Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Social Software in Libraries

I just finished Meredith Farkas's Social Software in Libraries. I highly recommend this book to nearly everyone. I have been working with these programs for several months... actually longer, but I've only been conscious of them for the past few months. So even being pretty comfortable with most of them, I still had plenty of content to take notes about. But I think the histories and explanations at the beginning of each chapter make it ideal for librarians who are just starting the exploration of these wonderful tools. Whether you're a newbie or an experienced user of social software, the easy explanations can help you understand these yourself, and explain them to your patrons, administration, and faculty.

She is a very good writer and I found her explanations easy to understand. I also found her balance of different types of libraries fair, though I would have liked to know more about what academic libraries are doing with gaming.

The "software" covered in this book include blogs, RSS, wikis, online communities, social networking, social bookmarking & collaborative filtering, online reference, mobile revolution, podcasting, screencasting & vodcasting (videos), and gaming. There is also a chapter on "what is social software?" and tips on how to make things work for your particular library, keeping up, and future trends.

I don't want to copy all of the notes I took down since I think people should read the book themselves and this would end up being a very long post. However, I want to share some of the practical ideas I found in the book, or that the book inspired me to have.

  • Can place an RSS widget on the main Web site so that news from the blog will appear on the home page. You can also do this with social bookmarking to highlight good Web resources.
  • Other things to include in a blog: reader's advisory, highlighting books, database updates (Example), news, workshop supplements, suggested sites and sources, and marketing. Blogs for staff: news, reference knowledge, record of questions and answers, book club discussions, printer status, database access issues, policies, and articles others might be interested in.
  • Some libraries are turning most of their site into a blog format, or using blogs, wikis, or social bookmarking sites to create subject guides.
  • Encourage students to comment on the blog.
  • Use LibWorm to find blogs of interest.
  • See if Indigo offers RSS. We have our OPAC through TLC and are anxiously awaiting Indigo, their brand-new catalog currently in development that includes a lot of Web 2.0 features. But I don't know if RSS is one of them.
  • Can use RSS with job sites. I'm not looking for a job, but I could show practicum classes how to do this!
  • Some libraries are offering RSS feeds for news about your library account, though there are security issues with this.
  • Put RSS feeds in subject guides. Include the important journals or organizations' news.
  • RSS Mix and KickRSS allow you to mix RSS feeds.
  • Wikis are good for a group working on a collaborative project towards one specific goal, which is a little different from a blog which is better for an individual or small group who wants to disseminate information or start a dialog.
  • Create a Flickr account with pictures from past library events and put a sideshow widget under the News column on our Web site.
  • Build a presence in the places where patrons are.
  • Some bookmarking tools detect broken or redirected links. We could possibly use this to control our Web site sections of the Subject Links.
  • Two social bookmarking sites are designed specifically for academics and researchers: Connotea and CiteULike.
  • You can use social bookmark tags like "read_later" to mark things you want to come back to.
  • Can use LibraryThing for reader's advisory, and www.whatshouldireadnext.com.
  • Add a page on bottom of Subject Links for resources on social software.
  • Some libraries like the University of PA are creating their own social bookmarking sites.
  • Perhaps use some of this stuff with an RSS feed for a Hot Topics section with resources on current events.
  • Some public libraries have programs where they help students create podcasts and videos.
  • Audacity is the most popular free podcasting software. You can find copyright-free podcast music at www.music.podshow.com.
  • The Flash tutorials I created are "screencasts"... yeah!!!
  • You can record audio or video of speakers in the library and post them on the blog or Web site for people who couldn't make it.
  • Don't use the word "blog" on the Web site. It turns non-techies off and it's just the software, it's not descriptive of what it does.
  • Perhaps we could have circulation workers pass out bookmarks next fall that market the blog (but only if we have more frequent updates!)

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