Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Book Review: Information Literacy Meets Library 2.0

Emma Delaney considers the effects of Web 2.0 on delivering information literacy to library students and end-users.

To my mind, information literacy is all about education: teaching users of all kinds of information how to find it, understand and evaluate it, and use it effectively. Yet it is getting harder and harder to find ways to teach these skills when so much information is available at everybody's fingertips. As a consequence, many people think they can get all they need from the Internet for free, let alone when your end-users are busy professionals for whom reading a book is often a desirable option they rarely find time to take up.

I offered to review this book because of a personal interest in keeping my library users – staff of the Audit Commission – up to speed on the information sources available. Part of my role is to advise on which ones to trust and use, and to help them understand how to find the right information more quickly. We need to find ways to embed this learning in the tools that they already use so that the learning is fun, relevant, timely and almost subliminal.

A recent report by University College London (UCL) on behalf of JISC and the British Library concluded that users 'have zero tolerance for delay and their information needs must be fulfilled immediately' and that, 'they pick up computer skills by trial-and-error' [1]. This isn't just a trait of the 'Google Generation' [2]. So, is Web 2.0 – or the library implementation of Web 2.0 – the way to combat these behaviours? I was hoping that Information Literacy meets Library 2.0 would give me the answer to that question.

Part 1: The Basics

In the first chapter of the book, Peter Godwin gives a very general overview of the challenge being faced in libraries and also in library schools, regarding the new behaviours of information users, the differences between the use of Web 2.0 tools for promotional activities versus for instruction or service provision, and whether the definition of what it means to be information literate has changed. (His conclusion: the importance of understanding where the information has come from is escalating.) Three pages of references provide a wealth of further reading on information literacy and Web 2.0, so it is a great place to start if you are new to either topic.

In chapter 2 Brian Kelly outlines the new tools available to librarians under the heading Library 2.0. For readers who are not quite sure what is meant by Library 2.0 or Web 2.0, this is a handy little summary. However for those more familiar with the types of tools that are available, it is perhaps a little too basic. It does, however, set the scene for exactly which tools are being considered in the context of this book, although it stands alone from the topic of information literacy.

Part 2: Library 2.0 and the Implications for IL Learning

The second section of the book focuses on the impact of Web 2.0 tools across 3 sectors: LIS students, school libraries and public libraries. I admit that in reading Sheila Webber's chapter I started to become a little disillusioned about whether this was the book that was going to give me ideas about how to use Web 2.0 tools to deliver information literacy training. Her focus was very much on how to embed training about using Web 2.0 tools for LIS students: training them to become literate in Web 2.0 tools.

Judy O'Connell and Michelle McLean's chapters follow a similar theme, so if you are looking for ideas on how to train people in using Web 2.0 tools, this resource is definitely a good place to start.

I did find O'Connell's chapter quite inspiring as she considers not just how the tools are used, but how the information being fed into them is structured, an aspect which is often neglected but which is core to our role as librarian. McLean details her travels across the USA and provides a wealth of examples of how Web 2.0 is being used within library settings. Many of her examples are quite inspirational and prompt you to put the book down and browse the examples to which she refers. However, the examples are nonetheless largely about promoting libraries, or teaching users and staff how to use Web 2.0 tools; they are not about teaching wider information literacy skills using those tools.

Part 3: Library 2.0 and IL in Practice

This third section is where we start to look at examples of Web 2.0 use in a variety of library settings. In each case study, a different Web 2.0 tool is highlighted, giving an opportunity to see how it can be used within the library environment. I found it a little disappointing that most of the examples are from university settings – which granted, do the most IL training – and which therefore have the opportunity to use assignments as a way to educate and assess their students.

The special library environment could try this, but is less likely to get the take-up to make the effort of designing the course worthwhile: short self-learning tutorials are more likely to be used.

Having said this, the examples do prompt some interesting thought – Deitering's chapter on using Wikipedia to demonstrate how knowledge is created; Allen & Barnhart's chapter regarding social bookmarking shows how different resources fit together, and Hoffman & Polkinghorne's tagging of images exercise highlights the importance of keywords to both the cataloguing and retrieval of information. All of these are specific elements of the information literacy process and the various exercises could be used as part of a wider course to draw attention to these concepts.

Most useful were the video resources highlighted by Susan Ariew. Although, again, designed for the university student, it is easy to see how the style and concepts used in the videos created by Tampa Library could be adapted to any audience. The beauty of YouTube and other such resources is also that once you take a look at one of the examples, you are bound to come across other examples of learning to which to point your users. (The Common Craft Show series on short explanatory videos is excellent and can easily be used by a library [3].)

Part 4: The Future

The final section takes a look at gaming as a possible means of teaching information literacy. In particular it points to the advent of the Nintendo Wii and DS which are already used for 'softer' games such as Big Brain Academy and SmartyPants. One useful observation is that many game players often use research skills to find out ways to get to the next level or which games are best.

Godwin concludes that Web 2.0 consists of many tools that can be used to deliver information, information literacy skills and promote library services. We need to harness these interactive tools – and those which continue to arise and develop – to ensure that users of information understand both their strengths and weaknesses.


On one hand, this book delivered useful examples of how Web 2.0 is being used in libraries for many different activities, and therefore prompted thought and inspiration. For example, it has made me want to create a video and interactive slide show that I can embed in a blog. On the other hand, the examples are largely focused on the university setting, and most often address ways to teach your students and library users how to use Web 2.0 tools. As such, I feel this work misses a trick in how to use these tools to teach users about the more traditional – and often still valid – information resources available to them.

I wouldn't say that this is a book that I must have by my desk at all times, but it has been an interesting read. Indeed it pointed me towards some valuable sources and examples, and widened my thinking. Now I just have to work out how to implement some of those ideas here ...


  1. The University College London (UCL) CIBER group, "Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future: a ciber briefing paper", January 2008, p.19 http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/reppres/gg_final_keynote_11012008.pdf
  2. ibid, p.6.
  3. The Common Craft Show http://www.youtube.com/user/leelefever

Author Details

Emma Delaney
Library Manager
Audit Commission

Email: e-delaney@audit-commission.gov.uk
Web site: http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk

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