NELA talk: Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0

I gave a talk today at the New England Library Association Conference. Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0 [subtitle: wait…. what? who?] that I think went well. Unlike previous talks, this one doesn’t have as much in the way of secret background notes (when you click the “printable” link you’ll get the slides version of my talk that usually has more talking points and notes to myself in them) but I did make a set of handouts. I think people like handouts. I think I’ll try to make more of them. Thanks to everyone who came and was such a friendly and cheery audience.

in Burlington for NELA

I’m in Burlington this evening. I’m going to speak at the New England Library Association conference tomorrow about Web 2.0 stuff. I’ll link to the talk tomorrow. I’m not totally sure why regional library associations like this exist when there are already library associations for all the states they represent, but it’s fun to see a new group of librarians and some old friends, especially Michael Golrick who is moving to a new job shortly and will no longer be a NELA member, Lichen Rancourt, my carpool buddy from Library Camp, Lichen’s Mom (Jay) superstar New Hampshire librarian and Brian Herzog who works at a library near where I grew up. When I met Brian I said “Oh hey, I just started reading your blog” which I guess was a bit surpising to him because he just recently started it. The hotel has a pool so I’m heading down there. If you see me at the conference please come by and say hello.

Happy Birthday Andrea!

Thanks to MySpace’s birthday reminders, I can actually seem like an attentive friend and wish my pal Andrea a very happy birthday today! Like me, Andrea balances her professional time in both offline and online librarianish pursuits. She writes her own blog Library Techtonics and co-manages the PLA Blog while also working at the Reading Public Library where I am sure she was instrumental in helping them get their pictures on Flickr. We are in each other’s Top Eight how’s that for friendship? I hope you have a happy birthday Andrea.

the customer is always … what?

Benjamin over at InfoBreaker has a good point. As we try to open our communities and have patrons “join the conversation” and bemore interactive with users, how do we learn to set new boundaries? He outlines a case of a patron not wanting to make a phone call to renew books when she was on vacation, thinking that should be something the library could do themselves, knowing she was on vacation. I think about other examples that have been getting a hearing lately.

If the library was totally democratic, would users still fine themselves? Implement noise policies? Shirt/shoes dress codes? We know they would be unlikely to, as a group, create their own ILS or their own classification system (no, folksonomy is not a classification system, yes it is very useful on its own). So my question is and has been, what is the role for the librarian, the supposed “information expert” in our 2.0 vision of ourselves? We facilitate access to information surely. However, there are many people, librarians and patrons, deeply in love with the idea of library as place. Then there are our board members and taxpayers who also like the idea of “money as thing,” that is the money that funds the library, pays the salary, keeps the lights on and leaves the pockets of taxpayers who are convinced that libraries are a Good Thing. Once your library is 100% in Second Life and not a side project of librarians who work in brick and mortar library buildings, who pays for their health care?

I know that in my job at MetaFilter, the money that pays me comes directly from user signups and advertising that others see on the site. Since we’re not claiming to be a public-sphere institution, I don’t have a problem with ads helping pay the bills of keeping the site running. I’m fairly secure in the site owner’s scruples, as well as my own. However once the library has ads for Amazon in its catalog, or preferences iPods as MP3 players over other available products, or stops buying VHS tapes in favor of DVDs, we’ve made a consumer choice, and we’ve made it for the public. I always get a little fidgety when people talk about brand consciousness and “markets” when they’re talking about the library, but I also realize that’s really the way the world of information is going. That’s getting a little off the topic of whether or not a patron on vacation should be able to have the library just say “oh you’re on vacation, we’ll just auto-renew your books until you come back.” but it is along the same spectrum.

How much do we bend to meet our users? How much do we expect them to bend to meet us?