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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's a beautiful day - don't let it get away

Thanks to my coworker Bob Blanchard for posting his "virtual iPod" playlist. "Beautiful Day" is a great song by U2, one of my favorite bands. It's also the perfect description for the weather that finally broke through the clouds and gloom mid-morning, so I will have the song in my head all day for sure.

The Internet Librarians awakened to grey skies and fog hanging over the bay, so everyone pressed on and made it back to Conference Land, fueled by free coffee. The sun graced us with its presence right around the end of this morning's keynote. Today's keynote speaker was Joe Janes, always delightfully off-color, aware and courageous. Courageous because it's not always easy to confront a group of people with the concept that if they don't shape up, innovate and stay relevant, extinction is inevitable. Librarians have an unpleasant tendency to cling oh-so-tightly to the past. Not that we shouldn't respect the longstanding tradition of librarianship - but you can appreciate the Rosetta Stone while preferring and using Google, if you know what I'm saying.

That reminds me - Bob Blanchard also asked, "What is Web 2.0? Library 2.0?" Bad assumption on my part that such library-tech jargon would be meaningful to most people. Brief history lesson: the Internet, the actual network of world-wide computers that can communicate with each other, has been around since the 1960s. It was developed for military usage, to prevent communication breakdown in the event of war, disaster, etc. Not long after, scientists and researchers realized this world-wide network held much promise for them as well, allowing research facilities to share information quickly. Researchers often do their work on university and college campuses, so then those educational facilities got into Internet development too and brought sophisticated tech-geeks along for the ride. Suddenly it was the 1990s, and Tim Berners-Lee and some Swiss physicists created hypertext mark-up language and the World Wide Web and - welcome to the free-for-all. That is the "Internet" as most people know it, the dot.coms, Amazon, eBay, CNN, Wal-Mart online. That is what we now think of as Web 1.0 - the earliest version of the WWW. Web 2.0 resides on the trails we've been blazing in the last few years, not just spaces for getting information and buying stuff, but online interaction and participation. It's YouTube, blogs, Wikipedia, Flickr, and countless numbers of creative online services and applications - many, even most of them, Open Source and free of charge. The conference I am attending, Internet Librarian, is subtitled "Info Pros, Library Communities & Web Tools." In other words, it's a conference to connect information professionals (librarians) with these new Web 2.0 tools in order to better serve their library communities. Web 2.0 will help libraries stay relevant. People in contemporary society want to be more involved with information, they want to contribute to the body of knowledge, they want to share their opinions and expertise. Libraries that continue to function as sacred temples of knowlege where the unworthy come to be enlightened by the genius of librarians are, as Joe Janes suggests, heading dangerously into obsolete-ville. Definitely not where DPPL wants to be, so I'm so grateful and enthused about the opportunities I have, as Web Services Librarian, to bring a new level of interactivity, usefulness and fun to our library patrons.

And that's why I'm here. I have more to tell you, but it's time to get back to the sessions, specifically workshops on creating employee tech training programs and doing screencasting and podcasting on a small budget. I'm having such a great time here, but I really can't wait to get back to work and start using what I'm learning.

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