Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Librarian 2.0 Requires New Skills

I started hitting the blogs again after reading the results of our library's LibQual+ survey. The results indicate that customers are unsatisfied with electronic access to library resources. While some of my colleagues point to the possibility that our web site and potential usability as the issues, I point to the possibility that people are simply using the web differently.

In late 2005, discussions about the concept of Library 2.0 began, which is concisely described in white paper by Ken Chad and Paul Miller. Chad and Miller propose that, “ Library 2.0 is a concept of a very different library service that operates according to the expectations of today’s library users. In this vision, the library makes information available wherever and whenever the user requires it." There are concerns that the Library 2.0 concept may disenfranchise those who need us most, as expressed by Michael Golrick

Since many are still not aware of this concept it is worth repeating.

The Principles of Library 2.0 ( a summary of Michael Stephens summary)

The underlying theme to Library 2.0 is the realization that library user communities are constantly changing and that library services must change proportionally. Libraries need to look at all our services and ask if they they still serve our customers? Do these services serve a large-enough group that the return on the investment in human and fiscal resources is positive?

- The library is everywhere. Outreach via technology should be the goal of every organization. Librarians need to get out from behind the reference desk.

- The library has no barriers. Make sure that library users can get to information no matter where they are.

- The library invites participation. How can libraries reach out and interact with our users? Can a library present a tag cloud for the physical browsing of a library collection? Do library systems include built-in RSS feeds, tagging, and user commenting?

- The library uses flexible, best-of-breed systems. Libraries often make decisions about technology in libraries without much thought as to how systems interact. Are libraries licensing applications that will work for all of users no matter where they are?

- The library encourages the heart. The library will be a meeting place, online or physical, where my needs will be fulfilled and will allow users to create. Library's need to position themselves to help with finding the answers to how? and why?"

- The library is human. Users will see the face of the library no matter how they access services. Librarians will guide them via electronic methods as well as in person. Versed in the social networking tools, librarians will be able to adapt to the changing world. They will encourage and educate users.

- The library recognizes that its users are human too. Online and phgysical library space will be full of collaboration and conversation.

At issue is that the expectations of libraries for online interaction are changing. Users want to be content creators and contributors, not just consumers. We are seeing the emergence of the user-centered, online universe where people do most of their work, and play, within their web browser.

A discussion of the effect of Library 2.0 on librarians has to include the new skills that librarians need, which was a topic which Michael Stephens recently covered. We are at a time in our professional evolution where every librarian needs to have a core set of technnology skills. A list of such skills appeared in the June 2005 issue of T.H.E. Journal.

As technologies continue to change and evolve, librarians must continue to strive for excellence in their work. Today that includes continued time and effort to maintain and improve their technology skills. To evolve, not only do librarians need to rethink their skill sets, libraries need to reevaluate and redefine certain jobs including duties that include creating and using online tools for collaboration and creation.

The challange is what duties and processes need to be taken off job descriptions to make room for such tasks? How does one retool version 1.0 librarians who focus on library 1.0 services? Do we still need to have some 1.0 librarians in our organizations? Does the organization structure of a library need to be flattened to include more workgroups and teams? This is a significant challenge for library administrators. They need to make some hard choices - now - in order to avoid their library becoming irrelevent. Sphere: Related Content

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