Category Archives: Library Web Sites

Want your own Mii & Wii? Read On!

Jenny Levine and I are joining forces to run a fundraiser for good ole LISHost.

Jenny just posted about it at TSL:

If you’re a regular online, you probably know or know of Blake Carver. Even if you’ve never met him, you know his work. He’s been running and maintaining the incredible LISNews hub since 1999. This contribution alone is why many of us admire him for his dedication and vision.

In 2002, Blake started LISHost, an affordable website hosting service for libraries and libraries. On the very rare occasion the LISHost server goes down, you can tell something’s amiss because half the known LIS world must house their sites there. I do, as does Michael Stephens, and we can both tell you from first-hand experience that Blake does a superhuman job of maintaining the server (especially security) and providing technical support.

I can’t think of a time when Blake hasn’t responded immediately when there was a problem, when he said no to a request to add software just for me, or when he didn’t come up with a creative solution to a problem no one else would have wanted to deal with. And for all of his hard work (truly, the man must not sleep), he charges next to nothing for the services you get.

So to thank him for all of his efforts, both on our behalf and for the profession, Michael and I are raffling off a Nintendo Wii to help show our appreciation in the form of a fundraiser. Please note that neither LISHost nor LISNews is in financial trouble, and this is not a call to “save” them. This is simply a way for us to acknowledge Blake’s efforts and thank him for everything he does.

So here’s how it works. Everyone who donates $10 or more to LISHost by 11:59 p.m. on March 14, 2008, will be eligible to win the Wii. We’ll pull a name out of the digital hat, so-to-speak, and send you the Wii if you’re the lucky winner. To enter/donate, click on the button below. Your donation is your entry, as we’ll have a full list of names from Paypal.

I can’t begin to tell you, TTW readers, how helpful Blake has been getting this blog ported into WordPress — and he worked with me on it during the Holidays! If you’ve enjoyed the blogs and sites that LISHost serves, please consider a donation.

What kinds of conversations can you have?

Some pretty neat ones.

I quickly posted on January 29th, “What are they doing right?” It was about the MCCL homepage. Which led to some lively comments. Some liked it. Some pointed to areas that needed improvement. Lisa, the web designer for the MCCL site responded about the design. Then something neat happened, one of the commentors, Brad, made a mock-up of the site as he saw it. Whether you agree with the new mock-up or the original site the larger point is: you’ve just seen how being transparent, being willing to do work and being willing to share ideas can lead in entirely new directions. Let’s not forget the speed at which this was done. It doesn’t take forever to get feedback on any kind of design you want to implement. Feedback is part of your project, right?

Brad wanted to expand his thoughts. Maybe Lisa will look at those ideas and use some. Maybe she won’t. But, at the very least some fertile web design conversation has happened. Even if only for me. Imagine if this was a larger project. Can we see how allowing people to comment & share generates new and interesting results? Are these lessons we can use within our own libraries? How much untapped talent could we harness by forming collectives for work on databases, OPACs, or websites? Share your work with your colleges. It makes you stronger.

I’m very impressed by both web pages. I’m impressed by everyone who slowed down to think about what they liked or didn’t like about library homepages. Furthermore, I’m impressed by the large amount of talent in the information landscape. Sometimes you can feel like a target, completely overlooked, or entirely mis-understood online, so I thank Brad and Lisa for engaging in a great dialog and helping other professionals think about what works, what doesn’t and why.

Checkout the original and the mock-up.

-TTW Contributor: Lee LeBlanc.

What are they doing right?

What are they doing right? a lot.

1. Use the website as a tool to feature resources and not visually overload the user.

2. Use purposeful design cues to help user navigate the site and not force the user to decipher what is important on the homepage.

3. Use the homepage as a starting point and do not try to put everything on the homepage.

4. Use descriptive bold headings to focus your attention and -not library-ese. Actually, this sums up library-ese.

SirsiDynix UpStream: Libraries Building Communities

“There are countless examples/case studies of libraries being the center of the communities in which they serve. What is the best example of “libraries building communities” that you have come across or experienced? What do you see happening in the future in empowering libraries to play even a greater role in their communities?”

Cover For fifteen years, I’ve worked in a public library, mostly in positions relating to the Web or technology training. It’s with that background and paradigm I address this question. I love the examples of libraries building community via physical space and through interactions between users and librarians, but for my example, I’d like to point to the communities being built online.

For the last few months, I’ve been touring various parts of the US with Jenny Levine, presenting what we call our “Social Software Roadshow.” The Roadshow highlights how libraries can create online conversations, collaborative spaces, and, yes, community with inexpensive tools. We no longer need static, one-way Web sites for libraries, when the Read/Write Web enables us to interact with each other and our users. We point to concrete examples of libraries that have found new ways to improve existing services or built new services. Large systems to small libraries are included as are public, academic, special libraries and school libraries.


This is not cool for the sake of cool, or a push for techno-worship or a plea for librarians to give in to technoloust. Simply, these online spaces are where our users are living and interacting, and according to the recent Newsweek cover story, sites like MySpace will only grow. Libraries need a presence in these social spaces.

I believe the best example is the innovative online presence created by the librarians and IT staff of the Ann Arbor District Library, Michigan. Through the use of an open source content management system, several Weblog mechanisms that allow easily updated content to display on the front page, and a dedication to interaction with library patrons, AADL has created a thriving community within the cyber walls of their online branch.

On July 5, 2005, AADL launched a new Web site and a new catalog system. Posting to the Director’s Blog, Director Josie Parker said: “The Website launch is providing an additional forum for public communication with the library. This blog is one of several. The intention is to make regular postings here from administration that will encourage discussion about library policies and services.” The blogs include the mechanism for registered users of the library to comment – to enter into a dialogue with the director and other librarians. Key word here: Transparency.

Scanning the AADL site, one finds both posts with a few comments and those with many. In the Teen area and gaming blogs, it is not unusual to see a thriving discussion with 200+ or 300+ comments. In sessions on Weblogs in libraries, Jenny and I have asked the audience: “How many of you can say you have a thriving teen presence inside your library Web site?”

How many libraries have actively engaged their users in this way? Many libraries have blogs, but the movement to turn on comments creates a whole different environment, that can scare some librarians or overwhelm others. Enabling comments, however, is one of the ways to utilize Web 2.0 technologies to create community. IM, wikis, and RSS feeds offer other opportunities to create community as well. This to me is the promise of Web 2.0 for libraries: creating new means to communicate, interact, collaborate and create inside library Web space as well as out in the community online spaces.

Libraries can play a greater role in their communities by building sites such as AADL’s, reaching out to users via instant messaging, feeding out content such as library holdings and library news to other community-based Web sites, and offering mechanisms for users to create or mash up library content. Before there will be success, however, there must be a commitment by the librarians to sustain successful services and participate in the ongoing conversation. A library’s Web presence can never be an afterthought or something that just one or two Web librarians contribute to. There should be a collective voice made up of the individual voices of the library staff. This involves a shift in thinking: can we let go of our most useful online services and information to actively be driven by our users through their comments, questions and input?

A trip through the technology blogs of the Biblioblogosphere and sites such as the LibSuccess wiki yield numerous case studies, advice and grassroots best practices for all of these technologies. We can explore how, for example, Butler University Library built a wiki of annotated reference resources for their librarians, faculty, and students, or the innovations by school media specialist Margaret Lincoln and the collaborative Weblog she set up to allow students at two different high schools the opportunity to discuss Elie Wiesel’s Night.


Browsing libraries’ and librarians’presence at the image hosting social site flickr yields a surprisingly thriving community of practitioners. We will find images of library programs, materials, buildings and the faces of this new breed of librarianship in 2006. Visit the grass roots READ posters initiative at flickr to see a mash up of librarians, library users and an effective use of 2.0 technologies.

We can examine Casey Bisson’s application of library catalog as Weblog, complete with user keyword tagging, comments enabled, and static URLs for every record. We can subscribe to RSS feeds of subject guides at Kansas City Public Library, or create our own RSS-enabled catalog search at Hennepin County Public Library that notifies us when our favorite authors or subjects are added to the library.

All of these examples point to the future of online community building in libraries: librarians will be able to enhance current systems or create new ones with Web 2.0 technologies to customize and build experiential environments. Library users will be able to meet within these systems and interact. They will have conversations. They will be human, as will the librarians – as they put a human face and give a human voice to the library via social software.


Ann Arbor District Library:

Butler Reference Wiki:

Flickr READ Posters:

Hennepin County Public Library:

Kansas City Public Library:

LibSuccess Wiki:


Night Blog:

Word Press OPAC:

This is a reprint from my article in the Spring 2006 SirsiDynix UpStream. I think it’s still holds up pretty well. Thanks to the folks there for letting me add it to my online portfolio. Please follow the link to read more from librarians discussing libraries and community, including Steven Cohen, Sarah Long and Jessamyn West:

Look for a new issue soon!

Teen Web Services Job at Hennepin

This job is making the rounds on lists and such. Are you looking to design web services for teens? Take a look:

Hennepin County Library’s (HCL) Web Services department seeks an innovative, enthusiastic Teen Web Services & Technology Coordinator to design and deliver information services to teens in an on-line environment and to develop and support in-library technology initiatives for teens. HCL’s websitehad over 10 million visits in 2006 and includes the dynamic portal,

See the entire job description and apply on-line at

TTW Mailbox: Using Google Co-op in Ohio

Using Google Co-op

Joel Husenits, Managing Editor at the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN), writes:

The Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) is using Google Co-op to power a search engine that searches all 251 Ohio public library websites. You can check it out at (we folded it into our existing “Find an Ohio Library” site). We thought other states and/or library systems might be interested in examples of localized custom search tools.

Thanks Joel. I did some sample searches, including the above for “blogs.” Seems fluid and friendly. Nice! Have other libraries adopted this technology?

Congrats AADL!

Launched on July 1, 2005, the new has been selected by the American Library Association as the best library website in the nation for libraries with budgets of $6,000,000.00+. Skidmore Studio located in Royal Oak, MI worked with seven members of the AADL staff for five months in 2005 to determine the site goals, conduct usability studies with the public, determine a new site logo, and to develop simple administrative tools for maintenance. We wanted our site to be functional for all levels of computer proficiency, and we wanted to use interactive tools to facilitate communication with our customers.

Engage Your Patrons

Engaged Patrons

A lot of folks have already linked, but allow me to point you to from Glenn Peterson at Hennepin County PL.

And I agree with Sarah: It’s a HUGE deal!

From the site: provides web services for public library websites. We enable you to offer events listings, blogs and more on your website, no programming required!

The pages you create on our site “plug into” your existing web site. We do the programming for you; you reap the benefits of being able to offer your users a more engaging and interactive web presence.

EP services are designed to be integrated into the look and feel of your website. To your users, it appears they have never left your site!

The service will give libraries ready to go and SEAMLESS weblogs, contact forms, RSS and more. And if your library qualifies — it’s FREE! No big fees to companies! No huge commitments of staff time! No…kerfuffle! This is just the ticket for libraries that may be struggling with how to implement 2.0 technologies. I think we all need to take our hats off to Glenn!

Read more at David King’s blog!