IL2007: Building web 2.0 native library services

Casey Bisson

“I hope you’re not looking for just OPACs, because our libraries are more than just books.” So we’re going to talk about services beyond the catalogs.

Example: Student wants Sociology of Education, librarian has coded it Educational Sociology. “Why were our library systems so broken?” Because our society’s broken. “bagged products” sold at lawn-care stores means just as little to the consumer as our terminology means to our users.

“35% of internet users say that the internet can substitute for a significant other, at least for a little while. 24% of people who self-describe as Born Again say the internet makes them closer to God. The internet is not what we think it is.” […. uh …. huh.] Additionally, couples have far better memory than individuals, because we learn to work together and compensate for one another. And now we have the internet… and we can ask it, “Hey, honey, where are the photos from my vacation in 2004?” And the internet can tell you, because we’re intimate with it, and it’s powerful.

The internet is now about the economics of plenty not the economics of scarcity. And the web is made of people — a very large percentage of Americans use the web every day.

So what do we learn? How can we make all of our services respond to this new reality? How do we design services that are responsive to the fact that people spend their time, energy, and actions on the internet? What happens when the new generation of academics who’ve grown up with this kind of information and internet culture are in positions of power in our institutions? How will we be sure we’re serving them right?

“We don’t get a lot of chances — we get exactly one — to prove that we’re doing it right.” Shows an example of a bad catalog search result, which comes after we force them to do search our way, using our bad terms, and our bad interfaces — and then we don’t deliver quality results. What new systems can do can connect what librarians know with what the user expects — “they can not feel stupid, or not look at us and think we’re stupid” — instead, we can provide ways to find connections between what we know and what they know.

“The web has taught us that the URL is the correct citation for a resource — it’s all you need, and everything else is extra and in the way.  So if you can’t copy a URL and send it off and use it, you can’t cite it.”  [How many library catalogs are like ours, and don’t provide stable URLs for searches or items?  We’re making it impossible to cite those resources in the modern environment.  Stupid, and sucky.]

“We have to realize that we are not the center of the universe.  Difficult, I know.  It’s most importantly not the center of the information universe, which is a huge change from what we’ve been.”   Users will find their information where they will, and they will send it off, use it, repurpose it, and combine it as they need to (by emailing, saving, embedding, combining, linking, subscribing… all the actions of the 2.0 web), and we are only one of the sources.  So we need to be providing the tools that they want to use while they do that work — and if we don’t, they just won’t use us. “So who’s going to be the first to allow users to embed a link back to our catalog into their own blog with a copy of the book jacket image?  I want it to be me, and I’m sorry I haven’t yet.”  [and why aren’t our vendors doing it?!]

“The best lesson so far about web 2.0, without question, is that our users are smarter than us.”  Example of image collection put online, marketed only in Berlin, NH (as it’s a local collection) where the users are older than the internet user demographic, and where users have put over 1000 comments online in the past year, identifying the people, places, and events in the photos.  Because our users know things we can never know.  [this harks back to Janes saying we should all be editing Wikipedia.  We are all content creators, as are our users.]

And then Bisson demonstrates a Scriblio install, because “it will take less than 15 minutes, and that’s all the time it will take to do something to make your library better” in the 2.0 digital world.  In less than 5 minutes, the software and online accounts were ready to go.  It’s just. not. hard. to make your web presence better…

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