Friday, May 28, 2010

Article Note: On using Web 2.0 for reference staff work

Citation for the article:

Currie, Jane P., "Web 2.0 for Reference Services Staff Training and Communication." Reference Services Review 38.1 (2010): 152-157.

Read via Emerald.

The article is a short piece that looks at ways to apply Web 2.0 tools to reference work. What we are looking at here is the work of the staff, not using the tools to provide reference service to patrons. The latter is a separate topic, and one that has been addressed generously in Librarian Blogsville. Currie writes that "this essay focuses on applications of Web 2.0 that improve training and communication within the reference services department" (152). I think this essay is certainly worth a look, and if you are looking for ideas on how to improve training and communication in your reference unit, you might find some of the ideas presented to be useful. I have worked to implement some of the ideas presented in my library. I did, however, notice the essay leaves open some concerns, which I will address in a moment.

Currie argues that by using the Web 2.0 tools the reference workers will be empowered. She writes, "by applying Web 2.0 communication and information tools to the provision of reference services, employees are empowered in their role as providers of effective assistance to researchers" (152). I think that may be a little too lofty, but I do think there is some usefulness to the tools. Part of the big concern for me is getting the other employees into the habit of using the tools. If the others do not collaborate, create, content, or even check in, the tool will not work.

Currie starts out by discussing the use of blogs. This seems to be the easiest tool to implement for a reference department. We did implement a reference blog here. We did it using, and we have it set for private use (you have to log in to see it, and only certain people can see it based on a list). It seems to be working ok for basic things like incident reports, assignments, and some announcements, but I think there is still potential for more. A couple of staff members have used to provide reports on conferences or seminars they have attended. All reference staff are able to post to it, which is consistent with Currie's suggestion. I think more interaction is a possibility, but since people still cling to e-mail for some of the things that can be done (better in my opinion) with the blog, I think it is underutilized. Currie says that "since an effective blog is an active one, repeated reminders to read and contribute may be necessary initially" (153). Still, it's a good start. I will note that Currie does not make mention of any privacy concerns. This was a big concern of ours when we were setting up our reference department blog. We wanted something for the staff, and it could not be viewed freely on the Web. This was because we wanted the staff to be able to post freely and also in order to make sure no one's privacy was violated. I think this is something that reference departments who are looking into implementing a blog for their unit need to keep in mind. Currie also mentions that the blog can serve as an archive, a feature we liked as well. I think the next issue coming down the line is some assessment. We would need to review that archive, do some reflection, and look at what we can learn in terms of best practices.

Next, Currie looks at online calendars. We do some of this as well using Google Calendars. The problem I have observed with Google Calendar is that, to use it, you may have to be signed into Google. I already sign into Google for my personal stuff (this blog, the reader), so I do not want to sign out to have to sign into the library's Google account, not to mention I do not want my personal stuff mingling with the library's account (s0 sharing is out of the question for me). Still, I do remember to check in to the library account, but overall, this has not been as effective for me. From talking to the others, the results have been mixed. I think it may be more the choice of tool. Since we just moved to Outlook for our campus e-mail, we may end up using that calendar more for common planning, though for some other things, like some library room bookings, Google Calendar is still preferred. So, mixed result on this.

Currie then looks at wikis. I won't go much into this. I will say that our attempts at using wikis have been very cold. Success has been mixed, and this is in large part because wikis, contrary to what wiki enthusiasts say, are not terribly intuitive or easy to use. If you get the hang of how to use them, they can be a good collaborative tool, though there are other tools out there that can do similar things. But that learning curve has proven very hard to overcome for some people so wikis often end up neglected after initial attempts.

RSS feeds came next on the list. They are fine by me. We feed the feed of our library blog to our website for instance. The author does have some interesting ideas for using an online photo collection. Currie looks at 10 different tools, so odds are good you can find something that may fit your library's needs.

The article seems to lean more on the communication aspect. I am not sure how much the idea of training, aside from training your staff in how to use the tools, is considered. Things like reviewing a blog's entries for best practices and even using the blog for actual training material (conference notes, other materials) are not fully addressed. But this is a good start and worth a look. In the end, I would advice what I usually say: pick something based on what you actually need. Don't jump on the bandwagon because you feel the need to be cool and hip. If using one of these tools will actually provide an enhancement of your services, without neglecting your current patrons, and solve existing problems rather than creating new ones, go for it. If you are just doing it because you think your library has to be on Facebook or use a blog, then you are on the wrong path. Be mindful of what you do.

No comments: