A couple years ago, Encyclopedia Britannica was on an anti-Wikipedia kick, fearing, I think, that this would be the fate of print encyclopedias:
I'm happy (and not surprised) to report this didn't happen. I believe the same will prove true with the notion of ebooks making print books obsolete. This is a big world, and things have a way of finding their own niche. Radio lives on despite television (and movies and computers), pencils live on despite pens, candles live on despite electricity, bicycles live on despite cars, etc.
Many of the books I own are older than I am, and I'm sure they'll still be around (and in use) after I'm gone.
Ever had one of those moments where, in a second, some random bit of information unexpectedly clicks and your world makes so much more sense?
Being a librarian, my most recent example came reading the title of Bobbi Newman's recent post, For Digital Natives There Is No Web 2.0. Yes, of course. For kids growing up with the internet of today, this is their Web 1.0 - because they've never known anything else.
This is a total (probably long overdue) mindshift for me. My library is currently trying to figure out how to use Web 2.0 tools to reach kids in our community, and this one title changed the way I think about the task. We talk about tools kids may or may not use in their daily life, but for many kids, these tools are their daily lives.
This realization actually makes our task easier, but it certainly raises the bar for how good a job we need to do.
A couple of weeks ago, the director of the Wadleigh Memorial Library in New Hampshire wrote me with this question (I'm paraphrasing):
We have an intern for the summer, and she's started a blog about her work at the library. However, the next thing I knew, there was a link to her blog from the library's homepage (it's since been removed). While I like the idea of the public getting a bird's eye view of what we do at the library, I have to think of worst case scenario....
I couldn't find your blog linked from CPL's website, but you do publicly announce on your blog where you work. Does CPL have any policies in place about staff blogs? Have you ever had anything you've written come back to bite the library?...
This is a very interesting question. Something I wrote once did come back to bite, and the Town, the Library and I were all threatened with a lawsuit. That prompted a discussion between my director and me about separating library and personal, although no written policy ever came of it. But in general, here are the blogging guidelines that I follow:
Nothing written can be unwritten - think before you publish
Get permission before using names, and be vague when referring to people otherwise
Personal website has a disclaimer disassociating the library/town from me
Which is basic, I know, but since it's a personal website done on personal time, there's not much keeping me from doing whatever I want - other than common sense, experience, and goodwill towards the library. Since most of what goes on in libraries is public record anyway, pretty much everything I do at work is fair game, so long as I don't break the law or violate patron privacy.
Even still, it might be a good idea for libraries to create some sort of guidelines for staff who publicly use the library's name online. I don't think libraries can force people to do or not do most things (aside from using library resources and time), but basic guidelines might help a well-meaning library employee avoid awkward situations they might not have otherwise considered.
A few resources for these guidelines are:
Check with library/municipal Personnel Department for any existing policies or contract clauses
It's a great idea for library employees to share their work with the public (and other librarians). Especially if the library is going to link to that personal blog from the library's website (in which case, the library might be entitled to more control over the content of that personal blog). If no employee is doing this on their personal blog, the library's blog itself could occasionally spotlight behind-the-scenes activities in the library.
I guess the bottom line is that people are still discovering Web 2.0, so there's a lot of inexperience and new situations out there. Libraries shouldn't try to prevent their employees from participating, but instead can assist them in doing it well (remember 23 Things?).
After our email discussion and speaking with library Trustees, the Wadleigh Library decided to put the link to their intern's blog back on their homepage, which was good news. So if you're looking for a model on how to do this, check out Lexi the Intern's blog - she's doing a great job.
Writing my chapter made me feel like I was back in library school working on a paper, but I am glad to have done it. Plus, I'll soon be able to tell people I'm a "published author." People ask me why I became a librarian, and my answer is always the same: fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory.
I subscribed to the White House blog's rss feed on 1/20. In addition to reading the posts, I also paid attention to how many other subscribers there were. At the end of the first week, there were about 800 subscribers in Bloglines, and about 3,000 in Google Reader. As of 2/2, it's up to 1,100+ Bloglines and 16,000+ Google Reader.
This is out of a country of 300 million people - I'm surprised it's so low*.
I think it's great that the government is putting effort into reaching people in new ways, so people can get the information the way they want to be reached. But at what point does it become worth it? These numbers don't take into account people that use other rss readers or actually visit the website, but they do seem low.
Regardless, leading by example is a good thing - if the White House is taking bloggery seriously, then perhaps other parts of the government will also be making information available quicker and easier via technology. The Library of Congress blog predates Obama (191 Blogline/241 Google Reader subscribers), and it has a flickr stream too (~90/226 subscribers). Also, iLibrarian recently pointed to a recap of the Best Government Uses of Web Technology, and that's interesting reading.
These web 2.0 communication channels are now an integrated fact of life for many people, so it makes me feel better that our government is deliberately addressing it instead of trying to ignore it.
*My library's blog isn't much better - out a of a town of about 32,000, we've got 3 Bloglines and 4 Google Reader subscribers (we average over 700 page visits a month).
Check out the puzzle on flickr, log in, and use the Add Note tool to circle words as you find them. Because this is flickr, all the words are either horizontal or vertical, but can be either forwards or backwards.
I put a lot of words in to hopefully let a lot of people play - please only circle a couple words, so everyone can have a chance. All of the hidden words are listed below the image in the description.
I thought this could be a fun thing for libraries to do for their patrons. The puzzle is easy to create (I used a spreadsheet [xls] and print preview - not quite as easy as the library crossword, I admit) and can be made on any theme. I also like that more than one person can work on it, so they can be solved as teams.
I'm actually stealing this idea and modifying it with library words. There are other puzzles on flickr, and where this idea originated will be obvious - but NSFW.