Monday, 14 January 2008

Web2.0 Backlash?

This was going to be a really positive post about having new books on their way and getting over this New Years malaise that's marked the start of 2008 but I just saw a couple of articles in the Gazette that I find really dissapointing. So I'm going to vent spleen on that instead! The first is on the front page and is titled "Social networking 'not for libraries'" and is about an OCLC report. The report surveyed 6000 members of the public in 6 developed countries and 400 "randomly selected US library directors" (does anyone else think this is a slightly odd sample?). Apparently, 60% did not see a role for libraries in developing social networks.

I've got a few problems with this:

a) The way people are socialising and interacting with each other (and organisations) is changing. Naturally, the public do not see a role for libraries in this trend but how many of the public really understand what libraries do? I don't mean to be patronising but the article cites a 15 year old who thinks that libraries are there to borrow books and occasionally use computers. I see libraries in a slightly different way - basically as places facilitating relationships between people and the information that they need. If libraries don't keep up with the latest ways in which people relate to each other (and information) then they will be dead in the water.

b) How many of the public realise that one of the biggest roles of libraries is in forming and maintaining strong communities. Social networking is all about this. Even if it is not the role of libraries to build social sites (and I would argue strongly that it is!) they should at least be participating in them. Sharing, collaboration and communication are common factors that link social networking and libraries at a fundamental level - common goals if you like.

c) ...and this is my biggest beef. How has this article and the related article on page 3 titled "Are these sites just hype?" (both of which are strongly negative towards the opportunities that social networking sites offer) made their way into the Gazette? Surely it is up to Cilip to provide balanced opinion to it's members. Yes there are negative aspects to social networking and pitfalls that librarians need to be aware of, but to suggest that a) they are a fad and the bubble will burst soon; and b) that libraries have no role in social networking is (IMHO) dangerous (although perhaps indicative of the attitudes that have got libraries and librarianship into the pickle that they are currently in).

I seem to remember these sort of arguments about the Internet in the 90's (ask anyone who works in a public library how busy they are when the Internet goes down).

Cilip Gazette - the next time you print a negative article, how about balancing it with an alternative viewpoint? If I want one sided tabloid journalism I can buy The Sun.

Rant over. Stay tuned for happy, happy, joy, joy.

No comments:

Post a Comment