Library2.0 Is Dead – Finally


It had a good run, and can now take its place (history will judge its significance) in the evolution of the 21st Century Library. It died because it was never anything more than librarians “playing” with Web2.0 technology, and it lacked a coherent framework for incorporating anything into creating a 21st Century Library.

Walt Crawford’s most recent essay at Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large 11:2, regarding “Five Years Later: Library 2.0 and Balance” provides an extensive review of Library2.0, and what has happened to its voracity over the past five years since it was introduced. Since many of my Posts have been a criticism of Library2.0 in the sense that it never was anything more than “playing” with Web2.0 technology by librarians, I was very interested in his perspective, and retrospective.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, “Library 2.0 made its conference debut at Internet Librarian 2005 in October, 2005, when Michael Stephens of Saint Joseph County Public Library addressed the idea in relation to the typical library website.” But as Crawford points out in this essay,

Was there ever a clear, useful, consensus definition of Library 2.0? Don’t quote Wikipedia at me: I will tell you with 100% certainty that the current shape of that article is at least partly due to some of us lacking the tenacity and patience to keep pushing at it, and even then “loosely defined” appears before the non-definition.

My opinion is that Library2.0 died for the reasons already stated; it was never anything more than librarians “playing” with Web2.0 technology, and it did not offer any coherent framework for building a 21st Century Library.

Crawford’s search results of “Library2.0” publications in Worldcat and LISTA, the free version of Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts offered by EBSCO, over the past five years revealed a graph with the following results.

Crawford’s conclusion was; “The term has been used a lot—not always in an actual library context. The peak years for “Library 2.0” as a library topic were probably 2007-2008. The term will stick around, but seems likely to fade into the background in the future.”

IMHO the 2007-2008 peak was spurred by Helen Blowers 23 Learning 2.0 Things. It literally went around the world being adopted by over 1,000 libraries as THE training tool for librarians to learn all about Web2.0 skills. One of her tenets included “playing” with the various Web2.0 tools, which was offputting to some, because it lacked any discernable objective beyond “playing”. It also died for lack of a coherent framework for incorporating any of it into creating a 21st Century Library.

Crawford goes on in his essay to point out that “LITA had one of its “ultimate debates” at the 2009 Annual Conference, this time on “Has Library 2.0 Fulfilled its Promise?” The group sent “starter questions” to “debaters” beforehand ….”, and the result reported by one attendee was that “The panel couldn’t exactly agree on what Library 2.0 was, let alone whether it’s fulfilled its promise, but traditional ways of thinking may not even be sufficient to judge Lib2.0 effectiveness.” Crawford’s response to this review was; “That last clause suggests a classic circular argument: If you’re not a Librarian 2.0, you’re incapable of judging Library 2.0 effectiveness.”

This observation supports Crawford’s introduction to this essay that recounts a dream he had in which a discussion he and a librarian colleague were having regarding a “new library-related service” was soon taken over by others who wanted to impose a bunch of planning stuff on the front end. To which Crawford responded “Please. Stop. Enough with the overplanning and multidivisional task forces. Let a few people try this out cheaply, quickly, easily. Build on those attempts. Don’t make it into A Big Thing before you know whether it works at all.”

While on the one hand, I personally have found that librarians tend to be the most creative and innovative group of individuals with whom I have worked, on the other hand Crawford’s concept may be too foreign for most librarians without the benefit of some business acumen and/or business experience. I think he’s saying “Try something on a small scale and see if it works for you.”

One of the many fallacies in virtually every profession and business endeavor is that one solution fits all. IT DOES NOT! Not everything implemented by Library A is adoptable by Library B successfully. Every organization is unique – INTERNALLY. While external influences (in the case of the 21st Century Library they are technology advances, education reform, and societal changes) may be virtually the same among the library community, internally is where implementation of a model solution either succeeds or fails.

Which is what Crawford is also alluding to when he writes;

One truly beneficial result of the whole “Library 2.0” phenomenon is that some (by no means all) library groups and libraries recognize the virtue of small, rapidly-deployed, “failable” projects: ones done without a lot of planning and deployment, ones that can grow if they succeed, die if they fail and in many cases serve as learning experiences.
….
But…and it’s a big but…the Library 2.0 “movement” also had more than its share of Big Deal Projects and Manifestos, a whole bunch of universalisms (“every library should…” and “every librarian must…”) and a fair amount of better-than-thou moments. It also involved more intergenerational misunderstanding and quarrels than should have been the case.

[Emphasis added.]

I totally agree with Mr. Crawford on these points. Nothing lasting came from all the “overplanning and multidivisional task forces” associated with Library2.0 projects – AGAIN – for lack of a coherent framework for creating a 21st Century Library.

Crawford quotes another source that wasn’t clear, but which is worth citing here to emphasize the point it is illustrating – technology for the sake of technology is another reason why Library2.0 is dead.

Here I’m going to quote the discussion paragraph because it’s so sensible:

Just because a shiny gadget or tool is available, it doesn’t mean that there is a need for it in each library. “Anytime we fetishize the container over the information we’re creating a golden idol,” writes Joshua Neff, extending the “sacred cow” metaphor. Amy Buckland agreed, writing, “I’m always amazed that libtechs are so enamored of tools long before they come up with uses for them. Then we try to shoehorn library services into a tool just so we have it.” Experimenting with low-cost or no-cost tools like Twitter will only cost staff time, but implementing expensive (think federated search) or complex-but-free technologies (think Drupal) because it’s the cool thing to do can be a very costly lesson for a library to learn, in terms of budget, staff time, morale and user satisfaction.

Can I get an Amen?

Crawford spends considerable space in the last half of his essay reviewing other commentaries on Library2.0 related issues such as change, technology and learning outcomes, and social media and libraries, with more to be continued in March. His initial part of the essay is more than enough to substantiate my claim that -

Library2.0 is dead – Finally

It died because it was never anything more than librarians “playing” with Web2.0 technology, and it lacked a coherent framework for incorporating anything into creating a 21st Century Library.

Stay tuned, because I intend to provide the coherent framework for creating a 21st Century Library that Library2.0 lacked.

1 Comment

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One response to “Library2.0 Is Dead – Finally

  1. Julie McCormack, MLS

    Laughing. The author obviously hasn’t been in any school libraries lately…moving on…

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