Phil Bradley - Future of Librarians Interview

Phil Bradley blogs at Phil Bradley and is the author of How to Use Web 2.0 in your Library. But why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself for readers who might not know you?

Sure, I got an Honors degree in Librarianship back in the early 80s. I worked for the British Council through most of the decade, then got involved in CD-ROM and became Head, Tech Support UK and Europe for SilverPlatter. Did that for five years, then another two as Global Director of Training. Discovered the Internet in 1992, became an Internet consultant in 1996. I run training courses on different aspects of the Internet, do website design, SEO work for clients, write about the internet, talk about it at conferences and so on. I have a particular interest in search engines, and was at one of the first Microsoft 'Search Champs' looking at what they were doing. When not working I read widely and have a particular interest in the American Civil War.

Why should librarians read your new book?

Lots of reasons, including professional interest and updating. It's practical in nature and shows them what Web 2.0 is all about, so they can actually start to use this stuff. It gives them some ideas of what other libraries are doing. It's also the kind of book that they can give their management to bring them up to speed on what Web 2.0 is, in an attempt to move them into the new paradigm.

What does Library 2.0 mean to you?

Library 2.0 is simply an incarnation of what Web 2.0 can do. It should hopefully be anarchic. New resources allow librarians to do new things directly with knowledge and information, increasingly without the technology getting in the way. Finally, technology can start to help, very easily, and becomes a tool in the hands of the unskilled. If used properly it will change organizations, for the better one hopes! It's helping to give librarians a louder voice, and one that travels further.

How do you personally use the library? How do you search for and access information in general?

You're referring to a library as though it is a thing that exists, that we can all understand. Clearly that's not the case. A public library is going to be very different from a corporate library, which is different from an academic one. Interests differ, users differ, requirements differ. There is no such thing as 'the library', except in terms so generic as to be almost meaningless. The only library that I use is my local public library, and I use that checking out fiction. I cannot recall the last time I used a library for 'information'. I'd estimate well over a decade. All the information that I need I'll find off the Internet.

In your opinion, what are the most useful features of libraries today?

Once again I'd have to say I don't know what "library" means. However, in generic terms I would say that a library exists as a repository of information, and should be a central point of a community. It often isn't, but I think that it should be. The information should be of a variety of different types, but often is limited to books and CDs, with maybe a few DVDs thrown in.

What would you say are the most useless features of libraries today? What can libraries do to eliminate them?

They're not current with what is happening in the world - many of them are almost a decade behind what's really happening. But I'm afraid that once again the question doesn't actually mean much - some libraries, particularly in a corporate environment, are top notch and really looking at ways in which they can use technology like Web 2.0 to their best advantage. What often holds libraries back is the management who still see libraries as the room with books in it, the technical people who are not interested in helping librarians do what they need, and often the users, who don't consider exactly what a library can do for them. The answer is education and outreach, thinking laterally and demonstrating what libraries can do.

While Library 2.0 harnesses many different technologies for the movement's many needs, what single technology would you say is the most exciting, and necessary component to the progress of Library 2.0?

RSS. It's the glue that holds everything together. Without it, we don't really have Web 2.0, we simply have a disparate collection of fun toys.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Phil. To get more great insight from Phil Bradley, read his thoughts on Web 2.0, or check out his book How to Use Web 2.0 in your Library.

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