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For my final post, I’m straying a bit from a specific library’s use of mashups, to a mashup that can be (and undoubtedly is being) used by librarians the world over:  LibWorm.  As a future librarian, I feel there are so many good ideas “out there” on the ‘Net that could be of use to me in my professional career, but there are not enough hours in the day for me to effectively search for everything I could want.  So a search tool like LibWorm, a search engine for the “biblioblogosphere,” seemed especially useful when I first found it described on this page from the Talis competition.

Here’s its FAQ page, where it basically says it is meant to be a “professional development tool” and current-awareness helper for librarians or people interested in libraries.   How does it work?  As much as I can tell, it provides an RSS feed from RSS feeds.  (No, really!)  Currently it mashes together 1400+ feeds related to libraries (found from lists on existing wikis and constantly submitted by individual bloggers, so the list is growing) and adds a search interface; so librarians can search for terms, or look at categories, tags, or subjects that interest them.  Then when they find a particular category or combination of search terms that’s most useful for them, they can set up their own RSS feed to get that information delivered to them.  If I’m in a time-crunch (and who isn’t?), I like this already!

Obviously this isn’t linked to any specific library, so I can’t analyze how well it is tied into the library’s other services.  But I would imagine this type of service appeals to librarians (or those interested in libraries) who are already at least moderately tech-savvy (know what RSS is and how to set one up, though the homepage here also includes directions for that to help out newbies).  I could see myself using this once I get into a specific library role and want to be updated on podcasts in academic libraries, say, or Personnel/HR/Jobs (hey, maybe I should subscribe to that one now, can’t start looking for a job too early… ), or Humor for when the jobsearch gets depressing…

On the usability front, this website scores well on my card.  Its front page (screenshot to left) seems to have taken a tip from that search-meister Google and made its home page very clearly all about searching.  No ads at all (a pleasant surprise!), lots of white space so one’s eye clearly goes to the search box, a few links to the Feed Categories, Subjects, and Tags, but nothing that detracts from the search capabilities.

If one clicks on the categories or subjects, one gets displays like these two screenshots:

We get a few Ads by Google now (hey, nobody’s perfect), but other than that, the display is still very clean, with navigational links at the top and one-click access (the orange buttons) to set up the RSS feed.  Honestly, I can’t see how they could make it any easier.  Findability… well, that’s unfortunately a bit harder.  I found it from the Talis page, and on trying a couple Google searches, for “library blogs RSS” and “library biblioblogosphere” (I know, that term’s a stretch for the layperson to know), I didn’t see LibWorm in the first couple pages.  So it might be suffering from its newness, or whatever things Google’s algorithms consider.  But I really hope it becomes more findable, because it deserves it!

Another thing I like about LibWorm is that it seems rather international — when I searched for “mashups” I got this results page, with 3 results on the first page alone that looked like they were in Italian and Swedish (I’m guessing?), and almost certainly I would get more if I searched for a non-English word.  So this is a tool useful for international librarians or any interested non-English-speakers.  Speaking of the search results page, it again makes it easy for someone to set up an RSS feed into their own personal reader (it offers Google Reader, Newsgator, and Bloglines buttons), and it automatically sorts by date (though Relevance is also an option).

Overall, excellent layout, visual appeal, ease of use, and a very handy tool for busy librarians everywhere — what’s not to like!  What do you think?

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I’m going to be cheesy for a moment and say I think the public library featured in this post has got everything (or at least, its 2.0/broader social media strategies) going in the right direction!  Manchester (NH) city library, kudos to you.

I’m having difficulty figuring out where to start on this one:  I’ll start with where I found this one mentioned: Library Mashups, 2009, edited by Nicole Engard (there’s a link to the companion webpage in the left-hand column of this page), includes Chapter 6 by Lichen Rancourt who updated much of the Manchester City Library.  MCL actually has several sites, and I’ll start at the one I like best, their blogThey use WordPress (which does not affect the opinion of this WordPress-blogger), but it doesn’t really look like a classic WordPress page, for libraries who might not want to identify themselves as “just another WordPress blog”:  MCL has customized the display with a picture that looks like it’s from their library building, has tied in a Flickr photo badge that’s constantly changing and updating with the six most current photos posted on the library’s Flickr page (go here to look at their photostream page – what a wonderful way to show the real, welcoming, “human” side of the library!), has an RSS feed available for Upcoming Events, has links to their Facebook page, etc.  The blog practically serves as a homepage for the library itself, and I imagine many patrons may use it as such, because it also provides useful links to search the catalogue, login to renew books, pages with hours and directions (though when I checked, those two pages weren’t loading – are you working on that, Manchester?)

Then the blog also links to the library’s official homepage, which is hereIt still incorporates most of the Web 2.0, interactive parts of the blog, though a bit more “busy” and more formal-feeling than the blog, naturally, though they also incorporate images like the one at the top to show what makes this library unique.  The homepage incorporates current postings from the blog in the center, Flickr photo badge near the top, tweets in the photo at the very top (though the white text on the photo-background is hard to read; that could definitely be improved), current events in the right-hand column, and it adds book reviews (which it seems can be made by any user, and apparently the Book Reviews box automatically updates) in the left-hand column.

Regarding availability/findability, I didn’t explore if these sites are linked from elsewhere on the Manchester city page (though the main homepage definitely seems that way, and the two pages are very clearly linked to each other), but upon doing a basic Google search for “manchester nh library,” their two pages were the first two hits.  All of these items on both their pages are definitely an indication that MCL is working hard to create a strongly welcoming virtual presence, and I’d say they’re doing so rather successfully.  If I lived there, I would definitely check out their upcoming events and maybe even subscribe to the RSS.  It seems as well that MCL is constantly looking out for new things to add – in the lower-right-hand corner of the screenshot of the webpage (present on the blog too, though I closed it for that screenshot), one can see a little blue box saying “Trial of chat services – sorry, offline.”  Apparently I visited at the wrong time, but this clearly indicates that the library is trying to imbed its chat reference and thereby expand its Web 2.0 and interactive availability to patrons.

I love it!  Wonder if Manchester City Library would have any job openings in, say, a year and a half…?

The ZACK Gateway is a mashup that isn’t used by one specific library, but is intended clearly for use by libraries (especially special) and rare-book-lovers.

Go here to look at the homepage.  Not the prettiest homepage, especially with the big list of check-boxes below the search box to indicate what libraries you do or don’t want to search, but it’ll do.  All those checkboxes are interesting though: Many of them are national libraries from various countries, like Canada, Australia, Sweden, Spain (though since this is created by someone in Germany, it’s naturally a bit heavy on the Germany catalogs – it looks like 10 names are in German), but I wonder how the creator chose which catalogs to include?  For example, in the U.S., naturally Library of Congress is the biggest, but I wouldn’t think Boston U. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology would necessarily have splendid collections of rare or out-of-print books?  Also, I wonder how the defaults are decided of what boxes are checked.  When I visited, it checked a smattering of eight boxes, two in the U.S., the Norwegian library, and five in Germany.  Since I am visiting the English version of this website (it says so in the URL bar), if you’re going to choose default boxes for me, does it not make the most sense to check the English-language libraries?  Perhaps the default search choices are one way this tool could be improved to provide better results…

Anyway, I searched for a title of the libretto book from a musical that I saw many years ago, loved, and have been trying to track down the CD from ever since – Quilters.  I already know it’s not common – WorldCat tells me they find only 2 libraries worldwide with the CD, though 233 libraries worldwide have the libretto/book. (If you’re not at a location that has a subscription to WorldCat, those links won’t work, sorry — you’ll just have to trust me on those numbers.)  Actually, I would have preferred to search for the CD — rarer — on ZACK, but the search interface allows no choices of format and apparently only searches for books.  Hmm.

When I searched on ZACK Gateway – both with the default boxes checked and when I changed it to include all the English-speaking libraries – it found just two results for the book, from the University of California library.  As I have circled in this screenshot, it clearly lists all the libraries searched and indicates how many results were found from each (hmm, do I really need to see the list of the libraries with no results?  That seems a bit redundant and makes it hard to see which ones actually do have results.)  Then, there are several useful links built in to the results page, but none of them are particularly self-evident or self-explanatory for the new user, which limits its usability.  The picture links to the Amazon sales page, the name of the library catalogue (Melvyn, here) links to the MARC record, and the (rather miniscule) Google icon is actually a link to Google Maps where it provides the “ZACK Bookmaps” – a user can see the relevant holdings mapped out with color-coded pins.

So, what’s the usability verdict on this one?  The search interface is a bit plain yet functional, but the results display page depends pretty much on users’ trial-and-error to explore the links.  It’s definitely designed, as already mentioned, to appeal to rare-book collectors or libraries looking for especially rare items, and with the emphasis on German libraries, it could be a more comprehensive search engine for some Europeans than WorldCat.  However, at least for North Americans, I can’t really see how this website outperforms WorldCat: WorldCat searches more formats; includes much more information such as options to view similar editions and formats, possible tags and reviews, etc;  and it found way more occurrences of my book, which probably just results from ZACK Gateway searching far fewer libraries.  As I see it, the one advantage ZACK has over WorldCat is its Bookmaps, which adds a nice visual display, but even WorldCat still lists the address of each holding library and links you to their catalogue.  Overall, this tool could be useful to some, but to be honest, I won’t be using it for book searching anytime soon.

Last entry talked about one way for patrons to browse the library visually even if they don’t often set foot inside.  Today’s concept is similar, and the idea is a good one.  Think: How many people in your life have ever bought a book off of Amazon.com or Amazon.ca?  Probably a vast majority, I’d guess.  Now, how many of those people would have liked to preview the book (or even read it through once and decide they didn’t really need to own it) thanks to their local library? (i.e., Vancouver Public Library in this case)  Now it’s (theoretically) easy to find out if VPL has the item you’re looking at on Amazon.

David Eaves in his blog here has simple directions how to install this add-on (actually several add-ons) to your browser, but basically here it is:

1. You need to be using the Firefox browser.  Go here if you need it.
2. You need to install the Greasemonkey add-on.  Go here for that.
3. Then go here and download/install the “Amazon Vancouver Public Library Linky.”

After that, you should be able to go to Amazon.ca (perhaps not Amazon.com, according to Eaves?), search for any item, and see a display like what I circled in the screenshot to the right, with the red or green text indicating the book’s status, linked directly to the record in the VPL catalogue.  As long as you get it all installed, it’s a pretty handy feature.

But I have a few beefs with this one.  First, the fact that users have to download potentially three new installations is enough to turn off some users – those with slow-ish internet connections, or not-very-internet-savvy patrons who might be intimidated by all that downloading.  (Heck, I do have fast internet, and I already use Firefox so #1 was done, but I didn’t bother to download #2 and #3 until I had to review it for this blog.  Though I am not the heaviest Amazon user, and classes leave me little time for fun reading, so I could be biased.)  This application is definitely built to appeal to heavy Amazon users.  But initially it’s a bit elusive to locate because I couldn’t find any sort of link or information about it on VPL’s homepage or Amazon’s homepage (which, I guess, makes sense because it was developed externally to both of those); apparently the only way to hear about this one for now is word-of-mouth or diligent blog-reading, which may limit its availability and use.  Again, because this was developed externally of VPL, I can’t really say how it is tying this in to the rest of its services, but I’m sure VPL likes any application that drives traffic to it.

However, in my estimation, this tool is also only appealing to highly-computer-savvy, current-users of VPL already, and therefore shouldn’t be mistaken for an outreach tool.  Here’s why:  If someone doesn’t have a library card already or rarely uses the library, I can’t see someone going through the downloading and installing, finding their nearest branch and likely placing a hold to get the item delivered there, even perhaps getting a card, just to go pick up an item that they likely could have gotten faster by buying it (though the library is, as Eaves pointed out, a good way to keep a rein on that book-buying budget!  But again, this isn’t news to current VPL users.)

My other complaint is, once I was looking around on Amazon, sometimes I got a display like what I circled in the screenshot to the right, stuck on “searching…” indefinitely; while it was perpetually searching and never finding it, I went straight to the VPL catalogue directly and found out that yes, indeed, it does have that item.  And that points out the obvious alternative that I’ve often used in previous hometowns and libraries: If I see an item I want while browsing on Amazon, I just open a new tab, click on the bookmarked library catalog, and copy-paste the title or ISBN to find if it’s in the library.  A few more clicks, yes, which might turn off some, but it’s pretty foolproof.

So in sum, I think this mashup is a good idea at heart and is useful for a particular subset of people: heavy Amazon users, current VPL users, and those blessed with fast Internet.  Maybe that subset is a large enough populace, especially in a metropolis the size of Vancouver, and I guess as a (future) librarian I can hope that a tool like this will help more people become aware of their local library’s services.

Here’s an idea for a library-lover’s utopia: wouldn’t it be nice if, once you were signed into your Amazon account and it knew your location, Amazon itself would provide a link to the nearest library and “Search for this item in the library catalogue”?  That would maintain the excellent idea here, while eliminating the installation steps and probably eliminating the perpetual-searching non-display too.  Many library OPACs already provide a link to “More information on Amazon.com,” isn’t it time Amazon reciprocated? 😉

(Again, thanks to Susie for pointing out this particular mashup!)

I love, love, love this next entry.  Probably that’s because one of my favorite things to do for years and years has been simply to go into a library and browse.  Whether it’s my hometown library I’ve been going to since before I remember, or a new library in a new city, it’s just fun to look around and see what they’re displaying.  And often I like to browse for things I’ll not necessarily check out: I’ll visit the teen section – they have the most intriguing covers! (and OK, I’ll admit, I still like to read YA lit sometimes), even the children’s section – talk about a walk down memory lane! (and, totally unrelated, but doesn’t this page make you want to be a kid again so you have a reason to read all those books?!)

Anyway, the Book Carousel is basically a really snazzy-looking way to browse covers online.  The Cambridge, ON library developed it (hey, didn’t I mention them around here earlier?  Way to go, Cambridge, for continuing to develop your sensible Web 2.0 tools!).  On this New Materials page , click on the purple eye (or click the orange button to subscribe to an RSS of this genre — another nice Web 2.0-y way to update patrons who want it) to view a neat graphic display of book covers.  Each book cover (with title and author above) is linked to the catalogue record with more information (though it’s not obvious there’s a link there, until you hover your mouse over the cover).  One can scroll through all the covers available, in sets of four, by clicking the right or left arrow buttons – though the arrows were not immediately obvious to me the first time I looked at this service; Cambridge could improve this service by making those buttons more prominent.

For a public library with an interest in increasing people’s reading for pleasure and edification, this is a wonderful way to reach people who, because of schedules or time commitments, rarely set foot in the library.  Many library OPACs already allow people to do all kinds of library-related stuff from their home Internet connection – search for materials, place holds, renew items, etc.  Practically, people who just want reading or viewing material only have to set foot in a library to check them out.  But it’s widely known that cover art can add (or subtract) vastly from a book’s content and “shelf appeal” – why else would publishers spend so much time and effort on covers, as SFF author Laura Resnick writes about here?  The Cambridge library is logically building on its patrons’ knowledge and usage of the computerized-library, adding to its existing Web 2.0 tools, and it now can take advantage of that cover art and reproduce that felicitous library experience of browsing all those lovely book covers, on the web.

However, (my only gripe, I promise) for such a cool tool, it’s not the most obvious to find from their homepage.  On the day I visited their homepage (Dec. 2), I went to at least three or four other likely-seeming places before I found the right place, as I’ve pointed out on the screenshot.  The link to the New Materials page is in rather small print at the bottom of the page — shouldn’t we advertise your cool tool a little more?

(Thanks to Susie and the bulletin board postings at this website for links to this and a few other library mashups I’m featuring here – Talis sponsored a competition, Mashing Up the Library 2006, and that discussion board was where many posted their entries.  Unfortunately a lot of the links are defunct now, but look around if you’re curious.)

Today’s entry is a sort of mashup of a library catalogue with a book-based social networking site called LibraryThing.

First, a little background on LibraryThing for those not familiar with it: Users (currently 945,000) create accounts; add books (choose from 40 million+ added so far) using ISBN’s, titles, or authors; review and add tags and ratings to benefit other users, etc.  (Actually, if you want a better description, go here for the tour.)

Basically, LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) is LibraryThing added-on to the typical library’s catalogue to make it more interactive and exciting.  (Again, a brief tour here.)  Libraries can choose to purchase either the Catalog Enhancements or Reviews Enhancements packages, or both.  (I couldn’t find any public word on the ‘Net, though, on how much either or both of them cost.)  Locally, West Vancouver Memorial Library (as well as 1500+ other libraries) is using part of LTFL, but I wanted to review a library using both the CE and RE packages, so here’s looking at Seattle Public Library (SPL):

When one searches for a book in the SPL catalogue, the results page looks like this: (click photo for bigger)

The links to the reviews from Amazon, LTFL, and NoveList are down in the corner, circled in red.  (I guess the link to Amazon’s reviews page for this specific ISBN is a mashup too, of a sort… And all librarians know of NoveList, but unfortunately you need a SPL library card number to access that, so I won’t go there.)  Clicking on the LTFL link leads you to a more comprehensive page of user-generated and highly interactive content, though, as you can see in this screenshot: 

You can easily see the tag cloud,  as many reviews as have been posted, readers’ ratings, recommended or similar reads, more detailed descriptions, links to more cover art, etc.  Most of those Amazon also has, and for free, but as a library user I like the feel of LTFL because it’s not blatantly trying to sell me something.  (It only links to the sites at which you can buy the book, like Amazon or Abebooks.)  Other extra perks: LTFL will also let you see the profile (with reading interests, other books reviewed, etc.) of people who liked this book, a “common knowledge” section with things like important character/place names or awards this book’s won, a link to possibly-relevant articles in Wikipedia… hmm, I think LTFL has thought of more than I could ever want to know about a specific book!  Obviously this much content does make for a rather lo-ong page to read (rather like this post, actually), but it’s arranged with the most widely-appealing stuff at the top (as I pointed out with the red arrows in the picture above), so it’s not too confusing to find what most people will want first.

So is LTFL worth the extra cost it requires from libraries, when enterprising patrons could go directly to Amazon and look up most of the same information?  Obviously some libraries have thought so, and the LTFL addition makes the social aspects much more easily accessible.  As a user, I like the looks of LTFL, and it definitely includes more social-networking, Web-2.0-type bells and whistles than Amazon does.  Thoughts or comments?

(If you’re curious to play around with LTFL yourself, visit the SPL catalogue.)

Building off of my previous post on Google Maps used within library websites, here are a few libraries that have used Google Maps to point at more than just local branches.

The Registry of Open Access Repositories has created this worldwide map with pushpins to indicate the locations of Open Access Repositories worldwide.  Open access is the latest buzzword among many academic and research institutions, and ROAR’s homepage has listings of some 1,543 archives (as of Nov. 30, 2009) that have OA Repositories.  Their map is at heart a vast visual improvement for patrons.  ROAR’s main page simply provides listings of all 1,543 archives in alphabetical order, and while visitors can easily narrow down their search by country or search for a name, the initial listing can be overwhelming.  The map is an easy way to get a visual picture of what’s located near me, for example, or how many OA repositories are registered here from Iceland (answer: one.  Now you know!)

On the availability note, though… I find the actual map in the Google search interface is more than a bit hard (impossible?) to find.  Again from their homepage, at the top one can see links to the Google Earth Overlay, which is nice assuming one has installed that program.  (It’s free.  Go here if you want it.)  Inside the Other Formats link, you can see the link to (among other things) the Google Maps mashup format.  But if I click on that link, I’m still not taken to the actual Google Maps interface.  I get this map view instead:
It nicely color-codes the pins, and one can click on a pin for more information, as I’ve done in the screenshot above.  But one loses the interactiveness of the Google Maps interface (I still can’t find any direct link from ROAR’s page — thanks to Susie for alerting me of this link!)

Speaking of worldwide maps, here’s a map that Linfield Library (at a college of that name in Oregon) made showing all the libraries to which they InterLibrary-Loaned items in 2006-2007 – naturally concentrated in the U.S., but as far away as Australia and Hong Kong.  Interesting.  I must say, though, I’m a tad underwhelmed with this creation, both its availability and its usefulness.  First, it’s not very logical to find.  If one were looking for this ILL map from Linfield’s homepage, I would logically look under the InterLibrary Loan link which is available from their homepage – but it’s not there.  Instead, one must click three times through the About Linfield Libraries page to find it.  (I suppose About is a logical place for it too — but couldn’t they have put the map both places?)

More importantly, however, is it even very useful to visitors to Linfield’s website?  If you’re looking for the contact info for the University of Hong Kong (or perhaps directions to it? – sorry, no public transit available from Vancouver to Hong Kong), there’s got to be a better way.  I can see its function simply for fulfilling curiosity, and it is most definitely a way of raising awareness of the scope of what may be a lesser-known library service, but I can’t see myself using it for any sort of research purpose.  When considering the time and effort it took to make this one, there are uses for Google Maps that are probably more immediately visible and useful to patrons.

One of the most common library mashups I’ve found so far has been linking library addresses/locations to Google Maps.

Most obviously, I like this (and use maps like this all the time, on library and other websites) because it improves on just an address listing on a library’s webpage or verbal directions from somebody in the corner mart.  Coming from a middling-sized Midwestern town, I know how directions are often given: “We’re real easy to find – three blocks off Main and across the street from the elementary” – but if I’m new to your town, I may not know where Main is, much less know if the elementary is north, south, east, or west of it.  Heck, if I’m in a city the size of Vancouver, I could live here for years and still not know where Kerr Street is – good for you, Vancouver Public Library, for embedding the maps right there on your Branch Information page!  The link to Branch Information and Hours, which leads to links to each branch, is right near the top of VPL’s homepage, so I think finding it should be no problem either.

Other libraries, like the Cambridge (ON) Public Library, link to a Google map in a separate window.  (Again, this is pretty find-able too, two clicks off the main page via About the Library link — logical place to look for it.)  Their new-window map has the benefit of being bigger and perhaps easier to read, especially for low-vision patrons, on smaller laptops, or on those miniscule iPhone screens.  My hunch is that it is also easier for people (especially new Internet users) to recognize that they can manipulate the map, since it looks more like the traditional Google Map and people may not recognize that the smaller embedded map in VPL’s page is still interactive.

Eh, what’s that?  Interactive? …Why, certainly: As with using Google Maps directly, a viewer can always input a second address and get directions (walking, driving, or public transit) from point A to point B.  Even if someone had not used Google Maps specifically before, these capabilities are pretty common on other map pages like Yahoo! Maps and MapQuest; and for the complete newbie, there are pretty self-evident labels saying “Get directions: To here or From here” and “Zoom here.”

I’m no website expert, but judging by how common Google maps are on various library websites, it seems that it has to be one of the easiest external tools to add on to a library’s website.

We can’t wow ’em with our services or our stunning collection if they can’t find us, right?  Here’s to libraries making themselves findable!