7 Things: Making Better Info Pros

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I don’t talk about my job very much because it’s not that interesting, unless you’re into transportation in which case it’s fascinating. (Topics you should avoid around me: parking, air traffic control, bus routes, and traffic congestion.)

Last week at SLA 2009, the Transportation Division launched its new 7 Things, because 23 Things was too many. I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but honestly 23 different things can be overwhelming.

For a while now I’ve tried to encourage my colleagues to engage with these new tools and see the value of using RSS feeds, blogs, and wikis, which has sort of become ubiquitous. Our 7 Things makes it manageable, contextualizes each concept, and gives the support from community which might encourage people who would otherwise find it too difficult. It’s too early to say whether or not our 7 Things will work, but if the response at SLA was indication I am hopeful. I’m also excited that we finally have a platform on which we can discuss how these technologies can impact our workflows.

Library School- Not Web 2.0 enough?

Steven at Library Stuff recently posted about a report from ARIADNE entitled, Web 2.0 in U.S. LIS Schools: Are they Missing the Boat?, which reads:

This preliminary survey indicates that LIS schools in the United States are not adequately prepared for the rapid changes in Web technology and use. It seems that the LIS programmes have not yet internalised the importance of the new, changing and dynamic innovations that are taking place in their environment. These programmes do not offer full courses that deal with the new concept of Web 2.0, and only a few of them include several issues which are based on Web 2.0 in their courses.

[T]he results are susceptible to several interpretations: The first one is that perhaps LIS progammes do not attribute a lot of attention to Web 2.0 concepts and applications as they consider them a relatively unimportant topic and regard them as ‘hype’. The second is that LIS programme planners may assume that the issue of Web 2.0 is too technical and should be taught in other departments such as computer science and not in schools of librarianship and information science. Another interpretation is that this situation reflects the fact that LIS programme designers are not open to change and innovation.

This report seems as dour as the current British Prime Minister. Perhaps it’s because I’m working on a dual MLIS/MSIS degree, but I feel burnt out from all the Web 2.0 talk I’ve had in some of my classes at Drexel. I also think this might be a problem of confirmation bias though, where I’m quick to notice my fellow classmates touting their blogs in class discussions.

As to the first point- I think it’s understandable that many people are leery of the “hype” because so many people talk about Web 2.0 applications in libraries, or Library 2.0, in a very superficial way. They say, “Isn’t this neat?” rather than say why it’s neat. One thing I think library blogs do well share information about new tools and trends, but so many of them are just feeds for del.icio.us accounts, that they don’t present any context for these new, exciting Web 2.0 tools. For Web 2.0 neophytes, I could see how this is off putting.

For the second point- I think for some classes that may be true, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it fit for many different programmes. My courses that have talked about ways to utilize Web 2.0 tools have largely been information science and not library related. It’s fine and dandy to talk about mashups for libraries, but are there any courses that actually teach people how to make one if they aren’t programmers? I guess it’s progress that we had to take a class in HTML and CSS, but it seems like it definitely is an area that needs work. We aren’t all going to have to become programmers, are we?

The last point- I don’t doubt that some LIS programmes are resistant to change, but I also think many are willing to change because it’s clear that the whole profession is in flux. The problem may be that it’s hard to determine which Web 2.0 tools/devices are really the most useful and which ones are actually passing fads. There vetting process is still happening and the jury’s still out, so it’s understandable that a programme may be hesitant to offer a class about some programme that might not exist in two years. Programmes should teach about the underlying philosophies behind Web 2.0- the willingness to change and adapt, perpetual beta, collaboration, and working in a more digital realm.

All in all, I guess I’m still uneasy about the future, but it didn’t take a report to tell me that. I guess I’m still trying to figure out the point of Web 2.0 in libraries for myself, and the library blogosphere isn’t helping.