University of Alberta Libraries: Twitter

April 9, 2012

The Twitter link is pretty easy to find on the University of Alberta Libraries’ homepage.  It is located at the bottom right of the screen, and unlike Dalhousie Library’s link, the Twitter logo is the link.  As previously stated, Twitter is a pretty simple tool.  It really is just a running list of short messages, and I think even new users can look at the tool and immediately understand what its purpose is.  Both finding and using Twitter through the University of Alberta Libraries is fairly easy.

The University of Alberta Libraries’ Twitter seems to be, in a way, the central Twitter for all of the University’s individual libraries. The University of Alberta has several libraries such as the Rutherford Library, the Cameron Library, The J. W. Scott Library and the Winspear Library.  All of these libraries participate in the University of Alberta Libraries’ Twitter, and also have Twitter feeds of their own.  I think that this is a really great way for the libraries to connect and communicate with each other.

The University of Alberta Libraries’ Twitter feed seems to serve multiple functions.  They use Twitter to make the usual one-directional announcements about events, hours and new items in the collection.  They also use Twitter as a means of offering assistance to their patrons.  For example, on March 27th, a librarian tweeted to a student: “Good luck with your project! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask”.   A day later, a librarian referred another user to a subject specialist via Twitter.  The University of Alberta Libraries is certainly using Twitter as a means to communicate their services.

One service I would like to see an academic library use Twitter for is reference service.   In their article “Collaborative Reference Work in the Blogosphere”, which appeared in the second issue of the 2006 edition of Reference Services Review, Pomerantz and Stutzman argue that blogs present an opportunity for collaborative reference services.  Because multiple authors can view and respond to a post, several librarians can work together over blogs to answer reference questions and deliver better responses.  I think that the centrality of the University of Alberta’s Twitter feed presents a great opportunity for this kind of collaborative reference.  However, twitter does not allow for lengthy posts, so it is possible that it’s potential as a reference tool would be limited to “quick” questions.


Dalhousie University Library: Twitter

April 9, 2012

The Twitter link is somewhat difficult to find on the Dalhousie Libraries homepage. I had to scroll down about a page to locate the links, and I was initially confused when I tried to click on the Twitter logo, because the picture of the logo is not a link.  Instead, the links to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are listed below the pictures.   I found this to be a little bit counter-intuitive.  I think that the usability of these links would be improved if the logos for these tools linked to the website. 

Twitter itself is a pretty simple tool.  It really is just a running list of short messages, and I think even new users can look at the tool and immediately understand what its purpose is.

Dalhousie University Library does a very good job of actively communicating with its users through Twitter.  The librarians actively respond to student tweets.  For example, a student tweeted that he had graduated on April 4th, and the library responded with congratulations.  Another student complained about the temperature, and the library also responded to this tweet.  However, they were unable to change the temperature.   Lindy Brown’s webpage  about Twittering libraries notes that one of the goals of using Twitter in libraries is to connect with users.  Dalhousie University is certainly doing this.

Dalhousie University Library uses Twitter to announce new services, such as 3D printing (on a side note, the use of 3D printing just made Dalhousie University Library “innovators” according to Michael Stephens’ April 9th blog post).  New books and events are also posted on the Dalhousie University Library’s Twitter feed.  I believe that Dalhousie University has done a great job of integrating its services with Twitter.

I would certainly use this tool if I was a patron of the Dalhousie Library.  The librarians post interesting events and news, and they also respond to their users’ posts.  I would follow this library’s posts, and I would also likely participate by asking questions if I needed to because I would be sure to get an answer.

The University of Chicago: Tagging

April 9, 2012

The University of Chicago library is another academic library that supports tagging of its collection.  This library uses AquaBrowser  which includes the My Discoveries tool.  My Discoveries enables users to tag and rate library resources, and also write reviews.  The tags, ratings or reviews that a user creates can either remain private or be made public so that all library users can see them.   To make this user-added information public takes roughly a day, according to the My Discoveries tool.

The My Discoveries tool is built right in to the library catalogue, and can be accessed in two places.  One can click the “My Discoveries” link in the top right hand corner, or select the “Save or Tag” link just below.  The tool is, therefore, quite easy to locate, but it is not overtly advertised.

Using the My Discoveries tool is very simple.  At the University of Chicago Library’s website, My Discoveries is not limited to those affiliated with the library. Anyone is able to create a My Discoveries account on the library’s website.  I created an account to see how the tool works.  After an account has been created, users can simply click on the “save or tag” link and a simple fill-in form for tags, ratings and reviews appears on the page.  Users can then view their resource lists, tags, ratings and reviews by clicking on their user name in the top right hand corner of the screen.  I believe that for first time users, this tool would be quite easy to use.

The tags created by the My Discover tool give another dimension to the library catalogue records.  The tags function as a further description for a given work.  When one hovers over a tag in a record, the number of times that the item has been tagged with that term appears.  If an item has been tagged multiple times with a certain term, it suggests that the item is most likely more “about” that term than other tags that appear with less frequency.   I would certainly use this tool to help me evaluate resources if I were a patron of the University of Chicago library.

I was unable to find one review or rating written by a user about an item in the library’s collection.  I searched through a great many records and did not find any.   I am not sure if this is because few users actually share their reviews and ratings, or if I was just unlucky in the records I chose to search.  What I did find was links to Google Books reviews, which would be somewhat helpful to a user trying to evaluate a resource.  One possible change I could suggest for the University of Chicago Library is to include a way of ordering search results by highest rated or most discussed.

University of Pennsylvania: Tagging

April 8, 2012

In the July 2009 issue of The Journal Of Academic Librarianship, Xu, Chu and Ouyang note that tagging is among the least used web 2.0 application in academic libraries, despite the fact that it is one of the most popular web 2.0 application among library users.   While I looked through various academic library websites, I certainly found this to be the case.  All of the university library websites I have visited while conducting my (admittedly somewhat limited) research contain an instant messaging application. Most sites also have Facebook and Twitter, but I was only able to locate a few university libraries that had some kind of tagging application. In this entry, I will be discussing the University of Pennsylvania’s social bookmarking application.

The University of Pennsylvania’s own social bookmarking system uses the Penntags bookmarklet.  I was unable to use this feature because I am not a student at the university, but the Penntags instructions page provides information on how the bookmarklet works.  With the bookmarklet, a user can tag a website or online library resources and that tag is then shared with the Penntags site.  On the Penntags site itself, a user can search through resources tagged by other users.

I found the Penntags page very difficult to find.  I initially discovered that the University of Pennsylvania’s library had a tagging feature by reading Nichole Ackerman’s course webpage on social bookmarking in academic libraries.  If I had not already known about the tagging feature before entering the University of Pennsylvania library’s website, I likely would never have found it on the homepage.  Initially, I used the library website’s search bar to locate the Penntags site.  I then found that the site could also be accessed through the “Browser Tools Support” link on the bottom right of the page.  I believe that Penntags would certainly be improved if it was easier to find, but it may be that University of Pennsylvania students are made aware of this application through other means.

I was unable to use the Penntags bookmarklet because I am not a student of the university, but the instructions page makes it seem that the bookmarklet is a pretty easy tool to use.  The Penntags site itself  is quite intuitive and easy to use.  Items can be searched by tags in the search bar.  Collections of materials can also be viewed by project, which is a collection of bookmarks for a user’s specific project, or by user.

Librarians at the University of Pennsylvania have effectively integrated the Penntags tool with other services they offer.  As Nicole Engard notes in her blog post on Penntags, reference librarians at the University of Pennsylvania use Penntags to create on-demand resource guides by creating a project, adding links to it, and sending the url to the user.  Penntags also grants users the ability to add tags and annotations to the library catalogue as can be seen in this record.

I think that Penntags is an enormously useful tool for students conducting research.  Viewing resources by project enables users to see a list of resources all related to a similar topic in one place.  I think it would be a great starting place for research and one that I would use often if I were a patron of the University of Pennsylvania’s library.  Another useful feature of Penntags are the annotations that can be added to each resource.  These annotations would be very useful when selecting resources.

Yale University Library: Facebook

April 3, 2012

According to Michalis Gerolimos’ article “Academic Libraries on Facebook: An Analysis of User’s Comments”  Yale University Library’s had the most “likes” on their Facebook of the twenty university libraries surveyed, with 2149 likes in March 2011.  As of April 1st, 2012 (the day I last looked at the site), they were up to 3,486 likes.  I thought I would take a look at Yale Library’s Facebook site, to see what all the fuss was about.

The link to Yale’s Facebook page is fairly easy to locate.  It is located on the bottom right corner of the library’s homepage.

Like the University of Calgary’s Library, Yale Library uses Facebook’s Timeline.  As previously discussed, Timeline is somewhat difficult to navigate simply because of the amount of stuff on the page.  Unlike the University of Calgary’s library, the Yale library does not divide its Facebook page between user generated and library generated content.   Instead, the Yale library’s posts go down either side of the page, with the library’s “likes” on the top right-hand side.  For new users, I believe this site would be quite difficult to navigate because events, announcements and pictures are all mixed together and seem to be organized only by date.

Through Facebook, Yale University is doing quite a good job of advertising parts of their collection as appropriate.  For example, the library uploaded images from the Visual Resources Collection related to Easter to generate interest in that collection.  It is clear by the number of shares, likes and positive comments that the library is successful in generating interest in the featured items through Facebook.   Yale also uses Facebook to advertise its events, and in that way is marketing its services as event facilitators, but none of the other library services seem to be integrated with the library’s Facebook page. Like the University of Calgary’s library, Yale library’s Facebook page does not announce its services for assisting students with research or assignments.  Instead, these services are advertised on the Yale library’s homepage.   I might add that Yale library’s homepage does not advertise these services as effectively as the University of Calgary does. 

Yale uses Facebook to post some interesting pieces of their collection, and I would certainly be interested in visiting this site to view these posts.  However, I do not believe that I would participate by posting anything new to the site.  I notice that most of the posts on this site are user compliments responding to advertised pieces of the collection, library photos, or event notification, and very little two-way communication seems to be taking place.

Despite the fact that Yale library’s facebook page has one of the highest number of “likes” among university Facebook pages, there is very little in the way of constructive two-way communication between the library and its users.   I read through the posts until the year 2010, and found that the library never directly asked its users for input on how the library could better serve them.  If the goal of implementing tools like Facebook is to create a participatory library as defined in Michael Casey’s blog post , the Yale library should make more of an attempt to generate feedback from its users.  Perhaps creating polls to gather opinions about library services, or simply asking directly for user feedback would accomplish this goal.

University of Calgary Library: Facebook

March 30, 2012

The University of Calgary Library’s Facebook page was extremely easy to find.  The Facebook button is located beside the other social software buttons (Twitter, Flickr and RSS) in the bottom center of the page.  When I initially entered the library’s homepage, the picture in the center took a moment to load, so the “social buttons” were in the very center of the page, and immediately caught my attention.  I am not sure if this was intentional, but it certainly made the presence of the “social buttons” very obvious.   Just in case you happen to miss the buttons in the very center of the page, they are also visible in the top left corner.

The Univeristy of Calgary Library uses Facebook’s Timeline, and I would say that I am in agreement with Alma Mater’s number two reason for disliking timeline: “It’s too much on the eyes.  There’s so much going on I don’t even know what to see and what not to”.  Timeline is very busy, and it takes a while to figure out exactly what it is you’re looking at.  Timeline, of course, is not the library’s design, so they can’t really be faulted for its poor layout.

In fact, the library has divided the timeline wall in a way that makes a great deal of sense.  On the left hand side, the library posts their own announcements, and on the right, posts and recommendations made by others are listed.  This makes the page a great deal easier to navigate.  In a later post, I will discuss the Yale Library’s Facebook page, which is not so clearly organized.

The University of Calgary Library advertises its new services on the announcement side of its Facebook page.  For example, on March 2nd the library made the announcement that  materials s from the Military Museum could now be requested and delivered to the library.  However, longer-standing services are not mentioned on the library’s Facebook page. Their services, such as book a librarian, writing consultations, research guides and workshops, are advertised centrally on their homepage.  Library services, then, are not integrated into the library’s social network, but are well advertised none the less.

If I were a patron of the University of Calgary’s  library, I would definitely use their Facebook page to check for announcements, and if I had a specific question or comment about the library, I might also post it on this site.  I noticed that in some cases users helped each other to answer questions.  On January 31st, a user asked about how to use the chairs in the library, and another user responded with a link to the chair instructions.   Librarians also responded to user comments. On October 25th, a library user complained about the lack of seating in the library, and was answered two days later by a librarian who said they had added more seating.  As a user, viewing these conversations between users and librarians would encourage me to participate.  Though there is not a huge amount of conversation going on in this Facebook, I believe this site has taken some steps in accomplishing the goal that Michael Stephens sets out in “The Hyperlinked Library”  by “[c]reating connections and community for library users…”

In his blog post “Revisiting Participatory Services in Trying Times”,  Michael Casey defines the participatory library as one that “…engages and queries its entire community and seeks to integrate them into the structure of change”.  The library’s Facebook site does a very good job of asking users about specific issues that the library has already targeted for change, such as the design of the library website or the display messages above the library service desk.  However, the “recommendations” area, which gives the opportunity for users to generate their own thoughts on the library and possible changes, seems quite ineffective.  In the “recommendations” area, there are only two comments and both of them are complements.  While complements are always nice, no real recommendations are given.  Perhaps this section should be re-phrased and given a more specific title such as “What would you change about the library?”  or “What can we do better?”.  Titles that include a question may be more effective in generating actual recommendations.