Refining Library 2.0

It’s probably clear from my first blog post that I appreciate a clear definition as a jumping-off point for discussion—and this is especially so with regard to complex concepts that are not delineated easily. Library 2.0 is a term that seems to be used frequently, and I think it is extremely important to address the idea(s) behind this buzzword. After all, how can we effectively discuss engaging Library 2.0 philosophies if we don’t really know what they are, or if we don’t critically conceive of what we mean by the term Library 2.0. There is definitely symbiosis between theory and practice…

In my view, Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk’s definition of Library 2.0 is too broad. Jack Maness mentions in passing that Library 2.0 may not be a completely unique conceptualization. I agree with this observation. Take, for example, the central component of Library 2.0—user-centred change. As a result of my background in critical theory, this idea brings to mind the notions behind reader response theories or, to put it differently, it brings to (my) mind the notion of the “death of the author” espoused by Roland Barthes in the mid-twentieth century. The “death of the author” is not necessarily about the silencing of a voice—it is about the life of the reader, or the control of the reader as a communicator in the process of meaning-making. When a reader engages a text, he/she is an active producer of that text. The reader reads/writes.

Projecting these notions to the realm of the library: users are part of the process that produces the library-as-text. The “read/write web” to which Meredith Farkas refers is part of Library 2.0 just as, at least according to Casey and Savastinuk, the read/write library that bustles beyond the web is part of Library 2.0. (“What is Social Software?” 2007)

Except that the read/write library pre-exists Library 2.0. Perhaps certain (postmodern) concepts that could be subsumed under a broad, loose definition of Library 2.0 could actually be used to critique and offer insight into the theory. In the physical library it is clear (to me) that there is a dominant context which users/readers negotiate to find a voice, so to speak. Such is the case with social software applications, which encourage particular forms of communication online. For example, there are laws that (to a certain extent) dictate what kinds of content are acceptable for public sharing (a fact that B.M. Carson discusses in “Libraries and Social Media”). We should be aware of the kinds of communicative environments which these applications encourage.

Maness helps to tame the term Library 2.0 by limiting it to “the application of interactive, collaborative, and multi-media web-based technologies to web-based library services” (“Library 2.0 Theory,” 2006, my italics). This manageable definition offers a conceptualization of the term that highlights the unique components of Library 2.0.


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2 Responses to Refining Library 2.0

  1. I agree with the observation that providing user-centered services, allegedly a central tenet of Library 2.0, is not a new concept. Perhaps Library 2.0 simply marks a new stage in a continuum of ever-expanding awareness of the importance and centrality of users to the provision of library programs and services.

  2. I think you’re absolutely right that Library 2.0 is an aspect of ongoing development in the ways libraries communicate with/create services with users. And maybe these changes are not so much stages in a continuum, but shifts in culture and awareness (we can never ‘get there’ — i.e. arrive at a perfect policy of provision — but we can move with the times while using tools engagingly).

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