Friday, February 27, 2009

The Public Library, Web 2.0 and Library 2.0

First, some background. When I first came to this program a few years ago, a lot of people were buzzing about "Web 2.0" and I had no idea what it truly was, I honestly thought it was some sort of ultra-fancy internet that I would have to pay more money a month to get. After some readings, I have a better sense of what it is, and that I've been using it for awhile. Traditionally, web pages were static. You went to a page, you read the information on the page, you might even click on some of the links that it had or maybe you emailed the webmaster. Web 2.0 is the is idea beyond the static web page with only one contributor. Its many people contributing information to a source, causing the source to continuously transform. Its egalitarian in nature, everybody who has an opinion can voice it, and other can read it or not. Examples are Facebook, MySpace, the comments and reviews section on Amazon, wikis, blogs, or any sort of forum where the readers can also become the authors.

The term "Library 2.0" was originally coined by blogger and now book author Michael Casey, he defines it as this:

The heart of Library 2.0 is user-centered change. It is a model for library service that encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation in the creation of both the physical and the virtual services they want, supported by consistently evaluating services. It also attempts to reach new users and better serve current ones through improved customer-driven offerings. (Casey & Savastinuk)

This is huge for public libraries. People generally feel more in touch with a thing that they have helped to create. If patrons were to feel like they were part of a community within the library that listened to their concerns and made choices based on them, they might be more inclined to use the library. For example, if a library is considering establishing an area in the building for young adult literature and young adult-themed activities, those same young adults would be more inclined to use them. The key factor is making the library "customer driven" (Casey & Savastinuk). Many businesses have done well financially because they have made it a priority to put the customer first, the public library should be thinking in the same vein. But by involving the customers in the planning itself, the library can also help its customer relations.

But there are some downsides to this. Andrew Keen has given some talks on how Web 2.0 is not really all that great. He argues that if anyone can put anything up on the internet on any subject, misinformation will spread, and true experts will get lost in the mix (Tenopir). While this is a concern, there are ways to deal with it. Accessing Wikipedia is nice, but not many people know they shouldn't source it as a reliable source. But we as librarians can use the opportunity as a way of educating people in how to use Wikipedia and to get the most correct information out of it. The same could be said of the interactive library. Not everything will be great, I'm sure librarians will still have to spend time editing and weeding through the inappropriate content on their library's facebook pages, but it doesn't mean that the entire idea is invalid.

Personally, I love the idea that Casey & Savastinuk had of setting up reviews within the catalog that patrons could comment on. What a great way to help people better narrow down what they're looking for. Amazon reviews have helped me out in the past, I don't see why the same idea couldn't be applied in a public library. Also, there's the chance that people might take the review section and make it their own, like some of the reviewers on amazon: or

Casey, Michael E. & Savastinuk, Laura C. (2006). Library 2.0. Library Journal, 131, no 14, 40-42.
Tenopir, Carol. (2007). Web 2.0: Our Cultural Downfall? Library Journal, 132, no 20, 36.

Public Libraries Aid in the Economy

I think my love for the library was born out of my penny-pinching ways. I remember as a child thinking "They're really going to let me take this stuff? For free?" I still get that twinge sometimes when I'm loading up my arms with books and heading toward the check-out counter. These days, we can all agree that penny-pinching isn't so much a lifestyle choice as a necessity. I read a quote recently by Chris Hoene, Director of Policy and Research at the National League of Cities. When speaking of budget cuts facing public libraries he said, "Obviously, when push comes to shove," city governments facing budget cuts "will protect city services considered more vital to the safety of the community(Bello)." Just preceding this quote, Hoene distinguishes between necessary core community services such as police and firefighters and services such as libraries and city parks. This quote stuck with me after I read it (perhaps it was the city parks comparison). Not to discount our police and firefighters, I fully believe public libraries have beomce a place of saftey for the jobless and hopeless across the country. Computer terminal usage is up. People come to the public libraries to create resumes, search for available jobs and fill out online applications. Librarians are becoming job counselors, scrambling to develop programs and pull resources related to job acquisition.

While libraries are more than their computer terminals, at this point in our economic downturn, they are becoming a lifeline. Free internet access at libraries is playing an integral part in communities across the nation. Of course, one can't forget the training and guidance necessary for patrons to effectively use computers, also provided by public libraries.

With so many people out of work in the U.S., often home internet access is one of the first services cut from the family budget("America's Libraries Report," 2008). In a 2007 study, 73 percent of public libraries reported being the only source of free internet access in their communities. In the same study, it was found that 70 of the top 100 U.S. retailers accept online applications, 71 percent more than in 2004. It's easy to see the jump from public library services to individual employment.

In Ramsey County, Minnesota, computer usage is up 38 percent. Director Susan Nemitz said that not only do patrons need computer access, they need classes and guidance from librarians. Classes are taught on simple processes such as setting up an email account and these classes are filled to capacity. Nemitz says "In society, libraries are the places that are bridging the digital divide," Nemitz said. "There's a whole sector of society who can't do this alone. Not only do they need computers, but they need assistance(Fleming)."

I feel resentful of Chris Hoene's statements as well as the shortsightedness of many politicians (but that's a topic for many other blogs) when the evidence is there--libraries are silently serving their communities in crisis. All they ask for is the resources and staffing to continue doing what they do best.


The State of America's Libraries Report (2008). Retrieved February 25, 2009 from$468558

Bello, M. (2009, February 1). U.S. libraries on borrowed time? USA Today. Retrieved February 21, 2009, from

Fleming, J. (2009 February 24). Bad economy has libraries rising in importance while facing severe cuts. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from

Discussion Questions:

Visit the following site regarding libraries and the stimulus plan:

Some are saying additional funding for library internet access will not help if the library doors are locked. While the Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing funds for broadband access in public libraries, is it enough?

Perhaps the issue is that libraries have always "just been there" and are taken for granted. With so many public libraries being shut down, what do you expect the public's reaction to be? Will there be any?