The project undertaken by this group consists of 12 modules which are designed to instruct public library staff of varying ages, backgrounds, and levels of comfort to use a variety of Web 2.0 tools. There are three primary goals for this project: for learners to gain knowledge of Web 2.0, for learners to share this knowledge with colleagues and patrons, and for learners to use these modules as a foundation for ongoing learning and professional development.

Web 2.0: What is it and Why is it Important?

Web 2.0 is defined as “A second generation in the development of the World Wide Web, conceived as a combination of concepts, trends, and technologies that focus on user collaboration, sharing of user-generated content, and social networking” (Dictionary.com). While the previous iteration of the Web involved the seeking of information primarily in a one-way interaction, Web 2.0 is centred around the evolving relationships between the people using new technologies.

Learning how to use Web 2.0 tools is like learning a new social skill since each tool involves some degree of interaction with other individuals through the creation and sharing of content. The value of all Web 2.0 tools lies in this social component and they are essentially worthless without it. For example, there would be no point in having a Facebook or Twitter account with no friends or nobody to follow. Even with some of the more indirectly social Web 2.0 tools, such as BiblioCommons, one’s sole purpose for creating content, such as a list, a review, or a synopsis, is for somebody else to discover it.

Web 2.0 is an integral part of library work for practical day-to-day tasks as well as for marketing and promoting services. Although Web 2.0 is a recent technology, there is a strong demand for information professionals to use it with a high degree of proficiency and confidence. Furthermore, as users themselves become more technologically proficient, the demand for informed staff reaches new levels of urgency. As Stephen Abrams asks in “Social Libraries: The Librarian 2.0 Phenomenon”: “Are the expectations of our users increasing faster than our ability to adapt?” (2008, p. 206).

Web 2.0 Tools

Many of the tools detailed in this project are related to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. Others, such as Bibliocommons, an Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) platform used in public libraries, have applications which are less obvious. It was included in this project because it does contain features which fit into the construct of creation, collaboration, communication, and curation, and also because these features are not widely used by staff to the same degree as its primary functions.

Why is it Important for Library Professionals to Learn About Web 2.0?

There are three primary reasons why learning Web 2.0 skills is vital to library professionals. The first reason is that it has strong customer service implications for both staff and users. Second, the presence of a generational differences among staff in an organization can lead to significant inequalities in knowledge. Finally, constant organizational change, whether it be between organizations or departments within an organization, can create knowledge gaps between staff. Using the common language of Web 2.0 tools can help to bridge that gap and foster more unified procedures. (Stevens & Cheetham, p. 8)

Customer Service

In his article “Channeling my Next-Gen Device,” Stephen Abrams (2005) acknowledges the ongoing challenge of librarians needing to learn about new technologies (such as PDAs, which is the specific context here):

This is experiential learning at its finest. Once you have experienced the features and functions, you can discuss it at a more informed level to address the usability issues. I am not saying that is a perfect environment at all, any more than our carpal tunnel-inducing desktop environment is. But realistically, its where the users are, and thats where we have to be (p. 72).

A library is a customer service environment, and the needs of the customer are the standard for the proficiency of skills required by staff. A librarian’s base of knowledge must progress in relation to the needs of the organization’s user base. So much of this profession involves keeping up with, and ideally getting ahead of, the curve. Staff cannot afford to be left behind when new tools shift from novelty to mainstream.

Abrams goes on to point out the importance of learning about Web 2.0 tools as more than simply a “Train the Trainer” exercise, but also as an agent of informing users of technologies and tools s/he may not be aware of: “…when our users don’t know about or use tools, we can inform them and train them in the newest technologies that can affect their success” (p. 79).

Generation Gap

Generational differences exist among both library users and library staff. A typical library can consist of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials, each of whom could be bringing different relationships with technology into a job based on historical exposure to different technologies. The transition to new Web technologies is not unlike the transition from a card catalogue to an online environment. Nancy Maxwell addresses this in Sacred Stacks (2006):

…the ritual has now been replaced with a computer system that is both wonderful and terrifying – wonderful for its ability to search instantly and bring the entire world of information within milliseconds. But visibility is terrifying as well, for the incessant blink [of the cursor] demands that you know the magic words. The machine stands ready to fulfill your every need and desire much like a genie but you must provide the correct incantation to send it on its way. Somehow the cursor intimidates and humiliates. The computer forces the searcher to admit he or she does not have the secret passwords (p. 121-122).

This quotation vividly illustrates the sense of trepidation one feels in the face of new technology. With Web 2.0, it is less about the computer system itself and more about the expectations of using it not as an “answers machine” but more as an interactive instrument.

In “Twitter My Glitter” by Williams, Cromer, and Jennifer (2011), a comparison chart shows the disparities between how computers are used by three different age groups in libraries. Three categories of computer use were presented, “Internet,” “Catalogue,” and “Wireless,” and results showed the proportion of which age group used each of them (p. 123). According to the findings, Internet use amongst Millennials was considerably higher than that of Generation X or Baby Boomers. The opposite was true with regard to catalogue use, with Millennials using the catalogue far less than older generations (p. 123). This type of pattern demonstrates that while everybody has something to learn, everybody also has something to teach. An example of this being applied to a late-bloomer’s expertise is if the library’s system goes down to a network outage and staff are forced to use print reference materials to assist patrons. It is entirely possible that younger staff (i.e. more likely to be early adopters) may not be as proficient with those tools as late bloomers (i.e. older staff who have used them before), and would therefore rely on their expertise.

Organizational Culture

Age or experience is certainly not the only factor which contributes to both a sense of being “behind the curve,” or allowing existing training to languish. In recent years, it has grown more common for library professionals to change jobs between organizations, transfer to a different service point within an organization, or even experience structural changes within one’s work environment. One example of this occurred in Perth, Australia.

In 2008, the amalgamation of two cities created major changes for the previously interconnected but distinctly separate library systems.  Staff found themselves “working in new branches with new groups of people” (Stevens & Cheetham, p.8). The merger of computer systems, policy and procedures manuals, and training revealed not so much a generational gap in technology knowledge but a difference in organizational culture.  The program was offered to staff as a professional development tool with the hope that it would also foster a new unified library service.

This program was designed for staff to engage in self-directed learning which, “enhance[s] metacognitive awareness and create[s] the conditions where students learn how to learn” (Garrison, p. 9), and it was viewed as a success by the majority of participants as they acclimatized to their new working environments.

ICT Outcomes and Tech Integration

One of the most significant outcomes from the 23 Things program since its inception is that it has provided a large amount of evaluative data for studying the effectiveness of this kind of instruction and making it stronger in future iterations. Helene Blowers, the original designer of this program, devised “10 Tips” for presenting a 23 Things course — one that is specific to the necessary components of Web 2.0 instruction, yet general enough to apply to whatever particular tools are being taught and learned (2008, p. 54-57). She writes that, “what makes the program unique from other staff training workshops is that while the participants are learning about all these new technologies that enable community and social connections, they are actively creating an online social network for themselves” (p. 54).

Lenox and Coleman (2010) discuss the process of adapting a new learning style to accommodate new tools and technologies, “Using our collaborative staff intranet, I’ll reblog items that may be of interest; staff members may join the conversation and provide comments of their own” (p. 14). They go on to talk about using webinars, live streams, and Youtube as a way of using the technologies themselves as training tools.

This article also talks about how not just creating a learning environment within an organization is important, but cultivating an environment where learners take on leadership and share what has been learned. They acted on this idea by creating a podcast called “T is for Trainer,” which is designed as a sharing space for library trainers and staff development specialists (p. 15). Being able to do one’s job to the best of his/her ability is essential in any professional environment, and having access to resources for learning and growing is a huge part of that. Lenox and Coleman explain: “Keeping abreast of any improvements, changes, or new thinking in your general and specific areas of expertise will help you perform your job well, add to your knowledge and skills, and help carve a place for you that you can share with others as needed” (p. 16).

Questions arise from this project which have to do with evaluating outcomes, specifically, “what is success?” and “how should it be measured?” One school of thought is that success is determined by the number of people who do the initial module and continue to use the skills they have learned. Others believe, as described by Stephens and Cheetham (2012), that the expectation of continued learning should not be considered a true measure of the program’s success. Rather, the act of taking the time to learn these skills at all has contributed to a person’s overall learning and should be recognized for what it accomplishes.

How it relates to Professional development for library staff

A primary goal of this project is to provide training modules that not only teach participants how to use these Web 2.0 tools, but that give them the incentive to become continuous learners. According to studies such as one by Gross and Leslie (2010), there are a number of factors beyond the course material itself which prevent learners from continuing to explore new knowledge. These factors include lack of time, lack of relevance to one’s day-to-day work, not being hands-on enough, and not being tailored to late bloomers. The issue of time constraints in particular was common amongst many of the studies. A training program such as 23 Things is only worthwhile in a broader, organizational sense if there is some kind of evaluation being done to critically review its processes and outcomes. As stated at the beginning of this rationale, there are three primary goals for participants to learn, share what was learned, and continue to learn which are intended to be signposts to success. Evaluative surveys of other programs can provide insight into how to best present modules for the users of this project.

Gross and Leslie (2010) conducted a follow-up to a study at Edith Cowan University in Australia. The objective was to discover how the remaining staff (beyond the initial early adopters group) responded to the Learning 2.0 program which had recently been completed. Interestingly, while all staff were encouraged to participate, only 25% of staff completed the program. Gross and Leslie found that staff required more time and “a more hands-on approach to their workplace learning” (p. 657).  The four top identified reasons for not completing the program were: 1) lack of time; 2) other priorities; 3) lack of relevance; and 4) being a part-time staff member (p. 661). 60.5 % of staff “stated that they preferred hands-on training workshops in specific technologies” and 48.8% felt that “annual or semester staff training days were a preferred option” (p. 663). This study underlines the importance of Blower’s fifth tip, to “design the program for late bloomers” (2008, p. 55) not early adopters. (For reference, a “late bloomer” is somebody who is learning something at a later age than most people, and an “early adopter” is somebody who is willing to try new technologies and techniques before it becomes a part of mainstream procedure). Also, the program did not offer any incentives to staff to reward their learning (Blowers’s tip number 7) and could have benefited by encouraging, nurturing and making time for staff participation.

Another study was done in conclusion of a Learning 2.0 program at Brigham Young University. The program they used was similar to the 23 Things programs used elsewhere but differed in that it was even more self-directed and participants were asked to participate on a daily basis.  There were a variety of tasks and technologies to choose from in four categories: software, hardware, library technology and the internet (Quinney 2010, p. 207).  Employees were able to do this at work, with the thinking being that any loss in productivity would be made up in long-term employee performance. An exit survey indicated that the program was successful with 89% of participants reporting that they had an increased interest in learning new technology and 69% reported that they felt they could learn new things faster.  98% said they recognized the need to stay involved with emerging technologies (p. 209).

Marta Magnuson (2013) discusses the relationship between the Association of College and Research Libraries’ five standards for information literacy and proficiency of students and staff with Web 2.0 tools. These include:

1. Determine the nature and extent of the information needed
2. Access needed information effectively and efficiently
3. Evaluate information and its sources critically and incorporate selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system
4. Individually or as a member of a group, use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
5. Understand many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and access and use information ethically and legally (Magnuson 2013, p. 245).

While these standards are not in place specifically for public library staff (the subject of this particular project), they do serve as a useful guideline for measuring the information literacy of this project’s participants going into and coming out of the modules. For example, with a tool such as Facebook, one can evaluate how literate a user becomes by observing his/her interactions with it through the scope of these standards. The process of evaluation of staff and users alike can occur through curriculum/program development.


With Blowers’s 23 Steps program, as well as her “Ten Tips,” there is a solid framework for instructing members of organizations in the use of Web 2.0 tools. While the modules are self-contained episodes for learning specific skills, there is a degree of open-endedness to them. Due to the inherently open-ended nature of 23 Steps, however, it is challenging to develop a definitive curriculum or program plan for it. While the modules and steps can be presented sequentially in some kind of logical order, they must also remain open enough for different types of participants to access them. The curriculum aspect of this program has less to do with the content being presented and more with its timing and frequency. As mentioned above, one of the challenges faced by participants was that there was not enough time during a workday to complete tasks.

One solution to this challenge, according to Gross and Leslie (2009), is to adjust the curriculum after the initial sessions partly as a refresher, and partly as a restructuring of the program itself. The program was offered as half-day sessions, “targeting coaching on a specific technology for the first hour and then a series of 15-minute “show and tell” presentations for the second half of the program” (p. 664). By taking a flexible approach to how the material is presented in the context of an overall learning structure, they were able to address the concerns about time constraints while also giving participants the opportunity to get hands-on experience using Web 2.0 tools.


In less than a decade, Web 2.0 applications have evolved from being non-existent in libraries to being essential tools for staff and users alike. The ever-changing nature of a modern library dictates that staff must become proficient in the use and teaching of Web 2.0 in order to stay abreast of the information needs of its user base. Not only is it important for staff to learn, but organizations must also provide time, spaces, and resources for them to develop their skills, which can lead to facilitation of ongoing learning and peer training. The 23 Steps model designed by Helene Blowers is an excellent first step in helping organizations move toward collective proficiency. That, along with the subsequent research and evaluation being done with each new iteration, leads to a stronger base of skills and a more technologically literate pool of users.


Abrams, S. (2005). Channeling my next-gen device. Information Outlook, 9(3), 38-39. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/docview/197402548/fulltextPDF?accountid=14474

Abrams, S. (2008). Social libraries: The librarian 2.0 pheonomenon. Library Resources & Technical Services, 52(2), 19-22. Retrieved from

Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Blowers, H. (2008). Ten tips about 23 things. School Library Journal, 54(10), 53-57. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=9&sid=44957fca-2c62-4c24-af98-e5cdff4d8f48%40sessionmgr110&hid=120

Garrison, D. R. (1997). Self-directed learning: Toward a comprehensive model. Adult Education Quarterly, 48(1), 18-34. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/ehost/detail?vid=19&sid=44957fca-2c62-4c24-af98-e5cdff4d8f48%40sessionmgr110&hid=120&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=1486

Gross, J., & Leslie, L. (2008). Twenty-three steps to learning web 2.0 technologies in an academic library. The Electronic Library, 26(6), 790-802. doi: 10.1108/02640470810921583

Gross, J., & Leslie, L. (2010). Learning 2.0: A catalyst for library organisational change. The Electronic Library, 28(5), 657-668. doi: 10.1108/02640471011081942

Lenox, M., & Coleman, M. (2010). Using social networks to create powerful learning communities. Computers in Libraries, 30(7), 12-17. Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/749790200?accountid=14474

Lorig, Jonathan & Siess, Judith A. (Eds) (2007). Out Front with Stephen Abram: A guide for Information Leaders. Chicago. American Library Association.

Magnuson, M. (2013) Web 2.0 and information literacy instruction: Aligning technology with ACRL standards. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39(3), 244-251. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/science/article/pii/S0099133313000141

Maxwell, Nancy Kalikow. (2006). Sacred Stacks: The higher Purpose of Libraries and Librarianship. Chicago: American Librarian Association.

Quinney, K.L., Smith, S.D., & Galbraith, Q. (2010). Bridging the gap: Self-directed staff technology training. Information Technology, 29(4), 205-213. Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/847147429?accountid=14474

Stephens, M., & Cheetham, W. (2012). Benefits and results of learning 2.0: A case study of CityLibrariesLearning – discover*play*connect. Australian Library Journal, 61(1), 6-15. Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/927735470?accountid=14474

Stephens, M., & Cheetham, W. (2012). The Impact and Effect of Learning 2.0 Programs in Australian Public Libraries. Evidence Based Library And Information Practice, 7(1), 53-64. Retrieved from http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/11728/13253

Web 2.0. (2013). In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/web+2.0


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