Surfing the Library 2.0 Wave

Surfing the Library 2.0 Wave


There’s an ocean full of metaphors we can use to help us grasp the opportunities arising from “everything 2.0,” but I have a favorite–surfing. Surfing sounds great, but requires skills that “hodads” may not have thought about. There are wipe outs galore, courage is required, and most of all, staying in synch with a moving target requires the ability to focus. So in thinking about 2.0 stuff, I’ll stick with my surfing metaphor, knowing that all of us have plenty of career experience ending up in the white water.

Coining “Library 2.0” out of the ubiquitous “Web 2.0” was a marketing stroke of genius: Not only is it true, but “unbelievers” can really “get” what you’re trying to say with a few terse and well-chosen words. Most of our great thinkers have adopted Library 2.0 rhetoric in outreach, marketing strategies, and budgetary ploys, and you know, I think we’re on top of the rhetoric. But when it comes to actually implementing a bold new Library 2.0 step, where to begin, and what to do? I’m going to offer some starting points in this column, knowing many of us have already started paddling into the “2.0” break, and are well past the point of taking 2.0 surfing lessons at a virtual Waikiki.

The Old Library 1.0 Hot Doggers Are Hanging 10

Personally, I think there are a few things that need to be said up front, even at the risk of repeating myself. What we’ve always done–the Library 1.0 part–is not atavistic, but cutting-edge. I wrote at length about how to use core library skills to break into new organizational roles in a recent article that appeared in ONLINE (September/October 2006, p. 21), so I won’t restate everything here. I’ll just leave it at this: Those of us who can provide strategic reference services, articulate a meaningful digital preservation policy, and collect the knowledge our users need, are right on track. That’s Library 1.0, pure and simple, but it’s a terrific tidal chart for surfing into the 2.0 point break. There’s an added benefit: 1.0 strategies work best if we take an activist stance. Library 1.0 services must be pushed forward (via blogs, podcasts, wilds, and more); marketed (one-on-one, to the media, to our users); broadcast (relentlessly, using the deep and powerful rhetoric about knowledge management at our disposal); and sustained (in other words, get out of your office and go talk to people).

Info pros who can analyze their career situations using Library 1.0 principles are very well positioned to make bold moves with new technology. Simple, right? No, not really–like real surfing, it takes focus, a certain degree of courage, and a plan. Here are two zones of opportunity I’ve identified recently, while avoiding wipeouts.

Know Your ‘E-Roles’

One way of analyzing the new flexibility we enjoy is to identify our “e-roles,” as Marydee Ojala does in her editorial remarks in the September/ October issue of ONLINE. Nowadays, we can take multiple roles within organizations, as well as in helping our users. The key analytical task we must employ is to evaluate 2.0 technologies. such as social networking software, and determine where we can add value. Here again, a little 1.0 savvy has its benefits. Even as social networking software (think Facebook and MySpace) is flourishing, the mainstream media is already beginning to report on burnout with it. College students are “rediscovering” the value of a small circle of friendships with people they see often. Facebook, meet face time. The successful 2.0 librarian is a trend spotter, and there’s one that was a no-brainer for tech-watchers.

Our e-roles, both the known and the yet-to-emerge, have never been more diverse. One reason for this is the growing awareness among management thinkers that “cross functional” work roles can boost creativity and productivity. So info pros who can combine library skill, IT know-how, even tutoring and teaching, can add substantial value to organizations. The new zones of collaboration help to reposition our collections and services, and present us with daily opportunities to innovate, For example, what would you do if you worked in an organization where IT staff did not address any content issues, yet the CIO had de facto control over networked content? Such places are not bard to find. Strategies abound, and here’s one: Talk to IT staff, talk to management, talk to everyone–and take over the content management role. Likewise, if you work in a community of practice where communications aren’t moderated or shepherded, would you sense an opportunity? The 2.0 info pro definitely would. It could be a fertile space for a wiki, a multiuser blog, or archived podcasting.

Grasping all of your potential e-roles can unlock doors which seemed forever shut, but in these times, the new flexibility is infectious, memetic, and pervasive. It used to be that “marketing the library” was a daring, guerilla sort of thing to do, best performed by the natural extroverts among us. But Library 2.0 mainstreams marketing, socializing, networking, jumping in without permission, finding links and connections others can’t see, and so on. Library 2.0, with its emphasis on empowering communication in all directions, has handed us a golden opportunity to help management sort out the “E” in the “E-Organization,”

Library 2.0 Boldly Faces Space Usage

Remember, digital libraries are a collection of both services and media. Hence my second 2.0 field of opportunity–our legacy of large amounts of physical space. It’s difficult to generalize about library space, because a public library system’s needs differ from research university needs, and special libraries tend to be unique. But there is a unifying reality that spans most types of physical space: We can now accomplish much more with digital resources than ever before, and we have a chance to reconfigure our space. And we are not the only ones who know it.

It can be a little scary to reassess real estate, since it’s “location, location, location,” and if library collections disappear from immediate sight and go into remote locations, they may be at risk. But society at large now accepts digital media, even as it continues to love buying and borrowing books; we can’t hide from that. Instead, we should embrace the moment.

My view is that it’s better to be bold and address things directly. In corporate firms, virtual libraries with remote staff are pretty common, and many info pros are thriving in this environment. Other organizations, like historical societies, need print–but often back up their treasures with dark archives. Universities face space demands of every sort. Where does Library 2.0 end up in the equation?

The answer comes in two parts, and the first is more important. Library 2.0, as I argue above, is about people communicating. Think first of functional space for staff, and how it interfaces with the public. Are people mixing enough? Second, think of print collections, with a cold and objective heart. It’s time to take a hard look at the balance between high-use print material housed locally and off-site print or dark archives ~running in the background.” It’s a good idea to have a daring space plan ready at all times. It should fully preserve the local print collection that is most needed, yet also allow for storing other material off-site. A bold approach might define you, the information professional, as an avatar for 21st-century information management.

I never recommend action I wouldn’t try myself. In 2004, faced with a faculty boss who wanted to either update or close my library, I presented my ready-made plan in detail. It included weeding more than 10,000 items and moving staff, and I knew it would cause pain to our senior emeriti, who had lovingly supported our library since 1945. But opportunity abounded: My faculty boss had only general ideas of what he wanted, so I was able to drive the design process, advancing the principles of the “learning commons.” It was like launching into a 30-foot wave in Waimea Bay, because it could’ve all gone down in white water (i.e., I’d be running a conference room, not a library). But it didn’t: My collection plan saved our unique materials, extended Wi-Fi service into a full Information Gateway, and added digital projection capabilities. Now we are custodians of a truly beautiful Library Commons in a historic landmark building. In fact, we’ve grown in net space if you count the new downstairs storage area we gained. It won’t work in every environment, but the question Fm asking is, “What are we holding onto, and why?” If you can answer that in your own situation, you may already hold the keys to transforming physical space that is lying fallow into a more vibrant zone for interaction.

Going from the Known to the Unknown

My forecast for Library 2.0 is that it will be a moving target, just like successive “sets” of waves that come from the open ocean. Here are some examples of why I believe that.

Just 2 years ago, social bookmarking was a new animal; today, it’s “folksonomy” and it’s studied in graduate school. Also, during the 2005-2006 academic year, the single most popular platform for viewing faculty lectures at UC Berkeley was by podcast–and viewing can be verifiably linked to downloads to Apple iPods. Webcasting is a distant second by downloads. Just this week, Tim Berners-Lee, the Web’s creator, called for the academic study of “Web Science.”

It’s a fast world these days. Happily, really big research library systems, like the one I work in, have given up on seeing themselves as static institutions with eternal charges writ in stone. Instead, survival depends on “continuous planning.”

What holds true for august institutions also holds true for individuals. We are all continuous planners now, and have been for some time. Hardly a month goes by when I fail to see a new device or application reviewed in The New York Times or the San Francisco Chronicle that has a direct, immediate impact on how I perform reference and Web administration right now. Sometimes the lapse between news and implementation drops to mere days. But my Library 1.0 skills have been a great preparation for fast change. Just last week, I assisted a professor with an op-ed piece he was writing while he was away in Washington, D.C. The answers he needed lay in more than one place–books, reference databases, and in Wikipedia. He got his verified answers by email, and the end product appeared on the editorial page of The Sacramento Bee.

Hey, it’s great catching the Library 2.0 wave–even with my 1.0 longboard.


By Terence K. Huwe


Terence K. Huwe is director of library and information resources at the University of California-Berkeley’s Institute of Industrial Relations. His responsibilities include library administration, reference, and overseeing Web services for several departments at campuses throughout the University of California. His email address is


Lorcan’s overview of libraries

The network reconfigures the library systems environment

Categories: Featured , Learning and research – distributed environments , Libraries – systems and technologies , Libraries – distributed environments , Libraries – organization and services , User experience

One of the main issues facing libraries as they work to create richer user services is the complexity of their systems environment. Consider these pictures which I have been using in presentations for a while now.libsystemsenv.png

Reductively, we can think of three classes of systems – (1) the classic ILS focused on ‘bought’ materials, (2) the emerging systems framework around licensed collections, and (3) potentially several repository systems for ‘digital’ resources. Of course, there are other pieces but I will focus on these.

In each case what we see is a backend apparatus for managing collections, each with its own workflow, systems and organizational support. And each with its own – different – front-end presentation and discovery mechanisms. What this means is that the front-end presentation mirrors the organizational development over time of the library backend systems, rather than the expectations or behaviors of the users.

You have the catalog here, maybe several options for licensed resources (a-to-z, metasearch, web pages of databases, and so on) over there, and potentially several repository interfaces (local digitized materials, institutional repository) somewhere else.

This is one reason that people have difficulties with the library website. Effectively, it is a layer stretched over a set of systems and services which were not designed as a unit. Indeed, in some cases, they were not originally designed to work on the web at all. So what do we have?

ILS: a management system for inventory control of the ‘bought’ collection (books, DVDs, etc). The catalog is bolted onto this and gives a view onto this part of the collection. In effect, in virtue of its integration with inventory management, the catalog provides discovery (what is in the collection), location (where those things are) and request (get me those things) in a tightly integrated way. The ILS and catalog may be part of a wider apparatus of provision, and may have mechanisms for interfacing to resource sharing systems of one sort or another. The management side may have interfaces to a variety of other systems for sharing and communicating data: procurement, finance, student records. And there will be a flow of data into the system, from jobbers, as part of a shared cataloging environment, and so on.

Licensed: This has been an area of rapid recent development as the journal literature moved to electronic form. On the backend we now see a variety of approaches, and the frontend can be very confusing with lists of databases and journals presented in various ways, often in uncertain relation to the catalog (where do I look for something?). We are now seeing the emergence here of an agreed set of systems around knowledge-base, ERM, resolution and metasearch, and there is rapidly developing vendor support. This is the range of approaches for which Serials Solutions has proposed the ERAMS name. These systems require the management of new kinds of data, and mechanisms are being put in place, certainly not yet optimal, for the creation, propagation and sharing of this data. With journals data, discovery, location and request are not so tightly coupled as they were with the catalog. Discovery has happened in one set of tools (A&I databases), but then the appropriate title may have to be located in another tool (the catalog for example) and, if not available locally, requested through yet another system. The importance of the resolver, and the enabling OpenURL, has been to tie some of these things together and remove some of the human labor of making connections between these systems. And metasearch has been seen as a way of reducing human labor by providing a unified discovery experience over disparate databases. However, this whole apparatus is still not as as well-seamed as it needs to be, and users and managers still do more work than they should to make it all work.

Repository: Libraries are increasingly managing digital materials locally and supporting repository frameworks for those. This includes digitized special collections, research and learning materials in institutional repositories, web archives, and so on. There are a variety of repository solutions available, some open source. Typically, the contents of the repository backend may be available to repository front-ends on a per-repository basis. Here, discovery (what is there), location (where is it) and request and delivery are typically tightly integrated. Repositories may also have interfaces for harvesting or remote query. On the management side, metadata creation and material preparation may still be labor-intensive.

OK, so here are some general observations about this environment:

  • There is still a major focus – in terms of attention, organizational structures, and resource allocation – on the systems and processes around the ILS and the bought collection. In academic libraries, we will surely see some of this move towards the systems and processes around the licensed collections given the rising relative importance of this part of the collection. The repository strand of activity, associated with emerging digital library activities, may, in some cases, be supported from grant or other special resources. It will need to become more routine.
  • The fragmentation of this systems activity, the multiple vendor sources, the different workflows and data management processes, and the absence of agreed simple links between things mean that the overall cost of management is high.
  • There is also another cost: diminished impact and lost opportunity. The awkward disjointedness described above also means that it is difficult to mobilize the consolidated library resource into other environments, course management or social networking systems for example. It is difficult to flexibly put what is wanted where it is wanted.

  • There has been much discussion of library interoperability, but it has tended to be about how to tie together these individual pieces, or about tying pieces to other environments (how do I get my repository harvested for example). There has been less focus on how you might abstract the full library experience for consumption by other applications – a campus portal for example.

This in turn means several things.

  • We will see more hosted and shared solutions emerge, which offer to reduce local cost of ownership. And, of course, we are seeing vendors consider more integration between products. In particular it is interesting seeing the concentration on support for the licensed e-resources emerge strongly, as well as discussion about integrated discovery environments.
  • Over time, we can expect to see some more reconfiguration in a network environment. Shared cataloging and externalizing the journal literature have been two significant reconfigurations in the past. The pace of current developments suggest that we may be ready for other ways of collaboratively sourcing shared operations. For example, does it make sense for there to be library by library solutions for preservation, social networking, disclosure to search and social networking engines, and so on.

The next picture tries to capture an important direction that has emerged in the last year or so.


For many of the reasons identified above, we are seeing a growing interest in separating the discovery and presentation front end from the management backend across this range of systems. Why? Well, because it is becoming clearer as I suggested in my opening that legacy system boundaries do not effectively map user preferences. And because fragmentation adds to effort and accordingly diminishes impact.

What about the discovery side? So, we saw metasearch, a partial response to fragmentation of A&I databases. We are now seeing a new generation of products from the ‘ILS vendors’ which look at unifying access to the library collection: Encore, Primo, Enterprise Portal Solution. However, discovery has also moved to the network level. So, folks discover resources in Amazon, Google, Google Scholar. And OCLC is working to create discovery experiences which connect local and network through Worldcat Local, and Open Worldcat.

And on the management side? Here the variety of workflows and systems adds cost, as resources are managed on a per-format basis. We can expect to see simplification and rationalization in coming years as libraries cannot sustain expensive diversity of management systems. The National Library of Australia’s discussion of a ‘single business’ systems environment, or Ex Libris’s discussion of Uniform Resource Management are relevant here. It is likely that there will be a growing investment in collaboratively sourced solutions, as libraries seek to share the costs of development and deployment.

As discovery peels off, then the issue of connecting discovery environments back to resources themselves becomes very important. It is interesting to look at Google Scholar in this regard, as different approaches are required for the three categories identified above. It has worked with OCLC and other union catalogs to connect users through to catalogs and the ILS; it has worked with resolver data to connect users through to licensed materials; and it has crawled repositories and links directly to digital content.

Given this great divide, several issues become very important:

  • Routing, resolution and registries become critical, as one wants to enable users to move easily from a variety of discovery environments to resources they are authorized to use. We need a richer apparatus to support this. (I have discussed the role of registries elsewhere.)
  • Libraries have thought about discovery. There is now a switch of emphasis to disclosure: libraries need to think about how their resources are best represented in discovery environments which they don’t manage. (I have also discussed disclosure in more detail elsewhere in these pages.)
  • And again, how we present library services for consumption by other environments becomes an issue. For example, we are lacking an ILS Service Layer, an agreed way of presenting the functionality of the ILS so that it can be placed, say, in another discovery environment (shelf status, place a hold, etc).
  • Better discovery puts more pressure on delivery, whether from a local collection, throughout a consortium, or in broader resource sharing or purchase options. Streamlining the logistics of delivery and providing transparency on status at any stage for the user (as they can do with UPS or Amazon) become more important.


And finally ….

We are used to thinking about better integration of library services. But that is a means, not an end. The end is the enhancement of research, learning and personal development. I discussed above how we want resources to be represented in various discovery environments. Increasingly, we want to represent resources in a variety of other workflows. These might be the personal digital environments that we are creating around RSS aggregators, toolbars and so on. Or the prefabricated institutional environments such as the course management system or the campus portal. Or emerging service composition environments like Facebook or iGoogle. As well as in network level discovery environments like Google or Amazon that are so much a part of people’s behaviors.

Libraries need to focus more attention on reconfiguring library services for network environments. This is the main reason for streamlining the backend management systems environment. It does not make sense to spend so much time on non-value creating effort.

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