Friday, April 03, 2009

Article Note: On social software implementation in public libraries

Citation for the article:

Rutherford, Louise L. "Implementing Social Software in Public Libraries." Library Hi Tech 26.2 (2008): 184-200.

Read via Emerald.

This article does not tell me a whole lot that I did not know already. The main flaw with the article is the extremely small sample in the survey (7 people were given e-mail interviews; the author started with 12, but the sample weeded itself to 7). Given all the evidence out in the blogs and in various libraries, I think expanding the sample should not have been difficult; then again, the author claims she was focusing on early adopters (185), but still, the sample seems awfully small. The article is meant to report on kinds of social software that public libraries are using and issues related to that use. As an academic librarian, I read it so see if we some of their issues were my issues as well, and yes, it turns out I have some of the same issues and challenges. Anyways, there were some points I wanted to remember.

  • "Discussion [in the library literature] of implementation issues tended to be brief, possibly because the literature in this area concentrated on relating successes" (186). This is certainly true. Even the librarian bloggers usually focus on successes when they implement something. I have yet to find a few bloggers who would dare blog about some serious implementation failure. Someone who actually failed, and who actually wrote it up in a thoughtful and honest way so the rest of us can learn from the mistakes would be welcome. I don't foresee that happening anytime soon. The only exception I can think off the top of my head is Walt Crawford, who does write about his work and publishing, especially publishing books electronically giving us the ups and downs. But it is important to share the difficulties too: ". . .so that future implementers are able to learn from the challenges faced by others, and to take action to mitigate against these potential problems when possible" (186).
  • The article reports that blogs were the most widely use tool (189). The study also found that commenting on these blogs was generally low (190). Neither of these findings came as a surprise. A blog is a very tool to set up, especially when using a free web-based tool like Blogger, which I am using now.
  • The article mentions that innovation often will not work if if something in the work culture inhibits innovation. "Issues mentioned included staff hesitations, staff unwillingness to undertake new learning and the relationship with the local government body responsible for funding and governance" (192).
  • "Although surprisingly few papers in the literature mentioned the importance of staff training and acceptance for the successful implementation of social software, this point came across through strongly in an analysis of responses from participants in this research" (194).
  • And these two points are actually challenges that I face in my work. One: ". . .time for on-going monitoring and maintenance" (195). Two: ". . .to remain dynamic and interactive, staff members needed to commit to updating information on a regular basis" (195). We have not gotten to the point of implementing and forgetting, but it is a consistent challenge for me to maintain, monitor, and keep adding and updating content to the blog. Ideas of things to blog about is not an issue. I have a pretty big stash of ideas. Finding the time to review them, write them up, and post them with all the other duties I have is the actual challenge. That some segments of my workplace see blogging as low level work certainly does not help either. But at the moment, it is what it is, and I just deal with it the best I can with what I have.
  • "Respondents felt that good marketing was an important element of the successful implementation of social software. A successful marketing operation involves elements such as identifying a target audience, advertising the service and providing information, assistance, and support for users" (197). This is another continuing challenge for me. Then again, it is part of my work to do the marketing. We have made some strides, but there is still much to do.

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