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Library 2.0 Tools and the Salt Lake County Library Website May 17, 2009

Posted by swegene1 in Final Project, Library 2.0, Salt Lake County Library.
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One of the difficulties with assessing Web 2.0 tools on a library website, is that they are frequently embedded so deeply that it is very hard to find them. I might know that the library provides a certain service, but it might be impossible to find, or take a lot of searching. This difficulty is compounded on a website that has a lot of different content loaded on their web pages particularlywhen it is not organized into categories. The Salt Lake County Library System’s web page suffers from this malady. It is full of information, with the front page in particular crammed with links, that are grouped under such general headings as “Quick Links,” “What’s Hot @ the Library,” and “Books, Music & More.” Besides these groups of links, there are a lot of links that are just randomly placed around the front page. Fortunately, there is an option to search the site. It was only this feature that allowed me to actually find any Library 2.0 resources.

In assessing the Library 2.0 resources that I did find on this web site, I will focus my discussion on the following three issues:

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Salt Lake County Library System Website

From the front page of the Salt Lake County Library System’s website only one 2.0 tool really stands out from the plethora of links, that for the library’s Podcasts. There are other tools, such as several blogs, RSS feeds, widgets, a delicious account, and others, but this is the only one promoted on the front page. Some of the tools I found while looking through the pages, while others I only discovered through keyword searching the site.

In 2006, the library started creating videos and posting them on a video feed that library users could subscribe to. The podcasts or vodcasts (video podcasts) shared by the library mostly feature interviews the local television stations did with various library personnel as well as recordings of author talks. Unfortunately, the stream is not frequently updated with several months in between installations, with the last one almost a year ago. This tool, however, is featured on the front page of their website, in a position of prominence.

Under “Library Information & Contacts” there is a category called “Library Tools,” this general category has links to some of the library’s 2.0 technologies. For instance they have a link to their Delicious account at the bottom of the page, which appears to be frequently updated and maintained by their staff. This Delicious account is also featured other places on their website, where they use it to provide a tag cloud of links and subjects. On this “Library Tools” page the library also offers a link to their LibraryElf program. This is an independent program that the library pays to provide more options for interactivity for their patrons. Users can sign up to receive alerts in a huge range of formats. They can consolidate all of their family member’s cards, to track all of the items checked out. In addition to this outside service, the library also offers a plug in that allows users to search the library catalog from a box on their web-browser.

Beyond this tools page, the library does offer a series of blogs and myspace pages, but finding the page with the list of them required me to do a keyword search. As far as I can tell, this page is hosted on the library web page but is not actually linked. This makes it harder for users to find the page and use these tools.

There are a few RSS (really simple syndication) feeds available from the library, but they are created and managed through outside services the library uses. For instance, library events are maintained through a services called Evanced, which allows users to search through the calender. Evanced also allows users to subscribe to RSS feeds of activities. These feeds are customizable, offering many options. The library’s OPAC, its Delicious account, as well as this event calendar all have RSS feed options.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

Visibility of tools is one of the first things a site needs to do to assist users, beyond that there needs to be explanation of what the tool is, and how to go about using it. For some of the tools that are created by services outside of the library, these tutorials are available on the external source’s site. On the library’s web site, there needs to be some assistance to encourage users to give these tools a try. The Salt Lake County Library system struggles with visibility of their tools, as stated earlier, and has limited success with providing any on site assistance.

Neither the video podcasts nor the Delicious account have any instruction or explanation to users of the library’s website on how to use them or what exactly they are. The Library Elf program and the plug in do link to pages with explainations of what they are, and some basic information on how to use them. For the most part, these instrutional library pages merely link to instruction on another site.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

As with the instruction and these Library 2.0 tools, the Salt Lake County Library system offers very little in the way of explanation as to why patrons would want to use these tools. The exception is with the Library Elf program. For that tool, the library created a page that lists the features offered by the tool and explanations as to why people would want to sign up for it.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Website

The Salt Lake County Library system has taken a few steps towards using Library 2.0 tools, but in order to fully integrate them into their website and to empower their users in customizing their library experience, they need to increase the amount of explanation and instruction in how to use these tools. In addition, they need to increase the visibility of tools that they update and use frequently.

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