Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: The Next 2.0

Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: The Next 2.0

Article excerpt

General Motors may be in trouble today, but in 1939 the automaker understood the future. GM even said so, on buttons given to people leaving its Futurama exhibit (not to be confused with the all-too-short-lived animated series) at the New York World's Fair. Those buttons made a powerful statement: "I have seen the future." We got planned communities, to be sure; but instead of the sleek, streamlined, slightly creepy ones envisioned through GM's corporate necromancy, with their automatic cars and burnished towers, we have SUVs, suburban sprawl, and telecommuting.

Predicting the future is dicey business; you almost never quite get what you expected. Thus preparing for it is equally fraught, especially in a profession that is inherently (and necessarily) conservative in nature--when the human record is at stake, you ought to tread carefully and thoughtfully.

There's been considerable recent discussion of a couple of 2.0s of late: Web 2.0 and its wacky neighbor, Library 2.0. If you feel bad that you've heard of these but don't understand them, the line forms to the left; if you just plain haven't heard of them, maybe you should get out more.

As far as I can tell, both are still fuzzy and developing concepts. Technology author Tim O'Reilly wrote last fall (www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a/6228) that Web 2.0 gravitates around a number of concepts, many of which involve collaboration, contribution, decentralization, and participation (think BitTorrent, Wikipedia, AdSense, blogs, and Flickr). Among a list of core competencies of Web 2.0 companies, he lists trusting users as codevelopers and harnessing collective intelligence.

In the April issue of the electronic journal D-Lib, Paul Miller casts the idea of Library 2.0 in the context of "disruptive change," part of a growing desire to access data "by means other than traditional human interaction with an application's web interface" and a willingness to share data and combine data sources to "discover new value" (www.dlib.org/dlib/april06/miller/04miller.html). Think of a user searching for a book in Amazon and automatically discovering that the local library holds it, or exposing library holdings seamlessly within course-management software.

What to teach?

I honestly can't tell you whether either of those really will amount to anything or if they're just so much hot air. Then again, they might be the latest instances of sudden innovations--PCs, CD-ROMs, the internet--that none of us really foresaw, planned, or budgeted for and yet transformed libraries and librarianship. …

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