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Web 2.0 and the Library…..

Thanks for taking the time to visit the blog and hope that the web2.0 presentation from the all staff meeting was sufficiently thought provoking. (apologies of course to those who haven’t see it!)

What do you think?

In the Digital Library we can, of course, see countless opportunities for how the principles of web 2.0 could be adopted to improve access to the information we hold, but its important that we try to understand what the rest of the library, and indeed its users think.

So, in the spirit of web 2.0 we are using our blog in order to promote some communication.

What we would like from you, is just a few simple comments about what you think – anonymous is OK, and that lets us know anything at all about the whole topic. We are planning to use the information gathered to further refine our understanding of the topic and help with the planning process.

This link should take you to the comments section – please just scroll down to the ‘leave a reply’ box.

The following are some questions that might help in getting the brain moving….

  • Do you think that the Library should be thinking about web2.0 to improve its services?
  • Do you think the categories we’ve selected are appropriate or do you think that we’ve misunderstood the whole point of web 2.0?
  • Do you think you would like to learn more?
  • If you already using web 2.0 either socially or professionally – and think it could be of interest, would you like to talk to us about it in some more detail?
  • Do you think there are any real barriers to the use of web 2.0 as a channel in the library

As part of the Digital Library discussions into all things web 2.0, its become very clear that there are very many interpretations of what it all means, and we have come up with what we think are three fairly key definitions. It is our intention to use these as the basic building blocks for our plans.

  • As a marketing tool – using new social media like Facebook to promote the library and reach new users, or using YouTube/Flickr in this sort of way. Very much aimed at human interaction.
  • As utility applications, to provide a way of delivering our collections and metadata on a large scale to online repositories that others can use to reuse our content and mix it up (mash it up) with content elsewhere. For example, we’d be uploading large numbers of images to services like Flickr (seen here) and YouTube but without being driven by a particular marketing objective. This will support more automated ways of reusing NLS collections.
  • As a communications tool – using technologies like blogs, wikis and podcasts to communicate more effectively, internally and externally.

Its not just about us

Also, a welcome to the rest of the world. If you’ve stumbled across this post from outside the library we’d welcome your thoughts too. Its all helping to establish a strategy for how we approach this oft misunderstood topic.

In particular we would be interested (especially if you are from any sort of library background) about how you might be using web 2.0 in your library. e.g.: do you already use Flickr and Youtube, how and and what do you use it for?

Many thanks in advance for your help and time.


12 Responses

  1. Hi there

    At the National Library of NZ we’ve been on Flickr for nearly a year now, looking at it as another way of sharing our digital collections with people. We also hooked into Flickr with our ‘In 2017 libraries will be … ‘ campaign, using it as more of a comms/marketing tool. Our experience on Flickr has been overwhelmingly positive, and I think it’s an easy and effective (and educational!) way to start out in the Web 2 world.

    We’ve also been blogging since last August – on LibraryTechNZ and Create Readers. Blogging (as I guess you know!) is far harder in terms of staff resources, but rewarding in a different way. These are blogs for very specific audiences – check out the Christchurch City Libraries blog for an example of a great NZ library blog for a more general audience.

    At the Museums and the Web conference in April, I went to a terrific workshop by Seb Chan and Angelina Russo, about using social media in museums (my notes are here). The key point was: social media is hard – the technology is not. I guess my attitude is that the ‘technology’ should be a largely invisible means to an end – you don’t think twice about the intricacies of technology when you make an international phone call, you just think about the person you want to talk to.

    Making time for all this can be difficult, and it can be hard to estimate in advance how much time various activities might suck up. Nina Simone wrote a great post a couple of weeks ago about what the time-costs are for various kinds of Web 2 activities – you can read about it here.

    Good luck with the project!

  2. I have been using a blog for my digitisation project. It is a private blog, and I have invited colleagues who are involved in the project to view it. It is a useful communication tool as colleagues can look at it at a time convenient to them to get the latest updates on the project. I have had good feedback on this. I have used WordPress to host it as there are static pages where I can put weekly plans, project specs., bibliography, etc. I have widgets, such as a blog roll, a calendar and links to relevant sites. I like the way I can change the information very easily as well as posting each week. I haven’t yet figured out how to do an RSS feed to let my colleagues know when the blog has been updated. There is plenty of potential in Web 2.0 both for updating colleagues and for the Library to reach its users.

  3. I’d be very interested in investigating using a blog for the Modern Scottish collections. I would see it as a quick and easy way of drawing attention to the collections eg picking up on literary prizes, deaths(!)of authors, new publications, publicity for events etc, as a support to the more static and formal information on the webpages.

  4. I just can’t decide how much potential Web 2.0 has for NLS. I can see Francine and Andrew’s point that, for a closely defined group of users with a common specific interest, the exchange of ideas and resources which blogs make possible represents an improvement on listservs etc. And I think the idea of information services being able to harvest and reuse our content is quite in keeping with our aim of making available the knowledge of Scotland and the world.

    However: I’m also acutely aware of the ‘Will social communication undermine scholarly publishing?’ (http://www.ringgold.com/UKSG/si_pd.cfm?AC=9405&Pid=10&Zid=3627&issueno=165) line of argument, which points out the proliferation of low-quality verbiage which Web 2.0 opens the gates to. I myself have contributed (and am perhaps now contributing!) to this verbiage in no small measure. I have followed initiatives such as SLIC’s and NLS’s presence on Flickr, Facebook and PageFlakes (see eg http://www.pageflakes.com/scottishlibraries) with great interest, but some puzzlement. It’s mildly entertaining to see a montage of library-related photos on a page, for example, but how useful is it, and how good a use of public funds? Does it not just pander to the butterfly mind, flitting from one item of information to another without depth or seriousness? I’m not trying to be a killjoy or get at SLIC or anyone else – it just seems to me that these things deserve some thought.

    Good to hear from Jennie, I’ll watch developments here with interest.

  5. Unfortunately I missed the staff meetings but yes, surely the scope for Web 2.0 is nearly endless…? For example, and perhaps building on Andrew’s point above, it must be a powerful tool to discover, integrate and share knowledge about the ‘distributed collections’ of Scotland, of all sorts (print, film, mss, whatever). I’d also like to see our website hosting some overtly interactive aspects – so that NLS users wherever they may be can contribute to debates, discussions etc about our policies, services etc. We will get some odd commentrs I know, but some useful feedback too!

  6. I’d be interested in exploring applications for HR and also in knowing more about what Web 2.0 means for staff (and therefore for HR as we plan for the future). I heard recently about a company which encourages its staff to use Twitter and its customers to read it – it’s apparently improving customer knowledge and relations (and thereby sales). I suspect that a blog for HR would work quite well as a way of disseminating information.

  7. How about a competition, where we invite the public to pick one of a selected batch of copyright cleared SSA filmclips for them to ‘remix’ and put on YouTube, hosting the best few on our own site.

    Might give us some nice, free, virals?

    Maybe we could get it sponsored by a technology provider who gives some edit suite software as the prize, or the latest ibook/PVR recorder or something similar?

  8. I should begin by saying that these are just my own personal thoughts and nothing more – just ideas to share out loud. They are in no way an indication of the thoughts or opinion of the Library or anyone else in it. I’d like to get round to Web 2.0 via a few thoughts about technology generally. Machines put people out of jobs and put them into other jobs. It is in the majority interest that people earn money, whilst ever, that is, we live in a consumer based economy. We pay people wages so that they can spend them on things that are made / provided by people who are paid wages who spend them on things… etc. Spending money is so important that we even lend people money that they don’t have so that they can spend it. Hopefully in this cycle, some people save money, which the banks then lend to people so that they can spend it. I mention this because I think that technology and Web 2.0 can have (and is having) a profound effect on the costs involved in production, and how money is made, and I think we ought to consider how this may play out. A lot of Web 2.0 seems to be based on the principle that things are free. I rarely buy a newspaper. There is a free newspaper everyday on the bus. What it lacks in coverage and analysis it makes up for in convenience, cost (lack of) and the fact that everyone else around me is also reading it (social networking). Apart from which, all of the main newspapers have excellent “free” online editions (not actually free – there’s the cost of the internet connection and computer kit to access it – but free at the point of use if you like), many with additional features that the print copy lacks. Freeconomics is the buzz phrase of the moment – whether its musicians giving away music for free (Radiohead, Prince, thousands of unsigned bands), free mobile phones, free email accounts, free software. Free stuff is not even a thrill anymore, it’s expected. And look how quickly things have changed. Napster – excellent early Web 2.0 example was seen as criminal. Now it’s mainstream, 5 years later (Apple’s plans for i-Tunes are worth following). The Achilles heel in the freeconomic model, I think, is that it all seems to be based on advertising and the assumption that people will scale-up by buying more (mobile phone contracts, extra bonus ppackages). Give them a taster for free and they will fall hook line and sinker. It certainly can work (see heroin, cigarettes, Gillette razor blades), but I think it is a frighteningly insecure model to put any faith in. This may be because I am weird and almost never respond to adverts or bonus paid-for extras. I love Honda’s adverts, but I have never bought one. Clearly enough people do respond to adverts otherwise companies wouldn’t bother. But as more stuff becomes freely available, what will there be left to advertise? Also, what happens if people actually get “addicted” to free stuff, and their expectations change so that they rarely buy things (especially when this is combined with geo-political and social concerns such as green issues, globalisation, fair trade, credit crunch, and so on). Or if they simply remain content with the free sweetner alone. Perhaps they will start charging again, which scuppers the freeconomics model. The interesting thing for the Library to consider is what effect, if any, will freeconomics have on us, a non-profit making organisation. It appears to me that we can turn this to our advantage – we’re already free at the point of use (although travelling to visit us isn’t free) – but only if we can match customer expectations, which are gravitating towards the “I want it all” mindset. We could debate why this mindset, and encouraging it, might not be a good idea. If we were to take this stance, we would have to make a very bold socio-political statement, which may or may not be the right thing to do. One thing is for sure. Whilst we could make some kind of statement, someone else will simply step into the gap that we leave (Google Booksearch?). So, all of these things considered, what exactly ought the Library to do with Web 2.0 technology (and the culture that it brings with it). Well, for example, we could introduce Web 2.0 ideas into the Library and make lots of work redundant, whilst at the same time creating new work for staff to do. There’s no shortage of work – just different work, and perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “what is the work that benefits customers and collections? What is the work that benefits people / the economy / Scotland?” Everyone seems to acknowledge that Web 2.0 (blogs, wikis, social networking, the web as we experience it today) is having a transformational effect on the global population. It would seem daft not to expect it to transform the Library. It could be introduced on a leash, which is fair enough, but I do wonder, why bother. I suppose because unleashing it could send us quickly into frightening territory and a rate of change that we might not be ready for. When it comes to change, I vary. I’m more up for it sometimes than others if I’m honest. Some things I adopt early on (Ipod), other things I have never bothered with (Facebook). That’s my personal life. In the workplace I’m not sure that we have the same degree of choice, especially when we work in two critical areas – customer service and access to information. The choice appears simpler: give customers what they want; provide access to information instantly; and do it for free. With the caveat repeated that these are just my own thoughts, and, furthermore, adding that I may not even agree with the sentiments in these thoughts (I’m just airing them as a way of imagining what might happen with a Web 2.0 based NLS), how about this: We stop cataloguing all new published material that comes in. This is based on the understanding that what customers want is access to material as soon as possible. Publishers and booksellers produce catalogue records that are good enough for the customer and good enough for proper access and retrieval, so they’re good enough for us. All of the cataloguers start work on the masses of uncatalogued material that we cannot get ready-made records for, or for material that needs more precise cataloguing to distinguish between similar material, for example. The task of the cataloguers is to make the NLS the first ever fully catalogued Library in the world. Everything now has a basic record. Every single item. Some cataloguers diversify and become catalogue ambassadors. They work with book groups, local history groups, prioners, pensioners, schools, whoever, training then how to create basic records for ephemera. The external volunteers catalogue from looking at the digitised image. They do it for free, simply because they love doing it (look at how much content has been created on the web for free, because people enjoy sharing – blogs, wikis, Flickr, etc). Other cataloguers do random quality control checks, re-training volunteers remotely as necessary. Meanwhile, the Library, working with Internet Archive or Google Booksearch or similar, digitises out of copyright material at a rate of 5,000 books a month. NLSWiki is launched, with staff and customers populating the Wiki with content about the Library’s collections. Some ERS staff who used to respond to emails now have time to populate the wiki in areas where they have received previous enquiries. Others work with similar external groups in teaching how to contribute to a wiki. NLS invites a group of scientists to spend a month at the Library making use of current modern periodicals, and to blog to the world about what they find. Several thousands join in by posting comments. Two ideas are taken up as research proposals by Scottish research centres. Three years later as a result of one of the blog comments, a permanent cure for asthma is found. NLSWiki wins several awards. Bill Gates provides £150 million for the construction of the new NLS building. NLS starts to communicate internally in a more efficient manner, using web 2.0 technologies. Application of well constructed and integrated systems, and tapping into the Web 2.0 culture of online collaboration and volunteer cataloguing and wiki contributions, means that staff are able to move to a four day working week without any adverse affect on pay or organisational outputs. In fact, both increase. How about that?

  9. In Reference Services we have a lot of information resources relating to answering remote enquiries e.g. standard letters, bibliographies etc. which we’ve produced over the years and which we keep in different places and in different formats. It’s been suggested to us that a Wiki might be a useful way of keeping these resources in one place and allowing staff in the division to add to the resource, edit material etc. so we’d be interested in exploring this. I’m also interested in some sort of virtual induction to using the reading rooms

  10. This is perhaps a bit off strand but links back to the freeconomics point and shows how Web 2.0 technology and particulary the culture that goes with it really is changing things around us, and in this example (two years old already) is radically altering the world of the written word. Have a look at this…


    … for a good take on what can happen with Web 2.0 and books and the publishing industry and Creative Commons licenses. Read the license on the first page and see just how different it is to traditional copyright. This book began as a blog. A publisher (The Friday Project) put it into print. Now you can read it for free at the link. But if you want, you can also buy it.

  11. Working with moving image content in the Scottish Screen Archive (film, video, digital) I see Web 2.0 as offering exciting new ways of communicating about moving image BUT it is opening up lots of new questions about whether we can (or should?) service the demand for ‘mixing / mashing up / sharing’ of more and more of that content.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could communicate with people all over the world, taking on board their comments about moving images in the collection and improving the catalogue records as a result? A lot of people identify themselves or someone they know in a particular film, they remember specific local details about an event or a long forgotten industrial process evident in it. Web 2.0 opens up the catalogue to ‘comments’ from people who watch clips, so that the film becomes more interactive and alive. YouTube is already a way to do this – you can leave comments and share the link to the film clips easily online. We can, potentially, use YouTube as a quick source of information and context, building it around online communities (List-serves in academic subject areas for example, or community local history groups etc) – targeting our resources to work with these communities and make the most of their knowledge? (We just see who happens to come along at the moment – so it’s not very pro-active at all) I would like to see more interaction with channels and users on such sites as YouTube to see if we can learn more about films, link to similar content, acquire ‘masters’ for preservation possibly, and build up a whole new audience for not just the moving image collections, but other collections within NLS. Perhaps with developments in the catalogue of the future / federated searching etc, we will be able to facilitate more dialogue between and across collections and the people who want to interact with them?

    I have been involved in uploading some clips to YouTube – really just ‘to see what happened’ – there are c 16 up there since Christmas 2007. And things have happened, even though we have not promoted our presence on there much at all (web traffic to NLS site via YouTube, a few comments and 100s of views of the clips). Putting clips onto YouTube or stills onto Flickr – fine, if it gets people through into the (virtual, and possibly real life) door of the National Library collections. But I have seen a few clips from films preserved in the Archive already on YouTube, uploaded by someone else, where they have added soundtrack that was not there originally – ie. there is nothing to let you know this was a silent film. This sort of error should worry us, and the NLS should make sure that we lead the way in presenting material in an interesting way, but also keep the accuracy that we owe to the Collections and those who donate them.

    In my (personal!) opinion we could definitely do a lot more as a National Library to connect with people ‘out there’ – you can already see from YouTube that people are bypassing us altogether and shoving up, for example, their local gala day from 1998 or recording a craft or hobby that we would have collected on super 8mm film 40 years ago. If we don’t embrace the Web 2.0 world we face the very real danger of losing the first wave of affordable ‘mass produced’ born digital content (mobile phones, digital camera etc) Where are the masters of all this ‘stuff’ going up on YouTube – who is preserving it for hundreds of years in the future? If it only exists on a website the Library should collect it and preserve it – therefore a visible presence on sites such as YouTube may be a way to communicate with content creators and try to acquire content for the nation….? Maybe keeping an eye on Web 2.0 will shape collections policies of the future… or we can take an active part in shaping them by taking a proactive part in the online community.

    However, I feel very strongly that sites like YouTube should not ‘replace’ the catalogue. We have detailed shotlists (that we know researchers, film production companies looking for a specific clip to edit in to a documentary), indexing, dates, timings, contextual information such as scripts, correspondence, stills… you simply don’t find that richness of metadata on YouTube etc. Web 2.0 should not become a way for saving money on good catalogue records, especially as most of the moving image we preserve is unique and has to be repaired / viewed in situ on specialized machinery for film / video and then catalogued from scratch. (Remember only 40% of the catalogued collection is on the web, and about ¼ of that has short clips viewable….) So I don’t agree with arguments that people can catalogue remotely – we are so far off that scenario at the moment… (unless you have a few £$£ million to spare!) We have c. 15 – 20 hours of footage encoded and freely available online at best – the rest is only on tape or original film stock!

    The film archive is a young collection compared with the rest of the NLS (1895 onwards!) and mostly in 3rd party copyright. This means that legally, we just don’t have the rights to let people embed clips from YouTube, or re-edit digital moving image content that we present online. We have to remain respectful to the donors of the films who trust us to look after their content (personal family home movies, for example). This is the BIG issue for us when we talk about such things as: ….”re-use our content”, “more automated ways of reusing NLS collections”, “mix / mash it up”…. A lot of administration (clearance letters, legal permissions) goes on behind the scenes clearing rights for publication online. Web 2.0 environment implies leapfrogging a clip (indeed a full film) across many websites / blogs / wikis in cyberspace… people re-editing and changing the original intent of a film. We are just not in a position to allow that legally (and some would say, morally)! Julian’s idea of a ‘remixed’ film clip…… I can see where he is coming from but do we (Scottish Screen Archive) as copyright holders, even want to allow remixing of material that is Scottish Screen Archive copyright. People in those films are still very much alive and they might object to appearing in a music video or a party political broadcast – who knows what creative uses people could put film to? There are very real ethics here that we really have to think about, above and beyond those boring old (and very sue-able in court) copyright issues!!

    There is a huge interest in Web 2.0 out there in the Library community. See the recent Cataloguing & Indexing Group in Scotland seminar – I think the first time in a long time we had a waiting list for an event:

    Maybe we should explore and develop a coherent way forward for the Library (so we know why we are spending time and resources on duplicating the same clip on two websites, for example – or publishing the same still on 3 different sites) and then go for it! I know the spirit of Web 2.0 is ‘throw it out there’ and on one hand, that is what we have done… but on the other I still think we have to think of time, resources, and above all, how is it benefiting the collections. After all, they will be here long after we have logged off Facebook.

  12. I think many of the Web 2.0 applications are quite interesting in terms of opening collections to either new users or people around the world who would otherwise not be able to visit the collection. I would be interested to see if the new users of Flickr or YouTube would go beyond the image or video to the home collection website or anywhere else besides the Flickr or YouTube sites.

    We began a Web 2.0 training for our staff here at the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve this summer, and have talked about implementing certain features into our catalog and other digital collections. There is often debate on both sides of the Web 2.0 issue, but I have found it helpful to see other institutions that are using sites like YouTube or Flickr and read comments such as these here.

    The issue addressed above about digital preservation of these images and films are important to realize, particularly in cases of proprietary ownership. I’ve also wondered about the quality of the videos on YouTube, since they are all flash.

    One solution here in the States is at the Library of Congress. They provide multiple video formats to view their video collection, and maintain the metadata. Their records are also fully searchable in a simple Google search as well. I think it’s a hard fact to face, but many people will only ever use a Google search, and are much more likely to have some sort of contact with a collection through this avenue than the more traditional routes (or even make it to a homepage of a collection, museum, library, etc.) Here’s their link if anyone is interested to browse the different formats:


    Thanks for the comments and blog- it’s been interesting reading!

    Virginia Dressler
    Digital Library Production Assistant
    Case Western Reserve University
    Cleveland, Ohio

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