Web 2.0 Government

On January 25, I attended a conference at Library and Archives Canada called “Resource Discovery Day: Finding Stuff, Getting Stuff and Sharing Stuff.” The main focus was how the federal government uses Web 2.0 technology. Most of my current knowledge of Web 2.0 usage in libraries is related to public libraries, and to a lesser extent academic, so I was curious to see what the federal government is doing, especially since I am currently working in a government library.


The first speaker was Peter Morville, an information architect who studies ambient findability: “the ability to find anyone or anything from anywhere at any time.” Morville began by discussing information architecture, “the structural design of shared information environments.” Morville stressed the importance of creating multiple access points, since different methods work best for different users. In order to make sure a website in user friendly, it is important to conduct usability testing. It is also worth considering whether users can find your website as well as how easily they can navigate it once they get there.

Morville also discussed the need to make searching easy for the user and not to blame “those stupid users” for not understanding how a site works. The search interface is important, but the results display must also be easy to understand. Design patterns such as auto-complete can help making searching easier. For example, Google will try to “guess” the word you are typing as you begin entering the first few letters. In addition to using search engines such as Google, where the most trusted sites are typically the ones on top, people are using social media tools such as Flickr to find information. Flickr rates photos on “interestingness,” which includes number of comments, number of tags, and number of times a photo has been marked as a “favourite.” Tagging allows users to apply their own vocabulary to an item rather than rely on a controlled vocabulary.

In terms of emerging technology, Morville discussed the Cisco Wireless Location Appliance, which can be used to tag and track other wireless devices (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps6386/index.html). He also briefly mentioned Amazon Remembers (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000291661) and Google Goggles (http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/#text), which are mobile apps that analyze photos users take with their phones and then try to find information about the item. Pretty incredible!

Web 2.0 and the Government

The second session was a panel on the federal government’s use of Web 2.0. The panelists were Marj Akerley of the Treasury Board, Peter Cowan of Natural Resources Canada and Julie Rancourt of Justice Canada. One thing I learned from the panel discussion is that the deputy ministers have actually been mandated by the Clerk of the Privy Council to use Web 2.0 technology. I know that I get e-mails at work about new postings on the departmental blog, but I didn’t know these blogs were mandatory.

The government culture is often averse to Web 2.0 because of the security and privacy risks involved. However, as Ms. Akerley pointed out, federal employees may wish to share their work with their colleagues across departments. There is also concern that public servants will waste too much time on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. As Akerley wisely pointed out, if they aren’t on Facebook, they will find other ways to waste time if they want to, such as the good old-fashioned water cooler. Social media can actually help federal employees share their knowledge with colleagues within their department and across the government. It is important to have clear mandates of how these tools should be used in order to prevent abuse. Additionally, employees can post content to GCPedia, a wiki for posting non-sensitive government information. One advantage of having such a wiki is that when an employee leaves, his or her knowledge in preserved in the wiki for the benefit of his or her colleagues. Peter Cowman mentioned that NRCan is working on integrating GCPedia into their catalogue and then sharing it with other departments. NRCan also has an “integrated knowledge base” that combines data sources such as NRTube, the department’s version of a YouTube channel, as well as the library catalogue.

Finally, Julie Rancourt spoke about open data, the practice of making information easily accessible for use, re-use, and re-purposing. As Rancourt pointed out, information must be presented in a format that allows users to modify it and change it to other formats. No PDFs allowed! Many governments, such as Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, have licenses for use of open government data. Municipalities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Vancouver are also working on open data initiatives (http://www.toronto.ca/open/).

Overall, I found the conference quite interesting. I didn’t know about GCPedia or the government’s plans for Open Data. Next week, I am going to NRCan’s library to get a better look at how a government library can use Web 2.0 technology.


Blogs and RSS feeds

I agreed with a lot of the points Greg Schwartz made in his article “Blogs for Libraries.”  I think that blogs can play an important role in helping librarians stay informed as to what is going on in the library community. Blogs are especially useful for those working in small libraries where there may not another staff member to consult about a particular issue. Subscribing to blogs is free, meaning librarians can keep up to date and build a network with colleagues around the world even on a limited budget. Blogs are also a great way to promote library services. Patrons can subscribe to RSS feeds about new books. Libraries can even create genre-specific blogs and related RSS feeds. Many libraries also use a blog format for their teen site. This is a great way to reach teens because the most current information is always at the top, teens typically know how to use blogs and are often bloggers themselves, and using the blog’s comments feature is a good way to encourage participation. Blogs can also be used to update patrons on library programming. Many libraries encourage librarians to blog, but I remember hearing in my readers’ advisory class last semester about a library where the librarians are required to blog as part of their job. Personally, I wouldn’t mind, so long as the blogging took place during paid time and not my own free time, since I find I enjoy blogging and it’s a simple way to communicate with patrons, but I wonder if it’s effective to force people to blog? It ensures the blog will always be updated, which is important, but if someone is not really interested in blogging, will this come through in their posts? I wonder what others think of the idea of “enforced blogging.”

I thought Darlene Fichter’s article  “Why and How to Use Blogs to Promote Your Library’s Services” raised some important points in terms of considering the needs of your blog’s potential readers as well as security and privacy concerns. For example, if your blog uses a site whose server is located in another country, it may be subject to different laws. I liked her suggestion of using the library blog to post community news. This is a good way to keep patrons informed, as well as provide a platform for community groups to get the word out to a larger audience. I also liked Fichter’s idea about targeting specific audiences, such as making parts of the blog available in other languages. This is a good way to build connections with diverse user groups. The library can look for volunteers from the community to help with the translation, thereby getting the community involved in the library blog.

In terms of RSS feeds, I already use Google Reader, so I find it quite easy to subscribe to blogs. It is handy to have everything organized in one place rather than have to go to each site individually. The problem I have, though, is that if I don’t check my Google Reader every day, the blog updates become overwhelming. I don’t have time to go through everything, but at least having everything in one place makes it easy to skim. I found it pretty easy to add an RSS link to my blog. I don’t know if anyone would actually want to subscribe to it but I guess we’ll see!

In terms of the lesson delivery, the screen shots were nice, but I appreciated the video as well. I personally didn’t have any problems setting up an RSS feed, but for anyone who needs help, I think a video is more useful for something like that than reading written instructions. With the video, it is easier to see step by step what to do.

Library Web 2.0 Spaces for Teens

On January 14, I had the pleasure of attending the Libraries and Teens event presented by CLASY (Canadian Libraries Are Serving Youth) and the CLA. I am considering becoming a youth services librarian, so I was excited to see what I could learn. The workshop included a session on using Web 2.0 to create a space for teens on the library website.

First up was Alan Harnum of Toronto Public Library. Harnum discussed TPL’s teen summer reading site, Word Out (http://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/word_out_2010/), which used a blog format to get teens posting about what they were reading each week. Harnum stressed the importance of understanding what you can (and can’t) do with the technology available to you and to always borrow from others when you can rather than reinvent the wheel. It’s also necessary to have a plan in place to keep content updated rather than rely on library users to create all of the content. While the ultimate goal is to get teens participating in creating library content, they may need encouragement at first. If teens see that the blog or Facebook page is updated regularly, they are more likely to return and to eventually contribute. Another excellent tip Harnum offered is to avoid using the “library website voice.” Teens will react more positively if your voice is less formal. Be yourself rather than try too hard to be cool. Teens will appreciate authenticity, and at the same time,  you can encourage teens to be themselves as well.

Following Harnum’s presentation, John Pichette and Vivien Hogg of Vaughan Public Library talked about the recent redesign of VPL’s Teen Vortex site (http://www.vaughanpl.info/vortex/). The old website was dark blue with neon green, which teens thought was ugly, and required too many clicks to access information. How many teens would have the patience to go through several steps just to access a booklist? In order to improve the website, a working group was formed. The website took the form of a blog, which is easier for teens to access since the most current information is always at the top of the page. Booklists were pared down to more concise topics, and a plan was established to keep them updated. Having a maintenance plan is also valuable, since a website full of dead links will not impress teens. The new site looks great and the booklists link directly to the catalogue, making it easy for teens to find great books to read.

I’ll be posting more about the workshop soon on the CLASY blog (http://clasy.wordpress.com/) if anyone’s interested!

What is Web 2.0?

I found it interesting to read Tim O’Reilly’s article  “What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software.” To me, Web 2.0 means greater user participation in terms of creating content and interacting with others. An interesting point is the idea that Web 2.0 services get better the more people use it. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but it’s true. While O’Reilly uses BitTorrents as an example, the same can easily be said for Facebook. What good is a social network if you don’t have any “friends” to communicate with? The issue of ownership is also important. If you write a review on Amazon, the review’s copyright belongs to Amazon, not you. Most users probably don’t consider this, and maybe in that case it doesn’t matter so much since many Amazon users don’t intend to post that content elsewhere. But what about blogs? Are the posts I have written on this blog still mine or do they somehow become the property of WordPress? What about if I post an essay I have written for one of my classes? Issues of privacy and intellectual property are especially important in a library context. I am hoping that throughout this course we will learn more about how libraries can protect patrons’ privacy, for example, on the library Facebook page.


Hello, LIS 9763!

Welcome to my blog, What the Librarian Did. I am currently on co-op in Gatineau and will be finishing my MLIS this summer. Prior to coming to library school, I worked at Harlequin as a proofreader. This blog is named after a romance novel that came out right before I left my job to go to library school. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, so I don’t actually know what the librarian did, but I hope it was somthing scandalous.

I am taking this course because I am interested in social media and learning how librarians can use tools such as blogs to connect with readers, particularly young adults. I read a lot of YA fiction and I am considering starting a YA blog, though I never seem to get around to it. Hopefully this blog will provide some motivation.