Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tasha explains Library 2.0 for you

  • Menasha Public Library Director Tasha Saecker's Wednesday afternoon presentation, Library 2.0: The Movement Explained, was one of those lively, inspiring conference events that make you walk out thinking to yourself, "I'm sure glad I caught that one!"

    She was incredibly engaging and very persuasive in her promotion of this new, customer-oriented approach to library services. The term is a spinoff of Web 2.0, the subject of another breakout session at this conference and, as Tasha explains it, "simply means making your library space - both physical and virtual - more interactive, collaborative, and driven by community needs."

    Library 2.0 represents a dramatic departure from the way some of us have traditionally done library service, which explains why we may be reluctant to embrace it, she said. But ultimately, it offers perhaps the best opportunity for librarians to attract more users and make our libraries the community hubs they are meant to be.

    Simply defined, Library 2.0 is two-way communication between libraries and the communities they serve. "It's a way of inviting input from the public ... and a lot of us aren't all that used to doing that." It requires flexibility, transparency, openness, decentralized control and participation from all sectors. Common tools include blogs, wikis, instant messaging, email, mashups, social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and interactive websites. But she stressed that Library 2.0 goes deeper than new technologies.

    "It's more about the theory and philosophy and approach that you take with your staff, your patrons and your community," she said. "You can do it even if you're not a techno-geek."

    You're still living in the Library 1.0 world if you:
  • believe that rules rule (i.e. you find yourself saying "no" to patrons a lot)
  • take pride in creating parameters for users (such as "no cell phones in the library")
  • see librarians as the experts
  • see the library as an "institution" rather than a provider of services
  • use technology reluctantly and see it as anti-library
  • assume that patrons know nothing

Essential elements of Library 2.0, on the other hand, include:

  • User-centered, not library- or librarian-centered service

  • Socially rich physical and virtual spaces.

  • Communal approaches

  • Egalitarian attitudes and behaviors

  • More acceptance of non-textual content

  • Trust between librarians and the public and between management and staff
She discussed the concept of radical trust, which she said forces acceptance and tolerance. She challenged us to reach out and try to "radically trust" our most irritating, cringe-inducing patrons, hard as that may be. Chances are those people will surprise us, and they may just have the most useful suggestions.

One way to encourage skeptical or reluctant library employees to embrace change is to provide them ample access to technology, and to provide time for them to play with it. Menasha Public Library employees are encouraged to blog and IM each other to communicate, and all are invited to publish on the library's website.

To those who say they just don't have time to experiment with Library 2.0 or learn new technological tools, Tasha says that's only acceptable if you don't care about serving your patrons. We have to meet them where they are, she said, and right now they are already all over the web, leaving some of us behind.

"We promote lifelong learning for our patrons, and we must embrace it as well."

After the session Ms. Seacker consented to a brief interview, which I've posted below. If the video doesn't work, that's either because Google Video's publishing time delay is still in place or (more likely) I missed a step in my uploading process.

Some of us need more time to play than others.

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