In my search for public libraries that use blogs and other web 2.0 tools and services in order to enhance the relationship with their patrons, I have explored websites of libraries in over seven different countries (more about that later). Much to my surprise, USA and Canada are literally years ahead of many other jurisdictions in latching on to new technology. Most of the innovative tools and service do not require extra money or equipment. It seems to be more about a philosophy of how libraries are being used, what are the goals and objectives of public libraries, and how soon libraries want to update their sites. True, there is a lot of work involved in writing blogs, posting podcasts, or setting up RSS feeds. But just by examining the different sites that have been featured here, it becomes obvious that these are libraries that value their patrons, that are involved in the community as a whole, that are warmly encouraging people to read, and to learn. These libraries invite responses, welcome suggestions, make recommendations, and as a result they are obviously a strong force in the community.
I researched libraries in Zurich, Mumbai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Melbourne, and Sydney, and found no hints of Library 2.0 input to the websites. Others that I researched had ho-hum approaches to RSS feeds or other tools. I believe that the featured libraries are leaders in innovation, and their librarians should be applauded for their efforts. One exception to this generality is the Winnipeg Public Library, but it has my loyalty for old times’ sake, and at least they have ventured into the web 2.0 for teens.
In his blog, John Blyberg shares 11 reasons why Library 2.0 exists and matters. From my explorations, I have to give him credit for the thoroughness with which he embraces the concept, and the confidence that he places in this “real and vital movement”. He lists as reasons:
- L2 is partially a response to a post-Google world
- L2 requires internal reorganization
- L2 requires a fundamental change in how we handle authority
- L2 requires a fundamental change in a library’s mission
- L2 requires technological agility
- L2 challenges library orthodoxy on almost every level
- L2 requires a radical change in how ILSs and vendors work
- L2 both enables and requires libraries to work together
- L2 is actually happening
- L2 is revolutionary
- L2 is essential for survival/pertinence
From John Blyberg’s blog blyberg.net, retrieved April 16, 2009. I couldn’t agree with him more, that all the tools in the world are useless unless the libraries and librarians buy into their use. Once they embrace web 2.0 and reach out to their users, the possibilities for making strong connections and building loyalties are great.
I feel that I now know how public use of blogs can create positive effects. But I also appreciate other tools more. So, lastly, I want to share something about my new favourite tool, the tag cloud. Melissa L. Rethlefsen wrote an article in Library Journal called Tags Help Make Libraries Del.icio.us in which she lauded the use of social bookmarking and tagging tools as helping librarians to bridge the gap “between the library’s need to offer authoritative, well-organized information and their patrons’ web experience.” Tagging lowers barriers for participation, both for patrons and for staff. It may not be precise and authoritative, but it sure looks and feels good to me.