Library 2.0 forum: lots of food for thought

I’ve had a busy few days so just got round to writing up my thoughts from the Library 2.0 forum I attended at the Library and Information Show on Wednesday. I was surprised there wasn’t a larger audience for a hugely interesting and relevant event. I guess there are quite a few Library 2.0 events going on at the moment, so perhaps that’s why. But I certainly got a lot out of it.

The event was chaired by John Dolan from the MLA and first up was Richard Wallis from Talis who started off by considering how learning spaces have changed over the past few years and how the reading room of choice is often the student’s bedroom rather than the library. He then talked about people building their own libraries, using LibraryThing and the development of virtual reality games such as Second Life which currently has over 5 million ‘residents’. Talis have an office in Second Life in Cybrary City, offering services. He looked at services such as Live Plasma which builds relationships between music and music using data from Amazon’s usage patterns. And he considered why all the Web 2.0 developments are happening and how they are linked to the dramatic fall in the cost of storgae space. Richard went on to consider what Library 2.0 is all about and looked at Plymouth State University who have embedded web 2.0 features into their OPAC including book descriptions and jacket covers from Amazon. He also mentioned the University of Huddersfield, but more about that later as Dave Pattern was also speaking. Richard went on to discuss what Talis are doing with Web 2.0 technology and how at Queen’s University Belfast the student’s library account has been embedded into the portal. He questioned whether in the Web 2.0 environment the library starts to lose it’s brand and people will not realise services are coming from the library. He also questioned if library systems are fit for the 21st century as many are closed system and the data is not traditionally shared or open. Richard argued that Talis are the only library management system that are becoming more open and using Web 2.0 technologies. He highlighted Talis Source which is essentially an ILL system but a much more open system. Other Talis developments of note included Aquabrowser at Islington Library and Project Cenote an open source union catalogue.

Linda Berube gave us a broader perspective that questioned the role of public libraries in the web society. She argued that we are facing real competition from the likes of Amazon and Google who are always one step ahead of us. She introduced us too Web 3.0 and the semantic web, which is the idea of building a thinking machine. She also argued that public libraries are hampered by their IT infrastructure and need to build integrated Library 2.0 services – people won’t use a blog on a library website unless it’s relevant and useful. She talked about the web being a mirror of how society functions – it’s about networks and meeting people. Libraries also need a powerful brand to compete and I loved her analogy of a public library network functioning like Interflora – with local services delivered through an international network. She recommended we read anything by Richard Powers.

The next session was led by Karen Blakeman and Phil Bradley who gave us a hugely interesting and enjoyable of all things Web 2.0 for libraries. I was familar with many of the tools and services they mentioned but it was a really useful overview for those new to Web 2.0. Phil started off showing us Page Flakes which allows you to create a personalised and shared home page for your web browser. It’s not limited to your dektop and is something you can set up easily yourself. You can add your RSS feeds to this site, your bookmarks and it was contrasted to Google personalised home (something I’ve been using). Karen also pointed out Yahoo have provided a personalised home page for some time. Page Flakes differs in that it is sharable. Social bookmarking sites such as FURL and delicious were discussed and also Connotea which helps you collect all your bibliographic references. Other tools I was less familiar with was CrossEngine – which allows you to search across all social bookmarking tools among other things and Zimbio which allows you to create your own portal with a blog, a forum for discussion – on any topic of your choice. Phil has used it to create a site for his new book on Web 2.0 for Libraries. We were introduced to Squidoo which allows you to create web pages (or lens as they are called) on specific topics that only you can edit and wiki’s in general, which others can edit. They talked about blogs and how other Web 2.0 features can be incorporated into them, such as your photos from Flickr and recent books you’ve read from Amazon. Phil’s blog is a good example of this and he’s made a posting about the Library 2.0 session here. Overall Phil is a great advocate of Web 2.0 and he likes it’s anarchic features that let people do things whether their organisation says so or not. He argued librarians need to play with this technology and see what works.

Marieke Guy from UKOLN was first up after lunch and looked a little more practically about what libraries can do with Web 2.0 technologies when they are on a shoestring. She gave us an overview of what Web 2.0 is and believed Web 2.0 is all about libraries working their data harder and serving their users better. She highlighted a warning from Paul Miller at Talis in a recent Ariadne article that “user’s will bypass processes and institutions that they perceive to be slow, unresponsive, unappealing and irrelevant.” Marieke addressed a lot of the barriers to implementing web 2.0, such as technical and legal issues, organisational and cultural issues. She looked at how you could address these in practical terms, by revising acceptable use policies, being realistic about standards and thinking about how it could meet the needs of your organisation. She went on to look at some ‘low hanging fruit’ some quick wins, such as starting with something managable, such as setting up a blog or a wiki and encouraging enthusiasts in your organisation. Searching is a good place to start and working on your search skills, such as using Technorati to search for blogs, is a good way to stay ahead of your users. Wiki’s and blogs have great potential for libraries but there are obvious staff development issues you need to address. UKOLN offer some excellent briefing papers to keep staff up to date. Step three of Marieke’s approach involved engaging senior management, which is crucial, but can be challenging. The next presentation followed on quite nicely from this theme as Mark Baxter from Q2 Ltd looked at change management in libraries. His company are mainly working with public libraries and helping support change. I won’t really see anything further, as it didn’t relate specifically to Web 2.0, but managing change more generally.

The final presentation of the day was from Dave Pattern, the Library Systems Manager at University of Hudderfield. I’ve already got a link to Dave’s blog and he also has a posting about the event here. Dave has recently completed an OPAC survey and found that most librarian’s believe their OPAC is really not up to much. He pointed to the writing of Karen Scheider who argues that the ‘user is not broken – it is our systems’. For results from Dave’s survey see his blog entry. Some really nice Web 2.0 features that have been added to the Huddersfield catalogue include a spell checker that suggests alternative spellings if a search gets no hits and alternative keyoward suggestions if a search fails. They have also mined circulation data to add borrowing suggestions to the catalogue alongs the lines of Amazon, which tells you people who bought this also bought …. Ratings and comments are another feature, although the comments are not really being used. They’ve also be linking different editions of books, so that if a book is our on loan the catalogue can suggest earlier editions or related works using services from OCLC and LibraryThing. Finally it’s possible to subscribe to a feed for a particular search on the catalogue to alert you to new books on a topic and these can also be sent as e-mail alerts.  Dave also showed us examples of other libraries using web 2.0 features in their catalogue such as Ann Arbor District Library and North Caroline State University and he presented us with a shopping list of features that OPAC 2.0 should include.

We finished the day with a panel session with many of our speakers contributing ideas about the library of the future, about the importance of library spaces, about the role of public libraries as a 3rd place for study. We talked about millenials verses digital immigrants and whether there was a typical Web 2.0 user – concluding age was really irrelevant. The overwhelming thought from the day was one that Web 2.0 offers us lots of challenges in libraries as we face competition from all sorts of other services, that we need to embrace this technology and that it offers us a lot of fun as well!

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One thought on “Library 2.0 forum: lots of food for thought

  1. I really enjoyed reading this overview and reflecting on how academic services including libraries are driving and responding to Web 2.0 developments. I have found some useful case studies in this report that I would like to follow up. (and will) Not all institutions have the mature infrastructure in place as yet so utlilising the experience of others is essential. I would like to hear from other libraries wishing to share further experiences of implementing Web 2.0 (and Web 3.0) technologies.
    Margaret Weaver

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