There is an old cliche that says, “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Over the last year, I have been focused on trees.  Those trees have consisted of web 2.0 tools and how to incorporate those web 2.0 tools into my library program and information literacy instruction.  Those trees have included things like social bookmarking (, RSS, wikis, Google Scholar, Google Books, Pageflakes, podcasts, vodcasts, and blogging (of course!) to name just a few.  The buzzword “Library 2.0” seems to be on the radar of many school library media specialists these days thanks to pioneers like Joyce Valenza.  As Joyce pointed out in her September 27 blog post, “Shift [has] happened.  Our response is not optional.”   She points out the urgency of librarians recognizing the shifting landscape of our profession,  observing:

I am seeing a huge librarian divide between the 2.0-type library folks and those who are barely 1.0.  I am worried.I am worried about many of the librarians across the state, and in programs like ours in other states.  What happens when the tech coach comes in new to the school?  What happens when the librarian finds him/herself far less trained for integration than the newly trained, newly empowered tech coach?  What happens when a librarian and a library program cannot even demonstrate awareness of the shifts in the information landscape? 

Joyce also included comments from participants in the Classrooms for the Future “Boot Camp”:

My librarian doesn’t get it.  She is only interested in quiet and books.  She doesn’t let the kids work together. She could never create an online pathfinder.  She never told me about Creative Commons or open source. Does she even know about that stuff? My librarian won’t event let the kids use Wikipedia.  Help teachers with 2.0 applications? Are you kidding?  My librarian is afraid of blogs and podcasts and wikis. 

As many of you know, Joyce’s concept of “Web 2.0 Meets Information Fluency” is truly visionary—if you haven’t read it, put this article on your “must read” list right NOW.

In two weeks, I am teaching a class about valid or authoritative resources (which is slated to look at traditional sources, web 2.0 tools, and of course, Wikipedia).  We all know that we want our students and patrons to use authoritative sources.  Heavens knows that I have done my share of hand wringing and worrying (quietly and vocally!) as we have tried to convince our students there is another world of information outside the Googlesphere.   Many of us have expressed concern about students perceiving Wikipedia as an authoritative source and their underdeveloped website evaluation skills.

Lately, though, I have been thinking long and hard about what exactly constitutes an authoritative source in our web 2.0 world.  We all know from experience as researchers and school library students about traditional and long revered authoritative sources:  reference books, scholarly journals, research databases.  We know the power of those resources from firsthand experience. Yet I also know from personal experience in the last year that I have found incredible sources of information and a wealth of knowledge through web 2.0 tools like blogs and 

As I was rereading Joyce’s article on “Web 2.0 Meets Information Fluency” last week in preparation for the course I’m teaching, I could not help but start thinking again about how web 2.0 intersects with authoritative sources of information and how they are shaping that concept of “authority.” Other events that have prompted me to revisit my concept of what falls under the umbrella of authoritative sources include: 

  • Various blog entries I have read by other librarians and scholars
  • E-conversations with colleagues
  • Podcasts and vodcasts by other librarians and information literacy gurus
  • My own experiences in designing pathfinders for research with our students ( as well as pathfinders I’ve designed for my 11th grades students I teach at our district evening school).

While doing some research on library 2.0 this weekend, I happened upon a blog by newly retired academic librarian Laura Cohen and her entries about social scholarship. What started as a research effort about library 2.0 and additional resources I could share in my class turned into a whole new research endeavor about social scholarship, digital scholarship, and the concept of Authority 3.0. 

In the first blog post I read by Ms. Cohen, this quote from Leigh Dodds, Chief Technology Officer of the scholarly publisher Ingenta, jumped off the screen: 

Web 2.0 makes it easier for anyone to publish information online, and search engines make content more easily findable. But how do users know what information is authoritative? Do they even understand what “authoritative” means? And who defines that something is “authoritative” in the first place?

In scholarly publishing, the peer review process is an indicator of quality. But as content is increasingly mashed-up, syndicated and blogged in many different locations, how do users differentiate between peer reviewed content, and “user generated content”? And is there a natural progression from the creative chaos of Wikipedia, through the “gentle expert oversight” of Citizendium to, ultimately, the closed rigorous approach of double-blind peer review?

You can see Ms. Cohen’s excellent presentation here at Slideshare.

So what does social scholarship have to do with “Library 2.0”? 

In a word, everything.

Scholar Michael Jensen outlines what he sees as Authority 3.0 that he feels will come to pass in 10-15 years:  a whole new matrix or set of matrices that will influence scholarly authority.  You can read his June 2007 full article here at The Chronicle  of Higher Education, but in short, he feels resources like blogs, wikis, and other web 2.0 tools will change the landscape of authoritative sources.  

Why should we care about these concepts?  What do they have to do with us as school librarians?

First, we have to be able to see this “forest”.  I have been focused on the web 2.0 trees, but it is just in the last few months that I’ve started to see the “forest”—the implications of how these web 2.0 tools ARE shaping the information world and what counts as an authoritative source.  I haven’t even jumped into GALILEO yet to research these ideas, and look at how much knowledge I have already gleaned from blogs of respected scholars and librarians!  Can we not assume the same will be, if not already to some extent, true for our students? 

As Laura Cohen observes in her blog post, “Information Literacy in the Age of Social Scholarship”,

Blogs are also used to discuss matters that never make it into the journal or monographic literature, or even into magazine columns – and therefore their great value. In any case, you’re among the critical mass of individuals who read blogs as an important part of your professional engagement.

What do these web 2.0 tools really mean for our students?  My primary focus has been using these tools to help facilitate information to our students, but now I see my focus must shift to thinking about how these tools will be actual information sources for my students and teaching them how to evaluate them.  Does this mean I abandon my beloved databases and other reliable sources of information, such as books?  No, but I would be putting my head in the sand to ignore the fact that web 2.0 is changing the landscape of scholarship even as I write this blog post. 

In her blog post, “Resistance is Futile“, Laura Cohen discusses an article from Information Week that goes to the very heart of why being Librarian 2.0 is a necessity, not an option:

The article in question is titled “Resistance is Futile Fatal.” Yes, you read that right, strikeout and all. You can read it online. The article states, plainly enough, thatToday’s social networking and digital content sites are shaping IT users’ expectations and experiences for years to come….Businesses must take a longer-term view of these emerging applications and recognize that they’re being driven by forces that are more likely to gain momentum than die out. Rather than fight the inevitable, business technology managers must start exploring ways to leverage the new digital content ecosystem to meet their companies’ objectives.

Substitute “libraries” for “businesses” and this statement sounds familiar to those of us advocating for changes in the information culture of libraries. And did I see the word “must”? Dare to suggest in the library world that these changes are imperative and you need to duck for cover.

She concludes with this observation:

Our profession, as a whole, still hasn’t taken much of this seriously. How routinely do we use social networking to practice our profession? …I’m bringing all this up to make a point: as the information culture changes around us, the pressures for us to make wise use of this culture in our own practice will grow. Is resistance futile, or truly fatal? You tell me.

I have always felt “Library 2.0” and “Librarian 2.0” are not passing fads, but instead, concepts that describe how our profession should be and is changing to reflect the world around us and the needs of our users.  While we may struggle with the challenge of keeping up with these dizzying changes, we have to make the effort to do so. 

My research this weekend has truly been a revelation.  While I have heard and read all kinds of articles about web 2.0 and “Library 2.0”, this is the first I’ve really heard of “social scholarship”, “digital scholarship”, and “Authority 3.0”.  Yes, I have been blogging, and yes, I have been using with our students as a pathfinder tool.  Yes, I have experimented with wikis with our students.  I truly thought I was on my way to being a “Librarian 2.0”!

However,  I see now that what I have been doing is not enough.  I share my findings with you to help us all rethink and reenvision the concepts of “authority” and “authoritative research.”  Is it messy?  Yes.  Does the shifting landscape of web 2.0 require us to be open to redefining what we always held to be true?  Yes. 

If you think that perhaps the concept of social scholarship is mere rhetoric, I challenge you to “Google” terms like social scholarship or Authority 3.0.  Once I started digging this weekend, I was astonished at what I found.  As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t even yet had the chance to research these concepts through GALILEO, but stay tuned…I will bookmark anything I find there to  My  mind is still reeling even as I write this post, and I know I have barely scratched the surface.   Take a look at this person’s “Dissertation 2.0”—a Pageflakes mashup of digital scholarship! Be sure to visit the actual link as my “Kwuot” capture didn’t quite get the “live” version of the screencast).

Laura Cohen goes on to warn us that, “Authoritative bias is messy. It’s not as clear-cut as peer review vs. popular publishing. Its metrics have yet to be figured out. But the neat little world of beware-of-bias is fast disappearing. Information literacy needs to acknowledge this, and train students to watch for the train coming around the bend.”

Cohen also warns us that we must be open to change and to rethink how we define authority:

How do we do this?  Cohen cites these strategies and action steps:

  • Make students aware of the emergence of social scholarship.
  • Teach students about Authority 3.0 – or whatever you want to call it. Alert them to the expanding world of scholarly communication.
  • In conjunction with this, abandon of the notion that there is a clear distinction between traditional peer-reviewed authority and authority derived from social scholarship. To put this another way, introduce the notion that there are emerging metrics of authority that can be derived from social scholarship.
  • Use social tools (blogs, wikis, forums, social bookmarking, etc.) as part of the research process in their courses.
  • Assign readings from authoritative blogs in the research areas students are asked to explore.
  • Practice social scholarship, and show these activities as examples of what’s on the horizon.
  • Incorporate this new material in tutorials on their library’s Web site.

I am not advocating we abandon our traditional sources and ideas about authority and authoritative resources.  Instead, I am asking us all to think about if we as individuals and as  a group are being responsive to the needs of our patrons, needs that are rooted in the world around all of us.  We are already fighting to show our legislators that we make a difference;  in some communities, the challenge to show the validity and importance of today’s librarian spills even into the classrooms as we try to bring our teachers, students, and administrators into the world of Learning 2.0 and Library 2.0.   Here is a golden opportunity to seize the moment to lead and become an even more integral part of learning in our schools.

We cannot wait for change to envelop us.  Now is the time for us to be more proactive than ever and to be part of the change, not a mere spectator.

Buffy Hamilton, Ed.S.
Media Specialist, Creekview High School