In the next few months, the Yuba College Library will be moving to temporary quarters in order to begin a major library renovation (more on that next week), which will result in more modernly designed facilities, access to technology tools, and user-friendly services. In other words, we want to go all “Library 2.0.”
What does this mean? A little known secret is that librarians aren’t really sure either. “2.0” gets tossed around a lot as an easy reference to the concept of “newest version.” We don’t want to be your grand-mamma’s library. We want to be the library of the future, the place that’s wired up to the gills, efficient, responsive, pleasant to be in (no more 70’s décor please), and easily accessible. That’s vague enough, right?
When the concept of Library 2.0 came about, it was seen as a response to the increasing evolution of web technology, which was more interactive, social, and user-determined. Since libraries primarily served the public and used technology to facilitate access to resources and information, many thought that Library 2.0 was a natural extension. Back in 2005, one librarian described Library 2.0 thusly: “Library 2.0 simply means making your library’s space (virtual and physical) more interactive, collaborative, and driven by community needs…The basic drive is to get people back into the library by making the library relevant to what they want and need in their daily lives…to make the library a destination and not an afterthought.”
Six years later, many in the profession wonder what all of the fuss was about and whether or not Library 2.0 was ever really achieved. Some say that librarians lost sight of the library’s primary mission – to serve the public need – while pursuing emerging technology without a clear vision for what it hoped to accomplish. Says John Blyberg, “…we cannot expect to retrofit our libraries with tomorrow’s technology. The true pursuit of Library 2.0 involves a thorough recalibration of process, policy, physical spaces, staffing, and technology so that any hand-offs in the patron’s library experience are truly seamless.” Meredith Farkas says that our obsession with new technology toys has caused us to lose sight of common sense and promotes assessment as a way to truly gage what users need or even want, a notion that is backed up by Andy Woodworth, who adds that librarians seem rather foolish in loudly advocating what should be obvious – responding to public demand. Still, another librarian-blogger says Library 2.0 is about using technology to help the librarian become more efficient in service to patrons.
Indeed, in the for-profit world, “the customer is always right.” Businesses make, market, and sell products based on public demand and interest. Sometimes the public demand is spot on (Facebook) and sometimes the public demand is misguided (SUVs, rest in peace). Regardless, we know that a business that can’t meet public demand is doomed to extinction. The library is no exception, so this new move to respond to user demand is not highly controversial. I think the bigger question is: “How?” Do we go crazy with technology, do we let users determine their own fate, or do we do what the most innovative businesses do – hear what people are saying and then offer something new that they never dreamed was possible?
This is the beauty of Library 2.0. It can be whatever we – that is librarians and patrons alike – want it to be. You’ve seen in the past several weeks our efforts to get feedback via Survey Monkey so that we can learn more about what everyone would like to see in the new library. That represents our initial move towards Library 2.0. “The rest,” as the Natasha Bedingfield song goes “is still unwritten.”