Collaboration 2.0?

By Tom Peters | Paul Miller

Near the conclusion of the Computers in Libraries Conference in D.C. last week, Paul Miller (pictured at your left) from Talis, a United Kingdom-based library-automation vendor, presented an interesting session about the challenges of Web 2.0 to libraries.

Based on a recent public-opinion survey conducted in the U.K., nearly all respondents indicated they trust libraries, museums, and archives—the core cultural institutions of developed nations still garner trust. In the study and in other public-opinion studies, however, respondents indicated they are much less likely to actually have visited the Web site of a library, museum, or archive. In addition, for only five percent of the respondents to the U.K. study, visiting the library was their preferred method for gaining access to the Internet.

These results prompted Paul to ask: If libraries are trusted so much by the general public, what went wrong online? Why is usage of online resources and services provided by libraries and other cultural institutions lagging so far behind usage of commercial online providers of information services?

The short-term solution Paul offers involves disaggregating, then recombining in new and more useful ways, our monolithic library systems. Miller says the information systems used in libraries should function like Lego building blocks. We should be able to build what we want and need, not just the picture on the box.

When Paul addressed a potential long-term solution to the current library-systems conundrum, his remarks became very interesting. Basically, he challenged the library profession to engage in a deeper form of collaboration.

In the current parlance, we could call this collaboration 2.0.

Miller noted that librarians excel at more straightforward forms of collaboration—such as resource sharing via interlibrary loan and group discounts for e-resources. But to collaborate in a meaningful, profound way to develop a shared platform for future library systems, we need to nurture and participate in a community dedicated to the culture of collaboration.

To help get this new form of collaboration rolling, Talis has developed a Shared Innovation Web site, "A community site for all those interested in Library 2.0." Talis encourages everyone who contributed ideas, scripts, APIs (application programming interfaces), and other resources to this virtual collaborative community to share their contributions under a Creative Commons license.

This all sounds wonderful, but at my back I always hear the haunting refrain of a song sung by a local Iowa City band when I was in graduate school and working as a cook in a restaurant and bar, "I'd join the revolution, but I don't trust you guys."

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