Category Archives: Library 2.0

Books? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Books!

bedoyaI opened my email on Friday morning to find an email from my niece about an unbelievable article in the Boston Globe. My niece, also a librarian, was disturbed by the article and the subject line, “Is this for real!?” exposed her utter confusion. The message said that she felt that she’d woken up in an alternate universe when she opened her paper that morning, and the story left her depressed and speechless.

The article, entitled “Welcome to the Library. Say Goodbye to the Books,” is about a private school, Cushing Academy, near Boston, that got rid of all of their books and replaced them with 18 Kindles and three large flat-screens displaying “data from the Internet.” They replaced the reference desk with a $50,000 coffee shop that includes a $12,000 cappuccino maker. It will no longer be called a library, but will now be referred to as a “learning center.” The headmaster of the school, James Tracy, says, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.’’

I’m sure that Mr. Tracy means well. I’m sure that he didn’t give away their 20,000 volumes frivolously, and I’m sure that he believes that he’s doing his best to prepare his students for a digital future.


I posted the article on my grad school’s listserv and got a flurry of responses. The responses were mostly outraged, but a couple–from a professor, no less–were relatively, though not entirely, supportive of the school’s bookless initiative. Some of the concerns mentioned in the responses were:

  • Loss of the serendipitous find. Remember looking for something specific in a library, and accidentally coming across 2 or 3 more items that would either help you with your research or teach you something new? No longer possible without books–or, not in the way it is with books, I should say. Most of the responders believed that kids would really be missing out without this factor.


  •  Respondents felt that they were going too far, and missing an intermediary step, where books peacefully coexist with technology. They thought that with this type of scenario, students would enjoy the best of both worlds…and this is what modern libraries today strive for, in most cases.
  • Respondents were concerned that the students would be lost when they entered college. Would they know how to do real research without having had the benefit of information literacy, which is not mentioned in the article? Would they be thrown when they don’t find Kindles everywhere?


  •  There was concern that the “library” as a whole might become obsolete if this model were to become the norm. The professor thought that this was the overweening concern of the article, saying that a “library” is an ideological concept and not a physical structure. He believes that the ideology and the structure are becoming increasingly incompatible, and that the physical structure may not be the best “technology” to achieve “library” anymore. He thinks that librarians should get over their book bias.
  • Respondents discussed their experiences with research and talked about the pros and cons of databases vs. print resources. The age of the respondents probably explains a lot about whether they preferred electronic resources over print. But the consensus, generally, is that both are needed at this point.
  • There is also a fear that if other schools see this as an option, they will follow suit. But it remains to be seen if this sort of drastic measure will be successful yet.
  • A respondent was eager to point out that at least they hadn’t gotten rid of any staff, which is good news in an age of lay offs and library closings. It was also mentioned that at least the school was generously funding the new “learning center,” which is also good news for the same reason.

The future is knocking on the door, and perhaps it’s only a matter of time before many libraries go this route. But, in the meantime, should we take such a drastic leap yet? Can we, or should we, take our time, easing people into the digital age? Are we experiencing the “birth pangs” of library 2.0 (apologies to Condi Rice)?

CNN writes about this recently in an article entitled, “The Future of Libraries, With or Without Books.” The article, taking a deep dive into what the library of the future might be like, using examples from today, explains how the role of a librarian might change:

In a world where information is more social and more online, librarians are becoming debate moderators, givers of technical support and community outreach coordinators.

They’re also no longer bound to the physical library, said Greenwalt, of the library in Skokie, Illinois. Librarians must venture into the digital space, where their potential patrons exist, to show them why the physical library is still necessary, he said.



What, Really? Wow!

I’ve been away from the blog for over a month now. My sincere apologies–I took a little summer break. While I wasshocked gone, there have been several things that I’ve seen and wanted to write about, but I just didn’t. So, here’s a quick little compendium of exciting items that have occurred that deserve more real estate than I’m giving them, but I’m sure enough has been written already without my adding too much hackneyed commentary. So, here goes:

1. Razorfish (which I just discovered today has been sold to Publicis!) has just published a fantastic study on how social media influences purchasing decisions. As far as I know, this is the first of its kind and will likely be discussed by marketers for years to come. Especially marketers looking to understand how social media can be measured. You can access the study by clicking here.

2. On the same tip, AltimeterCharlene Li’s  blog, has recently reported the release of a study that Li co-wrote with Wetpaint. The study shows the correlation between social media engagement and a brand’s financial performance. This is another one for the history books, and another one that marketers can point to when trying to make a case to management for getting involved in this new media space. 

3. Free, by Chris Anderson was released online for the low, low price of…well, guess. Learn more about the book by listening to Anderson discuss it in this podcast.

4. Inmagic, a database software company that has its products in places like libraries and NASA, is poised on the cutting edge of social knowledge management.  After the SLA Conference at the end of June, Inmagic blogged about the different ways the information revolution was being dealt with by SLA and by Enterprise 2.0, and how to bridge the gap. This short and poignant piece is very telling and shows why Inmagic is leading the way in social librarianship.


5. Last but not least, this story was in the NY Times today, on textbooks of the future. The article says that California and a couple of other states are beginning to experiement with digital textbooks. I am all for the digital revolution, but where do we draw the line? There are pros and cons on both sides of this issue–I’ll just mention one of each that occurred to me. Pro: Easy updating of information that would quickly be outdated in paper textbooks. Con: Easy revising of history, for evil, not good. Plus, where is the permanence? And how can we ensure that the important info will be saved in a format that will be easily accessed later? What about the digital divide? Do kids without computers at home just not get to study? OK, that’s more than one con, that’s several. Still in the early stages, this initiative will need careful consideration. Plus, isn’t California bankrupt? Where are they getting the money for this sort of thing? 

Hoping to be back again in short order. Until then…

The Challenge of Corporate Library 2.0

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference between public/academic social libraries and corporate libraries. It’s highly unusual to even consider something like a social corporate library. Why? Because of security. Think of it this way: with public and academic libraries, librarians are trying to get the information out to whomever requests it. Sometimes, even to those who don’t request it. They try to make sure that information is accessible to anyone and everyone.

In a corporate library, librarians are trying to make sure that information gets into THE RIGHT HANDS. What makes up a corporate library? Generally, proprietary information: corporate archives, employee generated content, awards submissions, presentations, meetings minutes, etc. If there are requests for third-party information, the reason for the request might often be sensitive and confidential. Corporate libraries don’t lend themselves automatically to the “open” culture of social media. These are things you don’t want to share with outsiders, let alone colleagues.


But there must be a place for corporate library 2.0. It’s the wave of the future; it’s where everything is going. Social media is hot, and consumer generated media is even hotter. Libraries are disappearing because people are doing their own research, and they don’t think professionals are needed. So where do we go from here?

I’m not doing a commercial here, but a few months ago, I saw an article about special library 2.0 in Information Outlook Magazine. It was an interesting article to begin with but what cemented it in my mind were two things.

1) The author described social libraries in a way that really resonated with me: 


“Social libraries combine traditional library automation and workflow with collections of diverse content and vetted knowledge. These are then fused with the ‘wisdom of the community,’ or the network. The result is ‘social knowledge.'”

2) The author works for the database company that my workplace uses as a repository for our information requests. The irony is that the organization that I work for, before I began working there, decided not to update the version of the database that we use. Although it’s very useful to us, and fits our needs, the version that we have is clunky. The version that is described in this article is beyond our ken.

But it’s not out of the question. It’s brilliant, and it could be very useful. After all, the article goes on to explain:


“Social knowledge networks let organizations quickly harness collective wisdom and use this wisdom to enhance vetted content. The relevant knowledge that results (and is in the repository) helps organizations enhance content, improve productivity and collaboration, and ultimately, become more competitive, innovative and effective.” 

And who wouldn’t want THAT?

So therefore, we take a step back and explore how our organization can leverage this promising new way of reaching our members/users:

  • Use chat reference–not to answer research questions (which can have a week to two week turnaround time), but to refer the user to other departments or to manage their expectations. However it is used, it is another touchpoint; another way for users to reach us.
  • Develop a wiki where users can interact with one another, and contact each other for offline conversations/networking/contacts.
  • Develop an anonymous forum for users to pose questions to their colleagues who may have recommendations, benchmarks, and information borne of experience. The insights found there may not be available in published form.
  • Develop a safe and anonymous area for people to comment on content in the database. This may include content ratings, but may also include insights and/or detailed ways to improve content.
  • An area for users to post new content – insights, articles, charts, graphs – whatever may be deemed useful to fellow users or colleagues, based on experience, training or education.  

The true challenge here is to enable corporate users to be anonymous and to create a space where corporate users feel comfortable to interact with each other and share with one another. This can be done. Let’s do it.



Reboot Your Library…or Die

Strategy + Business Magazine, the publication of consultants Booz & Company, has recently published a fantastic article called “The Library Rebooted.” (Free registration is required to view the entire article.)

It reports on the success of several different libraries surviving in a world where doing your own research is becoming easier and easier. In each case, these libraries have redefined what it means to be a library.


When I was in library school (not that long ago, mind you) the prevailing concern was whether or not libraries should put in a cafe to attract patrons. Seeing the popularity of coffee shops at Barnes & Noble, Borders and other well-liked bookstores made libraries want to follow in their footsteps. In fact, there are several things about these bookstores that libraries considered adopting, including the way they organize their collections, their marketing models and inviting patrons to sit, relax and read in comfy chairs. 

In this age of digitization and Googling for research, libraries have to go even further to adapt to patrons’ needs and become a destination. The S+B article looks at this from a business perspective, and outlines these seven imperatives for library leadership

  • Rethink the Operating Model
  • Understand and Respond to User Needs
  • Embrace the Concept of Continuous Innovation
  • Forge a Digital Identity
  • Connect With Stakeholders in Ways Pure Internet Companies Cannot
  • Expand the Metrics
  • Be Courageous

This last point is probably the most important and the most challenging. It’s so much easier not to change at all and to maintain a sort of pride in “being traditional.” The article leaves the last point open-ended, saying that there are many ways to be courageous, and many paths to follow. And it doesn’t really matter which path it is, as long as there is one, and people are willing to take risks.

Some examples from the article of the ways libraries are “rebooting” are:

  • The Bronx Library Center providing shopping baskets, prominently displaying DVDs, CDs and illustrated novels, and providing programs relevant to the community.
  •  The Stanford University Library creating a virtual presence in Second Life.
  • The British Library digitizing some of their most awe-inspiring items using Turning the Pages software, accompanied by the curator’s commentary.

The article ends with sidebars from NYPL’s Paul LeClerc, who explains how NYPL is implementing changes that will help boost foot traffic in their research branches,  and Stephen Schwartzman, who donated millions of dollars to the NYPL so that they could make some of these changes.

Schwartzman ends his commentary thus:

“One of the extraordinary things about the NYPL — about any public library, really — is that it is free. There isn’t much in life that is free, let alone the services of a great institution. All you have to do is walk in the front door — it’s accessible to anyone. That’s a pretty neat thing.”

It IS neat, Stephen.

Ask a Librarian: The Immediacy of Chat Reference

So yesterday I participated in a webinar hosted by METRO (the Metropolitan New York  Library Council), and given by Michael Sauers about library2.0. The webinar was really interesting and, while not all of the applications lend themselves to usage in my current situation, it definitely gave me a new perspective and encouraged me to think “outside of the box.”

Social media has really taken over everything in the last couple of years. I remember when personal computer usage really began to take off and people were concerned that people (kids especially) would become estranged and isolated from the real world, only being able to relate to machines. While some of that is definitely true, the computer, through social networking and other communications applications, as well as other personal electronic devices, like the cell phone, have only enabled us humans to become more connected to one another.

I remember reading an article some time ago about the evolution of the cell phone and the Blackberry. Apparently, they were originally conceived to allow people to spend more time away from work. But they have just caused people to be even more connected to work than ever – so that even people on vacation are able to work. How many times have you seen people Blackberrying on the beach?

One of the slides in Michael Sauer’s presentation shows the many ways that a certain library consortium provides for patrons to get in touch. The physical address of the place for dropping in, the phone, an email address, IM, an online form, and chat were available.


This was a revelation to us here in our info center, where we’re always mindful that our members may not be aware that we exist, and if they are, how to reach us. We try to make sure that we prominently display our phone numbers, and we, too, use an online form. But we’re always wochat_refndering whether we are accessible enough.

One touchpoint that we are considering is chat reference.

Chat reference has been used for years in public and academic library settings. Now, we have to figure out how we can make it work for our unique situation (corporate/private association).

One concern I have is that people using it will think, because it’s a tool of such immediacy, that they will get the answer to their question immediately. Given that we usually have a turnaround time of 1-2 weeks for our research questions, this is a bit worrisome.

But, as Michael Sauers said in his presentation yesterday, there are a million reasons for not trying something new. And his favorite reason is, “What if it works TOO well?”

We should be so lucky.

In case you’re interested, here’s a resource for chat/online reference tools.

And, at the end of this month, METRO is offering a class in chat reference.