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Emerging technologies changing public library service delivery models.

Emerging technologies provide librarians with a unique opportunity to substantially enhance user centred services and to facilitate and promote collaboration between libraries and their users. This paper explores the range of free and inexpensive technologies that have been implemented with practical and immediate benefits for library staff and users. Examples of integrating technologies include blogs, wikis, RSS aggregators, podcasts, vodcasts, web conferencing, and instant messaging. Also reported is the take up of these technologies by public libraries nationally and internationally. Australian public library use and promotion of these services is examined. A case study around the Queensland Opal Training Project Emerging Technology course examines library staff buy in and involvement in the development of new services, and explores the difference emerging technologies can make to users. Edited version of a paper presented at the Alia conference Perth WA September 2006


The role of the library within, and the services it offers to, the community is rapidly changing. With online resources and new technologies, libraries interested in enhancing user services and providing unmediated and independent access to library services and collections, have begun to look at ways of creating online communities. New technologies allow them to provide a better service to users by offering simple access to what they want, when they want it and how they want it. In an effort to provide access to and market the optimal 24/7 content and service delivery, they are creating virtual communities through social software such as blogs, RSS feeds, instant messaging (IM), wikis, podcasts, vodcasts and web conferencing.

US librarian Michael Stephens, author of Tame the web blog, suggests that the new collaboration and communication tools need to be used by librarians to better serve users. 'Libraries can now communicate with their markets directly'. If libraries fail, users may pass them by. Illinois reference librarian Schmidt specifically identifies the youth market in this equation by observing that 'the future of libraries depends on how well we meet the needs of today's young adults, who are far more tech fluent than most librarians'. (1)


Blog is short for web log. It refers to a category of website where the content is presented in a continuing sequence of dated entries. Put simply, a blog is an online diary. A blog can be produced by one author or carried out collaboratively by a community of authors. Blogs are websites that contain brief entries displayed in reverse chronological order. The newest entry is at the top of the webpage and can be updated at anytime--hourly, daily, weekly or monthly.

Blog creation increased with the introduction of automated publishing systems, particularly Blogger People use services such as Blogger to simplify and speed up the publishing process. They allow people with little or no technical background to update and maintain a blog. Creating a blog requires no html skills and you do not have to know anything about how to link from one page to another. (2)

According to Clyde, (3) blogs have many implications for libraries. Library managers therefore need to be aware of what blogs can do to promote the library and its services. Stephens (4) believes that library blogs can be building blocks for communicating news and information to users. He suggests we should aim to create a feeling of transparency by blogging about proposed projects and plans, and listening to users via comments and then responding to them.

Creating a blog for your library is a free, easy, and fast way for you and your staff to communicate information to your public and, if you choose, to provide a medium for your public to participate in service development. There are four major ways blogs can be used in the library: as an information service, as a library service, as a feedback tool, and as a professional awareness service.

Blogs as an information service

Use blogs as a library promotional tool to inform clients of changes and additions to library services and collections, and of news and current events.

Watson and Harper's (5) findings in a study of the use of blogs, wikis and other collaborative technologies in the information industry in Australia found that more public libraries are using blogs than wikis and that 22 per cent of public libraries used blogs to communicate with clients.

* Madison Public Library in Wisconsin publishes a blog What's new www.madison which provides basic news, new services and serves as a communications vehicle for the library.

* Eastern Regional Libraries in Victoria publishes a blog What's new @ Eastern Regional Libraries easternregional.blogspot. com/. Its blog is used for library announcements eg public holiday closures, refurbishments, advertising library events, providing lists of new books, cds and dvds as well as the odd book review.

* Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Victoria publishes a blog Yarra Plenty blog Its blog aims to be a platform for interaction between the library and its users, including staff. Input and suggestions for content are welcome from the community.

Blogs as a library service

List new books, videos, cds, or dvds as they are added to the collection. Review new titles and link them to relevant internet sites. Start an online book discussion. Provide links to author interviews. List book award announcements (Man Booker Prize, Children's Book Week awards, Pulitzer Prize winners). Establish a blog for young adults and encourage discussion among them (Top 10 albums, Top 10 movies, Top PS2 or XBox games). Start a children's blog. Advertise children's activities in the area. Children's literature--what's new and what will appeal to children of different reading levels and ages. Promote library services and resources in order to draw people into the library.

* Madison Public Library in Wisconsin publishes a blog MADreads www.madison a brief book review every day. Ten staff members contribute to the blog and readers are encouraged to interact with the reviews by posting comments and opinions.

Blogs as a feedback tool

Blogs encourage feedback from users via the comments link. They can provide information about their library experiences and guide improvements. Polls and surveys can also be added to blogs using free software tools such as Pollhost Libraries can gather valuable feedback from their users by asking questions of them through a space in which they feel safe enough to express themselves.

Blogs as a professional awareness tool

Used as current awareness and professional aids, blogs help you stay ahead of changes in technology and in the library profession.

Cohen (6) suggests that librarians need to stay ahead to justify their existence and so that consumers will look to the library as a place of currency.

Schwartz states
 You are probably thinking that no one will read
 what you have to say ... I was surprised to
 discover that, as a librarian, you already have a
 built in community of people interested in you
 and your perspective. You can, and probably
 will, meet people that you may not have met
 otherwise, becoming part of a very progressive
 segment of the LIS community. (7)


WebJunction 'an online community where library staff meet to share ideas, solve problems, take online courses--and have fun'.

Library Stuff is a 'library weblog dedicated to resources for keeping current and professional development'.

Researchbuzz provides news and information about search engines, databases, and other information collections for library staff.


A wiki, originating from the Hawaiian term for quick, is an open shared space for collaborative content contribution and editing. Contribution to a wiki requires no html or programming knowledge. Unlike protected web pages, any information added to a wiki can be changed or deleted by anyone. A person with a web browser can insert new pages, include new content in existing pages, or delete information. Previous versions of pages are saved for easy recovery from errors.

A wiki is software often referred to as a wiki engine that allows users to freely create and edit web page content using any web browser. There are many free open source wiki engines available to create wikis, such as MediaWiki, pbwiki, and seedwiki. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.

Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organisation of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself. Like many simple concepts, 'open editing' has some profound and subtle effects on wiki usage. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a website is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users.

Wikis for librarians

Library and information science wiki (LISWiki)

LISWiki was launched to provide the library community with an opportunity to investigate the usefulness of wikis. Its aim is to exist as a niche encyclopedia comprising library related issues. The site claims that this wiki is intended to be developed, edited, organised, and maintained by anyone interested.

Library instruction wiki

Library instruction wiki is a collaboratively developed resource, initiated by the Oregon Library, for librarians involved with or interested in instruction. 'All librarians and others interested in library instruction are welcome and encouraged to contribute.'

Library success: a best practices wiki e#Technology

Meredith Farkas designed this wiki to be 'a one stop shop for great ideas and information for all types of librarians. All over the world, librarians are developing successful programs and doing innovative things with technology that no one outside of their library knows about.' The site also suggests that if you have accomplished something at your library you believe is a success, or have materials that would be helpful to other librarians, adding them to the wiki or providing a link to outside coverage. Farkas adds that 'this wiki belongs to the community of librarians who use it' and it should be a place where librarians can share ideas with one another and can learn to replicate the successes of other libraries.

Wikis for library users

The Biz wiki bizwiki/index.php/Main_Page

The purpose of this wiki is to experiment with an alternative form of delivery of library information for members of the Ohio University community. The wiki contains articles about business reference books, databases, websites, and other research guides. It is intended as a library resource to which students, faculty staff, and other librarians can contribute.

The Princeton Public Library in the US has created a book club for its adult readers using wiki software. Once registered, readers can post reviews on the wiki. BookLoversWiki

RSS feeds and aggregators

RSS is an xml format that stands for rich site summary or really simple syndication. It allows users to receive content from sources such as news organisations, blogs and any web page that changes its content frequently. An RSS service consists of a list of items, each of which usually includes a headline, description, and a link to a web page. RSS news readers allow you to view the pages you select all together in the same place and, by automatically retrieving updates, stay current with new content soon after it is published without filling up your e-mail box or requiring you to check various web sites. In simple terms, RSS is used for the specific purpose of conveying information that a website or blog has been updated and allows quick scanning of the latest headlines from hundreds of websites.

RSS is also a way for web publishers to syndicate their content--that is, make the content easier to redistribute. Most weblog software creates xml, RDF (Resource Descriptive Framework), and even Atom (RSS's major rival which was created by people who felt that RSS could be improved upon) documents automatically, allowing you to syndicate your site via these technologies.

RSS for library users

RSS allows you to publish information about your library as a syndicated feed. Library users subscribe to your feed using aggregator (also commonly referred to as a news reader) software which groups together, collates and shows the results of RSS feeds in an easy to read format. There are numerous news readers available. Many, like Bloglines, are free. Most news readers are software that you download and install. Others are web based services for that work inside your browser.

Library users are then able to keep up to date with what is new at your library without having to visit your website. Inform users about author visits to the library, provide information about upcoming book sales, or promote classes and programs. RSS is being incorporated into library catalogues and journal databases to inform users of new purchases and publications.


The Curtin University of Technology has RSS feeds which allow you to see details of titles that are added to the library collection. Curtin Library RSS feeds research/rss/catalogue_rss_feeds.html

The Australian National University has RSS feeds to lists of new titles in the catalogue. Library catalogue

Hennepin County Library in the US allows you to make any catalogue search into a custom RSS feed RSS.cfm

All EBSCOhost databases and interfaces support RSS feeds for search alerts and journal alerts. 'RSS enabled alerts allow librarians and users to feed results from EBSCOhost search alerts and journal alerts into their RSS readers and aggregators, as well as their websites.' d=2485&t=h


The word podcast originates from combining 'iPod' and 'broadcast'. A podcast is an audio program distributed over the internet. Consider it like a radio show. Each show consists of a series of individual episodes that you can listen to however, whenever, and wherever you want. You listen when it is convenient. A podcast is unlike a regular downloaded audio recording or streaming audio in that the content distribution is automatically done through RSS (really simple syndication/rich site summary).

Similarly to blogs, the standard way of receiving podcasts is by subscribing using a podcatcher or a podcast client such as iTunes, Juice, gPodder, Odeo and PodSpider. Subscription may be through podcast directories or by physically entering a podcast's RSS feed url onto the client.

The only cost to your library to create a basic podcast is staff time. Most libraries already have the required equipment

* computer

* microphone

* speaker or ear/headphones

* software for recording and mixing (Audacity or Odeo are both free to download)

* software for encoding (LAME MP3 Encoder is free open source software)

* a podcatcher or podcast client (iTunes, Juice and Odeo are all free)

A study conducted by PEW Internet and American life project released in April 20058 found that
 More than 22 million American adults own iPods
 or MP3 players and 29% of them have
 downloaded podcasts from the web so that they
 could listen to audio files at a time of their
 choosing. That amounts to more than 6 million
 adults who have tried this new feature that allows
 internet 'broadcasts' to be downloaded onto their
 portable listening device.

Almost one in five of those aged 18-28 have iPods/MP3 players.

How can public libraries use podcasts?

* use podcasts as training tools for databases and online library resources

* provide short, informational episodes about one issue combining voiceover by a narrator/host and interviews with clients

* give weekly updates about what is going on in your library and community

* review new books and follow by interviews with users who have read the books

* use recordings from presentations or turn presentations, lectures, and tutorials into podcasts

* start a podcast for teens and allow them to drive it

* podcast computer classes

* provide library tours on podcast

* provide professional development for staff--include on demand tutorials, copyright discussions, presentations by external professionals, book group discussion guides, summaries of new services or policies


The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County held a joke contest for teens and later podcast the best jokes. Libraryloft podcasts podcasts.asp.

The VALA2006 conference has podcasts of all papers delivered prog2006.htm.

Lansing Public Library offers podcasts of its programs and states that podcasting offers users a chance to listen to content when convenient for them. Podcast directory www.lansing.lib.

The Cheshire Public Library in CT offers a podcast for teens. 'The podcast is a teen driven cultural magazine featuring teen writers, musicians, reviewers, commentators and more.' Contributors must be Cheshire residents in grades 8-12. Cheshire Public Library podcast

The State Library of Victoria is podcasting programs such as

* National treasures: a curator's view kmg/2006/nationaltreasures/program of eve nts/curators_view.html 'Hear Margaret Dent, co curator of National Treasures from Australia's Great Libraries, talk about the exhibition via podcast or audio download from the library's website.'

* The 2006 Keith Murdoch oration kmo/2006/index.html

* Hear Lord Sebastian Coe's delivery of the 2006 Keith Murdoch oration via podcast or audio download file.


A vodcast is a term used to describe the online delivery of video on demand via Atom or RSS attachments. Wikipedia defines the term as 'an evolution specialized for video, coming from the generally audio based podcast and referring to Video On Demand (Vod)'. (9) Libraries are using vodcasts to illustrate what the library has done and to attract the community to future programs.


The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County produced a vodcast of a program for teens Fairy tales gone bad @ImaginOn Fkn 6Dd0eZ88&mode=related&search=n)

The Orange County Library Systems Florida vodcasts 129 shows clips from recent library programs.

Web conferencing

Web conferencing is used to convene group meetings or live presentations via the internet. A web conference usually features a web version of a PowerPoint presentation and web cobrowsing, whereby conference participants see whatever is on the presenter's screen; voice communication, either through a traditional telephone conference, or through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol); and text messaging, enabling participants without a microphone to use text chat in place of voice. Most web conferencing software allows the participants and the presenter to record the session and save the text chat for future reference.

The term webinar, a combination of the words web and seminar, is often used when referring to web conferencing. A webinar is intended to be interactive between the host and participants and the information is communicated according to a program, with a starting and ending time. Generally the host speaks over a microphone, highlighting information being offered on screen, and the participants can reply via their own microphones or text chat.

Peters (10) suggests that as 'explorers of emerging frontiers', libraries need to be using audible content to improve online library services, thereby changing what libraries can do and who they can serve.

Rural and small libraries face special challenges. The major problem to overcome in providing library services to remote and rural Australia is that of distance. With the cost of travel ever increasing, libraries should consider the alternatives. Webinar or web conferencing tutorials, meetings and workshops can bring local library staff together to share ways of keeping their libraries up to date and thriving.

Web conferencing software is available at Jhatak Jhatak is free for individual users and also allows you to connect your camera to your computer for live video conferencing.


Webjunction's Rural library sustainability project category=11131 in the US 'is a three year project designed to provide rural library staff with resources to address their unique challenges and responsibilities'. Webjunction is hosting a monthly series of webinars, each lasting one hour, focusing on sustainability issues facing rural and small libraries. Sessions include Connected to learning: empowering your staff and yourself to learn more; and Building community partnerships." strengthening the library and your community by working together.

The SirsiDynix Institute www.sirsidynix provides an ongoing forum for professional development in the library community. By providing 'free access to industry leading speakers and events, their mission is to support librarianship and advance the work of librarians around the world?' The SirsiDynix Institute also make available past presentations free of charge to watch and listen to at your convenience.

Instant messaging

Instant messaging allows online communication between two or more people using typed text sent via computers in realtime. The 2004 PEW internet and American life project (11) study found that 53 million American adults use instant messaging on a daily basis. The use of instant messaging in libraries to provide a virtual reference service increases the availability of services to clients at no cost to the library, offers an alternative method of communication to users and brings the library to the community.

Schmidt and Stephens (12) remind us that instant messaging may be a controversial topic for libraries and reference work, but that many years ago libraries also debated telephone reference.


Homer Township Public Library in the US offers instant messaging

St. Joseph County Public Library, also in the US, has user names for AIM, Yahoo! and MSN Messenger Html.

Staff buy in

For staff buy in you must train staff. This is the keystone to success and it need not be expensive. Training can be hands on, lecture style or it can be a virtual online tutorial using inexpensive web conferencing technology.

In March 2005 the State Library of Queensland's Opal training project introduced a new course for Queensland public library staff. Emerging technology is a one day hands on course exposing the participants to blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, podcasts, screencasts/flash tutorials, and WiFi.

During research for the Emerging technology course in early 2005, the writer was unable to find any public libraries in Australia using blogs, wikis, podcasts or screencasts. The past year has seen a steady growth in the use of these technologies in Australian libraries. As a result of the Opal training project, Queensland claims 12 public library blogs, two wikis, many library staff reading feeds and others considering ways to implement the technology discovered during the course.

Librarians at the State Library of Queensland have also introduced some of these new technologies to assist in the delivery of services.

* the Family History Unit of the State Library of Queensland created a blog Genique, using a shared password aimed at keeping weekend staff up to date with what is happening in family history

* screencast tutorials are being created using the software product CaptureCamPro

* the ICT Services Unit created a password protected wiki for its staff. The wiki is a project to create a complete, up to date and reliable source for various ICTS documents

* the Public Library Services Unit has also developed a wiki for the Country Lending Service libraries of Queensland. Library staff throughout Queensland are encouraged to share their ideas, seek advice and support each other

* the Opal training project has been successfully using the Opal-Online and Talking Communities web conferencing software to deliver virtual online tutorials to library staff throughout Queensland


To address the information needs of clients and especially future users, libraries must understand and adopt the new and inexpensive tools and present conventional library services using these tools to connect with the community. As Helling observes 'Any effort we make to integrate technology into our library to address basic challenges can lead to new services that satisfy both our staff and clients'. (13) These emerging technologies should be used to resolve problems, broaden the library service, ensure the viability of a service whilst increasing effectiveness and saving money. It is important to research the technologies now available and use them creatively to better serve the needs of library users--by providing simple access to what they want, when they want it and how they want it.

Received September 2006


(1) Stephens, M Weblogs and libraries SirsiDynix Institute Video 2006 www.sirsidynixinstitute. com/viewvideo.php?vid=20060215 Accessed 23 June 2006

(2) Blood, R The weblog handbook: practical advice on creating and maintaining your blog Cambridge MA, Perseus Publishing 2002

(3) Clyde, L Weblogs and libraries Oxford, Chandos Publishing 2004

(4) Stephens op cit

(5) Watson, K and Harper, C Blogs, wikis and reference services: discovering the Australian library context 2006 Unpublished

(6) Cohen, S Keeping current: advanced internet strategies to meet librarian and patron needs Chicago IL, American Library Association 2003

(7) Schwartz, G Blogs for libraries Webjunction 2005 =767 Accessed 23 June 2006

(8) Rainie, L and Madden, M Podcasting Pew internet and American life project 2005 Accessed 23 June 2006

(9) Wikipedia Vodcast Vodcast Accessed 23 June 2006

(10) Peters, T Auditory options Library journal 15 April 2004 CA406013.html Accessed 23 June 2006

(11) Shiu, E and Lenhart, A Instant messaging Pew internet and American life project 2004 Accessed 23 June 2006

(12) Schmidt, A and Stephens, M IM me Library journal 1 April 2005 article/CA512192.html Accessed 23 June 2006

(13) Helling, B New library, new technologies, new services Presentation to Computers in libraries 2006 helling.html Accessed 23 June 2006

Mary Ann Kajewski Online Public Access to Libraries trainer State Library of Queensland

Mary Kajewski is the Online Public Access to Libraries (Opal) trainer at the State Library of Queensland. She focuses on introducing emerging technologies and trends within the internet and online training sector to the community, and State and public library staff through face to face training; web pages, screencasts, podcasts, mailing lists and the development of content for and delivery of virtual online tutorials using web conferencing software to support remote and flexible learning options. Address: State Library of Queensland PO Box 3488 South Brisbane Qld 4101
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Author:Kajewski, Mary Ann
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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