The Social Web and Libraries: Listening to your Community

Many of us work on listening to our user communities. In the library world, we listen at the reference desk and the circ desk. We hear about the library when we’re at the grocery store (and get asked questions, too :-) and at the local board meeting.

But how do you listen to your local digital community? How do you hear what your online customers are doing / saying / liking / or not liking about your library? Here are some possibilities, from the late 1990s – early 2000s. We’ll call these …

Traditional Listening Tools:

  • email: providing an email link and/or an email address on each page of the site, usually in the footer
  • An Ask Us page – can go to email, can also be the ask a librarian service point
  • a digital comment box (this was fancy back then!)

I’m calling them “traditional listening tools” because there are many more interesting ways to listen now. Check these out …

Shiny New Listening Tools:

  • Google Alerts – finds blog posts, newspaper articles, local media mentions, etc.
  • Technorati alerts – finds blog posts about you
  • Twitter searches (was Summize) – captures twitter conversations (more on Summize/twitter search in the next post)
  • Youtube alerts – do a search, then subscribe to the corresponding RSS feed.
  • Flickr alerts – subscribe to a tag related to your library
  • Subscribe to local blogs and local twitter feeds. This captures conversation in your community, by your patrons.

When you listen using both the Traditional Listening Tools and the Shiny New Listening Tools, you hear very different things. Traditional Listening Tools pick up specific conversation that is purposefully directed at you – via email. Someone has a question or comment, and sends that comment to you.

Shiny New Listening Tools help you discover actual conversations taking place. Those conversations are not necessarily directed at you – but they can certainly be about you. Listening in on Twitter, for example, might find things like this: “The comics section at the Seattle Public Library is f**king STUNNING.” (actual tweet from today). And this type of tweet is a golden opportunity to START a conversation. Let’s pretend this comment happened at the reference desk for a sec – how would you reply? Possibly with something like: “gee, thanks.” That’s a polite response… some of us would probably go one further, and say something like this: “Cool – thanks! So… WHY do you like it? How could we improve it?” This type of response continues a conversation, and pulls out useful info in the process.


Again, more on that in my next post… but you get the idea. When you’re eavesdropping on conversations, you have the opportunity to chime in – correct wrong info, add to conversations about the library, and generally help humanize your digital branch by “talking back.”

Wow David – That Sounds Time-Consuming!

Does all this listening take a long time? No – not really. The set-up (doing the searches and subscribing to the feeds) takes the longest amount of time. But once your feeds are set up, it really doesn’t take much time to quickly scan through the results, looking quickly for questions, praises, suggestions, and conversation.

Start participating with those customers using your digital branch. If you do this fully, your listening experience can be transformed from one of eavesdropping to what amounts to a shiny new service point for your library. One that’s called Community Manager in the corporate world.

Your customers are already talking – are you listening?


NEKLS Tech Day 2008: Michael Porter

NEKLS Tech Day 2008: Michael Porter

Michael Porter was the keynote speaker…

Michael’s favorite Pez is Astronaut B (mentioned during MP’s intro)

Title: Get Your Info Here? Gadgets, mobile access and library futures


Mentioned Webjunction’s new site, which is launching very soon – will include lots of social features

Mentioned online connections – most of his Libraryman cartoon images have come from other people who met MP online and offered up cartoons – pretty cool.

Internet use spawns gadget use…
Pew graph showed huge growth of wifi from 1995 to now (I think that’s right)

When it comes to gadgets… it should be enjoyable, like a spa for your brain

64gb usb flash drive – $5469.99 – October 2006!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
32 Gb drive in Sept 2007 – $679
less than one year later…
64 gb July 2008 – Feb $349

Gadget growth centers around…
decreased costs, increased computing power


  • increased energy efficiency and battery life

new methods of content creation
playing well with others
example – ILS systems

Google Android OS:

  • Google has made an operating system for cell phones
  • open source mobile technology – it will have access to more stuff (3g) for free

mp3 players –

  • we can now make useful audio files
  • MP’s beef with Apple – they don’t play well with libraries. Too bad, since most of our customers actually USE ipods!

Don’t forget: it’s just a computer…

mobile tech – a computer with CONVERGENCE


  • iRobot – cleans his floor
  • chumby – small computer that displays stuff like widgets – it has lots of fun apps – connects to wifi, has a twitter app, can play internet radio
  • BUG “the Lego of gadgets” (quote from CNET) – customizable gadget with different modules (ex – camera, keyboard, video output, etc) – cool quote: “we don’t define the final products – you do.” (I think the quote was taken from a BUG product page)
  • Microsoft Surface
  • Seitz – 160 mega pixel camera
  • PixelRoller – an art project – put in a photo, roll the paint roller on the wall… and it “paints” the picture
  • alarm clock that you can throw against the wall
  • A robot
  • chocolate gadgets…

Fashion and gadgets coming together:

  • ipod-controlling lederhosen!
  • hats and visors that do fun stuff
  • a dress that responds to what the wearer’s body is doing – if the heart-rate increases, the dress does different things
  • Nike/ipod excercise shoe thing

Other stuff:

  • RFID
  • Vocera – VOIP wireless communicator/reference tool with voice activation and interface
  • Vonage V Phone – plug in, dial, listen, talk. PLug it into a USB drive on a PC and you have a phone!
  • PSP, Nintendo DS, Wii
  • Erickson Sports – assisted living communities… they have an online community for Wii bowling – amazing videos of elderly people that are bowling
  • GPS
  • Sony mylo
  • Sony vaio ux

display evolution

  • KIndle – black and white
  • Fujitsu e-Book reader – solid display, doesn’t flicker
  • tiny LCD screens
  • iphone
  • flexible electronic paper
  • flexible screens
  • laser keyboards

content delivery evolution

  • vudu – watch movies on demand at home, so you don’t have to go to the video store
  • appleTV – getting a library of digital content that you own
  • direcTV Sat-Go – portable satellite system for video
  • Slingbox – sling connects to your home digital devices – MP can control his Tivo, watch movies from wherever he is – just needs a fast internet connection – even watch on his phone!

Gadgets aren’t just hardware – they’re also software

  • Atari 2600 – Michael grew up playing these games.. he has an emulator that runs on his computer, so he can still play those games – his software has become his hardware
  • facebook – different fun apps
  • Michael made a facebook app that gives out library gifts – he has over 4500 users!
  • The social graph app – pretty cool


consumption and production

Moore’s law still rules

software and gedgets push each other

less geek, more practical

Start having fun with it!

Ended with quirky usb devices – funny stuff!