August 29, 2007

Before Web/ Library 2.0

This past June at ALA, I was amazed at the number of sessions geared toward Library 2.0. I attended one aimed at it's use in Technical services, basically as collaboration tools (blogged in a previous post). In my previous job, I could/can see uses for such things as a blog and a wiki, however, management was a little wary as nothing like that had been done or considered before. Since there was no share drive or intranet, the more I learn the more I believe these tools could have been used for not only meeting the needs of users, but also for internal collaboration (as was done by the presenters of said ALA session).

In my current place of work, we have share drives, which weren't at previous place of work, making the use of such collaboration tools not as necessary. After all, if a process is in place and working, it shouldn't be changed simply to use a new technology. Unless, that technology could improve the process and/or collaboration. I admit the drive could be better organized, but it's still there and accessible by everyone. However, a share drive doesn't quite encourage collaboration the way a wiki could/would.

The more I think about it though, the more I realize I was using collaborative tools in my previous life and pre web point anything. In my previous life, I held several positions with a software company. One was in their Customer Care department, which when created involved more than working with a phone script. We had to know several different products, their supported platforms, 3rd party products that worked with the software, billing/invoicing processes and procedures, what was coming in future releases, and a host of other things. If we didn't know the answer, we had to know where to go for that answer.

The company used Lotus Notes, which also provided a way to create databases. My main page contained links to the databases I used most frequently. Each product line and almost every department had a database we could go to to find the information we needed or to at least find a contact person. As our group grew, we realized the need for a database for our issues/resolutions and created it - one that could be searched by the entire company and edited by everyone in our group. I should also add that our "team" was spread from coast to coast. We had people in MD, IL, MI, Canada, MA, PA, TX, and CA. The database allowed for collaboration and everyone contributed. Today it would probably be created using a wiki. We dealt with the majority of our customers via phone or e-mail.

Because we were so scattered, we used chat for quick communications. That was actually my first introduction to web chat - I used it for work first and then expanded it to personal friends. So, coming to the library profession and seeing the "innovations" of e-mail and chat reference are really not so new to me - I was doing that six years ago.

I look at all the "innovations" and uses of technology in libraries today and realize that there have always been tools for collaboration. What appears to be innovative probably has been done before -- what's old is new.