Things Noticed: The “Slow Library” Movement

The Dalhousie SIM Alumni Association’s Outstanding Alumni (pdf file sorry) Award Winner for 2006 is Mark Leggott. As the winner, Mark spoke to alumni and students last night on a topic of his choosing. His topic was something he called “The Slow Library Movement.

As far as I can tell, the Slow Library Movement is a movement by Mark to give a more meaningful voice to Web/Library 2.0. The solutions are the same, but the message is more focussed, less panicked and in my view, more compelling than the views I’ve heard in the Web 2.0 field.

I have written more than once on the difficulty in translating the opportunities created by Web 2.0 to the rubber-hits-the-road applications of community development. People who have tried the Web 2.0 technologies understand that Web 2.0 is about [seemingly endless] possibilities for a more connected future. Essentially, you can take almost any human need and there is a possible Web 2.0 application to help resolve it, if only people would just try it.

Ironically, while Web 2.0 means increased accessibility, in some ways the movement is also quite insular and imperialistic. Web 2.0 is a technology-based analogy, relevant more to the software development community than it is to your average Joe off the street. Some advocates also speak as if the deal is “use Web 2.0 or perish.”

My response to the Web 2.0 trend has been to use the Web 2.0 tag to attract interest, offer hands-on tools of so called “Web 2.0 applications” and then get my audiences to tell me what *they* think Web 2.0 is. This has been successful because once people try something like Google documents, they usually see how it can be applied to their everyday situation and begin to understand some of the possibilities that it affords.

The other side of the Web 2.0 coin is that I sometimes end up being the victim of my success. “Great! I like RSS, and blogs and wikis — can you set one up for my team with these specifications, provide training and make sure it doesn’t blow up or divulge our at work information to the public?” If only one person said this, this would be fine. But when every manager of every department of every community partner knows that you can provide a Web 2.0 solution for them, that’s where things get hard. Web 2.0 is cool. Managing and determining the priority areas for technology is harder.

Well, here comes Mark with the “Slow Library Movement” and I’m inspired. If I have him right (and I am sure Mark sees this movement as a conversation more than a manifesto), Mark is saying “ubiquity is not an end in and of itself.” Here are some “Let’s” thoughts that may or may not apply to the Slow Library Movement”:

  • Let’s focus on realistic, local solutions and build community first.
  • Let’s forget about Web 2.0 for a second, understand our customers needs and then apply or give access to resources that help them satisfy those needs.
  • Let’s play.
  • Let’s shun pressure to “keep up” with Ann Arbor (sorry John Blyberg), Hennepin County (sorry Glenn Peterson via Tame the Web) and etc. and apply our own strengths to come up with our own creative ideas.
  • Let’s focus on what we can do right now to make the community a better place.
  • Let’s notice the beauty of things right before our eyes, and let supporting that be our Return on Investment.

I think there are lots of “Let’s” that can come out of the Slow Library Movement. I look forward to seeing/hearing more as this develops.

I also look forward to seeing how the Open Space/World Cafe/Appreciative Inquiry community folks could exploit the “Slow Library Movement” to their advantage (and “exploiting libraries” is precisely what communities should try to do).

Good one Mark! You’ve got me convinced!