Phil Bradley recently posted a list of Library 2.0/Web 2.0 books. There are a lot. I’ve recently read several of them, and I’ve been left wanting more. Not because the writing was bad or the content was bad or wrong or anything like that, but because none of them really told me much that I don’t already know. Sure, I picked up a few things, but overall I’ve read four books that basically told me the same things (blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts, gaming) in slightly different words, with slightly different emphasis.
Again, I want to stress that it’s not that the content was poor; more that I felt I knew 80-90% of it, and so would anyone who reads the same sort of blogs as I do. Clearly, then, the books are targeted at a different audience, one more comfortable offline, but (presumably) interested enough in learning about new technologies to read a book about them. A target audience of outsiders, not insiders.
So that’s my problem: I’d really like to read a book that was written for people who already have some basic knowledge, who don’t need to read a two-page explanation of what a blog is*. Does anyone have any suggestions?
The books I’ve read would all make useful reading for your non-blog-reading colleagues/managers. I’m thinking they’d be good to pass to a busy manager, to give them a brief idea of what you’re talking about when you discuss these technologies.
Phil Bradley: How to use Web 2.0 in Your Library
Meredith Farkas: Social Software in Libraries
Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk: Library 2.0
Susan Gibbons: The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student
The first three do a good job of summarising the state of play in the sort of subjects that the authors write about on their blogs. I found the third gave an interesting and clear summary of the authors’ model of Library 2.0, but I felt like I wanted more detail on how to do some of the things suggested.
Susan Gibbons has a fascinating book to write about ‘Net Gen’ students, but this isn’t it, unfortunately. Her library took the innovative step of hiring an anthropologist to study studetnt behavior, and inform planning. A book-length write-up of that project would have been incredibly interesting. What we have instead is a very good initial chapter which discusses the characteristics of ‘Net Gen’ students, followed by several more which discuss gaming, blogs, wikis, folksonomies etc – and unfortunately present little evidence that ‘Net Gen’ students specifically are using these technologies (the gaming chapter cites research from 2001, showing the average age of gamers as 26, which would make those gamers Gen X, not Net Gen).
I do want to stress that I found the first couple of chapters to be highly worth reading (Gibbons is making me want to read Howe and Strauss’s work, whereas I’d previously been turned off even by their supporters). I also liked the way Gibbons stressed that her arguments applied to American college-age library users only; too often there’s a tendency for American writers** to talk about “libraries” when they really mean “some American libraries” – not all of us worldwide are in the exact same situation.
So, if you’re reading this, my recommendations? Have a quick read through either Phil Bradley’s or Meredith Farkas’s book (or maybe both). Don’t read it word for word, but pick out the websites and the software and the examples and use them to inform your own work. Hand the book to your less tech-oriented colleagues for a more in-depth read. Read the first couple of chapters of the other two books, they contain a lot of food for thought.
For the authors? I’d love to see the sequels to these books, with advanced tips and tricks, and with lots of examples and case studies of libraries who’ve successfully implemented these technologies.
I’d also love to see more bloggers writing about the books they’ve read.
*I was amused to see that one book, quite by chance, had included text from this very blog – Phil Bradley’s illustration of a blog was a screenshot of The Shifted Librarian‘s homepage, on which Jenny Levine was quoting me.
**Not necessarily the writers I’ve mentioned here.