Since so many teen librarians are making the case for social networking still, I thought this OCLC session on Library Mashups would be of interest. I noticed they were taping; the session will probably be online soon at
“Mashups on web are on the verge of replacing the PC as the dominant computing platform”
~Andrew K. Pace, OCLC

Andrew K. Pace defined mashup as something remixed to improve functionality and innovation as response to change under circumstance “hacking!”‘  He stressed that change is inevitable, and quoted Darwin reminding us that the successful species are the most adaptable ones. Pace referenced the 10 Dangerous Ideas presentation from PLA presentation , and invited attendees to jot down on notecards provided, their greatest resource and greatest challenge as we continued our discussion of innovation.

“Mashups are about interoperabilty”
~Michael Schrage, author
Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play was the keynote speaker, on the topic of Mixing it Up: the Mashed up Library. Did you know that every year, mobile phone companies add new features, but fewer than 10% of the clients use more than HALF the functionality of the phone. “That’s not innovation,” said Michael, “that’s waste.” Library application? Let’s do things that our users will take advantage of, use and engage with!’  innovation is the conversation of novelty into value; to whom and for whom are key questions. Libraries may be innovating, but we aren’t doing a good job of marketing it. Since the the users of the novelty are what make it innovative, let your users tell you what you are doing that is innovative. Libraries need to move from creation of choice to value of use. He pointed out that if your users don’t know what you are doing, there is no point to saying,’  “we do that already.”

The intelligence of your organization may be holding you back! Michael said that intelligence is (wildly) overrated as a virtue. (which was the original guiding principle for the Internet).

We need to ask ourselves, “What should our most important products be, and how will we get there — what innovative and inspirational tools will we use?” People are always the most important resource (the most important part of the network is the networker; the most important product of the library is the librarian…etc)

Competition is about perceived value from choice. We may a monopoly on the box of books model, but information access is THE most competitive industry in the world. How do our users/community brand us as a competitor?

Some great tips that we can apply to YA librarianship:

  • Learn from your lead users. Who are they and how do you know? They will give you your best ideas and feedback. Forget about market segments. A youth participation model fits well with learning from lead users.
  • Decide with whom you want to collaborate to create value. Pockets to be picked and expertise to be exploited does not equal sustained or meaningful relationships.
  • Marketing your best internal arguments/disagreements — transparency is good! Make you user community a part of the solution for what your library can acheive (this brings Ann Arbor’s blog and posts about their parking situation to mind)
  • Establish “Libretories” that attract talent and inspire hypothesis. (sounds like BETA testing!)
  • Remember that success comes NOT from taking the path of least resistance but from taking the path of maximum advantage.

One thing that stuck with me through Michael’s Q&A: How does a library get better every time it’s used? Marginalia – through allowing – encouraging – FORCING – users to leave their imprint (through tagging, commenting, friending, posting user created content, etc).

After an ice-cream break, three librarians talked about mashups in their library.

“Librarians need to be comfortable with Web 2.0 products and services. Not just people like me who present, but EVERYONE.”
~David Lee King, Topeka-Shawnee Library

David Lee King shared the TS Digital Branch Library , which features feeds, links from book to restaurant reviews, IM via meebo–including IM from the card catalog, when the search returns 0 results). It’s become a new door to reference where there used to be a dead end. They’ve used Google maps and labeled bookmobile stops. They even integrate physical mashup -i.e., moving the travel section and creating a companion TRAVEL section on blog.

Patron comments are on on most webpages, and the library has created accounts with MySpace, Flickr, and YouTube so that patrons can start conversations with us at any of those places. The library’s page hosts user created content, like teen poetry,’  “‘Cause I said so!” essays by teens, and short films that are the product of a claymation workshop. The films are stored on youtube and embedded on library site.

David recommends finding out about conversations people are having ABOUT the library. It’s easy to set up vanity feeds from Technorati, Google, or Twitter so you can RESPOND to issues people in your community are raising on their blogs or on twitter. He also advises getting out of the building to bring the library to the people. David concluded that we need to shift our thinking: the computer is no longer just a piece of machinery, it’s a way to connect people.

“One challenge of Library Legislative Day is to get their attention in a 5 minute meeting.”
~Mary Beth Sancomb-Moran, University of Minnesota
Mary Beth Sancomb-Moran has done a lot of map mashups. One project grew out of a traveling banner and journal heading to nearly 40 libraries. Pins on free google map marked locations and had library info and links to the webpages of libraries that had them.’  Mary Beth created READ posters with ALA’s READ CD software for each legislator, that was also useful for patrons and campaign managers. This is an idea that could be extrapolated to local city council members, chamber of commerce members, school teachers…She used MapBuilder to show legislator’s jurisdiction. Info window brought up photo and link to each library in the legislators jurisdiction. Offers to add new photos to the mashup were seized immediately.

” Librarians have been taking data form various places and putting it together to make something more valuable than the sum of its parts for years.”
~Susan Gibbons, University of Rochester

As the University of Rochester was building a library website, part of the process was a survey of student’  and faculty expectations of the website – turned out, they didn’t just want library info, they want student life info, so the ability to’  package pieces of library website and dropped into virtual life like facebook & IM is important.

Susan Gibbons told us how the library staff created course guides, not subject guide branded to fit students mental model: title,’  professor, course code & time, semester. One feature of the pages is that there is a picture and contact information of a specific librarian is on the page, and each has a title that fits a course (ie, Italian studies librarian, not Foreign Languages); some have multiple titles

Susan said the library also has been mashing up people, through cross-training, by teaching writing advisories and libraries how to recognize the difference between a writing problem and a research problem. A second mashup coming: librarians invited to be student advisors to freshman/sophomore experience. Result? The librarian is now most valuable staff on campus.

Q&A for the presenters followed. Librarians remain concerned about security, privacy and time management.

How do we feel about opening up our data to other people to mash up?’  RSS feeds allow that to some extent – plugging into readers and websites.

Who made the mashups? What kind of training is involved?’  Anyone can make mashups! Web services librarians did it, directors did it, catalogers did it. It’s not hard!’  Meebo, an IM software that you can integrate into ANY webpage, makes it easy! Pick your options and it creates code for you to copy and paste. Michael advised up to be sensitive to problems associated with success.

How do we alleviate backlog? You can’t stop cataloging to play with Google maps when you are three weeks behind. Responses: The director played with Google maps in one afternoon and sent to the IT guys said “please do!” and they put it on the web. Mary Beth admits, “it wasn’t part of my official job responsibility…” but really, it’s about serving patrons which IS part of her job responsibility. David empowers staff to explore interests -‘  the cataloging still gets done. Mary Beth pointed out that repositioning people to play to their expertise is key.’  And David posted a great followup on his blog.

One interesting reply was that a well designed website can answer a lot of reference questions, and free up time. Collection development has changed, with approval and standing order plans. Cataloging can be outsourced.’  All of this frees up public services librarians to do other things. Not so, says one attendee.
LC is looking for help from academic community to catalog.’  Public libraries are seeing increased questions, not decreased. Public staff doesn’t have time for this.

We can also use volunteers and library tech staff to answer 10-15% of the reference questions. (I know someone is tearing their hair out and screaming, UNION! right now…) This response made me think of the Tweet I saw from Erin Downey Howerton, that 95% of questions at Disney are answered by custodial staff. Non-MLS staff CAN answer directional questions.

I think, desk staff, no matter WHAT age group they are serving, needs to MAKE time for web 2.0 tools and mashups. There are probably things you can let go of or pass on that is less vital to serving your patrons. In fact, Susan recommended shifting priorities when a user indicates a need for a new service – but need must be proven first.

One final great question: Is moderating patron comments censorship? No. It’s editing 🙂 There are other models of what’s appropriate from Amazon, etc, by forcing people to put their name on their comments. David doesn’t moderate – they have software that automatically remove naughty words though. Comments have to be specific, so that creates directed conversation. Another solution is to post policies like “be nice to each other, stay on topic, don’t be stupid”‘  😉 This is what community managers on Facebook do. There are models to follow. And don’t forget about radical trust – the idea that people are basically good. They rise to your expectations… or fall to meet them, a lot depends on our attitudes.

About Beth Gallaway

Beth Gallaway was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2006 for her work in advocating for videogames in libraries. She is an independent library trainer/consultant specializing in gaming, technology, and youth services, and is a YALSA certified Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainer.

One Thought on “Mashing Up the Library

  1. “One final great question: Is moderating patron comments censorship? No. It’s editing :)”

    That depends. For example, when the subject is in part censorship itself, and when you represent an organization opposed to censorship, and when you edit out on point comments that are a direct response to existing comments that contain ad hominem argument (in other words, you edit out someone defending him or herself from false argument), then I believe that goes beyond mere editing.

    For example, see “Censorship Love Note by ALA Councilor Rory Litwin” at:

    Would you agree?

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