Now scrolling: The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Week 6, Thing #15: What Web 2.0 Means to Me

To me, Web 2.0 means a further expansion of technology to better serve library patrons and to give them more personal freedom and options in accessing materials without the need to enter a library building, or request a librarian. This does not mean that a librarian's skills will become obsolete, only redefined.

Some thirteen years ago, Baltimore County Public Library made a decision that it was in the information business, not just the book business. The library redefined itself in broader terms as a prelude to installing internet computers for public use in the branches. At the time, it was considered a gamble. Now those computers are constantly busy, with patrons waiting in line to sign up for them.

At about the same time, we started an online catalog, gradually phasing out the physical card catalogs in the branches while retaining only one main card catalog at Administrative Offices as a "backup." Again, it was considered a risk. Now even the card catalog "backup" is gone. We have been fully online for years and have never looked back.

So when I read Rick Anderson proposal that libraries might one day eliminate most or all physical collections in favor of a totally online environment with Web 2.0, I am open to the idea, though again, it seems like a risk.

Already certain reference works are strictly online-accessible through websites, with cumbersome books disappearing such as Valueline, Lexis Nexis and some Maryland State reference sites. Such sites are easy to update on a daily basis, and now with cell phones able to access the internet, are more available than ever. So Web 2.0 seems to be the inevitable outcome of a long series of decisions to pool information online.

I especially enjoyed reading Chip Nilges’s updates on OCLC’s future as part of Web 2.0. I have watched that database grow from a simple supplier of bib records to an online conglomerate providing everything from translation services to Interlibrary Loan. I was especially impressed with the ability to use tags and place delimiters in subject headings to create a kind of Mappr graphics for patrons. The possibilities are endless.

There are, of course, always setbacks to technology. E-books and audiobooks have had some access problems. Also, the social environment of the library could suffer, as discussed by Dr. Wendy Schultz, or it could simply change to meet computer-based needs. Current computer popularity at the library might also mean that many still don’t have computer access at home, and might be overlooked as patrons in a library without walls.

Nevertheless, I am optimistic that libraries in general have a keen sixth sense about when it is time to discard print collections and shift to complete online resources, based on the community they serve and the funding at their disposal. I am hopeful that a library without walls, making use of the many options Web 2.0 offers, and flexible enough to provide service to users at home or anywhere, will be just as welcomed and even more widely accessed than the physical libraries of today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading about your library's history and future.