Written By: Haley McGlynn
Libraries today provide a plethora of services to their communities and serve as a technological hub for patrons, offering a “multi-media experience,” with collections that include digital materials and physical technologies (Manness, 2006). With the prevalence of technology in the library, the term “Library 2.0” has been coined to encapsulate the social and intrapersonal nature of libraries today. The term comes from “Web 2.0”, which defines the modern web as a social facilitator with user-created content.
According to Manness (2006), Library 2.0 has four essential elements: libraries are user-centered, provide a “multi-media experience,” are “socially rich,” and are “communally innovative”. The “user-centered” nature of Library 2.0 means that the focus of the library and the librarian is the patron.
Libraries are also “socially rich” — users can connect with other patrons and librarians via library websites and social media (Manness, 2006). For example, the Denton Public Library’s online catalog allows users to track what books or materials they use and create recommendation lists that can be shared with other users.
Libraries are “communally innovative” — as communities change, library services adapt their services to be facilitators of these new resources, and in recent years, these resources have primarily been digital resources and educational services to train patrons on how to use them (Manness, 2006). Libraries today aim to provide accessible resources to all users and patrons despite income, background, education, etc. through diversity initiatives that focus on providing services to people or populations that have been previously underserved. The Spark is a great example of this initiative — the technology they have available to students, and the classes they host to educate students about that technology, is a bridge to accessible technological resources and equipment for students.
However, some of the high-level services and information available to library users within libraries isn’t accessible to all people, including the “information poor” subclass, as described by Jain and Saraf (2013, p. 51) and Cancro (2016, p. 59), due to a discrepancy in the levels of library knowledge among patrons.
Despite the plethora of digital resources available to library patrons, groups of higher socioeconomic status are able to access these resources faster and easier, creating the “information-rich”, and on the opposite end of the spectrum lies the “information-poor” who cannot afford access to those resources or are not knowledgeable of how to access them (Cancro, 2016, p. 59). Many library patrons, especially students at UNT, solely use the library for these digital resources, computers, or printers. Libraries, particularly public and academic libraries, often exist as “access points” for these technologies, but patrons might lack sufficient training to utilize those resources (Cancro, 2016, p. 59).
Librarians and other information professionals, especially public librarians, carry the responsibility of being both the facilitator and educator on technology in the library. Librarians act as the middleman between the information and the user, or the technology and the user, and it is the library’s job to facilitate that access to information by “recruiting people from a variety of backgrounds to the profession; implementing a hiring process that will be most likely to result in the appointment of diverse librarians; and finally, committing to retaining a diverse team of employees once they are hired” (Cruz, 2019, p. 229). In addition to introducing and following through with diversity initiatives, librarians must make the effort to get ahead of needs changes and have the willingness to adapt (Hirsh, 2016).
With the abundance of information that is available to us and our patrons, access to that information should be a right. Librarians exist to be the middleman between the information searcher and the information, easing access to that information by knowing where and how to find it, and by “bridging information access gaps” (Jain & Saraf, 2013, p. 51). The “free flow of information can reduce the digital divide/information divide among the citizens,” and libraries and librarians have the power to close that divide (Jain & Saraf, 2013, p. 47).
Did this blog help you learn about libraries as facilitators of information access? Let us know your comments! Please contact Ask Us if you have any questions about library services.
Cancro, P. (2016). The dark(ish) side of digitization: Information equity and the digital divide. The Serials Librarian, 71(1), 57-62. https://doi.org/10.1080/0361526X.2016.1157424
Cruz, A. M. (2019). Intentional integration of diversity ideals in academic libraries: A literature review. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(3), 220–227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2019.02.011
Jain, V., & Saraf, S. (2013). Empowering the poor with right to information and library services. Library Review, 62(1), 47-52. https://doi.org/10.1108/00242531311328159
Maness, J. M. (2006). Library 2.0 theory: Web 2.0 and its implications for libraries. Webology, 3(2).
Hapel, R. (2012). The Library as a Place. Public Library Quarterly, 31(1), 48-55. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2012.654737
Oliphant, T. (2014). “I’m a library hugger!”: Public libraries as valued community assets. Public Library Quarterly, 33(4), 348-361. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2012.654737