Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Library 2.0

(Week 6, Thing 15)

Just as "Web 2.0" has emerged as an umbrella term for the new, user driven technologies of the internet - MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia, et cetera and so forth - "Library 2.0" has become the term for the transition from libraries being guided by the need to store information to libraries being guided by the need to make such information useful to the public. This involves - obviously - listening to patrons and basing collections on their desires, as well as understanding new tools that allow a better combination of social trends and information gathering . This latter goal is why I am writing the blog and participating in 23 Things to begin with.

There have been numerous articles on where libraries will move beyond Library 2.0. Most of these opinions have focused on greater dominance of technology and social networking tools. In this article by Dr. Wendy Schultz, for example, the author suggests that programs such as Second Life and devices like holographic dream theatres and 3D goggles will guide the formation of libraries. This is the most extreme of the opinions of future progress that I have read, but the dominant trend is that new technology will be the most important element in allowing libraries to survive as information access becomes easier for the general public.

I agree that new technology is important, but I think that knowledge of this technology will be an necessary, secondary part of what will be our survival. The primary element that will allow libraries to survive lies in the answer to a simple question: If everyone is spending more and more time in front of computers, when will people be able to directly interact with each other?

I believe that libraries will survive by transforming their structure to resemble community centers, not by trying to become The Matrix. Giving people the opportunity to meet face-to-face will make libraries increasingly unique. Book discussion groups will be more important than digital books, even though most people in the group may be discussing what they downloaded from Overdrive. People may begin relationships online through MySpace and social networking sites, but if they want to enhance such relationships they will need a safe place - such as the library - to meet in person. Libraries can only become more successful in promoting new technologies if older technologies - such as basic human interactions - are properly cultivated.

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