Monday, 17 March 2008

Workshop "Everyone's a librarian now" at Bobcatsss2008

At the workshop "Everyone's a librarian now" the audience was able to get some insights into how to operate in the context of an explosion of user-generated content and new, informal channels of information distribution. During the workshop several problems that are facing the librarians were discussed seriously and lively.
The workshop was held by Mark Clowes and Matthew Borg (both working as Information Advisors at Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom) at Bobcatsss2008 in Zadar, Croatia (

The workshop was well-structured and designed in a vivid way. At first the authors Mark Clowes and Matthew Borg gave a short, but good overview of web2.0 trends. This overview was followed by provoking slogans. After that the audience was asked to think in groups about several web2.0-technologies. Each group was asked to select two examples of web2.0-technology that was favoured for specific services. This should be done by thinking about following questions:
  • What skills or expertise does the librarian bring to the use of these tools?
  • What issues might arise in implementing them?
  • What will happen if librarians do not engage with them?
After this consideration the results were presented to the whole audience.

I will give a short summary of the workshop's most important facts and results:

In the world of librarianship there are several concerns about web developments such as tagging, social bookmarking and informal ways of information distribution such as blogging.

When the new dew developments arose there was (and sometimes there is still) a great surprise:
"two point OH"
-> with web2.0 you have for the first time in the history of the internet tools that enable real interaction

Until now there is confusion about what web2.0 really is. A concise and accepted defintion is still missing.
"two point what?"
-> It depends on what you are reading and talking about

More and more we as librarians realize which great role web2.0-technologies begin to play in our information society.
"two point, oh."
-> this leads librarians to considerations such as:
What do these developments mean to us?
Where does web2.0 leave us?
Are librarians still important? and if: how can we use these tools? how can we make these tools working for us, or rather, for our library?

For librarians these developments are scaring. With the new tools it's possible to collaborate, to comment, to rate, to mashup, even to catalogue...!
So, we librarians have to refocus on our core functions. To put it in John N. Berry's optimistic words:

"The young and the old, the digital and print, the techie and the traditional—whatever you call them, there are two cultures now. [...] Because of the two cultures, the librarian must take on a new, complex role as nonpartisan bridge builder, spanning the canyon between them to find and deliver accurate information, truth, to a world overwhelmed by misinformation, spin, and distraction." (

In Berry's eyes a librarians is a "seeker and deliverer of truth in a world of partisans and liars". To survive in future we have to meet this challenge. That means we have to refocus on our core functions:

  1. collection development
  2. cataloguing and classification (/custimizing)
  3. circulation
  4. reference work
  5. preservation, conservation and archiving
These core function's of the library leads us to our traditional tasks:
  1. selecting
  2. describing
  3. disseminating
  4. being an advisor
  5. preserving
Except for the latter task, all of these tasks can be fulfilled with web2.0-tools. (In web2.0-era it's quite hard to preserve information)
"role: over?"
-> So, once again: where do these developments leave us? What is our role in this changing environment?
Furtunately, there is a task left for us. Our primary task is (and will be) teaching, especially in a world of digital divide and a world of a (more or less) restricted access to information.
Regarding to the tasks that are met by the web2.0-tools: these tools are not perfect until now. Thus, one of our tasks from now on will be to complement these tools to create better tools for searching, selecting, describing and providing information. If we succeed in improving the tools and the skills of our customers we will be able to convert libraries into centres of information and knowledge.
But our customers are in some ways better informed (e.g. in terms of new developments) or more skilled than us (e.g. programming). That's why we should be willing to learn from our customers.

1 comment:

I_am_a_librarian said...

Mark Clowes was so kind to address to my posting on their blog "Everyone's a librarian now":

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