Text message reference marketed via a business card. Joey – please let us know how it goes.
…application instructions for the newly reopened Salt Lake City Public Library’s director search — Your application “package should include a paper resume and directions to your digital presence, blog, or social networking Web site” — you can definitely see a shift is occurring.
In my presentations for the last year or so I’ve been talking about the shift in LIS jobs and urging folks to get ready for the time when director or administrative duties will including use of social tools. That time is here! Thanks Helene.
For fifteen years, I’ve worked in a public library, mostly in positions relating to the Web or technology training. It’s with that background and paradigm I address this question. I love the examples of libraries building community via physical space and through interactions between users and librarians, but for my example, I’d like to point to the communities being built online.
For the last few months, I’ve been touring various parts of the US with Jenny Levine, presenting what we call our “Social Software Roadshow.” The Roadshow highlights how libraries can create online conversations, collaborative spaces, and, yes, community with inexpensive tools. We no longer need static, one-way Web sites for libraries, when the Read/Write Web enables us to interact with each other and our users. We point to concrete examples of libraries that have found new ways to improve existing services or built new services. Large systems to small libraries are included as are public, academic, special libraries and school libraries.
This is not cool for the sake of cool, or a push for techno-worship or a plea for librarians to give in to technoloust. Simply, these online spaces are where our users are living and interacting, and according to the recent Newsweek cover story, sites like MySpace will only grow. Libraries need a presence in these social spaces.
I believe the best example is the innovative online presence created by the librarians and IT staff of the Ann Arbor District Library, Michigan. Through the use of an open source content management system, several Weblog mechanisms that allow easily updated content to display on the front page, and a dedication to interaction with library patrons, AADL has created a thriving community within the cyber walls of their online branch.
On July 5, 2005, AADL launched a new Web site and a new catalog system. Posting to the Director’s Blog, Director Josie Parker said: “The Website launch is providing an additional forum for public communication with the library. This blog is one of several. The intention is to make regular postings here from administration that will encourage discussion about library policies and services.” The blogs include the mechanism for registered users of the library to comment – to enter into a dialogue with the director and other librarians. Key word here: Transparency.
Scanning the AADL site, one finds both posts with a few comments and those with many. In the Teen area and gaming blogs, it is not unusual to see a thriving discussion with 200+ or 300+ comments. In sessions on Weblogs in libraries, Jenny and I have asked the audience: “How many of you can say you have a thriving teen presence inside your library Web site?”
How many libraries have actively engaged their users in this way? Many libraries have blogs, but the movement to turn on comments creates a whole different environment, that can scare some librarians or overwhelm others. Enabling comments, however, is one of the ways to utilize Web 2.0 technologies to create community. IM, wikis, and RSS feeds offer other opportunities to create community as well. This to me is the promise of Web 2.0 for libraries: creating new means to communicate, interact, collaborate and create inside library Web space as well as out in the community online spaces.
Libraries can play a greater role in their communities by building sites such as AADL’s, reaching out to users via instant messaging, feeding out content such as library holdings and library news to other community-based Web sites, and offering mechanisms for users to create or mash up library content. Before there will be success, however, there must be a commitment by the librarians to sustain successful services and participate in the ongoing conversation. A library’s Web presence can never be an afterthought or something that just one or two Web librarians contribute to. There should be a collective voice made up of the individual voices of the library staff. This involves a shift in thinking: can we let go of our most useful online services and information to actively be driven by our users through their comments, questions and input?
A trip through the technology blogs of the Biblioblogosphere and sites such as the LibSuccess wiki yield numerous case studies, advice and grassroots best practices for all of these technologies. We can explore how, for example, Butler University Library built a wiki of annotated reference resources for their librarians, faculty, and students, or the innovations by school media specialist Margaret Lincoln and the collaborative Weblog she set up to allow students at two different high schools the opportunity to discuss Elie Wiesel’s Night.
Browsing libraries’ and librarians’presence at the image hosting social site flickr yields a surprisingly thriving community of practitioners. We will find images of library programs, materials, buildings and the faces of this new breed of librarianship in 2006. Visit the grass roots READ posters initiative at flickr to see a mash up of librarians, library users and an effective use of 2.0 technologies.
We can examine Casey Bisson’s application of library catalog as Weblog, complete with user keyword tagging, comments enabled, and static URLs for every record. We can subscribe to RSS feeds of subject guides at Kansas City Public Library, or create our own RSS-enabled catalog search at Hennepin County Public Library that notifies us when our favorite authors or subjects are added to the library.
All of these examples point to the future of online community building in libraries: librarians will be able to enhance current systems or create new ones with Web 2.0 technologies to customize and build experiential environments. Library users will be able to meet within these systems and interact. They will have conversations. They will be human, as will the librarians – as they put a human face and give a human voice to the library via social software.
Ann Arbor District Library: http://www.aadl.org
Butler Reference Wiki: http://www.seedwiki.com/wiki/butler_wikiref/
Flickr READ Posters: http://www.flickr.com/groups/readposters/pool/
Hennepin County Public Library: http://www.hclib.org/
Kansas City Public Library: http://www.kclibrary.org/guides/
LibSuccess Wiki: http://www.libsuccess.org
Night Blog: http://nightwiesel.blogspot.com/
Word Press OPAC: http://www.plymouth.edu/library/opac/
This is a reprint from my article in the Spring 2006 SirsiDynix UpStream. I think it’s still holds up pretty well. Thanks to the folks there for letting me add it to my online portfolio. Please follow the link to read more from librarians discussing libraries and community, including Steven Cohen, Sarah Long and Jessamyn West:
Look for a new issue soon!
Dion Hinchcliffe posts an overview of the best of Web 2.0 for 2006:
Amongst the choices are some of my favorites as well: Netbvibes and YouTube.
I’m working on the syllabus for my section of LIS701: Introduction to Library and Information Science for this Fall at Dominican. We’re using Rubin’s Foundations of Library and Information Science from Neal-Schuman and I’m adding a reading of The Cluetrain Manifesto as well. We’ll have articles and blog posts to react to and discuss. Putting this together, I’m reminding of a question I had last semester during one of our discussions of current library jobs and those 2.0 job descriptions.
“What do we need to pay attention to?” one of my students asked. “How do we get good jobs to do cool things and keep those jobs ..and move up?”
I have written about jobs in libraries, here at TTW and at TechSource. I often wonder about the new librarians we are sending out into the LIS world from Dominican and other schools. What do they actually encounter in their first professional jobs? I was drawn to the new hires at CPL last year because I wanted to know how it was for them.
All of this has been on my mind as I work with my current section of students this summer and plan for my full-time position in the fall. Submitted then for discussion is this short list — a cautionary list of things to ponder in a library 2.0 world (or whatever you choose to call it!) as new grads hit the streets and start their first jobs.
Ten Rules for New Librarians
Ask questions in your interviews. Hard questions, like “How many projects are on the library’s list right now?” or “What is the technology planning process like here?” Read this and remember!
Pay attention to the answers and what the librarians interviewing you say about their users. Are they dismissive, bothered by them and their presence in the library? Run away!
Read far and wide and immerse yourself in culture, pop and otherwise. It will help you know what your users are doing and into!
Understand copyright and the Creative Commons very well and understand what it means for our future content creation-driven culture.
Use the 2.0 tools, not because it’s cool, or any number of speakers/bloggers/librarian-geeks tell you to, but do it as one way to harness the collective intelligence of our profession. Grab some RSS feeds. Also do it to understand what spaces are users are moving in…creating content in…LIVING in. Create some custom searches of your interests in the field. Do not feel you have to subscribe to every LIS feed in the world. My advice? Find the news sites and the biblio-voices that speak to you and inspire you and follow them and their links. If you’re inclined, add your voice to the Biblioblogosphere. Or participate vis commenting — it’s a beautiful, though-provoking, ongoing conversation that welcomes everyone!
Work and Play nice with each other at your jobs, at conferences and in those places where information professional gather.This isn’t a competition or a contest. It’s not all about you, new grad (sorry, but it’s not). It’s about the user. And creating services. And being the best librarian you can be.
Manage yourself in a professional way but don’t forsake fun, wonder, curiosity or play. Use productivity tools of your choosing but be organized and follow thorough on the things you say you follow through on. Do not be that person in the meeting that says “I didn’t have time.”
Avoid technolust. Technology worship is a trap. Never let technology be a god in itself.
Listen to the seasoned librarians you encounter. They know things. Good things. Listen and they may inform your future decisions and planning. Learn from every conversation, meeting or water cooler chat. (And seasoned folk, listen to your new hires! You do the same: listen, learn and share… break down the generational divide present in some organizations…you’ll be happy you did!)
Remember the Big Picture. Don’t start 5 new HOT technology-based services without the foresight to plan how they will continue (and then flit on to the next thing). Understand budgeting, staffing and governing forces. Be mindful of hidden costs, marketing and how tech fits in to everything. Build services, collections and libraries that are sustainable, relevant to users and useful.
He asks some good questions: Can we as a profession ever really get beyond the “it’s always been done like that” mentality and provide a catalog that patrons actually want to use? that tie directly into the 5 Phrases I Hope I Never Hear post.
UPDATE: What a great time that was! Thanks to all at OPAL!!
Here are some extra links as resources:
From the Dead Tech Panel and via “What I Learned Today:”
- We have to be Digital read/write participants
- We have to learn with others
- We have to be facilitators for relationships
- We need to have our intercultural antennae up – not everyone is from your default point of view
- We have to be tolerant of ambiguity – it’s okay to not be in control
- We have to LEARN THE TOOLS!! (emphasis added by me!)
- We have to be self aware