or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Slowly Building Towards 2.0ness

   May 8th, 2007 Brian Herzog

flickr logoMy library is slowly adopting web 2.0 tools. We've done a bit up so far, but now we've finally started a flickr account.

We always take pictures at our many programs, but then those photos just end up sitting on our staff network. They usually don't even make it our website. This seemed to me a sad waste, so I've been talking up using flickr as a storage and sharing tool for the last few months.

People were pretty tepid to the entire idea, and couldn't see why I cared. So, as a micro-project, I started using flickr just for some historic photos from our archive (and then integrated them into the website). Once people saw how flickr worked, and how it could be used, then they started thinking about what ways they could use it, too.

Painting the mural in the Childrens RoomThe first to dive in was our Children's Room librarians. The Children's Room is being repainted with a mural, and they saw that flickr would be a great way to share the progression of the painting - and by using a flickr "badge", they could also put these pictures right on a Children's Room webpage.

The biggest sticking point now is concern that patrons will be outraged if we post their photograph on the internet without first getting their permission. And this is legitimate, because although photos taken in public places are fair game, I wouldn't want to rely on a legal technicality. But I also think that it's not that big a deal - once people get used to it, there should be no problem (I hope).

So it's still slow going (slower than I'd like, anyway), but I am getting people on board. Perhaps soon we'll even find the $25/year to pay for a pro account, and really invest in this as a permanent tool.
flickr, libraries, library, library 2.0, patron photos, patron pictures, photos, pictures, public libraries, public library, publishing, web 2.0

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Librarians in the Digital Age

   March 2nd, 2007 Brian Herzog

Congratulations to Casey Bisson and Lichen Rancourt for their NHPR interview last night.

Lichen reviewed the interview, which ranged from why libraries need to provide better electronic access to their collections to Google's book project to what libraries and librarians should be like in the near future.

They also highlighted their Scriblio project, and how they are working with the Cook Memorial Library in Tamworth, NH, as a beta site. Part of the benefit of Scriblio is that it is a huge improvement over the typical and traditional library website - in fact, it turns the library's website into both an efficient tool for finding information and an information resource itself. Plus, using Web 2.0 standards, library websites become easier to update and maintain, and become interactive and responsive, as information flows freely from the library to the patron, from the patron to the library, and from the patron through the library to other patrons.

I got to thinking about why this is different than what's been going on. To me, the core library function is to provide access to information. In the past, that information has been in print (books, newspapers and magazines), but that no longer necessarily the case. In response, libraries need to adapt to provide access to all types of information in all types of formats, be it printed or electronic (especially since so much information today is native to the electronic world). But also, this information is not limited to just reference or fiction information you'd traditionally find in books - it also includes community information, such as events, as well as the transaction of information, between community members, of which the library is one. Communicating not only the information we house as an institution, but also facilitating communication within the community, is what the core library function now encompasses.

There's my little sermon for the day. Good thing there are people like Casey and Lichen to actually put some of this stuff into practice.

casey bisson, cook memorial library, libraries, library, library 2.0, lichen rancourt, nhpr, opac, opacs, scriblio, tamworth

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Promoting Patron 2.0

   January 23rd, 2007 Brian Herzog

Mashup Amazon and LibraryThing logos While my library is certainly not ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting Library 2.0 technology, were are definitely supportive of the curvature.

We have the makings of a blog, although we are far from taking full advantage of it. We provide reference service via Yahoo IM (but don't specifically promote our IM name). We're working on developing podcasts and a new books rss feed. When it comes to social software websites like flickr and MySpace, we offer workshops, but have yet to create and use a Library account. Thus far, we've kept much of this "in-house," by trying to grow our own website to display photographs and encourage interactivity.

See, we're trying.

But now I'm trying something new. Rather than just the Library using 2.0 technologies, I've created a Tech Tools webpage to encourage patrons to use some of these tools to improve the way they use the library - hence, Patron 2.0.

This is just the first pass, so please let me know of any tools I've missed, so this list can grow.
libraries, library, library 2.0, patron 2.0, social software, web 2.0

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The Ubiquitous Reference Model

   November 14th, 2006 Brian Herzog

I know the idea of "Ubiquitous Reference" has already been covered elsewhere, but I thought it was interesting. I first learned about it during Linda Braun’s session at NELA 2006, and have since done some reading about it on the internet. Here's what I've found:

Ubiquitous Reference actually refers to two ideas. The first of which is that libraries should be everywhere our patrons are. Usually this refers to creating our own profiles on popular (and useful) websites like MySpace and flickr, as well as having our own blog with rss feed. Also, this idea can be taken into the physical world, by setting up a library presence in coffee shops, bars, bookstores, etc - you know, where our patrons hang out when they're not in the library.

The great thing about this idea falls under the "if you build it, they will come" notion. If we're active on the internet (outside of our own websites), and talking about interesting things, people will find us. I've only been doing this blog for about a month, and I've already gotten hits (and questions) from people searching Google for bookprospector, as well as questions from people reading my comments on other peoples' blogs. Plus, just by being visible, we can get questions without even trying.

The second meaning of Ubiquitous Reference is even more proactive than that. Brian Mathews of Georgia Tech University developed a new model for doing reference, in which he not only set up shop in the virtual world, but actually monitored online conversations of Georgia Tech students. Then, any time one of them mentioned a specific keyword (article, assignment, book, help, journal, research, etc.), he would read their post, prepare an answer for them, and then contact that student with the answer.

Personally, I would have thought that such an approach would have freaked out the student, in a very Big Brother kind of way. But, Mathews found that students were receptive, and viewed him as an online equal. What's more, these initial encounters would often lead to the student saying something like "Thanks. You know, I'm also working on this other project…"

Now that's great. Granted, this would be a lot easier to implement in an academic library (targeting a student body) than it would in a public library, but I do still like the idea.

library 2.0, patrons, reference questions, service, Ubiquitous Reference

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