“Library 2.0” – an apology

I think I owe one group of people a partial apology for having published Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0.”

Not the cheerleaders and proponents. Certainly not those who argue that doing an in-depth discussion of what was being said about “Library 2.0” in late January 2006 was somehow unfair because premature, where in May 2006 it’s a nicely-defined movement that every rational librarian should be part of.

No, the apology is to those librarians who expressed a variety of doubts about the name, the bandwagon, the universal applicability of the concepts, the need to drop those dangerous old ideas and focus on “Library 2.0,” the extent to which the term was being used in a confrontational manner…and other doubts.

Not that I agree with all of those doubts (I don’t, any more than I agree with all the pro-“Library 2.0” stuff that was in the issue), but I believe they were thoughtful comments worth addressing on their own merits.

Unfortunately, what I see happening–notably in the Wikipedia article on “Library 2.0” and in the reading list for the ALA course–is that my roundup is being used as the single example of anything less than enthusiasm for “Library 2.0.” (And in the case of Wikipedia, one criticism of “Library 2.0”–a minor one at that–is being peddled as the only criticism anyone’s made, and of course it’s been answered in full.)

So, hey, you get 10, or 15, or 30 pro-“Library 2.0” posts and documents. You get one (count ’em, 1) very long discussion as “balance” which, if anyone does go to read it, is not opposed to the ideas and explicitly tries to be fair to all parties involved. The C&I document is a nice excuse for dismissing all other doubts about the movement.
And for that, I apologize. The critics and skeptics deserve better.

For those who interpret this post as another attack on Library 2.0: I can’t control your interpretations, although you’re dead wrong. Failure to enthusiastically be 100% supportive of something is not the same as opposing it. (Analogy: Not entirely happy with NSA’s call harvesting or 100% enthused about Bush’s job performance? Why do you hate America?)

11 Responses to ““Library 2.0” – an apology”

  1. Angel says:

    And that is exactly why I have stayed away from the whole L2 discussion and avoided it in my blogs. I really find it alienating to see that an analogy of “you are with us, or you must hate [insert the profession/the country/the nation/librarianship/other philosophy/movement/etc.” seems to work so well. Just because you have questions, it does not follow you oppose it or are an enemy, but by now I pretty much figure that is the way the ball rolls.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  2. Steve Lawson says:

    I’m going to interpret this as a lazyweb request for a Library 2.0 skeptic’s reading list. Barring unforseen delays, I’ll have it up by the end of the week at See Also. I’ll post a link here in the comments, and, since See Also is on the ALAL2 blog reading list, ALAL2 participants should see it. Whatever I miss people can link to in the comments on my post.

    I think one of the reasons the “Library 2.0 and ‘Library 2.0′” article works reasonably well as an intro to the critiques of Library 2.0 is because many L2 skeptics wrote their longest pieces on the topic specifically because you were asking for responses. Otherwise, they tend to briefly register their skepicism and move on.

    But I have a few things in mind from recent weeks that may or may not refer to “Library 2.0,” but seem to be implicity critical of L2 conventional wisdom. We’ll see how this goes.

    Oh, and as for the Wikipedia entry, I’m sure you are aware that there is a simple remedy for that…

  3. walt says:

    Angel: And, to some extent, why I’ve stayed away from it since doing that essay. [I’ve been burned on the 100%-for-or-wholly-against thing before, as regards ebooks, open access archiving, and copyright. I’m sure I’ll be burned on it again; I have trouble ignoring nuance.]

    Steve: Thanks. I think an updated list will be interesting, particularly since the “conventional wisdom” has shifted (at least somewhat) since January. I look forward to seeing the results; given your track record, I assume they will be thoughtful and worth reading.

    I must admit, one post to which I was referring in this post still bothers me: That is, the suggestion that it was somehow inappropriate to do a critical review of “Library 2.0” in January because it wasn’t well defined yet. I don’t recall advocates of the concept arguing that it was inappropriate to say that every librarian needed to be focusing on it back then, when it supposedly wasn’t well defined. To my simple mind, the time for critical review is before calling on everyone to support a concept, not afterwards. Assuming you’re talking about a reasoned call for involvement, not a cult…

    Not to turn this comment into a new post, but I think there are some really interesting sub-issues worth careful examination and, possibly, debate. If other aspects of life ever settle down, I’d like to focus on some of those issues…

  4. Steve Lawson says:

    I don’t think I was one of the people suggesting it was too early, so I’ll assume that part of your comment wasn’t aimed at me.

    I generally agree with what you say about that, and saying that January was too early to do your survey would be, I believe, incorrect.

    I do have sympathy for anyone who said that January was too early to criticize L2’ers for not having a fully coherent definition of exactly what “Library 2.0” was supposed to mean. I like to think of Library 2.0 as a toolkit and a continuing conversation, so your long list of contradictory definitions didn’t bother me. But I could see where some would think that you were criticizing L2 for incoherence, and I do think it was a bit early for that.

    Then again, it’s hard to know whether you are “with ’em or against ’em” if they can’t decide on a definition.

    Anyway, I’m happy to see a discussion continue, as I think we can get somewhere interesting if we all keep our heads.

  5. walt says:

    Steve, No, it definitely wasn’t aimed at you–and now I can’t find the post (from yesterday, I think) that riled me.

    I also like your description of the C&I issue as a “survey” more than a critical examination, because that’s what I think it was.

    Interesting times.

  6. Laura Savastinuk says:

    Hi Walt,

    I can’t help but wonder if you are referring to my guest post on LibraryCrunch yesterday, as it did refer to and link to your analysis:

    “Library 2.0 faced early criticism before it could even be clearly defined. There was a very early critical analysis of the concept when it was still evolving which ultimately seemed to increase interest in the idea.”

    I hope you didn’t take offense to this, as I certainly was not attempting to criticize you or anyone else for thinking critically about Library 2.0. I was simply pointing out that your paper helped to increase the discussion surrounding Library 2.0.

  7. walt says:


    Well, yes, yours was the post I was referring to. That first sentence certainly struck me as objecting to the analysis: Maybe I’m overinterpreting. On the other hand, you give me too much credit: the special issue was a survey, not really a critical analysis.

    The special issue did do two positive things, I think: Increased discussion and encouraged a more moderate tone from a number of the adherents (or made their actual moderate thinking more publicly clear, which is where I think Michael C. falls). The negative outcome (well, unless it’s made me unhirable in a “forward-looking” library organization) is that it allows that intended-to-be-balanced survey to stand in for any of the serious criticisms that were being made.

    The multitude of smaller conversations that can help librarians to improve and broaden service offerings, using new methodologies when appropriate, are the most interesting aspect of this whole thing, as far as I’m concerned. *Most* of those conversations seem to be conversations these days; that’s a good thing.

  8. morgan says:

    Walt, I guess that I might count as one of the people who expressed doubts early on about the label and the bandwagon. So far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to apologize for. Your C&I survey was very helpful to the discussion, helping to provide context for all of the different views which had been expressed up to that point. For me, it coincided with when I started feeling tired of the issue and started tuning out of the debate. It was never about stopping the L2 bandwagon, but questioning some of the directions and the rhetoric. I like to think L2 today would be a much nastier beast today if we had not had the discussion about Library 2.0 six months ago. Getting back to your main point, do you feel at all uncomfortable at being labelled as the most notable questioner of L2? I would not like it, especially since I don’t see myself as opposed to it, merely a non-conformist.

  9. walt says:

    Morgan: You’ve hit on an interesting point. I believe the special issue helped some (not all) “Library 2.0” advocates to refine what they’re saying and reduce the level of insistence that everybody must treat it as urgent. I believe more interesting and worthwhile conversations (and, little by little, cases and examples that can yield worthwhile results) are resulting. So, yes, I agree with the sentence starting “I like to think…”

    What you’ve hit on, and maybe why I did this post: The sentence starting “Getting back…” – although it hadn’t occurred to me to think of it that way. The Wikipedia article gives me as the only named example of a doubter (with three named examples of those who “have spoken to” that doubt), and the special issue is the one and only item in the 14-item reading list that’s not wholly supportive. Similarly, the special issue is (the last time I looked) the single less-than-wholly-supportive item in a very long reading list for the ALA “Library 2.0” course, and it’s pretty well buried on that list.

    I think this incorrectly labels me as the “most notable questioner” and is a disservice to those who raised the pertinent questions; I mostly just summarized and synthesized the questions raised by others. So yes, that does make me uncomfortable–particularly since I could echo your final statement: “I don’t see myself as opposed to it, merely a non-conformist.”

    [By the way: Yes, I know the standard response to any questioning of Wikipedia entries. I find it somewhat of a copout. No, I’m not going to get into an EditWar, particularly given the history of that entry. And I do see a more nuanced discussion today than I did when I wrote the post that started this comment thread.]

    I think I need to suggest to Michael Casey that he find a way to place “Library 2.0” as a term sufficiently in the public domain that some company can’t register “Library 2.0 Conference” as a trademark and object to other people using a similar phrase. If you think that’s ludicrous, well, look into O’Reilly and “Web 2.0 Conference.” In this case, I’m 100% certain that Casey would object to any such attempt to seize the term in that extended usage… So I’ll close this comment and go send him email. [Sigh: WordPress seems to have stopped sending me email when comments are posted; thus the delay in responding here.]

  10. Steve Lawson says:

    OK, the Library 2.0 skeptic’s reading list is up at See Also. If I remember correctly, I can’t use anchor tags in these comments, so I’ll try pasting in the URL. (If this doesn’t work, just use the link on my name above).


  11. walt says:

    As I noted in a comment on that post: I’m impressed. Thanks for doing this. (I think you can use anchor tags, but they force the comment into moderation. I’m not sure. In any case, WP automatically turns your URL into a hotlink, so it’s all good–and it does work.)