The Parallel Information Universe

Abstract: Eisenberg urges librarians to take the responsibility in the parallel information universe of “participation, user control, sharing, openness, and networking” that Web 2.0 has created, just as they have always done in the print information universe. He presents librarian-focused SWOT analyses of three major Web 2.0 technologies – virtual worlds, social networking, and personal digital devices – and then ties them back to the traditional library functions.


Eisenberg argues for adapting traditional library skills (metadata standards, for instance) to the digital environment and I heartily agree. My concern is that this is not happening quickly enough. One area that needs more speedy adoption is Web 2.0. Because of its collaborative and personal nature, it will allow us to bring our specialized skills and services directly to the user, wherever they may be. The goal is to make this virtual space (as, hopefully, we also strive to make our physical space) be welcoming, collaborative and useful.

Eisenberg’s strategy of performing SWOT analyses on various Web 2.0 technologies to assess their utility is brilliant and will save us from wasting time.  However, I’d argue that we also need to do user studies to make sure we aren’t wasting our users’ time either. For instance: Do your users want the option of reference instant messaging? Are they comfortable with librarians being in their Facebook space? Do or would any of them use virtual worlds for reference questions? And it’s not enough to merely employ the useful segment of these technologies, we must use them well, just as we do any other information resource.

Eisenberg, Mike. (2008). The Parallel Information Universe. Library Journal, 133(8), 22-25. Retrieved September 2, 2008, from Academic Search Complete database.