The Academic Library 2.0 Model: An ALA TS Blog Interview with Michael C. Habib

By Michael Stephens | I enjoy following LIS student blogs and have found inspiration in many of their posts. I was a reader of LISDom back when Laura Crossett was a student on campus at Dominican. These days, I am eager to read new posts from Nicole Engard at "What I Learned Today," and Dominican GSLIS students like Brian Want, or any number of the folks that have taken LIS753 with me over the past few semesters.

Michael Habib One student blog I followed was Michael Habib's LIS Blog. I used past tense here because I won't be reading Michael's student blog any longer—he is no longer a student (at least in the traditional sense). He just graduated from the School of Information and Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill in December. He's now out in the world of libraries, currently working with BiblioCommons Inc. in Toronto. (His blog is also still available, but has moved to the URL I met him briefly at Midwinter and will see him again in just a couple of days at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference.

I have been drawn to Michael's thinking for a couple of reasons. He has set his sights on developing virtual communities, a set of skills that may prove most useful in future library environments. I've studied and read recent research in relation to information activity and the creation of virtual communities in my PhD program at the University of North Texas as well.

It also fascinates me to see how Michael approached his coursework, building that "virtual librarian's" skill set. He writes on his About Page:
    I plan to develop online communities and services that promote the idea of digital library as place. Like physical libraries, digital libraries need to be community centers, collaborative study spaces, meeting spaces, etc. In addition, I plan to train library users to use new technologies and information resources.

    To accomplish these goals, I have gained experience in traditional library services as well as chat and instant messaging reference services. Through my coursework, I have explored the theories and technologies necessary to develop thriving online communities.
Great goals, Michael! I often chat with my advisees at Dominican GSLIS about what skills they might be building for 21st Century Libraries.

The other reason I've followed Michael's blogging is his focus on Academic Library 2.0, the subject of his Master's paper at UNC. Between scurrying about Seattle for ALA Midwinter and prepping to visit the Great White North for OLA's Super Conference, Michael and I fit in a brief exchange about his paper and ideas about Academic Library 2.0.

MS: What's your definition of Library 2.0 for academic libraries?

Figure 4 from LIS paper by Michael Habib, Toward Academic Library 2.0. MH: Academic Library 2.0 is a moving target. In my Master's paper, "Toward Academic Library 2.0: Development and Application of a Library 2.0 Methodology," I first develop a method for determining new Library 2.0 services. I then apply this method to academic libraries.

My general definition of Library 2.0 is: Library 2.0 describes a subset of library services designed to meet user needs caused by the direct and peripheral effects of Web 2.0.  services leveraging concepts of the Read/Write Web, the Web as Platform, The Long Tail, harnessing collective intelligence, network effects, core datasets from user contributions, and lightweight programming models.

MS: It makes sense to apply some of O'Reilly's principles to this thinking, but we run the risk of being technology centered. Is Academic Library 2.0 all about technology?

MH: Absolutely not, but it is an effect of services enabled by new technologies. Because my definition of Library 2.0 is defined in terms of user needs, any service meeting those needs, whether technological or not, is part of Library 2.0 and Academic Library 2.0. I identified four genres of new services that meet new needs brought on by Web 2.0:
  • Services Based on Web 2.0 Concepts: As users become accustomed to using services that apply Web 2.0 concepts, they will come to expect similar functionality in library services. An example of this would be to provide tagging features in OPACs.
  • Using a Web 2.0 Service for Providing Library Services: This would include setting up a Flickr account for the library or creating a MySpace or Facebook profile for the library. There are a few ways this can meet new user needs. For example, a Flickr account may provide an easy way for the library to post photos of library events. Creating a MySpace profile would be meeting the users where they already are instead of making them come to us. This would include integrating an OPAC search into a MySpace profile.
  • Services in Response to Cultural Effects of Web 2.0: This set of services is clearly not technical. Many examples of “going to our users” fall under this category. For example, as college students became more accustomed to communicating through Instant Messaging or Facebook, it creates a need for libraries to move their services to those places. Web 2.0 has always been less about technology than it has about new methods of social interaction.
  • Services in Response to Environmental Effects of Web 2.0: The main example I use to describe this set of effects is the way that the Read/Write web has affected publishing. One example of this is that Web 2.0 has enabled immediate bidirectional communication between authors and readers. Any change in how people read and write has a huge impact on how librarians do business.
MS: I certainly understand that! I am still amazed at how citizen journalists and "Customer 2.0," if you will, are making big companies sit up and take notice of this shift. What's the first thing an academic librarian might do to shift toward AL2 thinking?

MH: Because Web 2.0 is fundamentally social and cultural in nature, it is crucial librarians experience Web 2.0 from a user's perspective. In other words, it is important to play around with the Web 2.0 tools our users are using. Everyone working with undergrads should get a Facebook account. It is also important to play with new tools that our users have not yet adopted. Using a variety of Web 2.0 tools helps us to see the overall cultural ramifications of Web 2.0. I think this is pretty well agreed upon by all corners of the L2 community.

I would argue that the second thing an academic librarian needs to do is to step back and reflect on what this changing environment looks like from the perspective of our users.

MS: Absolutely! Thanks Michael! That could be said for all types of libraries. I am intrigued by the conversations playing out about user behaviors and public libraries, school media centers, and special libraries as well as those from library users/nonusers from the outside looking in.

I urge folks that are curious about Michael's thinking to take a look at his blog or his paper.
Editor's Note: Michael Stephens will be presenting Best Practices for Social Software in Libraries (based on his 2006 issue of Library Technology Reports) at the 2007 Ontario Library Association Super Conference, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 2, 2007 (Session #1411). In addition, on February 3, 2007, Stephens, along with John Blyberg and Amanda Etches-Johnson, will be talking Top Technology Trends (Session #1800) also at the 2007 Ontario Library Association Super Conference.
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