Monday, October 24, 2005

Web Trends & Innovations for Public Libraries

David King: Kansas City Public
Glenn Peterson: Hennepin County
Sarah Houghton: Marin County Free Library
John Blyberg: Ann Arbor District Library

What large public libraries are doing on the Web:
Content (Subject guides, events, and programs)
Customers (help your patrons discover library resources, push information to them, focus on specific user groups)
Communication (commutating with patrons: comments forms, RSS, etc.)
Redesigning with Web Standards

How do they do it?
Staffing is actually being the curve with regard to number of staff working on the Web vs number of patrons using the Web sites.
Use your online stats as justification for why you need more staff to do more work online.

It's all about leverage: leveraging your library staff as a whole to take on as many projects as possible.

  • Utilize Web Application Software
    Integrate a lot of different information and content from different sources rather than static html (PHP, ASP, ColdFusion, perl, etc.)
  • Rapid Development Environment
    Use smarter software like Dreamweaver and Homesite, etc. so that you can decrease your development time.
  • Use your reference staff for content (Use web-based tools for staff to create content)
  • Learn more about XML (RSS and more)

Subject guides
Starting points for finding information in specific topics areas
Bring together in one place all library resources on a topic (if you find the history database page, you should find an entrance to all other history-related resources: databases, sites, links to library catalog, Topic-specific RSS feeds, classes and events, subject-specific blogs, etc.) Example: Hennpin's Countries & Travel example
I love that they have the pictures of the librarians! A human face shows that they are real people, ready to help.

Small Library Power
If you have no staff, no money, no time, and no coders, what can you do?
Answer from Sarah: Lots

  • Simple blogging & RSS
    Why love blogs & RSS: free, auto feeds, no tech skills required, you don't even have to call it a blog--it's really what's new at the library. Patrons don't need to know the words Blog and RSS.
  • Linked links: repackage pathfinders, booklists, etc.
    Quick searches: links to prefab catalog searches
    All the DVDs, new books, large type
  • Simple online forms
    Printable PDFs of common forms
    Simple HTML forms (e-mail reference requests, patron comments)
  • Lightweight virtual reference
  • IM: your users are already here: where are you? It's free or at least chap; Aggregate multiple accounts through Trillian or Gaim
  • Jybe: free right now; a library version coming out soon with links into your ; Co-browsing and text-chat
  • SMS: text-messaging with cell phones

Ann Arbor District Library
The recently redesigned darling of the public lib Web world (and their darling status is well deserved... did we mention their front page is a collection of blogs and that their director is blogging? Love it.)
AADL.ord's open source tools
L.A.M.P. (linux, apache, mysql, php)
Drupal is the CMS they are using (Again, it's Open source, completelyn PHP, completly modular, good support base, approach to CMS/Blogging fell within their needs. Oh, yeah, it's free)

Trends in Public Library Websites (Dave's best guesses)
Web redesigns galore!
Content and interaction continue to mix (more blogs, more RSS, more ways to connect with librarians like IM, text-messaging)
Video online
Who will have the next great redesigned Web?

One note from me: We are in the middle of redesigning our site ( and the many partnership sites we manage (,,, and I would suggest that while it's partly a matter of semantics, we shouldn't talk about redesigning our sites: we should start completely over from the ground up. If the old site had some good content, elements, cool, and we'll add it. But I think it's liberating and exciting to think about something totally new that fits just right rather than trying to modify something we know we want to move away from.

Burn it, and start over. Creativity is destruction. Woo hoo!

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