Collaborative Tools

The term Web 2.0 has been around since the end of 2004. Wikipedia, the free user-created Web encyclopedia, defines it as “the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and Web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing and, most notably, collaboration among users.” Web 2.0 is as transformational as the arrival of the Internet itself. It isn’t about technology, but about community, sharing and openness.

Specifically, Web 2.0 can enhance your library’s ability to:

  • Fulfill the library’s mission and vision. Libraries need to look at emerging social technologies as valuable tools for communicating with and serving their current patrons, as well as attracting new library patrons.
  • Tell and share stories. When the library takes a role in showcasing and collecting the stories of its community members, it becomes an agent for expression and community development. Engage your community in a new and different way.
  • Harness the collective intelligence of our profession and our communities. We know more together than we do as individuals.
  • Understand and meet your online library users. This involves finding out how they are communicating, what content they are developing and what is most important to them. People are doing library things online. For fun! Go where our users are (or will be) and strengthen community ties with social software. Also, get feedback on your library services.
  • Network and build online community. Web 2.0 technologies can give the library an online face by profiling the library space, the staff and the services they offer and by participating in ongoing online conversations. Enhance your library’s Web presence with a more personal and personalized online experience.
  • Attract and serve teens. This can be accomplished through online gaming, a magnet that attracts library users of all types and, beyond its entertainment value, has proven to be a powerful tool for literacy and learning. More than half (55 percent) of all online American youths ages 12 to 17 use online social networking sites.
  • Become part of the participatory culture. A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations and some type of informal mentorship in which what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which all contributions matter and there is some degree of social connection. Participatory culture is about community involvement. There are opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, changed attitudes regarding intellectual property, diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace and a more empowered conception of citizenship.
  • Provide digital collections. Libraries can expand traditional collection development practices by incorporating collections of online videos, photos and Web sites.

What Collaboration Tools Can Be Useful to Libraries?

There are varieties of online participatory culture, including:
  • Affiliations — These can include memberships, formal and informal, in online communities centered on various forms of media, such as Flickr, Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, message boards, gaming or MySpace.
  • Production of new creative forms — This involves producing new creative forms, such as digital sampling, programming, videos, mash-ups, podcasting, widgets and writing via blogs, zines or other technologies.
  • Collaborative problem-solving (whether formally or informally) to complete tasks and develop new knowledge (for example, through wikis, alternative reality gaming or spoiling).

Web 2.0 is about sharing, about making information available where people are — whether it is photos, videos, news, bookmarks, knowledge or shared lives. A key component of Web 2.0 is social software that lets people connect, collaborate and communicate over the Internet. The collaboration may occur in real time (called synchronous collaboration) or at different times (called asynchronous collaboration), while the locations may be across the world or across an office. Most of these tools are free, enabling anyone with access to the technology to be a publisher. The common goal is building communities in which participants constantly give and receive valuable information. The Collaboration Tools Chart, which is available in a downloadable PDF, outlines some of the broad categories of tools available.