Andrew Eynon’s Library Blog

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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book review of Nancy Courtney (ed) Library 2.0 and beyond

Posted by andrewey on September 24, 2008

This book contains a collection of articles by academic and public librarians (from the States) on the application of a wide range of Web 2.0 tools. Each article is between 10-16 pages and covers:

  • What is Library 2.0
  • Catalog 2.0 (OPAC 2.0)
  • Being ‘where the user is’ – social networking
  • Folksonomies
  • Wikis for staff communication and internal collaboration
  • Second Life
  • Mobile technologies
  • Podcasting
  • Digital story telling
  • Video games
  • Mashups

The sheer scope of the book is very impressive considering it is only 152 pages long. The introductory chapter consists of a very balanced overview of the various conflicting definitions of Library 2.0 and whether or not the development of Libray 2.0 marks an evolutionary or revolutionary change to library services.

The chapter on wikis includes a useful discussion on how library services can use them for internal communication and internal collaboration.

I’ve been reading this book over a period of time and I came across another recent review which has taken the same approach as I intended – which is to focus on the chapters that stand out the most.

I particularly liked Michael Casey’s chapter on ‘Looking toward Catalog 2.0’ which describes the Web 2.0 features that OPACs should incorporate. As we are about to get an upgrade of our Web OPAC I’ll be interested to see how many of these features will be included:

  • Relevance ranking
  • Clean interface – a simple unclutered search facility like Google
  • Spell checker –  a prompt, as Google’s ‘Did you mean’ does, to make sure your search terms are correct  
  • Faceting – I know there will be some faceting in our upgrade but Michael suggests the ability to filter by age, level of ability, category etc
  • Full text searching
  • Book reviews – links to professional reviews and the facility for readers to add their own reviews
  • Similar searches – like Amazon the  ability to find related titles easily
  • User defined tags – so that readers can create their own tags which reflect personal search terms or popular terms
  • Share facility – the ability to send links to library resources to colleagues or fellow learners
  • RSS feeds – so that learners can set up their own notifications for new material in their chosen subject areas
  • Citation creator – something which already exists in some of our e-journal and e-book databases

Like Reflections from a small college library I also found Chris Kretz’s chapter on podcasting very informative. Chris describes the varied potential uses for a library podcast:

  • Book talks
  • Promote displays/exhibitions
  • Librarian talks
  • Create interactive library exercises
  • Deliver information skills
  • Library news
  • Cover/record live events
  • To share library policies
  • Local history – record oral history 

Chris also covers the legal and practical considerations when podcasting in some detail.

I will review some of the other chapters that I thought stand out in a later post.

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Book review of Library 2.0: a guide to participatory library service

Posted by andrewey on August 18, 2008

In Library 2.0: a guide to participatory library service Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk outline how to develop a Library 2.0 culture in your library service. In fact Michael Casey is credited with coining the term Library 2.0 on his Library crunch blog in 2005 and is therefore one of the authoritative voices on this subject. Both authors have backgrounds in the American public library sector in Georgia but their Library 2.0 philosophy is easily transferable to other sectors. Library 2.0 is seen as a response to the serious challenges faced by (some) library services, as outlined in the introduction (p. xxiv):

  • Loss of interest amongst library users in our services
  • We no longer consistently provide services that our users want
  • Reluctance amongst some library services to move away from traditional services
  • We are no longer the first port of call for information enquiries

These points seem to portray an overly pessimistic view of the state of library services and I would suspect that most proactive library services were already responding to changes in the pattern of library usage long before the rise of Library 2.0. However there is certainly a need for all library services to engage in a process of ongoing (re-)evaluation of their services. Casey and Savastinuk see the solution to the problems listed above in the creation of a ‘participatory’ library service (p. 5) which encompasses user input and feedback in the delivery of library services. Furthermore, Library 2.0 services need to embrace a culture of change which must continue to meet the needs of existing users whilst attracting non-traditional (and other) non-users.  

The authors cover ‘traditional’ as well as technological (Web 2.0) solutions to these issues. For example, they highlight the significance of developing libraries as social spaces – we have done this in our library by relaxing restrictions on food and drink and by encouraging social activities (eg boardgames) and through the creation of informal reading/browsing  areas, which have contributed to our library usage figures almost doubling in the 2007/8 academic year.

In developing a culture of change the authors stress the importance of ‘purposeful change’ which entails the constant evaluation of services both vertically and horizontally i.e. by cutting across staff roles and procedures (pp 12-14). This state of constant evaluation is designed to avoid the tendency for library services to fully develop and plan services only for them to quickly become sidelined and any beneficial outcomes are soon lost – the ‘Plan, implement and forget’ syndrome.

One area of Library 2.0 which is clearly explained is the concept of meeting the patron’s long tail. This is a business model of the supply of books, music and other media where there is significant demand for esoteric titles which is not met by high street suppliers who concentrate on titles on bestseller lists. This gap in the market is seen as an ideal niche for libraries to meet (in fact evidence suggests that the market for titles outside the bestseller lists is actually greater in total owing to the sheer volume of titles available). However, as the authors point out, some 206,000 book titles were published in 2005 in the UK alone (p. 64) so how could any library service hope to supply even a small fraction of those titles? I would argue that the long tail model is reflected in academic libraries in the debate over whether or not our collections policy should concentrate on providing core texts or on providing titles to ‘read around’ a subject. In FE the tendency has probably been towards the core titles as the demand for these is so high but at Coleg Llandrillo we have found that by participating in our free local inter-lending scheme (LINC y Gogledd) we have begun to meet the long tail demand as well. In fact our inter-library loans have increased six fold in two years and this trend is likely to increase as more titles become freely available to our borrowers through the Cat Cymru project.

Casey and Savastinuk define a responsive library service as being one which (p. 21):

  • listens to customer suggestions
  • is willing to look at new serivces (based on customer demand)
  • is proactive in anticipating customer demand and responding to customer concerns 

In response to the usual concerns over staff time, cost and lack of expertise the authors propose looking at existing services to evaluate whether or not they offer value for money in terms of staff time and other costs. Here there seems to be considerable scope for more library co-operation across a range of services which can be facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies to reduce these costs. 

The book does not cover the use Web 2.0 tools in any detail – only one chapter looks at this area which includes a small number of well chosen examples. It does however offer clear and sound advice on implementing Library 2.0 and this is encapsulated in the authors’ open letter to library directors (p. 40) outlining ten simple steps to making the transition to Library 2.0. The title is very readable and offers clear guidance on how to develop Library 2.0 (in only 172 pages). The title is also well priced at $29.50 (retailing for about £22.00 in the UK). I would certainly recommend this title to anyone looking for a clear and concise introduction to Library 2.0.

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Book review of Meredith Farkas’ Social software in libraries

Posted by andrewey on August 11, 2008

As well as reviewing online sources I’m also going to post book reviews on titles relating to Library 2.0.

Given that I’ve already mentioned the work of Meredith Farkas I thought I would start with her book, Social software in libraries. The book is not about the theory of Library 2.0 but instead offers practical (not just technical) advice on the use of Web 2.0 technologies, with a good range of real world examples. Only in the discussion of libraries as the ‘third place’ (ie as a possible social space away from home and work) does the work touch on definitions of Library 2.0.

The book does however provide an excellent overview of Web 2.0 technologies and explains clearly how these tools can be used in a library context. Despite Meredith’s background as an academic librarian the book contains examples drawn from a variety of sectors (although of course the examples are from North America). More importantly there is a Social software in libraries website to support the book with further case studies.

The book is very readable and offers a concise explanation of the technologies in a style easily accessible to a non-technical audience. The book contains 320 pages divided into 16 chapters – usually with a single chapter devoted to each specific Web 2.0 technology (except for blogs which get two chapters owing to their prevalence). There are chapters on Mobile technology, video gaming and screencasts (a Web 2.0 tool I’m currently testing), as well as chapters on standard Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, social networks etc.

I would highly recommend this title, it is a shame that the cover price of $39.50 is not reflected in the price of the book in the UK (which is usually around £39.50).

Other titles I intend to review are:

Please recommend (or review) any good titles on Library 2.0 or Web 2.0 using the comments facility.

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