Hey kids, it's time for some uncritical me-tooism from the Raccoon. Yesterday, John Blyberg rocked many of our worlds and was able to beautifully articulate what many of us have been thinking and trying to write about, with his post Library 2.0 Debased. (A big huzzah to Kate Sheehan for her inspiration.)
I’ve been feeling, for awhile now, that the term Library 2.0 has been co-opted by a growing group of libraries, librarians, and particularly vendors to push an agenda of “change” that deflects attention from some very real issues and concerns without really changing anything. It’s very evident in the profusity of L2-centric workshops and conferences that there is a significant snake-oil market in the bibliosphere. We’re blindly casting about for a panacea and it’s making us look like fools.
There are a lot of reasons I haven't blogged in a long time (and for Pete's sake, NO, I am not really the Annoyed Librarian). Chief among them is that I have been rediscovering just how crazy I am about Mr. Raccoon and I am enjoying more of his company in an almost junior high-giddy way. Another reason is that I have been enjoying and getting what I need from the relationships I've developed via Twitter and the Library Society of the World (LSW) Meebo room. Sure, some of it is purely casual and personal, but it also feels like I'm part of this incredible librarian posse that I can take up with any time I need them, day or night. I can't wait to meet many of them at CiL in April. It will be like the Justice League, with all these specialized superheroes coming together to create a maelstrom of librarianish awesomeness.
I also stepped away from library blogging because I felt responsible, in some tiny way, for helping to cobble together the lumbering 2.0 monster. I don't mean to imply that it's not relevant at all. But from where I was sitting as a public library reference manager and front-liner, it seemed like tech.0 was getting a lopsided helping of attention from other bloggers and the established library press.
I've been in and out of the 2.0 stream for awhile. It was like a life preserver when I first grabbed hold of it several years ago, after feeling like I'd been dog paddling far too long. I needed something to re-engage me, to keep me interested, to make me feel relevant. It was a the perfect flotation device. Eventually, I threw off my floaty, went into the deep end and became an enthusiastic supporter of all things 2.0. Then, I left my reference librarian position and became a reference library manager. I was tossing out 2.0 at my new colleagues like beads at Mardi Gras (if I may abandon the water metaphor). Some of it stuck and has become a seamless part of how we work, like Meebo IM. There's a gaming program here that's the purview of Teen services. It's regularly scheduled, well attended and means a great deal to a miniscule and static portion of our users (you know, like book clubs).
After about six months in my position, I was able to step back, breathe, and realize that 2.0 in the tech sense was not a service priority for adult reference or, really, for the community we serve. We deployed Flickr, a blog, MySpace, even a YouTube account, most of which ended up being inexpensive experiments that had zero impact in any direction. On the other hand, our internet access is probably one of the least restrictive I've heard about in a library environment and I love that our IT folks understand that it's crucial to be responsive. At any given moment, I'd guess that 70% of our public access terminals are being used for social networking: MySpace, various IM clients, Runescape, eBay, etc. Our help or involvement is not needed or welcomed (unless time is about to run out and a patron wants an extension). Those folks don't want to interact with us. They don't want us in their space.
Our community still appears to want fairly traditional library services, slightly tweaked for the 21st century. Our circ has continued to climb, largely due to a significant increase in AV checkouts. We are buying just about every new series that comes out on DVD, and we're buying multiple copies. (Green Acres, Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD has checked out 62 times in two years. V. 1 on its own, 118 times in 4 yrs). The reference desk is hopping. We're not reaching for print reference as much, but we still reach for it. The phone rings steadily for phone number look-ups, crossword answers, and holds for good reads. Like the rest of you, we get a little tired of explaining how to print 50 times a day or telling patrons we feel their pain about Office 2007. But, that's our job.
A few months ago, I decided I needed to minimize outside influences about how we serve our patrons. I stopped reading about library stuff. I stopped writing about library stuff. I'm not sure I remember my Bloglines log-in information. I went underground into Twitter and Meebo where I felt I was getting a more rounded view of the library landscape.
In November, I made my first hire: an emerging tech librarian who has no MLS and, really, no library experience. Why? First, he was, hands down, the best candidate. I also wanted to hire someone who would challenge me, who had an outsider perspective. Librarians spend too much time listening to themselves. This. Is. Not. A. Good. Thing. My decision raised some eyebrows, inside and out, but boy, am I glad I listened to my gut. He'll be building a new website, and has launched an intranet. But he, my emerging tech dude, is slowing
our my ass down. He's questioning everything and looking at it through non-librarian eyes. No more wholesale slinging of half-baked hot new things/ideas on shellshocked staff or a mostly could-care-less public. (Well, not much anyway.)
We are working toward a long-range plan. It's in the early stages, but I think we're heading to the conclusion that we need to hear more from our community. Not from folks who walk in the door and and love us already. Not from pundits and trendsetters in the field. And I think we've learned enough that it's time to hush our mouths and just listen for awhile.