Saturday, 10 March 2007

Gotta start somewhere

I've been thinking a lot this week about web 2.0 technologies, and how to go about implementing them in the library. Particularly, implementing them in the law library – traditionally one of the hardest places to get any sort of new idea off the ground. My immediate co-workers and I are all really quite keen about the idea, but there's not much institutional support, and not likely to be any time in the forseeable future. But we want to get something started, and I think that starting from within the library is the best way to go.

We're not going to beable to convince partners and lawyers to buy expensive enterprise level rss programs, we're not going to be able to force our budgetaround expensive aggregated search tools that would let us create rss feeds of our current awareness. But we can start small and local.

We don't need to have a staff training manual – we can have a team wiki instead, where we add information that we think is important, and we can all add and edit and play away with it to our hearts content. And it's not tied to a file that might get lost or corrupted. It's not all trapped in one of our heads. It's online and searchable and there tomorrow should a colleague decide to move to Guatamala (or whatever) and take their harddrive with them, and we were to suddenly find ourselves with an information shortage that we have no way of fixing. (Peanut Butter Wiki and WikiSpaces are good examples of free web-based wikis that you can start as easily as a blogger account).

A shared account is a much easier way of sharing links and online resources and all those little important tidbits of information that any team is constantly emailing to one another. Why search back through outlook emails (and I don't know about you, but my work gets kinda cranky when the inbox size starts creeping up and up and up) when you can post them all to and find them again much more easily. And, again, no information is trapped with any particular individual. That's the joy of this sort of technology - shared information is the way of the future (I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but still).

These will both take time to set up, and will probably take up more time for us than the equivilant tasks currently, but once their in place, then they're there, and the infrastructure is in place to continue sharing, learning and collaborating our knowledge.

Once we know how it works, and have been using it in our day to day jobs, getting stuff done with it, seeing how much better it makes our working life, and how much easier collaboration and sharing is this way, then, maybe, we can think about making a business case for it. It's gonna be a while til the law community catches on (sadly, it's just the nature of the industry). But that's no reason not to start using it where we can.


Neil said...

We're about to start a wiki for information on legal research as a pilot scheme, with a view to putting our whole library staff intranet as a wiki in the future, allowing all levels of management & info assistants to update things. A delicious account might be useful as well, come to think of it...

hypatia said...

That's awesome - I'll be really interested to see how that pans out for you. It's so much more dynamic than a traditional way of running an intranets and websites that need to be editing a lot/by a lot of users.

DJM said...

This is a very good idea and, strangely enough, is one we've also been considering. The main advantage I feel is that you don't have to spend hours setting up a taxonomy. With tags delicious will allow your know-how to grow organically and be classified along the way. I expect the tagging will require a bit tweaking, but delicious has tools to do this.