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Library 2.0 is about people, not about technology. That’s the mantra of the moment, right? And it’s even mostly true. Libraries are making changes to their rules, hours, services and organizations that embrace radical transparency and trust and meet our patrons were they are, not where we want them to be. People are the foundation of all things 2.0. But there’s still an awful lot of technology in the mix.

We shouldn’t apologize for the technology. It’s there, it’s a big part of Library 2.0 because it’s a big part of everything. Especially information, which is, you know, kind of our business. Library 2.0 is about people and as many people who are much smarter than I am have pointed out, you can’t do Library 2.0 until you have Library 1.0 down. If Library 2.0 is people and extreme service, is Library 1.0 good service and information?
Maybe, or maybe this is all just semantics. Libraries are fundamentally about people, information and connecting the two. The technology is secondary, but it’s there and it’s important.

Technology has allowed people to directly access information. Without an MLIS- endowed intermediary. No, it’s not always good, it’s not always the best, but let’s not puff ourselves up too much- we’re good, but we’re not perfect. More importantly, stamping our feet and scolding patrons about the quality of their Googling is not going to endear us to them. The 2.0 push has made a huge effort to harness technology to meet people where they are and reshape the library as a facilitator, not an intermediary.

There’s been a quiet buzz in the biblioblogosphere about libraries as community centers, hubs of information with meeting spaces and real connections, within our walls and in the digital community. Companies are banging their heads on the wall trying to create communities centered around their products. Here’s where libraries have a major advantage: we don’t make anything. We can create community centered around our patrons, our towns and whatever our users want.

High Touch, the blog of a non-library Twitter pal, alerted me to the new job title “community manager.” Like Kevin, I’m a bit squicked out by the vision of this corporate job and see many of the responsibilities of a “community manager” as things that should either be everyone’s job or not happen at all (it’s hard to give up traditional ideas of power, but no one’s doing themselves any favors by trying to control all their users):

So, let’s return to the concept of the community manager. Whose “community” is it to manage? The people in your organization may be a part of a community, may have even participated in birthing it, may even be trusted members, but to think they occupy any special super-node is nothing short of delusional. Does making someone responsible for these functions absolve others in your organization from active participation? It’s not a community if everyone doesn’t feel free to participate as an equal. As soon as you make this someone’s job you devalue the contributions of everyone. I’m thinking the whole concept of a “community manager” is a very bad idea.

However, the comments clearly show corporate concerns that libraries can often ignore:

Large companies have hundreds of products, coordination is required for all these touch points. Just because customers voice they want something, doesn’t mean it’s going to get done. It’s unlikely that every product team is going to spend time watching the community, so this role helps to streamline this.

Once again, libraries don’t make anything; we provide a service (connecting people with information) and we usually do it locally. Our ability to leverage our strengths and improve service are what we’ve got and those truly are everyone’s job. Regardless of how we do it- online, in person, over the phone, IM, email, Second Life- connecting with our community is everyone’s job. That’s where the technology is irrelevant. From another non-library blog (I’m so sorry, I can’t remember who posted/tweeted/sent this link):

We have to understand the aspirations of the business, and then understand the needs of the customer. Only then can we look at where her needs coincide with the services we offer. Only then can we justify the investments we are making. That is alignment.

That alignment isn’t required for technology only. It’s required for every one of our services, plans, purchases and contracts. What does your library aspire to? What do your patrons need? Where do those intersect? Go there.

It’s important to pay attention to what businesses are doing. They’re usually ahead of non-profits in many ways. But it would be foolish to run our libraries as if they were businesses. One thing the corporate world seems to know- work your niche. First you have to know your niche. It’s not going to be the same for every library, because libraries are organizations that are very much of their communities (be they towns, universities, tiny neighborhoods or law firms). Library 2.0 is about people- staff, patrons, communities- online, offline, at the desk, on MySpace, in your space.


One comment for “how much for that widget?”

  1. […] Loose Cannon Librarian – “Libraries are fundamentally about people, information and connecting the two. The technology is secondary, but it’s there and it’s important.” Posted in librar*, Technology | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top Of Page […]

    Posted by What’s Primary? | Library Stuff | November 26, 2007, 11:41 am

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