I made that pithy statement in an informal discussion of a range of recent liblog posts, mostly having to do with either Library 2.0 (a set of tools, techniques and attitudes) or “Library 2.0” (a movement/ bandwagon/ overall rethinking of libraries/ whatever).
One could also say that attitudes sometimes swing like pendulums –and after going (possibly) too far in one direction, may then swing too far the other way.
I’ll just say this — of course, I’ve said a lot more in that widely-circulated Cites & Insight where I drew the distinction, a long follow-up essay, some notes here and there, and Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change..
- The tools haven’t failed. They’re just tools. Applied thoughtfully when they’re appropriate, they can be powerful. (I didn’t spend a few hundred hours putting together the two library blog books to document a running disaster…) Used “just because they’re there” or with unrealistic expectations, they can be useless and possibly even damaging. (Or they can be small experiments that do no harm and may provide experience.)
- Expectations for wholesale rethinking or revolution may have been a wee bit too ambitious. Fact is, I don’t believe most librarians think public libraries or most academic libraries are on the brink of disaster and need wholesale rethinking, as opposed to continual improvement. (I’m one of those who believes most public and academic libraries are fundamentally healthy and have strong community support–that they should build from strength, usually an iterative process.)
- Many of us were oversold on the extent to which “they would come” if we “built it.” By now, we should know better. It’s not easy to get active community involvement–and if a library blog lives or dies based on the number of comments, it’s likely to be in trouble. (If a library catalog started making user tags, from that library’s community alone, the primary means of access, with cataloging strictly secondary…well, need I finish that scenario?)
- Now, read that bullet again. I’m not saying “Nobody will comment” or “Library blogs are useless” or “Don’t allow user tagging.” I’m saying that you’re better off with slightly more modest expectations, and planning such that growing interaction will strengthen a good system, but the system won’t fail if interaction is weak.
- Example: We now know pretty conclusively (read my two books!) that most library blogs won’t receive many user comments–but that doesn’t negate the usefulness of (many, probably not all) library blogs, nor does it mean that no library blogs will have worthwhile community feedback.
I’m not high on bandwagons or evangelism. Neither am I high on dismissing something because it’s been part of a bandwagon or because it’s had evangelists.
Heck, my morning job now revolves around a wiki. But I’m not ready to assume that I can just spend my time editing all the articles that will populate that wiki because it’s a neat idea…