What is Web 2.0 anyhow?

Look Right

In preparation for an upcoming conference presentation, I began to focus upon what I thought Web 2.0 really means. To some it means a transformation of the web into a pseudo-platform, much like a shared desktop environment. Others see Web 2.0 as an evolution of information use behavior that allows anyone to share and to some extent customize the web to their own needs. Where I agree that each concept is in effect applicable, I tend to agree with Paul Graham in that Web 2.0 isn’t about what’s new but about doing things right.

By this statement I mean to say that the developers of new technologies are making applications and tools that the users find “right.” Some would argue that Wikipedia as a Web 2.0 tool gained popularity, not because it truly allowed users to speak but because it was free and satisficed their needs. Many other tools have been created and widely used in the same manner. You Tube! And Flickr are examples of easy to us tools that work because they address the basic needs of the users. In short I have things I want to do and this tool let’s me do it. Seems like simple logic to me.

So if we try to shift this concept into what has been affectionately titled, “Library 2.0,” what can we hope to see from libraries? Some libraries have started using Web 2.0 technologies such as social networking and social tagging, to their advantage but are there other tools we should be thinking about? Laura B. Cohen, in her blog Library 2.0 an Academic’s Perspective, talks about using Web 2.0 publishing tools to interact with her academic community. Setting up a blogging program and perhaps even a wiki system, coordinated in a library, can help students and faculty new to this technology in understanding how it all works. The resources created can often inform future users and help shape policies and mission goals formed by the library.

I would also argue that a library’s digital presence will soon be nearly as valuable as the physical presence. By this I mean we will soon be creating spaces within a library’s online presence that will act as portal, forum, and classroom. With a little effort a library could provide its users with a place to find not only information but new ways of communicating with like-minded persons. A portal with built in forums and communication channels can inspire new dialogs between otherwise separated individuals. We have already seen how useful tools like LibraryThing can be, so could we incorporate similar tools into a library?

Michael Habib has created a wonderful chart showing how Library 2.0 relates to social and academic spaces. What I really feel is inspiring in Michael’s representation is the inclusion of not only educational facets, but the inclusion of creative and entertaining outlets. Giving users a chance to not just suggest what they would like, but to share and build “their” ideal library space; may help library administrators make the necessary changes within an appropriate time frame. Could collection development be helped by utilizing a mash up of book usage statistics from check outs coupled with a map of in-house uses and maybe even departmental check out coding. Maybe users will want a “wish list” feature for their library that allows them to set up a queue of books that will automatically request a checked out book from interlibrary loan.

So as I check my email from 3 different clients, read my RSS feeds in 2 different aggregators, search for blogs about Library 2.0, create a browser toolbar customized for me, search aimlessly for the perfect image, wonder if I can find a video of MTV’s the State posted anywhere on the net, rummage around for more articles on desiging the Holy Grail of OPAC’s, edit that Wiki that keeps gathering dust, and download another podcast onto my IPod—I will reflect on how much time I really have to think about which of these technologies could benefit my library. Web and Library 2.0 isn’t about finding that next “new” technology, but instead about finding the “right” one.

  1. Missy Harvey
    05/16/2007 at 2:56 pm

    “Web and Library 2.0 isn’t about finding that next ‘new’ technology, but instead about finding the ‘right’ one.” Interesting comments.

    I have to say that this one sentence describes the *entire* 25 years I’ve worked in libraries. IMHO, I’ve seen lots of new tools, lots of new technologies, and lots of new resources come and go. Each time we described something as “new.” But as I look back it’s been amazing to see how many of these new things quickly fell by the wayside. But those that were the “right” ones rose to the surface and tended to remain the longest, often serving as a foundation to open the way for hopefully the *next* “right” tool.

    One example of this is the Web itself. I was an active computer user when the world was first introduced to Gopher, BITNET, and other tools. Then along came Mosaic and the Web. Everything was turned on its head almost overnight. 🙂 The creation of a graphical interace to the Internet (in other words, the Web) was one of the “right” tools that has now laid a foundation for seemingly infinite advances we all take for granted today.

    So I definitely think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The key is to find the “right” one that may be just around the corner.

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