Societal change affects every profession - so does Technology. The popularization of the internet in the 1990s changed the world. Libraries were faced with the fact that the web was becoming an important tool for information seekers, and "had to" extend their services into the web environment. Digital library catalogs and archives accessible through the internet were introduced. Although people's dependence on libraries for information and knowledge dropped, libraries were able to cope and adjust to the requirements posed by the new information age.

But now the internet itself is undergoing a major change. Our dear Web is transforming. During the last couple of years, fierce conversation has surrounded the change brought by a shift in web technology. The end-result: "Web 2.0". Maria Collins describes Web 2.0 in her Electronic Journal Forum column, " Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the Hyperlinked Library" as follows:

Simply, Web 2.0 is the next incarnation of the World Wide Web, where digital tools allow users to create, change, and publish dynamic content of all kinds. Other Web 2.0 tools syndicate and aggregate this content. In this ecology, users will all be publishers and creators of their own information and entertainment channels. (...) To better understand Web 2.0 (as well as Library 2.0, which utilizes these same concepts), it is useful to examine its principles or affordances. These include conversations, community, participation, a sense of experience, and sharing.

  • Conversations: User participation, discussion and feedback are welcomed and encouraged
  • Community: Open conversations can lead to a sense of community and belonging within social sites.
  • Participation: New information is created via collaboration between users. Everyone can create content; ideas and knowledge flow freely and are remixed and reused.
  • Experience: Engagement with other users and the community as a whole is rewarding and provides some type of fulfillment.
  • Sharing: Users can post about as much or as little of their lives as possible.

For more information on Web 2.0 and the tools and technologies related to the phenomenon, see Web 2.0 Essentials.

The "Net Generation" of internet users is quickly adopting these new ways of communicating and working brought on by the new development in web tools. This brings major needs for change also - and especially - in the academic world. In her article, "Net Generation Students and Libraries", Joan K. Lippincott describes the major disconnects between today's academic libraries and Net Gen students. She notes that "the most common one is students' dependence on Google and similar search engines for discovery of information resources rather than consultation of library Web pages, catalogs, and databases as the main source of access. Since students often find library-sponsored resources difficult to figure out on their own, and they are seldom exposed to or interested in formal instruction in information literacy, they prefer to use the simplistic but responsive Google." Lippincott goes on to state that most libraries also need to drastically improve their web environment's visual appearance and address the fact that Net Gen students are increasingly relying on visual cues in using and navigating the Internet. "Designing Web pages that are responsive to Net Gen students' style would also help guide students to appropriate content or help them when they have problems with searches." Another thing that should not go unaddressed is the fact that students perceive the Internet as their information forum and are unsatisfied when the forum is divided into smaller domains. Everything should be accessible through one single site, and thus, if libraries want to have students still using their internet services for information seeking, they need to "Integrate searching of "open" Web resources and materials owned or licensed by the library."

Library 2.0

Let's start by checking what Wikipedia has to say about Library 2.0:

The term "Library 2.0" was coined by Michael Casey on his blog LibraryCrunch as a direct spin-off of the terms Business 2.0 and Web 2.0. Casey suggested that libraries, especially public libraries, are at a crossroads where many of the elements of Web 2.0 have applicable value within the library community, both in technology-driven services and in non-technology based services. In particular, he described the need for libraries to adopt a strategy for constant change while promoting a participatory role for library users.

As said, societal and technological change effect every profession, even librarians. Web 2.0 happens to be heavily tied to both areas; it is fundamentally changing the way people use the internet to communicate, shop, look for information, express themselves, seek for entertainment, study and work. Looking back, libraries have come a long way from what the first libraries were. The transformation is evident. However, the changes have all been basically done to keep up with the rest of the world and its demands. Library 2.0 is simply a method of, once again, keeping up with the expectations of the ever-changing environment. As Karen Coyle states in her article "The Library Catalog in a 2.0 World", published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship (Volume 33, number 2, pages 289-291):

"Our users have shifted their attention from the library to other sources of information. The question today is not how do get users into the library, but how can we take the library to the users. The answer will necessarily involve a transformation of the library catalog.


The material that are available through the library are generally not part of the Open Access information sources that the user encounters through Web search engines. Yet those open access resources are also a valuable part of the user's information environment, and should not be seen, either by librarians or users, as rivals to library resources. The challenge today is to present all of this as a coherent whole, and still help users make choices between the different offerings.


There are two topics in the Library 2.0 discussion that I find most compelling. The first is that the library catalog, in the sense of finding the list of the library's holdings, is no longer the library's primary user service. The second is that the 2.0 philosophy emphasizes the social aspects of information such as reviews, recommendations, and tagging.


In fact, the OCLC report on user perceptions of the library shows that only one percent of users begin their information search in the library catalog. The library catalog comes in when the user seeks to locate something that he or she expects that the library might have. Since the same OCLC report shows that most users think of libraries as mainly having books, this gives you an idea of when users will choose to turn to the library catalog.


The user experience with the use of discovery tools that are part of the electronic environment is that the discovery and "obtain" functions are satisfied with the same search.


The most 2.0 of current library technology is arguably the use of the OpenURL. THe OpenRUL has created a vital link from library licensed resources to the library user. In addition to OpenURL services built into licensed databases, browser plugins facilitate the connection between open Web sites, like Google Scholar, and the library's licensed resources. Without ever consciously entering the library catalog, the user receives services provided by the library. This is an excellent example of taking the library to the user."

So we seem to be faced with yet more change. Making library applications more user-friendly requires to break out of the institutional mindset still prevailing in libraries today. "Why should we change, why can't the students just learn to use our perfectly good information search applications? They have worked before, so why wouldn't they work now?"

In this "Age of Google", librarians can't expect users to devote much of their time to learning to use their "sophisticated" (read: complicated) search applications and archives. Students, and staff alike, opt for the easiest and quickest alternative, and resort to information searchable online. When the world is ''a-google-away'', why bother to go through the cumbersome process of delving into the archives and material provided by the ancient information repository? "The information there isn't even up-to-date!"

Academics are, however, increasingly concerned about this development. They say that information on the web is not "academic" enough. Students don't possess the knowledge and skills required to critically assess the validity of the information they use as material for their papers and studies. Libraries, on the other hand, provide "quality" information and academics see that students should be lured back into the libraries, to better control what they read. There lies a conflict. The world is moving into the web, making (almost) everything a click or two away. At the same time, libraries are holding on to their old customs, lagging behind the rest of the world. Admittedly, they are providing more and more material in the web environment, but their systems are still extremely complex and difficult compared to popular search engines.

Furthermore, as the web is simultaneously undergoing a huge wave of "socialization" (see Web 2.0 Essentials) users are beginning to demand tools and applications enabling two-way communication and collaboration. Applications, such as Wikis, Blogs and Other Social Software are increasingly gaining momentum as more and more of the material on the web comprises of user-generated content. Libraries need to transform their views on how to best provide their valuable information to the Net Generation of users, to better serve their clients. Otherwise the shift to other resources, outside the library walls (physical or virtual), will just continue.

Libraries need to think out-of-the-box and ask themselves "How could we better serve our clients? How could we better provide them with the valuable information and expertise we possess?" A feasible approach to this might be to consider where the students and other users actually do their work nowadays, not only physically but also virtually. For example, providing links to related articles and other material from course websites or the course management system should be considered. Of course this brings a lot more work to either librarian or the professors / assistants in charge of the courses, but the benefits might be tremendous. It would provide a valuable introduction to the material in the repositories and archives provided by the library, as well as to the library web environment as a whole. Integrating the library services more closely to the students' working habits is essential if you wish to promote the use of the tools and applications available. Otherwise Google will prevail.

Another factor in need of thorough investigation is making "the library experience" more social. As Kevin Curran, Michelle Murray and Martin Christian conclude in their article "Taking the information to the public through Library 2.0" (2007), "One of the aims of L2 (Library 2.0) is to encourage feedback and participation from the community." Libraries need to be in the know of what the community and clients want. Implementing social social software, such as blogs, provides great platforms for communication. Traditional newsletters are satisfactory means of making announcements, but what they lack is a feature that would enable commenting and true conversation between the librarians and users. How can libraries know what the users want if they don't converse with them? As Maria Collins notes, "Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the Hyperlinked Library":

"The heart of Library 2.0 is user-centered change. It is a model for library service that encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation in the creation of both the physical and the virtual services they want, supported by consistently evaluating services. The principles of Library 2.0 seek to break down barriers: barriers librarians have placed on services, barriers of place and time, and barriers inherent in what we do. In this user-centered paradigm, libraries can get information/entertainment/knowledge into the hands of users wherever they are by whatever means work best."

(The same principles apply to corporations and their clients, and thus I also recommend to explore the sections related to Enterprise 2.0, where the new models of working and collaborating in a 2.0 world are discussed further)

There are also vendors in the market providing customized solutions for library internet services. See for example, a company that supplies applications and platforms for both public and academic libraries. Talis also conveniently provides an article, "Library 2.0: The Challenge of Disruptive Innovation", that isn't even too biased not to be taken seriously. The article, written by technology evangelist Paul Miller (Talis employee), goes on to explain the changing economics of the IT industry, especially the web applications, and how all this effects the academic world and libraries in specific. Miller raises questions like: "Does it make sense for data on holdings aggregated from across a number of libraries to be difficult for information consumers to locate or interact with? Do current notions of belonging to a single library or library authority make sense in an increasingly mobile world? Does the current model for procuring a complete library system offer value to the library or to its users? Does Open Source offer a better development model - even for incumbent software vendors?" Although somewhat aiming to promote the Talis software, the article is still a valuable read to better understand the underlying phenomena transforming the world of information.

Library 2.0 can be summed up as being increasingly user-driven, constantly developing its operations, reaching out to users in new ways and always aiming to save its users time in retrieving information, presenting it in ways that promote learning.

For an excellent presentation on what Library 2.0 is about and where the development is at the moment, see Building Academic Library 2.0 (1:10:37min) on YouTube. The video presents a conference held in University California Berkeley on November 2, 2007.
For example, one comment on the video says:

"Thank you very much for posting this video. I am a library director and exploring Library 2.0 resources as alternatives for improving our contact with the academic community. Completely agree with Ms. Farkas, there was never a Library 1.0 because it has been an ongoing process of development. I have been in this field since 1974 and have lived it. Congratulations. We will be exploring examples suggested."

I seriously recommend watching the video.

Applications for libraries to consider

So what are the new technologies that could enable the Library 2.0 approach? Here's a list of the main Web 2.0 applications that may come into question:

For further explanations for how libraries can take advantage of these technologies, see Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and Its Implications for Libraries, by Jack M. Maness (MLS, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, 2006)

This list of "Applications for libraries to consider" is, however, a very short-sighted vision of what needs to be done and changed in libraries to adjust to the new situation. The next passage is a quote from an OCLC report, "Sharing, Privacy and Trust in our Networked World" (available after a quick registration), urging librarians to look further into the future:

"Our perceptions become our realities, and often, also our limitations. This was clearly the case for the authors of this report when we began our research on social networks a year ago. There is no doubt that our initial perceptions of social networks influenced our approach to this study. Handicapped by only limited personal experiences with sites, we began our study as we had every study before it — by looking at social networks as a service or set of services to be studied, learned and implemented. We conceived of a social library as a library of traditional services enhanced by a set of social tools — wikis, blogs, mashups and podcasts. Integrated services, of course, user-friendly for sure and offering superior self-service. We were wrong.

Our view, after living with the data, struggling with the findings, listening to experts and creating our own social spaces, is quite different. Becoming engaged in the social Web is not about learning new services or mastering new technologies. To create a checklist of social tools for librarians to learn or to generate a "top ten" list of services to implement on the current library Web site would be shortsighted. Such lists exist. Resist the urge to use them.

The social Web is not being built by augmenting traditional Web sites with new tools. And a social library will not be created by implementing a list of social software features on our current sites. The social Web is being created by opening the doors to the production of the Web, dismantling the current structures and inviting users in to create their content and establish new rules.

Open the library doors, invite mass participation by users and relax the rules of privacy. It will be messy. The rules of the new social Web are messy. The rules of the new social library will be equally messy. But mass participation and a little chaos often create the most exciting venues for collaboration, creativity, community building — and transformation. It is right on mission."

The current situation at Helsinki University of Technology

Helsinki University of Technology (TKK), Helsinki School of Economics (HSE) and the University of Art and Design Helsinki (TaiK) are being unified into one "super university", called Aalto University. The new university complex is to start its journey to success in the Fall of 2009. This new situation presents a great opportunity to inspect new practices and approaches, to "start from scratch". The libraries are also to start collaborating more, physically staying independent, though. The virtual library environment will be unified, meaning that the three libraries' websites and catalogs will most likely be brought under the same roof. Could/Should Library 2.0 concepts be utilized to make the library services more efficient and appealing to students and staff?

The current situation at TKK is that the university has finally updated its web environment. The new website has been launched, and can be viewed Here. Admittedly, the site is a major improvement to the old one, which was probably designed back in early 1990s. The visual appearance is clear and bright, and the navigations seem pretty easily comprehendable.

However, the site does not feature any Web 2.0 applications! The "Current Affairs" are still posted as static news articles, instead of in the form of a blog. Hence, readers do not have the possibility to comment, or post links to further reading on the subjects. TKK does have a wiki (as you probably have noticed..) available for the use of staff and students, but they don't even provide a link to it from the site! How are people supposed to know about the wiki? Judging by the current usage, they probably don't...

The social aspects of the web environment have clearly been ignored. There are no features to promote the "community spirit". I wonder, who do the web developers regard as their key audience? Clearly not the students. After getting the hang of how everyday things, like course enrollment etc, work at TKK, the students don't really need the website for general information anymore. They have no incentives to visit the site, if there is no benefit to them. One possible incentive to use, is to add a feeling of a "social experience", but this means opening up, letting the users express their thoughts and thus, making them feel important and connected to the community. The only way to comment on the contents of the website at the moment is to post "Feedback", which goes to the webmasters of the site, and is not universally visible. The site doesn't even thank you for your feedback!

So how about the library?
The basic services of the TKK Library work faultlessly, no reason to complain about the quality. However, when concentrating solely on the internet services, the situation is somewhat different. I know that "A book should not be judged by its cover", but when considering websites, the cover is essential. TKK Library just (on 18 Aug, 2008) updated its website to match the visual appearance of the TKK main site - a major improvement when comparing to what it was. But still, the library website features no trace of the Web 2.0 era. The "News" section has been executed in the same manner as on the TKK site - no commenting possibility there. No mention of the TKK wiki, no tags, no "See also" sections. The content is static and the users are not provided with means to contribute.

Straight-forward approaches, like the modern search engines offer, that's what users nowadays want - and expect. Nobody has the time or patience to learn how to use the difficult catalogues and other search approaches the library still uses, especially when a lot of the times you don't even find what you are looking for. Searching for information is not fun. No wonder users are turning to the responsive Google (hopefully Google Scholar, though).

Furthermore, the catalogs provide no means to comment on the articles. It could also be extremely useful and time-saving, if, when clicking on a search result from the list, and finding the specifics of the article, the page would also provide the abstract, or some kind of introduction to the article, and a platform for comments and conversations. If a commenting feature was implemented, this would probably be the best page to integrate it to. Also, the page could present alternative articles, in a short "See also" / "Similar articles" section.

So what is there to do? In addition to the totally new visual appearance, the TKK library needs to consider different kinds of applications and approaches to promote the user-experience, enhance information findalibility, create possibilities for users to contribute and thus, generate a sense of community. "The question today is not how do get users into the library, but how can we take the library to the users." Steps in the right direction have definitely been the integration with Google Scholar (see Google Scholar at TKK for instructions) and the introduction of the TKK Library Facebook application, which permits catalog searches directly from the Facebook interface (although, throwing you to the "Teemu" domain to see the results). Other possible features the library should consider incorporating into its web services are for example:

  • Blogs:
    • Replace the traditional static "News" section, and enable commenting and contributing. The constantly changing environment and needs of users has to keep the library on its toes, and ready to transform and improve itself when needed.
    • "What's New" blogs to market new materials and resources, events, and to share information
  • RSS feeds:
    • Feeds of different sections of the site: blogs, event informations, new material etc.
    • In addition, a user could be presented with the ability to customize catalog searches and subscribe to them, to be able to efficiently monitor new catalog additions. This would be particularly valuable for researchers focusing on a certain subject.
  • Wiki:
    • Wiki-based guides, possibly allowing users to edit the content, or at least comment on the usefulness in the "Discussion" page that comes attached to every wikipage
    • Other uses should also be considered
  • Podcasts to highlight new resources and library information
  • Instant Messaging:
    • Might be a bit too "heavy" for the TKK library to take advantage of to promote customer service, answer questions etc. It ties up personnel, as somebody should always be ready to answer the inquiries. Other uses for the technology should, however, be considered. IM could be utilized, e.g., in the internal communication of the staff, or communication between libraries. The introduction of Aalto University might also present new uses for IM.
  • Tagging:
    • Presents a new way of categorizing content.
    • The usefulness and functionality of adding a tagging feature to the website and catalogs should be considered.
    • Could bookmarking be integrated with for example
  • Taking advantage of "The Long Tail":
    • Introducing similar approaches as, e.g., uses to market different books. Introducing "Similar products" to customers, or presenting them with options, such as "Other people who bought this book also bought..." has proven to be very effective.
    • A concrete example (quoting Kevin Curran: "Taking the information to the public through Library 2.0", 2007, available at Emerald): "In 1988 a book by a British mountain climber Joe Simpson - which did not do exceedingly well, was promoted by Amazon alongside a book written by John Krakauer, released a decade later, which was also about a mountain-climbing tragedy. Amazon recommends products of similar interests to a customer when they are purchasing from the web site, i.e. Other customers buying this product have also liked.... It was this that led to the great success of Simpson's book. It wet on to outsell Krakauer's 1998 book by 2-1 (Anderson, 2004). This was possible due to the public ''being able to leave positive feedback'' about the book - so that the consumer knew before they tried it how many other people had already found it interesting."
  • Enabling commenting (and rating) of books and articles
  • Social software applications to meet users' needs when, where and how they need them
  • The physical library (the building itself) should have attractive spaces for collaboration and communication.
    • What would be a better place to work on projects than the library, where you can directly resort to all different kinds of material - even books!
  • Integration with the Course Management Systems (Noppa, WebOodi etc.)
    • For example, Noppa could provide links to different related articles or searches in the library catalog. It could recommend books on the subject, and link them straight to the library website to see if they are available. Even better would of course be if the Noppa page could be fully integrated to the library catalogs, so that the user didn't have to leave the site at all. When a user is logged in to Noppa, s/he wouldn't have to log in to the library site, and vice versa.
    • This might also provide a channel for TKK researchers to market their research
  • Providing diversified content:
    • The content brought to the user doesn't have to be only books and articles, but can also include video material, pictures, slideshows (see e.g. Slideshare: Library 2.0), links to interesting blogs etc.
    • If the library objective is to supply its clients with information, why discriminate between ''different types'' of information? A picture tells more than a thousand words...
  • Collaboration with sites equivalent to
    • If the library doesn't have a certain book, could it be possible to recommend another service (online bookstore) where the user could find it?
  • Enabling website customization
    • Could it be possible to allow users who login, to customize the library website to contain the objects they wish to appear on "their own library site"? Personalization.
    • Users could be given a possibility to create their own mashups of the different content the library is providing (RSS feeds etc.), and why not also integrate external content.
    • A personal library homepage.
    • The user could create his/her own profile, add interests etc. and the information could then be used to recommend interesting material
    • Personal bookmarks and tags could be saved in the profile, and then shared with colleagues and fellow students

Admittedly, the Web 2.0 phenomenon has not yet inflicted that drastic a change in the way that Finnish students work and conduct their lives as stated earlier. The use of Facebook has exploded, but many of the Tools 2.0 are not yet in the general use: not many students actually follow too many blogs (let alone write one themselves), few people have ever edited a wiki page (although the frequent use of, e.g., Wikipedia), tagging or social bookmarking are still quite unknown etc.. Majority of the Web 2.0 action is (not all that surprisingly) happening on the other side of the Atlantic, in America. But as seen so many times before, the phenomena and habits tend to eventually spread even to Finland. And so, what would be a better time to take action and for once, not end up lagging (all that much) behind of general development? For the tide to raise your ship, you need to prepare in advance and actually build a ship. Furthermore, incorporating students in the development and design processes of the web environment might not be such a bad idea...

Related articles and other material:

  • Taking the information to the public through Library 2.0 - Curran, K
    • Article at Emerald
    • Abstract
      • Purpose - Libraries as they are known today can be defined by the term Library 1.0. This defines the way resources are kept on shelves or at a computer behind a login. These resources can be taken from a shelf, checked out to the librarian, taken home for a certain length of time and absorbed, and then taken back to the library for someone else to use. Library 1.0 is a one-directional service that takes people to the information that they require. Library 2.0 - or L2 as it is now more commonly addressed as - aims to take the information to the people by bringing the library service to the internet and getting the users more involved by encouraging feedback participation. This paper seeks to present an overview of Library 2.0.
      • Design/methodology/approach - This paper presents an overview of Web 2.0 including definitions, technologies involved and sites currently advocated as examples of Web 2.0.
      • Findings - The major difference between Library 1.0 and L2 is that Library 1.0 only allows for a one-way flow of information while L2 is a read-write library that gives library users the power to decide the service that they get. L2 reinforces the role libraries play in the community by building on today's best and continually improving the service. L2 can be summarized as being user-driven and aiming to save each library user time in retrieving information.

  • Educating the Net Generation - Numerous authors
    • The Net Generation has grown up with information technology. The aptitudes, attitudes, expectations, and learning styles of Net Gen students reflect the environment in which they were raised---one that is decidedly different from that which existed when faculty and administrators were growing up.
    • This collection explores the Net Gen and the implications for institutions in areas such as teaching, service, learning space design, faculty development, and curriculum. Contributions by educators and students are included.<br>
    • The freely available e-book is divided into different sections, the most interesting probably being Chapter_: Net Generation Students and Libraries_
    • The book can be viewed HERE

See also