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Collaborative Technology: wikis

In the past week of my life/this semester, several assignments and projects have been due for my courses here at SLAIS. Two of these assignments were unique from the others, in the sense that they were group projects. Though the assignments were from two different courses, myself and three of my classmates formed one group to work on both projects.

Throughout the semester, we met on several occasions to work together, though we also relied on the web. Specifically, we used Google Docs and pbwiki.com. These are only two examples of collaborative technology, but serve as a good introduction to the idea. The concept of collaborative technology is the key tenet of what is referred to as Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is essentially the second generation of the WWW. With, as mentioned above, a focus on collaboration and community-developed ideas, it is represented by sites like Google Docs and pbwiki. What the internet in general has done for businesses in terms of advertising, and subsequently the generating of revenue, Web 2.0 can do for groups and organizations that thrive on the discussion and dissemination of ideas. Indeed, since the concept of Web 2.0 was developed, or more accurately, identified, there has been almost no end to the settings in which it has been applied.

One of the most frequently used applications of Web 2.0 ideals, is where most web users turn for their definitions, wikipedia. This is by far the most commonly used and the best example of a wiki on the net. Wikis are web pages that can be edited by almost anyone, provided a user has an account with the site.

Libraries have been exploring this option in depth, using wikis to make themselves available and announce programs or events to users on the internet. This is about library wikis…in it’s own words:

LibraryWikis is a wiki about wikis used in libraries. It is a place for learning about and sharing examples of library wikis. The wiki is a companion to a research article published within the September 2007 issue of Information Technology and Libraries.

An example of an actual library wiki is the Bull Run Library wiki. The library uses the site primarily for the posting of upcoming events, but has several other resources available. There are links available for the library system of which they are a part, the library catalog, and then several other program schedules as well.

logo used on the Bull Run Library wiki

logo used on the Bull Run Library wiki

From Ohio University, we have the Ohio University Libraries Biz Wiki, which, as the welcome video tells us, is to, “promote business research tools.” This wiki stands alone from the main page of the Ohio University Libraries page, but enables users to search a specific topic.

Wikis are an effective tool, yet fairly low-tech to create. Because of their prevalence on the web, there are many free sites available, and thus they are easily generated and maintained by libraries. Best of all, any user who has the internet available to them is automatically connected to the library.

Blogs

As the title implies, this post is about blogs. I will restrain myself from waxing philosophical about the discussion of blogs in a blog…

Like wikis, blogs offer libraries an outlet for announcing news and events. Practically speaking, the major difference between the two is temporal. Wikis are dynamic, and may have entirely different content from one day to the next. This allows for the old, outdated information to be cleared out and replaced by current news.

By contrast, blogs are more static, and store old posts (unless deleted by the author).  This is not detrimental to the delivery of new information by any means, and it can be helpful to have a record of old posts. Some people see the merits of both, and desire to merge the two. From Amanda Etches-Johnson, we have an extensive (and growing) list of library blogs this wiki.

In most cases, having either a blog or a website/wiki is enough by itself, and it is not necessary to have both. At times, even having just one will still result in eventual neglect. This blog is a good example of informative posts, but also of a ‘former’ blog (my term) that hasn’t been updated in some time.

This is not to say that blogs fall into disrepair after their initial inception; a well maintained blog that addresses the needs of its community will certainly be highly valuable. The Regina Public Library is far more dedicated to blogging. Users of this site are offered reviews and announcements on twelve (count ’em!) different blogs, each of a different topic. Movies, fiction, graphic novels, business are a few of the topics, updated several times a month.

In southeastern Pennsylvania, the Free Library of Philadelphia also has a blog, but this one is for the library as a whole. Instead of having separate pages, as does the RPL, the site is centralized, and lists upcoming events on the initial page.

In any event, a well developed and maintained blog can be extremely useful to a library. And, as we’re told on this page:

Librarians have taken to blogs like ducks to water…

…since everyone else in the discipline is apparently flocking to the blog-realm, I’m glad to be here now. Thankfully, there are many free blogging sites, otherwise I would have had to put it on my bill.