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


Pinterest is the New Black

   March 21st, 2012 Brian Herzog

Pinterest logoIt's funny how rapidly new web tools are developed and adopted - I've only been hearing about Pinterest for the last couple months, but already it seems to have spread far and wide in libraries.

For those who don't know (like me until yesterday), Pinterest is visual social bookmarking. It's similar to Delicious*, in that you create a set of bookmarks to interesting things online to basically create a curated web directory - but it has images, so it's extremely visual and engaging. Libraries love curated directories (or pathfinders, or bibliographies, or whatever), and I think people respond better to pictures than text (witness the Online Newsstand) - so of course this is something to look into.

I just created an test account and started playing yesterday. I think I get the jist, but I'm also sure there's more to it. For libraries, the obvious use is creating virtual bookshelves - staff picks, best sellers, series books, If You Liked... lists, etc. - with the nice book covers linking back into the catalog.

However, this proved to be more of a pain to accomplish than I would have expected. Because Pinterest focuses on images and videos, if there isn't a big image on the webpage, it can't easily be pinned. This is the case for our catalog - the cover images shown are often smaller than 100 x 100 pixels, which is too small for Pinterest to pick up (using their bookmarklet button).

So, the manual workaround is to pin the image you want (our catalog does link to a bigger version of the cover, so at least that's easy to get to), view the pin, click the Edit button, then paste in the URL for that book in your catalog - and then you've got it. Not prohibitive, but it does take a little extra effort.

And that's just one way to use Pinterest - there are plenty of other examples of things to do:

  • Brookline (MA) Library on Pinterest
  • Walker Memorial (Westbrook, ME) Library on Pinterest
  • David Lee King on how the Topeka (KS) Library is using Pinterest
  • A Tame The Web post giving a nice overview of Pinterest
  • Onlinecolleges.net with a great list of library examples and ideas for Pinterest
  • Something we're going to use it for is to pin videos of library programs: our local cable station records many of our programs, then posts them on their website. The tool they use doesn't have a nice "embed" feature (like YouTube or other sites), so getting them into our website has always been slightly difficult - I think Pinterest will make this much easier
  • And don't forget the social nature of Pinterest - it also let you create little "Pin It" buttons to put on your website, to make it easy for other Pinterest users to pin your library's content (go to About > Pin It Button, and scroll to the Pin It Button for Web Sites section). Doing this for every item in the catalog isn't realistic, but it's worth considering for featured content

Also great is the Pin It bookmarklet I mentioned above - using this lets multiple computers (meaning, any staff or desk computer) pin website on the fly, so staff can easily add pins to your account whenever they stumble across something they'd like to share with patrons. To find it, click About > Pin It Button.

Something to always keep in mind is that Pinterest lets you use other peoples' images and videos in ways that might not be entirely consistent with copyright laws. So before you start pinning away, check out Pinterest, Copyright and the Library and How to Use Pinterest Without Breaking the Law.

And like with most tools, the more you play with it, the ways you'll come up with to use it - so have fun and be creative. However, standard social media rules apply: there's no guarantee this tool will be there tomorrow, so be sure the library can degrade gracefully if the service changes or goes away.

 


*More on Delicious, and also: it looks like Delicious is getting visual, too.



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Automate the Internet with If This Then That

   November 10th, 2011 Brian Herzog

ifttt logo - Put the internet to work for youThis has been in my "to blog" folder for awhile. I haven't gotten a chance to use it yet, but wanted to share it because I think it's neat.

The website http://ifttt.com, which stands for "If This Then That," allows you to makes things happen online as a result of something else happening. The If/Then is a reference to logical causality, and in this case basically means,"if this one thing happens on the internet, then do this other thing automatically."

They explain it very well on their "About" page (I put "About" in quotes because their actual URL made me laugh and is so much better than "/about").

Anyway, there already are some tools that offer consequence-action services (like Google Alerts, getting an email if someone comments on your flickr photos, using Twitterfeed to automatically tweet blog posts, etc). But this one seems the most versatile, because it isn't service-dependent, it does more than just notifications, and it lets you manage all your notifications from one service.

I'm hoping to use it to automate some of what the library does online (as seen in our Online Marketing Flowchart). There are lots of triggers and actions available, and it seems limited only by your imagination. But of course, like with any online tool, the more you use it, the bigger impact you'll feel if it suddenly goes away - which never stopped me before.

Also, like LibraryElf, this is a tool I think patrons can use on an individual basis - I say this because it offers notifications by text, phone, and email, and triggers can be calendar events, feeds, and more.



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On Google+ and the Role of Social Networks

   July 5th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Last week I received an invitation to join Google+ (Google's version of Facebook). I don't use Facebook and don't entirely trust Google so I won't be creating an account, but it did get me wondering: does the internet need another Facebook?

Usually when I'm online, I'm looking for an answer to a question or a solution to a problem. To visualize that process, and hopefully provide some context for a new social network, I came up with this Venn diagram that identifies the available various pools of people...

Venn Diagram for finding answers online

Based on this, it seems like Google+'s goal would be to make the green circle bigger - but I don't think that's what happens. Closed networks, like Facebook and (I presume) Google+, at best only make their portion of the green circle bigger, but often don't even make it into the green circle at all*. This can actually make it harder to find answers, as homopholy might keep us using the most convenient resource, instead of the most appropriate one.

The important thing to remember is not to rely on one tool for everything - closed-loop social networks are good for keeping in touch with friends, but open forums like Ask Metafilter, Ask Slashdot, or Quora are better for non-social answers (but okay for those, too).

So with that, the question is: is Google+ a better way to keep in touch with friends? It seems like the answer would be "no" if the critical mass of your friends are already on Facebook (and unlikely to switch, or unlikely to maintain both). But from initial reviews (also this), it sounds like Google+ has some cool ideas, so its real impact might be gauged by how quickly Facebook adopts the best features.

And the next question is: have any libraries started using Google+ to connect with their patrons?

 


*Note that one of the qualifiers is "people who know what they're talking about" - a social network might make it easier for me to get my question out to people I know, but it doesn't help if no one I know knows the answer to my question (which might just indicate that I socialize with the wrong people).



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Delicious Has A New Home

   May 3rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Delicious+AVOSBig news - Delicious has been sold, and the new owners sound great.

This announcement came last week (along with an email to every Delicious user), but it hasn't made much of a splash. I've seen a few posts in the library world, but I am surprised* it hasn't been bigger news.

Press releases about the transition were released by both Delicious and the new owners, AVOS (the guys who founded of YouTube), and the future does sound promising: AVOS is apparently hiring staff, plans to work with the Delicious community, and intends to develop new features. Pretty significant for a product that hasn't changed in years.

Delicious users have until July 2011 to opt-in to transitioning to the new platform. I did it this weekend, and it's quick and easy - just log in, verify your details (and at least skim the new terms of service and privacy policy), and you're set.

Here's the message that displays when you begin the transition:

Delicious is moving to a new home

Yahoo! is excited to announce that Delicious has been acquired by the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. As creators of the largest online video platform, they have firsthand experience enabling millions of users to share their experiences with the world. Delicious will become part of their new Internet company, AVOS.

To continue using Delicious, you must agree to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks to AVOS.

Reasons to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks

As soon as you let Yahoo! move your Delicious account, you will:

  • Enjoy uninterrupted use of Delicious.
  • Keep your Delicious account and all your bookmarks.
  • Keep the same look and feel of Delicious as you have today, and enjoy future innovations for the product.

It's easy to have Yahoo! move your account to AVOS. When you do, you will be subject to the AVOS terms of service and privacy policy.

What happens if you do not move your bookmarks?

  • Delicious in its current form will be available until approximately July 2011.
  • After that, you will no longer be able to use your existing Delicious account and will not have access to your existing bookmarks or account information.

Learn more >>

I, for one, am happy about this announcement - yay for not having to rework the library's subject guides.

 


*This surprises me because, of all the online tools out there, Delicious seems tailor-made for librarians. Even discounting the social part, bookmarking sites like this are exactly what librarians have been striving to do since the internet was invented - catalog it. Delicious (and similar sites) not only lets us catalog websites how we see fit, but also allows the power of critical mass to categorize every website. It seems like library schools across the land should have an entire course dedicated to Delicious (and social bookmarking).



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Reference Question of the Week – 10/31/10

   November 6th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Do you ever wonder how I spend my Saturday nights? Why, advocating library services, of course - here's a Twitter conversation that occurred last weekend about 10pm (read from the bottom up):

Twitter conversation

The two points I'd like to make about this are:

  1. Libraries provide free and legal access to things patrons might otherwise "improvise" access* to. But that is only marginally helpful because...
  2. ...the target audience for many library services don't always (or ever) think of the library as a source. So how do we promote ourselves to bring patron and service together? That is frustrating.

I felt pretty good after this exchange, and the patron was happy to not violate copyright to get the content he wanted. Until now I've been pretty passive about this, but perhaps it's time to more deliberate about engaging in "social reference."

Incidentally: I saw his tweet because I have a Twitter search rss feed for the word "library" in any tweet within 10 miles of Chelmsford. That picks up people outside of town, but we get a lot of non-residents in my library, so it all evens out. Besides, on the internet, all reference is local.

 


*I get daily traffic to my website from Google searches such as "overdrive media hacks," so people are definitely looking to improvise.



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Secret Social Networking

   May 4th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Seen in this week's Post Secrets:

Post Secret - Library Receipts

I've thought there was an unusually large number of checkout receipts left in books, and maybe this is why. Although I usually keep the things I find around the library, checkout receipts are one thing I always throw away.

But what if we did offer some sort of in-book messaging? Maybe a sticker with a link to the library's record of the book on LibraryThing or Goodreads, telling people they could discuss it there and meet other people who liked it. Or better yet, remind them to write a review in the library's catalog, along with an opt-in social feature (I wish we had that functionality, but maybe soon).



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