Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I heart Library 2.0 Tee Shirt: One Size Fits All

One size fits all clothing bothers me. It might fit, but its not always going to look pretty.

Recent activity in the biblio-blogsphere has been discussing the cultural context of Library 2.0, and I have found these discussions to be quite helpful when considering the needs of one of the populations I interact with. As an anthropology undergrad, I appreciate the acknowledgment that we should be aware of the community that uses a particular web 2.0 tool and why. What are they doing there, what are the social norms and accepted behaviors, and what do the users look like, what is the benefit of belonging to this website or social network. In other words, before slapping a MySpace logo onto your library's homepage, take your time to do the fieldwork and learn about that particular information climate.

As one of the tech savvy people at my library, I have a leg up on the emerging technologies. Through our own Learning 2.0 program, I think more of our staff members are up on what exactly tagging is or how a social network works. The program definitely generated interest around creating podcasts of our programs and other tools to use internally. Though as they discovered various tools and applications, I maintained a steady reminder that Library 2.0 is about what our users want, and the ways we learn about what they want is by asking them. But as Kate Sheehan described the "slap a wiki on it and call me in the morning" mentality isn't going to automatically create an outstanding nor innovative service for our patrons unless we fully understand what their needs are, then understand the tools to meet those needs. It is going to look hurried and sloppy, with seams coming undone. Tim Gunn would not approve.

So, through this program I’ve turned on my Library 2.0 thinking cap, and in a way started to understand the culture and users of my library, at least the ones that I interact with on a daily basis. I teach Basic Computer and Basic Internet classes, and find myself developing strategies for double clicking and multi-class series, programming about applying for jobs online, and how to set up an email address. It is the most basic level of technology, something most librarians mastered years ago. And on the surface, developing programming around these skills is not sexy and not hip. Yet, the on-the-job reality is that many of our users have not had the opportunities to develop technology skills and they turn to us to help them when they are in need. Our mission is to address the informational needs to the community, and if I can call reference librarianship fieldwork, overwhelming I would categorically describe those needs as basic computer literacy skills. And perhaps what I am doing isn’t innovative and ground breaking, it is personal and local, it is serving the real needs of a community. It will be a customized piece of programming for a specific community, tailored and beautiful.

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