Friday, December 14, 2007

Learning 2.0: Assignment #15

So now we come to, as I see it, one of the big questions facing librarians today. How do you feel about Library 2.0? I hate to make any grand proclamations until I have more work experience under my belt, especially since I think the answer varies depending on what type of librarian you are. Speaking from the perspective of someone about to start as an adult services public librarian, however, I have to say that the concept makes me uneasy -- if only because I (currently) believe librarians are latching on to 2.0 concepts without truly thinking of their end users first.

Many of my theories were summed up nicely in practice by The Cool Librarian. Bottom line, are we trying to thrust ideas and tools on folks who simply don't have the wherewithal or interest to take advantage of them? This is not to say that, as information professionals, we shouldn't try to keep up with trends to see what is useful/expected by our patrons. In reality, however, I feel your average adult patron barely knows that he/she can use instant messenger to ask reference questions, reserve books online, or even access many research databases from the comfort of home. Why, then, would we expect folks to sign up for blogs or Twitter? Why would we expect them to care about frills when we haven't even taken the time to market the day-to-day useful tools that already exist?

Much of my stance goes back to my years of working in public relations, counseling clients on what will break through the clutter and what won't. Effective marketing is sorely lacking for most library systems and, to be frank, our association isn't much more successful. Libraries are not, by their nature, cool or hip; they are a necessary practicality to a democratic society. Think of it this way: Would you consider City Hall and local government cool? No. Hip? No. Important? Of course. I truly feel that by emphasizing this societal importance -- and publically showcasing the programs and services we provide (some of which, occasionally, are quite cool) -- we will attract more patrons and cement our importance in an ever-changing, ever-more-technological world. Not the other way around.

Will this change? Perhaps, as Internet tools sort themselves and we separate what is truly useful to a wide swath of patrons -- which, of course, takes time. We should do our best to keep up and constantly consider ways to make our services of increased use to patrons. At the end of the day, however, we are serving our patrons -- not ourselves. If we're grasping at straws to discover an identity in the 21st century, perhaps we need to reexamine our patronage to figure out what's missing, not create a mold that doesn't fit those we serve.

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