Monthly Archives: January 2011

A 21st Century Library Model – Seriously!

I now realize that the 21st Century Library Model in my last Post may seem like just more of the same and nothing really new. Where this 21st Century Library Model drastically differs from any previous model of libraries is in the contents and context of its tenets.
• The contents present a different definition of librarianship in order to confront the changes and challenges of the 21st Century. The contents were fundamentally outlined in the three Posts last week previous to the Model Post.
• The context of the Model is all the 21st Century change that is unique to this century and time. Technology and society are making a totally new environment in which libraries must change to survive.

The context of the 21st Century Library Model may be more clearly explained by Charles Handy’s concept of discontinuous change.
“… the changes are different this time: they are discontinuous and not part of a pattern …; discontinuous change requires discontinuous upside-down thinking to deal with it ….” Handy wrote this as part of the Introduction to his 1990 book THE Age OF UNREASON. I read it during my MLS program, and recently began a re-read.

In the Foreword, world renowned billionaire businessman Warren Bennis praises Handy for writing “eloquently and movingly about some changes that seem as minor as the little butterfly wings, but with profound effects on our weather systems, to blockbusting changes that directly influence the ways we think and the ways we live. He writes about changes in technology, changes in patterns of work and social institutions, changes in our social relations …”.

Any futuristic predictions that get Warren Bennis’ attention MUST be taken seriously! This was 1990 – 20 years ago – that predictions about dramatic changes in technology and society were seen to be poised to impact everything. (The only thing Handy apparently didn’t foresee, or maybe just didn’t discuss, was the dramatic impact of technology on the development of the next and future generation – The Millennials.)

It seems to me that Handy’s observations are more true today than 20 years ago. He was obviously very much on the cutting edge of his time. No doubt the course and progress of technology change was not clearly in focus in his envisioning, but time has given us the perspective to recognize that Handy was 100% Correct!

Handy begins his book with a fundamental example and observation to begin Chapter 1 – The Argument. “A speaker from the floor of the Chamber spoke with passion, ‘In the matter,’ he cried, ‘as in so much else in our great country, why cannot the status quo be the way forward?’… ‘If change there has to be, let it be gradual, continuous change.’ … Continuous change is comfortable change. The past is then the guide to the future.”

He explains the relevance of this example.

For many years, we have viewed change as within our control – more of the same only better, and, if possible, for more people. It was a comfortable view of change, one in which, in the growth-heady days of the sixties and seventies, allowed so many to marry idealism to their personal prosperity. … It was the view of change which upset no one. The only trouble was that it did not work. It never has worked anywhere for very long, and even in those societies in which it has seemed to be working, … [they] are about to see that it does not work forever.

Handy points out that “It is not just the pace of change has speeded up, which it has done, of course. … Faster change by itself sits quite comfortably with the ‘more only better’ school. It is only when the graph goes off the chart that we need to start to worry, because then things get less predictable and less manageable. Incremental change suddenly becomes discontinuous change. In mathematics, they call it catastrophe theory.” [Emphasis added.]

But, Handy has a positive outlook.

I believe that discontinuity in not catastrophe, and that it certainly need not be catastrophe. Indeed, I will argue that discontinuous change is the only way forward for a tramlined society, one that has got used to its ruts and blinkers and prefers its own ways, however dreary, to untrodden paths and new ways of looking at things. … If we want to avoid the fate of the … boiling frog we must learn to look for and embrace discontinuous change.”

The boiling frog reference is to the illustration of a frog placed in a pot of cold water that slowly is brought to a boil, but the frog is “too comfortable with continuity to realize that continuous change at some point may become intolerable and demand a change in behavior.”

Hopefully, it has become obvious that I am citing Handy’s observations to emphasize the need for altering the 20th Century librarian mindset that the 21st Century is more of the same only better, through continuous change that we can control. Technology advances, education reforms, and societal changes are NOT within any librarian’s realm of control, or even within any one profession’s control. The changes are advancing so rapidly that “discontinuous thinking” is the only way forward.

Handy offers the following advice.

In a world of incremental change it is sensible to ape your elders in order to take over where they left off, in both knowledge and responsibility. But under conditions of discontinuity it is no longer obvious that their ways should continue to be your ways; we may all need new rules for new ball games and will have to discover them for ourselves.

Do we always need a painful jolt to start rethinking? Did we need the Titanic disaster before it became compulsory for ships to carry enough lifeboats for all the passengers? Did the Challenger have to explode before NASA reorganized its decision-making systems and priorities? …

Do we really need thousands of libraries to close in order to recognize that we must re-evaluate the core business of libraries, and change our organization and services to retain our relevance in our community?

Handy asserted that,

It is the combination of a changing technology and economics, in particular of information technology … and the economics associated … which causes this discontinuity. Between them they will make the world a different place. Information technology links the processing power of the computer with the microwaves, the satellites, the fiberoptic cables of telecommunications. It is a technology that is leaping rather than creeping into the future. … These … technologies are developing so fast that their outputs are unpredictable, but some of the more likely developments in the next ten to twenty years could change parts of our lives in a dramatic fashion.

WOW! It is even more impressive to realize that Handy was writing 20 years ago. How much farther down that road of “discontinuous change” have we all come, and yet there has been no corresponding conversion to discontinuous thinking within our profession.

Discontinuous Thinking

It is the argument of this book that discontinuous change is all around us. We would be foolish to block our eyes to its signs as those Peruvian Indians did to their invaders’ sails. We need not leave it too late, like the frog in boiling water, nor wait for a revolution. There are opportunities as well as problems in discontinuous change. If we change our attitudes, our habits, and the ways of some of our institutions, it can be an age of new discovery, new enlightenment, and new freedoms – an age of true learning.

Handy refers to discontinuous thinking as upside-down thinking.

Discontinuous change requires discontinuous thinking. If the new way of doing things is going to be different from the old, not just an improvement on it, then we shall need to look at everything in a new way. The new words really signal new ideas. … The creative upside-down thinking of such people [Copernicus, Galileo, Freud, Marx, Einstein, etc.] is the premise on which this book is built. New ways of thinking about familiar things can release new energies and make all manner of things possible. Upside-down thinking does not have to aspire to the greatness of Einstein or to the all-embracing doctrines of Marx. It has its more familiar variants. The person who decides to treat every chore as an opportunity for learning discovers that cooking can be a creative art, chopping wood [can be] a craft, childcare an educational experience, and shopping a sociological expedition. … Upside-down thinking changes nothing save the way we think, but that can make all the difference. [Emphasis added.]

Handy’s conclusion to The Argument for the need for discontinuous thinking to address discontinuous change is speaking to many in the librarian profession today, in IMHO.

It is the time for new imaginings, of windows opening even if doors close. We need not stumble backward into the future, casting longing glances at what used to be; we can turn around and face a changed reality. It is, after all, a safer posture if you want to keep moving.

Some people, however, do not want to keep moving. Change for them means sacrificing the familiar, even if it is unpleasant, for the unknown, even when it might be better. … Sadly for them a time of discontinuous change means that standing still is not an option, for the ground is shifting underneath them. For them, more than the movers and the shakers, it is essential that they understand what is happening, that they begin to appreciate that to move and to change is essential, and that through change we learn and grow, although not always without pain. [Emphasis added.]

This 21st Century Library Model is far beyond Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science published in 1931. But, it is not contradicting Rubin that these five laws “have remained a centerpiece of professional values…”. [Rubin, Richard E. (2004) Foundations of Library and Information Science. 2nd ed. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.] In fact, these basic values are still a part of this century’s librarianship, especially “5. The library is a growing organism.”

I consider Handy’s perception of the future to be our 21st Century librarianship “WAKE UP” call if we want to reinvent the LIBRARY as we want it to be within the realities of this 21st Century.

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Customer Is The Purpose

The absolute total purpose and focus of the 21st Century Library Model is the customer. Customer centered library services that meet the information needs of the 21st Century customer will result in any library remaining relevant to its community.

This premise includes an expressed challenge – knowing your 21st Century customer. The 21st Century customer is NOT the 20th Century patron. The 21st Century customer should be considered “new” – the Millennial Customer – if you will.

World renown management expert Peter F. Drucker is the originator of the idea that the customer is the purpose.

A company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customers, to provide the goods or services which the company exists to produce. Profit is not the primary goal but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence. Other responsibilities, e.g., to employees and society, exist to support the company’s continued ability to carry out its primary purpose. marketing crossing

Public libraries have been slow to figure out that the 21st Century customer does not need 20th Century library services. School, academic and special libraries have been dealing with the new Millennial Customer for several years. Unless we want to see brick & mortar libraries go the way of the rotary dial telephone, the transistor radio, and the cathode ray tube, we need to understand the Millennial Customer and adapt library services to meet their interests, because they do not appear to have library service “needs”, and may not seek services from public libraries!

Five Generations of Library Customers
There are The Greatest Generation, Silent Generation (often lumped in with the Greatest Generation), Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y or Millennials (as they have labeled themselves). Obviously, since each was born and raised under VERY different times and circumstances, there are significant differences in each generation, and, a DRASTIC difference between the Greatest Generation and the Millennials – DRASTIC in the sense of being very different library customers! (The graphic below represents a brief overview of where the generations fall within the three types of library customers.)

The Digital Fugitive
This segment of library customers includes the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation, those customers over 65 and who can generally be considered 20th Century customers. Their interests are typical of 20th Century library services – books, newspapers, leisure and recreational print material, a quiet place to read and socialize. Most are not Digital Immigrants, but those who are use a limited amount of technology by necessity, like Internet and email.

Digital Immigrant
This segment of library customers begins the serious Millennial Customer who has adopted technology into their lives – work and leisure. They are the Baby Boomers who are just this year turning 65, and are probably more of an enigma than the other generations, because they span a broad range of background, interests and activities.

In middle age, they realized that they needed to become “life long learners” because their high school education wouldn’t get them very far in the last 20 years of the 20th Century. Technology was changing so fast that they had to learn it to keep up and retain their place in society and the workplace. As library customers, Boomers represent virtually all library services, traditional and cutting edge. Older Boomers are Digital Immigrants by necessity more than desire, and they have typical traits of Digital Immigrants in that they still use punctuation in their emails, IMs and even tweets.

Digital Native
I place this discussion of GenX in the Digital Native category because this is THE generation that has truly mastered the art of adapting to change. They have straddled today’s technology in an amazing way, yet still remember being their parents “TV remote”. Their first introduction to technology was sitting on the floor in front of the TV and changing the channel, and now they proficiently handle the five remotes on the coffee table in their home, or more likely figured out the “universal” remote.

Generation X people are mostly Digital Immigrants by birth, and for the most part represent those now reaching middle age. GenX statistically holds the highest education levels when looking at age groups. Because the technological, educational and societal changes have been so significant between their own childhood and now their children’s, none of the Baby Boomer models fit for the GenX generation. They must reinvent everything from parenting to career paths without a model. While GenX is often called the “microwave generation” due to their desire for instant gratification, they still struggle with their children who sit in a home with three different gaming systems, multiple computers, and 500 TV channels, and complain that they’re bored.

GenX work in the vice grip of two generations. One that has stayed in the work force longer than expected, and therefore created a bottleneck in upward mobility. The other generation with better technology skills is breathing down their necks, with their over-indulged upbringing, where everyone who participates gets a trophy, and wants everything yesterday.

Since most GenX did not grow up with technology (as we understand it today), but were exposed to it early in their late teen and early adult life, and have that uncanny adaptability toward technology, many could qualify as Digital Natives, but are still technically Digital Immigrants. Fortunately, they did not acquire the aversion traits of their parents regarding technology, so they can all be considered Digital Natives in their behavior.

Generation Y (considered to be born from 1982 through 2001) are so labeled as a follow on to the previous Generation X, but self labeled as Millennials (wanting to disassociate themselves with the previous GenX). Most distinctively, they are indeed a “new” generation of learner, consumer, citizen and library customer – the Millennial Customer.

Millennials are typified by their use of instant communication technologies, are also somewhat peer-oriented (which means they prefer the opinions of anonymous peers to that of “experts”), are into self-expression and acceptance, are more culturally tolerant than previous generations, have an inclination for delaying some of the rites of passage into adulthood, and trend toward living with their parents for longer than previous generations. They are generally considered the “Trophy Kids”, due to the “everybody’s a winner” approach to group activities, and as a result tend toward generational consensus building. They like to work collaboratively, and prefer to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace. They also believe in “doing” as opposed to “learning to do”.

Jason Ryan Dorsey, The “Gen Y Guy” presents an awesome overview of the Millennial Generation.

Here is another perspective of the Millennials from themselves.

This is the generation public librarians should focus on and study, not because there are 60+ million of them, but because they are such a different consumer that in order to address their library service interests, public libraries will have to understand them, and literally take services to them. (School and academic librarians are getting first-hand experience with GenY kids every day.) They do not recognize much, if any, “need” for library services, and seldom, if ever, seek “traditional” services from public libraries.

All of the older generations will progressively have fewer consumers of fewer library services, whereas the future belongs to the young. It is understood that Millennials are into email, texting, IMing, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and whatever the latest electronic means of communication happens to be. They communicate using social media technology, and everything is “remote”. They generally only visit the library to collaborate and socialize. They have integrated technology into their life and it is now a necessity for them, because they grew up with technology and the Internet, and are “Digital Natives”.

The successful 21st Century Library will provide services to their 21st Century Millennial Customer, because they know who they are and what they want. The 21st Century customer is NOT the 20th Century patron.

More to come…………………
See A 21st Century Library Model


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Technology Is The Building Block

Technology is the essential building block of a 21st Century Library Model, as well as the 21st Century Library. A full understanding and integration of technology, using more business-like processes of librarianship, is the building block that supports every successful 21st Century Library.

Now more than ever, there are additional technology skills (beyond building websites) required for librarians to be successful, skills not taught in SLIS. What SLIS focus on is the librarianship theory. Masters level education is virtually all theory based, which is highly important, but not all encompassing. My most favorite “truism” I learned many years ago was that: “Theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind.” [Kidd, J. R. (1973). How Adults Learn. New York: Association Press.] In other words, an MLS is not enough to be successful as a 21st Century Librarian. Today’s librarians require additional skills, most of which won’t be taught in SLIS.

Librarian technology skills are most closely associated with the Library2.0 activities, primarily Learning2.0 from Helene Blowers that went around the world in 2007 and 2008. But, as pointed out before, it died because that’s all there was to it – acquiring very basic web technology skills. It lacked any purposeful application component to develop 21st Century library customer services.

Technology Examples

One specific example of the additional technology skills required by 21st Century librarians was demonstrated in a recent Web Junction webinar about “Gadgets” (defined as ebook readers, mp3 players, video and digital cameras, and handheld computers and smartphones). Gadget Checklist 2010: For library staff, users and our future (click on “View the full archive”) presented by Michael Porter, was a fascinating overview of this gadget technology and its applications in the library setting.

That is the key! Application of technology in the library, just as long as it is appropriate and applicable to the delivery of a library service that fulfills the customer’s information needs.

Web Junction has a treasure trove of different types of technology presentations that is well worth browsing for those who want to catch up to what challenges libraries are facing and ways to address library customers’ interests. They have specific sections addressing Mobile Devices, and E-Books and Digital Audio Books, as well as just Basic Technology.

Another good resource is College of DuPage Press, the distance education arm that presents Library Learning Network information. An archived teleconference from September 24th, 2010 – “Libraries & the Mobile Technologies Landscape”, a part of CoD regular series Library Futures: Staying Ahead of the Curve 2011, was especially worthwhile. The studio guest was Joe Murphy, Science Librarian, Coordinator of Instruction & Technology, Klein Science Library, Yale University. (Joe Blogs, presents and consults about mobile technology, and he received the Library Journal 2009 “Movers & Shakers” Award. Joe was also co-presenter of the Keynote address at the recent Hand Held Librarian Online Conference III with his “Creating the Future of Mobile Library Services”.)

Joe approached the topic as both expert and public library customer with needs for mobile library services. “Networked information is gearing itself toward that mobile technology. It is not a passing trend.”, he asserted. He also proposed that “mobile literacy” is an issue that is driving much of the demand for mobile library services. A video overview of his model of Mobile Literacy using the Prezi application was very impressive. Have you heard of “foursquare”?

Since information is available at a touch, any time, any where, instantly, libraries must become as convenient and accessible as any other information provider. QR codes and location services (like foursquare) can create direct links to reference desks and librarians to facilitate those 21st Century reference transactions. Reference must be flexible and reflect the changing ways users seek and interact with information. Geosocial Networking is another evolving realm for Millennial users. “Geosocial networking is a type of social networking in which geographic services and capabilities such as geocoding and geotagging are used to enable additional social dynamics. User-submitted location data or geolocation techniques can allow social networks to connect and coordinate users with local people or events that match their interests.”

ALA’s Research

Every year since 1994, ALA has conducted a study of Public Library Funding & Technology Access. The 2009-2010 Study findings are being published as a “digital supplement to American Libraries”.


New data this year indicates that the use of library technology resources was up significantly from just one year ago:
• Most libraries (75.7 percent) report increased use of public access workstations.
• Most libraries (71.1 percent) report an increased use of Wi-Fi.
• Less than half (45.6 percent) report an increased use of electronic resources.
• Some libraries (26.3 percent) report an increased use of training services.

CONCLUSION: Data from the 2009-2010 Study describe a mixed landscape and paradoxical environment. Libraries have expanded technology resources, particularly around workforce development and e-government, to meet rising demand, but many are hampered by outmoded buildings and funding reductions that threaten every aspect of service, including available staff and hours open. Public libraries need sustained support for their services to ensure that the safety net they provide to millions in the United States remains in place.

Unfortunately, expanded Internet access is NOT the hallmark of a 21st Century Library. It is all of the other technology applications to all of the other library services that make access to the library fast, mobile, convenient, and especially appealing. The hallmark of a 21st Century Library is technology, of which most librarians should gain a general understanding, that is used as another tool to provide YOUR library customers with services THEY WILL USE.

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Librarianship Is The Foundation

It seems a no-brainer that librarianship is THE foundation of any library model, regardless of what or when it exists. “21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries” is what I call a truism.

I have expended many hundreds of words professing the importance of librarianship in creating a 21st Century Library. But, what exactly does that mean? What is 21st Century librarianship?

One example is from University of Michigan Library: The Future of Libraries.

1) The 21st Century librarian is both a user and producer of technology to better understand and achieve improved library services.

Another example is this school librarian.

2) The 21st Century librarian is a master of information literacy who relies on that skill to enhance advanced reference services.

Is “Google” technology the enemy of the 21st Century librarian?

3) The 21st Century librarian understands ALL types of information resources and relies on that knowledge to select the BEST resource for the customer’s information needs.

An even better example of the future librarian is Master Yoda.

4) The 21st Century librarian relies on technology to enhance advanced thinking, rather than relying on just what is contained in a collection.

Six months ago I found no prominent SLIS with 21st Century anything in their curricula. Some incorporate Library2.0 type topics in some courses, but, again, they offer no coherent approach to a 21st Century librarianship concept. One thing that appears obvious is that SLIS are lagging well behind any movement toward 21st Century librarianship. The limited information that does exist is basically “Library2.0” technologies that lack any comprehensive theory for application, or cohesive direction toward specific goals of creating a 21st Century Library.

The role of librarian as information gatekeeper (previously the exclusive skill of librarianship) is eroding away under the flood of Millennial library patrons armed with advancing technology (with which they are already more competent than most librarians) who are becoming their own gate keeper.

The nearly overwhelming challenge of 21st Century librarianship is learning and knowing everything that is required to be the professional keeper and provider of the “ocean of information” that library customers are swimming in today. In addition to knowing everything there is to know about information literacy, information technology, and the information profession, the 21st Century librarian also needs working skills to address these issues.

One important point to reiterate!
No one is suggesting that ALL librarians must know or understand ALL new technologies and library skills. What is important is that when 21st Century librarians recognize a service need their customers have, they should know how to most appropriately fill that need and best accomplish their library’s mission.

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The 21st Century Library Model

In the past few months my Posts have had a fairly negative slant regarding the future of libraries. That has been from a frustration over the past year of Blogging and reading, and the continued absence of any profession-wide conversation regarding the 21st Century Library. Other factors also played a part in that frustration, such as; watching the exponential growth of technology that is eroding the audience for traditional library services, the dramatic societal changes regarding adoption of technologies by generations of people who want “remote” access to the explosion of digital information NOW, the continued lack of 21st Century progressive curricula in SLIS, and mostly the polarization of the librarian profession regarding the need for change in the 21st Century.

2010 saw significant inroads into providing digital information by commercial interests (even assisted by institutions within our profession). Also, another year has passed when Generation Next youth progressed toward gaining information literacy skills that were once the exclusive skill of librarians that distinguished them as information professionals.

I believe all these factors and more constitute a serious threat to the survival of libraries and even librarianship in the 21st Century. However, there is a ray of hope that should provide 21st Century librarians with the kind of 21st Century information they need to begin to move forward to create their 21st Century Library.

It is an emerging 21st Century Library Model, which means it will not be static, and likely not be “completed”, for several reasons. First, and foremost is the constant evolution of the External Influences affecting libraries (described in some detail in the December 21 Post A “Perfect Storm” Is Battering Libraries). Second, as creative and innovative 21st Century librarians continue to develop ways to address those External Influences, there will be new information to share.

Also, as SLIS programs begin to address 21st Century librarianship issues, there will begin to be new research and information available. As time passes, successes and (unfortunately) failures in pursuit of the 21st Century Library will add to the “lessons learned” that are so important in advancing any profession into new environments.

If you were able to join a WebJunction webinar on January 18, you heard about how Glen Carbon Centennial Library, Glen Carbon, IL became the “Best Small Library in America 2010”, as judged by Library Journal. This bedroom community of St. Louis serves a community of under 25,000, with a collection of less than 50,000 items, in a nice facility of 14,000 sq. ft., but the LJ article reads like its a major metro library because of all the services and programs they provide. Their success is not just about being busy. It’s also the way they tackled the challenges, transformed their organization, dealt with their customer, and established their relevance to their community.

The point in this example is that libraries can become a “Best Library”, or 21st Century Library, without any model, through their own creativity, innovation, dedication and hard work. But those are the exceptions. (Synergy and serendipity also play a big part in that kind of success. Plus, Glen Carbon was runner-up in 2008 and committed themselves to win in 2010.) The rest of us need a model to prompt us to begin to change, develop and progress, to understand how the parts and pieces (both external and internal factors) interact and fit together, to describe what success looks like, and help us understand the vision we can achieve – all in a common context. Using a model as a researched framework for organizing our efforts helps us get started down that long, challenging but rewarding road to success.

Librarians who are interested in preserving their library, remaining relevant in their community, providing cutting-edge technology-based services to Gen Next customers, and evolving into a 21st Century Library, will select those elements of a 21st Century Library Model that appear to be helpful in implementing changes that they believe will direct them toward becoming a 21st Century Library. The 21st Century library customer is the focus of any 21st Century Library. Understanding the customer and providing 21st Century services using appropriate technology within more business-like processes will result in re-establishing the library as a core of the community.

“21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries”.

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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.

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Tween Library User Creates #1 App

A 14 year old entrepreneur from Spanish Fork, Utah used resources from his local public library to create the #1 hottest app on the Net – Bubble Ball.

ABC reported the story this past weekend.

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