Learning Blog #2(A): Black Swans

I’ve been thinking about Black Swans lately

Not the Natalie Portman film, although come to think of it, that would make a really interesting post). No I’ve been thinking about the book by Nassim Nicholas Talem, which is how unforseen, supposedly rare events can cause sudden and immediate change. The theory uses the discovery of the black swan as a metaphor for this idea:  Black swans were thought to not exist, and the discovery of a single one was enough to undermine centuries of thought. Virtually over night peoples old way of understanding their world no longer worked.

Black swans: It only takes one.

This image, that of a Black Swan, has been in my mind while I watched Michael Stephens talk on the Hyperlinked Library. Stephens gives plenty of examples of libraries still stuck in old ways of thinking.    Those that don’t allow patrons to use their phones, block social networking sites,  and some don’t seem to want patrons using their material (You can only LOOK at the new books, but not check them out? Really? Really?).  To me then it isn’t so much being optimistic or pesimistic about 2.0, it’s about accepting that the landscape has changed, that some of the old ways of serving patrons may be  inadequate to meet the needs of todays patrons. We’ve gone through the seismic shift and the old models and ways of thinking (“there are only white swans” ) no longer work.  There are now a variety of new tools available for libraries to reach their patrons, and keeping William Powers caution in mind, it is time to make decisions and take action.

I don’t think the “Black Swan” of 2.0 is all about technology either. As Stephens points out, it is as much a philisophical shift as it is a technical shift. The ideas of transperency, loosening control, visibility, and collaboration are all ideas that can be implemented in libraries regardless of size or kind.  I think the most important philosophy of web and library 2.0 is that of adapting to constant change. Because before too long, the idea of social media, with all its blogs and tweets, will become the new norm: the new standard way of thinking (“there are only white swans”).  if we can be flexible and adaptable, than we stand a much better chance of being prepared the next time a Black Swan is discovered. Because remember? It only takes one.


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