I disagree with those who believe libraries have always been “2.0” — it is a new way of thinking about new modes of service — but I don’t think it’s that useful a label to dwell on. (“Omigosh!” says the director. “How can we make our library more two-point-oh?”) I suspect it’s more useful to think in terms of staying up on technology and keeping in touch with what our patrons want.
Perhaps libraries were always “user-centered”, but they have also been paternalistic, even elitist, institutions — not involving the “radical trust” of the users that has come to define Web 2.0 applications. We control the selection; we control the cataloging; we control the programming: control, control, control.
Of course, to give that all up would be chaos; it would contradict fundamental principles of librarianship: that we should select, organize, and make available material for our patrons. Radical trust in cataloging would seem to mean the death of standards, which would do in effective, precise searching.
But there’s no reason we couldn’t have radical trust riding alongside conventional bibliographic control. I’ve already mentioned LibraryThing for Libraries, which allows a library to retain conventional bibliographic control while incorporating user-assigned tags. I’m uncertain about what kind of user control we could allow for collection development, programming (events), or computer systems.
The “Web 2.0” model seems to be founded on the ubiquity of programmers. Your average library does not have even a handful of programmers: it is one agency. It cannot afford the quick-changing, eternal-beta service model — especially when it is tax-funded and accountable to a public who wants systems that work. For us to create or invest in a stream of ephemeral software or services is irresponsible, and it flies in the face of librarians’ traditional duty of selection.
I want to be enthusiastic about “Library 2.0”. Maybe I don’t fully get it yet.