Library Association 2.0: "Will That Be a Name Badge or a Wiki?"

By Lankes, R. David | Searcher, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Library Association 2.0: "Will That Be a Name Badge or a Wiki?"


Lankes, R. David, Searcher


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Out of all the hype and scenarios put forth in the Web 2.0 world, a near Utopian image of a new type of professional organization emerges. In this Utopia, the professional organization will become a social space where members congregate online, share their thoughts on blogs, edit policies in wikis, mashup photos, and build towering edifices in Second Life. RSS feeds would abound, and, no doubt, more than one activity or function would require a Google Map. All members would put up profiles, and the professional organization would evolve and grow every day from the continuous input of the members. ALA as MySpace! SLA as Facebook! ASIS&T as Wikipedia!

This article builds upon concepts first put forth in the technology brief "Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation" [http://iis.syr.edu/rojects/ PNOpen], commissioned by the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy [http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/oitp/oitpoffice information.htm]. The goal of the technology brief was to familiarize library decision-makers with the opportunities and challenges of participatory networks, social networking, and the larger Web 2.0 phenomena. The authors of the brief attempted to look beyond simply defining terminology or offering examples, but instead looking for durable, underlying concepts, which the author refers to as "participatory librarianship."

Participatory librarianship posits that when people build and acquire new knowledge, they do so through conversation. Since librarians are in the knowledge business, they are also in the conversation business. Books, videos, Web pages, DVD-ROMs, etc., are simply artifacts, the outcome of creating knowledge. Now, more and more, patrons want to participate actively in the knowledge creation process and increasingly expect the systems they interact with to allow user participation. Using this framework, blogs, Wikis, mashups, and more make sense. These Internet-based tools allow users to participate and create their own online world.

The brief examines just some of the implications from users expecting, and librarians providing, greater participation. It calls for the re-examination of existing library systems and developing means of making the core of the library more participatory. Simply adding Web 2.0 flourishes and technologies to an already overcrowded and confusing suite of library systems will not work. Rather, libraries must adopt durable participatory concepts into the heart of their operations.

The Reality of Members' Lives

Members are grounded in a very different reality than their professional organizations. They come to a professional organization not to serve it, but to have it enhance their professional lives. Their professional lives, online or off, are grounded in service to other organizations and clientele. Taking a strictly functional view of how Web 2.0 developments could impact professional organizations is the wrong approach.

Remember the old joke about the consultant addressing an audience and proudly pronouncing that "Technology is the answer"? He then turns to an audience member and asks, "Now what was the question?" Too many times we concentrate on functions and assume a deep need for them exists. This was one of the early lessons for the digital library community. It assumed if you created great collections and interfaces, users would not only flock to the collections, but freely contribute content. Why then are YouTube, Wikipedia, and MySpace exploding with user-generated content while so many digital library projects sit nearly empty? Simply put: Functionality does not equal use.

To succeed in creating Library Association 2.0, we must marry functionality with the reality of professionals' lives. Professionals are busy; they are embedded in a context; and they participate in professional organizations only insofar as it benefits them (mostly professionally, but also in terms of social and personal fulfillment). …

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