions (eg. google scholar). We are putting centre stage previously unnoticed functions. The academic library as study hall and social space is an example of this. This fits in with Laura’s idea of “timeless adaptability”.

Ideas like “going where your users are” have been sparked by Web2.0 which created forums and spaces where it’s possible to interact online instead of waiting for our users to come to us. Library 2.0+ extends “going where the users are” beyond our PCs – like Ryan’s suggestion in his Top Ten Zero-tech Library 2.0 “no brainers” for Public Libraries that we volunteer in the community.

Web 2.0 brings us the informal voice of blogs and web site architecture focusing on the users’ needs. Library2.0+, sparked by this change, is applying it elsewhere and takes it further. We are changing signage, re-writing paper forms, rearranging our collections, reconsidering our overdue policies and even how we talk to our users.

Internal library staff blogs


We have a pilot project for an internal WordPress blog at our library. It went live as we began ripping up the inside of the building. Staff were told it was there and they were welcome to experiment, but that it was going to be launched officially with training later. I’ve been flicking email stuff that I want archived there, and a couple of people have made a couple of posts…but otherwise staff haven’t had the time to learn something new.

In the next few weeks, we start revamping it as a reference desk blog. The original version tried to cover the whole library and replace a few email lists. We had a separate RSS feed for each category…nice idea but a bit too confusing for most people I think.

Co-incidentally, I’ve had a couple of email conversations with other Australian librarians about implementing internal blogs, so I think ’tis the season for it.

One person was wondering about blogging policies. A good swag are found in the comments on Karen Schneider’s post, Blogging Policies and Procedures. You may also get some useful information from the general discussion of internal communications wikis/blogs happening on the Library 2.0 Ning network.

Another discussion involved getting staff buy in and support of senior management. It’s a hard one as the advantages are long term ones – mainly an easily searchable archive. Most training will focus on the posting side of it and it will be months before there are enough posts there for the searchablility to be a big advantage. I’d keep stressing the final outcomes during training.

We are treating the internal blog as an experiment and a training opportunity. We can get used to the interface and iron out any problems before we implement any other blogs aimed at our community.

If an internal blog is replacing some email communication, there comes a point where buy in becomes less voluntary. It’s just annoying to have two places to check for the same information, so someone is going to have to formulate guidelines about what goes on the blog and what is emailed. Clear guidelines, which are sensible and useable. I think it will take more than just that to make people change their habits. Especially when it is actually easier to send an email than post to a blog.

I’ve concluded that making sure staff understand RSS, and are using an aggregator, comes first with most L2.0 initiatives. With coaxing, people can handle one extra place to go, but having to check two work wikis, three work blogs and a work Flickr account for changes would be really annoying. This is an issue for a password or IP protected internal blog – web-based aggregators like the highly popular bloglines and google reader won’t be let near the feed to harvest it. I don’t have a real solution, but may try using RSS Popper which integrates with Outlook. If Outlook is left logged in on a PC within the allowed IP range, then you can read the RSSPopper feed externally via webmail.

I was pondering this afternoon whether all this Library 2.0 stuff is really useful. If it is, then why do we need to work out ways to sell it? Many of us seem to be getting the skills and playing with the toys outside of work, even when we have workplaces like mine that make time for new technologies. Then I remembered staying up late writing web pages waaaaay, waaaaay back in the early nineties so I could demo to library staff the advantages of the internet. And being a bit worried that I was raving about a techno-hobby-horse that would never be relevant to what we did in libraries.

Ning network for Library 2.0


Want to play with a social network? Practice adding friends, contributing to forums, blogging, uploading photos and files?

Like to explore the ideas of Library 2.0?

The newly created Library2.0 Ning network may be just the thing for you. To join up, go here.


Ning is a site that allows you to create a community on a Content Management System kind of background. So, why not just create your own social network on a CMS, and invite your friends over? I guess because it’s all “up there” on the web, you can create a number of networks at once, and you can poke about to find other networks and join with your Ning membership. For developers, it’s even more. It’s a platform that allows you to make changes and feed them back into the Ning community.


I’m coming out of the closet here to admit I HATE the label “Library2.0”. I’m happy to explore the new attitudes and demands that new web tools bring, and to work out how new web tools can serve our clients better. The “Library2.0” name smacks of faddism and impermanence. This is a pity, as I really support what it stands for, just hate the easy target of such a dumb name. Ideas good, name dumb. I don’t have any better to suggest, so I’m stuck with using it.

Over 150 people have joined since the network was set up a couple of days ago by Bill Drew. It’s had over 13000 hits so far. It’s taking a long time to load pages right now, which I hope is just a temporary glitch and that it can handle the volume. The delay would be enough to stop me using the site.

Anyhow, worth checking out. I have found four other Australians there so far. If you do join up, feel free to add me as your friend.

Walking the wiki talk


I’m beginning to think all this theory I’ve been spouting in the last few months might have a grain of practical application. The Library2.0 Orthodoxy that’s making more sense is “wikis are useful”.

The LINT mob use a wiki to track our procedures and history. I used a wiki to plan a long family holiday in September – it was great to click on the links for phone numbers of places we were staying. Both times I was very self-consciously “using a wiki”.

This evening, however, I wanted to keep a record of some email responses to a question I’ve asked on a google list. I want to analyse and re-packaged them into dot points. Without even thinking, and in the same way I would have once opened a WORD document….I reached for a wiki. I’ve installed TikiWiki because I know how to use it. I have gazed lovingly at drupal, but I’m just in no mood to learn again.

I didn’t use something like google documents and spreadsheets, because ultimately I want to have the summary somewhere that I can share with interested people.

Come to think of it….it would be a good 3-4 months since I’ve entered anything into a WORD document..apart from my paysheet at work. Same goes for Open Office Writer at home.

I am opening Notepad more often. I’ve finally learned that anything I want to cut and paste into WordPress should be pasted into some kind of text editor, before cutting it again and pasting into WordPress. Saves hours of searching for the one rogue tag that has turned my whole sidebar upsidedown.

It’s insidious and useful, this Web2.0.

Keep “Library2.0” in Wikipedia


There is a proposal currently for discussion on Wikipedia that the entry for “Library 2.0” be deleted from Wikipedia.

Initial proposal says that it is…

“A neologism coined by a blogger and used by bloggers, not notable Lurker

The people I’d expect have jumped in and defended it, using the arguments I’d expect. They cite legitimate academic articles to show how the term has escaped the bilbioblogosphere. It is now being used by librarians who have never read a blog in their lives, to describe a change in our profession.

In itself, it’s an interesting debate about the “Library 2.0” concept …is it just the “2.0” label whacked on the end of another concept, to form a buzzword…or is it a shorthand to describe a new way of serving our clients?

I’m also enjoying learning about how Wikipedia works as a living, breathing “debate” and reflecting about what this means for “set truths” found in an encyclopedia like Wikipedia. I don’t remember any entry in my print version of Encyclopedia Britannica changing from one reading to the next. Does this lead to more or less certainty about the veracity of the facts?

I was just as fascinated watching the “discussion” page for Steve Irwin‘s entry immediately after his death.

found via Panlibus