Organization 2.0: Building the Participatory Library with John Blyberg and Meredith Farkas

By Daniel A. Freeman |

As anyone who had a Friendster account knows, Web 2.0 technologies are often a short spark rather than a slow burn. The same is true of institutions like libraries when they take the initiative in implementing these technologies are part of their online presence. While there are certainly libraries that have been successful in implementing blogs or a presence on Facebook, the web is littered with inactive library blogs, lifeless virtual library community and Facebook pages that are out-of-date.

ALA TechSource is happy to announce the next in our series of Webinars, Organization 2.0: Building the Participatory Library with Meredith Farkas and John  Blyberg. The Webinar will take place on Thursday, May 13th at 3pm Eastern, Noon Pacific. You can register here:

Meredith and John are both veteran writers and presenters, and have been involved in many efforts to implement 2.0 technologies in libraries. I had a chance to speak with them about what they'll be talking about during this exciting event.

Dan Freeman: First off, can you guys give everyone a little preview of what your going to be talking about at this Webinar? I’m sure everyone wants to do everything they can to make Web 2.0 technologies work for their library, so how will you approach helping people accomplish this?

Meredith Farkas: I have heard stories from librarians all over the world who have tried to implement 2.0 initiatives and have failed. And so many of them wonder what went wrong and why some libraries have had such success with 2.0 initiatives and others haven't. I plan to talk about some of the common mistakes libraries make when trying to implement 2.0 technologies and what libraries can do in terms of organizational culture, planning, and assessment to more effectively utilize these technologies. I'm hope people in the audience will actually have questions about specific situations at their libraries where a 2.0 initiative didn't work out, and we can discuss what that library could have done differently that might have led to greater success.

John Blyberg: I will talk about our experience with integrating social media tools into our digital strategy at Darien Library.  We take a User Experience design approach to implementing social media and I will talk about what that is and what it means within the context of our customer service model.

DF: Is the Webinar going to involve a lot of discussion, or be more presentation-based?

MF:For a topic like this, I think it's valuable to be more of a conversation than a lecture, so we're hoping to make the session as interactive as possible. I'd love for people to come with questions and ideas so John and I have some meaty issues to talk about.

JB: I think that when exploring a topic like social media tools, discussion is a valuable component.

DF: A lot of people have tried to implement various 2.0 technologies without success. There are a lot of library Facebook pages lying dormant out there. Are you going to address this in the Webinar?

MF: Definitely! I hope to explore with John and members of the audience what libraries should consider before they put up a Facebook page (or get involved in any other social media site) and what they need to do once they've built up their presence.

JB: I think the issue will come up and I'd like to talk about why that might be the case and what can be done to avoid those sorts of traps and remedy those problems when they happen.

DF: One of the defining characteristics of these 2.o technologies is that they move fast. The next big thing is often only big for a little while before getting overtaken by something else. What do you think is the best way for librarians to launch initiatives with 2.0 technologies and avoid investing too much effort in something that might not be popular for long?

MF: Things are certainly changing faster than ever before, but I think anyone who looks back at the history of libraries over the past 40 years will see many technologies and trends that have come and gone. It's just the nature of our profession. I think the trick is not jumping on every bandwagon because we're personally excited about it, but really considering what will further our library's mission. A big part of that is understanding your own population. What technologies or social media are your patrons using? How do they use those technologies? What do they need and want from the library? Some 2.0 technologies are easy to build library presence in while others require significantly more day-to-day maintenance, and I think the amount of planning and analysis should be commensurate to the commitment required to maintain the technology. It's easier to experiment when the initial investment is small. Obviously, also, we need to be agile and willing to jettison technologies and services that simply aren't meeting our patrons' needs anymore, because we can't continually add new services and technologies without giving something up. We should continually assess our services and our users.

JB: If I go to a home improvement store and see a shiny new tool that I really want, I don't buy it and then try to find a project to use it on.  Rather, I look at the projects that need to be done and look at the tools I already have to see if they can do the job.  If not, I go out and try to find the best tool for the job.  Social media software is just a tool and in selecting the right one, whether or not it is popular becomes just one criteria among many for evaluation.

DF: Can you talk about some of the specific tools that your going to demonstrate during the webinar?

MF: Personally, I was thinking more in terms of strategies than specific tools, but there are certainly technologies and libraries' uses of technologies that do a great job of illustrating the points I hope to make. I'll certainly be showing lots of abandoned blogs, wikis, etc. as well as some library uses of Web 2.0 that have been successful so we can explore what works and what doesn't.

JB: From SOPAC to twitter to Foursquare, I'd be happy to demonstrate to attendees anything they'd like to hear about.