Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online

Brenda Chawner (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 11 April 2008




Chawner, B. (2008), "Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online", The Electronic Library, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 274-275.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Web 2.0 and libraries, participatory software, social software, Library 2.0 – anyone with even a passing interest in technology will know that these terms have become very popular in the last year or so. This book is intended to provide its readers with an introduction to social software and its use in libraries. Farkas begins by defining social software as having at least two of the following three characteristics:

  1. 1.

    it facilitates online communication, collaboration, and community building;

  2. 2.

    it can be syndicated or remixed, to promote re‐use;

  3. 3.

    it makes it easy to share knowledge, and learn from other people's experience.

Farkas acknowledges that social software is not a new idea, with e‐mail discussion lists and web‐based forums being some 20 years old, but does note that the majority of such tools have been developed much more recently.

She begins by introducing a number of key concepts that apply to social software, such as transparency, personalization, and portability, before looking at individual tools, such as wikis, blogs, RSS, podcasts, and instant messaging, in more detail. Each tool is described in general terms, followed by a discussion of its potential uses in a library context. Most chapters include examples from one or more libraries that use these tools to extend traditional services, and some also feature short interviews with librarians who have adopted them. These ensure that the book's suggestions are realistic, not just hype. The book concludes with chapters on tailoring a library's use of social software to its community, tips for keeping up with technology, and Farkas's thoughts on future trends and social software.

Each chapter includes selected references; an appendix lists web sites mentioned in each chapter, and there is a subject index. In addition, Farkas maintains a companion web site for the book at; while I am slightly disappointed that this is not a wiki, which would allow people to put the book's advice into practice, Farkas is still adding relevant links on a regular basis in late 2007.

What struck me most about this book is how much it is a creature of its time: a significant number of the references are to web sites and blog postings, rather than to traditional journal articles. It is also the first book I have come across with a disclaimer saying that the author and publisher take no responsibility for damages resulting from the application of its ideas. Social Software in Libraries is one of a growing number of titles on Web 2.0 and libraries; others include Bradley's How to Use Web 2.0 in Your Library (Facet, 2007) and Casey and Savastinuk's Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service (Information Today, 2007). While Bradley has a stronger focus on specific tools and Casey and Savastinuk emphasize the way organizations need to change to make their use of these tools successful, Farkas provides the best overview of a range of tools, and her clear writing and practical ideas make this book useful for any librarian who wishes to learn about applications of social software in libraries.

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