ASSOCIATES (2007, November, v. 14, no. 2)


Library 2.0
My View from the Backroom

carolb.gifCarol Borzyskowski
Winona Public Library

By the time I get my header, title, and web site up on the page I have a good start on my word count for the column. Okay, Library 2.0. Are you all excited? In the time since our last issue of Associates (long may she publish!) I have been reading about and trying out a few of the new wiz-bang shiny toys that go along with the next generation of the internet. Now we all need to be aware of new terms and if we can’t walk the walk we might be able to at least talk the talk, or understand the talk.

I took an on-line course from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Library 2.0. At its most basic, I understand Library 2.0 to be about constant change in technology and ways to make your library web presence more interactive. Doesn’t anyone remember when email started and how that changed (or didn’t) your job? How about trying to figure out how to use email and implement in your library? I bet you worried about it, and now it is just a part of daily life.

The part about being more interactive is where the shiny new gadgets come into play. Library 2.0 will take advantage of the social software out there, and by becoming more interactive the library will slowly become defined by its community of users. The old way was for the library to define itself and have the users adapt. Now, the users define the library, the library adapts. Relax. It is pretty cool. We will be really serving our public and giving them just what they want.

One of the bits of social software that tons ‘o libraries have embraced is a blog. Blogs contain information added chronologically and that information does not change. Newer posts just appear before it, but you can always scroll down and find an older post containing the exact same information as when it was written. That is the major way blogs are different from a web page. You can create a library blog for free, and don’t even need to store it on your server and scare the IT people. Most social software is free and that is another reason it is so popular.

Another popular and easy tool is an RSS feed. That stands for Really Simple Syndication. You can load the little software program on your website for free, and subscribe to “feeds” that interest you. Things like “Unshelved”, news headlines, or your favorite blog. As soon as the information is updated or changed, you get a notice. It is a very handy way to keep current on topics that are important to you.

Probably one of the most revolutionary new 2.0 applications is the concept of “tagging.” What fun! Tags are simply user created labels that will help find that information again. Tags are used in creating bookmarks in, or LibraryThing, and even OCLC databases. Some libraries have opened their card catalogs to user “tags.” This creates all sorts of interesting new labels and ways to find the material you want. Tagging should be viewed as a bridge between the library’s need to offer authoritative resources and the patrons’ personal experience.

There are so many more new social software gadgets out there–how do I find the time to implement some of them? Well, a plan would help, I know. One has to know what direction your library is going and what it can find time to offer and who is willing to work on what projects. I started a wiki for the Fine Arts Commission as a place to load papers and projects we are working on and where all the members could edit and change things. This helps to save some time at the meetings. By the time we have a meeting, any paper/form/presentation would be ready to approve. Having the material in one place where everyone can read and make changes is much more efficient than sending around an email and expecting all the changes to be incorporated in it. Or even read in the first place. When I joined and created my own bookmark site, I spent some time there checking things out. I love tag clouds. They look like poetry to me.

I also joined FaceBook. Several libraries have joined FaceBook. You would have to decide if you think it would work for your library, but it is a way to promote your library, and to see who your friends are. I started with two friends, and it was sort of like being back in Junior High School. But now I have a few more friends. FaceBook is growing like crazy and if you haven’t been to the site to see what all the hype is about, get going. You can always search for me and become my friend. But why not have your library join?

Minnesota recently held their annual library convention. I was lucky enough to be able to attend again this year. I built on the discussions from my on-line course and attended classes on various aspects of Library 2.0. The classes were really helpful as we got to DO some things in real time. For instance (and many of you will wonder how we can possibly be so far behind…) I learned how to do a podcast and post it to our website. I haven’t done it yet, but at least now I know I can. Once again, all free software, and hosting available on the web and not on your server. Just imagine—you could Podcast interviews, or Story Times, selections of an author reading, or even your library ads. I spent times looking at interactive maps, Mash-ups, MeeboMe, and a Flikr widget. The Flikr widget was one of my favorite new toys to check out. And yes, you can get a free Flikr subscription for your library and post all your pictures there.

There is so much going on, growing and changing in our library world. What a time to be working in a library. We should all be excited! As a note I would like to add that not once did anyone at MLA make me feel like I wasn’t as important as an MLS. The only time I felt out of the loop was when I realized that I couldn’t personally make decisions or affect policy change, or buy books for that matter. I am a worker bee. But what I did notice that I think set the MLS people apart from the non MLS is this: They all wore jackets! I kid you not. Denim, canvas, tapestry, knitted, corduroy, plain fancy, fitted, loose, or flared. There were jackets everywhere except on me. The last jacket I bought (with layering in mind) was black and white checked. Not my finest fashion moment.

Carol Borzyskowski, Library Associate II, has worked at the Winona Public Library in Winona, Minnesota, for over 20 years. She is almost 2 inches shorter now than when she started. To the left of her computer monitor is a magic wand which she uses to answer circ questions and regulate the weather. She has been known to make lights dim when passing under them. She co-edits and publishes a “Dam Fine!” literary magazine (Main Channel Voices) and although she has not given up on being recognized as a brilliant poet, she realizes no longer can anyone say “and she did it all so young!”