If Amazon isn’t Library 2.0, what is?

OK, so what are libraries then? As Matt asks, what is it that we can offer that is different and worthwhile when compared to Borderstones and Amaspace?

Answers on a comment please… all libraries welcome; let’s not make this about public libraries only.

My answer, copied from a comment to another post, is…

In looking at ‘information’ simply as the stuff in books/websites, and libraries as being about access to that information, then your view of libraries is narrowed. You focus on Google etc as competitors.

If libraries are only about the social, then no they can’t compete either; they don’t get the money or time. The mall can be made much nicer, even if they don’t always have what you want. You can get a coffee! And as the social is equated with the web, they can compete even less; why go to LibrarySpace when you can have MySpace?

Combining the social with the informational, Amazon is often quicker than libraries, has more clout and flexibility and lets you say what you think of books. So long as you are buying books.

I guess libraries’ ‘point of differentiation’ is that (in public library terms) they are public services. They are not beholden to shareholders. They are not limited to the profitable or even the pleasant areas, be they physical or informational. They do not always chase the latest. They will keep up as they can, but try not to leave people behind. They advocate access to information, to stories and to the community. When done well, they can represent the community to itself.

A last point is that libraries and librarians are (yes, ideally) committed to information, stories and community. Amazon et al., great though they are, are ultimately committed to themselves.

I appreciate this is very idealistic, but it is my honest answer. In my gut, I dont’ want information, sociability etc to be solely done by the shops and the software. And even if everything is distributed and rooted in radical trust, who owns the infrastructure and therefore the real power? Where is the analysis of power in discussions of “information”?


5 Responses to If Amazon isn’t Library 2.0, what is?

  1. Michael says:

    The classic position 😉 would be to state that our staff are our best and most significant resource… The helpful ones, anyway. But that’s a sweeping generalisation, and sweeping generalisations are always wrong.

    It doesn’t really help with your L2 question, but I’ve always felt that a successful and effective library has its own atmosphere: one that’s conducive to helping your visitors get whatever they want out of their visit.

    Maybe Library 2.0 should be about taking that atmoshpere and expanding it in two ways: beyond the physical confines of the library; and outside the operational constraints of established library service delivery models. Does it even exist in the real world?

  2. magia3e says:

    Web 2.0 projects start because the people understand the needs of users, trust them, they innovate, make wow-appeal products, make open products rather than closed ones, give free widgets out to make it easy to use, get communities (online and offline) growing around them. And they make it free. And they make it easy to interact and share knowledge and information – whether its about tunes, books or even about libraries.

    I think some of these things are vital to evolving libraries toward L2.

    I don’t yet know whether libraries understand the different segments of their huge (potential) user-base or how to engage with them effectively to build online communities and leverage the social web. I don’t yet know whether they trust their users. I’m yet to see any wow products – I just see librarians still trying to sell web 2.0 concepts to other librarians and that just feels like catchup rather than innovation.

    …Saying that, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with wikipedia’s definition of L2. Maybe I should have a go at contributing to that debate.


  3. […] lot about Library 2.0. When I posted Amazon is Library 2.0, he countered with asking the question what is Library 2.0? Do we have any actual examples of Library 2.0?  What exactly is it that we’re asking of […]

  4. Pete says:

    Please do Matt. We certainly need more people from outside libraries.
    I think it’s a case of some librarians trust users, others do not; it’s not a whole profession thing.
    We do need to get other librarians on board before we start ‘innovating.’ ANd libraries are also not about ‘products’ or widgets, although some could easily come out of libraries.
    Where *do* Library thing get their catalogue data from? 😉

  5. Charlotte Wilmot says:

    I think a library is also a space to think and work, often offering a place of peace and calm (not my library, but most libraries).

    It also offers an opportunity to try things out with no financial investment. If you borrow a book or access information for free or small cost you can afford to be more experimental than you would be on Amazon.

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