Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Putting the "O" in Library 2.0.

This week (or from whenever since I'm so far behind) our assignment is to comment on 3 of these 5 articles from OCLC. I decided to focus on the overall themes of the articles, rather than something specific as they provoked a certain response in me as I read them.

The idea of the changing nature of libraries is something, in my limited experience, that has been discussed for years and years--well before there was a Web 2.0. I'm sure that Zenodotus of Ephesus was looking at new technologies like vellum over papyrus back in the days of Alexandria. (Ya know, back when libraries were still in beta.) Actually, I think that libraries, due to their very nature, will always be in some kind of a beta test. As society changes, people change, our patrons change and we respond to this change.

But I digress.

Obviously, our focus with Learning 2.0 is on technology. And I am a huge fan of technology. My wife is constantly picking up my "Rick-cessories" as she calls them. I suffer from techno-joy (and to a lesser extent techno-joy) not techno-fear.

But, I wonder if we are thinking about this in the wrong order. The articles kept referring to patrons who are incredibly technologically savvy. They are blogging. They have multiple MySpace accounts. They edit Wikis. They are posting to Flikr. They are creating webpages, etc. I know they exist because I have met one or two of them. More common are the individuals that proudly claim "I'm technologically illiterate!" Or who demand you create an email account for them. Or who have no idea how to use a mouse or keyboard. Or who can't tell the difference between a webpage and a Word document. Or want to know where to put their 5 1/4 inch floppy disk. (The last one I made up, but the others are real.)

The catch-phrase we used to use was "bridging the digital divide". We were trying to help patrons who did not have access to computers become computer literate. Now, apparently, patrons have suddenly surpassed us in their adeptness and it is time for us to play catch-up. When did that happen? Did we create the world's best educational system and somehow slingshot individuals with limited computer access past the edges of adequacy? Sadly, I doubt it. I think it is more likely that the adepts have always been there mixed in with those who have limited computing capabilities and we are just noticing them now because the technology has become even more prevalent. It is also something exciting and tangible that we can latch onto. It is an attempt to level the playing field and is the natural progression of "bridging the digital divide".

However, it seems to me that adept users are more likely to suffer in silence and work the problem out for themselves rather than come to us for help. I know patrons are using blogs, MySpace and Flikr, but I can't recall ever being asked for assistance on these sites.

So, what am I trying to say? I think that Learning 2.0 is a great program and I support it wholeheartedly. I think that we should continue to use the technologies we have been developing in the program. However, I feel that it is more likely that we will be using these technologies with other staff and not with the patrons. We will use them to communicate and cooperate with other KCLS staff as well as coordinate with libraries outside of our little piece of the world. We can use the technologies to communicate with patrons as well, provide them with access to our resources and promote our events and programs. However, it is unlikely that our next question from a patron will include phrases like "I'm trying to post to my blog . . .", or "My Rollyo search engine script is not working . . .". Rather, our patrons will continue to struggle with attaching a picture to their email messages and trying to find Google.