"Get over it" - and Experiment: Notes from a 2.0 Presentation at PLA

By Michael Stephens |

Photo from PLA

I was very lucky to share a podium with Jen Maney, Pima County Public Library, and John Blyberg, Darien Library, on Friday morning at the 2008 Public library Association conference in Minneapolis, MN. I wrote two pages of hurriedly scribbled notes while Jen spoke and I really wanted to share them here. They tap into some of the themes I've written about at TechSource since we began in 2005.

Jen opened her talk, titled "Let's get Excited (and Realistic) about Web 2.0," by noting that there is no magic wand we can wave to make your library suddenly be in the 21st century. Web 2.0 is an individual thing. Each person - and I would say each institution -- brings their own perspective to the tools. Because Jen works in the Web area of her library, she's participated in a lot of discussions of choosing and using emerging technologies.

"Get over it," Maney said about taking on some of those emerging tools and social media - "Experiment." She also echoed some of the current thinking around exploration and learning. "Play," she said. "It's what your users are already doing." What an excellent reason to start a Learning 2.0 program -- something Maney noted her library and the State of Arizona were taking on! WooHoo!

The motto in her department is "Designing for Uncertainty." We have no idea what the future holds with services, technology, etc. This way their planning is timely and focused on the users.

Then Maney noted the importance of adopting and using the tools that WORK for the institution. This is the evaluation piece that Casey and Savistinuk made part of their original definition of Library 2.0:

It is a model for library service that encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation in the creation of both the physical and the virtual services they want, supported by consistently evaluating services.

Maney's take was "lonely is bad." If that blog, discussion forum, IM service, etc is unused -- thus lonely -- take it down and focus on something else that might better suit the institution. Monitoring usage, hits, comments all come into play here. "We can't do it all," she said -- to applause from john and I, and severl folks in the audience. "Pick and choose the ones you want to try." I was happy to hear this coming from someone in the trenches of practice -- I've been addressing the same issues in my recent talks. So are some incredible library thinkers in Australia.

Finally, Maney shared what she's learned designing online spaces for library users:

  • Web-based participation works best when it's built around a library program.
  • RSS News feeds are good fit for the library, but also teach users how to use RSS
  • Get your stuff into the catalog at the point of need
  • It helps to have staff that like to experiment
  • There is no one thing -- no one answer - for every library.

Jen really fired me up with her talk - and luckily I went next so I was able to build on and re-emphasize her points with my presentation. John followed with an incredible take on Andrew Keen. It was great fun!

Thanks to all who attended our program at PLA.