Cultural Heritage

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

Web 2.0 in the academic sector

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12th January 2010

Since May 2009, Rosemary Russell and I have been working on a study for JISC, looking at the use of Web 2.0 tools and services by the academic sector. We chose to use a Web 2.0 tool – a blog – to collect our evidence and to make this public. People who responded to our invitation to contribute to the study did so by adding comments to topic Pages and we also interviewed a number of people in various roles about their experiences and wrote these up as case studies.

At the same time, Prof. Jane Hunter of the School of ITEE, University of Queensland was working on a parallel study of the situation in Australia. She used a different evidence-collecting strategy but came to very similar conclusions.

The evidence points to the current time being a transition point where early adopters are being joined by mainstream users. Nonetheless, there remains a proportion of users who are as yet Web 2.0 ‘illiterate’. The various Web 2.0 services are mostly seen as easy to sign up to and use, usually free to use and giving access to large audiences. The downside is that services may collapse trapping data, while institutions may block their use. It is common for users to prefer to use Web 2.0 services even when institutional alternatives are available.

What was also evident was that the situation in academic institutions is often not that different to the public sector. IT department blocking use of social networking services? Yes. Takes forever to get permission to set up a blog? Yes. Central management wanting control over all publicly visible text? Yes. Other staff feel threatened, even scared, of the technology or feel it will take time they don’t have? Yes.

But it was great to find out that there is genuine experimentation going on. Photography students using self-publishing sites as part of their studies. A Ning community set up for students before they officially start at University – and so before they can access institutional resources. A tutor using a wiki as a collaborative exam revision web site (Examopedia); this is used by the students to create and deposit answers to past exam papers collaboratively and is moderated by the tutor. An entirely volunteer-run library using Koha software for the catalogue and putting some of its stock on LibraryThing to publicise itself. Putting QR codes in library catalogues so mobile phones can be used to guide users to the shelves in a large collection or building or putting the QR codes on the ends of shelves to alert users to the fact that e-resources are also available.

Particularly interesting was the indication that attitudes of IT Departments are changing, as evidenced by the two case studies from IT staff. David Harrison (Assistant Director of Information Services at Cardiff University) uses a lot of different Web 2.0 services in his working life. He also noted that while the university went down the large implemetation route (i.e. keeping things in-house) a couple of years ago, if taking the decision now they would be looking closely at cloud computing and externally hosted services. Christine Saxton (Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services (CiCS) at the University of Sheffield) has a blog and uses Facebook and Twitter for work work and personal communication. She notes how her blog and Twitter enable her deaf father to keep in touch with her since phone calls aren’t an option. She also noted that CiCS has outsourced all student email to Google from Sept. 2009 and now just provides support to users.

The two reports were submitted to JISC in December 2009 and have been published in the
JISC Repository. The UK study is at and the Australian study is at As well as reading the reports, why not have a look at the blog and its topic Pages and case studies too for ideas and inspiration.

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Posted in Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Using QR Codes in Libraries and Museums

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15th July 2009

First things first – just what are QR codes?

Wikipedia defines a QR Code as: “a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The “QR” is derived from “Quick Response”, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.” The QR Codes can be read by some mobile phones with a camera or in Seb Chan’s wordsQR codes are probably best seen just as mobile-readable URLs“.

So how might QR codes be used in cultural heritage services? I’ve found a couple of places that are currently using these codes to help users.

The University of Bath Library is adding QR codes to the details you see in the results of a catalogue search. The code contains title, author and shelf location. Their blog post notes “I simply find the resource I want, scan the code and save it on my phone. I can then use this to find the item on the shelf. In fact, I can save this on my phone (I’d probably take a little more time and cut and paste into a mobile word document) and start to build up my own reference collection.

The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney is also trying out QR codes. In their case they’ve been trialling using the codes beside exhibits in a display to take the visitor to the catalogue entry for the item. The technical aspects are described in some detail in the post on March 5th 2009 with a follow-up post on April 8th 2009.

This follows an earlier experiment in which the QR code appeared in a festival catalogue and redirected readers to a ‘hidden’ web page which gave access to a discount voucher for the festival and free entry to the museum during the event. Further posts on October 16th 2008 and October 23rd 2008 reviewed the experiment and discussed some issues that arose.

Has anyone reading this tried using QR codes? It would be good to know if anyone else has experimented with using these codes and for what for what purpose, and how successful you think it’s been.

Posted in Cataloguing, Libraries, Museums | Comments Off