Cultural Heritage

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

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.

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