Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.
We have just spent the past five weeks experimenting and researching web 2.0 tools. So what? What does it all mean for libraries, and what do we do next?
The benefits of web 2.0 technologies are clear: they are "about poviding a platform for users to contribute their unique voices and perspectives to the web; they’re also about affording end-users the ability to get social with each other around that content, whether that content is text, a link, an image, a video clip, or just about anything else you generate in digital format" (Etches-Johnson 2008).
Anderson (2007) writes that web 2.0 technologies are about:
- Individual production and user-generated content.
- Harnessing the power of the crowd.
- Using data on an epic scale.
- Fostering the architecture of participation.
It was also mentioned that librarians are in the perfect position to influence what technologies are being developed by demonstrating their use in libraries (Anderson, 2007). Libraries have to embrace and use this technology, because if they do not, they will be left behind and users will go elsewhere to find other ways to get information (Sperring, 2008). Thus, librarians must experiment and take risks with web 2.0 tools, as they are instrumental in driving the voice of the people.
The questions that need to be asked and answered now are what technologies are best used in a library and how can a library keep the web 2.0 momentum going.
If I Am Ever In Charge...
Jones and Stephens (2008) advocate that the library needs to have a presence outside of the actual building, and in addition to the library's website, as this presence further assists patrons with the act of finding necessary information.
King (2009) suggests the best web 2.0 tools to incorporate into a library are blogs and a Facebook page, and I agree. A Facebook page will reach a diverse audience, as Facebook is used by a variety of demographics. Library blogs are a fast, easy and inexpensive way for libraries to deliver news, and promote services and resources to patrons while creating a conversation about the library that allows for community participation (Jones & Stephens, 2008). Kajewski (2007) also recommends the use of blogs as an information service, library service, feedback tool, and professional awareness tool, citing that blogs are still used 22% more than wikis.
I also believe that blogs are fantastic tools for libraries. I would not hesitate to take over or implement a blog in the library where I work. I believe a news blog (which could be hooked up to Twitterfeed) is vital, and does not take a lot of time, skill or cost to produce. And despite my dislike for Facebook, libraries must be where the people are, or they will go elsewhere for their resources (Sperring, 2008). Facebook, it seems, certainly is where the people are, and its network grows everyday. While I believe other web 2.0 tools have certain uses at certain times, I do think libraries should try to maintain a main presence on a blog and Facebook to let patrons know what is going on and to showcase the other web 2.0 tools. When I am in charge, that is what will happen. Hopefully. It is hard to pinpoint the specific challenges I will face when I am employed in a library, but I hope my knowledge and enthusiasm about web 2.0 technology will motivate my first employment opportunity after graduation.
Barriers To Implementation
Unfortunately, good intentions are often not enough to make a difference in a library's web 2.0 presence. There are always barriers or problems when attempting to implement new technology. One must consider the time, effort and cost factor, as well as staff and patron motivation, and institutional support (or lack thereof).
King (2009) suggests libraries have trouble implementing web 2.0 technologies because they did not:
- Set strategies and goals.
- Assign more than 1-2 people to do it.
- Focus on a target audience.
- Considered it as part of their everyday tasks.
- Use it as part of their annual review
- Make it a priority for the individual or library
- Write appropriate and well crafted, spelling and grammar mistake free, content.
Farkas (2009) echos these points and adds that while web 2.0 software is easy to set up, libraries often do not consider the time and effort necessary to keep the content up to date or participatory. She also notes that staff are often reluctant or untrained to handle the technology, and that in general do not have the time to devote to these projects (Farkas, 2009)
There are further problems besides staff concerns. Libraries often do not consider the privacy and copyright implications of user generated content, and may indeed find themselves in legal trouble (Byrne, 2008).
With all these problems and issues, how can libraries properly implement and efficiently use these new technologies?
Keeping the Momentum Going
Librarians should be excited to use these new technologies in their library. Enthusiasm goes a long way to making the project a success. The projects must be seen as a priority, and tied to institutional goals (for example, the Wisconsin Library Technology Strategic Plan), while planned for in staff timetables. Training opportunities must also be provided for staff so that they are comfortable with using the technology (Byrne, 2008; Farkas, 2009). Projects need to be collaborative so that if a staff member leaves the organization the project is not abandoned (Farkas, 2009). If the projects are part of the instiution's mission, and library staff are properly trained and enthusiastic about helping their patrons, all member will likely be on board.
Most importantly, King (2009) notes that first and foremost, we must only implement what technologies our patrons want and need. Not every technology, program or tool will work for every library (qtd in Washburn, 2008). Libraries must know what the population needs, which can then be translated into clear goals for implementation - technology should not be used just because it is trendy (Farkas, 2009).
Byrne (2009) advocates for answering these questions before implementing a new technology:
- Who are your users? What are their needs?
- Who isn't using your service, but should be? What are their needs?
- What information does the library offer? How can the web 2.0 service add value to it?
- What opportunities are there for using web 2.0?
- How can user generated content, tagging, and participation be included?
- What are the library's long term plans?
- What vendors/products will be used?
- What resources are available? (staff, skills, infrastructure)
- Whose support and assistance do we need?
- How can we promote the web 2.0 services?
After a tool is implemented, Farkas (2009) suggests asking:
- Do the users know it exists? - Marketing is important.
- Is it meeting user needs? - Evaluations both pre and post implementation are important.
- Are there barriers to using the technology? - Remove all obstacles for users.
- Is it difficult for users to contribute? - Make it easy for users to participate in the content.
Byrne (2008) also suggests libraries know the legistaltion and regulations surrounding privacy policies, and take provisions to comply with these rules, notably by creating disclaimers and policy documents.
Not only are librarians web 2.0 implementors, they also hold the responsibility of educating their patrons (and reluctant staff!) about these web 2.0 tools. Greenwood (2009) offers teaching suggestions such as: offering IT support on the service desk, using teachable moments, and offering gaming sessions to get patrons more comfortable with the technology. Libraries can also use subject guides, blogs (like theUniversity of Waterloo Library), tutorials (including videos, screencasts or podcasts), and offer teaching and learning courses or sessions (note this example from the Manhattan Public Library). Web 2.0 skills are certainly part of information literacy skills, and must be considered when producing and delivering information literacy programming. Plus, these web 2.0 technologies are a lot of fun, and this can most certainly be translated to fun, upbeat sessions. Additionally, a library could hold a contest (similar to what the Eden Prairie Library did) or post patron created web 2.0 projects on their website or blog. Once again, to create and maintain enthusiasm, all staff member must be on board with the project and the patrons should need and want the new technology - when patrons are excited, it is infectious and will lead to high staff and other patron involvement. After all, web 2.0 technologies are about creating a strong community.
Considering all these factors prior to, during, and after implementation will help a library create a fun, usable and exciting tool for their patrons to use. We need to remember that we are implementing these technologies to help our users, not just so that we can ride the wave of web 2.0.
What Comes Next?
Web 3.0, also known as the Semantic Web, is looming on the horizon. Wikipedia defines the semantic web as "an evolving development of the World Wide Web in which the semantics of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the web content." Abram (2009) linked to a collection of Web 3.0 presentations that are worth looking at in order to familiarize yourself about what is coming next. Click the following image to acquaint yourself with the different types of webs.
MacManus (2009) defines the new web as one that links everyone to everything everywhere, and which makes the whole world wide web potentially smarter. Web 2.0 is currently about user generated content and social applications, but web 3.0 will be more about open and structured data. We can currently see elements of the new semantic web in content filtering, real-time data and personalization of web space, as well as the growing importance of linked data. Simply, web 3.0 is the consolidation of web 2.0, in a more open environment. The possibilities are endless.
Regardless of the what comes next, it is safe to assume web 3.0 will not solve information overload or the issues of web 2.0. Thus, if we don't embrace and effectively learn about web 2.0, will we not be able to cope with web 3.0. That is why learning about multimedia mashups, photosharing, podcasting, social bookmarking, social networking, videosharing, wikis, blogs and RSS is so important. Kajewski (2007) notes that to meet the needs of our current patrons, as well as our future patrons, we as librarians need to "take the responsibility to understand and adopt the new and inexpensive technologies available and to present conventional library services using these emerging tools to connect with the community." When we, as librarians, embrace and use these technologies to benefit our users, we live up to the responsibility of being an 'enabling profession'.
What do you think is coming next? How can libraries prepare for the new wave of web technology? How can libraries keep up with this new wave of web technology?
Abram, Stephen. (2009). Web 3.0 in Plain English. Stephen's Lighthouse http://stephenslighthouse.sirsidynix.com/archives/2009/06/wb_30_in_plain.html
Anderson, P. (2007). All that glisters is not gold: Web 2.0 and the librarian. Journal of Librarianship & Information Science, 39(4): 195-198.
Byrne, A. (2008). Web 2.0 strategy in libraries and information services. Australian Library Journal, 57(4), 365-376.
Etches-Johnson, A. (2008). 2.0: Are We Done Yet?. Access, 14(4): 30-31.
Farkas, Meredith. (2009). It’s not all about the tech – why 2.0 tech fails. Information Wants To Be Free http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2009/03/14/its-not-all-about-the-tech-why-20-tech-fails/.
Greenwood, B. (2009). Ask a Librarian. Computers in Libraries, 29(3), 33-33.
Jones, M., & Stephens, M. (2008). Welcome to Web 2.0: Rounding Up New Technologies. Serials Librarian, 53(4), 185-193.
Kajewski, M. (2007). Emerging technologies changing our service delivery models. Electronic Library, 25(4), 420-429.
King, David Lee. (2009). Starter questions for Ultimate Debate 2009. David Lee King Blog http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/07/15/starter-questions-for-ultimate-debate-2009/.
MacManus, Richard. (2009). Understanding the New Web Era: Web 3.0, Linked Data, Semantic Web. ReadWriteWeb
Sperring, D. (2008). Libraries, the Internet, Web 2.0 and Library 2.0. One-Person Library, 25(2), 5-6.
Washburn, Sarah. (2008). Web 2.0...for your patrons! Techsoup for Libraries http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/blog/web