Book Review — Building Library 3.0: Issues in Creating a Culture of Participation

Woody Evans, Building Library 3.0: Issues in Creating a Culture of Participation (Chandos Publishing 2009) Paperback, 188 pages, $95, ISBN 9781843344971

From his years of experience in military, corporate and academic libraries, Woody Evans has developed some definite ideas about libraries and technology. In Building Library 3.0: Issues in Creating a Culture of Participation, Evans’ sets out to do three things, 1) define the concept of Library 2.0 and the new library patron, (2) describe how specific technological applications benefit library users, and (3) discuss how these advances affect the fundamentals of providing good library services. This is essentially a book for librarians. Evans assumes some knowledge of Library 2.0, and readers who are not familiar may need to do some side research for unfamiliar terms and concepts.

This book is recommended with some reservations related to writing style and organization. Evans writes in a somewhat folksy, meandering style, sharing with readers information and insights he has gained through his experience with social media and other emerging technologies. With a humorous undertone, he discusses the benefits and pitfalls of participating with patrons in new and different ways. His writing style is somewhat like blog entries collected into a book.

Evans’ first section on Library 2.0 covers material that in large part has been covered well by other authors. In his discussion of characteristics of the new library user, he refers to two studies – the 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Project and the 2005 OCLC study, Perceptions of Libraries and Information Sources. The results of both of these studies have been cited frequently since being published, and with the speed of technological change may be somewhat dated. He covers in a varying amount of detail the use of blogs and other social media — such as Facebook, MySpace, Second Life — mobile devices, and folksonomies. Generally, he favors using these resources, pointing out what he has learned by trial and error.

I found that similar information in other sources was more usable to me, primarily due to the organization of the material. For instance, in Library 2.0, Casey and Savastinuk’s organization of information moved in logical progression from a definition of library 2.0, traditional vs. newer library services, essential ingredients of excellent service, to developing mission statements and community analysis. On this foundation, discussion of participatory library services and technologies fit naturally into an overall strategic plan. Casey provided more detail of the nuts and bolts of implementation of these technologies. In her book, The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student, Susan Gibbons also provided a framework as to the mission of the academic library and how the new technologies can support that mission. In contrast, Evans delays until the end of the book his discussion about the fundamentals of good library service which are important no matter what the medium.

However, Evans does cover some new and useful ground in looking ahead to the possibilities of Library 3.0 and the discussion of technological advances, such as more sophisticated RFID capabilities and QR code, which are not generally in use in libraries at this time. He challenges the reader to think about what might happen if with advanced RFID, “our books become ‘blogjects’ constantly updating themselves, constantly informing us and our patrons of each object’s activity, location, and current use and user.” He encourages the reader to think out of the box and imagine other potential future scenarios such as situations in which devices could record what material patrons are browsing in the library which would then automatically display this information on the OPAC when the patron logged in. This section provided a thought provoking preview into potential capabilities that many of us have difficulty imagining.

Evans’ strongly held point of view is that libraries need to have a solid basis in utilizing the participatory technologies of Library 2.0 in preparation for what will come in the future. For instance, the developing “semantic web” will change libraries’ role in assisting customers to find information. What role will libraries play in this scenario? Evans pushes consideration of the issues and observes “librarians can’t individually or collectively turn back the tides of culture, but if we embrace the changes we see, maybe we can shape the future.”

Evans’ passion about libraries and the fate of libraries of the future comes through clearly in his writing. He states, ‘the world is in ferment and it is a new century for librarianship.’ Evans implores librarians not to sit back and watch but to push the boundaries of their imagination, and help shape what the new century will become.

References

Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk, Library 2.0 (Information Today 2007)

Susan Gibbons, The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student (American Library Association 2007)

Reviewed by Beverly Burmeister, Cataloging Services Librarian, Valparaiso University School of Law Library

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