Making sense of Library 2.0 through technological frames

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Abstract

This paper in advancing the understanding of the life cycle of Library 2.0 in the academic library context, describes an exploratory study in two parts: (1) Use: an exploration of user experience of Library 2.0 services; and (2) Evaluation: an evaluation of impact of Library 2.0 services on academic libraries and users. Through the dual lenses of social constructivism and Phenomenology, this study aims to identify the factors affecting the innovation and implementation of Library 2.0 services, and to reconstruct and evaluate the user experience of those services.

BACKGROUND

Libraries and librarians in facing the challenges from the Internet and the Web have to offer, recognize how existing library services might be enhanced by incorporating Library 2.0 concepts in service design, development, provision, and delivery. On the other hand, library users are now facing a very complex online environment in which so many options are available, yet so little guidance can be obtained.

Recent literature on Library 2.0 tends to be descriptive, technology-centric, and single-institution-based. Research into the phenomena underlying Library 2.0 framework, such as social networking (Chu & Meulemans, 2008) are widely conducted. User studies with special regard to usability evaluation such as blogs and social tagging is always very popular among Library and Information Science (LIS) community (see Chalon et al, 2008). Another area of research focuses on discovering the impacts of Library 2.0 on users, as well as the problems and issues associated with the implementation and use of Library 2.0 services. Privacy considerations (see Chu & Meulemans, 2008; Charingo & Barnett-Ellis, 2007), credibility (Luyt & Tan, 2010), gender differences (see Sook, 2010; Thelwall, Wilkinson, & Uppal, 2010) have recently become a central focus of discussion. Another issue is concerned with the methodology of evaluation. Booth (2007) proposes that when evaluating Web 2.0 services, a wider evaluation framework than we typically use is required.

This research, in responding to such research gap and in advancing the understanding of the social role of Library 2.0, is divided into two parts: (1) Use: What is the user experience of Library 2.0 services? and (2) Evaluation: How do user evaluate Library 2.0 services? Through the dual lenses of Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) and Phenomenology, this study aims to develop a framework of Library 2.0 life cycle, and to reconstruct and evaluate the user experience of those services. This study examines the broader context of Library 2.0, as opposed to the nature and characteristics of the technology itself. Part of the theoretical approach underlying this research is inspired by the works of Dalbello (2004; 2005a; 2005b), in which an innovation is examined socially and culturally, and made sense through the interpretation of its relevant social groups.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHOD

Theoretical Framework

This study employs the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) model, which proposes that innovation is embedded in social systems (Bijker, 1995). It is chosen because it enables the research focus to move beyond the control and technological speculation based on the functionality and capability, and to focus on how people adopt, design, deploy, and appropriate the technology in an actual social setting (Dutton, Cheong, & Park, 2004). According to Pinch and Bijker (1986), SCOT is used to understand four dimensions surrounding the innovation: (1) interpretive flexibility; (2) relevant social groups; (3) closure and stabilization; and (4) technological frame.

Data Collection

Data collection was conducted with in-depth phenomenological interview, from January 2010 to May 2010. Twenty students were solicited through participating academic libraries' Facebook fan pages, and libraries' social networking channels such as Twitter and blogs. Their academic status ranged from freshman in college to graduate student. During the interview, students with extensive use experience in Library 2.0 services were asked to comment on two aspects: (1) Use: an exploration of user experience of Library 2.0 services; and (2) Evaluation: an evaluation of impact of Library 2.0 services on academic libraries and users. The interviews lasted 45–60 minutes long. Interview data were recorded and analyzed qualitatively.

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS

Technological Frames

Interpretation 1: Nature of Technology

Nature of technology deals with the impression of the functionalities and capabilities of an innovation. Students expressed both their positive as well as negative comments toward Library 2.0 services. Positive comments include variability of services, more direct interaction with library services, more engaging library experiences. Negative comments include recency and currency of information, stability of the system, and usability of the services.

Interpretation 2: Technology Strategy

Students' understandings of the adoption of Library 2.0 services are two-fold: declarative and functional. Declarative purpose is understood through students' belief that Library 2.0 services have become a marketing tool for the libraries to demonstrate to their customers and other libraries that they on the Library 2.0 bandwagon. Functional purpose is based on the belief that Library 2.0 services are created to enhance users' experience with the libraries.

Interpretation 3: Technology-In-Use

Library 2.0 services are being used for several novel purposes. Library Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk sites were used to for friend searching. To some students, they also became target for evaluating effectiveness of library's operation. Tag clouds and popular search terms were used to navigate popular interests. Blogs were used to engage in conversation with library staff.

Evaluation of Impact

Students argued that Library 2.0 services have impacted them intellectually and socially. Intellectually they become more attached to what library services, either online or in the libraries. In addition, they see Library 2.0 services as a medium to translate theory of library user experience to practice. Socially, students felt more engaged with the campus life, and more empowered to have a direct interaction with the greater campus context.

Negative impacts were also perceived. Popular search terms on library's OPACs were negatively correlated to the availability of physical collection such as books or multimedia. Another negative impact deals with the third-party nature that most of Library 2.0 services are about. It adds another layer of complexity in terms of better managing Library 2.0 services when the actual services are hosted externally.

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