The new bandwagon is the anti-bandwagon?

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…

2 Responses to “The new bandwagon is the anti-bandwagon?”

  1. Dave Tyckoson says:


    I appreciate your differentiation of the tools from the hype regarding Library 2.0 (with our without “”). One issue that I have not seen others address is that the assumptioon behind the number 2.0 is that we have never previously evolved beyond the very first version of what Library means. I think that we have had a number of systemic changes over our history that would have been significant new “versions” if that concept and numbering system had been in use at the time. At the risk of the anguish of your readers, I will share something that I wrote that was just published in RUSQ as an aside to my column (v. 47 Winter 2007 p. 113)
    Library 4.0

    With all of the hype about Web 2.0, some people are promoting the concept of Library 2.0. Although the motivation behind Library 2.0 is all well and good, they don’t have the numbers right. Libraries have gone through a long period of innovation and are well beyond level two. In my opinion, a numbered series of “versions” of the concept of Library would read as follows. And like any good upgrade, each “version” of Library incorporates all of the developments and features of those that came beforehand.

    Library 1.0. Historically, the first function of “Library” was to build collections. This function dates back to ancient times and continues with us today. During version one, libraries focused entirely on materials.

    Library 2.0. The second version of “Library” is the one that focused on organization. This version began some time around the sixteenth century and continues to be a part of all later versions. During this era, we developed organizational schema to make our collections easier to use. Cataloging, indexing, and metadata are all modern remnants of Library 2.0.

    Library 3.0. The third edition of “Library” is the one that focuses on service. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, libraries began to provide direct personal assistance to users. This is the version of the Library that spawned the reference desk, instruction, reader’s advisory, and even this journal.

    Library 4.0. We are currently in the transition stage from Library 3.0 to Library 4.0. I would characterize Library 4.0 as the era in which the Library serves not merely as the collector and organizer of information, but as the producer or publisher of information. Modern technologies such as digitization and telecommunications allow us to distribute material that is unique to our institution, making it available to the rest of the world. Exactly how this will affect the traditional publishing industry is not yet known, but version 4.0 should look very different in the future than our version 3.0 of today.

    There will no doubt someday be a Library 5.0. What will make 5.0 unique is something that future generations will need to define. For now, let’s stop looking into the past by calling it Library 2.0 and begin looking at the present by calling it Library 4.0.

  2. walt says:

    Interesting–and I certainly see that libraries can and in some cases should become more publishers and producers. (Not “the producer or publisher” any more than libraries are or were the place for information or books–but perhaps an important player in publishing and production.)