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Web 2.0 and Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software

Library Technology Reports (42:4): Web 2.0 and LibrariesWhat can social software do for your library? Library staffers like the ones at Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, can tell you. "Just a brief look at our Director's Blog will illuminate the fact that the blogs promote a constant two-way dialogue between our director, Josie Parker, and the public," notes John Blyberg, who works at AADL and authors Blyberg.net. "[You can also] take a look at some of AADL's other blogs that are staffed by some very clued-in, bright minds," he adds.

AADL has realized real benefits of social-software use—a four-branch public system with 46% of its district-population served holding library cards, it has not only experienced an increase in the number of online visitors, but these days the public library is also boasting more than 20,000 registered users utilizing its Web site for library-related interaction and services. Incorporating such tools as blogs and RSS feeds, AADL's Web portal also recently garnered accolades from the Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) in its 2006 Best of Show competition (Best of Show/Winner, Web Page/Home Page, $6,000,000+ category).

AADL is just one of many libraries making patron/user inroads with Web 2.0 tools and also is just one of many cutting-edge libraries discussed in Michael Stephens's July/August 2006 issue of Library Technology Reports, "Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software."

"Some see...Web 2.0 as a set of ever-evolving tools that can benefit online users," notes Stephens in the report's introduction. "With these tools, users can converse across blogs, wikis, and at photo-sharing sites...via comments or through online discussions.... Some libraries and librarians are involved in creating conversations, connections, and community via many of these social tools. But it may be time for more librarians to explore how these tools can enhance communication with users...."

Among the (virtually free) social software tools Stephens examines in his report:

  • Weblogs (blogs)
  • Podcasts
  • RSS feeds
  • Instant Messaging (IM)
  • Wikis
  • Flickr

Not only does Stephens present in-depth discussion of the above-listed technologies, he also provides a plethora of library social-software use examples—from AADL's blog-based site and Kankakee Public Library's Podcasts and Streaming Media to the Kansas City Public Library's innovative use of RSS feeds in many of its subject guides, to the dedicated librarians creating wikis as user-centered tools for everything from best practices for libraries to the Ohio University Libraries BizWiki, a business resource created by librarian Chad Boeninger.

About the Author
Michael Stephens (MLS, Indiana University) has spent the last fifteen years working in public libraries as a reference librarian, technology trainer, and manager of networked resources. This fall, Michael will join the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at Dominican University, River Forest, IL, as an Instructor. In 2004, he was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services–funded fellowship for the University of North Texas IMLS Distance Independent Information Science Ph.D. Cohort Program to study libraries, librarians, and social software. He is currently writing his dissertation. Active in the American Library Association, he has presented at library and information venues across the country as well as internationally. Michael is well-known for his popular Tame the Web Blog, he writes for the ALA TechSource Blog, and he tours with Jenny "The Shifted Librarian" Levine for the Social Technologies Roadshow. In 2005, he was named a Library Journal "Mover and Shaker," and he served as a scholar at the Chicago Public Library's Scholar in Residence program. He also has written for Library Journal and co-authors a dept. in Computers in Libraries with Rachel Singer Gordon. He resides in Mishawaka, IN, and spends as much of the summer as possible in Traverse City, MI.

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