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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Call to Arms! More on Web 2.0 - is that Library 2.0?

    If there is one philosophy that can be said to be exemplified in Web 2.0 it is open access. As Tim O'Reilly said, 'Web 2.0 is the network as platform ... delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others'. Resources such as Connotea and Flickr are just the beginning of what might be achieved.
    Paul Miller (of Talis - producers of library management systems) has taken this forward by one very logical step. If the job of libraries and information centres is facilitating access to information, shouldn't there be a "Library 2.0" concept? The idea surfaced in an October 2005 Ariadne article, and in a Talis White Paper:
    Leveraging the approaches typified by Web 2.0's principles and technology offers libraries many opportunities to serve their existing audiences better, and to reach out beyond the walls and Web sites of the institution to reach potential beneficiaries where they happen to be, and in association with the task that they happen to be undertaking ... to break down the internal silos of the separate systems within a single library, and ... connect those components to one another, and to related components and services far beyond the building. (Ariadne)

    With Library 2.0, libraries move beyond the notion of ‘libraries without walls’, in which they offered a destination web site that attempted to reproduce the total library experience online.
    Instead, relevant aspects of that library experience should be reproduced wherever and whenever the user requires them, without any need to visit a separate web site for the library. Information on loans, for example, should be available from within a local authority portal or a university Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or Course Management System (CMS).
    However, the pervasive library is not just about ensuring that a library is able to offer its services to you in ways and places that meet your needs and integrate with your workflow. The concept also recognises how technological improvements enable us to move beyond the highly fragmented offering currently available to UK citizens towards notions of a truly national library offering. (White Paper)
    At times it is unclear whether Paul is writing about a new Talis product called 'Library 2.0' or whether he is, indeed, writing about concepts and ideas. I believe these papers are indeed his thoughts on the future rather than on a product (although he writes from Talis and it doesn't take rocket science to see the way they may be moving). Librarians and information scientists have spent some years congratulating themselves on embracing the knowledge economy, and on actually being knowledge managers - if we are to carry this idea forward into 2006, we have to understand that we, and knowledge management, must embrace Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the 'library @ user'. (The concepts behind the JISC 'Information Environment' are a step in the right direction.) Whether our institutional procedures, and our antiquated notions of 'membership' can keep up is another matter (as Paul says in the Ariadne article).

    Library 2.0 is surely a call to libraries (librarians) to seize the day - to take what is offered by open access, Google Book Search, and all those other threats to our hitherto safe world that have popped up in 2005, and use them - work with them - to begin to create libraries for the 21st century.

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