Libraries and the Social Web?
A recent feedback message questioned whether libraries have a place on the social Web. If ease of use, community, experience and knowledge are valued; then libraries and librarians are perfectly suited for this new online environment. Many, many other bloggers have posted on this topic, including all of the bloggers ranked by OEDb and several books and articles have been published on the topic lately. This is just my take from the WorldCat.org side of things.
Why Social Networking
Social networking and Web 2.0 in general have come to mean many different things. I can understand why the terms--and even some of the tools we associate with the terms--are misunderstood. We at WorldCat.org are not thinking so much about social networking, rather we are building a space where information seekers, library patrons and librarians can come together and collaborate.
We are thinking well beyond the me-tooism of chasing 'friends' on MySpace or 'fans' on Facebook, even as we exploit those environments to bring library resources closer to Web users. If WorldCat.org was just a list of 'friends' and the books they have read, it would be nothing more than all the other book related sites.
It's All About Easy
Librarians and professional researchers have had access to OCLC's WorldCat database for decades. But we made the public face of that database easy to use so everyone can benefit from the knowledge accumulated in libraries and from the experience of librarians.
The first generation of Web-based tools provided services similar to what these sites offer, but the tools of yesterday required patience, arcane knowledge and often browser plugins and high-speed Internet access. We were able to share photos in the 1990's and even earlier, but those tools were so complicated or expensive that most people never bothered. In fact most people didn't even know the opportunity to learn from and share with each other existed online. IMHO we all lost out.
We are making WorldCat.org as easy to use as possible and building tools to help Web users everywhere to discover the wealth of information libraries, experts and librarians can bring to bare on common questions. By brining library resources to the Web user, we will increase the reach and impact that a 'serious researcher' or librarian can have within their area of expertise.
So thank a librarian, a teacher, a student, a professor and a sergeant. Thank a stay-at-home mom, a pastor, a rabbi. Thank a business analyst, an entrepreneur and a delivery driver. Thank your neighbors for helping to create this great learning environment of Web 2.0. And I thank the collective You for so many years of sharing and teaching.