Many people think of blogs as mere online diaries, full of personal musings and commentary. But blogs today are being used in a variety of ways, even as part of political campaigns and classroom discussions. Researchers at the School of Information and Library Science are working to extend the use of blogs even further by offering them as a revolutionary tool for libraries.
With Lyceum, a software application being designed by ibbilio.org, Dr. Jeffrey Pomerantz, assistant professor in the school, and Frederic Stutzman, a researcher at ibiblio.org, envision using blogs as a new forum for library reference requests. Stutzman expects the software to be complete and available for free to the public in May.
“It would be an entirely new use for blogging,” Pomerantz said. With Stutzman he wrote, “Lyceum: A Blogsphere for Library Reference,”a paper outlining the idea.
“A blogsphere can be described as a sphere of people who are blogging that you can put some kind of boundary around,” said Stutzman, who added that the term is still developing and open to interpretation. For example, the people who use Lyceum to create blogs become part of their own Lyceum-users blogsphere.
Lyceum can be used in libraries to develop a radically different model for the way reference requests are asked and answered, Pomerantz said. Traditionally, a reference request occurs in a face-to-face interaction between the person who is asking for information and the librarian who responds. Some libraries are beginning to use chat or instant messaging for reference requests, which make reference service accessible outside of the library but still involve just two people. With Lyceum, the reference request could be posted online on a blog and many people could respond.
“If you have a community of users – librarians and library service people – someone could post a question and I could come to blog and make a comment,” Pomerantz said. “Instead of one patron to one librarian, there are multiple librarians.” The added benefit of using a blog for reference requests is that a record is created of the question and all of the answers.
“Blogs are unique in that they are a running thread of conversation and people can change that conversation over time,” Stutzman said. What makes Lyceum different from existing blog creation software is that it gathers information within its blogsphere and allows users to be kept up to date on blog activity that occurs within their user-defined criteria. Typically bloggers are not aware of each other's blogs but with Lyceum they can be.
If someone posts a reference question on one blog, it can appear on a different blog about a related topic. The connectivity of the blogs enhances the response to a reference question because questions get posted to not just one but many blogs.
Pomerantz posted a link to the paper in February on QuestionAuthority, the blog for the Digital Reference Education Initiative in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. The paper was later linked to on ResourceShelf.com, a blog about new library-related resources and news.
Pomerantz and Stutzman submitted the paper to the 13th World Wide Web Conference's session on blogs and blogging. The conference is organized by the International World Wide Web Conference Committee (IW3C2) and the Association for Computing.
For more information visit http://www.resourceshelf.com. Go to the Feb. 29 entry to view the link and read the paper.