CIL2007 – Building Collaboration, Communication & Community Online – Meredith Farkas

Social software to Meredith must meet 2 of the following definitions:

  • communicate, collaborate and build community online
  • syndicated, reused, remixed


  • Easy content creation and sharing – democraticised creation, anyone can create and edit – eg. CIL 2007 Wiki
  • Online collaboration – regardless of geographic location, collaborating in a single shared space eg. Google Docs
  • Conversations: distributed – taking place in many different spaces – eg. blogosphere, using comments, trackbacks, you can trace conversations (BlogPulse site to trace conversations)
  • Conversations: real time – instant messaging to access people in real time, friends are already there, is the library?
  • Capitalizing on the wisdom of crowds – social tagging tools such as to find what others have found interesting, wikis to share local knowledge at conferences etc
  • Transparency – ratings websites abound, so nothing escapes scrutiny, it allows us to make a more human connection with entities online and organisations are responding with human touches such as blogs
  • Personalisation – choose and combine our own content with RSS feeds, bringing them together in one space – making them our own newspapers, podcasts become our own radio stations, using your computer, CD player or MP3 player
  • Portability – ear buds seem be surgically attached to young adults – need to be providing content for the devices they are using

What can libraries do?

  • Disseminate information – blog to push information out easily to our users, especially using RSS feeds so they can get it in the form they choose. Harris County Public Library uses a blog as a reference service – recommend books on topics that are of interest due to recent event. RSS feeds from the catalogue based on subject, author, title and more. Ohio Uni Biz Wiki – a subject guide, allowing subject access to resources, easily editable and searchable. Use to subject collect relevant bookmarks – Washington State Library has a genealogy collection which is annotated and available through RSS. Use podcasts to deliver library instruction, interviews, local history – eg. Omnibus
  • Get feedback! Start a Conversation! eg. Ann Arbor District Library has built great conversations through their blogs and more by leaving their comments open. Better than a feedback form. Use social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace. Oceana Wilson uses the bulletin function to solicite suggestions for book purchases etc from students.
  • Give the library a human face! Use Flickr to show what your library is all about. A picture is worth a 1000 words, show your fun activities and more. SJCPL blog really talks to their readers like they are talking to an old friend. Use visual elements and fun language.
  • Provide services to remote users. More and more that our visitors are virtual only and we need to be reaching them also. Use IM, as they are already using it instead of trying to make them use something unfamiliar – such as virtual reference software. Calgary Public Library tutorials using webcasts, instead of screen shots or step-by-step instructions.
  • Provide services where our users are. MySpace profiles, or like Brooklyn College Library which has built a portal where their users are: portal to online resources, blog and more. Thomas Ford uses MeeboMe widget to open IM messaging right from their website, without having to sign up for IM. Use RSS feeds to syndicate your content to many different locations.
  • Provide services using tools patrons use. SMS reference using mobile phones which are ever present on particularly young people.
  • Capitalise on collective intelligence of colleagues and users. Ann Arbor has integrated tagging into their catalogue – getting contextual information on these resources, from their users, making it easier to find. Have also got, users who borrowed this, also borrowed….. Hennepin has integrated commenting into their catalogue, patrons can write reviews and it can be found in their catalogue.

Strategies for introducing social software in libraries

  • Avoid technolust – think about the needs first, then choose the best tool for it
  • Will it improve library services? Will patrons use it? – Who are our patrons, what are there needs, it all has to be context appropriate to the users of your library
  • Involve staff at all levels in planning – not just the tech savvy staff, but all those who have to use and market the tools, they can provide some great insights.
  • Involve IT in planning – include them from the start, create a consortial rather than an adversarial relationship
  • Play with Technology! Kick the tires! Start using the social tools, check them out and you will get a lot more insight on how they work, how they could work and their problems.
  • Trust your patrons, learn from them – don’t fear what your users may post – its about radical trust and it we don’t have it, we miss out on valuable contributions
  • Consider maintenance and sustainability – think long term once you start with it, not just the next few months, but years and years
  • Do you need a policy? Don’t always need one, but there is a benefit in having things such as a comments policy.
  • In Marketing, focus on the functionality – patrons don’t really care about the tool, but are interested in what it provides.

Meredith announced the winners of the competition to find cover art for her new book – “Social software in libraries”.

Links from the paper are at