Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Review: Library 2.0 and Beyond

I just finished a new library book and want to share my notes about it. This book is an anthology of articles on different aspects of library 2.0. Each article has a different author with a different focus and different style, some practical, some theoretical. There were three chapters of this book I got a lot out of, two that had good information that didn't seem relevant to me, and many that were not very memorable. Here are my notes:

Library 2.0 & Beyond: Innovative Technologies & Tomorrow’s User
Edited by Nancy Courtney
Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited (2007)

The term “Library 2.0” first appeared in 2005 and, to put it simply, is a concept where the trends and tools of Web 2.0 are applied to libraries. Web 2.0 is broader than just the tools we associate with it. A comprehensive definition is hard to achieve, but it includes:
  • wisdom of crowds
  • age of the amateur
  • many people contributing just a little to get impressive results
  • participation; constant change; collaboration
  • self-service
  • two-way flow of information between the people and the organizations
  • **democratizing of communication

These virtual communities support physical ones. For libraries, this means we should make the library available at all points of need, and integrate the library with services outside of the library’s walls.

Here are the highlights of the book:

Chapter 4 on podcasting by Chris Kretz
It explains the difference between a mere audio file and a “podcast,” which must include RSS. Things you can do with podcasts include

  • book reviews
  • highlighting collections
  • reading books (one library read the entire Frankenstein in 27 podcasts over a month, featuring different faculty members’ voices)
  • leading a treasure-hunt exercise
  • “Library Audio to Go” (focuses on specific information resources and topics related to research in a conversational manner)
  • “Computer Tips” at Providence PL (hands-on tutorials for stuff like Google Earth, Flickr, Craigslist, and go with screen shots)
  • live programs hosted at library
  • local history, story time, teen show

Of course there are legal issues involved. You must get signed permission from speakers, permission from authors/artists, podsafe music, copyright of books, etc. To promote podcasts, you should submit the RSS feed to a podcast directory (Ed. Podcast Network, iTunes, Podcast Alley), include information in the ID3 tags, add graphic or logo to the ID3 tag. Also be sure to make it clear at the start of each podcast who/what will be presented.

Chapter 8 on user-based tagging by Ellyssa Kroski
This was also a good chapter, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of letting the masses “tag” items on the Web in order to organize it. She argues there’s just too much information on the Web to be cataloged by professionals, so why fight the amateur organization?

Advantages- inclusiveness (no bias), currency, discovery potential, nonbinary nature (no one preferred term for all synonyms), self-moderation/democratic, shows what users want and insight into their behavior, community, low cost, usability, and resistance is futile.

Disadvantages- non synonym control, lack of precision, lack of hierarchy, lack of recall, susceptibility to “gaming” (like spamming).

Advanced features are making tagging more useful.

Chapter 9 on learning from video games by David Ward
This had some great stuff in the section on “Games as an Education Tool.” I think most library educators agree that straight-out lectures don’t work anymore, you have to get them active. Video games involve learning; the players have to learn to solve problems and will spend hours doing so. We should use off-the-shelf games or make our own that get students simulating the research process to give them practical albeit virtual experience.
The definition of a “video game” is:

  • visual digital information to 1+ players
  • takes input from players
  • processes the input according to programmed game rules
  • alters digital information based on input

He writes that you don’t need to use actual video games, just characteristics of the games, where players learn by doing and discovering… a.k.a. “active learning.” You must keep telling to a minimum, to allow for discoveries. Allow them to get feedback from environment to inform them for their next action.

Furthermore, 2.0 involves collaborative relationships. Try to provide opportunities for “peer-to-peer creation and transfer of knowledge.” This provides newbies a stronger support system. Let students build their own research guides.

Less memorable chapters for me included: Virtual Worlds (Second Life), Social Networking, Mashups, Handheld Computers in Library (including cell phones), Wikis. The chapter on future catalogs was good, but not of personal interest as we can’t build our own catalog. But much of what it suggests will be available in Indigo, which I hope we will switch to over winter break. The chapter on digital storytelling was very good, and written by academic librarians, but I found it difficult to see how it would be applied to our library. I would like to see examples of this.

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