Slow Library, a 2.0 idea

I missed Ryan Deschamps discussing a talk by Mark Leggott about the Slow Library Movement. As someone suspicious about the Slow Food Movement, I was curious about this. Go here to listen to Mark’s lecture and peek here to see if the Slow Library blog is up and running. In Mark’s words “The idea behind the Slow Library site is to propose, promote and discuss the concepts of a new movement called Slow Library. Slow Library applies the philosophies and concepts of the Slow Food and Open Source movements to the development of library services and resources.” In Ryan’s notes from Mark’s talk he says

Mark is saying “ubiquity is not an end in and of itself. Here are some thoughts that may or may not apply to the Slow Library Movement:

  • Let’s focus on realistic, local solutions and build community first.
  • Let’s forget about Web 2.0 for a second, understand our customers needs and then apply or give access to resources that help them satisfy those needs.
  • Let’s play.
  • Let’s Let’s shun pressure to “keep up” with Ann Arbor (sorry John Blyberg), Hennepin County (sorry Glenn Peterson via Tame the Web) and etc. and apply our own strengths to come up with our own creative ideas.
  • Let’s focus on what we can do right now to make the community a better place.
  • Let’s notice the beauty of things right before our eyes, and let supporting that be our Return on Investment.

Good comments by Jenny on Ryan’s blog. [anarchivist]

10 thoughts on “Slow Library, a 2.0 idea

  1. Thanks for the mention Jessamyn. It’s hard to say where “Slow Library” will go, if anywhere, but it feels good to start the conversation.

    The big thing for me is where [public] libraries fit in the grass root community development sphere [where RSS, wikis and etc. are still a hunh? to a large degree] and Mark’s “Slow Library” seems to be a good connect from here [where I am] to there [where I would like to be].

  2. I’m curious, what is it about Slow Food that makes you suspicious? The politics? The methods? Or just the hype?

    I’m suspicious of hype in general, but I think Slow Food’s work is pretty similar to how library work, and Leggott does a good job of demonstrating that.

  3. I sort of felt that the Slow Food movement — as I read about it in one book, so I’m not super versed in it — just seemed a little precious and/or elitist. Like, I thought the idea was great. But, the gap between being able to practice it for the cultured elite and being able to make it germane and relevant to people who might not have extra cash/time to eat and prepare locally seemed to be wide and hard to span. Perhaps I am being defeatist, but I didn’t really relate to it on a personal level though I liked it on a philosophical level.

  4. Jessamyn, you reflect how I feel about Slow Food. I don’t know why, but for me that “movement” conjures up yuppies in SUVs unfolding their power-strollers to hand off to their nannies so they can go nibble on heirloom beets. Perhaps I spent too much time near Berkeley.

    I was riffing on related issues (slow library, not food…) with folks just last week. When I went to South Africa, I said pick five 2.0 technologies you like, focus on three, and implement one. Doing one thing well can be better than doing a million things poorly. Furthermore, the library that is doing Second Life but still won’t email library notices and doesn’t keep its new-book section freshened is missing the point.

  5. “applies the philosophies and concepts of the Slow Food and Open Source movements ”

    Is there something I’m missing about anything at all in common between “Slow Food” and “Open Source”? I don’t get it. It just makes me think it’s buzzword soup.

  6. A few thoughts from someone who is both a librarian and a long-time participant in Slow Food:

    First, the “Slow Library” idea is worth pursuing. For example, the concept relates well to the process of identifying and preserving unique special collections, archival and manuscript materials, etc. This happens at the local level, requires considerable investment and commitment, and results not only in preservation and access but in a more diverse information environment on the global scale. Slow Food has its parallels in projects like the Ark (, which supports and encourages preservation of rare and localised food crops, livestock and poultry breeds, etc. that are in danger of being wiped out by factory farming.

    Second, in response to the idea that Slow Food is precious or elitist, this varies quite a bit between different convivia (local chapters). In some cases, there can indeed be a tendency toward fairly expensive “food and wine society” types of events. In others, including my own (see, the emphasis is more on supporting small local farmers, information sharing, education, partnership with like-minded groups , etc., which re also priorities of the national and international parent organizations. Of course, we still make sure our meetings and events include good food and wine!

    For more info see


    Andrew Bonamici
    Eugene OR USA

  7. Regarding connection between slow food and open source, I think it works like this:

    Slow food encourages that people know and/or participate as much as possible in the preparation and manufacture of meals.

    Open source encourages that people know about and/or participate as much as possible in the development of their software applications.

    Also, both have a grass rootsy feel about themselves.

  8. The nice thing about the Slow Library movement is you can move slow and it feels OK :-) Lots of good discussion – too bad I didn’t catch the thread when it was on. A few comments on what was on:

    – Jessamyn and Andrew are both right re the Slow Food movement: it can be a toy for the elites who can afford fine wines; it can also be a powerful tool in the hands of farmers and others who care about their way of life and our future. I like to think the latter will win out. Likewise re Slow Library. Life may depend on which way the quark spins, but I like to think we have some control over which direction that is ;-)

    – K.G. on doing fewer things well. Yes. Slow Library is about striking that balance and Ryan has pointed out the value of doing what makes sense rather than what pushes all the wrong pressure points. Having said that, if doing something in Second Life has value and can be done together with the e-mail notices, then I say do both. Hopfully we move ahead thinking about Craftsmanship and addressing a “local” need, not punching it out of a die to be the first.

    – Open Source is the key – the same way that the right ingredients are key to a good meal. They don’t all have to be locally produced (I like turnips, but not that much), but they should allow the local to show through. Open source provides a philosophy, methodology, community and tool bench to get it done. All it needs is a pot, colleagues to stir it up and appropriate libations to keep the humour (Canadian spelling – remember the local!) flowing. The result can be a beauty to behold!

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