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A popular ongoing discussion is making the online presence of the library more comparable to how our users actually interact, or breaking out of the traditional mold of card catalog transferred online. In my mind that’s the whole idea behind Library 2.0, but so far the “innovations” haven’t been all that earth-shattering. Does Aquabrowser provide a glimmer of potential? I’m not sure yet. Aquabrowser, which is a product of Serials Solutions was created as a “search and discovery platform” to integrate the ILS, databases, websites, RSS feeds, and local repositories into one online location.

One of the main selling points (besides centralized functionality) is versatility – this is a system that can be used in public or academic libraries. It’s also Web 2.0 friendly. Users can tag, review and rate library materials, including links to LibraryThing tags. The content can also be shared with other libraries.

Aquabrowser works with a variety of ILS systems and is currently in use in a variety of institutions (mostly public libraries, but also universities such as Tufts, Oklahoma State, and Trinity College). Worth further exploration…

Spring is in the air, making me want to climb out of my hibernation and attend some conferences.  Unfortunately, as I’m not actively job-hunting, funded by my job, or spurred on by the student rates, I’m limiting my conference attendance to one day at the New Mexico Library Association in April. I really wanted to go to ARLIS this year (in Denver), but it just isn’t feasible. I’m in that career spot between discounted student and successful career librarian – right now I’m just impoverished early career librarian who can’t afford to go to conferences.

Now I’m brainstorming new ways to fill in the gaps.  Online library training and programming is becoming more common, even though I haven’t attended any lately (combination of time and utility – and my computer at work is ancient and largely useless for such things).  I finally broke down and bought an MP3 player, so free downloads are now a mobile opportunity for whiling away the long park-n-ride hours.  Library Journal is offering podcasts from the “Library 2.0 Gang” that sound interesting, including lots of info on Open Library. According to the Library Journal article, “Each month, the Library Gang will focus on a technology topic at issue in the library world.”

The thing is, I miss the conference networking the most.  I miss the librarians! These days that aspect of my identity is only validated when someone at work asks “Heather, you’re a librarian – you must know how to spell ‘cantankerous’.”  I’m not sure where the spelling/librarian corollary comes from, but as a matter of fact I DO know how to spell “cantankerous” and I’m proud of it. But I’m also looking forward to chatting with some fellow bibliophiles in a couple weeks.

The Free Range Librarian recently had an interesting post about “Standards 2.0” in librarianship.  Obviously “2.0” has become a catch-phrase for any forward-looking idea.  I’m working on “Heather 2.0” right now.

What is interesting in Schneider’s post – which ends up being kind of a manifesto and what we should be aiming for in the application of current standards and the development of future standards in librarianship (such as collaborative models and looking at standards as works in progress rather than ending points) – is that we have entered a gray zone where these issues are less and less clear cut.  In large part this is due to the other 2.0 buzzwords.  The OPAC of the future aims to be collaborative, integrative, and branch out to the larger  world online.  Standards don’t play very well with these goals.  Particularly (notoriously) clunky library standards such as the AACR slam right into a brick wall when faced with collaborative and interactive models of information retrieval and display. 

It will be interesting to see if RDA changes this environment at all (this is a good overview from Ariadne), but librarians are not known for being particularly flexible in this regard.  Or any regard, really. The article mentions that RDA is about “simplicity”, but it’s also about other un-2.0 things like “structure” and “consistency”.   On the other end of the opinion spectrum, RDA was also criticized for its lack of structure and standards by – surprise, surprise – Michael Gorman in the December 2007 issue of American Libraries.  Gorman reacts to user-generated metadata and uncontrolled vocabulary as though it were the devil’s work, as though any catalog not ordained by Lubetzky and written in the stone that is the AACR2 will burst into flames imminently. 

Maybe we could just leave the standards in their present form, call it AACR2.0 to make it sound like the future, and make everyone happy.  In other words, implement the same cosmetic and meaningless changes that have hindered forward motion in librarianship for too long.

I have a continuing interest in the Library as Place.  It’s a theme that I touched upon repeatedly during library school and one of the main reasons that I pursued this career.  I believe strongly that creating an inviting intellectual and creative space has much to do with what people get out of libraries.

There’s been a lot of talk over the past decade or so about libraries taking successful retail models such as Barnes & Noble for inspiration in this regard, sometimes to unnecessary extremes.  Just a few months ago the Maricopa Library System in Arizona even proposed dismantling the DDC in favor of a bookstore-type classification system. 

Ironically, at the same time it seems that the bookstores themselves are feeling the economic repercussions of being too comfortable and considering returning to more traditional digs, sans the cushy couches where customers can use the merchandise without paying.  This is traditionally where the library steps in – more powerfully than ever now that we have learned important lessons about creating spaces where people choose to go, even if that means buying new furniture and allowing food and drinks.

Effective online library “places” are working to become more comfortable as well. Most OPACs are hindered by cumbersome text-only displays. While many of our patrons inhabit only our online places, this is something like the equivalent of a library consisting entirely of a card catalog. Maybe this is slowly changing. For example, Book Shelf View is an idea developed by Sandra Rotenberg of the Solano Community College Library in California. Basically, it is a visual keyword search where the results display as highlighted books on actual shelves in the stacks that can be browsed. Like browsing physical library shelves, the idea plays upon the benefits of collocation and serendipity. You could “pick up” the books and skim the contents by clicking on the spine. What a great idea!

Other musings on the subject of the improved ILS have saturated the literature of late, with some notable ideas such as Marshall Breedings’ Next Generation Library Catalogs which discusses, among other things, web overlay functionality in detail.

While I may prefer to browse physical libraries and read physical books, I understand the desire of patrons to do both online, with (nearly) equal functionality. E-books have long been a reality, why not a true E-library? Why should online users be denied Library as Place (even if they have to provide their own cushy couches)?

I’ve begun a new blogging adventure as I stare towards the horizon of my looming library school graduation, move to New Mexico, and all other adventures that lie ahead.  Que sera, sera.  Today I heard back from the Institute of American Indian Arts, one of the institutions in Santa Fe where I offered up my librarian skills as a volunteer this summer.  This would be a very neat experience in digitizing their image collection, so I am quite tempted.  Of course, the Georgia O’Keeffe opportunity still gets my heart thumping as well.  Too many choices are infinitely better than none, so I will count myself lucky.

My metadata blog is still available through the blogroll, but any metadata related musings will now be penned here along with my general observations about the field, Library 2.0 and Museum 2.0, my professional development, research, and career exploration in general.

August 2020