Thursday, March 01, 2007

A librarian at a Web Standards Meetup? What gives?

As I was drafting the post about the 2nd WebSG meetup, the following question came to mind: "Why would a librarian/ non-web-developer like me be interested in Web Standards and participate in a meetup?"

I suppose there are three reasons:

1) I'm interested in how this particular community thinks.
What are the possible role(s) the library can play to engage such a community, especially one that shows potential for growth? My interest comes partly from this aspect of the NLB L2010 Report: "Organise around Customer Communities"
NLB will work towards an end-to-end customer relationship management process, offering personalisation and customised services to customer communities. NLB will require customer intelligence to offer users a satisfying experience. Real time customer information, preferences and profiles will enable the library to provide users with leads and connect them to other users with similar interests.
I've taken a more literal interpretation of "organising around customer communities". But somehow I believe (and I'm trying to verify) that establishing a working relationship with self-help communities like Web Standards Singapore would be one of the many ways for public libraries to remain relevant. After all, a group like Web Standards Singapore have setup their website, organised their own meetings, and probably obtain their own reading materials -- all without the involvement of the library. And they will continue to do so. If they are a community that will grow, then why not make some sort of symbiotic relationship?

2) Because Library Classification and Cataloguing systems are about standards.
Sometimes a good way to understand or analyse something is to look for parallels or similar examples. In this case, how a community advocates and adopts a "standard" could provide some insights relevant to a library setting. OK, I'm stretching this a little... maybe it will. Maybe it won't. Doesn't hurt to "try and see how".

3) The knowledge or awareness would come in handy when dealing with web development projects for the library.
I'm certainly more conscious of web standards and "standards compliance". In a recent discussions with colleagues about requirement specifications for a proposed web development project, I asked if we should include web standards as requirements. I know little about web development and coding but I'm interested in what the vendor would propose re: standards. The site will need maintenance and it may not be the same vendor who will do it. If they propose Flash as the main navigational feature of the site, that says something about potential maintenance issues (Flash is not W3C-recommended).

4) I'm learning a new concept outside of my immediate job scope.
Doesn't hurt to know an extra piece of knowledge. At least if colleagues ask me, "What's Web Standards", I'd be able to articulate something coherent. Let me try it now...

'Standards' are akin to a common "language" to share information and/ or maintaining process. We use standards all the time. Spelling & grammar are standards used in writing. If we can appreciate the need for consistent practices in spelling & grammar (which become rules) then we'd appreciate the need for web standards. Imagine you spell "intelligent" one day, and "inteligen" another. And another person spells it "inntelegent". You could decipher it eventually but it would take that much longer. Where web development is concerned, translate that inefficiency to the time and cost of hiring a developer to redesign your library website.

Makes sense? Did I pass? : )


  1. I would add that public libraries are concerned with providing access to information to the widest possible audience, and web standards has that same objective and philosophy.

  2. hi ivan! how is your blogging life? mine has been irregular. so may concerns come from my new appointment.

    anyway, i'm here to ask how you structure your library services? is the AV-Multimedia under the library or under the IT dept. what standards do you follow? TIA

  3. Good one, Coleman.

    Hey Zarah, long time no hear. I'll respond to your questions via email :)

  4. What's with not using Flash because it's not W3C-recommended anyway? Flash is good if used appropriately; let's be fair shall we? ;-)


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