Fun With our Meebo Widget and the Library Catalog

meebo in the catalogUpdate: I’m getting some questions on how we did this, so… We have a Horizon system – look for the searchinput.xsl page in your XSL folder. Then find the appropriate chunk of code where the “nothing found” message and table appears, and add the meebome widget there.

And if you have more questions, feel free to email me (davidleeking at gmail dot com) – and I’ll put you in touch with our Web Administrator.


I was reading Helene’s post about online chat, and remembered I had wanted to try something in my library’s catalog… and we just went live with it.

What did we do? We added a Meebo widget to unsuccessful keyword searches in our library catalog. This way, when a customer searches our catalog and doesn’t find anything, they can contact us via IM and ask for help (we also display our phone number if they want to call).

SO – should be interesting to see what we get from this (since we just turned it on maybe 15 minutes ago). If nothing else, it’s a solid attempt at “humanizing” the OPAC!


Actual Work Using Facebook

Just a small aside… but I’ve been doing real live work the last two days using facebook (go friend me – David Lee King at facebook)!

Michael Porter, my writing buddy, is to blame for some of it… :-) We write the Internet Spotlight column in Public Libraries Magazine together, and he posted a question to his facebook friends. The plan is to incorporate some of those responses, some he’d gotten via email, etc into a cool article [status: article almost done, and IS cool].

So part of the work was copying/pasting quotes and contacting the quotees to get job titles, etc. Whew!

But that has spawned a whole host of facebook emailing back and forth, getting new information, thinking “out loud” via facebook email about library innovation in other areas, and even making a few new facebook friends.

So – real live library work in facebook. It can be done! Anyone else want to pony up? How do you use facebook to do actual work (or do you?).

Wanting Your Opinions about Blog Comments and City Attorneys

A new Facebook friend just asked me a question, and I thought I’d share it with y’all – in hopes of garnering him some more input, or “ammunition” if you will…

Here’s the deal:

“Maybe you can answer a question that our City attorney needs clarified?
She seems to think that if we [a public library] have a blog we can’t restrict commenting
(at all) because it’s a public forum (the City recently even got rid of
the Mayor’s bulletin board because of this). From my own Internet
research it seems that this is the case from a legal standpoint. How
are other libraries dealing with this? If this is the case it seems
that it’s only a matter of time before some library gets sued over this.”

you know of any libraries getting sued for removing comments, or where
to find any pro blog justification for libraries from a legal
standpoint? Blogging is obviously a good thing for a library to do, but
the City is deathly afraid of lawsuits… Even the chance of a lawsuit
and they won’t go out on a limb to disrupt the homeostasis. My
municipality is very conservative in this regard.”

As an aside – good the for the city attorney for recognizing blog comments as a form of public forum (because it is).

Now, obviously I’m no lawyer, but I told my fine facebook friend that as long as the library has a policy in place that covers how the library handles comments, they should be covered (certainly anyone CAN sue… but probably not successfully?). And that policy is probably already there in some form of patron behavior clause.

And – I’m pretty certain there are some libraries that really DON”T remove comments – they show the bad AND the good, and just filter a short list of “naughty” words. So that might meet the city attorney’s requirement, too.

So… what do you think? How does your library handle website/blog/myspace/facebook/youtube/etc comments? Do you moderate? Do you block words? Do you remove the nasty comments altogether? And do you have a policy or guideline in place for commenting?

How to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey (way off-topic)

This Thanksgiving, I have the honors of carving “The Bird” (a 21 pounder, to be exact – we’ve got like 28 people descending upon us tomorrow!). Unfortunately, I have no idea how to do this. Really! I mean, I’ve certainly tackled turkeys before… but my handiwork usually ends up resembling more of a hack-fest than something that would sit on Martha Stewart’s table.

So I thought to myself “hmm, self. I wonder if there are any helpful turkey tips out there in web 2.0 land?” And guess what??!?!!?? There are. Since you might also be as thanksgiving-turkey-carving challenged as me, I thought I’d pass along the tasty turkey tutorials to you, too:

“But wait, David! I’m a visual learner – what about me?” OK – how’s about some YouTube videos?

And finally, I leave you with It’s JerryTime – The Gobbler. Everyone (in the US anyway) – enjoy Thanksgiving!

Ignoring our Digital Community

Lately, I’ve been hearing librarians say some interesting things about incorporating emerging online trends into their already hectic work lives. They’ll say “wow, this is cool” when I give a presentation – but when implementation time arrives – when these busy people actually need to start incorporating some of these new things into their work day, here’s what I sometimes hear (warning – simulations of real stuff I hear):

“we don’t have time to write blog posts – we’re busy serving customers” or “I’m extremely busy answering real patron questions all day long, so I don’t have time left to [fill in the blank with a 2.0 tool]”

I understand what they’re saying. It’s difficult to believe this new-fangled, 2.0-ish stuff is relevant when you are sitting at a busy service desk with a line 20 people deep, or when you have waiting lists for computer use. Library 2.0 is about building community? Visit a public library branch any day to see community building in action. Attend a program, join the bookclub, participate in an adult literacy or ESL program as a volunteer tutor or learner. That’s community building. Sometimes, emerging 2.0 tools and services seem to get in the way of all this busy, real-time activity already taking place.

Ok, wait a sec. This is davidleeking dot com we’re reading, right?

Yep… I see a small problem in the stuff I just said. Most of our library communities have a quickly-growing number of library customers that are actively participating in the emerging web – they are already creating content, participating, and interacting – with each other and with the companies and products they use. They are your library’s digital community.

The problem? We don’t have anything for our library’s digital community to do! OCLC‘s recent report, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World says this about our physical libraries: “Offline, libraries are vibrant social spaces. They are hubs of community activities and provide a venue for open exchange and dialogue” (8-5). But online? How many libraries can say they provide “vibrant social spaces,” hubs of community activity” or “a venue for open exchange and dialogue” in our digital spaces? Not too many.

Why is this? I think we’re simply not focusing on that growing digital community. Yes, we ARE focusing on customers (that’s a good thing)… but many of us are only focusing on our library’s regular in-house customers (that’s a bad thing). It’s quite possible that by focusing primarily on library customers who visit the physical library, we are ignoring our growing digital population.

Let me use my library as an example. We certainly get our fair share of traditional walk-in customers – our parking lot is ALWAYS FULL. But we also have a huge number of digital customers. Remember what we do with holds? We mail them out – you never have to physically visit our library to check out a book (cool, huh?).

Those items our customers are putting on hold come from our digital community – most likely customers who used our online library catalog from home or work. That’s just one example of living, breathing members of our digital community using our digital library. And they are a growing digital community. What else do we offer them? Thankfully in my library’s case, quite a lot currently (with more to come next year).

Let’s develop this a little further by perusing OCLC’s report a little more. OCLC provides some amazing insight into our growing digital communities:

  • “The vast majority (89%) of the 6,163 general public respondents have been using the Internet for four years or more” (page 7-1) [update – Michelle reminded me that OCLC surveyed online users… the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research shows that 73% of the US are Internet users, for what it’s worth)
  • “The majority of the online population surveyed have moved from “digital immigrant” status to fully naturalized digital citizens. Nearly two-thirds of the general public respondents over the age of 50 have been online for seven years or more, and nearly a third have been using the Internet for more than 10 years” (page 7-1)
  • “The Web community has migrated from using the Internet to building it.” (7-1)

Did you hear that? Most A majority of our library customers have used the web for at least 4 years. And most of those customers (read the report for the stats) have grown beyond simple clicking and surfing… they are interacting, creating, and participating… at other websites.

The gist of the report is this – the web has moved on, and libraries need to catch up. “To entice users to the online library, libraries must expand their social activities, allowing users to easily share and create content and collaborate with others. They must build a high-value presence on the Web, a strong enough brand to compete…” (8-5).

First steps? Stop ignoring your library’s rapidly-growing digital community. They might not be current users of your physical library – how can you reach them? What do you have to offer them? Can you offer them something that would keep them coming back for more?

I think so.