Friday, August 22, 2008

Library 2.0 Programs/Sites and Their Possibilities

Earlier this month I attended an OHIONET workshop entitled “What’s the Point of Web 2.0?” Presenter Chad Boeninger, a reference librarian at Ohio University, had a simple answer: for libraries, the main point of Web 2.0 is patron outreach. Library 2.0 approaches allows librarians to 1) provide better learning experiences; 2) “shift time” by accessing audio/video/text on their own schedule; and 3) have opportunity to provide feedback for what they learn. This is one of the most straightforward (and best) arguments I’ve heard in favor of utilizing 2.0 technologies in a library setting.

But what kind of technologies can libraries use to their advantage? Boeninger touched upon several different examples, and what follows is my attempt to consider the significance for some of them.

Free weblogs (Wordpress, Blogger): Boeninger primarily focused upon the idea of using blogs as a supplemental learning tool. In his words, blog authors can “create dynamic content” that reaches students and (potentially) non-students alike. (He provided two good examples here and here). As far as I can tell, there’s very little downside in using blogs this way; it’s relatively easy, accessible, and provides a lot of flexibility for creativity.

What about using a blog primarily as a platform for professional development? That’s what we’ve tried to do with Nota Bibliothecae, and many other law and academic libraries are using their blogs in the same manner. The upside is that it’s provided a creative learning experience for us, as well as a chance to reach readers with whom we otherwise wouldn’t have contact. It also has raised a host of questions that are likely familiar to some other “lawbrary” and academic library blogs: Who is our audience? What kind of interaction might (or should) we have with the blogs of our colleagues? What should be the direction of our content? These are things we’ll have to consider as we continue updating.

Twitter: Twitter is already a quite popular form of communication, and its “micro-blogging” format is an attractive alternative to operating a “normal” blog. One relevant example for libraries that Boeninger provided was from the Ford Library at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The library recently established a Twitter page, but also displays updates (or “tweets”) on their own site as well. Right now, it appears that Ford is using Twitter as a general news service, which is a no-brainer—it’s quick and couldn’t be simpler. It would be helpful to know how many visitors their Twitter and “Library Information” pages are receiving as a rough gauge of its popularity, but they’re on the right track. Another possibility would be using Twitter as an emergency notification system, particularly in cases of inclement weather.

Next post: Facebook, instant messaging, and Skype.

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