In the guest blog post published on 1th October 2008 Jo Alcock Hannah Hiles described how the library at the University of Wolverhampton is engaging with use of Web 2.0.  Details of this work were included in the paper on Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends which I recently presented at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference in Singapore.

This month’s guest blog post has been written by another co-author of the paper. Below Paul Bevan, National Library of Wales describes how a national library is engaging with the opportunities provided by Web 2.0. Paul has recently been appointed to the post of Senior Research Officer (Web 2.0) and, as he describes is “very keen to work with libraries and librarians to explore all areas of emerging Web approaches“.  If you have an interest in the issues described in this post, feel free to respond to Paul, either on this blog or directly with Paul.

The National Library of Wales is one of the great libraries of the world and has a remit to:

collect, preserve and give access to all kinds and forms of recorded knowledge, especially relating to Wales and the other Celtic countries, for the benefit of the public, including those engaged in research and learning

As a result our readers represent a extremely varied demographic, reflecting the diversity of our published material, archival and other collections.

The Web and the online delivery of resources has been integral to the Library’s service portfolio for many years, providing a access to its resources in a way which helps to overcome distance and availability issues. To this end, the Library has an extensive digitization programme which has provided virtual access to some of the greatest treasures in the collections through a ‘Digital Mirror‘ using innovative access methods to deliver an enhanced user experience for remote readers.

Looking to the Future: Web 2.0

We’re constantly building on this solid foundation by seeking new ways of providing access to our resources and ‘Web 2.0’ and the Social Web are key to realising the goal of enhancing our remote provision. The use of Web 2.0 approaches to achieve Library 2.0 delivery is ingrained in the new Library strategy ‘Shaping the Future’ [pdf] which outlines the Library’s desire to explore collaborative and diverse models using external resources. This will allow the Library to leverage Web platforms which are heavily focused on user engagement in order to deliver future services. Leading up to this shift in emphasis for Web developments the Library conducted a review of how a National Library might understand the concept of ‘Web 2.0’ and how we might best make use of our existing digital resources in a Web 2.0 environment.

Of course, the we’re not just looking at the way in which we can enhance our collections through new technologies and platforms – the current Web content represents a proportion of the information produced by the Library and there is a ‘hidden’ silo of professional, training and development information (some of which is exposed through the Digital Asset Management Development Wiki, as well as a range of “lost opportunities” (such as guest talks which could in the future be streamed via the Web). Beyond this there are clear examples from other organisations of best practice in using the Web to communicate internally and to share procedures and information through wikis and other technologies.

The Library has begun to increase the level of Web 2.0 services available by creating presences in online environments (including presences on Facebook and YouTube) as well as by beginning to allow reuse of its data – initially through a pilot Wikipedia project. The Library is also developing an XML feed of its events (including exhibitions and talks) through the Typo3-based content management system underlying the Library’s main website.

Third-party Web environments will be key to the future delivery of library services and we’re also actively looking to explore how the exposure of data in open formats can allow the use of leading edge user interfaces and Web front-ends. One concern for the Library is that the ‘spreading out’ of services onto commercial and external sites might conflict with existing policies around accessibility, sustainability, and the commitment to bilingual access.

The Library is also host to a Welsh Assembly Government funded project to provide an innovative and flexible service delivery platform for all types of libraries in Wales. The Web site employs Web 2.0 technologies including social bookmarking and RSS to provide an alternative environment engaging with the public. This project explicitly includes the development of new services and the support of those services, allowing libraries to explore Web 2.0 technologies in a ‘safe’ environment where best practice can be easily shared.

The Library is also home to the not-for-profit company Culturent Cymru, which has taken great steps in bringing new levels of interaction to objects from cultural repositories from all accross Wales. Culturenet Cymru projects include Community Archives Wales – where users can upload their images via Flickr – and Gathering the Jewels– which has recently launched an enhanced GIS interface.

What Next for the National Library of Wales?

The Web’s ever-changing nature provides an exciting and challenging environment for any library service and the National Library of Wales has sought to directly engage with the opportunities that Web 2.0 will offer. In order to best do this the library has recently committed to a six-month review of the possibilities of Web 2.0 and emerging Web Technologies.

In my role as Senior Research Officer (Web 2.0) I will be exploring best practice from knowledge organisations around the world as well as possible technological approaches and content partnerships. The resulting Web 2.0 Strategy will provide the Library with a chance to build upon and mainstream the work detailed above and to explore new ways of working with Library users in a networked environment. I’m very keen to work with libraries and librarians to explore all areas of emerging Web approaches, so feel free to get in touch with me at