Blyberg’s statement, which sounds unremarkable and obvious, is, in my opinion, a fundamental question and a starting point for any library determined to embrace change and Library 2.0 ideals. I’m not sure if the word “frantic” is entirely necessary, but I do think it’s important to evaluate not only the diverse needs of our communities but also what each library is able to offer to its users. By that I mean establishing what materials, services and programs you’re able to offer with the resources that you have that will support your community.
The whole idea behind a niche is worth examining. I struggle to understand libraries that throw a bunch of new services or tools together without any rhyme or reason, never taking the time to evaluate if they’re supporting the mission and goals of the library.
Trying to be everything to everyone and at the same time not taking into consideration the needs of users and the capabilities and resources of staff is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s important for libraries to experiment with different technologies and tools that are becoming available. But isn’t it also important for libraries to stay focused on their users?
I guess my point is that Library 2.0 tools should be implemented with the consideration of the community’s needs, the library’s resources, and the library’s niche within its community. Which comes down to, what the library can offer that no one else can in the same way.
And I’m not talking about being unique, just relevant and useful, as Sarah Houghton pointed out. Implementing changes as a reaction to technology is not the answer. Competing with Google is not the answer. We shouldn’t be motivated by fear of search engines taking over and providing our users with the information that we want to provide them; just as library 2.0 tools shouldn’t be implemented as a reaction to search engines or other emerging technologies. Instead, we should focus on the real needs of our users, on what we can offer them that Google can’t.
Change within our libraries should be motivated by a deep understanding of our library users and their needs. The resulting niche will evolve from the carefully selected Library 2.0 services that cater specifically to our communities.
On second thought, maybe I’m taking this niche idea too seriously. Maybe it is better for libraries to be unfocused, experimental, maybe even a bit vague and undefined.
What do you think?