On Being perfecT

28Nov08

This is a bit old now but the keynote presentation by Meredith Farkas of Norwich University, at the Academic Library 2.0 conference sponsored by Librarians Association of University of California, Berkeley, was thought provoking with some practical tips, too.

One of the aspects that make Web 2.0 tools hard to wrap our head around is the very nature of user generated content. Part of the reason may be the librarian-as-expert culture. In the hierarchical culture librarians are the experts feeding patrons the knowledge. Web 2.0 turns this paradigm on its head as users truly become partners in knowledge. Trusting users in that role and making libraries more transparent are not easy things to do.

Over at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, the library director blogs directly and invites comments. This sharing of comments engages its user community and the comments are not just sitting in a box and not addressed. As a sidebar, I guess I was lucky as I went to a university where comment cards were answered on a public bulletin board.

There is also simple stuff to implement, like if a university has Web CT or Blackboard, then there are links to the library web page. For the creative types or those in library marketing, Flickr can be used to promote the library. Photos from special collections at North Carolina State College are up on Flickr. Users can find them by serendipity. In a happy ending, one photo was misidentified but the correct information was posted in a comment.

But the ultimate granddaddy 2.0 project is an open source OPAC. Take the Evergreen from Pines project of Georgia Public Libraries. I have not looked at it closely but Farkas likes its graphical browse shelf feature. There is also a prominent related books feature for when when you find resources similar to what you typed in. A British Columbia public library consortium has implemented it; see it in action here.

Some obstacles to learning about Web 2.0 involve “getting rid of the culture of perfect” according to Farkas. Can you think of some examples from your work life? I’m sure that I can. Another librarian remarked that they don’t extrapolate or learn from other types of libraries (public libraries, school libraries, or non profit libraries). I am probably guilty as charged here, but I have reached out to colleagues in engineering and accounting libraries.

- Brenda

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One Response to “On Being perfecT”

  1. 1 Karen

    Sorry Brenda, I had to make some corrections :)

    I like that point about treating your users are knowledgeable as well. Sometimes our only expertise consists of being able to use the tools well!



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