A while ago, I wrote about the difference between being user-centered and user-driven.
I postulated that being user-centered was about aligning what your user needs to find information with the services you offer. Being user-driven, on the other hand, is about letting your users decide what services you provide.
What I meant about the two is that being user-centered means that you know that your library is important, has worth, and can enhance the user's life in some way. To me, being user-driven allows the library to be devalued. To me, being user-driven seems desperate. "We want to be relevant," we shout from the rooftops, "and we will do anything to get your business!"
Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the author of the Academic Librarian blog, talks about the purpose of academic libraries vis-a-vis gaming in the library in this post.
This quote stuck with me long after I'd finished reading the post and encapsulated my argument on user-centered vs. user-driven better than I ever could:
"I fear that an effort to make the library 'fun' distracts from that purpose. The message it could send to students is, even the librarians think study and scholarship are dull."
In my opinion, academic libraries should strive to be a place where students start their research, either in the stacks or through their virtual presence. They should strive to meet students' needs in a timely way. They should be welcoming and inviting places. They should meet the users where they are--both in the classroom and online. They should anticipate their users needs. In a phrase, they should be user-centered.
Would it be fun to have a Wii set up somewhere in the library during finals week? Absolutely, as it would serve as a good break for the students. Should academic libraries find a way to be in Facebook? Absolutely, as it is a good reminder for students that the library is a good tool.
Should academic libraries strive to be "cool" or "hip," though?
I'm not sure you'd ever convince the entire academic community that the library is the hippest place on campus. And frankly I'm not sure you'd want to.
Inviting? Yes. Useful? Sure. Relevant? Absolutely.
But hip? I'm not so sure.