Library 2.0 and trust

This happens to me every semester (see last semester’s rant for reference). I go to class, soak up all these interesting, original and important ideas, then I go back into the “real world” of libraries, and get very discouraged.

As an avid user of the social web, I highly advocate that libraries make their presence available on the web in a variety of ways. At my medium sized library, we’ve done a pretty good job recently of trying to expand our presence. For example, we’ve recently redesigned our website with the intention of making it more user-friendly (less library jargon) and we’ve added blogs for youth, teens and reader’s advisory. Soon, our consortium plans to overlay our existing catalog with Aquabrowser, which allows for many “Amazon-style” functions, such as user-tagging, reviews and ratings.

One of the aspects of Library 2.0 which Michael referenced in his talk is that libraries need to trust their users. John Blyburg states that libraries must content with the question of “authority” when it comes to the user. With our new catalog, users will be given the “authority” to tag records and to write reviews. But how does this question of trust play out in the physical library?

Recently, I was asked to keep an eye on a patron who was thought to have viewed “inappropriate content” on the computers in the children’s area. I’m not generally comfortable monitoring patron’s activity on the internet; indeed, to me, such monitoring infringes on privacy.

So what is the balance between insuring patron safety and infringing on user’s rights?

Another issue at our library recently has been extensive problems with graffiti and vandalism. The problem has gotten so bad that the library has decided to lock the bathrooms. Patrons must ask for a staff member to buzz them in. Michael Stephens says that a librarian 2.0 “does not create policies and procedures that impede users’ access to the library,”but which is worse: having to ask to use the restroom, or the possibility of facing human waste on the walls when you walk in.

If we trust users to comment on blog posts and to tag the catalog, shouldn’t we trust them to use the library’s resources appropriately? Is this too naive? How does Library 2.0 play into these issues?

No real answers here, just lots of questions. Hoping you all have thoughts to help me clarify my thinking.

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4 Comments

  1. cdolin said,

    September 28, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I love your post with all of the links to supporting information and your teen blog looks fantastic!

    Don’t be discouraged – by opening up these virtual avenues to the library and refusing to allow the few outliers to ruin the library for all users, I think you establish an expectancy of mutual respect. You can proud of your achievements!

  2. Tom said,

    September 29, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    These are good questions — I have them too. I work in a large library and we’ve done all the stuff you’ve done. I think most public libraries hear the call and are trying to revamp services, market themselves better, reach out to teens and the long tail, etc.

    But we’ve read a few stories about problems. Like the blog post about kids who seem to be ditching school to do gaming on the library computers across the street. Everyone seemed incensed that the library is trying to help thje school deal with the problem. I’m sorry, people do some weird things. Kids are loud and rude sometimes. Sometimes people spread feces on bathroom walls. It happens. I’m all for letting them tag books and media anyway they want, that’s cool. But if some kid wants to call a genre of book “dog shit express” or “donkey punch alley” is that something we ought to embrace? I think some limits are reasonable.

  3. Bill said,

    September 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Exactly, Tom. There has to be a balance, and it won’t be easy to find. I commented recently on a blog and referred to the one ruining it for the many, and that happens everywhere. When did we become so uncivilized?

  4. Michael Stephens said,

    October 10, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Good post and good linking. I totally understand the problem with locking the bathrooms vs. providing access. It’s a difficult thing to figure out.


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