The role of libraries in Science 2.0: addressing the needs of researchers

New empirical findings reveal the researchers’ need for privacy and the lack of knowledge about existing possibilities for the professional uses of Web 2.0 services. Modern libraries can act as providers of personalised advice to help researchers select the most appropriate Web 2.0 service.

Web 2.0 in the scientific working life

Web 2.0 offers integrated services and easy tools for communication, collaboration and participation (O’Reilly, 2006). The differentiation between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is often indistinct and many websites cannot be strictly categorised (Cormode & Krishnamurthy, 2008). Nevertheless, there are some site features that mark a Web 2.0 site, e.g., the possibility to post content and to establish connections between users (“friending” etc.). Popular prototypical instances of Web 2.0 are Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Web 2.0 not only had an impact on private life and personal communication but also has a high impact on business and science. In this sense, the term Science 2.0 describes the impact and usage of Web 2.0 services for scientific work.

Prior findings on Science 2.0 indicate that, in their private life, researchers are open and positive towards Web 2.0 and use them very often(Hartley et al.  2010). On the contrary, only a minority of researchers use them for their daily professional life and, so far, the academic use does not take place systematically and comprehensively (RIN, 2010). However, the trend is growing and we are beginning to get the first insights into the factors that hinder the professional use of Web 2.0 services, e.g., the time factor and the fear of loss of reputation (British Library / JICS 2012 ).

Limited research on the role of libraries in Science 2.0

Even though Science 2.0 is of rising importance and nowadays many public institutions are using Web 2.0 services, there is only limited empirical research on the role of modern so-called Libraries 2.0. A Library 2.0 can be defined as “the application of interactive, collaborative, and multi-media web-based technologies to web-based library services and collections,” (Maness, 2006). In this sense, a Library 2.0 can be understood as a user-centred virtual community that provides multi-media experience and is socially rich and communally innovative.

Our findings (Linek & Baessler, 2015) provide some first insights into the role of modern libraries in Science 2.0. The study focussed on the researchers’ needs for an optimised use of Web 2.0 for scientific work and how a Library 2.0 might support them. On the one hand we analysed which Web 2.0 services researchers know and how they use them for their daily scientific work. On the other hand, we addressed the view of modern libraries in Science 2.0 including the researchers’ wishes and expectations for the future.

The participants were economists of different academic levels. The study was initiated by the German National Library of Economics and thus, we focus on economics as the target user group of the ZBW.

We applied a multi-method approach by combining focus groups (three groups, together 8 men & 4 females), individual interviews with frequent Twitter users (3 males) and an online survey (42 males & 30 females).

Researchers are open to Web 2.0, but the merit for scientific work remains often unclear

Similar to prior findings in literature (reported above) our results showed that researchers were interested in and open to the opportunities of Web 2.0, but mainly used it for private activities. Even though many researchers confirmed the usefulness of Web 2.0 services for scientific life, only a minority of researchers were actually using them for their daily work. Many were still doubtful if Web 2.0 services could be helpful for their own work. They did not see the possible relevance for their work, and the regular use of Web 2.0 was estimated to be very time consuming.

Specialized libraries played a huge role in the working life of researchers. However, the Web 2.0 services of libraries (e.g., professional or scientific information on libraries’ Twitter accounts or Facebook-pages) were widely unknown.  So far, the supply of literature, especially online journals, was still the most important aspect. The researchers’ wishes for a Library 2.0 were undefined (most of them had none) and they indicated no concrete expectations.

Besides these general findings on Web 2.0 and Libraries 2.0, our data also provided some first insights into what researchers need and where a Library 2.0 might offer support.

The need for privacy and the lack of knowledge about existing possibilities

For their research activities the researchers wanted a separation between private versus professional social networks and other Web 2.0 services.  While Facebook was seen as a private network, they expressed the wish for specialised academic social networks, to connect with colleagues, share and discuss ideas. It is important to note, that most of them did not know or did not use the already existing academic social networks like ResearchGate and For example, in our quantitative online survey over 80% did not know or did not use ResearchGate. Less than 10% used ResearchGate at least once a week. (More details can be found in Linek & Baessler, 2015)

The wish for privacy on the one hand and the lack of knowledge about the existing possibilities on the other hand might be the base for a modern Library 2.0 role. We will outline these considerations in the next two passages.

Preliminary insights: unknown benefits of academic applications and the social appeal

Our pattern of results suggests some preliminary insights why Web 2.0 in general and services of Libraries 2.0 in particular, lack popularity and acceptance for work-related purposes so far. One problem may lay in the chosen instances of Web 2.0. Some popular social networks like Facebook might not be appropriate for the specific professional purposes. From our prior studies we know that the presence of libraries on Facebook was welcomed and seen as a “must” for a modern institution, however the information given or even the Facebook-page itself were often ignored.

Researchers want a separation between private and professional activities also in the context of Web 2.0. If they use a service (like Facebook) for private life, they do not want to mix it up with professional activities. The need for privacy on the one hand and the main purpose (or image) of the concrete social network on the other hand, seems of special importance.

Concerning this matter it is important to note that academic Web 2.0 applications that are originally designed for work-related purposes (e.g., ResearchGate) are often ignored. Thus, the communication and promotion of existing possibilities seems to be a critical factor. This relates also to the more general problem that so far, most academic networks are rarely used because researchers see no benefit in using them for scientific work. One reason could be related with the concrete instances and functionalities. For example, ResearchGate fits partly with the researchers’ requirement for a work-related social network, but lack some important characteristics. In principle, ResearchGate offers the opportunity for discussions on a topic, to share papers and ideas and provides the possibility to have the personal vitae on it. However, a big difference to the popular network Facebook is the lack of a personal timeline. The profile page on ResearchGate is rather designed like a business card and less like an individual page that shows the personal development and actual state of mind. In other words: it is less immediate and has less “social appeal” (compared to Facebook). Thus, it is more a kind of exchange platform and less a real social network.

Possible future role of Libraries 2.0

Our empirical findings suggest two big challenges (above others) in Science 2.0 that could be addressed by a Library 2.0: First, the need for a separation between the professional versus the private usage of Web 2.0 (especially profiles in social media). Second, the lack of knowledge about already existing possibilities that matches – at least partly – the individual demands of the researchers. Even though there are some Web 2.0 services that are appropriate for Science 2.0, for the individual researchers it is hard to judge which services are the most appropriate for her/him.

A Library 2.0 can act as important provider of advice and proactive promotion of appropriate existing instances of Web 2.0. The knowledge about professional social media and other Web 2.0 services designed for the working life could help researchers to have a reasonable separation between private versus professional profiles. Besides such general information, a Library 2.0 can also give individual personalized recommendations for an optimal selection and combination of Web 2.0 services – with respect to the special demands of the subject area and the individual requirements of the researcher. For example, together with the supply of literature on a special topic, the library can offer information about possibilities in Web 2.0 to discuss and connect with other researchers in the same scientific field. Such an individual optimization of Web 2.0 usage might help to reduce or even avoid one of the big obstacles of Web 2.0: its time-demanding nature.

In that line of reasoning, a Library 2.0 should not only provide important information and services for literature and literature search but also could be an important catalyst for promoting appropriate and helpful services in the context of Science 2.0.


Texto original retirado do site Cilip.

LINEK, Stephanie B; BAESSLER, Josefine. The role of libraries in Science 2.0: addressing the needs of researchers. Cilip: 09 set. 2015. Disponível em: <;. Acesso em: 13 set. 2015.

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