UKOLN AHDS Web 2.0: Addressing the Barriers to Implementation in a Library Context


Web 2.0 is described by Wikipedia as referring to "a second generation of services available on the web that lets people collaborate and share information online" [1].

Web 2.0 is essentially about creating richer user experiences through providing interactive tools and services. Web sites which utilise aspects of Web 2.0 are often personalisable, dynamically driven, and rich in community tools and sharing functions. The data from underlying systems, such as a Library Management System, can be exposed and shared, usually using XML. Web 2.0 developments are underpinned by open source software and open standards - and they often use widely available components such as RSS, blogging tools and social bookmarking services.

Recently, the term Library 2.0 has also come to prominence [2]. Library 2.0 follows the principles of Web 2.0, in that it promotes the evaluation and adoption of software and tools which were originally created outside of the Library environment. These are over-layed on traditional library services - such as the Library OPAC - in order to create a more dynamic, interactive and personalisable user experience.

Barriers to Implementation

Information professionals often express concern about a number of issues relating to implementation of Web 2.0 within their Library service.


A significant concern centres on questions regarding scaleability of the Web 2.0 approach. Information professionals are usually concerned with finding institution-wide approaches to service provision - for example, in relation to reading lists it is important that a Library service is able to receive these from tutors in a timely fashion, that they are supplied in a consistent format and that they are made available in a standard and consistent way - perhaps through a central reading list management service with links to the Library Web site and the VLE. If other approaches start to be used it becomes difficult for these to be managed in a consistent way across the institution. For example, a tutor might decide to use a service such as Librarything [3] to create his or her own online reading list. Information professionals then face a potential headache in finding out about this list, synchronising it with other approaches across the institution, integrating it with other systems on campus such as the Library Sys tem, VLE or portal and presenting it in a consistent fashion to students.

Support Issues

Another concern centres on the supportability of Web 2.0 tools and services. Information professionals are often involved with training users to use library tools and services. They use a variety of approaches in order to achieve this ranging from hands-on training sessions, through to paper-based workbooks and interactive online tutorials. Information professionals are often concerned that users will struggle to use new tools and services. They are keen to develop training strategies to support implementation of new services. With Web 2.0 this can be difficult as users may be using a whole range of freely available tools and services, many of which the information professional may not themselves be familiar with. For example, if Tutor A is using Blogger [4] with her students, whereas Tutor B is using ELGG [5]], information professionals may find themselves being faced with expectations of support being provided for a wide variety of approaches. Students might encounter a different set of tools for each module that they take, and the support landscape quite quickly becomes cluttered. Information professionals can start to feel that they are losing control of the environment in which they are training and supporting users, and may also start to feel uneasy at their own inability to keep up to speed with the rapid changes in technology.


Information professionals are also concerned about the longevity of Web 2.0 services. By its very nature, Web 2.0 is a dynamic and rapidly moving environment. Many of the tools currently available have been developed by individuals who are committed to the open source and free software movement who may not be backed by commercial funding; the individuals may have a tendency to lose interest and move on to other things once an exciting new piece of technology comes along. Some successful tools may end up being bought by commercial players which might result in their disappearance or incorporation into a commercial charging model. It appears risky to rely on services which may disappear at any time, where no support contract is available, no guarantee of bugs being fixed or formal processes for prioritisation of developments.


Where Web 2.0 developments are backed by commercial organisations, this may also cause some concern. For example, Amazon provide many useful Web 2.0 services for enhancing the Library OPAC. However, information professionals may feel uneasy about appearing to be promoting the use of Amazon as a commercial service to their users. This might potentially damage relationships with on-campus bookshops, or leave the Library service open to criticism from users that the Library is encouraging students to purchase essential materials rather than ensuring sufficient copies are provided.

Web 2.0 technologies may also raise anxieties concerning strategy issues. Information professionals might worry that if Google Scholar [6] is really successful this would reduce use of Library services, potentially leading to cancellation of expensive bibliographic and full-text databases and a resulting decline in the perceived value of the Library within the institution. Library strategies for promoting information literacy might potentially be undermined by students' use of social tagging services which bypass traditional controlled vocabularies and keyword searching. The investment in purchase and set-up of tools such as federated search services and OpenURL resolvers might be wasted because users bypass these services in favour of freely available tools which they find easier to use.

Addressing the Barriers

Building On Web 2.0 Service

Information professionals can turn many of the perceived drawbacks of Web 2.0 to their advantage by taking a proactive approach to ensure that their own services are integrated with Web 2.0 tools where appropriate. Google, for example, offers a 'Library Links' programme which enables libraries using an OpenURL link resolver to include a link from Google Scholar to their local resources as part of the Google Scholar search results. Google Scholar users can personalise their searching by selecting their 'home' library as a preference. In order to set up integration with an OpenURL resolver, libraries simply need to export their holding from their link resolver database and send this to Google. Once set up, Google will harvest new links from the link resolver database on an ongoing basis. By using such tools, the information professional can put the Library back in the picture for users, who can then take advantage of content and services that they might not otherwise have come across because they had by-passed the Library Web site.

Working With Vendors

It is also important to work with Library Systems vendors to encourage them to take an open approach to Web 2.0 integration. Many Library Systems vendors are starting to use Web 2.0 approaches and services in their own systems. For example, the Innovative Interfaces' LMS [7] now provides RSS feed capability. RSS feeds can be surfaced within the OPAC, or can be driven by data from the Library system and surfaced in any other Web site. This provides a useful service for ensuring greater integration between Library content and other systems such as institutional VLEs or portals. Users can also utilise RSS feeds to develop their own preferred services. Information professionals should lobby their LMS partners to support a more open standards approach to service development and integration, and should ensure that they don't get too constrained by working with one particular vendor.

Working With National Services

Use of the national services can also help to ensure a more sustainable approach is taken to Web 2.0 developments. For example Intute [8], a nationally funded service working closely with the higher education community, can provide a range of Web 2.0 services which libraries can utilise in enhancing their own local services, with the advantage that the service is funded on a long-term basis and support can be provided by a dedicated team of staff employed full-time to resolve issues, develop services and fix bugs.

Working With Peers

Information professionals also need to work together to share ideas and experiences, implement developments and learn from each other. There are already lots of good examples of this kind of sharing of ideas and expertise - for example, Dave Pattern's blog at the University of Huddersfield [9] provides a useful resource for those interested in implementing Web 2.0 services in a library context. It is also important that information professionals are willing to work across professions - implementation of Web 2.0 services requires the contribution of IT professionals, e-learning specialists and academics.

Trying It

Finally, information professionals need to be willing to get their hands dirty and take risks. Web 2.0 is often concerned with rapid deployment of services which may still be in a beta state. The key is to get things out quickly to users, then develop what works and learn from things that doesn't. This requires a willingness to be flexible, a confidence in users' ability to cope with rapid change without requiring a lot of hand-holding and support, and the courage to step back from a particular approach that hasn't worked and move on to other things. Not everything will be successful or enthusiastically taken up by your users and you need to be prepared to cut your losses if something does not work. Users' views should be actively sought, and they should be involved in the development and testing process wherever possible.


  1. Web 2.0, Wikipedia,
  2. Library, Wikipedia,
  3. Librarything,
  4. Blogger,
  5. ELGG,
  6. Google Scholar Services for Libraries,
  7. Innovative Interfaces Inc,
  8. Intute,
  9. Dave Pattern's blog,