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

Patrons Participating in Library 2.0

   November 27th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Historical photograph of house in North Chelmsford, MAI'm sure there are lots of little stories like this in the library bloggy world, but here's mine:

Earlier this year, my library uploaded to flickr a set of historical photographs taken around town in 1901. We thought it was a good way to make these library materials more accessible.

I just noticed a comment on one of the photographs. A patron recognized another patron's house, and forwarded him the link to our historical photograph. The second patron then uploaded a photograph of his house today to his flickr account, and linked the two together using comments.

That's great - that's exactly how libraries can enrich their collections and communities. We didn't really do anything, other than put our pictures out there (no real promotion or involvement after that). It was word-of-mouth between patrons that brought this about, and let the library be involved in their daily lives. Neat.

And for those looking for meaning in life: note the sign in the foreground of the "today" photograph.

flickr, libraries, library, library 2.0, library2.0, public libraries, public library

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Found in Jail Libraries

   November 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Portrait drawingThis is interesting: a flickr set of photographs of drawings and writings found in books in jails in Wisconsin.

I've never found such artwork in my library's books, but I have been keeping all the scraps of paper and other miscellaneous debris I find around the library. I've wanted to display them all somehow, because they are interesting, but I just haven't figured out how to do it. A flickr set might be the best way - look for that in an upcoming (but not immediate future) post.

This was found via BoingBoing.

altered books, art, artwork, book, books, flickr, graffiti, jail, jails, libraries, library, prison, prisons, vandalism

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Going Pro

   June 12th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Chelmsford Library's pro flickr accountMy library just took the extra step today of not only using Web 2.0 tools, but actually paying for them. We've been using a free flickr account for a little while, and just today bought a pro account.

But this wasn't a lightly-treated, "it's only $24.95," decision. No. Although the staff here who have been using flickr really like it (enough to max out the 3 set/200 photo limits of the free account), before we bought the pro account we evaluated other image gallery tools.

The others we reviewed were 4images, Coppermine, and Gallery Project. I found a handy Photo gallery comparison chart, which really supported the conclusions we came to: of the three, Gallery was the most consistent with our goals, but was too powerful (read: complicated) while not delivering everything flickr offers.

Flickr is easy, and is more than just a way to show off photographs. It is designed to share photographs, so they are easy for other people to find and comment on. That's what we were looking for - two-way interaction and participation.

The only real "con" against flickr is that it's a third-party service, and with them we lose the advantage of hosting our photo gallery on our server. We are now reliant upon them to be available and in business for as long as we are.

But, considering they just made an extra $24.95 today, I don't think we'll need to worry about their stability any time soon.

4images, Coppermine, flickr, gallery, Gallery Project, libraries, library, photo galleries, photo gallery, public libraries, public library

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Problems with Flickr’s Map

   May 15th, 2007 Brian Herzog

flickr screenshotWhen I upload photos to flickr, I always try to place them on the map, if appropriate. When I started a flickr account for my library, I noticed that there was a problem with the map.

I work at the library in the town of Chelmsford, MA, which is situated right next door to the city of Lowell, MA. Lowell is much bigger, and if it had a "metro area," Chelmsford would be a part of it.

However, after having lived her for a couple years, I know that the two communities are very different. High school rivalries, traffic problems - heck, I even hear Chelmsford library patrons complain about Lowell patrons and the Lowell library. Community loyalty here runs as deep as the Merrimack River.

So, I was sort of startled to see flickr claiming that all the photos mapped for the library's account (which were taken in Chelmsford) were listed by flickr as "Taken in Lowell, Massachusetts" (as circled in red in the photo above).

When placing photos on their map, flickr encourages you to place it as locally as possible. Because of that, I was surprised to see their local locations that inaccurate. I wrote to flickr, explaining the situation and asking if they could be more accurate with their map. Here's the response I received (from two different flickr support techs on the same day, two days after I sent my message):

Hi Brian,

We are aware that there are some locations that might be reflecting an adjacent city or town, or an incorrect place name. In some cases a place name might reflect a town name that is no longer in use. Flickr uses map data from Yahoo! which in turn is provided by third party providers (most online maps you see are sourced this way).

We are developing methods to allow you, the knowledgeable member, to be able to contribute to local adjustments. We don't have a particular date in mind when we would be able to offer this, but please understand it is something we hope to provide in the very near future.


Not exactly the "hi, we're flickr, and we can do anything" kind of response I was hoping for, but I do understand the issue. I guess I just have to hold on until this feature becomes available, and explain to our patrons why it looks like the Chelmsford Library is actually in the city next door.
chelmsford, chelmsford library, chelmsford ma, flickr, flickr map, lowell, lowell ma, ma, map, mapping, maps, mass, massachusetts

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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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CIL2007 Wednesday – Tech Freebies & Program Ideas

   April 19th, 2007 Brian Herzog

The last session of the day was called "Tech Freebies & Program Ideas," given by people from different libraries covering successes they've had with technology-related programs in their libraries.

The Princeton (NJ) Public Library puts a tremendous amount of resources into their Technology Training (which is a better phrase than "computer classes"). Their classes include both staff and patrons, and cover a varied of topics: Photoshop/GIMP, Blogger/Wordpress, Bloglines/Google Reader, social bookmarking, creating & hosting podcasts, digital scrapbooking, and more.

They also listed a few ways to keep up with emerging technologies (PC Magazine's Top 101 websites, SEOmoz's Web 2.0 awards, Filehippo, and Time's 50 Coolest websites), and some of the more interesting online tools:

After them, a team from another library showed a mobile animation setup they used (a Mac laptop, camera, and portable greenscreen designed to let teens create and edit their own stop-animation videos. Which was neat and interesting (actually, quite amazing), but since this was geared towards Macs, and teens, and it was the last session of the day, I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been.

AjaxWrite, cil 2007, cil2007, Cozi Central, eCalendar, EveryStockPhoto, flickr, GIMP, Google Calendar, Google Docs, libraries, library, LogMeIn, OneTrueMedia, online Text editors, princeton public library, public libraries, public library, TaDaLists, Tech Freebies & Program Ideas, Text editors

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