Category Archives: Library 2.0

Join the Conversation–Promoting Library 2.0 Tools on Public Library Webpages

The purpose of Library 2.0 is to create an interactive library experience, where users are empowered to engage in discussions with the information provided, with each other, and with the librarians. Unfortunately, most library websites have forgotten to invite their patrons into this conversation, hoping that when their users stumble upon them they will be inspired to join. But lacking any idea of what they are joining or why they would want to join, some libraries have created spaces for conversations that aren’t taking place.

I struggled to develop an instructional tool for this section, because what Library 2.0 tools need to succeed is inherent in the tool and the way it is used. Rather then another outside tool, librarians need to consistently update and use those tools they integrate into their website. They need not just to have Library 2.0 tools, but use them to create conversations for people to join.

One example for this is a Twitter stream. Twitter is a great tool in a lot of ways, not only does it allow a library to spread messages about upcoming events, but it also is a space where they can engage in conversations with their users. Many libraries have Twitter streams, but few use them as invitations to a library conversation. For instance, the Columbus Metropolitan Library has over a thousand followers, but doesn’t follow ANYONE. They don’t want a conversation.

Thus in order to get library users to engage in conversations, libraries need to do more then provide the tools, they need to ask and answer questions where their users can see and engage. For instance, a conversation could be on a Twitter stream where users can ask and receive answers to questions about upcoming events where everyone can see and participate. There are a number of ways this twitter stream can be displayed, from the simple widget I use on the sidebar of this blog, to more advanced code that can be embedded within a web-page. Twitter fans have created a wiki that lists many different ways that users can integrate twitter into their lives and other pages.

Because my Twitter stream is not affiliated with a library, and I do not represent myself as a library spokesperson on it, I frequently engage in various casual conversations. However, a library spokes-account on twitter could engage in conversations on a more professional level. They can “Re-Tweet” or RT comments about the library, other events and services in the community, and links to reviews of new books. While Twitter streams, such as the one I display on my blog, do not contain other people’s comments, they would display the user’s answers to questions. If used properly, a twitter stream could get the conversation going between libraries and their patrons.

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Library 2.0 and the Upper Arlington Public Library's Website

On a spectrum of engagement with Library 2.0, the Upper Arlington Public Library falls much closer to the Salt Lake City Public library, with only a very few ways for users to interact with the website’s content. While not completely devoid of means of interaction with the library through the website, many of the tools they use are more traditional, and less embracing of Web 2.0 ideals.

In reviewing UAPL’s website for its engagement in Library 2.0 technologies, I will be looking at the following three issues to guide my review. This will permit me to see both what tools are present, as well as how well this use is facilitated through instruction and explanations.

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Upper Arlington Public Library System Website

Like both the Salt Lake County Library System and the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Upper Arlington Public Library uses Evanced to manage their events. This provides some instant Library 2.0 features, with the RSS feeds and the ability to modify the calendar views. UAPL also allows users to register for programs on line, which is required for a lot of their programs.

In their other tools, UAPL follows a more traditional approach to providing interactivity. They have various e-mail newsletters that users can subscribe to, which allow some interaction with the library. They also provide an interesting book club, where the library sends users excerpts from books via e-mail. While these are not technically Library 2.0 tools, they provide a sense of interaction with the library that is beyond just a static website.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

The few interactive tools on the website are very simple to use, and so they require very little instruction to navigate. Joining the e-mail lists is a matter of clicking a button and typing an e-mail. It would be nice if there were some information about unsubscribing to the e-mail lists, but hopefully this information is included in the e-mails.

Just as with the other libraries that use Evanced, there are no included tutorials, which is particularly difficult in this case where registration is required for many activities. This tool could use more explanation to make it more user friendly. Either the library could provide it, or the system that they hire could create a tool page.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

For the e-mail lists, the library does invite users to join them mentioning specific reasons why they might want to join, trying to appeal to people with specific interests. This is more of an advertisement that describes what the content is, though they do entice readers to experience some books even before they are published. As to the rest of the tools, there is not a lot of explanation as to why anyone would want to use them. It is just assumed that users want to know what is going on, so they would want to use the interactive tool.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Library’s Website

The Upper Arlington Public Library has not really begun to embrace the many Library 2.0 tools that other libraries are integrating into their websites, but they have provided some ways that their users can interact with the library via their website. These e-mail lists are not quite Library 2.0, but they provide interaction that many users expect. Certainly there is something to be said for an e-mail list that is frequently updated and maintained, versus a RSS feed that is not consistently supplied with content.

Library 2.0 and the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Website

The Columbus Metropolitan Public Library prides itself on its status as the number one library in the nation, and strives to excel through embracing new technologies to reach new audiences. This is apparent through the ways that they have tried to include Library 2.0 technologies in their website. Even as I am writing this review, a committee at the library is working on ways to change the website to include more instruction and more pathways to these tools. Thus this review is just a snapshot of the way things are, and perhaps some suggestions for ways that the library might look into improving their accessibility.

One key element of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s website is that it strives to encourage users to interact with the site and with the library through the site in many different ways. This desire to move beyond a site that merely provides information, to one in which users can modify and create information, is a hallmark of Library 2.0.  In particular, CML works to encourage children and teens to interact with each other and the library through their site. As with all the reviews, I will be focusing on three main issues, and will strive to:

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Columbus Metropolitan Library System Website

While there are not a lot of Library 2.0 tools displayed on the front page of the CML web site, users don’t have to go far to find them integrated into the web site. Most of these tools are integrated into the website, either directly or through an outside service the library uses (such as their events calendar and the OPAC). Some of them are promoted through links to other tools that the library uses to provide services and promote the library to the community.

On the side bar of the frame that is on most of the library’s pages is a link inviting users to “Ask it” via phone, e-mail, or chat. This leads to a page that lists many ways that users can communicate with the library, including a built in chat that provides immediate response. Besides this chat, the library lists five account names for different chat services, where users can ask questions of a librarian, as well as a number that users can text questions to. These various tools invite users to interact with staff via the Internet, to extend library services beyond the physical space.

CML doesn’t just want its users to interact with the staff through their website, but with each other. They achieve this most successfully on the Kids and Teens page, which each feature sways that users can submit content, read others submissions, and comment on content. The teen page has a blog, with content relevant to teens and not just advertising teen events, that is semi-regularly updated. Teens can comment on the blog, participate in contests held on the blog, and discuss issues with each other through the blog.  Additionally, the teens have a Flickr account, where teens can upload images and comment on other users images, a space to upload stories, and a place to upload poetry. On the kids page, there are also spaces to share jokes, stories, poems, and create mad libs. Both pages offer places for users to upload reviews of books, and read other users recommendations.

While the Kids and Teens pages really embody many of the ideals of Library 2.0 participation, CML also has a page of “Power Tools” that offer external ways to interact with the library beyond the website. They want to empower their users to get the most out of their library experience, and offer several plug-ins, a power search like Salt Lake County, and a tool bar. Since the library is committed to developing more ways for users to interact with the library, they have also created a blog to allow users to track this progress and comment on their experiences using them.

The last area of Library 2.0 technology on the CML website is the RSS feeds that are available from the services the library purchase–both from their events catalog and the OPAC. Like Salt Lake County Public library, CML uses Evanced to keep track of events, and allow users to interact with the library events, including setting up RSS feeds to report on upcoming events. They also have a feature in their catalog that allows users to receive RSS feeds when new books are released that match certain search criteria.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

It is interesting to note to what degree the Library 2.0 tools on the website are supported by instruction and assistance. Naturally, users can use the various means of contact to reach a librarian to ask them how they work. But how much instruction is there that would allow users to independently navigate the tools.

On the library’s “Ask Us” page there are a lot of different ways to contact the library, for the new “chat” feature there is an extensive FAQ, but for most of the rest of the tools there is little help available. For the features embedded in the Kids and Teens pages, there is little instruction, but the interfaces are extremely simple and self explanatory. Since they are embedded, it takes no special knowledge of a tool to work. Each area is labeled with the information needed to submit, and each area is clearly labelled as what to submit there.

For the library’s “Power Tools” there is an entire blog dedicated to discussing them, and explaining how they work and what their purpose is. The blog also allows users to comment on how well the tools work and seek help, though I’m not sure how many people use it for these reasons. Because the blog is hosted on an outside blog software and embedded in the CML website it didn’t always show up when I clicked on it. This made it much more difficult to assess, and must make it more difficult for users to rely on it for assistance.  

Because Evanced is provided by an outside service, the library does not provide any particular assistance on its website for navigating the calendar. Within the calendar service itself, there is little help provided by Evanced, though the areas are well labelled and navigation is fairly intuitive.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

For the most part, CML assumes that their users understand why using these tools will improve their library experience, and so only have a few cursory explanations. On the “Ask Us” page, it is just assumed that users will see the advantage of instant messaging and chatting with a librarian on-line. They do provide more details as to why users should download and install the CML tool bar, by pointing out how it brings together a number of services and information into one location.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Website

The Columbus Metropolitan Library has done an excellent job integrating a participatory element into their websites, particularly with the Kids and Teens pages. While they promote some Library 2.0 external technologies, they have not been as successful in integrating them into their website. For instance the blogs they host on their website frequently do not load, and while they mention their Twitter and Facebook pages, it is difficult to find the links to them on their website. Hopefully with the forthcoming changes, they will increase the visibility of these additional Library 2.0 tools.

Library 2.0 Tools and the Salt Lake City Public Library

The difficulty in reviewing Library 2.0 technologies on the Salt Lake City Public Library’s webpage is that as far as I can tell there are no tools anywhere on the site. There may be some hiding somewhere on the site or on the Internet, but my inability to find them makes me think that a user of their website would be equally unable to discover them. What I did find was that the website is very static, the only aspects that invite user participation are the circulation elements where users can renew and reserve books and search the catalog. The majority of the website is made up of links to other information sources or bits of information. Rather then having a calender where users can make various choices to narrow down events in different ways, the Salt Lake City Public Library has different event lists, already divided by various factors, such as location, age group, and month. This website illustrates an important distinction between library websites that have and have not embraced library 2.0.

 One of the key characteristics of Library 2.0 is the ability for users to take an active role in shaping their own library experience, by being able to interact with the library in various ways through their website and through other tools. Users can not just find information that meets their needs, but find ways to have that information continuously updated and sent in a convenient way. Even the less innovative means of e-mail booklist newsletters allows this sort of interaction and specialization. These tools empower users to create the library experience they need, beyond just finding the books they need.

Because the Salt Lake City Public Library has no obvious Library 2.0 tools, I will not be asking the usual questions and reviewing their efficacy. It is interesting to note that while there are no Library 2.0 discussed on their website, they do offer classes to train patrons in some of these tools, such as a class on blogs and how to create them.

Library 2.0 Tools and the Salt Lake County Library Website

One of the difficulties with assessing Web 2.0 tools on a library website, is that they are frequently embedded so deeply that it is very hard to find them. I might know that the library provides a certain service, but it might be impossible to find, or take a lot of searching. This difficulty is compounded on a website that has a lot of different content loaded on their web pages particularlywhen it is not organized into categories. The Salt Lake County Library System’s web page suffers from this malady. It is full of information, with the front page in particular crammed with links, that are grouped under such general headings as “Quick Links,” “What’s Hot @ the Library,” and “Books, Music & More.” Besides these groups of links, there are a lot of links that are just randomly placed around the front page. Fortunately, there is an option to search the site. It was only this feature that allowed me to actually find any Library 2.0 resources.

In assessing the Library 2.0 resources that I did find on this web site, I will focus my discussion on the following three issues:

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Salt Lake County Library System Website

From the front page of the Salt Lake County Library System’s website only one 2.0 tool really stands out from the plethora of links, that for the library’s Podcasts. There are other tools, such as several blogs, RSS feeds, widgets, a delicious account, and others, but this is the only one promoted on the front page. Some of the tools I found while looking through the pages, while others I only discovered through keyword searching the site.

In 2006, the library started creating videos and posting them on a video feed that library users could subscribe to. The podcasts or vodcasts (video podcasts) shared by the library mostly feature interviews the local television stations did with various library personnel as well as recordings of author talks. Unfortunately, the stream is not frequently updated with several months in between installations, with the last one almost a year ago. This tool, however, is featured on the front page of their website, in a position of prominence.

Under “Library Information & Contacts” there is a category called “Library Tools,” this general category has links to some of the library’s 2.0 technologies. For instance they have a link to their Delicious account at the bottom of the page, which appears to be frequently updated and maintained by their staff. This Delicious account is also featured other places on their website, where they use it to provide a tag cloud of links and subjects. On this “Library Tools” page the library also offers a link to their LibraryElf program. This is an independent program that the library pays to provide more options for interactivity for their patrons. Users can sign up to receive alerts in a huge range of formats. They can consolidate all of their family member’s cards, to track all of the items checked out. In addition to this outside service, the library also offers a plug in that allows users to search the library catalog from a box on their web-browser.

Beyond this tools page, the library does offer a series of blogs and myspace pages, but finding the page with the list of them required me to do a keyword search. As far as I can tell, this page is hosted on the library web page but is not actually linked. This makes it harder for users to find the page and use these tools.

There are a few RSS (really simple syndication) feeds available from the library, but they are created and managed through outside services the library uses. For instance, library events are maintained through a services called Evanced, which allows users to search through the calender. Evanced also allows users to subscribe to RSS feeds of activities. These feeds are customizable, offering many options. The library’s OPAC, its Delicious account, as well as this event calendar all have RSS feed options.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

Visibility of tools is one of the first things a site needs to do to assist users, beyond that there needs to be explanation of what the tool is, and how to go about using it. For some of the tools that are created by services outside of the library, these tutorials are available on the external source’s site. On the library’s web site, there needs to be some assistance to encourage users to give these tools a try. The Salt Lake County Library system struggles with visibility of their tools, as stated earlier, and has limited success with providing any on site assistance.

Neither the video podcasts nor the Delicious account have any instruction or explanation to users of the library’s website on how to use them or what exactly they are. The Library Elf program and the plug in do link to pages with explainations of what they are, and some basic information on how to use them. For the most part, these instrutional library pages merely link to instruction on another site.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

As with the instruction and these Library 2.0 tools, the Salt Lake County Library system offers very little in the way of explanation as to why patrons would want to use these tools. The exception is with the Library Elf program. For that tool, the library created a page that lists the features offered by the tool and explanations as to why people would want to sign up for it.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Website

The Salt Lake County Library system has taken a few steps towards using Library 2.0 tools, but in order to fully integrate them into their website and to empower their users in customizing their library experience, they need to increase the amount of explanation and instruction in how to use these tools. In addition, they need to increase the visibility of tools that they update and use frequently.

Library 2.0 and Library Web Sites

Over the past year or so, I’ve written about Library 2.0 many times: for previous classes, for work, and on this blog. Certainly the term has been buzzing around the web for a lot longer then that, but as I’ve only been involved with libraries as a profession for a little over two years, it is only in the past year that I’ve followed it. During this time, I’ve noticed that librarians are enormously fond of the concept, with many individuals and libraries firmly behind the idea that they can create a user shaped experience by encouraging interaction with the library and its content on the web. These tools are incorporated into OPACS, as I’ve already shown, but libraries also include them on their websites in a number of other ways. Like the other electronic services offered by libraries on the web, some of these tools have more instruction, explanation, and promotion on some websites then on others.

In this final review, I will be assessing the Library 2.0 resources that are integrated or promoted on the webpages of the four public libraries in this research project. I’m focusing on those tools that are mentioned on the website, as I am aware that sometimes libraries will create profiles for their library on various Web 2.0 tools and not promote them on their page. I assume that this is because they are aiming to attract users of those services to their website and not users of their website to that service. Regardless of why, I am interested in the services that the library provides on their website, that allows users to interact with the library.

As with the other reviews, I will focus my inquiries on three primary questions in each review.

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.