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LITA Asks: Has Library 2.0 Fulfilled Its Promise?

On Monday, LITA sponsored its annual Ultimate  Debate forum.  While prior years have focused on such volatile subjects as the future of libraries and cataloging, this year it was all about “Library 2.0,” which all-in-all generated fewer sparks but some good substance.

Speakers included  Meredith Farkas, Cindi Trainor, David Lee King,and  Michael Porter, with Roy Tennant moderating.

Though panelists’ views ranged on what exactly “Library 2.0” is, Cindi reminded us that the term is derived from Tim O’Reilly’s notion of a Web 2.0 environment of 2-way communications that facilitates interactive services, collaboration among users, community models, and software-as-a-platform services.

In libraries, 2.0 tends to be equated with brands such as Twitter, Facebook, flickr and mediums of expression such as blogs and wikis.  ILS vendors also tout 2.0 features like user tags, patron submitted book reviews, and data derived reading recommendations.

Panelists noted that though many libraries have implemented blogs and wikis and are using Twitter, Facebook and flickr to promote their libraries, the brands themselves are not the point, and the hours that go into these new activities are difficult to justify with hard evidence.

“Every hour spent, takes us away from what we used to do,” observed Michael Porter.  “The beauty of these tools is emotional, but we have to report in numbers.”

Another issue is archiving.

“We are entrusting our knowledge and hard work to great sites that may not be there in the future.” said Meredith Farkas.  ” How can we back up this work so our hard work isn’t lost?

For those challenged individuals (like myself) who are having difficulty understanding what exactly some of these tools are actually good for, David Lee King suggested emersion.

“To get Twitter,” he said, “you need to line up 100 followers and stay there for a month and say something more than I’m eating a sandwich now.”

The conversation took an interesting twist when Michael King observed that in the Web 2.0 world libraries stand the risk of “losing market share,” if they do not embrace the new options available in the 2.0 world.  Among the classic library functions now being carried out by internet companies are movie lending (NetFlix), reference request handling (KGB). and ebook distribution (Kindle)

For those libraries still on the 2.0 cusp, Cindi Trainor said, “Don’t be afraid to experiment, but think smart and take a risk management approach.”

Good examples of Libraries 2.0?  The panel sited the following as stunning cases in point.

Dick Kaser, ITI, VP, Content

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