On Change, Library 2.0, and ALA

By Michael Stephens | A few weeks ago, Jenny and I found ourselves at a meeting at ALA Headquarters talking about Web 2.0, learning, and Library 2.0 initiatives with some of the ALA division heads, Mary Ghikas, Senior Associate Executive Director, and the Otter Group's Kathleen Gilroy. As a result of that meeting (and some forward-thinking continuing-education interest and work on the part of Mary Ghikas and the Otter Group), Jenny and I are authoring content for, as well facilitating, an online prototype “Learning 2.0” program that ALA will launch this spring.

Learning 2.0

This prototype description is being shared with the ALA folks as they gather the 50 division leaders and members to take part:
    ALA will prototype an interactive learning environment, built around a set of tools and concepts that has sometimes been referred to as "library 2.0." Course participants will utilize RSS feeds, podcasts, web-based data and weblogs to collaborate on content exploration and creation, as well as project planning. Participants will (a) experiment with a set of tools for online content creation and collaboration within ALA or within libraries and other organizations, and (b) explore possible uses of these tools within ALA.

    The prototype project will officially launch on May 3 (4–5:30pm EDT) with an audio conference, closing with an audio conference on June 14 (4–5:30pm EDT). There will be some preliminary start-up work preceding the opening day. During the intervening six weeks, 50 participants will work in 10 teams, each focused on a learning project. Each participant will have an RSS aggregator linked to 28 "feeds," including 10 team feeds, a "how to" feed, a podcast channel, 5 persistent search channels ("radars") and 10 feeds linked to existing course-relevant weblogs. A "course portal" feed will be managed by course leaders Michael Stephens (St. Joseph County Public Library, IN) and Jenny Levine (Metropolitan Library System, IL). The prototype is being developed by contract by The Otter Group (Cambridge, MA).

To start, we'll be presenting a special ALA 2.0 version of our Roadshow at ALA headquarters tomorrow to acquaint interested folks with what's happening with social software, libraries, and associations. It should make for some good discussion.

Here's a blog about this Library 2.0 initiative at Otter Group.

Now and Again?

During Jenny's and my visit to ALA a few weeks ago, Mary took us on a tour before the meeting. We prowled the halls of ALA with cameras in hand, meeting and greeting some of the folks that make the conferences happen and edit ALA publications.

After the meeting, on the way out, Mary was telling us about the first time a computer was brought into the library where she worked in the 1960s. This was in the days of punch cards and huge mainframes. She described the changes the folks dealt with back then in great detail.

I had to ask (because it's been on my mind): Are we in the midst of a big change? Or are these discussions simply an extension of what has come before?

I asked her: “If you knew the term and understood the meme, would you have called that 'Library 2.0' back then?”

“No,” she said, and shortly thereafter, we parted our separate ways into the Chicago night.

Then, a few days later, I received a thoughtful e-mail from Mary, and I immediately wrote back to ask if I could add her thinking to the growing amount of content here at ALA TechSource concerning Library 2.0.

I'm grateful she said yes.

Mary writes:
    When we were chatting, you asked me if I thought my experiences with very early library automation was the equivalent of a "library 2.0" shift. I gave this question some thought because I think, in part, it is at the heart of some of the "inter-generational" sorts of reactions I observe. In balance, I think my short answer to your question is "no," with some hedging.

    I do think each successive generation ends up fighting its own battles of perception, style, approach and difference and listening to the preceding generations' stories meant to illustrate that things aren't really different. I think there's usually truth on both sides.

    So, yes, what was the same was that that period (the 60s) did mark a significant cultural shift. It did change the way library processes worked substantially. It did change the patterns of staffing in libraries. It did change our options and our vocabulary. It was startling. It was also confined in its "sensed" impact to a number of people which would seem very small in the networked world. Most people continued working as they had always worked, with, in retrospect, relatively minor process changes. The change was not yet so overwhelming as to alter patterns of inquiry and information seeking. Expectations were changed but only incrementally I think.

    I am, however, beginning to think that this period is different yet again—and in some broader ways. I think it may be a "tipping point" writ large—a point at which the cumulative effect of technological and cultural change has begun to alter the way we think and (internally) process information in some very fundamental ways, which I do not fully understand.

    So, on reflection my answer to your serious question is "no, not really." It's also rather like my reaction to people who ask me if I like Chicago more than LA or more than DC or..... Each place is its own; each time is its own. You take places and times on their own terms. We all have "been there, done that" reactions and necessarily so, since I think that's an important part of the pattern recognition that lets us function effectively. On the other hand, most of the time "there" and "that" are not really exactly the same. The stream has, in fact, moved on.

    A rambling response to a serious question.
Thanks Mary! This statement really helped my thinking, as did Stephen Abram's post about the Library 2.0 Bandwagon:
    I also see that the Library 2.0 conversation is about going beyond outreach and into just 'reach'. That's exciting. When our 'reach' is into the social networks of the communities we serve we have a greater chance to offer information and services to improve research, learning and knowledge acquisition. 2.0 could be largely about achieving a new balance for our bricks, clicks and tricks strategies. If the vast majority of our library use is happening virtually, are the people who animate the information there too? 24/7? We have to ensure our reference librarians, other user support staff and teacher-librarians are available to virtual users as much as they are to physical users.
Take a look at Mary's words, Stephen's post and all of the other L2 discussions taking place in the biblioblogosphere and decide for yourself!

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