the future of libraries in the digital age
Title: Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online.
Author: Meredith G. Farkas (her excellent blog)
Publication Data: Available from Information Today, Inc, Medford, New Jersey); ISBN 978-1-57387-275-1
Length: 320 pages
Summary: There is a growing interest in the implementation of synchronous and asynchronous communication technologies in public, special and academic libraries as mechanisms for improving services and outreach to patrons and communities. Meredith Farkas’ book covers the full range of Web 2.0 technologies, including blogs, podcasts, wikis, social networks, social bookmarking, screencasting and online reference tools. As one might expect of someone named as one of the 2006 Library Journal Movers and Shakers, the author is well aware of both the benefits and the drawbacks of these various applications and provides the reader with an objective assessment of each. She advocates evaluation and adoption of the tools on the basis of what will work within a particular community of users rather than on the basis of what’s currently popular in the media.
For the purposes of this book, social software is defined as a tool that must meet at least two of the three following conditions:
1. It allows people to communicate, collaborate, and build community online.
2. It can be syndicated, shared, reused, or remixed, or it facilitates syndication.
3. It lets people learn easily from and capitalize on the behavior or knowledge of others.
While some tools (including electronic mailing lists and forum software) have been around for more than two decades, the majority of social software tools have been developed within the past 10 years. These newer tools both help create and benefit from modern ideas about the read/write Web, which promotes collaboration, sharing, and community building from the bottom up.
Opinion: Upon receipt of my review copy, I flipped through the chapters of this volume to see whether it would be a worthwhile resource for someone who has actively used blogs, RSS feeds, social bookmarking tools, etc for the past four or five years. Within minutes, I had flagged several pages in chapters covering social networks, podcasting and gaming on the basis of new information about tools I was well versed in using as well as clear and concise explanations of those tools I had not yet explored.
Farkas provides solid background on the various technologies currently touted under the heading of Web 2.0. Her recommendations for practical application of these technologies are grounded in reality and should be well within the capabilities of her targeted readership. She devotes an entire chapter to a primer on keeping up with the flow of information in what is now a consistently changing field.
The text features sidebar commentaries on the various technologies contributed by information professionals currently implementing the technologies in their workplaces. I noted contributions by Aaron Schmidt, Jay Bhatt, Jessamyn West, Greg Schwartz and other recognizable experts. Each chapter is well documented and there is an appendix of referenced web sites.
This is a immediately accessible text, written without hype, suitable for anyone interested in effective use of communication and collaborative tools.