Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Library 2.0 Thoughts

After reading some blogs and posts about Library 2.0 a few immediate thoughts came to mind...
First, the whole idea of Library 2.0. IMO anyway is not far removed from library fundamentals to begin with. Libraries especially over the last century or so have been ever evolving to meet the needs and wants of its users. Collections typically are geared to the community as are programs. Plus, technology has been used before to help meet user and staff needs, just look at how card catalogs have given way to OPACs and so forth over the last 30 years. So the concept of library service using technology to meet users wants and expectations is not necessarily a new idea. The tools being used and the terminology (ie. 2.0, etc.) being created are what is new.

Library 2.0 is the next logical step in the process of having library service fully geared to the user in the modern age of integrated computers, technology and communication. Clearly the online environment has and will continue to change how people use libraries and even how people view libraries. Blogs and places like Flickr, Bloglines, and LibraryThing have shown the capacity of the online world to help people share and organize online information to suit their needs and that is, I would argue the key roll a library has always had, which is to help people find and organize information so that they can use it. So it is a natural fit to take some of these online tools and programs and learn from them to help libraries meet their patron's needs. The tools and resources within libraries are changing away from physical materials to virtual. The advantage is that now people can create, sort and share personal information, photos, books, catalogs, blogs, you name it. Library 2.0 to me is just the verbalization of the furthering concept that now library collections, services, programs, catalogs and materials are meeting and adjusting to user needs in the online environment rather than in the physical library.

Having said all this... I personally believe the are several dangers lurking ahead that will have to be addressed related to Library 2.0 and technology in general. Rick Anderson addresses a few of these concerns in his piece called, "Away from the 'Iceburgs'." Here's the URL: Ultimately, he points out how flawed it might be to have a "just in case" collection when many people will want their materials available online and they will probably find them online. Another point he brings out is, how are libraries going to keep up with user education of these new tools when there are so many potential users? I agree whole-heartedly that both of these are concerns and in fact, I'd take them a step further. One concern is that there will be a group of library users who may get left behind who are use to older ways of searching and using libraries who are not as technology savvy or computer literate. How will we be able to fit those people into the library as it changes so they don't get completely left behind?

Secondly, libraries have entered an age of print vs. electronic and in most cases electronic will win out, which is fine, except that I would question the long term health of having a mostly online collection only in the sense that how many people read a book cover to cover online? Or even to browse a book online and pick out quotes to use in a paper? I guess my concern is I would like to see more studies done to see what user preference is when it comes to print vs. online books. To me there is no doubt that online journals are better because of the ease of searching databases and the fact that articles can read and or printed off easier and quicker than a book and this of course is not even addressing the copyright issue.

Then finally, there's the whole library idea of owning vs. loaning or borrowing. Physical materials have a certain ownership to them, the library owns the item til it becomes of little value, whereas depending on the agreements at your library many online materials are not permanent, they are being rented if you will and what would happen if agreements or arrangements changed and all of sudden you no longer had a certain item. To me these are some of the top concerns I have in the Library 2.0 world. How well libraries adapt to all of these new technologies and concerns will help determine what the library of the future will look like...

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