Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 TST research proposal: "Librarians 2.0: An investigation of Southeast Asian librarian's social media practices and attitudes"

Back from the Taiwan-Singapore-Thailand (TST) research workshop in Khon Kaen, Thailand (19 to 20 Nov '09).

Presented my proposal and was glad that a Taiwan counterpart, Dr. Joyce Chen, expressed interest in it. She will try to match one of her Masters student to work with me on the project (my colleague, Aaron, would be the 3rd collaborator).

Here's the presentation slides (the full proposal paper follows after the slides):


Title: Librarians 2.0: An investigation of Southeast Asian librarian's social media practices and attitudes

The term Social Network is synonymous with “Web 2.0”. Its adoption and growth is one of the fastest growing phenomenon in recent years. For instance, one of the fastest growing social media platforms is Facebook, who reported more than 200 million active users worldwide, with more than 100 million users logging on at least once each day. What is more, about 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States (Facebook, 2009). By June 2008, the number of active Facebook users in Asia grew to 21.7 million (Lorica, 2009).

Libraries and librarians have made their Web 2.0 footprints (Wikis – LISWiki, Open Directory - Reference: Libraries: Library and Information Science; Yahoo! Singapore Directory - Librarian Weblogs; MySpace & Teens - Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki; Lin 2007). However, what is less clear is the Web 2.0 presence of library professionals, in Southeast Asia, who do not publish in English. One would suspect many are not identifiable because they are blogging in languages other than English (e.g. Taiwanese librarians who blog in Mandarin, and similarly the counterparts in Thailand who blog in Thai).

With social media being a current reality, the logical step is for libraries to examine the relevance of social media tools in the pursuit of the library’s objectives. But even before that, we need to understand how libraries and librarians are using social media, if at all. That is the crux of this research proposal.

Purpose/ rationale of study
The proposed study will focus on librarians, as opposed to library institutions. It aims to document and understand the attitudes, perceptions and practices towards Social Media among librarians in the countries involved in this collaborative research project, i.e. Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore.

There are three main reasons for this research topic:

One, Social Networks and Social Media, along with the explosion of on-demand media, are among what are considered important social trends that will unfold over the next 20 years. It has been suggested that Social Networks will be a major driving factor in the success or failure of certain consumer brands on a global basis (Richarme, 2009).

Two, it is unclear how extensive, or perhaps how uninvolved, are librarians in this region participating in social media. There is a significant difference in the amount of research relating to library professionals, as opposed to Library institutions, where Web 2.0 is concerned. Based on the literature review conducted for this proposal, it appears there is none for the former.

Three, the premise of the research is that if Web 2.0 is about ‘being social’ online, then librarians need to be active participants. Understanding the librarians’ level of awareness and perceptions would be useful in advancing the practice of librarianship in a digitally connected world. How librarians view social media has a broader implication on how libraries can eventually adopt and implement social media.

The proposed study seeks to address these broad questions:

* How do librarians from these countries interpret “Web 2.0” implementation in their context as library and information professionals? What are some factors to account for the differences? E.g. economic, infrastructure, political and social.

* How do Southeast Asian librarians feel about the relevance of social media, with regards to meeting the library’s objectives? (This can be a range of questions posed to different grades of staff)

* Are there underlying factors facilitating or hindering their adoption of social media tools? E.g. Internet and IT infrastructure, knowledge, organisational policy, nature of work.

* What is their level of awareness and experience in the availability and use? E.g. are they aware of any pitfalls in using new media tools.

* Are they active participants or merely observers in social media networks?

* Are they identifying themselves as librarians in their social media networks? Why or why not?

Literature review
The term Web 2.0 is best explained by O'Reilly (2005), since the term came into popular use after a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and MediaLive International. It covers these seven principles:

1. The web as a platform
2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
4. End of the Software Release Cycle
5. Lightweight Programming Models
6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
7. Rich User Experiences

It has been written that the appeal of social networks is obvious (Ojala, 2008) and that “at the centre of Web 2.0 is the burgeoning development of social network sites” (Todd, 2008, p. 25). By implication, librarians have “enormous potential to develop the creative social and knowledge based skills for effectively participating in these social network arenas.” (Todd, 2008, p. 31). In contrast, in an OCLC 2007 survey among U.S. library directors, most perceive that there is no role for social networking in libraries (OCLC, 2007; Secker, 2008).

In light of the above, there appears to be very little formal research undertaken in the area of documenting the perceptions of Southeast Asian librarians about social media and its use.

For instance, Stephens (2008) examined the motivations and experiences of librarians who author professionally-focused Weblogs (rather than a breath of social media tools). And an exploratory study by Lim (2008) included a survey of 38 public librarians for their opinions on the effectiveness of Web 2.0 tools on outreach. In her survey, most (89%) were respondents from the UK, Australia, the US.

Another case in point – at the 14th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL) in 2009, of the papers that specifically discuss Web 2.0 implementation in libraries, the implication is that libraries should logically undertake Web 2.0 initiatives (Chatchuenyot, Somkiat and Missita, 2009; Koh, 2009). But none address questions relating to individual librarian motivations, concerns and level of preparedness when undertaking a participatory role in those social networking sites.

In this proposal, we are interested in more than blogs. Moreover, Web 2.0 participation goes beyond just authoring weblogs. Participation can include publishing content in video or photo-sharing sites, or sharing bookmarks on social bookmarking services.

While it is possible there could be studies published in languages other than English, what seems to be the norm is that related research and articles emphasise more on Web 2.0 technologies and implementations by libraries, rather than perceptions and attitudes by librarians.

Research methodology to be used
This exploratory study would use a combination of questionnaires and group interviews. Interviews may also be conducted via email or phone. The focus of the study is on qualitative data (i.e. opinions, perceptions, attitudes). Considering the scope and timeframe of the study (i.e. spanning across three countries), the study would adopt a non-representative sample.

Anticipated outcomes and significance of proposed research
This study seeks to provide a starting point for further research on Librarians 2.0 (as opposed to “Library 2.0”). While it does not seek to submit definitive conclusions, the study aims to make tacit information explicit, which can then be translated to practice and implementation or to spin off further research in this area.

How the results and findings will advance library & information research
One possible outcome from the study is to develop a Web 2.0 Core Competencies framework for libraries, similar to the Web 2.0 core competencies outlined by O’Reilly Media (2008). For instance, the O’Reilly report includes competencies such as “Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability”, “Trusting users as co-developers”, “Harnessing collective intelligence” and “Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service”.

These concepts are largely understood in the context of software and web service development. It would be useful to see if a similar framework can be developed for libraries selected in this study, as a contribution to body of theoretical and practical knowledge in the field of Librarianship.

Another outcome is to identify and share best Social Media practices by SEA librarians. This may encourage others to assess their social media practices or institutional initiatives that have been implemented.

What other people can learn and apply from the research findings
By revealing the motives, concerns or knowledge gaps among librarians, it should aid library administrators in planning and implementing Web 2.0 initiatives for their libraries. Even if there are no immediate plans to implement Web 2.0, the findings are expected to have implications on staff training, the design for the library's web presence, service delivery, user engagement and public communications.

The target reader and audience for the proposed research
The study will focused largely on practice than theory. The findings and recommendations will be primarily for practitioners in the field of library and information services. This study will be published in English, although the means of research may employ native languages (e.g. administering the survey in Thai, for librarians in Thailand).

State the number of researchers/ collaborators that will be involved and their roles
This study would involve at least TWO countries, i.e. two researchers from each respective country. Having at least two countries would serve as a means for contrast (not necessarily comparison). Researchers will be from the respective countries, who may be able to conduct the research in their native language. Alternatively, this study could be conducted within one country. The researchers will primarily communicate via email and/ or teleconferencing.

Timeline of the research [subject to discussion/ amendments]
The study should take between eight to 15 months, depending on the number of countries involved. The broad outline of the task includes:
* Scoping of the study/ further literature review (if necessary) – 3 months
* Design of data collection/ questions – 2 months
* Data collection (including sourcing for interviewees) – 3 months
* Transcription – 2.5 months
* Analysis – 2.5 months
* Writing the research – 2.5 months
* Final editing/ Presentation – 2 month

Key sources and references that will be used
Given the nature of this study, the critical success factor is obtaining an appropriate number of library professionals who are willing to be interviewed. The researchers would need some support from the respective library associations or institutions.


Chatchuenyot, Somkiat and Missita, S. (2009). The journey to the Next Generation Library. XIV General Conference Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV), Hanoi, Vietnam. 222–229.

Facebook | Statistics. (n.d.). . Retrieved July 7, 2009, from

Koh, S. (2009). The Internet – challenges and opportunities for Southeast Asian libraries.
XIV General Conference Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV), Hanoi, Vietnam. 230-239.

Lim, YH. (2008). Web 2.0 in public library outreach: An exploratory study. Unpublished Master’s dissertation, Loughborough University.

Lin, TH. (2007). A Research on the Application of Web2.0 in University Libraries in Taiwan.
Digital Library Forum. 35(4), 8-14.

Lorica, B. (2009). Facebook Adds Million of Users in Asia. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from O'Reilly Radar Web site:

Mohd Yusop, Z. and Abdullah, F. (2009). Web 2.0 applications towards enhancing academic libraries and reference services.
XIV General Conference Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV), Hanoi, Vietnam. 273-283.

MySpace & Teens - Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Retrieved September 14, 2008, from Oreilly Web site:

OCLC (2007). Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World. Retrieved July 10, 2009, from OCLC Web site:

Ojala, M. (2008). Social Media, Information Seeking, and Generational Differences. ONLINE. 32(2). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from Information Today, Inc. Web site:

Open Directory - Reference: Libraries: Library and Information Science: Weblogs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Richarme, M. (2009). Ten forces driving business futures. The Futurist. 43(4). 40-44. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from:

Secker, J. (2008). Social software and libraries: a literature review from the LASSIE project. 42(3). 215-231. Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Stephens, M. (2008). The Pragmatic Biblioblogger: Examining the Motivations and Observations of Early Adopter Librarian Bloggers.
Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 13(4), 311-345.

Todd, R. (2008). Youth and their Virtual Networked Words: Research Findings and Implications for School Libraries.
School Libraries Worldwide. 14(2), 19-34. Retrieved July 10, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1567446571).

Wikis - LISWiki. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Yahoo! Singapore Directory > Librarian Weblogs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Submitted by:
Ivan Chew, Senior Manager, Public Library Services


My first time to Thailand. The food fitted my taste and our hosts (many of whom were LIS PhD candidates) were just so thoughtful and considerate. I regret not bringing anything from Singapore to present to them as parting gifts.

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I'll make up for it next year, when Singapore hosts the 3rd TST workshop.


  1. Ivy the librarian10:55 am

    Very interesting research topic. Do continue to post updates of your research, I look forward to reading more about your experience co-researching with our SEA librarian colleagues.

  2. Thanks for the interest, Ivy the Librarian. I'll post updates in this blog when I can. Initially I wanted to start a dedicated blog for the research, but wasn't sure how much I would get to blog about it. So for now, updates will be here. Thanks.

  3. Good interesting topic, Ivan. I just beef up my so called "social librarian" website into a social capabilities: check out >

    It works similar to Facebook, but as a personal level as a librarian (test bed project). I will do a FB Connect into this too, to demonstrate a librarian can also do crowd sourcing and riding on the social media giants.

    You also might want to check out:

    where, i will create source to various library.

    2) A collection of my own personal library -

    There are more projects coming up too on my side from NTU Library, with regards to Social Media (both physical and online). Will blog on this too.

    You also might want to check out and study on NTU Business Library Blog (, which I have spend creating it.

  4. Anonymous12:02 am

    I really like your posts and the way you express your opinion. I will add you to my favorites in order to read more on this topic.


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