BusinessWeek has a quick snapshot of U.S. user activities online broken down by task and ages. (The study was conducted by the Forrester Research group.)
Good news if you are into the web2.o stuff and you work in college libraries. The 18-21 set and 22-26 set are well represented in most task categories. And how about those task categories: Creator, Collector, Spectator, Joiner, Critic, etc. They help to define the possible tasks of web2.0 users. Granted the activities recorded refer to patterns in the web at large, but it gives libraries some guidance as to what our users are doing online. It’s also interesting to note the “Inactives”. There’s a whole population that doesn’t live and breathe the web. I get caught up in the “everybody’s online” thing, so it’s a nice gentle reminder.
The key is honing in on one or two likely applications for your library community and giving them a go. Want to enable the Collectors? Think about an XML feed to pieces of your digital collections. Or what about building a service for the Critics? Build a tagging or a comment/rating system into the catalog or digital collection.
An admission: it’s all fine and good for the student set, but college libraries have other interested parties like faculty and university admin. Part of the library role might be to “coach” these other parties into possible roles they might take up in their web use. A faculty member trying to build a research bibliography seems like the perfect candidate to become a “Collector” once given the right library tool or app. In this setting, outreach and education are still a library web developer’s best friend.