What’s the point? (Oh!)

The goal of most Library 2.0 groups or workshops seems to be twofold (take or leave the pun, as you will):

  1. Raise awareness, familiarity
  2. Open new lines of communication (with staff and with patrons)

Awareness? Sure, that can be accomplished and it certainly has been (thanks, locally, to Joyner Ten).

New forms of communication? Well, that’s the heart of Library 2.0, isn’t it? Blogs, wikis, rss, online social communities. And yet, there is nothing inherently “library” or “2.0” about introducing new forms of communication.

For just two examples as to why this is so, consider mobile phones and e-mail. Both are utterly pervasive, have upsides & downsides, are used in libraries, but neither of these required much technologist-cheerleading for their ubiquitous adoption.

In my mind, then, there seems to be something different, something missing. What, exactly, is the point? Why should anyone at Joyner or elsewhere be doing this? In other words, is Library 2.0 just a sham?

Well, there are libraries out there that are doing something significant and unexpected with all of this Library 2.0 techno-speak / PR indoctrination. So, though we might be suspicious of the distasteful hype and the bandwagon attitude, there really, really is a very valid point — the medium is what we make of it.

What’s more, what we can now make of this particular medium is exponentially increased thanks in largest part to the Free Software Federation and the Open Source Software philosophy in general.

This is #3… this is the point… Libraries becoming 2.0 is really, in my mind, much less about libraries losing focus of their core goals but instead (or, should be) about libraries adopting free software, creating free software, and freely distributing their gains in infrastructure and expertise to any other non-profit organization.

Though this conversion might be slow as it grows, I think that we will see more and more libraries start to break free from the shackles of their many, varied vendors. Heck, libraries might even be able to take back some of the absurdities extended to copyright with the help of major institutions such as Harvard in the near future.

In any event, this really is the point that often goes unsaid. Familiarity is the initial step, yes, but aggressive adoption becomes the reason; the result:  making libraries free once again.  To illustrate this end, my next post will be very short and include real-world examples of two libraries that are using blogs, yes, but they are using blogs for expertly designed reasons.

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