Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Library-only 2.0 is dead. Long live Library 2.0!

Library 2.0 is alive and well at Lamar County and the more than 300 other library systems that use LibraryThing for Libraries.

Over at Information Today Steve Coffman wrote a long and interesting piece The Decline and Fall of the Library Empire, running through a list of recent library efforts in the digital world and concluding that most have been failures. His comments on “Library 2.0″ are of special interest here:

“Jumping ahead a few years, we have Library 2.0. Some may feel that it is too early to write this off … even if we could all agree upon what it is supposed to be. Basically, Library 2.0 was intended to allow library users to interact with librarians and each other online using a variety of new social tools developed for the web. It was meant to include patron-contributed reviews and rankings, tagging, blogs, Twitter posts, Facebook sites, and so on. Even a cursory look at some of the more highly regarded Library 2.0-styled websites suggests that this idea may not be going very well. It seems that any conversations we may be having are largely with ourselves, while our patrons are busy contributing reviews and doing all sorts of other cool, interactive things on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and the hundreds of other places people get together online to compare notes on books.”

Coffman is right that library-only Library 2.0 efforts have failed. Most such systems don’t aggregate across libraries and, when they do, Library patrons aren’t that interested in adding content to their library catalog, which fail to connect meaningfully to the larger digital world.

But library efforts continue to succeed, by taking advantage of data and communities outside the library. Coffman mentions LibraryThing’s wealth of tags and reviews as something outside of libraries, but LibraryThing data appears in hundreds of library systems in the United States and around the world.

Through LibraryThing for Libraries library patrons can read more than 600,000 professionally-vetted user reviews–the cream of LibraryThing’s larger corpus. And if they feel like it they can add their own review, which is aggregated across all libraries that use LibraryThing for Libraries. The results are pretty good–a book like Mockingjay (eg., Randolph County) has 583 reviews, 22 of them from library patrons.

After reading the reviews they can browse their local collections drawing on over 85 million user tags, exploring the world of “Steam Punk,” “Cozy Mysteries” or “Queer Fiction” within their existing catalog and restricted to their collection. And they can explore similar books based on all the users, books, tags and other data of LibraryThing, mashed up with the availability and usage statistics of their library and others.

Although vendors continue to sell “Library 2.0″ as a “feature,” it was never so. Social software is always both feature and society, requiring scale and openness to users’ wider world. That a library can’t be Facebook all by itself isn’t sad, or a failure. Facebook isn’t Facebook by itself either. The error comes in thinking about the 2.0 world in 1.0 terms. Library-only 2.0 failed because it tried to be an empire. Library 2.0 is alive because it isn’t one.

So, Library-only 2.0 is dead. Long live Library 2.0!

Labels: library 2.0

3 Comments:

  1. David S. says:

    So are you feeding those reviews back into LibraryThing proper?

    I looked at the Steam Punk tag, and I’d still go back to LibraryThing proper, and advocate that others do so too. Yes, I’ve got my books cataloged here and spend too much time here, but that’s not it (or at least not all of it.) If I look at the Steam Punk tag here, I get the complete list. If the top book on the list isn’t available at my library, I can get it through ILL or just go to Amazon and buy it.

    I find it almost a little deceptive that the series display replaces the LT numbering with library specific numbering. It’d be nice to know that A Family Affair isn’t the 4th in the Nero Wolfe series. If it were a series that has to be read in order, I might be really pissed to order a book across libraries (in the library system) and find out instead of being #4, it was #6.

    (That’s weird. It may be a bug, or just ill-updated material, but Before Midnight, by Rex Stout, had no LibraryThing material attached. Stuff like that is another reason I’d go to LibraryThing proper.)

  2. Fred B. says:

    What exactly does “professionally-vetted user reviews” mean? Is someone at LibraryThing spending all day reading reviews? What are the criteria for acceptance/rejection?

  3. Hey David,

    >> So are you feeding those reviews back into LibraryThing proper?

    No. They don’t get fed back into LibraryThing. If the libraries want it, we might do that in the future. But it’s not happening now.

    >> I looked at the Steam Punk tag, and I’d still go back to LibraryThing proper, and advocate that others do so too. Yes, I’ve got my books cataloged here and spend too much time here, but that’s not it (or at least not all of it.) If I look at the Steam Punk tag here, I get the complete list. If the top book on the list isn’t available at my library, I can get it through ILL or just go to Amazon and buy it.

    It depends what you want to do. I think–and libraries seem to agree–that library catalogs should be focused on what the catalog itself has. In mean, in theory, the title, author or subject searches on a catalog could also consider every book and other item somewhere in the world. I think they don’t for a good reason.

    >> I find it almost a little deceptive that the series display replaces the LT numbering with library specific numbering. It’d be nice to know that A Family Affair isn’t the 4th in the Nero Wolfe series. If it were a series that has to be read in order, I might be really pissed to order a book across libraries (in the library system) and find out instead of being #4, it was #6.

    Thanks for the heads-up. If you click the series itself, you’ll see the whole series and its numbering within that. I think you’re right, however, that in the on-catalog display it shouldn’t number them, or should number them better. We’re looking at it now.

    >> That’s weird. It may be a bug, or just ill-updated material, but Before Midnight, by Rex Stout, had no LibraryThing material attached. Stuff like that is another reason I’d go to LibraryThing proper

    LTFL errs on the side of caution for much of the data. So, for example, reviews must be approved before they go up. The goal is to help people find and evaluate books; being up-to-date versus the LibraryThing site is of secondary importance.

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