The term Web 2.0 seems to confuse people to the point of being counter productive, so I thought I’d try to get some kind of definition out of the way to begin with. For most people who use the internet regularly for business and leisure, Web 2.0 is something that comes naturally, and I personally find it quite difficult to express, other than by giving examples.
So, as I understand it, Web 1.0 is a term associated with providers simply posting pages on the web and users then accessing those pages. Web 2.0 seems to be the next logical step from there, where users have the ability to add, edit and indeed argue with the providers. A good example of this is Wikipedia, which I’m sure we’ve all used. This eliminates static content, making it much more dynamic and shareable, and allows for better communication between the user and the provider. A Wikipedia link might help here…
By the by, feel free to comment and let me know if you think I’ve got something wrong – in the true spirit of Web 2.0!
Colin Homiski explained this in a far more succinct and clear manner when we went to hear him speak in the Institute of Historical Studies. Colin is the Music, Art and Romance Languages & Literatures Librarian for Senate House Library. The bulk of his talk involved discussing the different ways that this kind of application is used on the web today, and how this can be useful in (mainly academic) libraries.
Rather than write a blow by blow account of Colin’s presentation*, I’ll try to touch on a few of the key ideas and web sites briefly.
The potential of using Web 2.0 based applications in libraries seems huge. One aspect of Web 2.0 that Colin discussed in some depth was social bookmarking and tagging.
Perhaps the first idea which would spring to mind would be inviting members to tag the library catalogue. One of the advantages of this approach is that the role of (often) stuffy and thus limited vocabulary can be reduced, allowing members to tag with words that they would be more inclined to associate with a particular resource. Further, this allows students or academics to tag a number of resources onto a reading list for a course, essay question, seminar, etc. This would be a huge timesaver for both academics and students, allowing the professor to tag the resources (paper-free), and the students to locate them with the click of a button.
One library that has tried out tagging using Encore is the Wellcome Library. An example: a book about Gray’s Anatomy is tagged with ‘wellcome collection further reading dissection’, which, when selected, will then take users to the rest of that reading list.
When some of the trainees visited the Wellcome Collection, Elizabeth Graham, the Education, Training & Resources Team Leader, expressed her initial worries that users would tag with nonsense and inappropriate vocabulary – however, this has yet to catch on; hopefully it never will!
Delicious is an example of a social bookmarking site which allows users to manage their bookmarks both for themselves and for others to see. Using Delicious, libraries could bookmark anything with a URL, which can be more than just static websites! Internally, libraries can use this type of site to allow for better communication and interface between members and staff, but they can also introduce this service to their members as a research tool. This type of site also relies on tagging, and can therefore be extremely useful for quickly finding out how others have explored a certain subject. Colin’s Delicious page is a good example of how librarians can use these resources. Librarians can also publish their tag clouds on their own websites, as Stanford University library has done. This allows users to access tagged e-resources easily and directly from their library website.
Scribd is another resource similar to Delicious; however, rather than managing and tagging bookmarks, Scribd is a way of managing documents. Librarians can use this independently to publish and tag their own documents, or libraries can draw together documents which they feel are useful for their members.
Personally, working in an academic library, I have found it extremely useful to be able to do a full-text search on Google Books. This has allowed me to assess the suitability of a book for a member, as well as to help members find out the exact text from which they copied a quote. The next step from this might be that libraries work with sites such as Google Books in order to incorporate full text searches into their catalogue – perhaps they do, my library certainly doesn’t! In my experience, this would be extremely beneficial to both members and library staff.
University-run digital repositories like SAS-Space are an invaluable resource for academics to publish their theses, articles etc, so that others can access them. This holds obvious advantages for those who publish and those who want to use articles for research. OAIster is a digital harvester which can search across these repositories – which Colin described as an academic Google (and is better in many ways than Google Scholar). Colin pointed out that this also keeps the price of journals down, which is always a good thing!
All of the examples of Web 2.0 in libraries given above explore the ways in which resources can be are collected, searched for, and the ways in which things can be described; which is what Web 2.0 is all about. There is so much more to this than the above, and I couldn’t possibly explore any more aspects (RSS feeds, wikis, blogging and Creative Commons licensing etc.) without far surpassing the 1,000 word mark! Some other these were discussed in Colin’s presentation, *the slides for which can be found on his Scribd page, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you email him with any questions.
Institute of Classical Studies
Joint Library of the Hellenic and Roman Societies