Social Software for the Rest of Us (or Librarian 2.0)

By Michael Stephens |
    “Libraries should be seizing every opportunity to challenge these perceptions, and to push their genuinely valuable content, services and expertise out to places where people might stand to benefit from them; places where a user would rarely consider drawing upon a library for support."—Paul Miller, from “Web 2.0: Building the New Library," Ariadne 45 (October 2005) (

Jenny’s previous post noting that libraries should be playing a pivotal role in the development of Web 2.0/Library 2.0 services, leads me to ponder what first steps the uninitiated might take—as well as the personal side of the social software universe.

I touched on it briefly at CPL last week, but there was just so much to talk about that day.

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.

Flickr Tags Librarians Airtight ProjectsI'm all about promoting services and programs via a site like flickr, and libraries need to examine these successful endeavors. I am also fascinated by the personal side as well. Through various feeds, I get to see the faces and spaces of librarianship. Librarian’s desks have been featured for a long time. Have you added yours? Librarians afield, touring the world, intrigue me as well, because I like travel and I like librarians. Where have you been lately and have you tagged the photos with “librarian"?

Share your bookmarks, feeds of the music you play on your computer, and more via the social tools, and you’ll reap three benefits for sure: presence, learning, and experience.

We talk about presence and libraries a lot, but what about presence for the profession? What do folks expect of their librarians? The stereotype? Have some users even forgotten about us as they search Google and IM with friends for answers? By actively identifying yourself as a librarian and putting yourself out there, you are helping paint the picture of the 21st-century information professional. Try it... Don’t be shy. I am not advocating, however, for anyone to go too far outside of his or her comfort zone in terms of revealing the details of his or her life. Share what works for you.

Secondly, what better way is there to learn how things work—and see how we might improve library services to users with Web 2.0 applications—than to dive in and try them out? Start with the one you find most intriguing and give it a go. All it will take is time and some patience and, of course, the desire to learn. It might be so easy as getting a blogger account or uploading a few pictures at flickr.

Interested in podcasting? Look at what libraries are doing with it and run a pilot. This stuff is either free or relatively cheap.

With experience, we set the stage to educate our users. How can we teach our users how to use library resources and other online information systems without understanding them ourselves? So, the next time “I don’t have time to learn how to blog" is uttered in your library, counter with the ideas of the post.

I’d encourage readers of the ALA Techsource Blog to experiment with blogs, flickr, bookmark sites,, and the like to get a feel for what it is all about and to get the presence of librarianship out there in the great Web 2.0 universe. For more, Meredith Farkas provides an excellent post, Social Software Metapost, at her blog, discussing some of the new tools and how we might choose/interact with them.