Too Much Information

We all know that there are a lot of web 2.0 tools out there. Some, like Twitter, fill a specific niche market. (Seriously, it may be fun, but how many people really NEED a microblog?) Others tools, such as Flickr, have a more widespread appeal that is easy to identify.

At the Library 2.0 Summit, Amanda discussed the issue of multiple information streams and the rise of personal information aggregators to help manage the seemingly endless flow of data. As I thought about this, I started wondering just how many personal information streams we actually need. Do people really need MySpace AND Facebook? Flickr AND Picasa? Twitter AND Tumblr?
Perhaps the analogy here is that of flathead vs. phillips vs. hex screwdrivers. I can accept the fact that people need different tools to do specific jobs. If two similar web 2.0 tools have some key differences in core functionality, then perhaps it makes sense to use both of them. But if you don’t have to, why would you assemble something using flathead, phillips, and hex screws? Most people simply wouldn’t. Pick one type and go to work!

With the increasing number of Web 2.0 tools, people are exploring more and more avenues for communication, but this had led to a situation in which people sometimes have too much incoming and outgoing data. Just trying to manage their own information is already time-consuming. But trying to follow the information streams generated by friends and colleagues takes it to another level.

Some people are now turning turning to various aggregators as a way to consolidate information. An obvious example is Meebo. For those who NEED to have AIM, Yahoo, MSN, and Google Talk, ICQ, and Jabber chat accounts, Meebo bring them all together in one interface. Friendfeed offers an alternative for bringing together more diverse types of social networking tools.

While these are interesting tools, it seems that they are treating the symptoms rather than addressing the root causes of the problem. I think we’re now at the point where we have so much information available that we can’t decide which is the most important. We subscribe to multiple information sources because we don’t want to miss out on something important.. The end result though, is that we have so many information sources that we can’t thorougly digest any of them. As a result, we probably wind up missing out on many important things anyway.

Multitasking is not always a good thing.

Monolithic Websites?

In her opening keynote, Sarah Houghton-Jan referred to monolithic library websites. It’s easy to think of some library buildings as monolithic structures – massive, sprawling, cavernous creations that patrons find both intimidating and unnavigable. Are we now creating websites that patrons find just as intimidating and just as unnavigable?

Libraries try to offer more and better services, but are these services that patrons need or want? I’ve seen some library websites that offer a staggering array of services splashed seemingly haphazardly across the screen and ultimately resembling a myspace nightmare with every possible plug-in and add-on known to humankind. In trying to reach out to patrons, do these monstrosities actually push them away?

In some cases, too much information can be just as bad as too little. If a monolithic website frightens patrons away, then there is a problem. In some cases less truly is more.

Managing Personal Information Pt. 2

Managing (and protecting) personal information is still a concern for some people. Depending one how much information you include, people may still be able to find you even when you think you’re protecting your anonymity.

From registration surveys, meeting participants are using all of the following and more:

Facebook

MySpace

Del.icio.us

Twitter

FriendFeed

Flcikr

YouTube

Meebo

Blogspot

WordPress

Wikis

Blogger

Bloglines

LibraryThing

SecondLife

LinkedIn

PBWiki

Ning

Shelfari

43 Things

Metaxucafe

LiveJournal

RSS Feeds


With so many tools, how do you manage the personal information? Aggregators?

Managing Your Identity in Social Networks

Struggle between managing information flow and maintaining identity.


What do they (patrons) want from me? Creating identity on social networks.


Social networks do not allow you to be passive participants. They demand information about you. If you don’t provide information and develop an identity, you’re not fully participating.


Users will not engage me and ask me for information if they think I’m a poser.


Where do WE (as libraries) go from here? Managing OUR IDENTITIES in social networks.


Developmental challenges – Creating identities; Managing information


Who you are in real life can be a reflection of who you are online or vice versa, but you can choose to forge a new identity online.

Birds of a Feather Lunch – Twitter

As if blogs weren’t enough, now we have to deal with micro-blogs, too? So . . . really tiny, short blog messages . . . what can we do with that?

A very small library with limited tech support staff could use an embedded wiki as a quick and easy way for librarians to post quick announcements to the website. Departments might use Twitter to share urgent internal announcements quickly. Other possible avenues for sharing content with patrons.

Flickr

Most people have seen the photo sharing site, Flickr. Many libraries are using Flickr as another PR tool to attract users. Flickr can be used to show past library events and speakers, and it can also be used to showcase teaser material.

As with other Web 2.0 tools, community participation can be a key part of the experience. Allowing users to tag and comment on photos makes it a participatory experience instead of just a click-through.

Special collections can be highlighted with teaser content that leads users back to the main website for the full digital collection.

Libraries can connect with other libraries who may have related collections. This connection helps point patrons to additional content.

Sarah’s 15 Steps to a Better Web Presences – #11-15

#11 Help Your Catalog
Open Source – Koha, Evergreen, Scriblio

Can’t change ILS?

Aquabrowser, LibraryThing for Libraries


#12 Be Present in Social Networks

Be present, be real, be reliable and continuously new

Sound like a person talking, not an institution.


#13 Explore EngagedPatrons.org

Free low costs web services for librarians.


#14 Keep Everything Current

Keep things continually new and interesting


#15 Re-evaluation

Survey users and staff 6 months into the pilot

How much staff time is being used?

How much is the service being accessed?

Has adequate marketing been done yet?

What would you change?

Sarah’s 15 Steps to a Better Web Presences – #6-10

#6 – Make Dynamic Lists
So long to the .DOC/.PDF books lists
Use blogs or wikis
Recommended movies, music, and books
Encourage full staff participation
Use an entry template, tags, categories
Welcome customer comments!

#7 Give Your Library a Face

Flickr and other photo sharing sites show what the library is really about.

Library’s interior and exterior (photo tour)

New services and resources

Flickr – Do more with your Photos Page

Flickr badges and slideshows

MOO: calling cards, sticker books, note cards

HP: posters, books, photo cubes

Qoop: calanders, keychains, back-up discs

Zazzle: shirts, bags, mousepads, mugs


#8 Provide Podcasting

People who can talk and/or sing

Digital microphone (free or low-cost)

Audacity (free)

a Blogger blog (free)

Everyzing ($): turns audio and video files into text

Odiogo (free): turns text into audio files, create a “listen” button for blogs

Ideas for podcasts – University of Sheffield has excellent tours

Cornell University Library – recorded events


#9 Provide Video Content

Videocasting

People who aren’t camera-shy

Digital video camera

Avidemux editing software (free)

A Blogger blog (free)


#10 Exploit the Blog as a Format

You don’t always have to call it a blog – not all users will know the term. Use terminology where appropriate.

Encourage comments.

Reuse content across blogs, social networks

Repeat important posts over time

WordPress and Blogger (Free, Easy, Feature-Rich)

Sarah’s 15 Steps to a Better Web Presences – #1-5

#1 Advocate to Your Leadership
Why is the eBranch important?
Libraries are the digital centers of their computers.
A library without a substantial digital face positions itself for future lack of support.

#2 A (Wo)Man, A Plan, a . . . Library?
In developing technology plans, follow your hierarchy of needs.
Plan no more than 3 years out. Technology plans trying to forecast 5-10 years out are essentially futile efforts.

#3 How to Implement New Technology
EVERYTHING (short of an ILS) can be a pilot project.

#4 Talk with Your Customers
Instant messaging
MeeboMe widget
Trillian Astra Widget
Text Messaging
Voice over IP
Video Chat

Answer any and all questions – don’t be selective. Don’t just answer reference questions. If a patron connects and needs the librarian to check a patron account or renew a book, do it. Don’t tell them to call the library’s circulation desk or that the circ staff don’t use your chat service. Just do it.

#5 Offering Tools and Mash-Ups

People are mashing up your library’s content. Be aware.

Library ELF: Library account tracking and alerts via e-mail and RSS.

Library LookUp: click on this bookmarklet when on a webpage with an ISBN to look up an item in the catalog

Sustainable Web 2.0 Services for Small and Underfunded Libraries

Sarah Houghton-Jan, speaker
Sarah is the Digital Futures Manager for the San José Public Library.
A quick show of hands shows that this year’s attendees include people from public, school, community college, and university libraries as well as special libraries, the state library, and library school students.

Web 2.0 Services – User-focused

What do THEY think is important? What can we do for our users, and does it make sense in our libraries?

Planning for new services – How do you plan in a way that includes users and staff, and how do you make sure you’re doing the right thing?