Traditionally the library is a place to check out books or attend a program. This has been true whether the library was in a community, a school, a university or a business.
But things are changing. Libraries are extending their services to keep up with new technology and to reach out to a much wider audience, including those who have never stepped foot in a library building.
One particular area of concentration is to expand the use of Web 2.0 tools (referred to in library circles as Library 2.0). These tools include blogs, podcasts, wikis and social networking tools such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.
When the World Wide Web, or Internet, was first introduced, it was basically a static tool that people could use to find information on a variety of topics. Web 2.0 goes several steps further and allows people to interact and participate in a number of applications. Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com) is a good example. While traditional encyclopedias are available on the Web, Wikipedia allows users to contribute knowledge and build their own encyclopedia. It's a great example of how the Web embraces individual participation.
In fact, "participation" is the theme of Web 2.0. In a column last month, I wrote about a few Web 2.0 tools, Library Thing, Good Reads and Shelfari. These sites give readers the tools to make lists, rate the books they've read and get feedback. It's the participation of others that make these sites more useful than just a list of the books one has read.
Applied to a library setting, Library 2.0 allows users many more ways to both access library programs and services and to comment on them.
For example, MySpace is a social networking Web site that allows friends to interact with each other online. Since so many teenagers are on MySpace, this is a perfect way for libraries to reach out using tools familiar to this age group. See the MySpace page of the Schaumburg Township District Library by going to www.myspace.com and putting STDLteen in the search box.
Many libraries are starting to develop podcasts, which are simply audio files that can be accessed sitting at your computer, or downloaded to an iPod or MP3 player. (For an example, visit my podcast at www.sarahlong.org/podcast/.)
Some libraries have started recording library programs and meetings and making them available as podcasts. Instead of going to the library to hear a book talk, library patrons can access a podcast of the same talk while stuck in traffic on their way to work.
For example, the Kankakee Public Library's newest podcast features former Gov. George Ryan and his wife, Lura Lynn, discussing her book "At Home with Illinois Governors," a history of the Executive Mansion in Springfield. Find it at www.lions-online.org. Podcasts also are being developed for use as a self-guided tour for new library visitors.
A blog is a Web site that gives an individual the power to share news or commentary on anything. In turn, readers can comment on blog postings. Some libraries are using blogs on their home pages to publicize what's new at the library and to invite comments from users on how the library can better serve them. The Des Plaines Public Library uses a blog to highlight upcoming events and other important issues. Visit www.dppl.org and click on PlainTalk.
These are just a few examples of Web 2.0 tools and how libraries are making use of them. Next time you visit your library in person or online, ask staff how they are making use of Library 2.0.