The Public Library of the 21st Century: What Will Wichita Do?

The Wichita Public Library will be getting a new home for its central branch in a couple years, and the architects are about to get involved.  I was reminded of this photo essay at (found via Slashdot via Maisson Bisson back in March), which offers a sort of slide show with commentary of several contemporary library structures.  It raises more questions than it answers, primarily:

What sort of public library does the “digital world” of Google, Wikipedia, and Kindle require?

Here are some items on remaking the library’s image from the UK I had bookmarked in September (via Library Stuff) which push the envelope of what a 21st Century library could be, and how we think of it:

Public libraries open way for drinks, snacks and mobiles” (The Times)

Katy Guest: Who ever heard of a librarian who didn’t say ‘Sssshhh’?”  (The Independent) – This is more about the changing atmosphere within libraries (rather than the physical space), which seems to be changing more in other parts of the world, I gather, than it is here.


November 18, 2008 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

Canadian Library workers on strike / locked out

Here is an interesting story about a library union strike and lockout:
“The union has engaged in a series of tactics to bring its cry for equity to the public, including not working over the lunch hour and waiving overdue fines. [emphasis mine]

But while that garnered some public support, it raised the ire of the library system’s governing board. It issued the lockout notice midweek, closing down the nine libraries in the Capital Region yesterday at 5:01 p.m.”We have a responsibility to protect the assets of the library,” said Chris Graham, chair of the Greater Victoria Public Library Board, in a news release. “The strike activities by the union are having a severe fiscal impact and the library is losing important streams of revenue, while employees are continuing to be paid.”

Mr. Graham said the loss of more than $40,000 in uncollected fines has hurt the library system.”
via Jessamyn West @

February 22, 2008 at 5:24 pm 1 comment

2.0 Ambivalence

I have a confession to make. For all the interest I take in Web 2.0 technologies (especially for their importance in the future of library and information science as well also society in general), I am not a big user of them. This is not so much of a secret, since links to my Delicious or Flickr accounts, for example, are conspicuous by their absence; but as a self-proclaimed ‘Librarian With an Avid Interest in Library 2.0’ in search of a job, I feel a need to put it out there that this is the case — and more, importantly, why.

In a word, I am not comfortable with the degree of transparency that is possible with these technologies — for myself. I’m not comfortable giving people a window into my world to the degree of placing my book and music collections on display to anyone who happens upon my profile, blog, or website. But of course I have control over this, and I don’t display such information– while still using Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook (though admittedly, not much). Blogging and RSS feed readers I do use. I consult wikis — though not as often as I might (except Wikipedia, which I use pretty often). I suppose trusting Wikipedia at all is rather “2.0” in itself, if you will.

Another 2.0 app I use is iGoogle. I have about 5 tabs with various news widgets and a main page with fish, an analog clock, and a color chooser. I have mixed feelings about this — about Google, that is — and am slightly embarrassed by the admission. I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the universality of Google’s aims. But their apps are so easy to use! and fun… Still, my enthusiasm is waning.

Some thoughts on ‘2.0 living’ by Jessamyn West at (Dec 20, 2007) seem apropos to this issue of embracing web 2.0. She speaks of the inefficiency of the supply-ordering process at her place of work. Here’s the crux, from her personal experience in buying printer cartridges:

The ink I need at Staples is $20. At my local office supply store it is $27. My angle is a price comparison site called which lets me search competing ink prices. They told me I could get it for $18.50 shipped, HP brand ink, no knock-offs. That was pretty good. Then I headed over to my favorite coupon site, RetailMeNot to see if they had any online coupons for DataBazaar which had the lowest ink prices. They did. I hope you are noticing that I can link to all these things. I can’t link to the ink page at So, I got an extra $5 off if I bought three (I needed a few anyhow) making my total $48.85, delivered to my door, for three ink cartridges for my photo printer.

Web 2.0 is not a panacea of course. Community is not created just by typing in the box and clicking “publish” or “create wiki” or “start networking.” Building communities requires the same processes — connecting and communicating and sharing — only we have new means to accomplish these ends.

The societal conventions and safeguards of a Web 2.0 world (of the Google Generation) are not yet in place in this territory — the Digital Society is still nascent in many ways — and until it is less so, I can’t help holding back a bit — or a lot — putting myself out there for all to see, kinks and all. Privacy and security are the things that make much of our technology necessary. In rural communities people don’t always lock their doors. We’re all still figuring out when and – more importantly, how to lock our digital doors.

This is certainly a theme many people recognize. One of John Blyberg‘s “Top Tech Trends” (Jan 18 post) truly resonated for me:

Privacy is Dead

Yep, no such thing if you’re a netizen. We basically have the choice to connect or live out our lives in quiet and total obscurity. This merits an entire write-up on its own, but needless to say, our approach to individual privacy needs to be dragged into the twenty-first century. Almost all of the trends I mentioned this time around have profound privacy implications.

As Blyberg suggests, there is much more to be said about this.  My point is that we do have control over how much we put out there explicitly using Web 2.0 tools.  “Explicitly” is the operative word.  The fact is that even without embracing these new tools/media, our privacy is not what it used to be, to say the least.  And I suppose it’s not just about Google by any means, but that’s what’s got my goat lately.  I really don’t think that Google employees are interested explicitly in what I’m emailing or looking at on iGoogle — but the fact that they have a private database in which my actions are catalogued is unnerving.

February 19, 2008 at 12:50 pm 1 comment

Information Literacy links
via Steven Cohen @ (Feb 15)

A creative Commons – licensed Handbook for Information Literacy:

February 18, 2008 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

2.0 Culture(s)

“Web 2.0” may not be the best term for what we are experiencing as a society in the this age of Google and MySpace, but the fact that we are in it and that it is a new phenomenon which is developing its own culture is undeniable. Stephen Abram pointed out that “All these things we depend on are truly quite young,” in a post entitled It’s Not Very Old on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of TCP/IP this month. He goes on in another post to point out a new Pew Internet & American Life Project report: Teen Content Creators. (Find that report and others at I didn’t know that more girls blog than boys (30% of girls; 20% of boys). Also,

Content creation by teenagers continues to grow, with 64% of online teenagers ages 12 to 17 engaging in at least one type of content creation, up from 57% of online teens in 2004.

Meanwhile, in Understanding the culture of social networking technologies, Meredith Farkas quotes insights by other librarian bloggers about the need for us to be aware of these cultures: ie, we should be aware that how we want to use the these tools are not necessarily the way our patrons want to use them:

And it’s not only about understanding social networking. It’s also about understanding our own unique population…. We need to understand not only our users’ needs and wants, but also how they approach these tools, what sort of sense of privacy they have, and what sort of interactions they might want from the library.

Taking Abrams point about how young these technologies are, I would argue that the culture which surrounds the 2.0 phenomenon is still nascent. We don’t yet know what it will be; we only have the evidence of groups of individuals using it in their own ways.  There are pockets of 2.0 activity each of which is developing its own culture. 

A culture in the broadest sense is something that is established over long periods of time, and is referred to only after it has been established — like the culture of an ethnic group or nationality.  Then there is the more narrow sense of something established by a generation, or that defines a generation — something that the next generation grows up in and takes for granted — like TV culture.  But understood in this way, what does the term “teen culture” mean?  It’s a slippery concept, and that’s why I think it makes more sense to speak of it in the plural, as 2.0 cultures.

MySpace, as Abrams points out, is 8 years old.   When today’s 8-year-olds are turn 28 and start having kids of their own — what social networking site will they use, if any?  What will there kids grow up using?  Though we  cannot answer these questions, I suspect that there will be some established patterns by that time.  The extent to which these patterns are part of a culture or of separate cultures of 2.0, we have no way to know beforehand.

January 22, 2008 at 10:02 am 2 comments

Latest notable posts in the Biblioblogosphere

Using Jott to save time
(from Librarian In Black)

30 Library Technology Predictions for 2008
(from Stephens Lighthouse)

Pew report on Information Searches That Solve Problems
(from Information Wants to Be Free)

January 1, 2008 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

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