SL2.0: Synthesis 2.0January 10th, 2006 by infomancy
If we are talking about School Library 2.0 here, what does it mean? It is mainly a constructed extension of Library 2.0, itself apparently an extension of Web 2.0, that lets me apply a possibly flawed label to a broad set of fluid ideas so I can talk about them without a full reference at each mention. Yesterday, I tackled the slipperly idea of Web 2.0, and today I will be looking at Library 2.0. I haven’t had much to say about this, so before I jump in to Library 2.0, I want to wiggle my toes in the water a bit to see how cold it really is.
Toe wiggle 1: My perspective comes from being a classroom teacher, an instructional technology teacher, a technology coordinator, and now a school library system coordinator. Some might say this means I am not a “real librarian” which is okay with both of us (I went and created a much cooler sounding profession – infomancer!) though I will say again that I am proud to be a part of the library profession.
Toe wiggle 2: My focus is on students and learning.
Toe wiggle 3: I write too much. Sorry. I may abbreviate Library 2.0 to L2 and School Library 2.0 to S2, but Web 2.0 seems short enough that I am not saving typing with something like W2.
Library 2.0 – Some Background
There has been a lot to read about the idea of Library 2.0 (L2) over a few short months. Over the past week, though, a couple of pieces started to solidify enough to allow better contemplation. I was especially drawn to an article from an academic about academic libraries that I commented on last week. The author, Joe Monninger, isn’t writing about L2, but does notice something that I think is critical for school librarians to think about: younger students may not see libraries as information sources. This isn’t because of some Library 1.0 thing, or a failure by libraries or librarians, but rather because of the changing nature of information and education.
David Warlick talks about the information we are dealing with today as being Networked, Digital, and Overwhelming. Monninger isn’t addressing a supposed dichotomy between Library 1.0 and Library 2.0, but rather seems to be recognizing that as information changes students’ access methods are changing. The problem with this, as Monninger briefly addresses, is covered more fully by Warlick’s 3 E’s of information literacy. Students must learn to Expose the truth, Employ the information, Express ideas compellingly…and 4th, be Ethical. School Librarians have been pushing this for quite a few years, as I pointed out.
So Why Library 2.0?
The name seems to have evolved from the idea of Web 2.0, but is inspiring a bit more contention. It is a hard leap to make in many ways. We can have a Web 2.0 because we can more easily compare some newer changes in programming structure and practices to past practices within a relatively brief history. The real Library 2.0 was probably back when some ancient librarian decided to make the radical and revolutionary switch from scroll to codex as the preferred resource format. Library 532839.0 might have been when people like Franklin figured out that free access to library resources would be a neat idea. But we still need a label so we can have a shared conversation, and Library 2.0 reminds us that it does indeed use some of the tools and ideas from Web 2.0.
What Tools? What Ideas?
To fully answer this question, you will need to embark on a long journey through a couple months worth of collective writing. I would actually encourage you to start with a Walt Crawford’s cautionary Perspective: Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0.” At 32 pages, it is a hefty read – but well worth it. There have been some additional ideas shared in the last week that I will also be referring to in trying to answer this question for myself. John Blyberg provides “11 reasons why Library 2.0 exists and matters” and Meredith Farkas took a look at “Label 2.0.”
I want to start, though, by going back to what Web 2.0 is supposed to be about to see how that might apply to libraries.
- The LIBRARY as a Platform: Some of L2 seems to be looking at ways to make the library a platform for activities that need a community home or for activities that have been drifting to commercial homes. L2 talks about gaming in the library and rock concerts in the stacks. These are not new ideas, but definately fit within the concept of the library as a community platform/center for group cultural activities. Adding a coffee bar is again making the library a platform for the type of browsing and brewing that seems to be so popular at chain book stores. What we have to remember, though, is that the library platform is a whole community platform. Since, like most platforms, it can only support so many things at one time, careful consideration must be given to the needs and desires of each community.
- Harnessing PATRON Intelligence: L2 talks about reaching out to patrons to make them part of the library sphere of knowledge. Tagging in your catalog is cool, but one of the stipulations of Web 2.0 is that it doesn’t become useful until you reach a critical mass of users. (One of the other stipulations that goes much further back in history is What’s In It For Me? – why should our patrons tag records? Do they know? Do we know?) For kids, this could be very helpful but would probably need to be done on a regional level through something like a School Library System to be useful. Maybe harnessing patron intelligence is as simple as reminding them that they too can edit Wikipedia if it comes up as a reference resource. Maybe it would make more sense to use the public library as a platform and harness patron/community intelligence to connect someone who is unemployed with job resources or having the contact information of some community advocates that can welcome new people to the neighborhood. We are using school libraries as a platform to help coordinate and facilitate a blog/forum about state assessments that draws upon the knowledge and best practices within all of our districts. But notice…nothing new except for that we are doing it with a new tool that makes it easier and we are relating it to the idea of the new tool as defined by Web 2.0.
- Data is the Next LIBRARY IDEA: We have a lot of data, and L2 looks to collect more, but do we use it? Strip the identifying information out to protect patron confidentiality, and a few runs through a data analysis package (like Excel) can do a lot to drive collection development and helps us better meet patron needs. What books are popular? When (time? day? date? season? trends?)? What search strings are patrons using? Do they work? Maybe an OPAC improvement would be a big red button that says “This Search Failed!” We can show them the search string they used and ask them to fill in a one field form telling us what they wanted to find. At the same time, however, the idea is also to make the library the next “Intel Inside.” What do Dell, Compaq, IBM, and most other Windows PC advertisements have in common? The little Intel Inside logo or a couple of notes on TV. Imagine the sudden, overwhelming obviousness of the impact school librarians have on instruction if they slapped “Library Powered!” stickers everywhere they touch students and learning. [I couldn't decide which iteration of the Web 2.0 idea was more powerful, so I looked at them both. Data, it should be noted however, is perhaps more important for evaluation and determination if the cries of "the library is failing" are worthy of notice.]
- End of the LIBRARY MATERIALS Cycle: One of the classical themes with libraries has been that of an “overdue book.” It sums up the concept of the library materials cycle of selection, processing, display, patron checkout, usage, and return (hopefully not late!). Now image the cycle with a digital resource: selection, processing, display, usage. No more overdues? No more not letting students check out books because they forgot their one from last week (or it is at home and dad was beating on mom again and they had to sneak out in the middle of the night and they are not sure when they will be back to get it because the court case might take awhile and I wish that wasn’t a true story). How does selection, display, and usage change with digital information? This is one of the more geekier elements of both Web 2.0 and L2. You will have seen that I didn’t interpret this part of Web 2.0 as “perpetual beta” as I think it is more a state of dynamic development to meet emerging needs. In the library world, this is one of the places where L2 needs to be most aware of the digital divide(s).
- Lightweight LIBRARY Programming: A very real concern that crops up with L2 (and other discussions about change) involves the addition of new responsibilities and resource commitments without the additional influx of time and money. If you want to talk about a hyped up change idea in education that epitomizes this, look no further than NCLB (No Child Left Behind). A promise of everything good to come once we stop doing all the bad things we were doing; a whole set of new rules without any additional money to support them. So the L2 answer, building again from Web 2.0, could be to use lightweight programming models. Don’t invest a lot of time and effort in a new program – try a couple of things around a flexible pattern and see what works. Do you have a weekly/monthly teen program slot already scheduled? Try substituting a rock band or a gaming session. And remember, if the library is a platform, we can ask someone from the gaming community if they would be willing to bring their own games. The power of Web 2.0′s Ruby on Rails is that the computer does some of the coding work after the basic system is designed. What if the L2 library were a platform that provided tools and a framework to help others develop quality programming?
- LIBRARIES Above the Level of a Single PATRON: This is about meeting community needs. This cannot (MUST NOT) disenfranchise anyone. Will everything that is developed or tried meet everyone’s needs? No, but neither can it be allowed to negatively impact the continued meeting of existing needs. It is this interoperability that makes Web 2.0 so powerful – and makes us curse clumsy digital rights management (DRM) attempts. Trust me, you do not want to be the Sony Rootkit of the L2 world.
- Rich LIBRARY PATRON Experience: Like Web 2.0, L2 has to remain focused on meeting patron needs. The old joke is the network was running fine until a user logged in. An L2 “experience” that meets our needs will put libraries out of business faster than any of the perceived current shortcomings. Also note that, like many of the emerging definitions of Library 2.0 I am glad to see, a “rich” experience should involve online and physical interactions. Actually, I like that Michael Stephens went ahead and threw in emotional interactions as well. Libraries should not (unless they are) be run as businesses, but we do need to realize that is probably more competition in our “segment” than there has been before. L2, like the latest social bookmarking site, has to keep saying: “We recognize that there are a lot of information/entertainment choices out there and we are glad that you chose our library – how can we help you?”
One of the major reasons why I haven’t had much to say about Library 2.0 is that it has been a very public library oriented discussion. I tried to keep my attempt at synthesizing my thoughts on L2 in that realm…tomorrow I will be exploring what this may or may not mean for school libraries.