Category Archives: Library Web Sites

In Support and Extension of “An Unformed Thought” by Mick Jacobsen

In Mick Jacobsen’s post, “An Unformed Thought,” in which he discussed the possibility of libraries acting as a hub for information technology needs such as website design and hosting, he hit on a core value of librarianship – community building.  As we strive to build library spaces that are usable and promote interaction and collaboration, we naturally try to enhance interpersonal connections and create conversations that connect our patrons either to us or other users.  And the conversation in the past couple of years has advanced this thought into our online spaces but with a reliance on preexisting technologies like social networks.  Mick, and I in response to Mick, are wondering what more we can do as librarians to advance these online connections.  What web services can we offer as libraries, as hubs of the community, to better carve out community space and information services?  It’s a change in thought from reactive online community building to the proactive.

Clearly there is a reliance on technology with this conversation.  I’d like, however, to hold off on this until a bit later.

Our core values in librarianship revolve around providing information services and we do that quite well.  Cecily Walker comments on Mick’s post:

While we may know a great deal about the organization of information and how that relates to information architecture, and while we understand user behaviour and user needs, the fact remains that web development isn’t really a core competency that is stressed in most LIS curricula at this moment.

Cecily points out that we already have the skill sets in place, sans web development, and as I interpret it we’re some of the most qualified professionals to enact such proactive web initiatives.  I’ve stated in conversations that, yes, I do believe that web development does need to become a core competency in LIS education, but just because it has yet to become so does not mean that we don’t have LIS professionals or students willing to take up the mantle or teach their professional colleagues what it takes.  If anything, librarianship is a teaching mob – a scan of Twitter conversations, LIS blog posts, and e-mail lists shows how much we like to teach what we know and share our ideas.

There is a concern that becoming an online community organizer or website developer adds yet another hat onto our heads to wear everyday.  This is true from a certain perspective.  Speaking from my own, the roles I am handed and those that I volunteer for are always of a hybrid nature.  Refusing the hard and fast allows me to think collaboratively, work uniquely, and experience more in my career.

Reflect on your collective arsenal of skill sets.  If you and your library choose to create and host community websites, and Mick and I so hope you do, take stock of what your staff can and cannot do.  Be honest with yourselves about what you feel can be accomplished and supported without denying the opportunity to learn more.  As with any project, assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of hosting community websites.

Mick and I understand that offering professional grade web development services will, for nearly all libraries, be unattainable.  Creating web applications, iPhone and Android apps, and mesmerizingly beautiful community websites is not what we’re after.  And if he and I are honest with ourselves we would state that this train of thought about hosting for the community is in reaction to the current state of the Web.  We both recognize that (and here comes the technology…) content management systems like Drupal and WordPress now offer easy, secure, and pleasing ways to create quick and usable websites.  Hosting, as well, takes little to no knowledge to create subdomains and register new domains with intuitive web-based dashboards and panels at a low cost for initiatives we’re talking about.

As a profession we have most, some have all, of the skill sets in place to successfully serve our communities, the organizations within, and their information needs in new and unique ways.  We hope you see this opportunity in the same light we do.

TTW Contributor: Kyle Jones
@thecorkboard / thecorkboard

Emerging Leaders Group Creates ALA Connect Screencasts!

I am totally knocked out by the excellent work ALA Emerging Leaders Team I did on creating screencasts to highlight all the wonderful features of ALAConnect. As Web Advisory Committee chair, I became the group mentor but my schedule and duties didn’t allow much mentoring – but I knew they were in good hands with ALA ITTS staff who offered support and guidance throughout the project. So please allow me to send them a public “WOOOHOO” on a job well done!

Take a look at the screencasts. You’ll find a promo video, a video highlighting how to integrate Connect with the social tools you currently use, ways to monitor other groups, and much, much more.

This one is a fave:

To all involved – great work! TAKE A BOW.

To folks who haven’t checked out Connect yet, please use these screencasts as a way to get started. You won’t be sorry.

More from Mathews: Ten Essentials for Any Library Site

Do not miss:

Ten Essentials for Any Library Site

A favorite of mine:


The web site is an excellent venue to solicit ideas, concerns, compliments, and complaints, but don’t merely provide users with a form. Dedicate a section on your site to posting user feedback along with the library’s official response. Show your community that the library listens and has taken action, and use the opportunity to explain why a particular policy is in place or how certain decisions were made. This channel allows patrons to become more actively engaged with the library and feel that their feedback is valued.
For example:
Oklahoma State University

Updating course readings with this one.

Google Friend Connect

Via Brett Kochendorfer

Google Friend Connect lets you grow traffic by easily adding social features to your website. This means means more people engaging more deeply with your website — and with each other. In this video, Google Product Marketing Manager Mendel Chuang gives a short introduction to Google Friend Connect.

Very interesting -especially the bit about ease of sign on via any number of services and adding the Friend Connect to your site takes no programming skills whatsoever. Looks like ratings, friends and comments can easily be integrated. Ways it might affect libraries:

  • Folks will come to expect this type of functionality more and more. Sites that aren’t “friendly” might not be the most popular.
  • Some libraries will experiment with this as an easy to configure “buy it now” (for free) social option for their sites.
  • This could become a popular add on for many Biblioblogs.
  • It certainly positions Google to have even more integration into what we do on the Web.

Take a look at the video. What other uses do you see? What misuses do you see?

Rate that library website @

I’m a big follower of library websites.  They are virtual representations of their physical presence and they also say a lot about a library’s innovation (or lack thereof).  All this summer I investigated different libraries to see what they were doing and how they were designing their online presences as I redesigned the website for my employer, the A.C. Buehler Library at Elmhurst College.  But it would have been great to know that I could have gone straight to one location to look at a plethora of library websites instead of Googling sites I knew of.

Well – that one location is

Libsite lets users contribute their own site (or even others) for screenshot viewing, rating, and commenting.  So go register your site and get some feedback.  Oh, and while you’re there give this site a good once-over.

~Kyle Jones~
TTW Contributor

Drupal and Libraries

One of my goals for the summer is to get a handle on Drupal. I’d like to incorporate it into LIS753 Internet Fundamentals and Design at Dominican. I’d like to assign workgroups the task of creating a library Web site with the OSS app. How’s the learning curve folks?

I missed this presentation, but luckily Ellyssa Kroski, who just got a great review for her book in LJ, put up “Drupal & Libraries” from CIL2008 at Slideshare – complete with audio track:

To get started, I’ll be listening and watching tomorrow in my office. Then, I’ll ask Blake for a sandbox. 

Making a case for Social Networking at Lester PL, A TTW Guest Post by Jeff Dawson

I recently had a Facebook conversation with Jeff Dawson, director of the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. I realized in our back and forth that his experience with creating and extending online presense for his library was the makings for a HOT TTW guest post:

For example, the entire town knew I went to PLA (I think I left town as you were coming in… ). We are now running 2 blogs out of LPL, Blogging LPL is sustaining an average of roughly 3,000 hits a month and rising (I know my mom isn’t the only one looking at the blog). Flickr is the BEST marketing tool, I post photos daily and use them in our blogs, the local paper has used some of them, I’ve been interviewed on the radio because of flickr and now run a biweekly column in the Sunday edition of the Manitowoc Herald Times entitled Library News. The TR City Manager has noted the flickr account in his weekly newspaper column and during televised City Council Meetings. Taking those traditional networking tools – radio, television, and newspaper and aiming them at our Internet Networking devices – MySpace, flickr, etc. just sort of happened and is totally cool!

Jeff agreed and sent me this, culled from his talk at PLA:

In Two Rivers I immediately set up Lester Public Library accounts for Flickr, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, Ning, Facebook and YouTube. I also created a blog – Blogging LPL – for the library, they are free and I took responsibility for managing these online activities. We have a small dedicated staff and I didn’t want to add to their already full plates. I also wanted to brand Lester Public Library, Two Rivers, Wisconsin as quick as possible on these social networks because there are 3 Lester Public Libraries in the state of Wisconsin.

I presented our online existence to the Lester Public Library Board. The responses from the board varied from what a great way to get the library’s message to a new group of potential users and providing a safe place on MySpace – to – how can you validate this as a true library activity and when does it become a waste of your time. By making the board aware of these new services I was helping them understand the importance of these technologies as a marketing tool for our services and collections – not just for teens but for all our users. 

A significant change for Lester Public Library was re-writing our library mission. We moved from a four paragraph mission statement to four words: Read, Discover, Connect, Enrich (Read. Discover new things. Connect ideas and people. Enrich your life and community.). During my presentation of MySpace a board member asked why Lester Public Library is active on these sites, to which the President of the Board responded with – “It meets the requirements of our mission; we are connecting with our users.” 

Make a case for social networking from the library to your administration. Assure them it is not time wasted. From the marketing point of view alone, it is worth it. On our Lester Public Library flickr account we regularly post photos of library and community events. Our City Manager took notice and has mentioned our flickr photos in his weekly newspaper columns and during televised City Council meetings. Because of this exposure, I have been interviewed on local radio and now write a bi-weekly library column for the paper. By using standard networking tools, radio, television, and newspaper, we are directing people to a virtual library experience. 

We can help validate our virtual presence through their online tracking tools. For example, Blogging LPL is sustaining over an incredible 3000 hits a month since starting last June. And our flickr photos have been viewed over 49,400 times since last April (2007). 

For me it is a labor of love; it is fun, which is translating into fun for the entire community.


Cover Flow and Collection Interaction on Library Websites

It’s my belief that library users are expecting more from their web browsing experience. I’m not talking social networks, I’m talking interactive web design. These users are used to websites that allow for dynamically changing content (content that may not require a new page to load) and for a feeling of interactivity with the page. Dynamic content shifts on the page, animates, and morphs into something it wasn’t previously. Let’s look at some examples:


The rectangular information boxes nicely animate in and out upon click of the left or right arrows allowing for new information to nicely slide in to place.


Apple’s start page uses the accordion effect to hide and show its content in the sidebars. Simply hover over, say, “Top Songs” and a top ten list shows up.


Vimeo, a social networking site about sharing video, smoothly scrolls in new videos that users like every couple of seconds on their “Right Now” page.

I’d venture to guess that a lot of us don’t even think twice about some these nice effects that we engage with during our daily browsing. But we have to recognize that they add to our experience, our “likability” of the pages we view. Understandably, library web pages need to be focused on presenting accurate, useable content; however, we can do these things and still not dismiss the opportunities we have to organize our information in aesthetically pleasing and engaging ways.

One of these engaging ways that I have been very intrigued by is the use of Cover Flow to present resources. If you don’t know what Cover Flow is, take a look at your iTunes library in Cover Flow view by choosing “View” and “Cover Flow View – it looks like this:

It’s easy to make the jump from collections in your iTunes library to the collections in your actual library website. A couple folks around the ‘Net have been thinking the same thing I have and have commented about it:

To my pleasant surprise, Lee (fellow TTW contributor), led me to an excellent implementation at Villanova University’s Digital Library.

VU uses Cover Flow to display photos of some of their digital collections in a highly interactive way. While I personally had no reason to look further into their collection, the fact that I was able to engage with the collections by browsing intrigued me enough to look further at their collections. This “doorway,” so to speak, is an excellent way to get more views at different collections by catching the user’s eye from the get go.

Not to be outdone by academia, Cambridge Public Library in Canada has also put together their own version of Cover Flow for over 20 different categories of their collection (nice!).

You can choose your category at this screen:

and are given a nice Cover Flow output when you click on the purple icon:

Some of these fancy, schmancy animations and graphics do take some more advanced knowledge of Javascript or other coding languages, but luckily enough most of these tools have such a great following by web designers and wannabe’s like myself that there is a plethora of resources created to help you whip one up. I’ll admit that I have no experience with Javascript but was able to create a couple really nice accordions like within Apple’s start page. If some of the creators of these excellent Cover Flows are followers of Tame the Web, I’d be really interested to read what you used to create your tools and the effort that went into it.

Some Javascript libraries of note for further research:

Posted by Kyle (TTW Contributor)

Ten Things… about Academic Libraries

TTW readers know I love a good “Ten Things” post! Run, do not walk to:

Ten great things an online academic library can do:

  1. Communicate with the academic community
  2. Get proper subject librarians who know their stuff to generate the content for the library website!
  3. Provide high-quality, easy to use tools to put the content the users created online in various formats (see 4)
  4. Keep the content updated
  5. Provide consistent interfaces, preferably a single consistent interface where possible
  6. Present users with the resources they use, making things one click away
  7. Structure information, making it customizable where this is appropriate
  8. Make sure that everyone in the library is on the same page regarding services, ensure that users are getting the course offerings they want/need
  9. Provide a library toolbar
  10. Evangelize!

And Ten brainless things an online academic library can do:

  1. Not actively talking (listening) to the academic community
  2. Cut away the subject-specific angle and quality assurance in favour of a “streamlined”, centralized appearance
  3. Go static
  4. Implement technologies that help administration, but not the user
  5. Bolt bits on the old design to make it two-oh
  6. Federated search, but no training
  7. Cut away the OPAC in favour of ancillary systems (for example eJournal and database repositories)
  8. Rely on third parties with whom you have no trust relation to store important information
  9. Focus on what’s new/important/good rather than what’s being used
  10. Aquabrowser
  11. [BONUS] Providing five databases when one would have sufficed

Well said. PLEASE click through and read the explanations for all of the points. I would urge academic library folk to look at these very seriously in a staff meeting.

In my book, this is gold:

… if you’re not actively working with the academic communities you serve — and I mean really listening to them, helping them do their work in their way — you’re not going to do a good job. Libraries and librarians are mostly good at librarying, unfortunately the rest of the world isn’t interested; stop it.

The same might be said for instructional support in many institutions. <cough> Firefox <cough>