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

With Friends Like These

   November 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

flickr friends screenshotIf you haven't already, read David Lee King's post about Web 2.0 and friending. It might be hard to swallow at first, but he's absolutely right.

His main point:

When your organization decides, say, to create a Facebook page … who are you trying to connect with? Me? I don’t live in your neighborhood. Another library on the other side of the world? They’re not going to use your services.

He's right in that libraries aren't implementing Library 2.0 tools to connect with other libraries - we need to focus on connecting with our patrons. Any library service (be it a newsletter, a storytime, a flickr collection, or an rss feed) should be directed to the patrons. Those are the people (we hope) who will benefit from it.

Friending other libraries is safe and tempting, but is slightly counterproductive (we don't want it to look like these are library-only tools). But I also agree with David (and commenters) in that it's important to connect with other librarians professionally, and to keep up with what other libraries are doing - there are a lot of good ideas out there that we can adapt for our own libraries.

Hmm. I'm guilty of this myself, but I'm going to keep in mind moving forward.

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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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LibCamp Boston Recap

   July 31st, 2007 Brian Herzog

LibCamp BostonJust a few quick (overdue) notes about the LibCamp Boston unconference last weekend at BPL.

There were nine area school and public librarians in attendance, sharing our knowledge and experience on what's being done with Web 2.0 tools, and what we'd like to do. It was a very casual and free-flowing discussion, so we also spent some time talking about general library topics, too, and played DDR [?].

For more links provided by Beth Galloway during the discussion, check out http://libcamp.pbwiki.com/sessions (and check out some pictures, too).


  • ALA recently has a Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium
  • DDR and Guitar Hero can be used in libraries as a program for all ages to come in and play together. It is also good exercise, which studies have linked to an improvement in homework scores in kids
  • DDR can also be considered "web 2.0" since it allows content creation - players can record their own dances, and which others can then dance
  • Ann Arbor District Library has a regional DDR tournament, which they are planning on turning into an open national competition

WiFi Printing in the Library

  • A problem is that people using the library's wireless connection are not easily connected to the library's printer
  • One idea was to have a cheap deskjet printer available, with quick links on the library's website for wireless users to download and install the printer driver
  • Another suggestion is to get listed with the PrintMe.com network (only available in certain states

Floppy Disks, CDs & Flash Drives

  • Libraries trying to move away from 3-1/2" floppy disks, because they are out-dated and unreliable
  • Ideas are to sell or loan flash drives (when loaning, patron could leave library card, drivers license, or their shoe at the desk)
  • Another idea for flash drives is to use them to circulate software, instead of installing programs on every computer (a list of applications that run off of flash drives, found via LibrarianInBlack)

Loaning Laptops

  • Some libraries were looking at getting away from public desktop computers entirely, and going to all laptops that will be loaned from the desk
  • This would require less dedicated floor space, and likely would me more comfortable to use in general

Blogs in Librarys

  • Most libraries represented had them, but in a variety of forms
  • http://librarygoddesses.blogspot.com is an example of a collaborative professional readers advisory blog, open to both librarians and patrons
  • http://www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/blog is an example of a library blog for its patrons
  • The Newburyport (MA) Public Library has a staff blog, to keep staff up to date on library happenings. They are also working on a staff wiki for their reference desk
  • We also talked about the appropriateness of libraries having a presence on MySpace and Facebook - some thought that since the point of these online communities is to meet and communicate with friends, any library presence would likewise need to be active and involved, not just a billboard
  • Videoblogs were also discussed, such as Steve Garfield's vblog (and his mom's video series, I can't Open It)

Meebo v. Email

  • We continue to hear reports that IM has killed email (let me know what you think)
  • A few libraries are including the MeeboMe widget on their websites to allow chatting with a librarian; some libraries don't allow any kind of IM on public computers

Uses for Flickr

  • Flickr is great for sharing event photos, but can also be used for collections and showcases
  • The Seekonk PL has a Teen Area worth showing off
  • The Chelmsford (MA) Library has a set on flickr of historical photographs, and also a photo series of a mural being painted in the Children's Room
  • Flickr is also a great way to archive photos of what the library looks like, what past book displays have looked like, etc.
  • Flickr's map feature also has potential for making a community-based project, by photo-documenting local landmarks or businesses to make an online virtual tour


  • What is Twitter?: a service to which people send short (140 characters) updates on what they're doing right now. Accessible by computer, cell phones, and other wireless devices
  • Why would someone do this?: to update your friends on where you are and what you're doing, and by signing up for someone else's feed, you can see what they're doing
  • Why else?: other uses could be to keep a list for yourself of things you don't want to forget, or to communicate with a group of people
  • Can library's use this?: some ideas are to list answers to reference questions, or send out event reminders

Second Life

  • Second Life is an online game/community, so does a library have a role?
  • There is a library there, which answers mostly information & referral questions about the game itself (how to build something, where to find things, etc). They also have ebooks. This seems appropriate, since these volunteer librarians are serving the needs of this community
  • It might not be appropriate for individual libraries, as staff would be serving non-local patrons almost exclusively
  • Another role for a library in Second Life is to assist players in accuracy: such as if someone builds a replica of the Globe Theatre and make a recorded tour. This would be content developed within the game that someone could experience without having to see the real thing

Using del.icio.us

  • Web resources bookmarked in del.icio.us are accessible from any computer and browser, not just where they were originally bookmarked
  • They can be made public or private
  • They can be sent to people (by using the tag for:[del.icio.us-username])
  • They can also be used for a Library Subject Guide

boston, lib2.0, libcamp, libcamp boston, libraries, library, library 2.0, library camp, library camp boston, library2.0, public libraries, public library

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How Others See Us

   June 14th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Michael GormanYesterday, a few major libraryland blogs talked about Michael Gorman's outlook on the state of Web 2.0, as posted on Encyclopedia Britannica's blog. Since I agree with most of what they said, I won't post my own comments here. But what I do want to say is this:

I wasn't really surprised to see this much activity by library-related bloggers. This is what we do for a living, so when the former President of the American Library Association makes some narrow-minded comments that are counter to the direction of the field, it make sense that we'd whip up our own little tempest.

However, when someone outside our teapot, in a forum as large as Boing Boing, also takes note of him, I start to feel ashamed. To offend a bunch of librarians is one thing; to make librarianship look bad (by poo-pooing the very tools we and our patrons are using to organize and access information) to the rest of the world is entirely different.

gorman, librarianship, libraries, library, library 2.0, library2.0, michael gorman, web 2.0, web2.0

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How Thin is Your Library?

   May 31st, 2007 Brian Herzog

I've thought of a new phrase that is quickly becoming my professional goal - I call it the "Thin Library."

By "Thin Library," I'm referring to libraries (and more specifically, library websites) that don't trap patrons in dead ends, nor require tremendous skill or experience to use. I think the old model for websites (or the business model) is to keep people on your website as long as possible. But libraries are just the opposite - we want a website through which patrons and information very easily pass on their way to finding each other.

Most people don't come to libraries just to interact with a library; they come here to find something. And since libraries don't actually create anything, our role becomes that of a conduit, and knowledgeable guide, to help connect patrons with the information they need. To best help the patron, we need to perform this function as seamlessly as possible.

My example for this is a third-party vendor (we pay for their content, but this is not a commercial). The company is called BookLetters, and they provide loads of readers advisory information - lists of best sellers, award winners, new publications, genre lists, book reviews, etc.

I prefer BookLetters to similar providers because they allow libraries to offer this information to their patrons by email, rss feeds, or, what caught my eye, integrated right into our website.

The Reading Room section of our website is designed around this service (any link that launches a window is a BookLetters page), and has gotten pretty good response from patrons. BookLetters lets us wrap their content in our website design, so unless savvy patrons are paying attention, they'd never know they've left our website.

And really, they don't need to know that. Patrons don't care where a book list or review is coming from, they just want it. If we can funnel it to them (or them to it), then all the better. Our goal should be reducing to an absolute minimum the number of steps it takes to get from a patron in need to a satisfied patron.

Library 2.0 tools offer this - a flickr badge or the LibraryThing for Libraries widget can be embedded right into a library's website. These tools let us pull together information from the wider world (where our patrons live) and put it all in one place (where, hopefully, are patrons are coming for information). I wish more traditional vendors would get on board with this concept. Federated searching is nice in that it eliminates a separate link and login for every database a patron might need to search. But beyond that, I'm trying to refine my own approach to how we offer services, so the library can be a portal to information and not a barrier to it.

bookletters, libraries, library, library 2.0, library2.0, public libraries, public library, thin libraries, thin library

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