Sunday, March 13, 2011

Online Library System and Traditional Library System

Thanks to the Internet, communication and ubiquitous technology. By having these technologies and services, I could keep in touch with this course from a distance, more than a thousand miles away from Honolulu. My social presence as a student can be managed through blogger without any difficulties. I tend to mobilize any kind of newest and available devices to function on serving my technology consumption (Dempsey, 2009). Further, virtual communities (Haythornthwaite, 2009), social networks and social information filtering (Lerman, 2006), as well as, social tagging (Geisler & Burns, 2008) keep me in touch with news about disaster in Japan and how is the situation in Hawaii during Tsunami warning while I was travelling from one airport to another airport. This travel and the entire experiences with mobile devices through social media have given me more gen about the potential of social computing process and social computing tools.

For this posting, I would like to make comparisons between online library systems (OLS) with traditional library system (TLS). What I am going to discuss here is different from Dempsey (2009) and Gazan (2008). However, these two articles influence a lot on sharpening my framework for this analysis.

#1: In TLS, sometime a collection owned by library get lost or not returned by the user. As a consequence, the librarian will file this item as lost item. The librarian will help the user to found secondary or alternative resource to replace this lost item, while the library probably will find a new one to replace this collection. On the other hand, in OLS, item was stored on a system with backup. Thus, the potential for lost item was reduced into minimal. However, the challenge for OLS is the searchability (Gazan, 2008; Dempsey, 2009), where users can locate exactly how to access the item for their personal used. Navigational of OLS is challenging. I remember a time when I assisted a friend on using UH Manoa OLS. She kept complaining about the searchability and the case-sensitive of search system on this OLS. She felt overwhelming at first with have to search for journal articles online. I showed her some steps on navigating the features, where to found online help manual, and ask a librarian function. By having this mentoring, she could overcome the first year scholarly journey on using OLS. The structure, dynamics, and (social) filtering mentioned in Lerman (2006) applied to this condition. Either online or traditional library need to have a convention on organizing collection, the structure of the library system. On the process, users with librarians will figure out how to substitute collection or items with cannot be found, acquiring the new one or interlibrary loan form other libraries. When librarian started to introduce alternative resources and OLS listed links and suggestions on the search engine, these applied the filtering concept mentioned.

#2: Most of The users when they feel devastating on finding the book by themself will turn into a librarian to ask for it. In TLS, librarians are available on libraries during their office hours. When users need help on searching a collection, they must go to the library in person with all information they have to get assistance from a librarian. During this interaction, library users experience in person how helpful is the librarian. They could talk face to face, and looking at one another emotional reaction. In some certain aspects, the human-human emotional interaction was difficult to measure. Moreover, when the feeling transfer to a computer-mediated communication (CMC) between librarians and users. However, there are additional benefits from the CMC. Some to be mentioned are the ability to get assistance 24/7 and options to use email or chat on getting assistance. In my personal experiences, both assistances in the f2f setting and online, librarian always started with a small-talk before assisting me to find the book that I need. The nature of conversation will not change by the change of system of process from real-life to online (Leibenluft, 2007). A little joke, social chat, and a small talk will function as an icebreaker between librarians and users.

#3: TLS uses list of catalog and index card to manage collections. In fact, on most of library, these catalogs and index cards were rarely used by library users. These paper-based cards, for example, using Dewey system, help librarian on organizing books on a shelf and searching collection based on users need. In the past, this system has served the entire librarian on helping their clients. Currently, catalog and index card are replaced with search engine on the OLS. In this system, users search the collection by using key words, phrases, titles, author names, ISBN/ISSN, DOI, etc. Using this search method is helpful for users if they know the mechanism of search engine on their library system. If they do not know well about the mechanism, they have to sit down for some time to get familiar with the search engine navigational mechanism. For some users, spending time to do this work is not convenient. This comparison showed similarity with 4 aspects mentioned on Dempsey (2009). The emerging of new technology, on supporting library services, will not take away “a complex systems environment, sourcing decisions, library value, and the user experiences.” Users experiences have a huge impact on how they convenience with the system they used.

#4: TLS serves printed books, while OLS serves printed book as well as the electronic version. For some printed book users, it is an exciting feeling to be able to hold, touch, and smell the book. This feeling cannot be found on using the electronic version. Electronic books are delivered to the display screen with some additional features which are not available in printed book. These features are electronic highlighting, annotating, and text-to-speech. Users probably will feel happy when they hold a tick printed book to read at home. They will also feel proud by putting it on the shelf. However, when they travel, they must be prepared to bring no books and get the access online while they are settled in the new place. Probably, they will also carry electronics book with their personal mobile devices. The increasing in number of personal digital devices is in some sense affect the increasing of possibility to access the book anywhere with various mobile devices. In Gazan (2008) mentioned, annotated works, particularly “intelligible annotations can become a valuable informational resource for users. That is why the printed/electronic version tried to accommodate this valuable aspect with annotated feature.

In conclusion, it is difficult for me to use all this week articles to analyze my comparison. The cases on each article give me a clear guideline about how to compare these two entities, Online Community with Offline Communities. However, ever cases also provide a different way on performing their comparison. Especially, I feel bad could not make connection with Duguid’s article (2006). This is a good discussion on assurance quality of open access software. I try to fit on several aspects of these readings in my case, although I am not pretty sure about the quality assurances of my analysis. Suggestion for improvement of my analysis in your comment will be appreciated.


Duguid, P. (2006). Limits of self-organization: Peer production and “Laws of quality”. First Monday, 11(10). Retrieve from

Dempsey, L. (2009). Always on: Libraries in a world of permanent connectivity. First Monday, 14(1). Retrieved from

Geiser, G., & Burns, S. (2008). Tagging video: Conventions and strategies of the YouTube community. TCDL Bulletin. 4(1).

Gazan, R. (2008). Social annotations in digital library collections. D-Lib Magazine, 14(11/12)

Haythirnthwaite, C. (2009). Crowds and communities: Light and heavyweight models of peer production. Proceeding of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.

Leibenluft, J. (2007). A Librarian’s worst nightmare: Yahoo! Anaswer, where 120 million users can be wrong. Retrieve from


Andrea said...

I think this is a good analysis - one thing you could think about more is how social aspects like tagging and annotation can affect online libraries. On one hand tagging might make things easier to find, but only if you think the same way that the tagger did. Annotations can provide viewpoints you hadn't consider, but they also might be misleading since anybody can enter them.

Your first point was interesting regarding the ability to lose information from a traditional library. That is an advantage of online systems that I hadn't thought of before! Even if a student pulls a book to look at and then puts it back in the wrong place (even maybe just a few feet over), it might as well be lost forever.

I think findability is a problem with both traditional and online libraries. Like you mentioned, a lot of people have trouble at first using UHM's online resources. Once they figure out how it works it isn't so bad. The same applies to traditional libraries - the sheer amount of shelves and mysterious codes can be very intimidating, but if you know the logic behind it, everything is easy to find.

mbco said...

Great insights! Some specific responses are:

#1: The traditional and on-line systems both have different positive and negative aspects. It is interesting that you discussed items that get lost or damaged. I would like to add miss shelved items, as I was looking for an article for over a year before I found it perusing the stacks. However, many older items are not yet digitized, therefore, it is important to have access to physical collections. Therefore, I would not focus on either one being more important than the other, but how they complement each other.

#2: I definitely agree that the F2F interaction between librarians and patrons are an important aspect of the library experience. Even though many do want to only use digital services that libraries provide, it would be difficult to transition completely to this type of a system because patrons would likely have difficulty navigating the system (as you mentioned). In many cases, the on-line interaction may not be as helpful in user instruction of library services, especially in the affective domain due to the lack of F2F communication.

#3: Interestingly, many library systems (including Hamilton) use an on-line catalog, which helps users to find information, as opposed to the card catalog. However, it may be difficult for many current users to transition to a card catalog. I used many card catalogs in my years, but I do wonder how well the current generation or next generation of users can adjust and utilize this type of resource.

#4: I am also wondering about the transition from books to ebooks, as many readers like the iPad or Kindle are becoming prevalent. In this sense, I wonder how important reliability is to the user, as books require less technology to work properly to be used, as opposed to ebooks.

Thank you for sharing!

Bug said...

As you mentioned in the last paragraph that you want to incorporate Duguid’s perspectives into your analysis, I think you may look into what Duguid mentioned “freedom of speech is not the same as the freedom to replace other’s versions of the truth with your own.” For me, what he said is a good explanation of the meaning of social annotations, which is what you referred to in your analysis. Every person can contribute to the whole conversation by feeling free to speak what they’re thinking; however, it does not mean that his/her contribution is superior to others’.

In addition, the printed books vs. electronic books, mentioned in #4, can also explain the difference of content annotations and social annotations. When readers annotate in printed books, they usually interact with the text and its author. However, when they annotate in electronic books, they interact not only with the text and its author, but also with other readers through their comments.

I have a question about the example you gave in #1. When a library user gets the help from the librarian, I would think it is assistance from an expert person. However, if you want to find a good restaurant in your neighborhood and ask your friends (or people who you trust) to recommend their favorite restaurant to help you make a decision, I would think this is social filtering : )

HansomeAvatar said...

Andrea, mbco, and Bug
Thank you so much for sharpening and adding information to my blog. I was so tired with my long trip and hard to find more sentences to add to this blog. You folks are helping me a lot on comments. Many things that I read about online library compare to traditional library just like enlighten by your comments.
Especially for Bug:
Your point about get recommendation on good restaurant is so cool. I even don't think about it when I write this post. I agree with you, that's social filtering. Mahalo

Rich Gazan said...

Interesting post and discussion; understanding the significant differences between physical and virtual library services can help reveal potential areas for improvement via social computing tools. One of the strengths of the Web 2.0 environment is the difference between collective knowledge such as that distilled in wikipedia, collective opinion such as that aggregated in music ratings, and collective experience such as restaurant patrons who report their experiences on yelp and similar sites to inform future potential customers.

An online library system as you've described it here could include some of the forms of knowledge and interaction I mentioned above, but neither the online nor physical library environment is really designed to encourage or allow contributions from users/patrons, or for them to interact with one another.

Rich Gazan said...

My original comment didn't post for some reason, but one of the many good observations you made here was that online library systems which were designed to be more powerful and easier to use, can actually be overwhelming to new users, even if they have some Web experience. However, problems with OLSs don;t go away with experience, they just change. Instead of being overwhelmed at the mechanics of accessing what's out there, experienced users tend to feel more behind, that there's always more they could be reading. Humanizing the experience, whether through librarians engaging in social chat or delivering the physical experience of holding a book as you mentioned, or via a Web 2.0 form of collaboration with other users, the problems of the solo-searcher model increase with online library systems, and whether via social computing tools or some other way, lessons can be learned from the traditional library experience. Very nice post!

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