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Library 2.0: What's in a Name?

What's Library 2.0? Check out "Library 2.0 and 'Library 2.0'" by Walt Crawford (Cites & Insights [2006] 6:2). It's quite long, so if you'd like to print it out, please read Crawford's advice regarding printing.
If there is a Library 2.0 (or L2, as some have begun calling it), then there must be a Library 1.0 (henceforth, L1). But what might L1 be? Could it be that L2 refers to the new, and L1 to the old? Could it be that what has happened recently is so revolutionary that it justifies dividing the development of libraries into L2 and L1? Is it possible that Jesus Christ the librarian has just been born?

If you are offended by that last question, perhaps you can begin to understand why some have taken offense at the term "Library 2.0." Some have asked whether L2 means that nothing that came before was considered revolutionary, and cite the invention of the card catalog as an example. Could it be that everything that preceded L2 was evolutionary in nature?

What's in a name? AD and BC are very familiar to most people. Christians will probably say that AD stands for After the Death of Christ, and that BC stands for Before Christ. But what about the Muslims and the other non-Christians? Should we, in fact, measure time according to the life and death of a God-man who is important only to a minority? This is the reason the terms CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before the Common Era) have begun to be used. Guess what? You probably haven't heard of CE and BCE because they haven't quite caught on. After centuries of AD and BC, it looks like this division of time—whether rightly or wrongly—is here to stay.

But no, this post is not about religion. It's about names—the need to describe what we perceive and put a label on them. Some people dislike being labeled. Maybe you're a baby boomer. Perhaps you're a member of Gen X. I suppose I'm a Martial Law baby (if you're not Filipino, you probably won't know what this is), but I wouldn't really identify myself as such.

But it cannot be denied that names are necessary. We need to call the different pieces of furniture we have in our houses different names. After all, if we called everything "chair" just because we find them in houses, how would we differentiate between what we now know as table, cabinet, door, chair? Or should we just point at things with our fingers?

We need a name for where we are now. We need names for the various "eras" of librarianship. It can be L2 and L1; or the Tech, Card, and Parchment Eras; or the Scroll, Book and Web Stages, etc., but I think librarianship—or is it the information profession?—has matured enough to start giving such names. It's possible that such names have been given before, but how come I don't hear them much?

Who will decide which terms will become AD and BC for our profession? In scientific revolutions, competing paradigms are presented and the "fittest" paradigm survives—along with the terminology it employs. But does our field even have competing paradigms? [What's a paradigm, anyway? "A way of looking" is the simplest definition I can give at this time when I don't want to start quoting Kuhn or Covey.] The closest we have, I think, are LCC and DDC, but I don't think the triumph of one over the other—they seem to be coexisting very well—will count as a revolution.

Who will decide? We all will. But it will probably take a long time. I hope the proponents of L2 will start clarifying their thoughts, take into account the criticisms, and start coming up with a paradigm. I also hope that those who are offended by L2 will come up with an alternative name and propose a competing paradigm. And then, maybe we can start a real debate.

What will I do? I'm going to sleep. I still have to explain L2 to my students tomorrow.

Category: Libraries

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