Trends from the Littlest Trendster

I wanted to post my Grand Summation before TTT met this morning, but I had launched my questions on my personal blog and people were commenting through yesterday. I was reluctant to draw the line and say, game over!

Which brings me to a continuing trend: if you blog it, they will come. This is increasingly a L2, social-software, MySpace, put-our-lives-out-there-for-discussion world–particularly among younger people, as Pew recently emphasized–and I’m so comfortable with Trends as a kind of group project that it would now seem strange to me to not engage in a trends discussion with the wise voices of the biblioblogosphere and beyond.

If there is one meta-trend I am seeing right now, it is this: librarians are getting frisky. We’re talking back, questioning authority, and in some cases taking names and kicking booty, as Andrew Pace did recently with the NCSU catalog (Andrew, can we call your OPAC “Miss Piggy”?) and as the UC system did with its must-read, put-this-under-your-pillow, OMG-this-is-hot BSTF Report. It’s no longer enough to say “the ILS sucks.” It’s “The ILS sucks and this is what we’re doing about it.” It’s not just saying we need to do less cataloging and more tagging, but actually following through with the transformations. It’s saying we need to stop treating library services like a monopoly operation and act as if we have competitors–as indeed we do, as many funding battles in this country have demonstrated. It’s taking the issues to the road, as is happening with Library 2.0.

Regarding the L2 discussions, I heard a Trendster say “Don’t just talk, do something.” But for many librarians, talking–and talking convincingly–is essential, because most librarians who “get it” need to persuade stakeholders to direct precious resources (which for many LITA members means you, Gentle Reader) to implementing newer technologies. L2 is very convenient shorthand language that introduces old wine in new bottles. I remember the years of work many of us devoted to explaining to traditional librarians that the Internet was indeed important. (A low point in my personal efforts happened in the late 1990s, when a librarian told me he was waiting for that Internet thing to blow over.) I wish we had generated more language and more ideas far earlier in the game.

So while I admit that the first time I heard Library 2.0 I had almost the same reaction as I did to Web 2.0–Oh oh! Does this mean I need to install a new TCP-IP stack?–once I clued in that L2 was about wrenching the library out of its self-absorbed, ILS-centric model and toward modernized services, I came to enjoy the focus, and the sheer friskiness, of the many great discussions we’re having about improving the user’s library experience. It’s fun to poke humorously at the ubiquity of the phrase (rivalling “truthiness” in its airplay in library circles), but it doesn’t make the thinking behind L2 less valid or the need less urgent.

On the political fronts, NSA letters for search logs seem to be de rigeur these days. But we’re frisky there, as well. ALA showed unusually good humor in responding to the snarling criticisms of our opposition to the Patriot Act, and somewhere, librarian John Doe is going to bat for our freedom in the digital world.

My only negative trend (if you ignore the sad disrepair of the OpenURL movement, which will need repackaging if it’s going to catch on) is that libraries continue to be glacially slow in adopting new technologies. We know it’s not just money; attitude and openness (as well as sheer knowledge) play roles as well. Let’s hope that some of the friskiness of the techno-vanguard sifts into libraries at large.

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