BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS
Theimer, Kate. Web 2.0 tools and strategies for archives and local history collections. London: Facet Publishing, 2010. xviii, 246 p. ISBN 978-1-85604-687-9. £49.95.
There are many books about the Web 2.0 and its application areas. Although the inventors of the World Wide Web have defined the aims they wanted to achieve and the possibilities that the new technology should develop in the way that totally comprises everything that is assigned to Web 2.0, this term is used in a rather loose way to denote mainly the interactive services and collaborative applications. It separates rather fuzzily the earlier Web be conceptualizing it as presentational space.
Web 2.0 has become a rage, a hot activity for everyone and all. If you are not engaged in any Web 2.0 activities you will be considered outmoded, old-fashioned, and hopeless. We see more and more involvement of various institutions on the most popular Web 2.0 services and sites such as YouTube, Second Life and Flickr, . Sometimes this involvement is justified; sometimes it is just a sign of fashion-following and imitation.
Though the book by Kate Theimer may seem as just another trendy book on Web 2.0, I would regard it as an aid helping to avoid blind involvement in a sexy business. The book is focused on the possibilities opened by Web 2.0 to archives of various kinds. The author emphasises the change in the work of archives from full orientation on documents and scholarly activity to the concern about userís needs and finding new audiences for archival services. She explains briefly a variety of Web 2.0 technologies and their functions in first chapter also addressing popular fears of using them.
From my point of view, the greatest value of this book is its practical orientation and applicability in daily work. The author covers a very wide range of Web 2.0 technologies, but strictly in relation to how they can be used in the setting of archives. In most cases, she also presents examples of functioning services and also excerpts from interviews with archivists who have set up this service and run it. This approach not only raises the awareness of a particular tool, but also gives a best practice example with warnings on the work and resources involved. Before reading the book, I found it difficult to imagine what an archive can do, for example, with a blog or Twitter and, especially, wikis. It was somewhat easier to think about local history collections, but I was doubting the necessity of it. Well, I have found that there are interesting and quite useful applications. I have even thought of some others that were not described in a book. Challenging ones imagination is an important feature of a book and this one comprises it.
My attention was particularly attracted by the chapters 2, 11, and 12 about evaluation of the starting situation, measuring success and discussing management issues. The chapter on evaluation of the present situation of an archive's presence on the web is quite short, but addresses all the important issues: evaluation of the Website, resources, strategic priorities and users. The chapter on measuring success provides a useful division between measuring the outputs and outcomes and some practical tips, but I would like to see it expanded with real life examples as the previous chapters are. The same can be said of the chapter on management. I think they do not do justice to the importance of the topics addressed, especially, if we compare them with other chapters.
Nevertheless, this book would be a useful addition on the table of the archivists and managers of local history collections as a guide to the possibilities opened and opening for marketing, collaboration, cooperation, promotion, etc. in the archival setting.