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Developing a Web 2.0 service model

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The librarian and Web 2.0

Three years ago in 2006, an article on Library 2.0 in the Library Journal (Casey and Savastinuk, 2006) commented on how a new service model based on 2.0 principles was being discussed "at conferences, in library administration offices and at the reference desk".

Sure enough, Web 2.0 was a big theme in the library strand of the Online Information 2007 conference (as it was in all strands). One speaker (Abram, 2007) profiled the "librarian 2.0" as someone who:

  • Understands the user's views and aspirations, and goes where the user goes.
  • Understands Web 2.0 features and learns how to use the major tools.
  • Connects people to expert discussion, technology and information, in a suitable context and by the medium of their choice.
  • Delivers services in a device independent manner, on everything from laptops to PDAs and iPods.
  • Develops the latest search techniques – targeted federated search and Open URL, which uses a link resolver to link directly to the resource.
  • Uses non-traditional cataloguing methods based on user input for content descriptions, classifications and metadata, as well as tagging, tag clouds and folksonomies.
  • Does not see his or her role as confined to text: the collection also contains pictures, videos, DVDs and even games. Both print and electronic resources are provided seamlessly.
  • Uses advanced social networks for the benefit of the business.
  • Understands the principle of the long tail, and the need to reach people who are not usually reached.
  • Uses open sources such as Open Content Alliance, Google Book Search and Openworldcat.
  • Scrutinizes usage data for insights into user behaviour, and understands the "wisdom of crowds".

Librarians are a flexible bunch in the main, keen to experiment, and many are early adopters of Library 2.0. However, given the diversity not only of sectors, but also of geographic and economic context, it is difficult to generalize across the profession.

Take public libraries for example: while there are examples in the USA and Europe of innovative services (e.g. Ann Arbor District Library, Västerbotten in Sweden and Vlissingen in Holland ), public libraries in the UK tend to be late adopters of 2.0. When asked about their Web 2.0 involvement, many respond along the lines of:

  • "It is a likely next-stage development in our e-resources offer."
  • "Our current business plan includes the establishment of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 resources for the county library service in the coming year 2009/2010."
  • "To date we haven't participated greatly in social networking sites, but we are interested in the concept."

Jenny Levine, Internet development specialist at the American Library Association, suggests that what libraries adopt will depend on their audience: academic libraries take the lead in sending text messages through mobile phones to students; but – in the US at least – public libraries have adapted more quickly to gaming.