Tuesday, December 9, 2008

23 Things Vol. 2

The deadline for completion of the 23 Things project that fast approaching. I don’t know whether I’ll complete the process in time, but I will continue to slog to till the bitter end ( and mostly afterward.) The deadline is simply for those who want to remain in a drawing for a prize which doesn’t really interest me that much. (Though I wouldn’t turn it down either.) The second stage in the 23 Things projects is about folksonomy (a.k.a social tagging, free tagging, or simply tagging). The main focus for the module is the social networking/bookmarking site called Delicious; a server-based bookmark repository that lets users upload their bookmarks to share across multiple computers and share with other users. I added a listing for Tagtaxons.com to my account (which had been dormant for months / a year) and would like to incorporate the technology more into my consulting work.

The next phase of the assignment was to write about Library 2.0 after reading some different sources on the subject. Given the prompt and the reading material the project then encourages users to write their thoughts into a blog post for the previously established blog. (Clever aren’t they, eh) The rest of this post will consist of a reaction to the readings and thoughts on Library 2.0

Library 2.0 means different things to different people. Some people see it as adoption of technology to help create a more user centered library experience. Others see it as a klaxon call for change in the library space to help knock the dust off our public image. Another segment of the population see it as the worst thing to ever be attempted in the library community.

For decades librarians have been gatekeepers for knowledge. We have been sitting an in an ivory tower surrounded by miles upon miles of shelving lined with books standing in perfect order. We were masters of our domain, rulers of the land and monarchs of great repute. There is an entire stereotype surrounding a librarian ruling over their shelves like a despotic ruler. I think for some in the profession their job became more about things and less about the people. The patron was a passive observer in the their own intellectual quest. The Library 2.0 movement focusing on tearing down that tower and create a more equal partnership between the librarian and the patron.

Generally, I am a great proponent of building a better rapport between patrons and the librarian. The Library 2.0 movement also has a more unfortunate side-effect. In the hurry to implement programs or create new tools for better involving the patron in the library experience the focus can slip away from the patron to change for the sake of changing. The library user community varies and cuts across every possible age, economic, cultural and social setting. A particular user community might love being able to access their reserves online while others still want to make the reserves at the front desk or call the reference librarian. Therefore, any changes made to enact a Library 2.0 goal set should be made as flexible as possible so on one is forced into anything they find undesirable. The library should be as welcoming as possible and that concept moves beyond physical space to services.

Library 2.0 is about refocusing the profession on the users rather than the objects. There is more information available to society at large than anytime in recorded history. The digital infrastructure is knocking down cultural, national, and economic barriers with great speed and efficiency. Library 2.0 is about partnership and building bridges between librarians and users.

The most marvelous feature behind the explosion of information is the content creation process has flattened enough to allow anyone to contribute. Though the trouble with the flattening content creation process is that everyone can contribute. How do you control the content enough without barring useful information? That is quite the conundrum. Though not an impossible problem to sort-out. I’ve found a multi-prong strategy is best when tackling any troubling problem. The first would be to rely on the community itself to police the members. This can be seen in the social networking site Librarything.com: a social networking site focused around users cataloging their personal libraries. The users can upload, change or delete records, but overall the community does a remarkable job policing their own membership, Mistakes are caught and rectified; data vandalism is spotted and fixed. Though the difference between changing bibliographic data and more serious data like health or financial information colors the issue. The second approach is authority control; while anyone familiar with library science will recognize the term I’ve adopted a slightly more in-depth definition. Rather than simply confirming birth dates or publication credits I mean actually investigating the contributors background. Inquire about credentials, contact any references, investigate publications etc. Lastly, is require investment in the community. The great draw behind the internet is the ability to become anonymous; being anonymous can make some users feel there are no consequences to their actions. In order to add, remove or alter content require establishing a profile on the site. It can remove some of the anonymous nature behind the web. Anyone who is determine to cyber-vandal your site will find a way. Though that is true is most situations. It is hard to discourage anyone truly dedicated from their path regardless.