Hennepin 2 – Study tour 07

Glenn Peterson, a fellow presenter at CIL took me through some of the behind the scenes. At the moment he is working on mashup between Google Maps and Flickr which will show their branches on a map with address and contact details. He is including geotagging, so that you get a Google image of the branch, which will also show nearby geotagged images.

They use Cold Fusion on their web server, which works well with Dream Weaver their HTML editor. Their database info is kept on Microsoft Access which has a nice interface, is easy to learn and to use. Glenn has also developed some Microsoft SQL databases, mostly for their most heavily used content. Their webs server is Apache – windows based, as are most of their servers, however some do use Linux. Four web servers are used – one for the public website and one each for the staff and public ILS access. The final one does their catalogue integrations and has access permissions which the web servers don’t. They also have a separate development server for the website which has the same structure as the production server.

Scripts have been written for many different functions (green with envy, green with envy), including one that saves the users login card number and pin on their computer so they are automatically logged in when they visit the library website. A script is also used to gather their patron comments and attach them to the catalogue records. It also brings together comments from all the different formats and editions of the same title, ie. Audio, large print etc. They use an OCLC list which returns all ISBNs which are related to any given ISBN, which they cache so on their server, to speed up processing time. Each comments page also brings in related information from Syndetics. Glenn has also been talking to the team at Library Thing about how they could use their tagging feature and their recommended list on the HCPL catalogue.

Glenn scripts in Cold Fusion Markup Language (CFML) to bring all this together. The script seeks out staff reviews if available before getting the Syndetics content, if not there then it seeks content from Amazon. It also links to booklists that include that title in it. They also have audio reviws to listen to (not podcasts at this stage, although they are looking to make them so), using a Flash audio player. It can also call in customer views from Amazon, recent comments and gives you the option of adding a comment. There are RSS feeds on the titles and comments. A script gathers the last 4 hours of comments and sends them in an email to a team of librarian on a rotating list, just to scan for the content and remove any inappropriate ones – this is rare.

Comments have a name link which if clicked will take you to other comments left by that person – a form of reader recommends. Would like to make those commenters links into a a list of profiles with more information about the commenter, including their booklists etc, bringing a social networking/building community capacity to the space.

They have bought Wii gaming consoles for the branches, testing the water with this.

Jody Wurl is the newest member of the Web Services Team and is a Teen Librarian. They have an online Teen advisory group who contributes blog entries, highlighted websites and polls to the HCPL Teen Links webpages and they have automatic RSS feeds for their teen events and new books. You can also change the colours on the teen website, I will leave it to you to find the Easter egg that uses this feature in a cute way on the site.

Teen Links has two sets of subject guides – Teen Topics (teen issues) and Do your Homework. At the moment, Jody does all the links but she is looking to get the same model as is used on Book Space, with multiple contributors working. There is strong interest in readers advising at Hennepin, so they have good teen reading lists.

The At Your Library part of their site needs work, so Jody hopes to get the soon to be developed teen advisory groups in the branches to possibly contribute a webpage and blog posts for each branch. Each library has its own webpage with community links, friends news, library events fed in from the calendar, library news – which can be submitted. Some information is hard coded – ie. hours, the photo, special services etc.

Ann Melrose, former children’s librarian and Web Services team member took me upstairs where we both were taken on a tour of Ridgedale Library, one of Hennepin’s regional libraries. Check out the Flickr photos. They are in a building, which also houses a county service center, as do their other 2 regional libraries. They have renewable floor signage, lots of study rooms and wifi throughout the building. Self-serve holds are huge. 116 public PCs, 14 catalogue only, only ever all booked out on a Monday night or weekend.

The amazing thing was their automated materials handling system. Anything returned to a chute, whether outside or at the desk, is conveyor belted up to the second floor, where this amazing locally made (Minnesota that is), shift, sorts, returns and delivers the stock to trolleys, either ready for shelving or to go to one of the other branches or holds, as appropriate. At least one staff member monitors the system, at peak time there are too. Check out the Flickr photos. In another HCPL branch, the conveyor runs under the floor at one stage, so you can watch the stock move along – the kids love it!

After the tour, Ann did an awesome job covering the children’s side of the web at HCPL. KidLinks is the latest iteration of their website and is coming about after extensive consultation with local Grade 5 kids. The graphic designer has created the layout, the programmers are working on creating it in the development server. They will be using Flash mouseovers and sounds. Launch date is June 4th.

Children’s book reviews area added with the same web tools as others at HCPL. In the summer they make it a competition – all reviews are added to their Access database and a randomiser draws the winners who get book prizes. Looking at having 5 x a week long summer book clubs this year, using Moodle. They must register to contribute and Ann will try to organise it so that all participants in each group gets online together at the end of the week to chat.

KidsLinks news is a monthly kids email newsletter, which has 2 book reviews, promotes events and has links to cute sites. It is created in HTML each month, but they use a script to send it out to all the subscribers in their database. Also doing a birth to six newsletter with relevant content for parents and caregivers in the same way. Looking to do RSS feeds on them.

Kids polls on the webpages changeover automatically every Sunday night. All questions are grabbed automatically from a database and Ann usually has a few in reserve. She is also able to reuse old questions after a few years. The kids love the polls.

It was an awesome day at Hennepin and I can’t thank the Web Services Team enough for their time and all they covered in such a short period. You guys are inspiring and I will be taking much from my time there, for quite a while to come. Thanks!


    • Sideshowmatt on April 30, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your study tour experiences with those less fortunate! HCPL and AAPL must be very exciting places – looking forward to seeing some of your learning applied back in Aus. Cheers, Matthew

    • Michelle McLean on April 30, 2007 at 12:16 am

    Thanks Matt, its my pleasure to share my experiences and I am glad you are getting something out of it. My biggest challenge when I get home is to achieve a few things and not try to do everything that I am inspired to do.

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