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Meredith Farkas presentation at "Academic Library 2.0"

Notes on
"Building Academic Library 2.0"
presented at the Academic Library 2.0 conference, November 2, 2007
Meredith Farkas
Distance Learning Librarian, Norwich University, Northfield VT

All quotes are approximate, but pretty close.
Corrections welcome, just add a comment.


To understand this, we need to look back.

Web 1.0 = democratized access to information.
Reference information available to anyone with an Internet connection.
People interacting with the web as consumers.

Web 2.0 = democratized participation.
"You" as Time Magazine person of the year.
"If you can type words into a box, you can contribute to the development of the Web."

Her problem defining Library 2.0: "I can't get a fix on what Library 1.0 was."
Library 1.0 was not all that bad (cf. Joe Janes' remark that "we weren't just sitting in the hallway trying to make fire before 2.0 came along.")


Technology has enabled us to do so much more, but we're no longer the only game in town.
OCLC survey: usage of online information has gone up, but usage of library sites and catalogs has gone down.

Academic Library 2.0 is a state of mind

  • Working to reflect changing user needs.
  • Trusting users ("radical trust").
  • Getting rid of "the culture of perfect".
  • Aware of emerging technologies and opportunities.
  • Looking outside the library world for applications, opportunities, inspiration. "Librarians don't extrapolate." Look at public libraries, school libraries, and other kinds of organizations.

Know your users

  • "My students don't fit 'next gen' stereotypes."
  • LibQual is not enough - asking people how they feel about things WE value is not enough.
  • University of Rochester - Nancy Fried Foster anthropological study - e.g., found students call their parents for help, so library now hosts a parents' orientation.
  • Go into users' apaces and ask for feedback - e.g., Bennington College Librarian on Facebook.

Question everything

  • What if you get no reference questions in an evening, but 11 IM's? What does that suggest?
  • Try new service models - e.g., UMass Amherst Learning Commons & Tech Support Desk.
  • Maricopa County Public Library did away with Dewey Decimal System, uses bookstore arrangement.

Communicate and become more transparent

  • For every student who comes to the desk, perhaps 5 more are too shy to ask.
  • Ohio University Business Blog - provides help info for specific assignments.
  • McMaster University Director's blog solicits & posts user comments.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University suggestion/response blog.
  • "This is such a risk - by putting it out there, you're really putting your money where your mouth is ... showing students that we care."
  • NCSU photo collections on Flickr.com - people who would never think of NCSU now find these; one user corrected a caption.

Use 2.0 tools to highlight collections

  • University of Alberta - RSS feed of new books in chosen call number ranges.
  • Univerity of Washington - putting links to their special collections in resource sections of Wikipedia articles.

Go where your users are

  • University of Miami - "terrific" MySpace profile.
  • Norwich University - Library link on every WebCT course page.

Build participation

  • "We need to get over the 'we're the experts' thing."
  • Norwich University - wiki for Military History subject area (users contribute as well).
  • PennTags - students can bookmark sites to subject lists.

Create partnerships

  • "We've got to get better at partnerships."
  • Georgia Pines cooperative catalog Evergreen - originally public libraries. now adopted by some academic libraries.
  • McMaster University - first year student wiki.

Don't focus only on technologies

  • "Some of the most 2.0 things we could do don't involve technology at all."
  • Norwich University - changed hours in response to student needs.


Develop a "learning culture"

  • Not just for professionals.
  • Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County - "Learning 2.0" program has been implemented by more than 200 libraries (public & academic).

Develop a risk-tolerant culture

  • e.g., web design as an iterative process, not ending with one perfect product.

Collect knowledge internally

Capitalize on your network

  • e.g., Meredith leaves her IM connection open at work, finds it valuable.

Be transparent

  • McMaster University - new university librarian completely reorganized, eliminated copy cataloging, gave some staff early retirement. Important factor was communication - kept process transparent to staff through blog postings.

Nurture talent

  • Good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere.
  • "We need to find ways to make people feel good about the work they're doing."
  • e.g., in one case a librarian who'd been named as an LJ Mover & Shaker left libraries for a for-profit corporation.

Be agile

  • Need to empower staff to make some decisions.

Involve staff from all levels in planning

Avoid techno-lust

  • Not "wikis are cool, we should totally have one" but "we need to communicate in a certain way, wikis would be a good tool for this."

Understand staff members' needs and limitations

  • e.g., switching from e-mail to blogs and wikis takes a lot of time for staff to adjust.
  • Not everyone who has a problem with a given change is a Luddite.
  • People learn in different ways - not everyone learns best by reading documentation.
  • Make "keeping up" a part of people's job descriptions.

Do you need new staff ... or just to do a little shuffling?

  • There are lots of cool new job titles out there, but maybe some current staff would like to do these tasks.

Final question for us: Is your organization (as presently structured) able to make all this happen?


Q. I work with high school students. What do you think of the controversy about minors using MySpace etc., and librarians encouraging this?
A. Just hanging up a library shingle in these spaces is OK, but librarians "friending" minors and making inappropriate comments could be a problem.

Q. You talked about trusting users. What are some techniques for managing inappropriate comments [on blogs etc.]?
A. Libraries need policies making clear that advertisements, snalder, racist posts etc. are not tolerated. Need to check frequently to see what's been posted.

Q. What about radical trust in terms of our data?
A. Ann Arbor District Library is letting users tag items in their catalog. But this is rare - not many libraries are doing this.

Q. How do people find the library on MySpace, FaceBook, etc.?
A. This needs aggressive marketing.

Q. What do you see as the role of the library in orienting students to library resources?
A. Instruction needs to be exciting and engaging. Techniques include games, exercises, screencasts.

Q. What about involvement of faculty?
A. Yes, we often have to do more marketing to faculty (e.g., when a faculty member assigns "find three printed journal articles, nothing from databases"). Also could teach them about useful 2.0 resources (e.g., Zotero, Deli.cio.us). Give them the opportunity to contribute to a wiki.

Nov 05, 2007 | Categories: Speaker Presentations | jkupersm

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