The Culture of Trust: One Year in the Life of Library 2.0

By Michael Stephens | What a difference a year makes!

I'm back at Dominican after three days on the road, during which I attended the Kentucky Library Association Conference in Louisville. The highlights of my trip include: meals shared, conversations, meeting and greeting, hearing Peter Morville talk about "ambient findability," and my presentation on Library 2.0 for a room full of folks. I was very aware that this week marks about a year from the time when Michael Casey began blogging his thought processes at Library Crunch on the L2 philosophy.

From Library 1.0 to Library 2.0 by Weiling LiuViewing Weiling Liu's poster presentation at KLA, "From Library 1.0 to Library 2.0: What is it all about?" was a touchstone moment for me: a librarian gathering the history of the discussion to present to other librarians at her state conference.

Discussions began. How was the social-software movement changing users and libraries? A few weeks later, the Talis white paper followed, offering principles and insight about technology and library services. Mind dumps, thinking out loud, and collaborative brainstorming on library blogs begat a rich tapestry of L2-ness that irked some, divided others, and brought some people together.

Weiling Liu and Michael Stephens And then things got very interesting.

Remember these wonderful conversations and events: the ILS Customer Bill of Rights, "the User is Not Broken," Library Camp (and the most recent Library Camp East event), those library signs that just screamed Library .05, the presentations at Internet Librarian 2005, the brilliance of "radical trust," and so much more! The range of discussion, the debates, the innovations—it is amazing that in just a few short months so much discourse could play out so strongly.

Although some didn't care for the phrase, or didn't like attaching a buzzword like "2.0" to the world of libraries, others found it to be a good fit or suggested alternatives, such as the ever-popular "Steal this idea."

It was also almost a year ago that I wrote:
    This is a given in my world: To remain viable, interesting, and relevant, libraries should seek methods to get out into the community, engage users with services and conversations, and offer collaborative spaces both online and in beautiful physical buildings. But here's the other side of the coin: Librarians should embrace the social tools as well on a professional and even personal level. It's the logical first step to put us on the way to Library 2.0.
It's still a given, but now one year later, I have a pool of examples to pull from to demonstrate this shift in thinking. Noted on blogs, in recent articles, and at conferences, this shift was observed in personal visits too, from Minnesota to New Jersey, where I learned about some incredible services and spaces in libraries.

In the recent "Library 2.0" article in Library Journal, Casey & Savastinuk note, "While not required, technology can help libraries create a customer-driven, 2.0 environment. Web 2.0 technologies have played a significant role in our ability to keep up with the changing needs of library users."

For example: So where do we go from here? What will the next year bring in the L2 world? What can librarians do now to create change in their organizations? For your perusal, some thoughts on creating the L2 organization...

Create a Culture of Trust

Take a lesson from some of the folks and organizations identified above that are building collaborative services for their users. What can you do to let your staff and your users know you trust them? The best organizations are staffed by folks who feel secure the decisions they make and work they do will be supported by the folks above. Forbidding staff members to blog, for example, because you can't control what they say or might say is not trust, let alone radical trust.

Communicate the mission, vision, and purpose of the library through well-planned, solid staff development—not the management-guru flavor of the month—and then trust the staff to go forth and blog, build wikis, and/or interact with library users. Let them know it's cool—and that a typo on a library-blog posting won't spell the end of the world for all involved. I once heard a librarian say it was her personal mission in life to make sure that everything was spelled correctly on the Web site. Sorry, dear soul, but you're missing a big, wonderful world if all you can do is endlessly proofread.

Adopt a 2.0 Philosophy
Participatory. Open. Playful. Transparent. Make these part of your motto, your vision, and build services and staff with them in mind. My hat is off to the libraries that create teams—made up of employees—for planning, that allow staff members to blog about those plans, and that take time to experiment and play with new technologies and tell their users exactly what they are up to. We can't control every little thing that happens in our libraries, and really, should we even want to?

Build new spaces for collaboration. Give young people a podcast studio, a video bay, and a friendly teen space. Give your seasoned users a place to meet, sip coffee, peruse materials, and chat. Do DDR at your next staff-institute day.

Dream and Innovate
"Are you dreaming?" I once asked here. I hope you are. I hope you have time to innovate and create and share and breathe. Jenny always makes me smile when she tells folks in our Roadshow workshop to make sure they are looking up from their desks and seeing the world.

Break Down Barriers
What prevents you or your staff from doing the best job possible? Look at barriers in your library—scared cows?—and find ways to make them better. Revisit that policy manual in light of how the world has changed in the last few years: more tech is mobile, social spaces online are thriving, and do not be afraid. Fear drives decisions in some organizations. Don't run from Flickr or whatever the next big community may be because of fear.

Encourage the Heart
The best libraries of the future will be those that follow the above and that will seek to make that personal, emotional connection with users. It might be online, it might be in person, it might even be at Panera Bread. Walk through your library today and look at the story your library is telling with its space, signage, and ambience. Share yourself. Be human. Feel good about the difference you can make in your role as a guide for your users through this crazy, information-inundated world.

What a difference a year makes, indeed. I am so pleased with the discussion—and no matter what name you use, I love that the innovations and plans just keep rolling on. Here's to the next big thing!
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