Library 2.0: Library 1.0++

I have to say, I am a little uncomfortable commenting on library 2.0. I’m not a librarian, and I have neither the academic background nor the practical experience to know what Library 1.0 delivery really means, nor what the rationale is (was?) for doing things in a library 1.0 way.

There seems to be a lot of chaos over what library 2.0 actually means, which is no doubt adding to my discomfort posting about it; the general consensus seems to me to be that the difference between library 2.0 and library 1.0 is that library 2.0 is user centric and user driven; and a lot of it seems to be driven by new technologies (though it doesn’t have to be) Now, I’m all for a great user experience, and often that is something that will involve a certain amount of user centrism, but I’m decidedly ambivalent about what it means for libraries.

To go any further with this post, I have to define what I think libraries are (or should be), and this will no doubt get me in a world of trouble with my librarian co-workers: I think libraries are free access point of information of many kinds, with value added in spaces to get that information, and librarians themselves. I think the defining point of libraries is actually librarians; they select targeted authoritative collections, and can help unsure users sort the wheat from the chaff online.

Back to library 2.0, though. Some library blogs refer to library 2.0 in terms of teen gaming nights and library blogs, others talk about user control of information.  I question what any of these things have to do with librarianship — the difference between a library and the internet, as I expounded in my masters thesis, is that a library is a carefully collected information set (and the internet is not).  The internet is always going to have more choices than the library (some of which would never make it in to a library) and users are also going to be far more in control of the likes of Google than they are of EBSCO (unless EBSCO buys PageRank from Google).  Library blogs are notoriously silent, and I can’t really understand what teen gaming has to do with libraries at all.  If these things are the best library 2.0 can offer us, I’m with the Annoyed Librarian. Not only do these things not gel with what I want in a library (and after all, I am a library user too), they seem to dilute what it even means to be a library.

Kathryn Greenhill, however, has a post that makes many aspects of library 2.0 something I could get behind.  It paints library 2.0 as a move away from the purported days-gone-by librarian shusher model (did anyone ever really get shushed?  I never did and I’m not a particularly quiet soul) and toward an era where librarians have control of their catalogue software (thus creating scope for things like user tagging, which are long overdue), library spaces accomodate collaborative and individual work, librarians seek feedback and listen to their users, and library services are available on the internet. Library usability, particularly in terms of online services, has a big part to play in this version of library 2.0 — and I am all for it — and apparently so is Swinburne, because we are doing many of these things already.

The big risk of library 2.0 is throwing the baby out with the bathwater; trying so hard to be everything to everyone that libraries are no longer libraries.  The big opportunity is providing increasingly relevant, increasingly user-friendly and increasingly useful spaces and services.  I think the way forward is to get off the bandwagon — the term library 2.0 is so overused as to be meaningless — and at least in Swinburne’s case, to keep doing what we are doing — listening to our users, and providing the best responses we can in a library context.


2 Responses to “Library 2.0: Library 1.0++”

  1. 1 Sara Jervis Monday, December 3, 2007 at 12:22 pm


    Your post took me back to 1970. I am the chief fiction selector for the State Library of South Australia and a dozen or more branch libraries.

    I had to be first and foremost a professional even though I was also prejudiced, as a literature and history major..towards great fiction for public library users. The 70s ushered in new kinds of popular fiction. Frederick Forsyth’s “Day of the jackal” was one such book and an early example of the contemporary thriller, and I selected it. “Peyton Place” and successor Peyton type books did not join my list. With the limited budget, an eye to taste as befits the State Library and an attempt to be sensible and sensitive within my predjudices, judgement was called for, balance important and the essential good fiction to be selected.
    I was challenged to satisfy the desire of the public to read “trashy’ novels, to bring them to reading. I always stuck to the mantra – they can get those elsewhere. We have to provide the best.

    Thus it has always been. Librarians are professionals first. When there are popularity stakes and/or Key Performance Indicators that get in the way of our ideas of professionalism – (AL’s point on dance nights, etc) – sometimes the essentials of what are the good programs and what can be accessed in other venues (than libraries) are lost.

    It is not only Librarians who continue to make the time-honoured call for the essential versus the popular, and bits and pieces of each.

  2. 2 tony Friday, December 14, 2007 at 10:47 am

    I wonder if the term library 2.0 part of the problem, it certainly seems to polarise at least some attitudes. I think at least some library 2.0 attitudes and technologies can add value to what goes on in libraries. It’s all about picking and choosing in a way that moves us forward, and not worrying if we make a mistake – we just look at what we’ve done and what we want to do and keep moving forward. I’ve noticed in the past that when things haven’t worked out quite as well as we’d hoped there was always a group of people who wanted to go back to how things were before, when the old way didn’t work either, instead of looking for a new way forward. Sometimes the dud experiment gives you a new starting point to move to a better place next.

    ps: I was shushed in a library and after I became a librarian I sometimes went to meetings with the shusher-librarian. I don’t think she remembered me.

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