Web 2.0 and the Librarian

21 Aug

Critical Review: Anderson, P. (2007) ‘All That Glisters Is Not Gold’ – Web 2.0 and the Librarian, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 39(4), 195-198.

Anderson, a technology editor for JISC Technology and Standards Watch, contends a lack of rigorous theoretical discussion in defining Library 2.0, claiming debate narrowly centres on Web 2.0 tools and user behaviours. Anderson proposes to outline Web 2.0, provide a framework for analysis of Web 2.0 services and implications, and outline areas libraries can contribute to development of ‘such services’.

Anderson asserts ‘Web 2.0’, coined by Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly Media Inc in 2004, was ‘amorphous’ and not linked to technologies. The Theoretical Framework that Anderson proposes consists of three layers; ‘The visible layer’; linked to Web 2.0 tools, software applications and services, The Six Big Ideas, Figure 1; the theoretical underpinning as adapted from O’Reilly (2005). Finally, the web technologies and Standards that are coming from W3C.

One area of Librarianship identified as contributing positively to Web 2.0 is linked to ethical considerations of privacy and security. RFID technology is an example provided, claiming libraries are in a unique position to contribute this way to Web 2.0.

Anderson’s title suggests librarianship has ‘fools gold’ in their interpretation of web 2.0 as applied to Library 2.0. Another interpretation relates to the ‘visible layer’ of Web 2.0, with the assumption that Librarianship is focused on Web 2.0 tools in the application of Library 2.0. Either way, it’s a negative aspersion on Library 2.0 as not being well thought out. As a technology writer, of peer-reviewed journals, the assumption is that Anderson’s writing is credible. However, it falls short in key areas regarding rigorous background reading on this topic.

Anderson’s editorial, is too short to cover this topic adequately. This editorial is constructed from paragraphs taken from his work (Anderson, 2007a); a report focused on Web 2.0 for Higher and further learning with a section about libraries regarding digital content and preservation. The discussion of Web 2.0 conforms to being ‘amorphous’ and significant attention is paid to outlining Web 2.0 tools. The theoretical underpinning presented is a reiteration of O’Reilly (2005). This is a point of contention, as the premise of his editorial is based on Library 2.0 providing no clear definition or framework with a stress on urgency in Librarianship to define Library 2.0. In calling for an urgent theoretical underpinning of Library 2.0 and framework, it becomes apparent that the same can be said for Web 2.0, (Abrams, 2005).

Anderson criticises Librarianship as being focused on Web 2.0 tools and being user-centred claiming this as a ‘visible layer’. However, examining O’Reilly (2005), it is clear that coining ‘Web 2.0’, focus initially was on business models and coming to an understanding of why some businesses survived the bust. Furthermore, Berners-Lee does not purport there is a Web 2.0 but a continuation of his initial incarnation of the Web as cited in Anderson, (2007a)

Anderson cites Miller (2006) claiming Michael Casey coining the term Library 2.0. However, Anderson doesn’t consult Casey in his investigation. Furthermore, Library 2.0 was discussed extensively amongst Librarianship in 2005 (Stephens and Casey, 2005). Abrams (2005) wrote about Library 2.0 covering principles beyond Web 2.0 tools effectively. Discussions were not just in the blogosphere as Anderson asserts.

Casey provides evidence of adapting the principles from O’Reilly(2005) to Library 2.0. Ideas presented by O’Reilly(2005) are applied beyond the technological sphere. In fact, the stress that it’s more than technology existed in Librarianship debates from the outset, (Stephens, 2005) and (Abrams, 2005).

Writings Anderson cites, from the field of Librarianship, such as Maness (2006) and Curran support his contention that Library 2.0 is focused on the Web 2.0 tools therefore, suit his argument. This forms part of Anderson’s criticism leveraged towards Librarianship focusing on the ‘visible layer’. Casey Stephens (2007), Abrams (2005) and Harris and Lessik(2007) provide examples of extending the principles of Web 2.0 beyond technological tools and synthesising the underpinnings of O’Reilly(2005) towards a Library 2.0. The omission of these ideas erases a very important conversation thread in Librarianship in establishing frameworks of Library 2.0. Casey discredits Anderson’s argument about not looking beyond the ‘visible layer’ and this is where Anderson is claiming authority.

Anderson’s recommendations to Librarianship display a strong weakness. The section is insufficient and only relates to one technological contribution in areas of privacy and security such as RFID. Therefore, he fails to deliver a key component of his initial intention.




Abram, S. (2005). Web 2.0 – huh?! library 2.0, librarian 2.0. Information Outlook, 9 (12), 44-46.

Anderson, P. (2007a) What is Web 2.0? Ideas, Technologies and Implications for Education. JISC: Bristol. retrieved from

Casey, M.E. and Savastinuk, L.C. (2006) Library 2.0: Services for the next generation library, Library Journal, 9, 40-42

Curran, K., Murray, M., Norrby, D. and Martin, C. (2006) Involving the user through Library 2.0, New Review of Information Networking, 12(1), 47-59.

Harris, A. and Lessick, S. (2007) Libraries get personal: Facebook applications, Google gadgets, and Myspace profiles, Library Hi Tech News, 8, 30-32

Manness, J. (2006) Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and it’s implications for Libraries. Webology 3(2) retrieved from

Miller, P. (2006) Coming together around Library 2.0, D-Lib Magazine, 12(4), retrieved from

O’Reilly, T. (2005) What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. O’Reilly Media Inc. retrieved from

Stephens, M. and Casey, M (2005) Where do we begin? A Library 2.0 conversation with Michael Casey, posted by Michael Stephens, December 15th, 2005. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2007) Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the Hyperlinked Library, Serials Review, 33, 253-256.



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