Well, I agree with T. Scott Plutchak that “Library 2.0” is a mushy term. He writes:
My problem with the term is the same as ever — it is simply incoherent. People who use the term refer continually to the “Library 2.0 concept” but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what that “concept” is. Everyone who uses it has their own intention for it, and one knows that it has something to do with social networking software and with making libraries better, but is there really any more to it than that? It’s a very sloppy use of language, and I’m a firm believer in the concept that a sloppy use of language betrays sloppy thinking.
Totally in agreement over here in the peanut gallery!
…I’m hesitant to criticize those who have done the most to promote the term, because there’s no question that the work being done by people like Michael Stephens and Michael Casey is extremely important, and the ideas that they are promoting for how we can keep our organizations alive and vibrant and useful has added a great deal to the discussion of what we want our organizations to be and how we want to interact with our communities.
Amen and Hallelujah! Tell it, T. Scott!
[Casey and Savastinuk] define a Library 2.0 service as “Any service, physical or virtual, that successfully reaches users, is evaluated frequently, and makes use of customer input…”
It’s that last phrase that really sets my teeth on edge.
Really? Why does it set your teeth on edge?
If one has followed the management and organizational literature for the past fifty years or so, it is pretty clear that the phrase Casey and Savastinuk are using to define Library 2.0 services applies to the goal for every service for every organization.
I can’t agree with that. I think that every organization has paid lip service to this goal, while far too few have actually applied it with commitment and follow-through.
But by defining it as “Library 2.0” and as a new model, they necessarily place it in opposition to the old model, which must have been Library 1.0 and which, by the definition of 2.0, must have been a model of librarianship that was opposed to reaching users, evaluating services, and making use of customer input.
I think T. Scott Plutchak, like every reader, can infer what he likes from an article, but I don’t think Casey and Savastinuk implied that libraries have previously been opposed to reaching users or making use of customer input. I think they said that we should try to reach more users, to actively invite and facilitate customer input and have a stronger, clearer, more consistent conversation with our patrons.
They’re not saying what came before is bad, they’re saying we can do better. I mean, look at some of the things they say in their article (Emphases are mine):
- …user-centered change…
- …encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation…
- …reach new users and better serve current ones through improved customer-driven offerings. Each component by itself is a step toward better serving our users…
These are great sentiments that we all should applaud.
It’s not enough to say that there are tools and ways of doing things that enable us to reach customers better now — by casting it as a new model, they are, intentionally or unintentially I’m not sure, suggesting that prior to the last couple of years, the model of librarianship was essentially anti-user and opposed to change. Clearly this is nonsense.
I agree that this is nonsense for two reasons:
First, Plutchak’s argument is essentially a straw man. T. Scott is calling nonsensical things that Casey and Savastinuk didn’t write or imply. Sure, that last sentence he quotes isn’t great, but put it in the context of the article and read it again. It simply isn’t reasonable to suggest that Casey and Savastinuk are calling all previous librarians anti-user.
Second, the model of librarianship hasn’t been anti-change and anti-user, but a hell of a lot of practices have been.
Few organizations embrace and manage change effectively, and few implement systems for constant, two-way communication with their patrons. It is unfortunate that anyone takes offense at this being pointed out. Pointing this out isn’t an insult to those who have not yet managed to overcome these challenges, it is the first step towards actually overcoming them.
Even if what Casey and Savastinuk write is just a rephrasing, update, or new flavor of what are absolutely old-school library beliefs, can we agree to be thrilled that they’re so passionate about it? Can we agree that there is nothing wrong with suggesting we should try harder?
If people are going to get bent out of shape every time someone says “we should be better,” how will any progress ever be made?
I am uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with T. Scott Plutchak, someone whose work I admire and who writes with more skill than I probably ever will, but the argument he makes isn’t fair to Casey and Savastinuk.
Libraries CAN do better, SHOULD do better, and WILL do better, and probably due in no small part to passionate people like Casey, Savastinuk and their contemporaries who constantly use mushy terms I am uneasy with, like “Library 2.0” and “social software.”