Where’s the time for 2.0?

Michael Sauers, The Travelin’ Librarian, has an interesting post today about 2.0 and staff workloads.

Maybe at an institutional level adding the new social tools onto an already overloaded workflow isn’t the answer. Granted, I firmly believe that some of the new tools can be integrated successfully and streamline the existing workflow, but what about larger tools like blogging. Instead of expecting staff to blog for the library in addition to their existing workload, how about redistributing the workload so the staff that will be blogging on behalf of the library have a little less of what they did before and now have the time to blog?

I’m not saying this would be easy, nor could I possibly claim to have a “plan” for something like that that you could implement in your library. (How could I, each library’s solution would be completely different from every other.) However, maybe we should not look at this as an addition problem, but more of a rearrangement problem.

It’s nice that people are starting to recognize and acknowledge that it will take more than access to the technologies to get librarians to really adopt 2.0 methods and products. It will take lots of effort and time to incorporate it into the current model, and perhaps the current model is already broken.

Jezmynne Westcott commented:

As one of those librarians who manage subjects, ref desk, outreach, instruction, appointments, a building, staff, AND 2.0 stuff, I agree it is a challenge. For me, it comes down to 2 things – prioritization and well, prioritization.

I think that’s also true, as well as the need to examine what’s important for each individual library. I still don’t know that every library absolutely needs a blog. My library’s been trying to blog and I think it’s been far from a success, mostly due to time issues and lack of interesting content. The people who have the time to write posts aren’t the ones who would write the most interesting, in-depth, and informational posts about transportation information. I would include myself in the former. People would really need the time to devote to learning how to use the tools and then the time to implement them, similar to professional development time. Sauers is probably correct in assuming that more staff would be needed to free up this time, or some sort of restructuring in many libraries. It’s also clear though, that these sorts of changes would be hard to implement because they would affect everybody, but I still think it’s needed in this changing world.

Life 2.0

There was a discussion last week on the SLA Transportation Division’s listserve about everybody’s favourite virtual envrionment: Second Life. The discussion was prompted by a webinar for the transportation community that showed how Second Life can be used to help people access information from around the world. I’ll admit I was a little biased before the presentation, not being a fan of Second Life, but I really didn’t think it was effective in showing people why they should actually use Second Life. I wasn’t alone, and some members opened up the dialog. I won’t post their messages, but basically they asked why is Second Life the best choice and why should they expect people to use it. One of the proponents made the argument that it’s because young people are there, which prompted me to write this:

I find this discussion about Second Life to be very interesting because it’s quite a hot topic in Library Schools. The argument that we should participate in Second Life because “high-tech youth and young adults” are there rings false. Second Life itself is 18 and over, which excludes teens, and Teen Second Life isn’t widely used. To be honest, I can’t think of anybody in my age group (20s) who actually uses Second Life. Many have tried and then opted to play Warcraft or chat online. (Maybe we should take transportation libraries to the World of Warcraft? Horde, of course.)

I think it’s good that we’re actively looking at new ways to connect with users, but that also means we should look at where the users actually are and where they want us to be. Our users are not the same as some public library in an area with lots of people on Second Life. Do we even know if transportation engineers and planners use Second Life as a means of connecting for work? I know when I ask our grad students and researchers about Second Life, they look at me like I’m crazy or they don’t know what I’m talking about. In our instance, Facebook seems to be a more effective tool, but the most effective has been free candy. (It’s sad, but true.)

The other problem that I have with Second Life is that it reinforces an old fashioned way of conceptualizing information and data. Computers and the rise of the internet have made storage, retrieval, and transmission of large amounts of information possible and much easier. We’re able to look at things more abstractly to foster new connections and store information in a structured and logical way. Second Life allows for some interesting structures to be made with information, but it obscures the underlying data. It seems like there’s more effort put into the presentation rather than making it easily digestible. It’s important to look at new ways we can utilize information visualization for our users, but we also need to make sure that the underlying data is transparent and easily extracted.

It’s exciting to see librarians do anything new with technology and think about how we can stay relevant in the new, digital age. We’re still at a point, though, where we’re not sure of what’s the most effective tools are, and it will probably be different for each library. If you can connect with your patrons effectively in Second Life, that’s great. I guess it’s not for everybody.

My WoW joke fell flat, but I hope it’s even handed. That said, I did sign up for Second Life this weekend. My avatar is Tofu Youngblood, she wears burlap, and I gave up after 20 minutes. I was bored and wanted to watch the soccer.

IM me for some service.

LIS News has linked to a story about Cal State Fullerton’s use of Meebo for chat reference. Chat reference seems to be so hot these days that for many library folks it’s a forgone conclusion. At Internet Librarian, there were many references to people using Meebo widgets to communicate with their patrons. I know if my current redesign of my library’s website, we’re using a Meebo widget to hang with the cool kids and to see if people will actually use it.

Of course we haven’t actually gone live, but I have hope. I sort of wish we would use instant messaging more between staff members. If I have a quick question about serials, it’s be just as easy to IM our serials manager the question (and probably easier to articulate) than a phone call. Maybe the chat reference can start that off around here, though some how I doubt it.

Library 2.0 Weltschmerz

Laura Cohen at Library 2.0 has a nice post about whether or not Library 2.0 is snake oil or a new direction. She’s more circumspect about it than I could be, and it’s nice to read a moderate examination of the topic. This following passage really stuck with me:

I would love to see design thinking applied in my library. Among other things, it would represent my library’s commitment to identifying and solving problems in a proven, systematic way. But I wouldn’t want us to be limited by design thinking in all that we might do. This is because the introduction of a technology can evolve in unexpected, and unexpectedly useful, ways. You might carefully plan to solve one problem, and another one might be solved along the way. The ball starts rolling, ideas take root, examples emerge, small sparks of interest and even enthusiasm begin to spread. Just think about blogs. They began as “trivial” personal journals, and are now finding their way into the life cycle of serious scholarship.

I would also like see design thinking applied at my library- it seems like a good approach to keeping most libraries relevant and sustainable in the long term.

Laura also references John Blyberg’s blog post Library 2.0 debased, which prompted me to actually make this blog go live. I particularly liked this line:

The true pursuit of Library 2.0 involves a thorough recalibration of process, policy, physical spaces, staffing, and technology so that any hand-offs in the patron’s library experience are truly seamless.

The whole Library 2.0 movement/phenomena has been extremely problematic to me because the full meaning and relevance hasn’t quite been teased out of the hype and flash. After I attended Internet Librarian in 2007, it made me dislike the term even more because it was clear that there wasn’t really any consensus on what Web 2.0 technologies meant for libraries, other than it’s fashionable. Blogs, wikis, social networking, and I supposed even Second Life are fine and dandy for libraries to include in their arsenal of services if they have a point and users will respond to them.

Some Library 2.0 enthusiasts, or as the Annoyed Librarian dubbed them “Twopointopians”, seem to think that every library needs to adopt the latest technology trends to stay relevant with their patrons. I don’t think libraries should shy away from change, but they shouldn’t adopt technology because it’s the hip thing. Does every library need a blog? Probably not. I know my library doesn’t need a wiki because our patrons won’t use it, but that’s not to say my SLA division shouldn’t adopt one. In that way, I think Blyberg’s got it right in that we all as library professionals should take Library 2.0 as an opportunity to reevaluate what we’re doing to make service better, not keep up with the Joneses.