What is Library 2.0? Does it matter that we have a finite definition? Michael Stephens over at Tame the Web has a new post that asks us if Library 2.0 is more than technology. Yes, I think it is. Stephen M. Cohen over on Library Stuff argues that library 2.0 is merely a continuation of the Baltimore County Public Library’s "Give 'em What they Want" philosophy of service. Perhaps. But let’s look at this quote:
See that your library is interesting to the people of the community, the people who own it, the people who maintain it. Deny your people nothing which the bookshop grants them. Make your library at least as attractive as the most attractive retail store in the community. Open your eyes to the cheapness of books at the present day, and to the unimportance, even to the small library, of the loss of an occasional volume; and open them also to the necessity of getting your constituency in actual contact with the books themselves.
This was written by John Cotton Dana and published in Library Journal’s December 1896 edition. 1896. Was Dana espousing something similar to Library 2.0? Perhaps. Has our battle been going on this long? Absolutely. Will our battle continue for another hundred years? Yep.
I bring this up because I think there’s a misperception that Library 2.0 is trying to be a zero-sum answer to an age-old problem. It is not. Library 2.0 is a service philosophy – a theory, if you will – that attempts to guide libraries in their effort to win new users while, at the same time, acknowledging that our current service offerings are insufficient and inflexible. Built into L2 is the realization that libraries are never really going to be able to reach this level of Platonic ideal that so many of us set as our goal. But also built into L2 is the understanding that we will never stop trying to reach that level of service, and that we will use every tool at our disposal in our attempt.
Library 2.0 sees the reality of our current user-base and says “not good enough, we can reach more people”. It seeks to do this through a three-part approach -- reaching out to new users, inviting customer participation, and relying on constant change. Much of this is made possible thanks to new technologies, but the services will only be partially tech-based.
So yes, perhaps L2 is simply a continuation of the ideas of Dana and BCPL and so many other attempts at greater and greater community reach. But Library 2.0 is not the idea of any one individual. It was born in the biblioblogsphere in the writings of many diverse thinkers, and while one concise definition will never fit L2, there is a certain understanding that Library 2.0 represents, at a bare minimum, a discussion point around which many will offer ideas and discuss solutions.
We would not be in this place were it not for the technologies that allow us to have this conversation – the blogs and wikis and Web 2.0 tools that facilitate collaboration and discussion. These tools which allow us to talk about our problems will also play a great role in the solution – these same inclusive tools will be used to reach out to both our fellow librarians and to our users and harness their knowledge in crafting new and improved services. This newly-formed community will work together to address all of the issues surrounding libraries, and I will continue to argue that Library 2.0 is the best approach to use.