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24 Jul 2007 / Julie

In progress: Reference 2.0 discussion

While folks outside Library Land have caught on to Library 2.0, I’d like to move on to Reference 2.0 (reference, after all, being my current purpose in life).

There’s currently a discussion in QuestionPoint circles about Yahoo! Answers, other such services, and VR’s place within all that. It all started with an email from Vince Mariner (AskHerePA) about Amazon’s AskVille and has morphed into one about building communities around reference. Susan McGlamery’s post on on it all got me thinking some more about communities and reference:

Would a community of librarians and customers be built (and feel) the same as any other 2.0 community (like Yahoo! Answers, Flickr, ipod, LibraryThing, etc)?

What constitutes a 2.0 community is essentially a bunch of ppl coming together around a shared interest. Flickr’s community is around photography (and a ton of sub-communities). iPod’s success is because of their community (they’re not really the best portable music player around, but they have built up a community). LibraryThing can be used as social networking for book people. And Yahoo!Answers is a community of people who have questions? No, there’s got to be more to it.

What makes Yahoo! Answers’ community? Is it because anyone can answer questions? Local experts or people with random knowledge can put it to good use by helping out their fellow humans? Is it a community because others can see whats going on and what’s being asked and give others the opportunity to chime in and get a discussion going? Is it because there’s a human face? Does the blog contribute to that (every ask service Yahoo!, askville, etc seems to have a blog)? [as a side note, i love the fact that Yahoo! (represented by what looks like a ninja mouse) posted their community guidelines on their blog and some random person commented, "looks fine to me..keep up the good work." people will take authority wherever it seems given to them. & we should give it to them! We may be the last, but we're certainly not the only word.

Whatever makes Yahoo! Answers successful is not something I think we should try to replicate. We have something different. We have librarians (despite however many librarians are on Y!A answering questions), mentors who care. What should be constituting community for us is the personal touch. Through effective communication (staying present, letting the customer know you haven't abandoned them, etc) and a playful outlook (we're professionals, but not stick-in-the-muds) we should be bonding with our customers. They should become our friends, not just our "friends." By making them understand that we genuinely care about their questions (and them!) we can create not only a community, but long term and lifelong friends. Wouldn't it be fantastic to serve the children of our current customers?!

I don't remember a librarian who influenced me as a kid, or helped me through a redefining moment in my life, but I do have a few teachers like that. And teachers and librarians aren't that much different. We're all supposed to be helping folks through life- either by actively teaching them, or by helping them through questions when they have them.

Aside from making friends and repeat customers, good customer service will spread the word like wildfire. PPl will tell others about their "fantastic experience with the librarian" and soon it will turn into "hey, you should ask Jenny [the librarian] about that!”

Okay, so say we’ve got the customer service thing down pat and we’re solid… don’t we want to link other users with each other and with librarians? How do we do this? A blog where questions and answers are posted for discussion? That seems too much like critique than community.

I don’t think I have the answer to how we build community after we’ve gotten the customer service aspect down pat, but that’s okay because there’s tons to do in the realm of cust. svs.

More as I think of it…

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