John Blyberg argues that Library 2.0 has been debased by (some) librarians and by vendors looking for a quick technology fix. This is really one of the best posts (and comments threads) that I’ve read in a long time. Really. Go read.
John’s post has sparked some intelligent reactions across the biblioblogosphere, which I’ll be noting in this and a few subsequent posts. I want to break my response up, because I think John makes a number of excellent points.
Firstly, I think John deserves enormous credit for the following:
How and where we interface with our users is where the rubber meets the road and should merit a little more thought then simply thrusting a MySpace page in their face or building a new library in Second Life–a service our users overwhelmingly do not use and, which seems to me, like a creepy post-apocalyptic wasteland. I’ll even turn the tables on myself and admit that I was wrong about local tagging in the OPAC. SOPAC was by-and-large a success, but its use of user-contributed tags is a failure.
How many of us are willing to admit, publicly, that a widely-lauded initiative that we introduced, is “a failure” (even partially)? Not many, I’d imagine. Well said, John.
I’d like to suggest that John hasn’t really failed though – what he’s done is found a method that hasn’t worked (or hasn’t worked yet, or didn’t work in his particular case). That’s a good thing! Now he (and we) know that we need to try something different. The original idea was good (IMHO), but the execution failed, because (John suggests) a small group of taggers, with an interest in one particular area (manga) contributed most of the tags. There weren’t enough tags contributed by readers with other interests.
OK, how can we react to this? One way might be to increase the number of people providing tags. How can we do that? Easy – aggregate data from LibraryThing or WorldCat or Amazon, all of which contain user contributed tags (though not always good ones – the first example shows tags used to make a political point, the second that some of the most frequently-used tags on the last Harry Potter were things like “Harry Potter” and “Deathly Hollows”).
Thanks to John, we’ve discovered that a single library system might not have enough users who care about tagging to build a meaningful collection of tags. Now we know that, we can try a different approach.