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1 de Julio de 2010

Using Web 2.0 tools and open source software: The experience of three University of Puerto Rico academic libraries

Pagán, Liz
Suarez Balseiro, Carlos
Almeyda Loucil, Javier

Resumen: This paper presents the experience of three libraries of the University of Puerto Rico in the design, organization and maintenance of library websites. The purpose was to study the online presence of each unit, identify the strategies used for creating websites, incorporating Web 2.0 tools and services, and to learn about the use of open source software when developing these kinds of projects. The paper describes the projects carried out by the Library of the Agricultural Experiment Station of the Mayagüez Campus, the Library and Learning Resource Center at the Utuado Campus, and the Library of Business Administration at the Río Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. The academic librarians at the University of Puerto Rico have different projects to redesign library web pages according to current trends and technologies available, there is little research about it in Puerto Rico and the results have not been published. To fill this gap, this research proposes to better understand the development of the three academic libraries. Outcomes indicate that there are some similarities in the three cases: the strategies used for creating the library web page, the use of open source software, and incorporating tools and services known as Web 2.0 which allow to understand the ongoing development of these services in some of the UPR libraries.


This paper will present three case studies of libraries in Puerto Rico; the study will illustrate the dissemination of what the libraries are doing to enhance their web pages, to promote their services and to integrate new technologies. Readers will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and to focus on academic libraries outside the fifty states of the United States. Three academic libraries of different UPR campuses were included in this case study: Agricultural Experimental Station Library, Mayagüez Campus; Library and Resource Center for Learning, Utuado Campus; and Business Administration Library, Río Piedras Campus. The selection of these libraries took into account that their web sites were completely developed and were using an open source program, and how visible each library web site was in the context of the larger university web site. Moreover, these sites were considered by the librarians the pioneer project in the use of such programs and in the integration of elements of the social web at the institution.

In recent years much has been written about the integration of new technologies on the Web (Stephen, Collins; 2007) and open access to information. The role of the librarian has been modified so that it goes hand in hand with the implementation of these new technologies. Bolan and Cullin (2007) explained that technology always has affected and always will affect libraries. Information professionals need to address these technological advances in order to meet the new goals and challenges of the twenty-first century (Margaix; 2007). It is understood that the information professional must change and accept new technological changes, and libraries must be transformed to go in the same direction of user needs (Frey; 2008). These trends should be reflected on the library web pages for each of the libraries because this virtual space should include the focus of user customization, online communities and a mix of web 2.0 tools (Liu; 2008).

The research question guiding this study is as follows: How and why do the academic libraries use open source software and Web 2.0 tools in the creation and development of the Web pages? To answer this question, we studied the use and integration of new information technologies and communication services offered by three academic UPR libraries. The case study was exploratory and descriptive with a specific focus on the development of the academic library web page by using open source software and the integration of Web 2.0 tools. In particular, the purpose of our research was to study the online presence of the above mentioned units and to identify the strategies used for creating web pages, for using open source software and for incorporating Web 2.0 tools and services.


This paper adopts the case study as an investigative technique. In the framework of qualitative research, this is a useful technique because it provides a critical and reflective approximation to the reality (Lucca, Berríos; 2003). Moreover, Yin (2003) argues that the case study is more appropriate when the research focuses on a contemporary phenomenon that occurs in the context of real life and where the research effort seeks to answer questions relating to the "how" and "why" of the phenomenon. Creswell (1998) explained that the data collection in case study research is typically extensive, drawing on multiple sources of information, interviews and documents. It involves the study of an issue explored through one or more cases within a bounded system.

The research process included a literature review of different resources such as journals, documents, and web pages. In this study, the librarians interviewed administrative technicians and personnel directly involved in the development of the library web page. These interviews occurred on each campus in 2009; each took approximately one hour. The authors considered the recommendations from Creswell (1998) for the interview development: (a) take into account the purpose of the study; (b) determine what kind of interview qualifies; (c) record the interview; (d) design the questions and decide the place of the interview; and (e) obtain the consent of the participant before beginning to ask the questions. The interviews were carried out in the work area. The questions included in the interview were subdivided into the following categories: justification, development, maintenance, use, and benefits.

In order to compile the information a triangulation was made using different sources of information (Lucca, Berríos; 2003). In addition to the interviews, annual reports, information on work, and other documents related to the different stages of the projects were used. Also each library’s web site was observed, including the organization of contents and the services offered. The collection of all this data took approximately two months. There were no interruptions to the data collection process.

Case 1: Experience of Agricultural Experiment Station Library


The Agricultural Experimental Station (AES) was established in 1910 as a private entity by the Sugar Growers Association of Puerto Rico. In 1915, the AES Library was founded in order to provide technical information for developing the agricultural research program. The AES Library is a unit of the School of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. This is the only agricultural library in Puerto Rico.

The library currently has two professional librarians, one auxiliary librarian, and three attending students offering service to the public Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The main users are the researchers of the Agricultural Experimental Station, but this library serves all the university community and the general public. The vision of the library is to be in the vanguard of technological advances in order to provide the most innovative information in the agricultural field. Its mission is to support research by means of the availability of resources. Some of the goals of the library are to promote the excellence and the quality of the library services; to extend the marketing of the research, resources, and services of the library; to maintain a collection that supports the research programs of the Agricultural Experimental Station and other related areas; and to update the educational technology and the information systems necessary to support the needs of the users. In response to the established goals for academic year 2003/2004, connections to electronic magazines, databases, public catalog, and interlibrary loan services were added to the library web page. The web page was updated by the personnel of the Computer Center of the Mayagüez Campus.

In February 2008 the AES Library was visited by external evaluators from the Association of College and Research Libraries. The library personnel prepared an internal evaluation report to meet the twelve standards set by the association. In the standard of service, the Library focused on highlighting technological innovation developed there and on the use of the Web page for social service users. The external evaluators reported that the library has been highlighted in the use of web 2.0 tools. However, in the standard of communication and cooperation, evaluators reported the need to update the library web page and to being using RSS for news updates. This recommendation led to the development of the new Web page of the library in June 2008.

Proposed settlement and development

During 2003/2008, the Library continued to offer its web page with technical assistance from the Computer Center of Mayagüez campus. Because the AES Library did not have the required technical support, the frequency of maintenance and updates were limited. In early 2008 a survey was conducted among the AES researchers about their satisfaction with the library web page. In response to the recommendations of external evaluators and response to the survey, it was concluded that it was necessary to update the web page according to the needs of researchers and other library users.

The content of library web page was discussed with the library personnel, as well as organization of the information, aspects of navigability and accessibility desired and some basic criteria of the graphic design. The selection of the program took into account the available technical, economic, and human resources. The decision was to install the open source content management system Joomla (, given that it was free and considering the prior usage experience of other libraries and colleagues in the Graduate School of Information Sciences and Technologies (GSIS&T).

In the summer of 2008, the library created a team that included the library director, the auxiliary librarian and an outside professional advisor from GSIS&T. The Information Systems supervisor of the AES provided technical support for program installation and access to the server. For two months, there was arduous work on the design and development of the new library web page.

The new library web page (, available beginning August 2008, does not comply with the specifications of accessibility of Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, but the possibilities for their compliance are being studied. This site does not use Google Analytics; instead an independent counter was used to see the number of visits to the web page.

Web 2.0 Integration

Currently the site has several innovative services which have been incorporated for the purpose of motivating users to collaborate, communicate and, connect to the library web site. These services include:

  1. Chat: Instant Messaging using the free service Meebo. This service responds to users' queries from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  2. AES Video Web: Vodcast includes workshops, lectures, and tutorials on emerging issues related to agriculture and science information.
  3. Infocast AES is a podcast that includes interviews on various agricultural issues and information science.
  4. Google Calendar is used to present the activities at the library.
  5. RSS feeds are used to provide syndication of blogs, web pages of interest in agricultural issues and other topics.

The library web page include links to SlideShare presentations, Flickr photos, Issuu documents, YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter account. By June, 30, 2010, the library web page had 20,125 visits.

Evaluation of results, benefits and prospects

This study includes the results of the three independent interviews with persons related to the planning, design, organization and development of the AES library web page. Those interviewed were an assistant librarian, the coordinator of information systems, and an external professional advisor. The primary justification for creating a website using Joomla as a platform was the ability to update content on a continuous and independent basis. Some criteria for selecting Joomla were the following: open access, technical support, ease of use, versatility, maintenance, quality, availability, administration, and support documentation. The criterion of most weight during the interviews was the technical support.

In the case of the AES Library, the coordinator of information systems contributed to the program and he also provided access to the accounts of the administrators. He offered the services of backup, security of information, and program updates. The library director and the auxiliary librarian were responsible for maintaining the Web page with the aim of keeping the content updated, reliable, and accessible. The content is updated according to the need for service and information available. Web 2.0 tools are used to keep the site dynamic and updated.

The skills necessary to develop the web page and keep it updated include basic knowledge of HTML and web 2.0 tools, experience in graphic design, ability to connect the various social tools using RSS, and staying up-to-date with new Web 2.0 tools. The benefit of the new web page for users and librarians is to facilitate interaction without requiring technology expertise specialists. The library web site provides user management and use of information because it requires only a few clicks to retrieve the desired information. The opportunities for future web page development are contemplated in order to improve organization and content. In the future, the library plans to take a poll to determine the number of users and their satisfaction. The library wants to make the site more dynamic and to add RSS links to other tools that support social development. The AES librarian considered extremely important to market and to promote the library web page among users of the library and in forums such as conferences, assemblies, and among colleagues in the sciences and information technology.

Joomla has many advantages, which include the following (in order of priority): no licensing cost, robust development platform, proven and stable technology infrastructure, consulting service and good problem-solving line, large community of developers developing the site in a simple and quick updating of content. Among the disadvantages, Joomla does not have full technical support, institutional support is not certain, and Joomla does not allow multiple websites under a single solution.

Case 2: Academic Library of the University of Puerto Rico at Utuado


University of Puerto Rico Utuado Campus (UPRU) began its academic activities in August 1979. For the 2008/2009 academic period UPRU has served about 1,600 students, with a faculty composed of 100 teachers. The UPRU is accredited by the Middle States Association and the Council of Higher Education of Puerto Rico.

Currently, the UPRU offers BS programs in Elementary Education, Business Administration (with concentration in Accounting) and Office Systems. In early 2008, UPRU was visited by two assessment groups: the Middle States Association and the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. Both visits resulted in recommendations, including a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the university library's web site. The groups also urged the library to take into account the new building, spaces with modern and functional design, and the technological infrastructure necessary to improve the quality of information services to the academic community.

The university library to adopt the concept of learning resource centers as a model for its operation. This new model, associated with innovation in higher education, adds more openness and flexibility to the library in terms of availability and use of resources as well as the integration of key services for teachers, researchers, and students. The aim of the model is to facilitate development of educational projects and research through increased availability of information and technologies. In this context was required to improve the Internet presence in the UPRU library, content organization and design.

Proposed settlement and development

The UPRU library established a working group made up of two librarians and an external professional advisor from the faculty of the GSIS&T, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. After an analysis of the characteristics and needs of the academic community on campus, a conceptual design for the new space on the Internet was based on the concept of the library web page. After a discussion of the content, organizing information, navigability and accessibility issues and basic graphic design, the committee started working on the page development.

Once approved, the conceptual design was discussed, specifically, what program should be used considering the economic, technical, and human resources. The decision was to use an open source content management system. The experience of the GSIS&T with the use of this type of system determined the selection of Joomla, a stable open source system with an extensive community of developers and users. This decision also required the identification of web hosting and the personnel who would continue the project at the library. The selected service was SiteGround (, with a two-year contract.

The new web site has been available since August 2008 ( It meets the specifications of accessibility, Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, but does not yet fully meet the criteria of W3C's accessibility. However, it has managed to eliminate all automatic level 1 errors, according to the Web Accessibility Test (

Currently there is a committee composed of four librarians, two library assistants, and a technician. This committee is responsible for developing content according to requests received from faculty and students from the campus. The new content and the required changes are reviewed by librarians.

Web 2.0 Integration

The URDU library web site has been incorporating various Web 2.0 tools to facilitate information sharing and to foster collaboration and contact between the library staff and users. SlideShare is used for all the presentations created for the library’s information skills program and some faculty presentations used for teaching and research. News syndication and Google Calendar are offered to facilitate monitoring of events on campus. Librarians also produce a blog that is available on the web page. Several additional Google services are incorporated on the library web page. Besides the calendar, the library has a Gmail account which receives service requests. The activity on the site, accesses, and origin of the visits are all tracked by Google Analytics.

Finally, it is important to indicate that a LibX extension was created for Firefox and other browsers with Mozilla technology that allows the user to search in the library catalog with a search box that integrates into the browser interface (for Internet Explorer there is a beta version). LibX supports the OpenURL standard, allows searches in Google Scholar, and can show connections with the icon of the institution from pages with results in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Book, the library catalog, and others.

Evaluation of results, benefits and perspective

As mentioned above, monitoring the use of the library web site was done with Google Analytics. However, there have been no usability studies or evidence on the usefulness of the site. The comments received by the librarians were positive, but this issue will require a larger study in the future. The outcomes from this effort have been improvements in the library’s and campus image. This improved image has resulted in an improved perception that the university has of the library. The anecdotal evidence states that the new web site has

In the medium term, there is a need for greater training of all members of the site, so that the development of the site can be more dynamic and can create added-value content. It is also important to consolidate the division of tasks and monitor the website for accessibility compliance. At the administrative level it is important to determine the time devoted to developing and maintaining the web pages and how these tasks affect librarians’ workload. It is imperative to perform a usability study and to promote exchange with users so that they regularly contribute to the creation of new content. Similarly, it is important to disseminate the lessons learned to benefit other units of the UPR library system.

Case 3: Library of Business Administration


The Library of Business Administration is located in the Business Administration building of the Río Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico and has an enrollment of 2,602 students, including students in 11 graduate programs. This library serves the business administration faculty. This library offers extended service hours from Monday to Saturday. This library in turn is a part of the library system on the Río Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. The library system consists of a network of libraries and specialized collections, distributed throughout the campus. Only the libraries of Law, Science, and Architecture are managed directly by their own budgets and administrations. The library system in turn has a web page which offers access to its resources, collections, and information of all its units. However, some of these units have developed their own web sites, sometimes in collaboration with the faculties to be served directly. This is the case of the Library of Business Administration, which prior to 2006 had a section for its services and collections available on the main web site. Later that year, with the hope of having a website that was updated more regularly and was better designed, the library director planned to create a new web site for the library with the help of library web site technicians from the faculty of business administration. Unfortunately, the expectations of this effort were not met. A year later, in 2007, a student of the GSIS&T prepared a proposal in order to renew the Library of Business Administration web page using the open source program known as Joomla. The student first conducted a survey/consultation with students who use the library in order to know their needs and recommendations. Nevertheless, the phase of the creation never materialized. Before both attempts to solve the problems of updating the library web page were stalled, the library director decided to return to the old web page.

Proposed solution and development

The motivation of the library to update its website was based on its desire to establish new avenues of outreach and communication with students and professors from the Faculty of Business Administration. In June 2008 a new opportunity was opened for the library. A new workshop was announced for librarians to create blogs to take place on the Rio Piedras Campus. This activity was organized by the Community of Practice Web 2.0 of the University of Puerto Rico, which is composed of librarians of different campuses of the UPR. The Library immediately saw the possibility of creating a blog instead of a traditional web page. This would help to meet all the constraints and concerns of managing an agile response to the needs of the library and its users.

The project began to create a blog which in turn is wholly administered by the library ( That goal was achieved because the library is the administrator of the blog. All the hopes and dreams of a library web site focused on outreach and interaction with students and teachers have been placed in this new project.

Web 2.0 Integration

The blog platform used in June of 2008 was WordPress ( However, before beginning to create a new blog, the library examined other platforms such as Blogger ( However, they preferred to remain with WordPress because design, variety of templates, structure of columns, and easy handling fit better with the intentions and of the administrators of the new Web page. Farkas (2008) explained that Wordpress is a popular free, open-source blogging platform that is used by many librarians in their personal and professional lives. During the creation and development of the blog, other Web 2.0 tools were integrated to facilitate the library's principal objectives: to enhance the spreading and promotion of its collections and services and to obtain an approach and feedback with the students and professors of the Faculty of Business Administration. The Web 2.0 tools selected were the following:


As part of the interviews, the librarians involved in this project report satisfaction with updating the blog contents because there is no technical support required. The blog management tasks have been assigned to a librarian who previously had other responsibilities in the library. This person creates outreach initiatives that promote the library's collections and services. However, despite having no technical support for the development of the blog, the librarian who organized the workshop blog of summer 2008 is very close to it and offers suggestions to solve problems related to the administration of this blog; in fact, months after the workshop there was a follow-up meeting attended by people who had already developed new blogs from the first workshop.

After nearly a year since the creation and development of the blog, the web site does not meet the specifications of accessibility, Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, or the W3C's accessibility guidelines. These standards and regulations were not discussed in the workshop of the blog and follow-up session of 2008.

egarding the development of new content of the blog, all the librarians contribute through different sections of the blog such as the book of the week and the link of the week. All this effort in turn is part of biannual promotion of library collections and services. The library administrator of the blog in turn serves as coordinator of all the collaboration that goes into the library for other sections. The publication of new content or "post" occurs several times a week by the staff of the library in this project. The librarians in the interview indicated that for this type of project they require people who feel engaged with the project and see as something positive how the project transforms its tasks to meet these new technological challenges. The people involved with these projects must also have basic technical knowledge of the Internet, must be creative, and have the capacity to teach and to collaborate in groups. Frequently the library examines the usage statistics from FeedBurner and WordPress. These numbers are used to determine the desired items of interest in order to validate the effectiveness of library marketing. The results are applied equally in the development of the most popular section as evidenced by the users’ comments on the blog. These statistics at the moment are taken as evidence of the success or acceptance of blog. This blog has allowed a greater presence to the inner community as well as to the surrounds of Río Piedras; the blog promotes its collections and resources by thematic area. In addition the students and professors have expressed personally to the librarians their satisfaction with the library’s use of Web 2.0.


The case studies demonstrated that the basic criteria considered for the selection of the open source software are accessibility and the opportunity for librarian to be web page administrators. Using blogs and Joomla provided these librarians the opportunity to update the library web site frequently and also promote user communication and collaboration. The studies demonstrate it is not necessary to invest in local technical support or contract services outside the library. However, there should be one or more local experts who support the library web site design and development. In these three cases, the librarians are in charge of content development and portal maintenance. Also, the libraries’ web pages are frequently updated and integrate three or more web 2.0 tools.

The Agricultural Experiment Station Library and Utuado Library selected Joomla as a content management system after considering the economic, technical, and human resources and the experience of the GSIS&T with the use of Joomla. There were no formal comparisons between other content management systems providers, but the librarian in charge developed a literature review related to the topic. Some study constraints are that two of three libraries demonstrated that they don't use any tracking of the portal such as Google Analytics and instead limited the statistics to a simple counter. This simple counter does not provide sufficient information to analyze the library web page usage. At this moment, there is no evidence of the degree of acceptance of the libraries’ web page by the user. The librarian receives only informal user feedback through conversation or informal notes.

Government agencies in Puerto Rico must observe the criteria for web-based technology and information defined by the Federal Rehabilitation Act, Section 508, based on access guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (Section 508, 2009). In addition, Law 229 of Puerto Rico requires government agencies to comply with some web standards to guarantee access to information on Internet for impaired people. However, when asked about the concern regarding accessibility standards, only one library reported specific actions related to accessibility when designing the website. According to this study’s findings, accessibility seems to be in process.

One of the main limitations found with case studies is that one cannot generalize the findings. This design also allows subjectivity, which could affect the interpretation of the provided information. It is recommended that the study be repeated with web pages of private and public universities in Puerto Rico in order to expand the study area and to see its impact in other academic areas. In the same way, these studies would contribute to the documentation of the development of academic library web pages and the integration of web 2.0 tools and open source programs.

There are some opportunities for future developments of the three libraries’ web page, use of a poll to determine the number of users and their satisfaction, integration of new social web 2.0 tools, and integration of the library personnel in the web site content development. Future possibilities include performing usability tests and promoting collaboration with users so they regularly contribute to the creation of new content. It is very important to disseminate the lessons learned in order to benefit other units of the library system of the UPR and of other countries. This is the opportunity to analyze the findings for a future libraries’ web page development.

This research permits a description of the use and integration of new technologies of information and communication in the services offered by three academic libraries of the UPR through Internet. When investigating the development of Web pages of academic libraries, considering the use of open source programs and the integration of Web 2.0 tools, three similarities in the three cases could be observed:

  1. The library visibility in online web pages.
  2. The libraries strategies for creating the library web page.
  3. The use of open source software and incorporation of tools and services known as Web 2.0 allows one to understand the ongoing development of these services in some of the UPR libraries.

It is possible to observe how the Internet has been converted into an essential resource in the teaching-learning process since it allows the library to provide educational content. In the three cases studied we found the following similarities: use of programs of open access was observed, accessibility, update, economy, collaboration, and technical support. In addition, there were several differences: not all the libraries fulfill the specifications of accessibility of Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, nor do all the libraries fulfill the W3C criteria.

Evans (1999) addressed a study of academic library webmasters in which she identified the authors of academic library home pages, and she investigated the nature of their training and use of newly acquired web design skills. The author reports that librarians, more often than non-librarians, are assuming the responsibility for the writing home pages for academic libraries in very large public colleges and universities. In this qualitative study was found the same tendency.

Integration of social tools in the library’s web sites has been marked since it has been observed, and it has demonstrated the connections with RSS, blogs, Slideshare, vodcast, podcast, chat, among others. Web 2.0 in the libraries is much more than the use of social tools; it includes fomenting communication, collaboration, and participation of the users and their interaction with the librarians (Stephens, Collins; 2007). These three libraries have begun to adopt the web 2.0 tools to create communities and promotes sharing of experiences.

Future research could study the integration of the web 2.0 tools in other academic libraries and include a user satisfaction survey. The three academic library web sites needs to implement a usability testing to document the users web page preferences. In that way, our readers will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and focus on academic libraries outside the United States.


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Liz Pagán is the Director of Agricultural Experiment Station Library. Also she is a part time professor at School of Information Sciences and Technology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus; and an associate professor at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus.

Education: MLIS Pratt Institute, New York


Carlos Suarez Balseiro is a full time professor at the School of Information Sciences and Technology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.

Education: PhD Library and Information Science, University Carlos III, Madrid, Spain.


Javier Almeyda Loucil is an academic librarian at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.

Education: MLS School of Information Sciences and Technology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.


Citación recomendada:

Pagán, Liz; Suarez Balseiro, Carlos; Almeyda Loucil, Javier (2010). Using Web 2.0 tools and open source software: The experience of three University of Puerto Rico academic libraries. En: No Solo Usabilidad, nš 9, 2010. <>. ISSN 1886-8592

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