Info Pro on the Edge


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Sometimes the pace of change scares even me, and I'm generally an early adopter. I got one of the first PC-compatible iPods hot off the assembly line, a set of Bose headphones when they first came out—heck, I was a beta-tester for Verizon's DSL service, and have the banging-my-head-against-the-wall scars to prove it.

But today, while contemplating my navel and the state of the info pro universe, I realized that hip new trends in the info world go out of style faster than a Paris Hilton retrospective. Take the concept of Library 2.0. It began with a panel discussion at the October 2005 Internet Librarian conference, a blog entry in Library Crunch, and a white paper produced in November by the UK-based company Talis Information, provocatively titled "Do libraries matter? The rise of Library 2.0." A year later, some bloggers view Library 2.0 as so last week, or as merely a new name for what innovative libraries have been doing for years.

That said, I will run the risk of being more obsolete than WordStar and speculate on what aspects of Library 2.0 will be relevant and useful in 2007.

We will be using tagging tools through Flickr, YouTube, and whatever comes next, to see what were the most popular tags in the last 24 hours or last week. Think of the Google Zeitgeist tool on steroids; tags actually show what people have found, not just what they're looking for.

Speaking of tags, we will start seeing more creative approaches to tagging content that already has controlled vocabulary indexing. We can add user-generated tags to an existing taxonomy, thereby allowing users to search with the terms they are more likely to use. As an added bonus, a news item tagged as "webisodes" might alert an info pro to both the relatively new concept of these web-based video shows similar to a television series, and to the need to monitor the use of webisodes by traditional broadcasters.

Knowledge management may finally come into its own with the use of internal wikis and comment-enabled internal blogs. These collaborative tools can serve as ways to surface the expertise of "hidden" experts within an organization. I have an image of a wary stray dog: You know that she's probably got lots of affection to give you, but you don't want to scare her away by demanding that she come here right now. Likewise, some of the most valuable knowledge within an organization may be hidden within the brains of employees who don't recognize their expertise or don't want to appear to be tooting their horn. A wiki can encourage them to share what they know in a less threatening environment.

Information centers will begin creating internal podcasting labs to enable employees to share with others what they learned at a conference, seminar, or meeting. It is often much easier to encourage people to talk for 15 minutes about their impressions and insights than to sit down and write them out.

We will start using—and developing our own—organization-specific mashups, integrating internal information with open source content to create new discovery tools. For some ideas, see Talis Information's "Mashing Up the Library" competition (www.talis.com/tdn/forum/82). As I write, the winner has not yet been announced, but just reviewing the ideas submitted inspires thought. Consider a mashup that pulls together search results from Amazon.com with a summary from the 520 field of the corresponding MARC record, or one that uses Google Desktop to search a library catalog.

And I look forward to watching how our clients and patrons make use of tools such as LibraryThing.com. I am particularly impressed with LibraryThing's ability to let users see how others have tagged a book; this gives info pros a way of seeing other aspects of the value of that book to readers. Although the assigned subject headings for Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed may simply be Social Change-Case Studies and Environmental Policy-Case Studies, for example, I may also want to add tags for Montana, Easter Island, and population density.

As Stephen Abram of SirsiDynix said at the 2006 Special Libraries Association annual conference, "Don't tell [clients] how to do things; give them the tools and let them do it their own way." I might add to that, "give them the tools and get out of the way. Sit back and watch what they create." Not only is Library 2.0 all about collaboration between users and information, it can also be collaboration between users and info pros, in which we both work toward building a new framework for information.