Web 2.0/3.0 technologies enable academic library users to generate, organize, and share content. This is transforming the traditional power dynamics between academic librarians and academic library users. Not much is known about the new power dynamics affecting relations between academic librarians and users in new technology-driven knowledge societies. One may reasonably ask how the traditional balance of power between academic librarians and library users is shifting, and what the implications are for managing these new power dynamics.
The new power dynamics surface most prominently in the evaluation of user satisfaction with e-services in academic libraries, making them suitable sites for further investigation. Academic libraries in the Kenya Libraries and Information Services Consortium (KLISC), and the Gauteng and Environs Library Consortium (GAELIC) in South Africa, were selected to study the new Web 2.0/3.0-related power dynamics in an African context.
A literature review was used to search for an appropriate theoretical framework to examine the new power dynamics in a Web 2.0/3.0 environment in academic libraries. The critical theory approach was found to be useful to analyse these power dynamics. A Critical Evaluation component was therefore added to the E-SERVQUAL Gap Analysis to evaluate user satisfaction with e-reference services, access to e-content, sharing of user-generated content, and other e-services. The study applied an embedded mixed methods research design for an in-depth and comprehensive probe into the power dynamics underpinning user satisfaction with Web 2.0/3.0 e-service quality in the KLISC and GAELIC academic libraries. The data was collected through Website content analysis, site visits, and online questionnaires. The study found that, despite shifts in the traditional balance of power, the Web 2.0/3.0 technologies can be sources of and vehicles for empowering both academic librarians and academic library users. The Web 2.0/3.0 skills and competencies of the academic librarians and library users are essential to achieve user satisfaction with e-service quality.
The study also found that increasing awareness of the Web 2.0/3.0 technologies further increases access to user-generated content, as well as the sharing and exchange of information and knowledge. A Critical Evaluation Strategy (CES) and five Critical Success Factors (CSFs) were proposed to manage these new power dynamics with a view to improving user satisfaction with e-services, and to strengthening the academic library’s democratic role in knowledge societies.