Cultural Heritage

A UKOLN Blog for the Cultural Heritage sector (now archived)

Archiving digital resources

Posted by Brian Kelly on September 9th, 2010

My colleague Marieke Guy is currently working on the JISC Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation. Rather than set up a static web site, the project has chosen to use a blog as its online presence.

In the Case Studies section I’ve just contributed a brief case study on the Tap into Bath collection description database. This was a demonstrator database and a combination of factors (no resources to maintain accurate data and withdrawal of host server) now means the database has to be withdrawn. The case study outlines what resources were held, the issues and the decisions taken.

While new case studies are being sought, Marieke has identified a number of existing case studies on this topic, which are also worth a look.

As Marieke notes, knowing what someone else has done can be a useful starting point in your own process. And don’t forget, it can be worth thinking about these things when you start a project too.

Posted in Preservation | Comments Off

Museums as Social Creatures

Posted by guestblogger on September 6th, 2010

About this Guest Post

Shona Carnall studied Museum Studies at Leicester University and since graduating she has been working at Hartlepool Cultural Services for nearly two years as an Education Officer. Shona specialises in e-Learning in a museum context and has added the museum to several social media websites including Twitter, Facebook and Audioboo. She recently wrote a case study for ‘Twitter for Museums: Strategies and Tactics for Success’ and her work on Twitter was mentioned by UKOLN’s Brian Kelly during a Radio 4 programme, ‘Making History’.

Museums as Social Creatures

Museums have always been institutes of learning and communication. A place where history can come alive and you can visit any part of the world. With the invention of the internet and digital media, people can explore the world without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Museums are now trying to find new ways to interact with their audience, and which has started to include going to where your audience is.  Museums are becoming increasingly sociable, participating in conversations already taking place and this is where the internet can help.

Social media has become massive over the past couple of years with Facebook and Twitter becoming increasingly popular with the national and international population. Twitter particularly has grown rapidly from a few followers to over 25 million people registered with the microblogging service as of January 2010. Twitter allows people to get short, up-to the minute messages about what is happening around the world, with some of these messages reaching the general populous before traditional media. For museums, Twitter gives us a unique opportunity to contribute to conversations people are having online by going to them rather than trying to drive traffic towards us.

The Learning Team at the Hartlepool Cultural Services has been on Twitter since May 2009 under the guise of their mascot, Yuffy (@YuffyMOH). The aim of joining Twitter was to increase awareness of the Learning Team’s events particularly family events and to participate in conversations with interested members of the public. With over 1500 followers, and regular communication with followers, the scheme has been a success and one that will hopefully continue. The Learning Team’s presence on Twitter has been used as a case study in ‘Twitter For Museums’ book and mentioned on Radio 4 in the Making History programme.

screenshot of twitter page

Yuffy on twitter

Yuffy tweets about all sorts of topics, with some of his tweets being marketing in tone. However, it was decided from the inset that his tweets should be relevant to his followers and therefore should contribute to the conversations already taking place.  We need to be sociable and not simply broadcast, but create content that will be interesting for all.

How do people use Twitter?

When researching how Twitter is used, there were several examples that struck me as key to how people use and perceive Twitter. The examples below encouraged me to look at Twitter in a new way and influenced how I use Twitter for the museum.

After a nasty election in 2009, the people in the Iranian capital Tehran took to the streets in protest. The government then put a media ban on the protest. No-one was allowed in to the country to report on the protests, where police were imprisoning protesters and even shooting at them. The protesters turned to Twitter to get the message out. People across the globe took up the cause and tweeted safe areas in Tehran for protesters to go and news stations used Twitter to get information and videos to use in their broadcasts. Twitter allowed the protesters and the world to find out about the protest and atrocities happening to the people in an otherwise media blackout.

In May 2008 a massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit mainland China. While it was still happening, ordinary people were reporting it. They were texting on their phones, taking pictures and videos, and adding these to Twitter. It was a tweet that announced the quake online, several minutes before the US Geological Survey had anything up online for people to read. Twitter is the newest and fastest news feed the world has ever seen. In fact, the USGS have learnt from the China Earthquake and are piloting a new programme that maps tweets about earthquakes. The more people that tweet about an earthquake in a particular area, the more reliable the information and the USGS can make an announcement. The hope is to increase the alert time for local residents and possibly even save lives.

Twitter has even been used to free someone from jail. In April 2008, James Karl Buck and his translator were arrested by the Egyptian police while covering an anti-government protest in Mahalla. James was only able to tweet one word while being taken away by Egyptian authorities: “Arrested.” Within seconds, colleagues in the United States and his friends in Egypt were notified of his arrest. Eventually this lead to his university hiring a lawyer on his behalf and he was released a day later.  This is proof that one update, no matter how simple, can mobilise people to action and change the course of events.

image of mascot

Yuffy on the high seas

But it’s not just on a national sphere, some tweets are very personal. From marriage proposals to births, people can now tweet at every part of their lives. On May 28th 2010, Max Kiesler asked Emily Chang for her hand in marriage via Twitter. And with a “Yes, I do”,  similarly tweeted she accepted his proposal. This beautiful moment in a couple’s lives was shared by their followers across the globe. In fact there have been at least 3 (successful) marriage proposals.

These examples had thousands of tweets about the topic, or articles written about them.  Tweets no matter how big or small attract the attention of users from all over the world and are commented upon. Learning how people use Twitter enables museums to understand the potential of Twitter and ways we can use the social media platform to communication with our users.

Tapping into the Potential

image of mascot

Yuffy out and about

How can museums then ‘tap into’ this potential community? There are many websites and resources out there giving you advice about how you can use Twitter. I approached this from two places: a museum and an individual. I use Twitter personally and therefore can understand what I want from museum Twitter streams. There are a few simple guidelines I would follow when using Twitter as an organisation.

  1. Be active. What is the point of being on Twitter if you do not update? People follow you on Twitter to read what you are continuing to say. So you need to make sure your stream remains active with tweets happening at least once a day.
  2. Be informal. Nobody wants their Twitter stream filled with automated, impersonal tweets. People go to Twitter to talk to other people, from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures and places. They want REAL conversations with REAL people. So you need to be a real person, who has a name, has a tone of voice and reacts to what they are seeing.
  3. Be a part of it. Don’t just broadcast your message. Although a useful tool for doing so, you will turn away followers who want to engage with you. Talk to your followers.  Ask them for advice or comments, you’ll be surprised by the responses you get.
  4. Be prepared.  Have at least some sort of guidelines in place when you start out.  These will help identify issues and ways to deal with them. But remember, Twitter is constantly changing, so you’re guidelines must be able to change too. I started with a half page guidance for Twitter. Over the past year, this has developed into a 16 page strategy.
  5. Connect. If you run several of accounts on different platforms, it can become a laborious job to update them all. Twitter is useful in that it can be linked to other social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Audioboo so you only need to add it to one place and it goes to Twitter too! Although make sure you don’t fill your Twitter stream completely with this type of material. You need Twitter-only created content too.
  6. Have fun! The last thing you want is to feel dread at the thought of writing a tweet. It needs to flow freely. So remember to have a little fun with your tweets. If you’re having fun and enjoying what you are writing, your followers will be too.

Don’t be afraid to join

Museums are only just starting to realise the potential of Twitter and how it can extend the reach of your message.  You can converse with people on their terms, where they feel comfortable. This can be scary for organisations who are more accustomed to presenting information than having conversations with people.  But people are already talking about your museum online. They are telling people about the experiences they had (good or bad) and stories they know about objects and the museum. Twitter allows you to take part in these conversations and part the knowledge we have about our museums in a new way.

Museums should not be frightened about going on Twitter and listening to what people are saying about your organisation. Remember people are already having these conversations so why not participate too?

Posted in Guest-blog, Museums, Twitter | 1 Comment »

Making Time for Web 2.0

Posted by guestblogger on August 30th, 2010

About this guest post

Kiara King is the Archivist for the Ballast Trust, a charitable foundation that provides a rescue, sorting and cataloguing service for business archives with an emphasis on technical records such as plans, drawings and photographs. She can be contacted at:

Making Time for Web 2.0

Hopefully you now have a good idea about what web 2.0 can do for your archive and are convinced of the benefits of web 2.0. But if you are unsure if you can spare the time to get involved, then fret no more! Fortunately there is an entry point to web 2.0 for everyone, even if you can only spare an hour a week and don’t know what html is.

image Web 2.0 tool logos

The world of Web 2.0

As this diagram shows, web 2.0 activity can be broken down into three different types that require varying levels of commitment and time.


  • Investigate your organisation’s web presence by googling yourself and see if you can amend or add to the information that is available.
  • Comment, amend, tag anything relevant to your collections that you find on sites like Wikipedia, Flickr and Youtube with your expert knowledge about the collection or item and link back to your own website.
  • Start a Twitter feed and see what others are saying about archives on twitter by using the #archives tag.
  • Join Flickr and post your own images.

Create and share content

  • Start a blog, make sure you can commit to regular posting (at least 1-2 posts a week) which should only take an hour of staff time.
  • Create podcasts, if you are already doing talks then this just means recording them and creating an audio file for download.
  • Create some videos to show how to handle documents or a behind the scenes look at the archives and put them up on youtube.

Build communities

  • Consider starting a facebook group for your archive.
  • Create a social network group using a site like ning to build an online community for your users.
  • How about opening up your catalogue in a wiki for users to amend and contribute to? This will require moderating but is a great way to harvest the knowledge users have about collections and share it with others.

Finally, work smartly and make the Internet work for you by creating a personalised start page. This acts like a personal web portal so that when you open up your browser it will push content to you from other sources for you to engage with. This could be recent activity in your flickr account, blog posts to read and comment on from other sources, news results for certain terms relevant to your archive as well as your emails.

screenshot of start page

screenshot of start page

Posted in archives, Guest-blog, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

The Benefits of Using Web 2.0 Tools in Your Archive

Posted by guestblogger on August 23rd, 2010

About this guest post

Kiara King is the Archivist for the Ballast Trust, a charitable foundation that provides a rescue, sorting and cataloguing service for business archives with an emphasis on technical records such as plans, drawings and photographs. She can be contacted at:

The benefits of using Web 2.0 tools in your archive

In my last guest post I talked about some of the ways you can use web 2.0 tools to share your collections, communicate differently and find a wider audience for the resources you have developed. In this post I’m going to expand on the potential benefits gained by using web 2.0 tools to do this and my own experience of using web 2.0 tools at work.


Engaging with web 2.0 offers many benefits but the main one is that it gives you multiple ways to get the message about your archive and collections out to lots and lots of people. Considering that 70% of UK households have the Internet (Office for National Statistics), there is the potential to reach a much wider audience by using these tools and maximising your online presence. Some of the benefits this approach can result in are:
• Increased awareness of collections among existing and new users
• Diversification of users
• New opportunities for collaborative working
• The ability to capture additional information about collections
• Varied access points to your collections
These all sound like good things but what do they really mean for an archive?

Share your collections – open them up using flickr, wikis, youtube

Putting content from your collections on other websites allows you to push that content to users through sites that they are already using. You can also take a “shop window” approach and showcase a limited number of items through these avenues and then direct people back to your main site if you prefer.

Sharing content will increase awareness and help reach different users but it can also give back by providing new information and content for your collections. The Great War Archive project used flickr as one way to gather digitised items from the public. Although the project is now finished, the flickr group continues to receive contributions and now has 2,423 images from nearly 300 members.

screenshot Great War flickr group

Screenshot of Great War flickr group page

Web 2.0 tools can also enable an archive to allow additions to existing content to be made with ease. Images in flickr can be tagged with user subject terms, youtube videos can receive comments and a wiki version of your catalogue can be edited and added to while preserving the original. By allowing the user to participate in the descriptive process, archivists can obtain detailed and informed descriptions of their collections that they themselves would not have the knowledge or time to produce. The National Archives have developed a wiki version of their catalogue called Your Archives which allows users to contribute their knowledge of archival sources to the site by adding to the catalogue and research guides or submitting transcriptions of documents.

The benefits of sharing collections via other websites are:
• Various online profiles for your archive – allowing you to tailor content for different audiences.
• Multiple ways to access your content – lets you bring content to the user.
• Increased awareness of the collections – raises the profile of collections.
• Capture of user knowledge – allows you to improve and enhance your finding aids.
• Engaged users – can provide mew content for collections and further information about them with ease

Communicate differently – by blogging

Blogging and/or tweeting provides a regular, informal way to communicate news and information about your archive service, its collections and events. The popularity of smartphones with 11 million users in the UK (comScore study means that more people are accessing web content on the move which gives this form of communication even greater impact and immediacy than traditional ‘news’ pages.

image of blog software and twitter logos

Blog software and twitter logos

The benefits of using these methods of communication are that they allow for engagement with what you do by allowing people to comment and reply to information you post, this can generate conversations between the archive and its users.

Different communication channels give you:
• Regular contact with a different audience – you can reach different people with an immediacy that traditional news sections on a website don’t have.
• Improved understanding about ‘what you do’ – by blogging about the day to day aspects of being an archivist.
• The ability to react quickly to current media topics and connect with them – make your content relevant by picking up on news items and anniversaries.
• Engagement by providing users with a way to give you feedback – people can comment on blog posts, reply to or retweet your tweets.

Share your resources – reach a global audience with podcasts

Giving talks to family and/or local history groups, schools or within your organisation about the archive and its collections is a great way to promote your archive and raise awareness of the collections. If you have taken the time to prepare a talk or presentation, wouldn’t it be great to reach as wide an audience as possible? By recording your talks and making them available online you can. This also allows you to build a resource up of past talks that users can access when they wish.

image of podcast logo

Podcast logo

The National Archives has a very successful and varied podcast series with over 150 episodes. According to podcast alley the TNA series is in the top 10% of podcasts downloaded out of over 85,000 other podcasts and on iTunes, 11 of the 20 bestselling government podcasts are TNA ones.

The benefits of a podcasting are:
• Potential global audience – 19% of the 222 million Americans who use the Internet have downloaded a podcast (Pew Internet Research Centre)
• Better informed users – recorded talks can also be used by visitors before they come to your archive to provide audio guides about certain collections and give basic information about how to use an archive and its resources.
• Flexible access to your resources – users can choose when to listen to your talk.
• Improved listening figures – in a three month period during 2007 TNA podcasts were downloaded 8,000 times.

My experience at the Ballast Trust

I’m the archivist for a small charity called the Ballast Trust which provides a rescue, sorting and cataloguing service for business archives with an emphasis on technical records such as shipbuilding, railway and engineering plans, drawings and photographs. It has been working for over twenty years to help archives understand their technical records and make their collections available for the public.

When I started, the Trust didn’t have a web presence so I created a website and also a blog to provide information about us and our activities. In time we have also joined flickr to allow us to share the small photographic collections that we have with a wider audience.

screenshot Ballast Trust blog

Screenshot of Ballast Trust blog

My experience with these three sites, created at no financial expense using blogger and flickr ( has been a very positive one. Together all three have helped to give the Ballast Trust a higher public profile, create new connections and share what we do with a global audience. The blog consistently gets higher statistics compared to the website, in the first year the website received 554 visits from 20 countries compared to 1,212 visits to the blog from 64 countries. Since we started a year ago; our flickr pages have had nearly 3,000 views, we’ve received comments and information about some pictures and an enquiry about volunteering with us.

For a small organisation this has been a great way to extend our network and put ourselves and what we do out there. It has required only basic technical knowledge and an small investment of my time but nothing else and given us great results to build on.

Examples and experiences from other organisations

Don’t just take my word for it! There are plenty of other archives out there using web 2.0 and seeing the benefits. There is an excellent selection of case studies available on the Interactive Archivist website covering a wide selection of web 2.0 tools, including some of the following:
• Using a blog to market your archive at Northwestern University Archives
• Using podcasts to increase access at the Kansas Historical Society

Lots of archives have a presence on flickr, there are 198 organisations in the ArchivesOnFlickr group and these two reports from early adopters about their flickr pilots are a great resource for more information:
For the Common Good, is the 2008 report on the Library of Congress’ Flickr Pilot Project.
Lessons from the National Library of New Zealand’s Flickr pilot

Posted in archives, Blogs, Guest-blog, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Using a Blog as a Research Diary

Posted by guestblogger on August 16th, 2010

About this Guest post

Marianne Bamkin is a PhD research student at Loughborough University. As a very mature student she has previously worked in shops, been an Early Years practitioner, a teacher and a children’s mobile library assistant. Marianne qualified as a librarian in 2008 and her passion for reading and interest in teaching literacy has led her to investigate the influence of children’s mobile libraries on children’s reading.

Marianne can be contacted at m.r. or visit her university profile or follow her on Twitter.

Using a Blog as a Research Diary

image of diary

Traditional 5 year diary

I have always been a diarist, ever since I was bought one of these five year diaries with a tooled fake leather cover and a lock on the front. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old. I therefore instinctively used an online web log to write about me, my family and my thoughts of what was happening in society. Therefore, it was a natural progression to use the internet as a space for recording events, thoughts and feelings as a researcher when I embarked on the journey of taking a PhD. The aim of my research is to discover if children’s mobile libraries in Britain help children’s literacy and give them a love of books. A children’s mobile library can be described as a vehicle that provides all the services of a children’s library.

The blog “Children’s Mobile Libraries; the story of my research” was started for several reasons. I wanted to record anything I found out about children’s mobile libraries in the course of my investigations and comment on the findings. I needed a space to write notes taken from any literature I found about children’s mobile libraries and I wanted to publicise the fact that I was doing the research to attract attention from anyone researching the same area and anyone who was working on or had worked on a children’s mobile library. I describe the blog in my first post as a “Scrapbook from which I can assemble a thesis”.

It has become more of a scrapbook as time has gone on, and more gadgets have become available. Like a scrapbook, it gets untidy, currently I have a string of posts that are just links to interesting news articles that I have not yet commented on. Periodically, it gets tidied and preened. Like a scrapbook, I stick pictures in it, pictures that I have taken of children’s mobile libraries as I visit them. It is a space to deposit anything I find of relevance and want to pass on to children’s mobile library operators. At one point in the research, I realised that some of the blog posts may have been boring for third parties to read. I had needed to find out more about the psychology of reading and posted notes from the text books that I was reading. So I revised my ideas of what and what not to post. Another problem arose when I started doing fieldwork in earnest.

Blog screenshot

Screen shot from my blog

I thought I could write up all my field notes on the blog, but realised that I had promised anonymity to all the participants and there could be plagiarism issues when my thesis is eventually submitted and put through the plagiarism software; it would pick up that I was plagiarising myself! The intensive, reflective field notes are therefore simply typed up and not shared with the rest of the world. The words that appear on the blog about the places I observe are now mainly descriptive and give information that is generally in the public domain. In some ways the blog has been a success, it is an excellent depositary for interesting facts and articles. It has been somewhat of a failure in attracting attention to my research. I know that some people in the mobile library world have looked at it, my business card includes it’s address. I suspect that one of my supervisors looks at it. I try to use tags to my advantage, including the names of people and places. However, I have never had any comments other that the odd commercial company trying to sell through the blog and I suppose it is unfortunate that most of my writing time gets taken up with statutory reports that I have to produce for university, so the blog is not updated as regularly as I would like.

blog screenshot

Screenshot of my blog

I have visited 13 children’s mobile libraries from 9 library services across the country and I am constantly surprised at the isolation of their staff. Many children’s mobile library operators ask me questions about what other services do and how they do it (and I am the one who should be doing the questioning). Others are surprised that they are not the only children’s mobile library. I foresee a need for a central point of information for all people who work in a children’s mobile library. This could be the continuation of the blog past the end of my PhD, or it could expand into something more interactive, a wiki or a website or even a Facebook group.

image of pile of files

File overload

I use Web 2.0 extensively in my search for data and set up blog, twitter and news alerts for the terms Mobile Library and Bookmobile (the American term for a mobile library). Twitter appears to be extensively used in America for alerting customers to the arrival of the bookmobile at a certain town or the sudden cancellation of a stop. Twitter is also used globally to show pictures of new vehicles and to announce the demise of others. I also pick up the tweets from people who have just visited their local mobile library, or seen one driving along. Mobile libraries seem to stir up a lot of pleasant memories for people.

Blog posts are commonly from third parties who visit a mobile library or have found an interesting subject in the news or on the internet such as an unusual form of distributing books. So far there I have not found many blog entries like this one, from a library service about their mobile library, and certainly British libraries are a little slow off the mark. Interestingly, local village bloggers and small local news websites often comment on the mobile library service. Newspaper websites cover disasters, announce temporary changes in service and when a new service starts. Basically, mobile libraries are born, have accidents and die on the web but there appears to be very little about their day to day existence.

This is why I am doing the research.

Please take a look at and if you feel inclined, please leave a comment about any mobile library experience you have had.

Posted in Blogs, Guest-blog, Libraries | 1 Comment »

23 Things …

Posted by guestblogger on August 9th, 2010

About this Guest Post

Helen Leech is the Virtual Content Manager, for Surrey Library Service. Here she writes about her experience of collaboratively developing a wiki using the 23 Things concept. She can be contacted at or follow her at

23 Things …

Speaking as a public librarian, there’s a sense of delightful anarchy in working together with another authority on a Wiki. So many new technologies are banned to public library staff across the country. We can’t Facebook, because we would waste working time. We can’t freely communicate with staff in other public services, such as the NHS, because we’re all on secure Government Connects networks. We can’t Twitter, because God forbid we should say something out of the corporate line. Every mention of social media is accompanied by the scare stories about copyright infringement, people dissing their boss and getting sacked, illegal file sharing and the spectre of the Digigal Economy Act. We are bound around with restrictions, and anything to do with social networking is treated with the utmost suspicion.

I’m lucky to be working for an authority – Surrey Library Service, part of Surrey County Council – which is realising the worth of Web 2.0 and is loosening up. As a result of this, I’ve been set relatively free to explore and develop new tools, with the aim of improving our customer service, changing the library culture and raising staff awareness (and skills).

23 Things screenshot

Thing 11 of 23 Things

Towards this, I’ve been co-ordinating a project called 23 Things. In 2006, an American librarian, Helene Blowers, realised not only that her staff needed a course which would improve their understanding of the internet and all the stuff that’s grown up around it, but that the tools were freely available to create an online course. Helene had read a blog article about 43 Things, which suggested technologies and websites that people ought to explore to increase their web-savviness. She took some of these, such as blogging and RSS feeds and pod casting, developed each into a module that was light and informative and engaging, put the modules onto a blog (still available at, and asked her staff to work their way through it, offering an iPod as an incentive prize.

The concept was too fabulous to resist. I, along with around 400 other librarians all over the planet, wanted my own version for my own staff!

But why work alone, when we’re all trying to do the same thing? The Society of Chief Librarians (South East) put me in touch with Pat Garrett from Portsmouth public library service, and teams from the two authorities built a wiki (how wonderfully subversive!), populated it with content harvested with kind permission from Devon and Kirklees, who were working on their own versions, and asked other organisations, via the Jiscmail web 2.0 list, if they wouldn’t mind having a look at it and giving us their opinions.

The size of the response was surprising. Staff from 11 public library authorities, 15 FE/HE bodies and two health authorities worked their way through the Things and told us what they thought of them.

So, as I write, we’re into the next phase, and we’re not doing it alone. Four public library authorities – Surrey, Portsmouth, Aberdeen and Suffolk – are now working together, honing the materials in line with the evaluation, creating a “lite” version for those staff who don’t have much time, and planning to roll it out in our authorities come the end of the summer. You can see the work in progress at And, in the spirit of the original, it’s freely available for anybody to use, but beware – it will carry on changing until autumn.

Working together in this way – our four authorities accessing the Wiki, all of us creating stuff and editing each other’s stuff and making it available for anybody at all to use, embodies the spirit of Web 2.0. It’s a practical demonstration of what our users and customers and communities are doing, it’s a good reason for all library staff to learn revolutionary new skills – and in my opinion it’s a convincing argument for our parent bodies to loosen up a bit!

Surrey Libraries links

Follow on Twitter
Visit the photostream on Flickr
Chat about e-books at Surrey on Facebook

Posted in Blogs, Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0, wikis | 1 Comment »

If a Tree Falls in the Forest (pt.2)

Posted by guestblogger on August 5th, 2010

If a Tree Falls in the Forest – and other thoughts on Web 2.0 Evaluation (pt. 2)

Linda Berube continues her guest post. (Read Part 1)

Back to the Tree

Given such focused objectives as listed for a virtual book discussion group, there still may be no discernible response from the online public to Facebook book discussion announcements, to library blog posts etc. But a librarian should not necessarily give up hope if met with deafening silence. In my book, DO You Web 2.0?, I discuss the different communication paradigms for Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. For the former, the communication is usually one way; in the case of libraries, the corporate web page is all about communication from library to community (one to many). Sometimes, there is two-way communication, but it is usually one-to-one and asynchronous (email, and email-based such as web forms). With Web 2.0, communication is many to many and in real-time. For libraries, this would mean not only users contributing to the library web page, through comments, tagging, and even content, but also using the library virtual space to communicate to other users.

However, quite a few libraries are using Web 2.0 tools in a Web 1.0 manner: blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc are used to announce events, new books, etc—essentially for one-to-many communication. There is not anything necessarily wrong with this, unless the objective was to change the communication paradigm with users. In other words, if the intention was to create a blog so as to encourage user response, and posts only ever come from librarians, then something has gone wrong in the planning.

Still, if users do not post on a library blog, does this mean the blog has not fulfilled its purpose? About a year ago, I would have answered an unqualified yes. While it is true that a blog is an online diary of sorts and therefore might be considered a satisfying enough solitary experience, broadcasting opinions and activities over the network rather begs an audience and some degree of feedback from that audience. However, in the process of writing the book, reviewing how blogs are used by libraries, intentionally or unintentionally, and talking with a number of librarians, I see it a bit differently. For example, according to Eli Neiburger at Ann Arbor District Library in the US “items featured in blog posts immediately see 100%-400% increases in the number of requests. So we know people are reading the blogs, and we find that almost a third of our event attendees find out about events online in our blogs or listings”. [Footnote] If a library has the statistical software and the staff time and knowledge that can uncover this kind of causal link across services, the resulting analysis may reveal not only public interest, but an impact on other library services based on that interest.

The Results of Twittering Trees Falling

Eli observed that ‘circulation-styled metrics’ upon which libraries have traditionally relied may not be sufficient in the new communication paradigm introduced by Web 2.0. I would agree and disagree. On the one hand, the straightforward counting of repeated activities — circulating books, reserves, inter-library loans — does not accommodate the kind of mining of data required to identify the subtle but real impact or value to communities, the causal links, as demonstrated in the Ann Arbor experience. However, these metrics still have a place, as they do with any service, public or commercial. In an age when the public library penchant for questioning its value in the face of declining numbers all around has reached an even more obsessive pitch than usual, we cannot escape that we are fighting to maintain, if not increase, our numbers, whether they represent physical or virtual activities or visits. The fight for relevance may boil down to a fight for numbers, and while we want to ensure that we are delivering and can measure value, it really won’t matter if it is delivered to a vanishing community.


From email correspondence with author, 29 April 2010. Ann Arbor is an acknowledged leader in the use of Web 2.0 technology in public libraries, with blogs and RSS feeds integrated onto the pages of the corporate library website, a ‘social catalogue’ where users can tag and write reviews, as well as create a personal card catalogue. See

Posted in Evaluation, Guest-blog, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

If a Tree Falls in the Forest (pt.1)

Posted by guestblogger on August 2nd, 2010

About this Guest Post

Linda Berube is no stranger to using web services to transform public libraries. As a regional manager for e-services and e-procurement, she not only oversaw the distributed interoperability of library management systems, but also created and managed the implementation of a co-operative national virtual reference service, the People’s Network Enquire. She currently coordinates and advises on policy, research, and project work for the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel, a non-departmental government body charged by the UK Secretary of State to make recommendations on regulations for the legal deposit of digital resources. She can be contacted at:

If a Tree Falls in the Forest – and other thoughts on Web 2.0 Evaluation (pt.1)

A few things caught my eye on the way to writing this guest blog for UKOLN:

• The announcement that the Library of Congress will archive Tweets
“Professor of War,” a Vanity Fair article reviewing the career of General David Petraeus, Commander of US Central Command. Of particular relevance was his father’s exhortation, “results, boy, results.”
• A discussion with a US librarian regarding how blogs can be evaluated absent any response posts from members of the public. (Hence, the title of this blog—if someone writes a blog and there is no response to posts, is it being read? Er, or something like that…)

What has any of this to do with evaluating the impact of Web 2.0 in libraries? In a way, they point to the key questions – what, why, and how – of any service development, Web 2.0-based or otherwise, the answers to which should provide the objectives for evaluation, not as a separate activity, but one that is integral to the service from the beginning.

As one who started some years ago to encourage public librarians to look at Web 2.0 services, (for example see my bit of technology forecasting for the Laser Foundation in 2005, On the Road Again), the process of writing a book on the subject (Do You Web 2.0?) afforded me the opportunity to talk with a number of librarians from the UK, US, and Canada, not only about the services themselves, but also their thoughts on impact and how it is evaluated. While I found many excellent examples of Web 2.0 services, I also encountered something called ‘the evaluation by-pass’. I like to refer to this as simply ‘the evaluation pass,’ as in “Evaluation? We took a pass on that for now. It’s early days, after all.” (for more on the evaluation by pass, see Booth, A (2007). “Blogs, wikis, and podcasts: the ‘evaluation by pass’ in action?” Health Information Information and Libraries Journal 24, pp298-302.)

I have had long, heartfelt email exchanges with librarians about how they know they should be evaluating, how they would if they could, how just doing it (Web 2.0) has been satisfactory enough etcetcetc. Reasons often cited as mitigating factors for not evaluating include staff capacity; lack of motivation and/or support on the part of front-line staff or senior management; and simply not knowing what or how to evaluate Web 2.0-based services.

My impression regarding these reasons, and especially this last, is that quite a few librarians have embarked on experimenting with Web 2.0 without a service mindset. So, before we consider how impact might be evaluated, some observations on ‘why’ are in order.

The Twitter Factor

Because the technology is low-to-no cost, quite a few librarians have given into the temptation ‘to experiment’ with Web 2.0, thus setting themselves up for a common enough trap: high expectation meets low return. Librarians might say they don’t have high expectations when they start using these tools, but when blog posts are met with deafening silence, or when no one wants to be a ‘Friend’ or ‘Follower’ or ‘Fan’ of the library’s on a social networking site, such as Twitter or Facebook, it’s hard not to feel rejected and to turn this bitterness against the technology. (“It works for some libraries, just not for ours.”)

I think a great deal of expectation has been cranked up about these tools in general, and librarians have certainly felt the peer pressure. The amount of publicity a service like Twitter gets, especially with regard to the value of its data whether it be commercial or scholarly, compels librarians to think about trying it. And, Twitter seemed to have caught on overnight, growing exponentially, making the quick win of instant attention derived just by signing up within everyone’s grasp. Essentially, all a librarian has to do is set up a Twitter account, put out a few Tweets and the public response will be instantaneous.

Results, Boy, Results

I understand the pressure exerted to try this new technology, and think that a little experimentation is a good thing. But expectations are no substitute for even the most minimal planning that focuses on objectives and outcomes, regardless of whether a library is just experimenting, testing proof of concept, or launching a live service. In various publications about the evaluation process, a common first step is to answer the question “why?”— in other words, knowing the purpose of evaluation will often identify the necessary method for collecting data.

However, “why” should be asked at the very inception of a service, way before it is implemented—why are we doing this? Answers to this question should provide the basis for the service: its objectives, how it will be delivered (technology), and how success will be measured. For evaluation should not start after the service has been up and running for a while, and it should not be reactive (to stave off threats of budget cuts, or awkward questions from senior management etc). The gathering of the required data should start from the first day of implementation and should be ongoing, as a matter of course.

This is just plain good service sense, whether that service is a homework help club, a book group, an online catalogue, or a Facebook page. It is no different for any service using Web 2.0 tools. So many librarians start out in an experimental mode, but I think the secret hope is to stumble upon a crowd-pleaser with little effort. Essentially, they believe that the technology is the point. But, Web 2.0 is no more the point than any other technology—it’s about the service and what that service means to the community served.

And, service development should start with critical success factors against which impact on the community can be measured. With Web 2.0 tools, the confusion of what and how to evaluate arises from the original objectives of the tools, including how users measure success. For social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook, users measure success by counting the 3Fs: ‘followers’ ‘fans’ ‘friends’. In addition, there are activities such as posts, tagging, ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, online games, and any one of a number of ways users indicate that they are reading, are interested, and want to share.

Librarians also evaluate success in terms of numbers: hits or visits on the webpage, registered users, reserves, etc. However, when they come to services like Facebook or Twitter, it is often difficult to translate the social activities and membership into anything of significance to library service (except for those pages that include local or WorldCat search capability, where searches and access can be counted). I have looked at a number of these pages, and frequently the numbers do not equate to anything meaningful, unless it is accepted that small numbers signify lack of a significant network or interest.

So, if numbers are required as a marker of success, which is often the case for public libraries, then the use of blogs, wikis, and especially social networking services must be very focused: not just to encourage participation but to ensure relevance and success. If we accept that it is the service and its support of users going about their business that should be the focus, and not the gratuitous use of technology because it is new, then what we need to identify is the service, the purpose of the service, and what success looks like.

For instance, the library wants to start a reading group for the housebound: a virtual book group sounds like a good idea, and a number of Web 2.0 tools can support this activity. In this case, critical success factors could include:

• everybody in the book club to be signed on as a friend to a Facebook page;
• a calendar of events to be created and sign up to an RSS feed of events to be encouraged;
• one book discussion meeting a month to be held on Facebook;
• an agreed level of participation that is considered successful (maybe based on how many “show up” for book discussions), etc.

Evaluation is this simple, and it is eminently measurable – a thriving book discussion group on Facebook, which opens this library activity up to the housebound and physically challenged. This is what success looks like for our book discussion club, and it can be measured, whether the days are early or late.

Continued in Part 2

Posted in Evaluation, Guest-blog, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

The National Library of Wales and Flickr Commons

Posted by guestblogger on July 26th, 2010

About this guest blog post

Siân Lloyd Pugh is e-Editor at the National Library of Wales. She is responsible for the Library’s online content, ranging from the Library’s website to all web 2.0 provisions. She also monitors all the Library’s online statistics and trains all online contributors.

Siân can be contacted at

The National Library of Wales and Flickr Commons


The National Library of Wales joined Flickr Commons in April 2009. Originally the Library joined as a pilot, which was a part of the Web 2.0 research undertaken by Dr Paul Bevan, leading to the new NLW web strategy. This has been a highly successful and popular pilot, and the work is now seen as an integral part of the Library’s provision.

The Library sought to join Flickr Commons as a way to open its collections to a wider audience. The Library has a powerful online catalogue that allows users to search and view digital images online, but of course if you don’t know that items exist it’s hard to find them in a catalogue. Flickr Commons therefore was the perfect way to bring these collections to the attention of interested parties, that may not think to visit the National Library of Wales’ website, let alone its catalogue.

National Library of Wales on Flickr screenshot

National Library of Wales on Flickr

Roles and Responsibilities

Early on in the project it was recognised that we needed to clearly define roles and responsibilities in order to ensure the smooth running of the account.

Image Selection

It was decided that the images should be selected and uploaded by a member of staff in the digitisation section, as they are aware which photographic collections have been digitised.

Content monitoring and Interaction

The content monitoring and interaction work was undertaken by the exhibitions interpretation officer. At the time Flickr Commons was seen as a sort of online exhibition space where we could share copyright free photographs from the collection, which is why the moderation and responding to comments work was placed in the exhibitions unit. However, a new member of staff joined the marketing unit at the end of last year, responsible for the day to day running of much of our online web 2.0 provision, and so this work was moved to this post.

It was felt that it was important to keep all day to day running of our web 2.0 provision together, and Flickr Commons is an important part of this. This move means that we can easily highlight new photographs on Twitter or write a comment on Facebook about interest in certain photographs etc. We feel it’s vitally important that we join our web 2.0 presence together, while keeping in mind that all outlets are different and have different audiences and this must be respected in order to fulfil each medium’s potential.

NLW Flickr photostream screenshot

National Library of Wales Flickr photostream

Strategic development

As e-Editor I oversee the day to day running of the account, and I am also responsible for the statistical analysis of the data. I am also the first port of call if any problems arise with comments, questions regarding Flickrmail enquiries etc. Finally, I am responsible for driving the project forward strategically, and ensuring that we continue to fulfil our users’ expectations.

Future Development

As I mentioned, we are continually trying to ensure that we develop our web 2.0 presences, Flickr Commons included. We recently held a meeting to discuss our current Flickr presence, and whether we felt it was worth pursuing, and it was a resounding yes from everyone!

The level of interest we’ve had in the profile has been incredible, something we could never have achieved if the photographs were left in the catalogue and on some NLW microsites alone. Our statistics tend to speak for themselves. 45% of our images have received comments, and 72% have been selected as favourites. These statistics clearly show the value for money the project offers. It costs very little to run the account, but it’s incredibly popular. It also affords us the opportunity to reach users who we could never have hoped to reach otherwise.

1. Engaging with ours users

One area that is very important to us to develop in the future is the interaction between the Library and its users. We want to be a living Library that people can connect with, not a quiet establishment to admire from afar.

Designating a member of staff to moderate (although we haven’t really had any issues with moderation) and interact with users, by responding to comments and accepting request to add images to groups is very important therefore. We hope that as our collection on Flickr Commons grows, that this interaction will also develop. Although it must be recognised that it’s impossible to respond to all comments as we receive so many!

2. Upload API

We currently upload all images by hand, but we are looking at the possibility of developing and API to upload selected images automatically. Although Flickr is very user friendly and easy to use, uploading every image takes time, and developing an API to take images from our catalogue and upload them directly into Flickr will make this work much quicker.

3. A cohesive presence

As the content moderation and interaction work now lies in the promotions unit, we also hope to tie the selected images from the digitisation section much more closely with current exhibitions and events that the Library is involved with. This has a twofold benefit. It makes the images more relevant, and hopefully will entice those users who are in a position to do so, to visit exhibitions. It also brings the work of selecting and uploading images much closer to the work of managing the content then generated, thus giving us a more cohesive presence on Flickr Commons.

Who know what the future holds?

In the long term of course, the possibilities are vast.

Currently only very few of our photographs are geotagged, but this functionality certainly offers some very interesting possibilities for the future. One other aspect that we are baring in mind is crowdsourcing. A few of our users on Flickr Commons add additional tags to our photographs, and the notion of being able to crowdsource these and add them to our online catalogue could be very interesting indeed.

Happy, but keeping one eye on the horizon

But for now, we are content with trying to grow our audience
on Flickr Commons, by continuing to add interesting photographs from our collection, and cross-pollinating through our various online presences.

As I mentioned, our original aim in joining Flickr Commons was just to open our photographic collection to the world, and help people enjoy the treasures that we hold – and judging from the response, I think we can certainly say that Flickr Commons has been a roaring success.

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

Making History

Posted by Brian Kelly on July 20th, 2010

Brian Kelly of UKOLN took part in in a programme in the “Making History” strand on Radio 4, broadcast at 15.00 on Tuesday 6 July 2010.

The focus of the programme was the future of museums in the context of cuts in the sector. Brian explained the importance of networked technologies and provided some examples of the benefits of the online environment (e.g. use of Flickr, YouTube, etc.)

The programme is available for a short period as a podcast via the link on the programme Web page, which includes a selection of useful links including one to the Cultural Heritage blog.

Posted in Museums, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

ISKO-UK New Technologies for Cultural Heritage and Europeana

Posted by guestblogger on July 19th, 2010

About this Guest Post

Stella Dextre Clarke writes about two events she attended recently.

Stella is an independent consultant who specialises in controlled vocabularies. She also chairs the Programme Committee of ISKO-UK. She can be contacted at

ISKO-UK New Technologies for Cultural Heritage and Europeana

Ann Chapman’s post of 10th June noted the excellent value for money offered by recent events for info pros in the Cultural Heritage sector.  I attended just two of them, and can confirm the benefits.

ISKO-UK meeting on 9th June 2010
Free for members of ISKO and only twenty pounds for non-members, the afternoon seminar “Seeing is Believing: New Technologies for Cultural Heritage” <> proved a very popular event, attracting over 90 participants. Even if you missed it, you can still listen to the audio recordings as you watch the slides, all now available on the ISKO-UK website.

In summary, the main technologies discussed were 3-D imaging of museum objects, QR codes (for attaching “memories” to objects), Crowdsourcing in a digitisation context, and federated search for museum buffs. Probably it was the idea of attaching memories to everyday objects that most tickled the audience, although I wonder how many of us really warm to the idea that a tee-shirt you pick up in Oxfam might talk to you about its previous owner. Whether you count yourself among the enthusiasts or the sceptics, see more about the project “Tales of things” at

tales of things home page

Tales of Things home page

And all the talks pointed to practical applications with real benefits.  While 3-D imaging is admittedly still costly, David Arnold showed us some convincing cases of effective exploitation. For example we  can still view in three dimensions those amazing Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley that were blown up by the Taliban – they have been pieced together from hundreds of photographs taken from all angles by visitors in the past.

In these days of shrinking budgets, crowdsourcing can be an attractive option for accumulating masses of data. Why would ordinary people willingly give up their time to help with the donkey work of transcribing the handwritten text of the 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham? The answer is just as mysterious as why train-spotters are regularly found lurking on the footbridge at Didcot railway station, but the reality is that they do, and their cumulative efforts are building an extensive archive for philosophical research. Melissa Terras gave us a good overview of the potential and limitations of crowdsourcing, and Fiona Romeo reinforced her message with examples of how it is used at the National Maritime Museum. Do listen to her presentation to pick up more ideas for cost-effective applications of digital technology for museum visitors.

And finally the eMuseum Network assembled by Gallery Systems enables museums to share their catalogues in a federated system with powerful search and export features. The next step, said Sascha Curzon, will be to adapt it for Linked Data applications… but to hear more about Linked Data, you really must attend the next ISKO-UK meeting, an all-day event on 14 September. See for details.

Europeana meeting on 28 June 2010
This was another free meeting (well, free to participants but not to the taxpayer who backs all EC-funded projects) providing inspirations on what can be achieved if you put together the holdings of hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries and other collections. It was accompanied downstairs by the (again free) Collect Exhibition, showing everything a museum could want, from security glazing and identification of death watch beetles to collection management software.

The Europeana portal ( by now provides access to 9 million records, expected to become 10 million with the Danube release later in 2010. (Each successive release has a name such as “Rhine”, “Danube” etc. Inspired by the floods of data?)

Europeana home page

Europeana home page

Metadata management is all important in Europeana, because the aim is not to suck in whole collections, but to direct users to the websites of participating institutions. For each object, museums contribute just a link to a thumbnail image plus metadata complying with the ESE (Europeana Set of Elements) – an application profile of Dublin Core.

For the big national collections, metadata is something we take in our stride, and adding the ESE export format to all the others routinely required may not be a big deal. But for the hundreds and thousands of small museums in diverse communities across Europe, the M word is quite intimidating. Hence the importance of EuropeanaLocal, one of the many satellite projects attached to the main programme. EuropeanaLocal has had great success in helping local and regional libraries, museums, archives and audio-visual archives to sort out and contribute their metadata, sometimes via intermediary aggregators.

Other key projects described at this meeting were:
- CARARE (Connecting ARchaeology and ARchitecture in Europeana)
- Judaica Europeana
- MIMO (Musical Instrument Museums Online)
- ICON (profiting from 3-D digitising)
- the UK Culture Grid

In a panel session at the end, questions were asked about sustainability  - for how long the EC funding would continue and how would the portal be maintained after that? Remarkably (at this time when cuts in national budgets are dominating the news) the panel members sounded quite optimistic. Let us hope that when the digitisation and catalogue rejuvenation enabled by the current programme have been accomplished, exploitation of the products will contribute enough revenue to support their maintenance.

Questions were asked too about multilingual access and plans for exploiting controlled vocabularies. Somewhere in the Europeana family of projects, both these topics are being addressed, but not by any of the speakers at this meeting. With at least 26 languages in Europe to be accommodated, plainly the multilingual challenge still offers plenty of scope for hard work and imaginative solutions.

Links to the presentations can be found in the Collections Trust blog entry:

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Museums | 1 Comment »

More about RDA

Posted by Brian Kelly on July 16th, 2010

Free of charge trial period

Don’t forget that RDA Online is available to trial free of charge until 31st August 2010.

ALCTS Presentations

The ALCTS CRS Continuing Resources Cataloging Committee has posted the presentations given at their Monday Update Forum in DC. The Forum focused on the upcoming RDA Testing with following two speakers:

Tina Shrader, a representative from the National Agricultural Library on the Task Group coordinating the official testing of RDA

Renette Davis, who shared thoughts on preparing staff for testing RDA at the University of Chicago.

The presentations are available from:

On the website
ALA Connect

Full minutes from this meeting will be posted in the CRCC Connect area soon.

CLA Pre-Conference 2010 on RDA Presentations

All of the presentation slides for the “Shaping Tomorrow’s Metadata with RDA Pre-conference” from the Canadian Library Association Conference (CLA) is available on the Technical Services Interest Group (TSIG) wiki <>.

ALA Publication

Introducing RDA:  A Guide to the Basics
Chris Oliver

Author Chris Oliver, Cataloguing and Authorities Coordinator at the McGill University Library and chair of the Canadian Committee on Cataloging, offers practical advice on how to make the transition from the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) to Resource Description and Access (RDA).

Previous Posts on this Blog about RDA

Brave New World of RDA

Talking about RDA

Some Links to RDA Information

Posted in Cataloguing, Libraries | 1 Comment »

M@x at The Zone in Devon

Posted by guestblogger on July 12th, 2010

About this Guest blog post

Lynda Bowler gives her personal view on how M@x the library dog became the focus of Devon Libraries Web site for children, The Zone.

Lynda is Public Access and Web Officer for Devon Libraries and can be contacted at

M@x at The Zone in Devon

I first met M@x in 2003. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate the significant impact this little fellow would have on both in on my career with Devon Libraries and my life in general, but over the next 6 years all that would change!

It was earlier that year when I first started to really think about our ‘offer’ to children on the library website. I had recently secured the post of IT Assistant – and with it responsibility for our library web pages. Like many library authorities, our content on children’s services was just that – information aimed more at parents than the children themselves. We seemed to be missing a trick and this troubled me.

We wanted to show libraries as fun places to be, provide incentives to read and interact with libraries, for children to make the site their own and visit it often. To do this there needed to be a focus or central character and who better to help design this than …well children.

Wordle screenshot

Wordle brainstorm. Image courtesy of Lynda Bowler

Luckily I had some I’d prepared earlier! My son James and daughter Emily fell neatly into age range of our target audience for the new-look site – so we set to work. We talked about what the character might be like and used a word cloud to help describe it. Then we all grabbed paper and pencils and started to draw. Before too long M@x emerged – however a 2D character didn’t seem convincing – if this was going to work M@x had to be a ‘real dog’ in full 3 dimensional technicolour.  Taking inspiration from Wallace & Gromit I set about making a model M@x. He made his debut in October 2003 when my colleague Paula (then Devon Libraries Children’s Librarian) and I presented him to Strategic Management Team (SMT).

M@x on skateboard image

3-D M@x on skateboard. Image courtesy of Lynda Bowler

So we were good to go. SMT liked the idea – gave us the green light and a modest budget to work with (6K). We formed a project team which included a mix of front-line staff and specialists and we were away! Early 2004 saw a teeny-weeny spanner in the works of our grand design in the form of e-Government. Whilst we’d been busy planning whizzy things for our new website – corporately the freedom was being withdrawn as new branded templates and site structure were being introduced across the authority. We put our project on hold whilst getting down to the work of migrating pages to the new site. We now had to demonstrate to the ‘powers that be’ how our very non-Devon County Council looking site could work within the branded templates. Clearly ‘the force was with us’ – as we convinced the e-Government Team to support our project. They even chipped in some funding for the design work! Why would they do this? Well, I guess it was a good pilot project for DCC to fully test the Content Management environment and how well it could support additional templates outside of the main corporate ones. Lucky us!

Newsletter screenshot

M@x in space. Image courtesy of Lynda Bowler

The site launched on World Book Day 2005 and within a very short time our site stats went through the roof. Visits were increased by 500%. We received 100 entries for our first online competition (with equal number of entries from boys and girls) and over 360 contributions for the site within the first 3 months. We enjoyed great publicity, including an article on the BBC SW website and later that year a prestigious gold award from CILIP PPRG for a Multi-media and website promotion. The positive ‘spin’ was enormous – from demonstrating libraries can make a difference to children’s lives, develop their love of books and reading, valuing and rewarding creativity, making libraries fun and increasing use.

Newsletter screenshot

M@x goes Pole 2 Pole. Image courtesy of Lynda Bowler

The site has gone from strength to strength – and although we’ve had to cut an edition (we’re all feeling the pinch) the site is still updated quarterly which gives us the opportunity to promote major national campaigns like the Summer Reading Challenge, Family Learning/Big Draw and a host of others – but on a more local level.

In 2007 we sent out a prize survey to ask children what they thought of the site and how we could improve it. We received over 700 responses. These were evaluated and a recommendation made to redesign the site and proved some additional content by popular demand! Although children really liked 3D M@x – we decided to opt for the more flexible 2D cartoon version – this would enable us to show him doing things that ‘model M@x’ couldn’t do (swimming for example) and give me some ‘time off’! M@x was becoming quite demanding and I was spending more and more of my ‘home time’ generally looking after him, knitting him sweaters and setting-up his photo-shoots!  Again due to the success of the site our Directorate agreed to fund the revamp. The new site was launched in March 2009.

M@x cartoon image

2-D M@x - the cartoon version. Image courtesy of Lynda Bowler

M@x has now personally interviewed some 22 authors with more lined-up. He is also well known and recognised throughout Devon as M@x the library dog! He’s looking forward to Blogging on the Summer Reading Challenge website this year as part of ‘Space Hop’ and the  new edition of the website will be out on the 19th July.

Other info:

  • 3D M@x was made from Polymer clay (Fimo)
  • The initial project team was made up of about 10 members
  • Each edition we elect a ‘guest editor’ from the project team
  • Four members of staff are involved in creating content on the website
  • Content is added using LiveLink Content Mangement System
  • Flash elements are incorporated via a script – replacing gif images with swf file

View Clay-nine captures imaginations Lynda’s presentation on M@x and The Zone at Umbrella 2009.

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries | Comments Off

Public Library 2.0 – Blogging

Posted by guestblogger on July 5th, 2010

About This Guest Post

Sarah Hammond is a cataloguer at the British Library. In this post she writes about the findings of her research into the blogging activities of UK public libraries, carried out as part of her MA in Librarianship. Read more from Sarah on her blog at or contact her at

Public Library 2.0 – Blogging

I began my research into the blogging activities of UK public libraries in Summer 2008 as part of my MA in Librarianship, fully intending to have it completed by the Autumn. As it turned out, I submitted my dissertation in Autumn 2009; I was concerned that the world would have moved on too much in the intervening time for my research to have any relevance now, this proved not to be the case and actually this delay allowed me to take a longer view of public libraries’ engagement with Library 2.0. I’ll share my findings here and also note a few further developments that readers may find of interest and use.

Sarah Hammond and Reading Companion

Sarah Hammond and Reading Companion

Initial Research

In aiming to discover the level of engagement of UK public libraries with Library 2.0 I specifically focussed on blogging in order to narrow the focus of the research to a scope that was achievable given the time constraints. I also felt that blogs are perhaps the most versatile Web 2.0 tool at libraries’ disposal so that taking a snapshot of blog activity would give a pretty good idea of their wider engagement with Web 2.0 tools. So, I tried to find as many UK public library blogs as I could. Further to this I wanted to explore the attitudes and behaviours of public librarians towards the use of Library 2.0 in their libraries which I did with an online survey.


As of August 2008 I identified 20 blogs (methodology), by September 2009 only 13 of these were still active, 6 inactive and 1 totally defunct (as of May 2010 I found 2 more, although 1 of these is now inactive). Compare this with a concurrent study that found 161 blogs in 39 UK Higher Education Institutions (Hopwood, 2009), also with the 252 public library blogs that Walt Crawford found in 2007, chiefly in USA (he updated his study in 2009 and found a lot had fallen by the wayside).

The literature suggested that public libraries are lagging behind other sectors in engagement with Library 2.0, and blogging specifically; very few peer-reviewed studies had been conducted up to 2009 but there is a move towards deriving and utilising standardised methods for blog evaluation to determine success. As of June 2010 there are some more studies coming through and I’ll blog more as I find them.

So, what’s going on here?
In order to find out, I conducted an online survey, 498 people responded and a wide range of attitudes and behaviours were discovered.

Attitudes to Library 2.0: why aren’t UK public libraries blogging?

The trends that emerged may not come as a great surprise:
• technological barriers presented by IT departments
• barriers presented by prevailing organisational culture
• apathy of library staff, lack of engagement
• a feeling that social networking has no relevance to what a library should be doing
• a lack of time to devote to content creation
• use of other methods of communication deemed more appropriate

The survey responses gathered for this study did seem to fall into both extremes of this debate: that public libraries should definitely be engaging with Library 2.0, that they definitely should not, and every shade in between. Many respondents felt that their library had something of value to be added to the Internet via a blog or any other social networking tool. Many felt organisational resistance to blogging, from other staff and from management. Others felt their enthusiasm met with ambivalence and apathy rather than out-and-out hostility. Many respondents said they felt that their IT departments were resistant to librarians engaging with Library 2.0, a commonly-used phrase referred to the IT department as “gatekeepers” in a derogatory sense. This attitude tended to prevail in the US respondents. Herring et al. (2005) posited blogs as bridging genre, removing the necessity to be so reliant on the IT department to create content and Farkas (2007) has recommended blogging as a means of taking control from webmasters for the information the library puts out about itself and delivering into the hands of the librarians themselves.

The UK respondents complained more about the library as an organisation blocking their online activities. A study carried out by a UK Internet company, Huddle, found that many local government employees were keen to utilise social software for professional reasons but that their access to such sites was blocked by the IT department and the higher levels of management driving policy (Huddle, cited on TechCrunch, 2008). One respondent to this survey replied to the initial email sent out inviting participation by bemoaning the fact that their access to SurveyMonkey was blocked on work computers.

Benefits of blogging

Lee and Bates (2008) Mapping the Irish Biblioblogosphere suggested that demonstrable professional benefits result from blogging and this was also found in some of the responses to the survey: people felt up-to-date with issues in the library and information science world, they felt that reflective writing forced them to think more about what they did in their roles and that they could prove their worth by simply pointing to the ready-made archive. It was also felt that they had access to the rest of the biblioblogosphere for ideas on what to do in their libraries, a sharing of ideas was valued. Some respondents said they felt they were more in touch with other branches in their public library authority because they read their blogs.


Aside from noting negative factors, it must be said that in the UK, and especially in the USA, there are some excellent public library blogs that are widely respected within the profession but more importantly are appreciated by their public. It must also be mentioned that many examples of UK public libraries starting to dip their toes into the wider Library 2.0 world were found along the way to finding blogs, several are starting to appear on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and more; I have now decided to track this activity too now I know the numbers involved are not yet too daunting.

Where to now?

Exciting developments: Portsmouth and Surrey library staff have developed a UK-specific 23 Things programme and it is currently being trialled “by staff from 11 library authorities, 15 HE/FE institutions, and two NHS trusts… and two intrepid librarians in Australia.” I’m going to put myself through the 23 Things and would urge everyone to get behind this initiative; if librarians fail to keep pace with the changing needs of existing and future patrons then they will render themselves obsolete; these are scary times and our worth is continually being questioned.

And if your managers/IT dept/council authority are still not convinced, then Phil Bradley has an answer for every one of their objections, chuck the lot at ‘em!

Phil Bradley Blog screenshot

Phil Bradley Blog screenshot

Get in touch

Although my initial research is done and the MA safely snagged, I’m keeping going. The blog’s still going and I’ll add more bookmarks to the Delicious pages as and when. I’ve decided to widen my remit to include all Library 2.0 engagement so please let me know via my blog whenever you find a UK public library doing it’s thing: wiki, facebook, twitter, LibraryThing, netvibes, mobile optimised interface, podcasts etc etc and I’ll put them on Blogs will continue to be bookmarked and entered on the uklibraryblogs wiki. Let’s hope that very soon I’m inundated and can’t keep up with all the online activity!


Farkas, M. (2007). Social Software In Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication and Community Online. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

Hopwood, M. (2009). Web 2.0 and the new frontiers of information literacy. [Online]. MSci, University of the West of England, Bristol.

Lee, C. & Bates, J. (2007). “Mapping the Irish biblioblogosphere.” The Electronic Library [Online], 25 (6) 648-663.

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Using Mobile Devices for Library Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on July 1st, 2010

CILIP is running an Executive Briefing Day on Becoming upwardly mobile on 15th Sept. 2010 at CILIP HQ. Aimed at all sectors of the library community (public, academic, special and national), CILIP and event partner OCLC have brought together nine industry experts ‘to analyse how institutions can embrace mobile technology to maximise benefits for existing and potential users’.

The press release continues: ‘Experts predict that the mobile internet market will double the desktop market in five years time. It is crucial for libraries to rise to the challenge of making their services available at the user’s point of need.’ Among the questions to be tackled are:

  • What should libraries be doing in this area?
  • What changes are on the horizon?
  • What are the risks of non-adoption?
  • What are the mobile strategies other libraries are currently adopting?

Posted in Libraries, mobile, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Archives 2.0

Posted by guestblogger on June 28th, 2010

About this Guest Post

In this guest blog post Kiara King talks about web 2.0 for archives and the blog she maintains on the subject called ‘web watching for archivists’.

Kiara King is the Archivist for the Ballast Trust, a charitable foundation that provides a rescue, sorting and cataloguing service for business archives with an emphasis on technical records such as plans, drawings and photographs. She can be contacted at:

Archives 2.0

Web 2.0 and me

I first began dabbling in web 2.0 stuff in a personal capacity, with a little bit of facebook at University, some photo sharing and then a few blogs. When I came to decide on a subject for my archive masters’ dissertation in 2007, I wanted to explore how Web 2.0 could work for archives and their users and what the benefits were.

My dissertation looked at how archives could use four of the main Web 2.0 tools – blogs; photo-sharing sites; podcasts and wikis. I researched and found many exciting examples of innovative use of Web 2.0 in archives across the world and I included case studies to illustrate the benefits that using these tools brought to repositories, with a focus on UK examples where possible.

After I graduated, I continued to take an interest in “Archives 2.0” and when I was asked to give a presentation at the 2008 Society of Archivists conference on Web 2.0 I thought it would be useful to start a blog to give me a space to pull together and share the examples I’d found.

Web 2.0 word cloud

Web 2.0 word cloud

Web watching for archivists

I use my blog to share those examples I find and like of archives and archivists using Web 2.0 technologies today. I try to concentrate on UK examples as I think that Kate Theimer of Archives Next already does an excellent job of showcasing the good work that happens everywhere, particularly in North America as well as writing thought provoking posts and generating discussions on web 2.0 and archives.

I originally started my blog by writing up my presentation as a series of blog posts, with one on blogs, one on flickr, etc. Since then I’ve added example to these categories and expanded its scope with posts on new technologies like twitter and youtube, open source software, how to find advice and resources for learning about web 2.0 and even a new category on whimsy for things like the blog Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century!

Web 2.0 and archives

How do I think web 2.0 can help your archive? In exactly the same way it helps museums and libraries – to create new opportunities to connect with your users and raise the profile of your collections. Essentially Web 2.0 represents opportunities for archives. Opportunities to reach wider audiences, use collections in different ways, engage with users and improve the web presence of your repository. Web 2.0 allows you to:

Share your collections

Using a photo-sharing website like Flickr allows you to reach a potential audience of 40 million members. Archives can use Flickr to share digital images of their collections and encourage comments about them like the British Postal Museum and Archive has done. Or you can collect new images from the public like the Great War Archive project at Oxford University did.

British Postal Museum and Archive photostream screenshot

British Postal Museum and Archive photostream

Communicate differently

Starting a blog allows you to share news, promote events at your archive, host small online exhibitions, share the progress of a cataloguing project and generally update readers with any items of interest. Blogs are an easy and free way to provide a secondary public face for your organisation, one that may be more accessible and less formal than the official website.

Some examples of UK repository or collection blogs include the Orkney Archive blog, Special Collections at the University of Bradford and the Bartholomew Archive blog at the National Library of Scotland. There is also the excellent Archives Hub blog.

Orkney Archive blog screenshot

Orkney Archive blog

Twitter is blogging on a smaller scale with a maximum of 140 characters per ‘tweet’ and because of that lends itself to more frequent updates and informal commentary on your collections, linking back to your website or blog for the full story. Examples I like include Strathclyde Archive and Wiltshire Archive’s list of documents being consulted.

You can also use twitter or a blog to repurpose archival content by tweeting or posting diary entries or other collections like the War Cabinet papers being tweeted by the National Archives or George Orwell’s diaries.

UK War Cabinet on twitter screenshot

UK War Cabinet on twitter

Share your talks

Recording talks as podcasts or even digital videos is a great idea if your archive regularly hosts talks and presentations. As these are available online it immediately expands the potential audience and also gives the audience control about when they view or listen to your content. The National Archives Podcast Series is very successful and regularly updated with a variety of topics.

The National Archives Podcast Series screenshot

The National Archives Podcast Series

What next?

If you are interested in using web 2.0 tools in your organisation then take a look at what others have already done to give you some ideas. I’ve pulled together lots of examples of Web 2.0 in action in the UK on my blog and there is a more comprehensive wiki directory called ‘Archives 2.0’.

Web Watching for Archvists blog

Web Watching for Archvists blog

Finally, bear in mind these five guidelines before you start:

  • Think about what you want to do. Have a clear plan about what the tool will be used for and what content it will contain.
  • Experiment. These tools are very flexible and it should be easy to think of ways you could use existing content in new ways.
  • Engage with your potential audience. Find out what your users know about your collections and how you could capture this knowledge.
  • Learn from other sectors. Find out what has worked for museums and libraries.
  • Enjoy it!

Posted in archives, Guest-blog, Social Web, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

How to Run a Community Collection Online

Posted by Brian Kelly on June 24th, 2010

Spotted on the Museums Computer Group email list – sounds an interesting event so here are the details as posted by Alun Edwards, Manager of RunCoCo.

Registration is now open for the free RunCoCo/Culturenet Cymru workshop: How to Run a Community Collection Online, which will take place on Tues 27 July 2010 at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Community collections help to harness the collective resources of a wider community and spread the costs of creating and contributing to a collection across the education and public sectors. These include The Great War Archive and Community Archives Wales. A community can also be harnessed to enrich an existing collection with tags or comments (like Galaxy Zoo). The organisers would like to invite anyone from the education/public sector who is interested in such projects to take part in this free RunCoCo workshop. As a taster, presentations from previous workshops held by RunCoCo are available online.

The RunCoCo workshop has a number of purposes:

  • This is a chance for managers and others from community collection projects to share best practice and exchange knowledge
  • This will be an opportunity for projects with some shared interests to meet face-to-face. The JISC-funded project, RunCoCo, has also launched an online ‘community of interest’ for those involved in community collection or working to harness a community to enrich an existing collection with tags or comments ( – follow the link on the right of that Web page to Join This Group)
  • Be an opportunity to hear from a number of projects such as Galaxy Zoo and Community Archives Wales, as well as Culturenet Cymru and new initiatives like Citizen Science and The People’s Collection.
  • RunCoCo will disseminate the processes, CoCoCo open-source software and results of the Great War Archive, a pilot community collection.

Places are limited, and similar events in Oxford have been over-subscribed. Please register at no later than 1200pm on 12 July 2010. We will confirm your place as soon as possible.

Posted in archives, Events, Libraries, Museums, Web 2.0 | Comments Off

Local authorities and digital continuity

Posted by Brian Kelly on June 21st, 2010

Working with local authority IT departments is often cited as a problem by libraries, archives and museums wanting to use Web 2.0 tools and services, so here is a timely report.

The press release states:

Archives Sector Development at The National Archives has recently published a report on the digital continuity risks of large local authorities in England, accessible from:

Digital Continuity requires strategic alignment, senior understanding and commitment and effective working relationships between Senior Information Risk Owners, ICT Managers, information assurance and governance officers and those responsible for business processes as well as records and information management.  This report is not part of the central government-funded Digital Continuity project but was commissioned to provide an evidential basis for future dissemination of that project’s findings to the wider public sector.

The main findings are:

  • Varying degrees of senior engagement exist in the authorities concerned;
  • A few authorities have information management strategies capable of delivering continuity but only one of the 35 respondents appeared to be addressing it at the strategic, board level;
  • Many information management programmes are partial and disconnected, indicating significant continuity risk; and
  • Many authorities appear to be struggling with coordinating the main internal players in information management.

The underlying survey, analysis and report writing were conducted by our contractors, Richard Jeffrey-Cook of In-form Consult and Philip Lord of the Digital Archiving Consultancy.

In addition to our contractors, we’d like to thank Socitm, the Records Management Society and the Association of Chief Archivists in Local Government (now part of the Archives and Records Association [UK & Ireland]) for their cooperation and facilitation in running the survey.  We hope that the report will be useful not just to us but also in providing levers for local authority information managers to influence their senior management.

Please address any comments or queries to:

Malcolm Todd
Digital Archives Advice Manager

Archives Sector Development
020 8392 5330 ext. 2192

Posted in Addressing Barriers, archives, Libraries, Museums, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Worried About The Future For Librarians? Join the #CILIP1 Campaign!

Posted by Brian Kelly on June 14th, 2010

Nicola McNee is worried. Nicola, a school librarian in Bath, has written a blog post in which she bluntly states that she is “worried .. will my job exist in 2020?“.

Nicola wrote her post following the publication of the KPMG Report – Payment For Success report (PDF format) which was commissioned by the new Coalition Government and suggested Public Libraries could be run by volunteers.

Unlike some of responses to this report I have read which felt there is no value in volunteers Nicola feels that  ”there are many things that volunteers can do in community libraries” but goes on to add that “there are a lot more things they cannot do and without the supporting skills of professional librarians everything soon falls apart“.

But how should a better understanding of the skills which professional librarians posses be articulated? In light of CILIP PR initiative called “One Minute Messages” Nicola has proposed that  librarians and information professionals use Twitter to summarise the wide range of skills that librarians use in their jobs.

Nicola illustrated what she means by this with her initial tweet which she posted on Saturday:

I’m a librarian and I teach students to use resources on the web #CILIP1

and followed this with:

I’m a librarian and I help boys to enjoy reading #CILIP1 #cilipfuture

Statistics for use of the CILIP1 hashtag after 1 dayOn Sunday I noticed lots of tweets with the #cilip1 tag (which provides the connection with the One minute message campaign) and created a TwapperKeeper archive for the tag. Using the Summarizr service (which provides a variety of statistics of tweets captured by TwapperKeeper) I  viewed the statistics for use of the CILIP1 tag.

As can be seen in just over 24 hours (on Saturday and Sunday when we should have been watching the football!) there had been 103 tweets from 38 Twitter users.

Summarizr also provides a tag cloud of the words used. This should provides a quick picture of the attributes which professional librarians feel  represent their strengths and the value they can provide.

Wordcloud for the #CILIP1 hashtag after the first day

Coincidentally on Saturday I also created a TwapperKeeper archive or the Times Higher Educations #loveHE campaign. Viewing the Summarizr statistics for this campaign I find 171 tweets from 111 users (although this seems to include tweets only from 7 June and not the launch of the campaign).

On this initial evidence this suggests that Nicola’s one-woman campaign may potentially be able to be as effective as a national campaign organised by a well-known professional newspaper.

Let’s hope this campaign continues to grow.  If you are a librarian or information professional and use Twitter you have an ideal opportunity to join Nicola in crowdsourcing your unique skills mix. And if you don’t have a Twitter account now’s the ideal opportunity to sign up and join in with your colleagues.

So if you’re a librarian or information professional what do you think of Nicola’s idea? Will you join in?

Posted in Libraries | 1 Comment »

Keeping Track of Library Bloggers

Posted by Brian Kelly on June 12th, 2010

More library bloggers is a good thing – unless you are trying to keep track of them. Within UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage Web pages we’ve steered a middle course. There’s the Best Of … Blogs section, where we’ve identified some exemplars of people writing for the sector. We also put up a Blogs Directory but even though we limited ourselves to only including  LIS blogs that focus on using Web 2.0, this involves quite a lot of work to keep up to date, making sure the blogs are still there and looking out for new ones.

I see that CILIP News Editor Matthew Mezey has been faced with the same issue, as he noted in CILIP Update, Dec. 2009, p.9. He had created a Web page with a list of LIS blogs which was getting out of date but a query to Twitter provided details of lists already being maintained by other people – so he has retired his own list. So which lists are out there? Well, thanks to Matthew I now know there’s Dave’s Hotstuff 2.0 ‘keeping track of what’s cooking in the biblioblogosphere’, Jennie Findlay’s uklibraryblogs, LIS wiki‘s weblogs page and the Blogging Libraries Wiki.

And what will we do about our blog directory? We could leave the page there and add a ‘caveat emptor’ note to say it’s not being maintained. We could remove the page altogether but what if people have bookmarked it? If we do remove the page, should we preserve a copy of the database behind the page? But before we do any of this, we’d appreciate some feedback. So, how helpful have you found it?

Posted in Blogs, Libraries | 2 Comments »