Friday, May 15, 2009

The Future of Library Research

An article in the May Journal of Library Administration is a reminder of why we need to rebuild library databases to include elements of Web 2.0. It argues that library websites and databases are too complex and not interactive enough to engage today's users.

The abstract and introduction are included here. The full article can be retrieved through Academic Search Complete. Citation: Houghton-Jan, S. Etches-Johnson, A., Schmidt, A., 2009, The Read/Write Web and the Future of Library Research, Journal of Library Administration, 49:365–382

The new social Web is fun and easy to use. The same cannot usually be said of library Web sites and digital resources. Libraries would benefit from incorporating aspects of the Read/Write Web into their services. This article examines how libraries currently erect barriers to service and provides an example of how their barriers could be eliminated by the creation of a social library research environment.

Your experience may say otherwise, but reports such as the Online Computer Library Center's (OCLC) Perceptions survey tell us that libraries are among the last places people visit for research and information work (OCLC, 2005 pp.1-17). Some see these statistics as a sign to abandon providing these services all together. They claim that the Good Ship Reference is sinking in today's tumultuous information ocean and that libraries should focus their efforts on staying afloat elsewhere.
Others, including the authors of this article, see the reported statistics as a call to action, a sure sign that we need to change the who, what, when, why, and how of library information services. With the right tools, we can learn to harness the power of the rough waters and use them to our advantage.
By imbuing library databases with the best of the new, social Web, we can build better research tools that have the potential to engage and connect library users."

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