Pretty Simple: web, digital, social

National Library of Scotland - image courtesy of yellow book ltd

The National Library of Scotland - image courtesy of yellow book ltd*

I avoided today’s heatwave by sitting in the relatively cool setting of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh for an event put on by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) – Enterprise, engagement and new communications: Web 2.0 in the Library.

I decided to live-tweet the event (or the morning session, at least, as my N95, which I was using as a modem, ran out of battery during the lunch break). Accordingly, here’s my coverage of the event. I used the hashtag #web2libraryevent so you can also see the Twitter results for that term.

Welcome and introductions – Graeme Forbes, National Libraries of Scotland

Graeme kicked the morning off with some thoughts on Web 2.0:

Welcome from Graeme Forbes from NLS. Giving a definition of Web 2.0 from Wikipedia – common denominator is participation.

Web 2.0 critics talk of digital narcissism, amateur commentaries, untruths and misunderstandings.

Harnessing collective intelligence – Liz McGettigan, Edinburgh City Libraries

First speaker is Liz McGettigan, head of Edinburgh City libraries, talking about Harnessing Collective Intelligence.

McGettigan: We are struggling to define libraries in a Web 2.0 World. People are finding new ways to share knowledge.

McGettigan: Public sector is slow to embrace Web 2.0. Early ‘toes in the water’ will pave way for significant changes.

McGettigan: 14 – 25 year olds, especially, expect to find us on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook etc. We must master these.

McGettigan showing examples of what Edinburgh Libraries are doing with Web 2.0. See

McGettigan: people will prefer to go to library as a ‘trusted gate-keeper’ of Web 2.0 and community info (is this true?)

An interesting question was raised about this last point, and Liz pointed out that a degree of moderation and control must be kept to ensure we keep the trust of our citizens in providing accurate information. Case in point was Talis Engage, a community information portal which supports differing levels of permissions, allowing the authority to maintain control over the information.

Practical uses for Web 2.0 – Phil Bradley, Information Specialist

Next: Phil Bradley, info specialist. Practical uses for Web 2.0. What is Web 2.0? Not about tools, it’s about mindset

Bradley: Above all, people want information. Blogs not just an ‘introspective diary’. People want links, tags, archives.

Bradley: When you update a webpage, the old content is lost. With a blog, it is archived and can be viewed as history.

Bradley: A blog is a website in and of itself. Flood it with information and link to your images, podcasts, video etc.

Bradley: “email is old, outdated, for old people – stop using it” (making a point about sharing services such a Delicious)

Bradley: Youtube is the 2nd most searched search engine (in the West?) – insane that this is blocked in organisations

Bradley: How do you blend these channels? Everything should link to everything else. No longer about standalone websites.

Bradley: Web 2.0 can bring about a lack of control (or at least, a shift in control?). Many will be threatened by this.

Bradley: Weblogs – if used, need to be integral. Need to be ‘fed and watered’. Only a small number update regularly – why?

Bradley: Summary, it’s the activity, not the tool. Try it and see. Understand your goals. Combine and blend. Take control.

Bradley: Presentation is online now at You can also follow Phil on Twitter @philbradley

The Law surrounding Web 2.0 – Jason Miles-Campbell, JISC Legal

Next: Jason Miles-Campbell, @JasonJISCLegal, from JISC Legal about Staying Legal – the law surrounding Web 2.0 use.

Miles-Campbell: Important to think of potential legal problems before you get to them and make the right ‘risk decisions’.

Miles-Campbell: What’s a risk decision? Driving at 31mph is a risk decision. It’s technically illegal, but we all do it.

Miles-Campbell: Web 2.0 legal issues: Offering tools. Using others’ tools. Requiring use of tools. Staff use of tools.

Miles-Campbell: Laws to consider: intellectual property, accessibility and discrimination, liability, data protection.

Miles-Campbell: Intellectual property – does posting to the web imply that you are happy to share?

Miles-Campbell: Intellectual Property: What can people use? Make it clear. Some people want to keep control (e.g. BBC).

Miles-Campbell: Copyright in collaborations – how easy to identify the author? Web 2.0 makes this very hard.

Miles-Campbell: Is permission given, or implied? Creative Commons licence has made this clearer in some areas (eg Flickr).

Miles-Campbell: Accessibility – a legal requirement but also affects many others (for example, mobile device users)

Miles-Campbell: Accessibility: DDA and DED means you must be proactive in considering needs. Web 2.0 tools getting better

Miles-Campbell: If you adopt a technology that is not accessible you could be in trouble, so you need to be aware.

Miles-Campbell: Why are we using a particular tool and how can we give all users the same experience?

Miles-Campbell: Liability risks – negligence, IPR infringement, defamation, harassment, confidentiality, data security

Miles-Campbell: Liability – must take reasonable precautions against these issues. But ‘reasonable’ not clearly defined!

Miles-Campbell: Mitigate risks: develop staff and user policies. Ensure clear user guidance. Don’t assume user knowledge.

Miles-Campbell: Are we liable for what our staff do online? Quite probably – need clear rules and boundaries

Miles-Campbell: See the JISC Legal Web 2.0 section for more

Hand-outs from JISC included some Web 2.0 FAQs and legal advice for learning resource staff and information services. All can be found in the resources section of the JISC Legal Web 2.0 section.

Removing barriers; developing national guidelines for using Web 2.0 – Gillian Hanlon, SLIC

After a well-earned lunch break we reconvened to hear from Gillian at SLIC (Scottish Library & Information Council), the independent advisory body to the Scottish Government and Scottish ministers on library and information matters.

Gillian gave an overview of the benefits of Web 2.0 – for example, keeping pace with technologies, responding to user demand and expectation, promoting services and initiatives, interacting and engaging with citizens, devolved and easy publishing, low or no cost. There’s also huge potential for professional development opportunities – through professional networks and the sharing of good practice and advice, Web 2.0 can fuel creative thinking and innovation.

But we do need to be aware of the barriers that we must overcome:

  • User protection – some Web 2.0 services may host inappropriate or offensive materials, so we have to think about how we protect our users from this.
  • Staff management – is it time wasting? What about the time needed to engage in the various channels?
  • Staff training – concerns about the limited technical expertise and time required to maintain Web 2 services.
  • Traditional approaches – resistance to new processes in favour of traditional approaches to information delivery and community engagement.

This brings us to SLIC’s nascent guidelines for implementing Web 2.0 – designed to advocate (promote benefits and dispel myths), overcome barriers and support (offering tips and advice). With a printed booklet due in August/September 2009, followed by web content in September/October, the guidelines will be cross-sector (not just for libraries) and will come under the Creative Commons licence to enable sharing and repurposing. The printed materials will include promotional information to convince non-believers, whilst the web content will be dynamic to include information on best practice, case studies and relevant resources.

There is definitely a need for coordination of these kind of resources, so I look forward to seeing the launch of these guidelines later in the year. Head over to for more information, as well as some interesting examples of Web 2.0 use.

Library 2.0 – Dave Errington, TALIS

Finally, Dave presented a fascinating history of the web, showing how Web 2.0 is less about technology than it is about fashion and attitudes. And indeed, he claims, Web 2.0 is already going out of fashion. He suggests that technologies can disrupt society, and can even defeat governments (see the recent protests in Iran, and imagine if the Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’ had been in possession of a camera phone and access to Twitter during his iconic stand-off!).

Technology alone does not move things along, though. We are stakeholders in the status quo, abhorring change. A geek alone can not change this – other factors must play a part (economy, fashion). Dave refers to the technology adoption curve (AKA Rogers’ bell curve), where 2.5% are innovators, 13.5% early adopters. 34% early majority, 34% later majority (now in the minority) and 16% are laggards who hold out – they don’t want to change their habits, not because of the technology itself, although they often use that excuse (too difficult etc), but because they do not want to change their habits. In all walks of life, age seems to influence our attitude towards risk – is this why young people adopt new technologies faster?

Crucially, there is also a chasm between early adopters and the early majority. This describes why some technologies ‘make it’ whilst others don’t (see Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore for more). Many are killed off by economics (minidiscs, for example, were really expensive, so never took off). Also, sometimes things catch up and take over (LCD screens vs plasma screens, for example). We need to be aware that things may fall into the chasm or perhaps be overtaken by something else (could this happen to Twitter, for example?). To stay ahead of the curve there must be pioneers – although being a pioneer means you may often get arrows in your back! Sometimes things don’t work – that’s the definition of an experiment. But technology won’t wait – the train has left the station and our citizens are ahead of us. We need to embrace this and catch up. And really, it’s more about the journey than the destination, as the latter is constantly shifting.

Dave suggests two white papers for further reading: Do Libraries Matter: The Rise of Library 2.0 and Library 2.0 – The Challenge of Disruptive Innovation (both can be found in the Talis’ White Papers section).

Q&A session

Before we all headed out into the sticky humidity of central Edinburgh, a lively Q&A session with the entire panel of speakers produced some thought-provoking discussion. The following is my summary of some of the discussions, as I interpreted them. If you think I’ve missed the point of any of these, or left anything out, do leave a comment below!

Q: Does the web replace valuable human contact?

Panel: The feeling was that these technologies are not mandatory – people can chose whether to use them or not – and that sitting in front of a PC doesn’t mean you’re only talking to that PC – you’re actually communicating with real people, often from all over the planet, in ways that were never before possible. Many of us just need to learn how to communicate differently.

Q: There a loads of tools out there, fulfilling similar purpose, so how do we choose which to use?

Panel: It depends on what do you want to achieve… are we forced to use only the most prominent, popular tools of the day? Or should we be on all of them? Perhaps we should ‘graze’ and then move on, but it is important to look at the whole range. We also need to view the concept of ‘making mistakes’ in a new way. With Web 2.0 you can try things for cheap or free – you’ve learned something whether it works or not.

Q: How do we evaluate our use of Web 2.0 to know if we’ve been successful?

Panel: This is without doubt a tricky question to answer. Is it pointless setting targets? For example, which is more important – the number of followers you have on Twitter or the number of times people retweet or DM you (quantity vs quality)? By all means create goals and aim towards those, but we can’t be too prescriptive – on many of the newer platforms the ideal outcomes are unknown. It’s also perhaps important just to be seen to be innovating (I’m again reminded of Marshall McLuhan’s proposal that the medium is the message).

Q: Where next?

Panel: Whilst Web 1 and Web 2 are about documents, Web 3 will be about databases. There will be enormous potential with mashing data. It hasn’t fully arrived yet, but like a surfer waiting for that big wave, we must be ready! Privacy will have to be compromised to get the full use of the services on the future web. But people are already giving up info a lot more easily… just think of store loyalty cards. Also, search is currently very archaic – google is very basic and relatively crude. New search functions will take into account social information about you and your environment – a profound shift which is going to happen soon. Phil sums this all up nicely by stating that we’re in a fog – we can only see little way in advance. A scary thought for some, perhaps, but also rather exciting!

Final thoughts

The day was a really useful one, much less strictly focused on libraries than I’d expected, and offering plenty to think about.

  • It was good to meet Phil Bradley (@philbradley) whom I hope will come and see us soon to help us evangelise the Web 2.0 message to some of our more sceptical colleagues.
  • A useful quick chat with Jason Miles-Campbell (@JasonJISCLegal). Would be great to continue the discussion around the legal obligations of accessibility.
  • Nice to meet Nicola Osborne (@suchprettyeyes) from Edina. Hope we can meet up to talk mash-ups and more!
  • Great to see so many people from my own organisation, including Liz McGettigan with whom I hope to catch up soon to discuss some cross-departmental projects, and Alison Stoddart, who sounds as if she is facing many of the same challenges that I am!

*National Library of Scotland image courtesy of yellow book ltd.

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2 Responses to Event review – Web 2.0 in Libraries, Edinburgh, 2nd July 2009

  1. Richard Hughes says:

    An excellent summary of the day and what each speaker covered. I attended this event and left with plenty of things to think about in relation to my own role and working practices. Although Dave Errington’s presentation was not quite what I was expecting, it was fascinating stuff.

  2. James says:

    Thanks for your comments Richard, glad you found my summary useful (I’m sure there were plenty of points I missed!). As you say, lots to think about and I hope the conversations will continue online.

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