- Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow’s User
Politics and religion, as the old saying goes, are to be avoided in conversations with strangers lest the dialogue devolve into a shouting match. Library 2.0 might also be added to those taboo topics when librarians mingle. Library 2.0 is either the wave of the future or an empty marketing phrase that signifies nothing. Refreshingly, this new collection of essays, Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's User, focuses on the practical uses of Library 2.0 and avoids techno-boosterism.
Wikis, podcasts, handheld computers, mashups, social networking, folksonomies, gaming, Second Life, Catalog 2.0, and digital storytelling are all covered. (Oddly enough, there is not a stand-alone essay on blogging.) The writers discuss the hardware and social implications of Library 2.0. Most useful is the introductory essay by Elizabeth Black that traces the origins of Library 2.0 back to Web 2.0. She emphasizes the social and collaborative nature of Library 2.0, which transcends the more static Web 1.0 model.
Since Library 2.0 is a collaborative phenomenon, the writers provide both basic definitions of the tools and examples of how they are used in the library environment. The chapter on handheld computers even has a price list. The authors also provide definitions for all of the acronyms, which can make an alphabet soup out of any discussion of Library 2.0. The authors buttress their definitions with many Web site examples so that reading the book while online can be recommended.
Because Library 2.0 is new and ongoing there are a limited amount of examples. One of the best is the business wiki at Ohio University. Business Librarian Chad Boeninger took library resource guides, which can become easily outdated, and changed them into wikis. Boeninger was able to add basic definitions for the library resources and lists of articles. The flexible architecture of the wiki allows the user to get more in depth information by simply clicking on a term. This wiki certainly has been used—since July 2005, it has been accessed 39,000 times.
Michael Stephens' description of the brave new world of Catalog 2.0 is compelling. He persuasively makes the case that library catalogs are woefully out of date. Instead, he argues that librarians should take their cue from e-commerce sites like Amazon.com. Clean interfaces, spell checking, faceting, professional and patron [End Page 96] reviews, RSS fields, and full-text searching of all holdings are some of the suggested improvements. All of these are worthy goals. However, Stephens does not mention how these changes will be funded.
Another intriguing example is the Second Life Library set up by the Alliance Library System in central Illinois. The Second Life Library is similar to brick and mortar libraries with reference desks, exhibits, and events; but it exists solely in that virtual world. In an essay about virtual worlds that builds on that Second Life example, David Ward suggests that there is a place for libraries in the computer gaming world. He thinks there is educational potential in gaming, and librarians can harness that learning by providing a more interactive atmosphere. He also calls for librarians to dispense with their position of authority and approach the gamers as collaborators.
There is much to recommend in this volume. The authors explain Library 2.0, how libraries are using the concept, and some applications for the future. The authors use concise language, and there is enough variety in the articles to appeal to both academic and public librarians. Still, there are some shortcomings. There is not an article about Library 2.0 in the instructional classroom, which would seem to be a natural fit. Also, there are no studies about how students or patrons are using these new technologies. It would be interesting, for instance, to see the desk reference statistics in the Second Life Library. There is nothing about the many users and patrons who cannot afford the...