Thursday, April 27, 2006

Library 2.0: Serving the MySpace generation

A colleague sent me a link to Paul Miller's article Coming Together around Library 2.0: A Focus for Discussion and a Call to Arms which discusses the application of Web 2.0 applications to the library world.

I think the criticisms highlighted below are only too true.

Miller declares:
[T]he widespread availability of rich, open sources of information has raised the skills, the expectations and the aspirations of our users ... and this is surely not a bad thing. It has shown us some of what may be possible, and has given us much toward which we can aspire and then move beyond. We should not lash out, attack, or complain.

[Libraries] should embrace these changes and extend them, in order to improve the range of services available and to meet the needs of our users.

Many of the library sector's current systems and processes may well be overdue for criticism, especially when viewed through a lens shaped by experience of the lightweight, flexible, intelligent and responsive applications encountered online every day.

Our innumerable opaque information silos, our endless authentication challenges, our wilfully different interfaces, and our insistence on attempting to suck everyone and everything into the library building or onto the library site – all of that, we should collectively be prepared to admit, could be better.|D-Lib (emphasis added)|
Of course, trying to get institutions to embrace bleeding edge technologies is a challenge...

But what would life be without challenges?


Brian P said...

Challenge indeed. I share the sentiments (yours and the article's) although I'm not quite sure if the technology and availability of resources has improved user skills relative to the variety and abundance of information. Just in some conversations with reference librarians and in (limited) observation, it seems a lot of college students don't necessarily know how to search online--not in a sophisticated way, anyway. Google, while great, is also a crutch. I think people should learn how to find and interpret information a lot better than they appear to be.

That said, libraries and librarians can do much more. One step is getting information literacy thoroughly integrated into school curriculums starting at an early age. Another step, something I'll probably spend my whole career working on, is improving the library catalog (and the library's information retrieval system(s) as a whole). Frankly, a lot of OPAC software is very unsophisticated, especially for the price. Keyword searching is often terrible, but searching authority files is often worse. (One aspect where Google is clearly superior is the "Did you mean...?" function for amending searches. Nothing like that exists in library databases.) So what good are authority files if the technology can't/won't support them fully? The other problem, which Talis and projects like RedLightGreen are trying to address is content integration. Ideally, users would be able to use only one interface to search article databases and library collections, and would have the information returned to them in an organized way, i.e., "Here are articles matching your search...; here are books...; here are videos...," etc. In a nutshell, I think libraries' biggest problem, apart from lack of funding, is that they are undermined by their OPACs.

Okay, this comment is already way too long, so I'll stop here.

Safety Neal said...

Dude, we are so much in agreement, it is shocking. We'll have to discuss this more over a beer when I'm in LA.