The Information Experience

I like David Lee King’s blog because he writes first and revises [his ideas] later, which tends to garner both commendation and consternation. So, insomuch that there are canonical bibliobloggers, he’s one of them–consistently working through ideas in real-time under the scrutiny of the public eye. Certainly, he had to know that his post about this image was going to stir up some of the latent reservations and resentments surrounding “Library 2.0.” This may not have been the way to approach this particular discussion right now, but the silt has been kicked up again and it’s worth examining to gauge were people are on the issue.

For one thing, asking “how 2.0 are you?” suggests that there is some metric by which 2.0-ness can be established. That, in turn, would assume that Library 2.0 is a defined and measurable corporeality with quantifiable properties. Reading David’s post, I recalled a conversation I had with Stephen Abram quite some time ago where he said he was once asked, “is [so-and-so] Library 2.0-compliant?” Sure, and there is ISO certification for it too. Remember Mr. Ramsay’s relentless (and ultimately absurd) obsession with completing his philosophical treatises from A to Z? (Bonus points if you do, indeed, remember that) There is no Yardstick 2.0, simply a gradual emergence through a particularly interesting paradigm shift.

Steve Lawson is the closest to touching on this in his response:

I object when people treat “2.0” as if it were something that exists in some platonic sense. If you want to talk about 2.0 as a group of tools or techniques or ideas, I’m ready to talk. If you want to talk about it as if it were a state of nirvana that we are all striving toward–as something that one either “gets” or doesn’t “get”–I’m out. I don’t “get it.”

Except that David did not suggest, in any way, that L2 = Nirvana. In fact, his original post was a relatively heuristic glance at ‘L2ness’. The problem with it was that it landed in the no-mans-land between the abstract and the practical. There is, indeed, an existential component to Library 2.0, but it’s the same aesthetic that drives all librarians into the profession–chances are, if you’re reading this, it’s in you regardless of your thoughts on L2. What makes Library 2.0 different is that we can manifest that passion to share and broker knowledge in a fantastically new egalitarian space. We’re also more comfortable with the idea of non-authoritative information being valuable, which is a very important distinction because it means we’re willing to let the information itself be the experience. The 2.0 librarian is willing to reconcile the traditional instinct to provide certified information with the desire to swim in the ocean of transient data. The ability to do that is what, I think, distinguishes the 2.0 librarian from the 1.0. The Michael Gormans and Andrew Keens of the world have very valid points that nobody should dismiss–quite the opposite, we ought to be listening to them carefully so that we don’t bounce off the atmosphere and tumble off into space–but they are unable to, or haven’t been open to processing that concept. When David writes, ‘The Lightbulb – This is a major point on the Library 2.0 spectrum. Something “clicks” – The library/librarian realizes that the organization/librarian needs to change to meet emerging customer needs,’ I think he’s talking about this–sort of like the moment when a stereogram springs to life.

Additionally, the spectrum is not a very good way to represent Library 2.0-ness. I think Kathryn Greenhill hit the nail on the head on her Flickr comment when she asked, “Nice image…Is it more an evolution than a spectrum? I don’t think librarians would be going back to the left once they moved further toward the right…” and this gem as well, “Getting really abstract..I think it’s probably linear until that “click” moment, and then it should be fluid and experimental and maybe stop being linear at all.” In lieu of my recent post about the role of technology in the growth of L2, I found myself doodling this:

My thought here is that this is, indeed, a one way progression and, at some point, technology diverges from the essence of Library 2.0, though I think we’ll find that technology will always serve to further those principles and without it, Library 2.0 will flounder. That’s why we need to be vigilant for those opportunities where technology can re-converge to support and help grow the core library services that we hold so dear.

One more thing, I think, is worth mentioning here. I often see the comment, “well, this is the same discussion we were having [10-20] years ago.” Yes it is the same discussion with one seriously important difference. We’re now at a point where our hand is being forced. We need to make these decisions now because the parallel world of information that now accompanies us through our lives is evolving with or without us. Discussion is a tool that is far too often used to draw complacency out of the ground–and we’ve peaked in our ability to sustain ourselves on inaction. And this is where we should all be playing close attention to David–his tinkering is the type of action that is going to save our asses.

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