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Adoption of Web 2.0 in US
academic libraries: a survey of
ARL library websites
Department of Library and Information Science, University of the Punjab,
Lahore, Pakistan, and
John V. Richardson Jr
Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles,
Purpose – This paper aims to survey the web sites of the academic libraries of the Association of
Research Libraries (USA) regarding the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies.
Design/methodology/approach – The websites of 100 member academic libraries of the
Association of Research Libraries (USA) were surveyed.
Findings – All libraries were found to be using various tools of Web 2.0. Blogs, microblogs, RSS,
instant messaging, social networking sites, mashups, podcasts, and vodcasts were widely adopted,
while wikis, photo sharing, presentation sharing, virtual worlds, customized webpage and vertical
search engines were used less. Libraries were using these tools for sharing news, marketing their
services, providing information literacy instruction, providing information about print and digital
resources, and soliciting feedback of users.
Originality/value – The paper is useful for future planning of Web 2.0 use in academic libraries.
Keywords Web 2.0, Academic libraries, Worldwide web, Internet, Web sites, United States of America
Paper type General review
Tim O’Reilly introduced the term “Web 2.0”, second generation of the worldwide web,
describing a series of technologies based on seven underlying principles, i.e. “the Web
as platform, harnessing collective intelligence, data is the next Intel inside, end of the
software release cycle, lightweight programming models, software above the level of
single device, and rich user experiences” (O’Reilly, 2005). The concept has been widely
spread in all walks of life. The applications developed under the 2.0 umbrella include
blogs, really simple syndication (RSS), wikis, instant messaging, social networking
sites (SNS), social tagging, mashups, social media sharing, and many others.
As libraries and library managers have usually been early and enthusiastic
adopters of new information technologies they have welcomed Web 2.0 with the same
zeal. Applying the concept of Web 2.0 to libraries, Michael Casey coined the term
“Library 2.0.” in September 2005. It embraced a new philosophy of library service. “The
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The ﬁrst author wishes to thank the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan for ﬁnancial
support during his Post Doctoral Fellowship Program (PDFP) at the University of California, Los
Web 2.0 in US
Received April 2011
Revised June 2011
Accepted June 2011
Program: electronic library and
Vol. 45 No. 4, 2011
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
heart of Library 2.0 is user centered change. It is a model for library service that
encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation in the creation
of both the physical and the virtual services they want, supported by consistently
evaluating services. It also attempts to reach new users and better serve current ones
through improved customer-driven offerings” (Casey and Savastinuk, 2006). Xu et al.
(2009) proposed a conceptual model of Academic Library 2.0 to indicate how Web 2.0
interacts with librarian, user and information (see Figure 1). According to Boxen (2008),
“Most tech-savvy librarians have embraced at least one or two aspects of Library 2.0
and incorporated them into either their library, their personal interactions, or both”.
A library website is considered as a window for providing its services to the users
electronically even outside the library walls. Libraries have already included many
Web 2.0 applications in their websites. This paper reports a survey of the websites of
academic libraries in the USA regarding the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies.
Because Web 2.0 is a new phenomenon for libraries there are a few studies on the
content surveys of library websites regarding the adoption of these technologies.
Tripathi and Kumar (2010) surveyed the contents of 277 university library websites in
Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. They found that instant messaging was the
most popular Web 2.0 tool, used in 43.7 percent of libraries. Other tools included blogs
(33.2 percent) and RSS (31.4 percent). Purposes for which Web 2.0 technologies used
were also studied. Kim and Abbas (2010) surveyed websites of a small sample of 230
academic libraries worldwide. The technologies found were RSS (73 percent), blog
(65 percent), personalized content (30 percent), podcast (27 percent), bookmark (22
percent), wiki (20 percent), Twitter (15 percent), folksonomy (13 percent) and tagging
(12 percent). Another international study was conducted by Harinarayana and Raju
(2010). They selected 100 universities from the lists of world university rankings.
Fifty-seven universities were offering at least one Web 2.0 service. The content
analysis of these 57 websites revealed that RSS and IM were used by 37 libraries and
blogs were offered by 15 libraries. Wiki, podcast and vidcast were among the least
used technologies. Chua and Goh (2010) studied 120 public and academic library
websites from North America, Europe and Asia. The ﬁndings suggested that the order
of popularity of Web 2.0 applications implemented was: blogs, RSS, instant messaging,
social networking services, wikis, and social tagging applications.
The Academic Library
In North America, Liu (2008) investigated websites of 111 ARL member libraries and
found RSS, blogs, wikis, podcasts and personal bookmarks/tagging in use in various
libraries. Xu et al. (2009) visited the websites of 81 academic libraries in New York
State. They found that only 42 percent of institutions had introduced Web 2.0 tools to
their libraries. Instant messaging was the most frequently used tool. Other Web 2.0
technologies found were blogs, RSS, tagging, wikis, SNS and podcasts, respectively, in
order of frequency. Shrager (2010) studied websites of nine academic law libraries in
the Washington DC metro area. Eight libraries used some form of Web 2.0
technologies. The applications included IM, RSS, blogs, social bookmarking, user
reviews and SNS, respectively, in order of frequency. Morris and Bosque (2010)
evaluated 21 US academic library websites and subject guides to compare the use of
Web 2.0 tools. They found that Web 2.0 features were lower in subject guides than that
in library websites in general. Web 2.0 features found were blogs, chat, RSS, tag clouds,
tagging, user reviews, wikis, and YouTube.
In a survey of academic libraries in New Jersey, USA and Hong Kong, China, Nesta
and Mi (2011) found that instant messaging, blogs, RSS, Facebook, and Twitter were
used but the students’ participation in these technologies was low.
In UK, Shoniwa and Hall (2007) audited library websites of 152 higher education
institutions. Web 2.0 tools found were RSS (18 percent), blogs (11 percent) and podcasts
(5 percent). In China, Si et al. (2009) searched Web 2.0 components in library websites of
30 top-ranked universities. Two-thirds of libraries adopted one or more such
technologies. Applications of various technologies in a descending order include RSS,
IM, toolbar, blog, Ajax, tag/folksonomy and wiki. Another Chinese study is presented
in Han and Liu’s (2010) paper. They selected 38 top ranked universities and found that
31 of them used at least one kind of Web 2.0 tools. The tools used, in their order of
frequency, were OPAC 2.0, RSS, blog, IM, SNS and wiki. In Australia and New
Zealand, Linh (2008) analyzed the content of 47 university library websites. In addition
to the identiﬁcation of Web 2.0 technologies, this study also explored purposes and
features of their use. Although two-thirds of libraries used such technologies but the
general indexes of their use were low. Applications used include RSS (63.8 percent),
blogs (36.2 percent), podcasts (21.3 percent) and IM (10.6 percent). All these
technologies were applied with their basic features.
Some researchers analyzed contents of individual tools in Web 2.0. Clyde’s (2004)
study is one of the earliest studies on Web 2.0 technology in libraries. She analyzed the
content of 55 library blogs from the USA, Canada and the UK. Among them, 21
belonged to academic libraries. It was found that most of the blogs were made to
provide news or information for library users. Another study on blog analysis was
conducted by Lihitkar and Yadav (2008). They made an in depth study of ten
university library blogs, including contact details, content coverage, ease of
navigation, external links and blog archives. Aharony (2009) analyzed the contents
of 30 LIS blogs. She found that “there was a tendency to write essay-type posts with
hypertext links, there were fewer posts and postings days, as well as fewer readers’
comments, but a larger number of links and tags which were assigned to the posts”. In
another study, Aharony (2010) further analyzed the comments appeared in LIS blogs.
The results show that most of the comments presented personal information. Other
types of information included advisory, reﬂective, impressive information and
Web 2.0 in US
courtesy and politeness. Lee and Bates (2007) analyzed eight blogs belonging to
libraries and librarians in Ireland. They found four types of blog:
(1) internal knowledge log (37.5 percent);
(2) external knowledge log (25 percent);
(3) mixed ﬁlter/external k-log (25 percent); and
(4) ﬁlter log (12.5 percent).
The most common software used was Blogger and the number of readers’ comments
was low. Stuart (2010) analyzed contents of 433 library accounts on Twitter. He found
that libraries were not very active users of this microblogging tool. However, they
mostly used it for broadcasting news and information about library resources.
The tools of Web 2.0 are rapidly gaining popularity in all walks of life. They have
enabled academic libraries to involve faculty and students in their activities and solicit
their feedback for improvement in services. Library websites are the windows through
which they provide electronic services to the distant users. It is assumed that many
academic libraries have already included a variety of Web 2.0 features in their websites
but there is a little research investigating the extent and purpose of the adoption of
such features. The practices of the libraries of world’s top academic institutions in this
regard should be explored to guide other libraries in getting maximum beneﬁt of these
This study was conducted to answer the following research questions:
.What type of Web 2.0 technologies have academic libraries adopted as revealed
on their websites?
.What are the uses of these Web 2.0 technologies in academic libraries?
The survey research method was employed in this exploratory study. Based on the
review of the literature a checklist was developed for collection of data. A list of various
Web 2.0 technologies and their possible uses was prepared, with an option for “others”.
A draft of the data collection checklist was sent to experts for content validity and
suggestions for improvement. Ninety-ﬁve persons in various countries who had
authored books and articles on the use of Web 2.0 in libraries were contacted for this
purpose. Twenty-eight commented on the checklist. Most of them validated the items
included, while some helped in improving the draft.
The population for this study consisted of 100 academic libraries in USA included in
the Association of Research Libraries’ membership list (see www.arl.org/arl/
membership/members.shtml). ARL member libraries from Canada and non-academic
libraries were not selected. The contents of library websites were surveyed in October
to December 2010. The principal investigator browsed all pages on the websites to ﬁnd
Web 2.0 applications. The web pages were also searched in local search engines using
keywords indicating various Web 2.0 applications. The Google search engine was also
used in some cases.
There are two limitations of this study. Firstly, its scope is limited. Although the
ARL has a membership of almost all large academic libraries, these are not a
representative sample of US academic libraries. Therefore, the results of this study
should not be generalized. Secondly, it is based on the analysis of web content that was
publicly available. Tools of Web 2.0 that were protected with passwords or only made
available on intranets are not covered in this study.
Results and discussion
The websites of all academic libraries in the population were working during the
survey period. Many libraries provided links to Web 2.0 applications on their home
pages. A few developed a separate page to enlist such applications. The others
provided information on the pages of relevant sections and departments.
A list of many Web 2.0 applications shown in academic library websites is provided
in Figure 2. RSS was found to be the most popular tool. The second most popular
feature was instant messaging. Libraries were providing reference and information
services to distant users through live chatting mostly using Meebo software. The next
popular application was social networking. Eighty-nine libraries had a presence on
Facebook. A few also used other social sites. Libraries also made their blogs using
various blogging softwares. Eighty-ﬁve libraries were using Twitter for
microblogging. Twitter “allows users to share their thoughts instantly with
everyone in its network, as long as entries are 140 characters or less. The word
limit forces authors to compress and summarize their thoughts. For the reader, it
reduces information overload because the essence of information can be quickly
scanned” (Kim and Abbas, 2010). The libraries in this study used this technology to
share news and announcements.
Fifty-ﬁve libraries used social bookmarking or tagging. They used this technology
in three ways. Some libraries offered user tagging in OPACs. Many developed subject
guides using Springshare software, which provides keyword tagging for searching. A
few libraries used the del.icio.us website for social bookmarking.
Frequency of Web 2.0
technologies in library
Web 2.0 in US
Forty-seven libraries were using Flickr website for sharing pictures of events.
Similarly, 17 libraries used Slideshare website for sharing PowerPoint presentations.
Ten libraries had a presence in Second Life, a virtual world. Virtual worlds, or
multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), exist as web-based, three-dimensional,
immersive environments. In these worlds, participants are represented by avatars, or
digital personas, who interact with one another in a persistent world (Bell and
Trueman, 2008). Second Life, started in 2003, is the most popular of these (Trueman
et al., 2007). Second Life residents “can do almost anything they could in the real world”
(Jayasuriya and Brillantine, 2007). Customized webpages and vertical search engines
were the least used technologies.
Really simple syndication (RSS) is an XML format that “allows users to receive
content from sources such as news organizations, blogs and any Web page that
changes its content frequently” (Kajewski, 2007). “Web content is created or published
in one place to be displayed in other places, such as in RSS aggregators, also called
readers” (Stephens, 2007). “Using this function, multiple information sources are
aggregated into one page so users can scan information and select articles of interest
for more detail, alleviating information overload” (Kim and Abbas, 2010). The present
study found that most of the academic libraries were using this technology to publish
library news and announcements and sharing items published on library blogs. RSS
use for providing table of contents of journals was not common (Table I).
Social networking sites are a way to get and stay in touch with friends, family and
associates who are spread out across the world. An SNS is a “Web site that allows
users to (1) create a proﬁle, (2) connect their proﬁle to that of other users, and (3) view
and explore the connections between proﬁles.” (Landis, 2010). This survey found that
academic libraries were using SNS for sharing news, pictures, and video clips and
marketing their services. A few libraries also offered online reference service and
OPAC search on their Facebook pages (Table II).
Rank Use Frequency
1 Publishing news/announcements 83
2 Sharing items published on library blog 75
3 Providing information literacy instruction 43
4 Providing information about new acquisitions 33
5 Providing information about podcasts/vodcasts 15
6 Providing information about databases/ejournals/TOCs 4
Use of RSS (n¼99)
Rank Use Frequency
1 Sharing library news/events 88
2-3 Sharing pictures/video clips 85
2-3 Marketing library services 85
4 Providing online reference service 13
5 Searching OPACs 11
6 Other 4
7 Providing information about new acquisitions 1
Use of social networking
Blogging is considered the ﬂagship of Web 2.0 because it is an activity that requires
reading and writing on the Web (Evans, 2009). In 2004, the Merriam Webster Online
Dictionary declared “blog” the number one word of the year (McIntyre and Nicolle,
2008). The term “weblog”, or “blog”, refers to “a particular category of website where
the content is presented in a continuing sequence of dated entries. Put simply, a blog is
an online diary” (Kajewski, 2007). The entries are displayed in reverse chronological
order. “New information appears at the top of the page, previous items are available via
archives, and entries can be assigned to categories” (Murley, 2008). Most blogs also
allow visitors to add comments to the entries (Morris and Allen, 2008). In this study,
blogs were found in 86 library websites. Through blogs libraries were publishing news
and marketing their services. Some libraries were providing information about new
acquisitions and recommending internet resources (Table III).
Mashup technology is also gaining popularity in library websites. This term is
derived from the music community where musicians would sample and remix multiple
song tracks, vocals, and sounds to create a new song (Kraft, 2007). In the Web 2.0
context, it is a “web application that uses content from more than one source to create a
single new service displayed in a single graphical interface” (Engard, 2009). In
academic libraries under survey this application was used to incorporate Google Maps
to show library location. Many libraries provided search interfaces of WorldCat,
Google Scholar and Google Books. Through mashups a few libraries were showing
title images in the OPACs imported from Google Books or Syndetic Solutions
Libraries were sharing audio and video clips, mainly of tutorials. They used
YouTube and Apple iTunes for this purpose. Some libraries also shared audios and
videos of news, interviews and speeches (Tables V and VI).
Forty libraries were using wiki applications. “Wikis allow documents to be written
collaboratively, using a simple markup language, or using a graphical user interface
(GUI) in a web browser. A ‘wiki’ is a collection of single ‘wiki pages,’ usually
interconnected via hyper-linking” (Lombardo et al., 2008). “Unlike protected web pages,
any information added to a wiki can be changed or deleted by anyone [...] It also
allows for linking among any number of pages. This ease of interaction and operation
makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring” (Robertson et al.,
2008). Libraries were mainly using this technology for managing resources limited to
Rank Use Frequency
1 Publishing library news/announcements/events 85
2 Marketing library services/encouraging use 75
3 Providing information about new acquisitions 31
4 Providing links to recommended internet resources 30
5 Providing information literacy instruction 29
6 Keeping users current with subjects of interest 28
7 Soliciting user feedback/suggestions 8
8-9 Providing online reference services 7
8-9 Posting book reviews 7
10-11 Facilitating staff collaboration 2
10-11 Other 2
12 Inviting suggestions for acquisition 1
Use of blogs (n¼86)
Web 2.0 in US
staff, i.e. committee minutes, procedures, rules, etc. A few libraries used wikis in project
planning and management. Table VII also indicates some unique uses of wikis.
Conclusion and recommendations
The results of this exploratory study indicate an overwhelming acceptance of various
Web 2.0 tools in large academic libraries of the United States. The ﬁrst generation of the
worldwide web enabled libraries to offer their services to the users beyond their walls.
The applications of Web 2.0 have opened new avenues for libraries as they allowed them
Rank Use Frequency
1 Google Maps 38
2 Search interface of WorldCat 32
3 Search interface of Google Scholar 17
4 Title image in OPAC from Google Books 8
5-7 Title image in OPAC from Syndetic Solutions 5
5-7 Search interface of Google Books 5
5-7 Other 5
8 Google Calendar 3
9-10 Title image in OPAC from Baker & Taylor 2
9-10 Title image in OPAC from Amazon 2
Use of mashups (n¼71)
Rank Use Frequency
1 Providing information literacy instruction/library tutorials 64
2 Sharing library news/events 34
3 Other 4
Use of vodcasts/video
Rank Use Frequency
1 Providing information literacy instruction/library tutorials 41
2 Sharing interviews/speeches 23
3 Sharing library news/events 21
4 Other 2
5-6 Making audiobook collections available 1
5-6 Sharing book reviews 1
Use of podcasts/audio
Rank Use Frequency
1 Managing staff resources 20
2 Planning projects 12
3 Managing subject guides 6
4 Archiving FAQs 4
5 Training staff 3
6 Developing/managing library policies/procedures 2
7 Managing course reserves 1
Use of wikis (n¼40)
to involve users in their activities and solicit their feedback for improvement in services.
The data suggest that each academic library has adopted some form of Web 2.0
technologies. A signiﬁcant improvement is seen since the study of library websites of the
same population by Liu (2008). Other studies, too, could not ﬁnd such extensive adoption
of these tools in academic libraries. In current study, blogs, microblogs, RSS, instant
messaging, social networking sites, mashups, podcasts and vodcasts are found to be
widely adopted, while wikis, photo sharing, presentation sharing, virtual worlds,
customized webpages and vertical search engines are used less. With slight differences,
results on the type of Web 2.0 applications are consistent with the previous studies. This
study presents an optimistic picture of academic libraries as they are keeping pace with
the rapidly changing technological environment. The trend shows that all libraries will
adopt user-participated Web 2.0 tools for enhancing the quality of their services.
This study is one of the earliest investigations on this topic. Further research is
warranted based on the feedback of library staff and users. Research techniques other
than the analysis of website contents can also be applied, for example questionnaire
survey, focus group, interview, case study, transaction log analysis, etc. The questions
to be addressed may include:
.How do librarians make choices among various Web 2.0 applications?
.What problems do library managers face in successful implementation of Web
.How do librarians promote the use of Web 2.0 technologies?
.How much Web 2.0 applications have contributed in enhancing the quality of
.How users perceive about library services provided through Web 2.0
.How these technologies inﬂuence the information seeking behavior of library
.What is the impact of distinct tools of Web 2.0 on distinct library services?
.To what extent has a wider sample group adopted these technologies?
.How do libraries collaborate with other academic units in offering Web 2.0 based
.How do Web 2.0 tools contribute in the professional development of librarians?
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Khalid Mahmood can be contacted at: Khalid@dlis.pu.edu.pk
Web 2.0 in US
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