Andrew Eynon’s Library Blog

A blog about librarianship in Further Education

Building FE Library 2.0

Posted by andrewey on August 7, 2008

In an earlier post I said I would return to the points raised in Meredith Farkas’ presentation Building Academic Library 2.0 to discuss the issues involved in implementing Library 2.0 and applying these to a FE context. So what does Meredith suggest implementing Library 2.0 entails (which she does from the perspective of service delivery rather than from a purely technical angle)?

1 Firstly, you need to know your users. This is particularly difficult in FE where our learners are so varied both in terms of educational needs (from adults with learning difficulties through to postgraduates) and in terms of demographics. To do this Meredith says you need to ask your users what they value rather than what you value ie to avoid reverting to the ‘librarian knows best’ stereotype of Library 1.0.

2 You need to question everything ie in terms of re-examining the tenets of library work. I think there is a need to re-evaluate our priorities (as an FE library service) to move away from traditional concerns to recognising the challenges of making our services better suited to supporting the needs of learners and to embracing new technologies as a way of better engaging with our users.

3 Make material more accessible. As Meredith points out, this does not have to be a technological solution. In north Wales we have an interlending scheme LINC y Gogledd which currently links 5 local authority public library services, two FE colleges and Bangor University. This scheme enables personal borrowing, ie our learners can borrow directly from the university, as well as inter library loans. You are able to search the catalogues of 6 of the library services from a single URL. With the development of CatCymru you will soon be able to search all the library catalogues in Wales using a single (federated) search engine.

4 Move the library ‘website’ to spaces where our users are eg Facebook or other social networks. The rise of library blogs, wikis and pages on social networking sites etc suggests this is well under way in some library sectors although not very well advanced in FE I suspect. In FE our main priority is probably to ensure a high profile for the library service on the college’s VLE and website.

5 We need to consider the technology have nots – an important issue in FE where many learners may not have access to a PC at home. Again there is scope to work with public libraries here to promote their free internet access to encourage greater social inclusion. In addition, technology should not be used for its own sake – we need to consider what advantages Web 2.0 tools offer over conventional forms of delivering/supporting our service.

6 Build a learning culture amongst all library staff. This is particularly important when implementing web 2.0 tools so provide all staff with hands on experience of using these tools (as with our library Web Quest) and give them permission and time to try out new technologies.

7 Share information. As Meredith highlights, we are not, in the main, subject experts so make use of the expertise of teaching staff (and learners) in collaborative exercises, for which Web 2.0 tools are ideally suited, such as creating subject blogs or wikis.

8 Finally, good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. The challenge is to create mechanisms to capture them – which is an area of the use of Web 2.0 technologies I intend to investigate as part of our Inspiring Learning project. The corollary of this challenge, as Meredith highlights, is the ability to be responsive and innovative. Here FE may be at an advantage, because we are probably more used to a culture of (rapid) change than some other library sectors. Certainly FE library services seem to have more autonomy to implement change quickly, compared to the more rigid structures prevalent in other library sectors.

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