It seems that many people are not fond of the term “Library 2.0″ and dislike of the phrase is often listed as proof that it’s a. silly and b. all about technology and technolust. I am neutral on the phrase Library 2.0, but I don’t like the word “embolden”. Hearing it can often cause me to lose track of the rest of the sentence it’s in as I am overcome with crankiness at the person using this word that I think should be imaginary. (I know, I looked it up- it’s a perfectly cromulent word, I just don’t like it.)
I have sympathy for those who hate the name “Library 2.0″ but the name isn’t really the point. Let’s call it (and the people who are interested in 2.0) Sam. Sam loves libraries, Sam is devoted to libraries, Sam wants libraries to thrive. Sam wants librarians to love their jobs and patrons to adore their libraries. Sam hopes that everyone will be filled with so much love for the library, they will all be library evangelists. Sam likes technology and thinks there are some really useful tools out there. More than that, Sam is paying attention to the web-driven shifts in culture. Sam sees that people are coming to expect transparency, engagement, amazing service, responsiveness and efficient, convenient results from the organizations they interact with. Sam is a little worried about libraries. Libraries can be awfully good at getting in their own way and putting up well-intentioned road blocks between potential patrons and the wealth of resources the library has to offer. Additionally, libraries may be missing the boat when it comes to taking advantage of the information and perspectives offered by patrons.
Sam is asking library folks to step back and look at how they’re running their libraries. Are we creating policies only with our most difficult users in mind? Are we forcing our patrons to jump through our hoops without considering their perspective? Are we really engaging with our communities? Some of what Sam’s asking and saying seems a little heretical. The recent post over at Library Garden is a great example of a little of the heresy that Sam is interested in: sometimes, it’s okay to give them the damn fish. This isn’t to say that libraries have been wrong all along, just that our users are coming to us with different needs and expectations then they used to- a lot of them want fish, not fishing lessons.
Sam can get caught up in technology sometimes and lately has been concerned that the whiz bang of all the gadgets and tools Sam’s been interested in and all the “hey, Sam, check US out” from vendors has buried the original intent. People who like Sam also tend to like Flickr, del.icio.us, Twitter and a bunch of other “cool” things, but that doesn’t mean every library has to use every possible Web 2.0 tool out there.
Sam isn’t dead, Sam wasn’t lying, Sam isn’t a secret club with supercool decoder rings and a secret handshake. Sam isn’t meant to be a one-stop fix for libraries- we can’t just hire a Sam librarian and expect that person to singlehandedly transform our library into a darling of the biblioblogosphere and our patrons. Sam is asking libraries to do some serious thinking about and assessment of how they interact with their users.
One thing’s for sure: Sam would like it if librarians could spend less time on semantics and more time figuring out how to best assess, meet and grow with the needs of our patrons.