There has been some buzz lately about the future of library websites. The Library Web Chic recently wrote a post in the subject that invites looking at the topic more closely. One of the questions to be answered, and this can apply to any website as well, is the idea of focusing on merely getting people to use the website as they use the physical library or if the site should be more about experience. This can be likened back to a physical space in a way, the beauty of the building or what waits for the patrons inside. Libraries used to be mainly spaces for books and learning, for people to come and sit and read or do research. It was a quiet place were people got their books, were shushed for making noise, and then when they were done, left. These days libraries offer programs for the whole family, they encourage people to come and stay and consider the library more of a social place. And it does seem to be slowly merging into that, even if it still primarily involves people on the computers close to each other.
The idea of the virtual as social on library websites is a relatively new one.Â Up until now there hasn’t been the proper technology and the idea of giving over any sort of control or freedom to the patrons to influence what was on the libraries virtual face was not one that would be well accepted. But now, with the push from Web 2.0 and social networking and software libraries are learning to innovate and to be more inclined to include these sorts of things. Libraries have all sorts of competition these days, from bookstores and the like, and so they’ve had to offer those programs to keep people coming and interested outside of just offering the latest James Patterson. Library websites have to do the same. Bokardo has a good short article on the idea of designing specifically for page hits (contrast that with circulation stats) or for user experience (program attendance) that is well worth a read. Offering programs and events as well as good customer service and a well developed collection adds value to communities. Online, allowing people to have their say, to be social and to see that the library isn’t some faceless place out of touch with the modern will hopefully do the same in the virtual arena.
Things have been quiet here, mostly because it has been crunch time the past month or so as the debut of the systems new website has drawn closer. Well, that time has finally come and I’m proud to unveil the redesign of our systems website. It is a big change from the old, rather unfriendly and garish, design we had for quite a time. But it wasn’t only a pleasing look and interface that we were going for but a modern approach that integrated Web 2.0 technology for the benefit of our customers. Please take a look at the Osceola Library System at http://www.osceolalibrary.org.
I am very much hoping this new website will far better serve our customers and allow them to feel they can truly connect with the library at any time and any place and also to let them know that we’re not just about books and shushing.Â More updates will come as time goes by.
In the upcoming website revamp one of the main concerns, outside of format and graphics, is bringing the library together on the website. The concept of a virtual branch is heavy in the air, the idea of ‘walking’ into the website and knowing where to go. Intuitiveness, in short. This can be a tricky concept, since no two users will go to the same place or even have the knowledge to find those places the first time. That is why making the navigation and the layout as open and friendly as possible, yet keeping a keen and contemporary look is so important.
However, perhaps even more than this is showing our users what we have. Even customers that come into our library on a frequent basis often don’t realize the myriad of programs and services that the library offers. It’s only on the off chance they pick up a flyer or see a poster on the wall, just that one time. But is usually only takes that one thing to get them hooked. This is where I hope Web 2.0 technology will lend a helping hand. Already we’re putting ourselves out there on Flickr and Librarything and both have done well for the limited uses we’re currently employing them for. But they can do so much more. Using a blog to promote events and allow users to comment on whats going on, to give their feedback on things, what they like and what they don’t. That is important to any business these days, feedback when and where the customer wants it. RSS to keep them updated, along with explinations on how to use it, since we can’t assume anymore, about anything. And things like Flickr to chronicle what has happened, changes in the library, the history in pictures instead of dry paragraphs. That is what brings the library to life.
It will take time of course, though setting up and using Web 2.0 utilities is a heck of a lot easier than writing CSS and XML, I can tell you that right now. I’m rambling by this point, yes, but this is important to create a virtual branch that is as interactive as a physical one. (And perhaps less intimidating too.)
I’ve been very bad lately, oh yes. It seems I’ve become one of those with high ideals who starts a blog about something and then abandons it. I haven’t meant to but the holidays and work were crazy and I have been so busy in the last few weeks that I haven’t had time to write anything at work or home. It’s unfortunate really as I’ve had lots of thoughts both from my library and from posts other librarian bloggers have recently done, most especially Jessamyn West and David Lee King. His Inviting Participation in Web 2.0 is looking to be very interesting. (I was one of the ones who posted in response to this article.) But really, I’m hoping to get back on the bandwagon here, with renewed fervor. Perhaps I should make it my resolution for the year.
I’ve had lots of ideas for implementing Web 2.0 and that sort of technology in my library system, though as of now there doesn’t seem to be to much support for what we’re trying to do. We’re in the very, almost painfully, slow process of setting up a public blog for our news, events, etc. At the moment we’re going to be using Blogger, though in the future I would like to possibly migrate to something like WordPress or the like. We’ve created a Flickr page which will hopefully let us take more pictures, are on MySpace for the teen events, and are using del.icio.us for reference. (This just happens to be my little pet project that I would really like to see go into action.) We’re also making use of LibraryThing for our book discussion groups. The circulation department, from what I’ve seen in the Web 2.0 classes we’re giving seem to be very interested and open to the idea of learning and using these new technologies and understand their potential to make their jobs a lot easier if the opportunity was given. (Now if we can only get admin to take the class too.) I’m hoping that this will be the drive to allow us to move forward.
Well, that’s all for now. I am going to try to post more, perhaps even if it is just my strange and sordid thoughts on the matter of technology in libraries. (Or the lack thereof. Yikes!)
For some reason I find this terribly funny.
What is a poor librarian to do?
I also thought I would post a link to Jessamyn West’s (from librarian.net) very neat presentation on Web 2.0. I was a little late in finding this but I liked it so much that I decided to share it with my fellow reference people here.
Doing More With Less – Sensible Library Technology
She also has a wonderful one on tech support, and who hasn’t bemoaned that its not our job to handle it when patron’s ‘break their yahoo’ which happens with a frequency I don’t like to admit.
On The Fly Tech Support
(Now) Teen Librarian M and I had our second session of our self developed Web 2.0 class for our library staff. This time most of those attending were from circulation, and some from the branches, which is always nice to see since we don’t get to really talk with them to much. The participants again ranged pretty well in age but I would hazard to say that the make up was slightly older this time, which is always interesting to investigate.
Things went slightly different this time and though in the first session we barely had enough time left to cover YouTube this go round we had enough time to actually go over everything we slated and had enough left over to mention a few new little fun things that I had found between then and now. (Including the very, very fun The Best Stuff in the World, which I discovered in a Best of the Best of Web 2.0 article on the totally awsome Software Development in the Real World site.) It seems perhaps we’ve found our groove and surprisingly enough the circulation staff had some very interesting insights for us as well.
One plan I’ve had ever since learning about it is using del.icio.us in our library to help empower the circulation staff who are still very shy about trying to answer reference questions, though they are supposed to be able to do so if a librarian is unavaliable. We have reference pods at our library and upon downloading Firefox (yay!) on the computers there the del.icio.us extension was added to offer immeadite access to reference links on the internet for anyone to use. This is quite pertinant since our websites link page is quite out of date and doesn’t look as if it’s going to change any time soon, despite our efforts. (But that’s another story.) I’ve also plans to do the same at the checkout pods to offer the circulation staff the same access as the librarians have. Hopefully this will help them and keep them from immeaditly running to Google. I’m planning to impliment this and from what I understand the assistant director is all for it. I hope for circulation feedback too, something I think they’ve never really had a chance to give concerning a project like this.
However, one of the circulation staff had a very interesting suggestion as well. She asked if it would ever be possible to install something like the del.icio.us button on the public internet computers we have so that patrons would know where to go for the sites they constantly come in looking for. I thought it was a very innovative idea and I think very viable if administration and IT were behind it. We’ll see just how far it ends up going though, as judging from our patrons and those who attend our public computer classes I’m not sure if our community is quite ready for that. However, I would love if eventually, after all the library staff is trained, to make the Web 2.0 class public to show our patrons just what is out there. One can certainly dream, anyway.
And in other, slightly related, news my proposed blog was approved so our library will finally have its own which I believe is an incrediably positive step in the right direction. Lets hope we take many more.
Our revamped 5 Year plan has just been given out to us, or at least the first draft of it though I doubt much will change between that and the final version, and finally something to be optomistic about. Finally finally finally we’re going to be embracing blogs and IM reference within the system. It’s almost hard for me to say just how excited that makes me after I’ve been pushing for quite awhile for it. I had a particular fervor after reading The Shifted Librarian’s article about Online Outreach for Patrons. There were so many things in that entry I had never even thought of and it allowed me to do more than I ever would have tried on my own. Adding us to Wikipedia, Wikimapia, utilizing Google Local and Craigslist were only a starting point.
Considering how many of our young patrons don’t seem to want to come into the library these days and the age old problem of people not wanting to walk up to a librarian and simply ask a question, it makes so much sense to meet the patron where they are. That seemed to be particularly true out of a part quote I picked up through David Warlick’s SLJ Summet Powerpoint cited from Vinod Khosla that ended with “…everything is clickable, even their parents.” I don’t think most libraries (read: library administration) realize this.
But I swear, one way or another we are going to drag this library into the 21st century. If not, what good will we be to our patrons who are living and breathing this day and age while we’re stuck in the past?
I thought I would drop a link to David Lee King’s post titled Making Time for Web. 2.0. A bit late on the draw, yes, but at the moment its what I’ve come up with. Considering the state and flux of libraries today this is particularly important if we want to be able to keep up with, not so much of the times, but our users, our patrons.
But isn’t that what libraries have always tried to do? We can only hope that we’ll be able to keep up this time.