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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.)

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!