Friday, February 8, 2008

Web 3.0? Not so fast, there!

Some of my favorite bloggers are sounding cautionary notes. Amid recent concerns about Library 2.0 from folks like John Blyberg, Jeff Scott and Rochelle Hartman, there are new concerns from Tasha Saecker and growing affirmations of slow reading and slow library.

Blyberg notes that Library 2.0 "represents technology that is inherently disruptive on many levels" and that it can "undermine notions of authority and control." These concerns were discussed here recently. Hey, in a 2.0 world. we can read lots of reviews on Amazon -- let's cancel that Booklist subscription. And Tasha's concern about the personalized web 3.0 is right on:

...perhaps our strength is that instead of having a faceless computer ... making suggestions, we have REAL LIVE PEOPLE who can do it. And do it well.

Honestly, let's use our technology knowledge to blog, tweet, post, comment, shout that we already do this. Let's offer the service online to make it shiny and new, but let's not forget that LIBRARIANS RULE in this arena already. And let's keep on making sure that we are the human face of information, of recommendations. "
I dearly love InfoSoup, our consortial catalog, as a great library tool. I want to continue developing our online resources in an interactive 2.0 way. But I'm concerned if patrons identify more strongly with online resources than with the physical library. Call me old-fashioned (maybe just old), but I think we need to mindfully maintain high touch as well as high tech. That means library as place and librarians as face-to-face. It means marketing the value of our staff expertise and our reference services as well as library programs.

I remember my colleague Barbara Kelly, twenty years ago having an argument in correspondence with Alfred Glossbrenner, author of How to Look It Up Online. At that time Barbara and I were the apostles of online service at our library, but in the emerging Internet, we were already concerned with the downside of disintermediation which Glossbrenner was touting. Yes, you can look it up for yourself, but the information you find will be presented without authority -- or with anonymous authority. Is it surprising that not long ago, I found myself in a meeting where a community was debating building a library and a high school teacher publicly declared that the Internet had made libraries obsolete? We hear that misperception too often, but we need to be careful how we feed it. As Tasha notes, our role as mediators has value.

In a self-check, instant message world where people google for information, we need to think about how we build connections and community, how we turn information into education, and why people should pay taxes to ensure we keep doing it. If the library is a growing organism, we need to promote growth for our users and communities -- in a balanced way, online and in person. We need to connect. Or we could turn into Amazon and Netflix.