Tag Archives: web 2.0

Collaborative Tools for Libraries – How Can We Use Them?

Collaborative tools for libraries are quite trendy right now.  I recently read two books from the Tech Set Series: Wikis for libraries by Lauren Pressley and Effective blogging for libraries by Connie Crosby.

These books help librarians understand and implement “essential technologies and tools” to reach patrons and the general public.

Blogging initiates a conversation with the public. For example, a library could use a blog to stream upcoming programs. It could announce book releases. A readers’ advisory blog could critique popular books or DVDs to stimulate interest in the library’s collection. The patron is free to “pull” whatever information he desires, either by reading the blog directly, or receiving it via an RSS feed. This is different from, for example, mass emailing. Email is an example of information push and the patron has no choice but to receive it (whether he reads it or not is another story).

The most obvious example of a Wiki is something like Wikipedia. However, that is only one specific use of this technology. Wiki software, such as the Semantic Wiki, can be used to create web sites. A library or other organization can create a professional web presence knowing minimal HTML. Staff can easily collaborate on content; for example the YA librarians can create their own content, while the childrens’ staff can do the same. This would not eliminate the need for a professional webmaster; but she could focus on the technical issues and not have to be concerned with content.

Using software such as Drupal, both can be accomplished simultaneously.  For example, I used the Drupal software to create the South Bay Bible Fellowship web site. The blogging aspect of this software is used to add Pastor Tim’s Bible study content to the web site.  I used the wiki features to create the static web pages.

The Community is the Market

I am reading The Cluetrain Manifesto which was written in 1999-2000.  Some of the points include  “Markets are conversations,” “Markets want to talk to companies,” and “Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.”  This is the crux of Web 2.0, prophetically described 10 years ago.  Doc Searls, one of the authors of Cluetrain, addressed this in his blog earlier this month.

In 1999 sites like AOL were dominant on the web.  For the most part the “masses” were using those services, and businesses had to use those services to reach those masses.  Then I remember people began to abandon AOL (and CompuServe and other services available at that time) for the world wild web.   Some of us mocked those who remained with these more structured service providers – preferring to create our own unique web experience.  There were then fewer and fewer ways for a business to reach the masses as the they left the structures of the original ISPs and explored the web for themselves, using a wide variety of software with differing protocols.

In many ways we have come full circle since 1999.  Social Media has become the new “AOL.”  Just as in the past if a business wanted to reach customers they had to set up a presence with AOL, now in order to reach the masses a business needs to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  To not have one or the other might spell economic suicide.  A company can create a unique well-designed web presence using all the latest and greatest web development tools; but can no longer believe that just because one builds it, “they will come.”  Unless, of course, they Tweet about it.  They need to be communicating to the markets in the way that the market wants to be spoken to.

The library, as it strives for customer-driven service policies, needs to serve the patrons in the manner that they wish to be served. It should also remember to keep its finger on the pulse of the patrons as the desires of the patrons change. And they will, we can count on it. We want to remain dynamically relevant.  We want to boldly try new technologies to see if they provide valuable services to the patrons.  On the other hand, we don’t want to be afraid to stop doing something that is no longer useful.  As Cluetrain says, “The community of discourse is the market.”

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