Foundational Readings: Library 2.0 and Participatory Culture

This week I will be looking at the foundational readings for INFO 287. Each reading expresses something different but equally important as we begin exploring the hyperlinked library this term. Michael Buckland’s work, written in 1992, shows how successful the library industry as a whole was in implementing a new, emerging technology (personal computers and an always on internet connection) during the transition from a print to digital industry. Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service was written by Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk in 2007, and explores a new age of information professional; one in which we are no longer gatekeepers of knowledge. In fact, if we continue thinking we can operate under a one way communication to our users, we will quickly lose our place to more accessible sources of information like <gulp> Wikipedia and Google! Finally, Brian Matthew’s paper, Think like a startup, pushes the envelope for information professionals. Mathews gets the reader to think outside the box and take risks because, as he says, “innovation is messy” (p. 3).

During this blog post, I am choosing to focus primarily on Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk’s work, Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service, as it really made me think about technology in the library and ensuring that our services connect with users. Casey and Savastinuk argue that libraries are currently in the midst of re-evaluating the services that they provide. Much like the web 2.0 environment, library 2.0 becomes less about what the library can provide to their user and more about what the user can provide to themselves (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. xxii).

During my first term at San Jose State University I took LIBR 200 Information Communities. While researching my final paper I found a wonderful quote in an article called “Why federated search” written by Annemarie Curtis and Daniel Dormer. In the article they interview several academics, one of whom responds to this traditional way of library service by stating, “[L]ike it or not, Google and its competitor search engines have created a model that librarians, as information professionals must meet head on. It’s time for librarians to accept that library users are not interested in being more like us” (as cited in Curtis & Dormer, 2005, p. 35). I think that this quote can be applied to any industry but it is particularly important to libraries and in a web 2.0 world. Libraries can be poised to take advantage of these participatory tools in order to meet our users’ needs head on.

Although it is easy for libraries to be blinded by the idea of new technology and think that it can fix any problem, we must be wary of investing too many resources (both money and staff time) into new technology without fully researching it (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. 50). Libraries should avoid “fall[ing] prey to what Michael Stephens refers to as technolust—an irrational need to have new technology, whether or not your library really needs it. There is almost nothing worse than spending big money on a new technology, only to see it sit gathering dust in the storage closet six months later” (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. 50).

I am currently struggling with this problem in my own institution. Carleton University MacOdrum Library has started purchasing new and emerging technology for its Emerging Technology Lending Library. In order to promote some of the new technologies I look for projects around the library, using the technology purchased for the collection. This does two things, it shows that our library is innovative and trendy as well as acts as a promotional tool for the emerging technology.

But when does looking for projects for these new technologies become, as Prof. Stephens says, ‘technolust’? According to G. Edward Evans and Camila Alire in their book Management basics for information professionals, libraries are not as backwards as some people might think, sometimes adopting new technology too quickly, long before the technology is ready for the mainstream. This results in lost money, time, and effort trying to be on the ‘bleeding edge’ of technology (Evans & Alire, 2013, p. 458). While this may be true in public and school libraries (since the needs of the users are on a much more functional level) I am struggling with this idea in academic institutions, where in some ways, we need to give our users access to all kinds of technology, even if society deems it a ‘failure’.

I am hesitant to use the word failure here for a few reasons. As an advocate of informal learning, I think that failure is a very important part of the learning process. So even if technology gets deemed a failure by society and doesn’t hit the mainstream ‘consumer’ level, it gives a user an idea. At the academic level, students have the skill set, tools, and instructors who can advise them to build upon past technology, or better yet, create an improved version of the technology, building improvements upon its design. Steven Kurti, Debby Kurti, and Laura Flemming address this in their article called “The Philosophy of Educational Makerspaces Part 1 of Making an Educational Makerspace.” In their article they discuss failure, stating “‘[I]t’s OK to fail. In fact, we encourage what most of society calls “failure,” because in reality, it is simply the first or second or third step toward success. No amazing innovation is created on the first try. Truly paradigm-shifting technologies and devices are the outgrowth of many iterations”’ (para. 16).

I think that the ideas of library 2.0 and technology are so closely connected that they should be viewed together. In talking with faculty at my institution they want new technology so that their students can explore, collaborate, and create. The problem comes in changing the mindset of management and getting them onboard with a new technology and users’ needs for the future. In our case, that means exploring new emerging technology so that our graduates have experience with some of the newest technologies when they enter the job market. We also need to change the mindset of “failure” in academic institutions. Just because a technology doesn’t become mainstream doesn’t mean it has failed. Library 2.0 and makerspaces can provide users a safe place to experiment, learn and fail, but to do so in a safe space that allows them to turn that failure into success. If libraries don’t inspire our users to explore and learn we are the ones that have failed them.

References for the Blog Post

Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service.

Curtis, A., & Dorner, D. G. (2005). Why federated search. Knowledge Quest, 33(3), 35-37.

Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.).New York: Neal-Schuman.

Kurti, R. S., Kurti, D. L., & Fleming, L. (2014). The philosophy of educational makerspaces part 1 of making an educational makerspace. Teacher Librarian, 41(5), 8-11. Retrieved from

Mathews, B. (2012, April). Think like a startup.

References for YouTube Video:

Curtis, A., & Dorner, D. G. (2005). Why federated search. Knowledge Quest, 33(3), 35-37.

Davidson, C. N., & Goldberg, D.T. (2009).The future of learning institutions in a digital age. Retrieved from

Gillmor, D. (2006). We the media: Grassroots journalism by the people, for the people. Beijing; Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

Keen, A. (2007). The cult of the amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values. New York: Double Day.

Lessig, L. (2006). Code version 2.0. New York: Basic Books.

12 thoughts on “Foundational Readings: Library 2.0 and Participatory Culture”

  1. ” “[L]ike it or not, Google and its competitor search engines have created a model that librarians, as information professionals must meet head on. It’s time for librarians to accept that library users are not interested in being more like us” What an excellent quote! So true. I know it is a struggle for some LIS professionals to accept the fact that people search for information, find a hit they like and run with it . For so many contexts – everyday life information seeking, if you will (ELIS), it just makes sense. That’s why advocate for a similar mindset.

    • @ michael

      I really enjoyed your video! Thank you!

      “If libraries don’t inspire our users to explore and learn we are the ones that have failed them”. This statement resonated with me today.

      I agree with you that this is such a delicate concept. When does “techolust” as Michael calls it actually hinder our ability to move forward in innovating and experimenting in a library environment?

      I think reaching a balance and trying not to do so much is the key. Quality over quantity is so important; something we need to get back to in this day of “how much we have” is so much more important than enjoying what we do have. 🙂

      Thank you for your post.

      • @krislib Thank you for your comments!

        I agree, we need to find a good balance. My current concern in libraries is addressed by Mathews’ Think like a startup. “The problem with traditional library assessment is that it’s predominantly linked to satisfaction and performance” (p. 8).

        I think this applies not just to technology but many services that libraries offer. If usage statistics aren’t there then something may be deemed a failure. I think in a library 2.0 world, evaluation of services won’t be so obvious and measurable. However, it will be really difficult to prove that in some cases.

        At my institution we are in the midst of a public services review (reviewing all service points that interact with the public). They are using primarily interaction statistics to look at the effectiveness of Reference Services. Although this makes sense, I don’t think it tells the whole story. A single check on the reference statistics sheet doesn’t explain the whole story, even if Reference Services interactions are slowly declining. We have to be careful only using these forms of evaluation. This is my true concern.

        I realize I didn’t speak to your original point but your got me thinking about this. 🙂

        Thank you Kristen for your response!

    • @michael ELIS was a huge part of my LIBR 200 final project! When I stumbled across that quote I was so happy because it was said so perfectly.

      I’m a huge fan of Google. People can say what they want about their business practice and how they use people’s data for ad revenue but I read the book, In the Plex by Steven Levy and the way that Sergey Brin and Larry Page viewed the web was incredible and revolutionary. I recommend simply reading Chapter 1: The World According the Google, Biography of a Search Engine, if nothing else.

      That book also has a great quote that essentially says, “Don’t chase tail lights”. You’ll never get ahead if you chase tail lights.

  2. Great video! THANK YOU for pulling out the flaws on keen’s arguments. The “gatekeeper” role is certainly fading away (thankfully) and I’m all for all of the content produced by amateurs. One important task – instead of trying to gatekeeper – will be showing people how to make sense of all the choices and let them decide what speaks to them. This is also why I advocate for “reflective practice,” which we will cover later on.

    • @michael I agree. I don’t think we should be gatekeepers. Instead we should be giving people the skills to make their own decisions. There is so much good coming out of amateur content creation. Henry Jenkins argues in his book, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, that users creating content online “are more likely to respect the intellectual rights of others because they feel a greater stake in the cultural economy” (p. 11-12). These are lessons that are more difficult to teach from a book.

      There is so much good that can come out of web 2.0 and I think Keen doesn’t give users enough credit to evaluate information themselves. As librarians we can teach people how to think critically about the information they are consuming, how to evaluate it, how to fact check, and the hyper linked web makes that even easier to trace information back to original sources. If that is good enough for the users needs. I don’t think we can argue with that.

  3. @ryantucci As someone who has fallen prey to “technolust”, I agree with you that the examples you bring up should be thought of as good uses of technology. In my world, we don’t purchase technology for students because we can’t afford it. We buy it for the library — a new ILS, products like LibGuides, high volume scanner, etc. Most of our tech choices affect the entire library, meaning that almost everyone needs to get on board. I want to try new products and trials all of the time, but not all of my colleagues feel the same way (not a criticism btw). As someone who wants to jump into the start-up/design thinking milieu , I need to temper my excitement and willingness to fail in order to be a successful member of the team. I also need to find smaller ways/projects to test out my technolust.

    • @k2theiely I agree. Although the start-up/design thinking is great, it’s a hard sell to a lot of people. Especially with how we evaluate success and return on investment in libraries. I think Mathews’ point, ‘Too Much Assessment, Not Enough Innovation’ is spot on.

      “The problem with traditional library assessment is that it’s predominantly linked to satisfaction and performance. We’re focused on things like: how many articles are downloaded, how many preprints are in the repository, how many classes do we teach, or how our students feel about the library commons” (p. 8).

      I completely understand that budgets are tight, and in Canada a poorly performing Canadian dollar stretches our budget even thinner. It will be a hard sell to get any new products or services in the library without a clear evaluation of success, like number of items loaned, etc.

      Thank you for your comments Daniel!


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