The American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy has contracted the Information Institute of Syracuse to research and write a detailed technology brief on the topic of participatory networks. Lead authors of the brief, School of Information Studies professors R. David Lankes and Joanne Silverstein, will emphasize interactive and social web applications such as blogs, social networks, and include a survey of the general "Web 2.0" and "Library 2.0" development world.
"We hope to create a comprehensive document library decision makers can use to understand the new wave of social Internet applications," says Lankes, director of the institute. "We also hope to devise strategies for libraries to respond to potential opportunities and threats."
The rise of new web applications that both facilitate and depend upon user contributions has exposed a number of serious issues that today's libraries must face. These web services allow users to easily build digital collections such as on popular web sites YouTube and FLIKR. They also enable users to join and create social networks (or digital collections of people such as MySPACE and Facebook, or to self-publish through such outlets as Blogger and LiveJournal.
The advance of these tools has had impacts in multiple areas. One clear example is on software developers and consumers. Software developers now release early betas of software to a community for testing and refinement--sometimes creating permanent betas that never get officially finished. Software developers also often look to a loosely coupled cadre of programmers to create and/or maintain software and standards through open source. These shifts in the Internet software community have already begun to impact libraries. User expectations for the online catalog and the services of a library they can access online have changed, and libraries must keep up.
The drafted brief will outline a series of actions that libraries can take to help be at the forefront of these new technologies and services. The document is being shared with ALA as well as experts in the field for initial comments in September and October. Comments collected at a public forum in Nashville will be incorporated into a final draft document.