Social technologies in practice

The web 2.0 wave has left traces all over the Danish library world after the massive development of broadband started in earnest in 2004, and net ‘behaviour’ has since changed considerably as a consequence. The traditional use of the Internet for information search is still there, but it has been overshadowed by the new use of the net as communication platform. The growth in social technologies bears witness to that.

It was the recognition of this development that in the first instance encouraged Randers Library to start a preliminary project in 2006 – with support from the Danish Library Agency – to examine which web 2.0 services would be relevant in a library context. The project demonstrated clearly that there would be a need for the development of staff competences within the web 2.0 area. It therefore proved the perfect answer to an acute need when our library director during a study tour in USA became aware of the 23-Thingsconcept as a learning model. Together with the libraries in Herning and Copenhagen we subsequently designed the first Danish version of 23 Things.

23 Things

From April 2007 and during the following five months we carried out a competence development project for about 400 library employees from all categories. The staff in the libraries in the three municipalities worked synchronically with the same themes. They all started by making a Google account and a personal blog. This large number of blogs then served as the participants’ playground and space for gathering experiences. On their blogs they began registering when they had established accounts in e.g. Flickr. Library Thing, YouTube, when they had mastered the instant messenger technology in MSN or when they had made their first pod cast, and it was also possible to see and comment on each other’s results and experiences. All participants were given mp3-players in order to learn to work with pod casts and music files on a mobile unit. Participating in the course was voluntary in all three libraries, but even so we achieved an attendance percentage of around 70%. The 23 Things course is being followed up at the moment with a 23 Things Plus rogramme where a new web service is introduced each month, the most recent ones being, and Facebook. Today an estimated half of all Danish public libraries have been involved in similar 23 Things courses.

Everyday life with social technologies

Apart from the competence boost the work with the 23 Things programme has also meant a change of attitude by the staff in relation to social technologies. Many have moved from being users of the net to being contributors. The new competences form the basis of a large number of user-oriented and administrative activities at Randers Library: During the spring, pod cast number 50 will be produced. A system of specialist blogs has been established and blogs with mediatory content are just around the corner. Citizens can contact the library in a special chat room via Meboo technology. The library uses Flickr for mediation of its own photos. The music library is active with its own page in MySpace. The library’s communication consultant is this spring concentrating on uncovering the professional potential in citizen contact via Facebook, and a ‘Randers Library’ has long ago been established in Facebook. The library’s administrative work includes services such as GoogleTalk, and Slideshare which are particularly popular. The technologies have proved efficient not least in joint projects with other libraries.Web 2.0 technologies and ideas have opened up new communication channels between library and citizen, and that has given the library a new role as producer of content on the net.

Next step: Get the citizens involved

Building up skills among staff is the first important step in a development where the next one is helping the municipality’s citizens to get to know and understand social technologies. This is what we are focusing on in 2008. In the autumn we shall be offering – again in collaboration with the libraries in Herning and Copenhagen – e-learning courses for the citizens which content-wise will be based on the 23 Things programme and which will be introduced under the title ‘The new Internet’. Naturally updated to a 2008-version; several of the technologies that featured in the programme last year are, after all, already somewhat out-of-date, e.g. Second Life. The citizen’s need to be able to handle social technologies is on the other hand of immediate importance and – in Denmark – so far only the libraries have entered the stage as players in terms of involving and instructing the citizens. The library’s task now consists in establishing attractive learning communities and e-learning platforms, which supplemented with personal support facilities, can encourage the individual citizens to plunge into the process of getting inspiration and knowledge through social technologies.

Hans Nielsen
Develop manager
Head of IT,
Development and
Marketing Area
Randers Library

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At Randers Library 90 members of staff service
93,000 citizens in the municipality.

Photo: Jacob Lerche

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

Develop manager Head of IT, Development and Marketing Area Randers Library