Social Software Use in Public Libraries

Social Software Use in Public Libraries

June Abbas
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch040
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With the emergence of Web 2.0, libraries have started employing social software applications (such as blogs, tagging, social networking, and wikis) to engage readers, encourage user-contributed content, and connect with user populations in novel ways. However, little research has been conducted on the applications of Web 2.0 technologies within public libraries. This chapter focuses on the applicability of social software in a library setting and examines the use of such innovative techniques as live tagging, social cataloging, and social bookmarking. The chapter evaluates the potential of social software tools for facilitating collaboration between librarians and library patrons; it addresses the concerns expressed by the library and information science community related to the issues of trust, authority, accuracy, responsibility, and ethics in the context of the Library 2.0.
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Introduction And Background

User-centered philosophies are at the heart of libraries’ service and have been in practice long before the emergence of Web 2.0. However, with the advent of the social-interaction technologies, such as blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking, libraries have seen a radical shift as they are now faced with web-users’ expectations. These expectations may not be met with less interactive computer technologies, such as library online public access catalogs (OPACs). Libraries have recognized the value that technologies of Web 2.0 can provide to their users and are implementing social software in innovative ways. This chapter provides an overview of social software use in public libraries and evaluates its potential for facilitating collaboration between librarians and library patrons. The author focuses on the applicability of Web 2.0-type technologies in a library setting and presents an overview of social software use in public libraries. Additionally, the chapter addresses concerns expressed by library and information science professionals related to the issues of trust, authority, accuracy, responsibility, reliability, and ethics in the context of Web 2.0, as well as outlines the directions for future research.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Bookmarking: Web environments that provide users with the means to organize, describe, and share their resources (web bookmarks, books, and photographs) with others. Sites such as, LibraryThing, and Flickr are examples.

Library 2.0: The application of the Web 2.0 technologies and philosophies within the library context to improve or provide new services to user communities.

Tagging: Providing terms to describe resources in a social bookmarking environment. Tags can be used to sort, retrieve, and find the resources by the tagger or others that use the site. Tagging is also referred to as user-generated descriptors or user-contributed content.

Social Networking: A Web 2.0 service that provides users with a platform to set up personal spaces online to share information, music, software applications, etc.

OPAC: A library’s online public access catalog that provides access to the services and collections of a library.

Blog: Short form of the word weblog. Blogs are online interactive journals or newsletters. Readers are encouraged to post comments and to engage with the author and other readers. Blogs can include other Web 2.0 technologies, such as RSS feeds, podcasts, videos, and tagging.

Web 2.0: Using the World Wide Web as a service-oriented platform to connect devices, protocols, standards, and applications. The Web 2.0 philosophies include: rethinking how software is developed and distributed, and enabling more human connections through conversations, collaboration, participation, and exchange of ideas and technologies.

Social Software: Web 2.0 technologies used to communicate, share, organize, collaborate, and extend functionality of other web applications. Blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, and social networking technologies are examples.

Wiki: A collaborative website that provides a platform for users to contribute, edit, or remove content.

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