While I have some more indepth ideas brewing for articles over at libdev I thought this one deserved to be posted now. In some of the discussions about Library2.0/OPAC2.0 I’ve seen people create lists of “cool technologies” that more or less included everything they used. While these technologies are all great it’s prudent to step back and think about their usefullness in the context of a library. While I use gmail, my library providing a multi-gig email service would most likely be a waste of time and resources that could be spent better elsewhere.
I was impressed to see that Michael Stephens start out one of his presentations (pdf) with a similar discussion. He has a corresponding article over at Library Journal. (via TameTheWeb)
While I’m very pro-technology, specifically in it’s use in education, I believe it’s very important to step back and ask yourself if this technology can help you accomplish a mission or goal and be worth the time and investment. As others have stated blogs and rss have many benefits and little risk. With the multitude of free services out there I can think of almost no reason for someone to at least try it out.
Let’s consider another “hot” service though, Flickr. While I think it’s a great service I’d have to think harder about how it would be worthwhile to create a seperate social photo sharing service for patrons. One such possibility would be to host a gallery of local photos for the community. The AADL has done something similar in their pictureAnnArbor project. It’s important to point out that this is not a Flickr clone but instead a photo gallery system that is used as a way to connect with the community. They even use it to pull in people for in-library “scanning sessions”. A resource that may come in handy for prospective visitors or residents of the area. A far cry from just throwing up a photo service and seeing what happens. I can think of many more ways this could have been done wrong then right. There was some obvious thought put in.
Back to internet and email. My old library was one of the first in the community to offer internet and email (was Pine/text only first and then web once it started catching on). They still offer both for free for the community which I think is thanks to the fact that Michigan has the Merit Network. I also get free dialup via Merit from my University. If this was beginning today I would have to say offering free email wouldn’t be the best idea to spend resources and money on, especially if your just cloning some other service. The free dial-up is a nice service, especially for low-income users but it’s helped by the fact that someone runs the modem pools. If the library had to run their own modem pools, etc I would probably highly discourage it.
Before the rambling goes on too long I’ll just drive the points home. Think of technology in context of a mission or goal, not a goal/mission in the context of the technology. Some of us would be happy finding books. ;-)
There’s also a nice post titled “Library 2.0 Perils” over at Blyberg.net that’s worth a read.