University of Lethbridge Library

University of Lethbridge Library

University of Lethbridge Library's homepage

At the University of Lethbridge, their Library has a focus on advertising their 2.0 services. The library’s home page has the standard search box, links to databases and drop down menus. But they also have visible links to RSS feeds and a prominent advertisement for the library’s mobile website. The library’s mobile site seems to be optimized for Apple mobile devices, but it’s a functional and aesthetically appealing resource for access on the go. Especially useful and thoughtful are options that allow users to book group meeting rooms and find free library computers.

Along the right side of the home page, all of the library’s 2.0 services are promoted through large, colourful icons. This makes them easy to see and access, inviting users to click them right away. More libraries should use this approach when designing their home pages: as a portal and site to link many of the other services offered by the library.

The University of Lethbridge also offers the standard IM chat option, but it is automatically opened in a separate window, which provides a bit more flexibility when working with multiple applications and programs.

University of Lethbridge Library Facebook page

University of Lethbridge Library's Facebook page

The Twitter and Facebook profiles maintained by the university mostly listed the same information, which was updates about library facilities, hours, and upcoming events. One interesting addition to the Facebook profile was the option to search the library catalog directly from the Facebook page. While I am not sure that I would choose Facebook as the place to go for more in-depth searches, it could provide a quick, convenient search.

Overall, the University of Lethbridge Library does a good job of promoting their 2.0 services on their home page, which is a key place to start. At the same time, these advertised services need to be easy to use, and Lethbridge Library has also put time and effort into the design of their 2.0 services. Their Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds provide frequent and informative updates, and their mobile website (while optimized for Apple products) also provides focused and effective functionality.


McMaster University Library

At McMaster University Library, a concerted effort to embrace Library 2.0 is being made. Along with the ever popular IM chat option, the library also lists its MSN, GoogleTalk, and Yahoo! user names. Another site that is used to provide information to users is Twitter, where the library highlights different services and resources offered. The library even hosts many wikis, which cover topics that range from specific class assignments to work policies.

McMaster University Library's Twitter

McMaster University Library's Twitter

Their Twitter page especially seems to be an effective way to reach out to library users. It’s visually appealing and updated very regularly. The tweets inform students about important information (changes in hours of operation, new events, links to helpful research resources, etc.). While their Twitter account has only around 680 followers, other students and users may be choosing to receive these updates via RSS, which may be less intrusive, and thus preferred.

The wikis and blogs that are hosted by McMaster University Library are also indicative of their willingness to embrace 2.0. Aptly named the “2.0 Toolbox”, the site allows users to create their own wikis and contribute to their education. There is an impressive number of blogs created by students, and the wikis used for class work offer an interesting and interactive platform for learning.

McMaster University Library's Wiki

McMaster University Library's Wiki (2.0 Toolbox)

The extent to which McMaster University’s Library is utilizing 2.0 services is admirable, and I would definitely make use of their Twitter updates. The account seems well maintained, and the staff provides a mixture of interesting and useful updates. One suggestion I would make to improve the library’s 2.0 services would be to make these more accessible from the central site. Difficult to find if a user is new to the library website, I would welcome a drop down menu that lists these kinds of services in one place.

Washington State University Libraries

WSU Library

WSU Library

At Washington State University Library, a few 2.0 services are offered, but are also difficult to find and go unadvertised. The library website prominently features online access to their catalog, resource guides and contact information. From their Ask a Question page, there is also the popular embedded IM chat box, offering access to librarians while they are on duty. This is the most obvious and easy to find of the 2.0 services the library offers; the other area of the site that offers 2.0 services is in the News & Events, which has options to subscribe to various RSS feeds. Hidden within these feeds is access to podcasts that were created by the library. Neither the IM chat option nor the RSS feeds are advertised on the home page, and navigating to their respective locations is somewhat confusing.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that there are many branches included under the umbrella of WSU Library, and they seem to maintain their own information. Under News & Events, for example, each of the branches has their own separately published feed. While this is certainly a useful and usable distinction, nowhere in the main navigation system is this fact made clear. In the same way, certain branches of the WSU Library (including the Holland and Terrell Library) also have their own social networking presence. These pages are well maintained, informative and updated regularly; many events are advertised and promoted through Facebook, and information about library services (such as laptop lending and workshops offered) can also be found here. However, this Facebook presence is not advertised or linked to from the main WSU Library website, and thus may have limited potential exposure to students and other users.

Holland & Terrell Facebook page

The Holland & Terrell Facebook page

The act of producing and maintaining Library 2.0 services is not enough to generate use; promoting their existence should also be a priority. Because a library’s home page is still a main source of information for students, having an aggregated, common page for all the many branches of WSU Library, where services such as RSS feeds and links to Facebook organization profiles can be found, might increase student awareness of their library’s efforts.

Penn Libraries

Penn Libraries

Penn Libraries

What kind of Library 2.0 services are offered at Penn Libraries? From looking at the home page of the Penn Libraries website, it is clear that the organization values their ability to offer various ways to contact their reference librarians. A large icon with the words “IM, Text, Chat” across it is visible at the top right of the page, and takes the user to a dedicated page listing all of the options to speak to a librarian. Among the options are the standard IM clients (Google Talk, MSN, Yahoo), alongside a phone number to send text messages to, as well as an email link. Interestingly, clicking on another link in the top left of the page to see online hours, brings up another substantially similar page. On this next page, all of the same contact options are listed again, but extra information like reference hours and links to library directories is also included. It seems strange that they would not make this second page the default, but regardless, I appreciate the spacing and aesthetic value of the page.

Penn Libraries IM page

Penn Libraries Contact Page

The home page also has a small link to the RSS feed for Events at the library, below a listing of News updates. It is an interesting distinction; while most other libraries seem to combine the two concepts of “News” and “Events” into one, and often provide some kind of RSS feed for them, Penn Libraries separates the two and only provides a feed for “Events”. This makes both the News and Events a little more unappealing, because the distinction is unclear and deciding what kind of information is found under each category requires unnecessary effort.

Penn Libraries is also meeting users on their mobile devices by providing a mobile website. This simplified site features large, attractive icons (taking a cue from Apple’s icon designs) that link to mobile services. Some of these icons tie directly back into the library’s other 2.0 services; these include a page listing librarian contact options and others that allow searching of the catalog from the mobile phone. It’s clear that time and thought went into the design of the mobile site, as it’s not just a smaller version of the library’s website.

Like many other academic libraries, Penn Libraries also maintains a Facebook page, which is another platform to keep library users up to date on library services and events. Unfortunately, this Facebook presence is not advertised on the library home page, and thus might be missing out on potential exposure.

Syracuse University Library

The Syracuse University Library offers a variety of services that fall in line with Library 2.0 concepts. These include the ability to contact Library Help staff from a variety of devices and the use of a blog for announcements. There is also a service called “Mybrary”, provided for students at Syracuse that provides customizable RSS feeds, home pages, and widgets. Since I am not currently a Syracuse student, I won’t be able to take a look at that particular feature, but it seems like a promising execution of some 2.0 ideas.

Syracuse University Library

Syracuse University Library's homepage

On their contact page, the Syracuse Library lists the many different ways users can contact them for help, including text messaging, email and an IM chat box. Similar to some other library websites (such as Tisch Library at Tufts University), this box is embedded within contact page and doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else on the library website. It does, however, also offer the option to open the chat in a new, separate window, thereby allowing users to have a chat window open while working with an internet browser. This offers the user some additional flexibility in how they use their own computer’s workspace. The fact that this chat option is only accessible from one page may be problematic for the library, however. Providing more access points from different pages might help in seeing IM’s usage increase.

There is also an area for News & Events, and it is set up in the style of a blog. Most of the things we have come to expect from blogs (older stories archived and organized by date and categories, a link to the RSS feed) are present, and are useful in helping the user in browsing and finding information.

Syracuse University Library News

Syracuse University Library News

Interestingly, there are no mentions of the library having a presence on popular social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. While these pages do exist, the webpage does not link to them. This is not necessarily a negative thing; while I have not been able to access the Mybrary feature, I would venture to guess that this customizable user experience may offer library users many of the things that a Facebook page might have, and may even be preferable to a social networking profile. By allowing the student to decide what information they receive from the library and centralizing it with a personalized home page, Syracuse can allow users to access this information on their own terms, without intruding on what may be perceived as personal or private digital space.

Overall, the library’s website is well designed and has a more subtle and understated approach to its 2.0 services than others. Having a few more links (especially on the homepage) to services such as the IM chat option or the News & Events blog might be helpful, but overall I found the lack of social networking presence to be refreshing.

Tisch Library

Tisch Library homepage

Tisch Library homepage

Tisch Library, at Tufts University, makes use of several Library 2.0 services. It is somewhat difficult to find where these services are located from the library home page, as they are scattered throughout the various drop-down menus at the top. One of these, the ability to instant message (IM) a librarian, is featured prominently on most of the website’s pages. A small, relatively non-intrusive box occupies the top right side of the page, and allows website visitors to ask a librarian any question (provided that the librarian is online). This is a welcome service, providing users not only access to librarian help for reference type questions, but also for website navigation and other issues with using their online services. One drawback to the embedded chat window might be the added navigational difficulties in working with multiple applications simultaneously. To get around this, users are offered the option of connecting to “TischLibrarian” (the reference librarian available for online questions) through other chat clients, such as Yahoo!, AIM, or Gmail, but the actual method to do so is not mentioned on the contact page.

Another option for contacting the Reference Desk is through text message. In the same vein as IM, this method is available as long as the Reference Desk is open and offers an alternative way of reaching reference help for (mostly) instant service. An issue that may come up is the limitation of the mobile phone as the access point. Typing longer messages on phones is generally not as easy or convenient as on a computer, and reading them is just as inconvenient.

Tisch library podcasts

Tisch library podcasts list

Tisch Library also offers information via RSS Feeds and podcasts. The RSS Feeds include Featured Resources, Did You Know, What Sophia Recommends, and New DVDs at the Tisch Library Media Center. RSS feeds can be a great way to keep users up to date on new developments and resources, which is what these particular feeds were created for. Unfortunately, it appears that they haven’t been updated since mid-2010. In much the same way, while the library offers an interesting mix of both audio and video podcasts, it seems that new material has not been added since 2009.

Tisch RSS feeds

Tisch RSS feeds

Offering ways to keep abreast of news from the library through RSS Feeds and podcasts is a great idea, but only if they are maintained diligently and often. Having out-of-date or discontinued services can take away from the library’s perceived commitment to providing information to the user in a variety of ways. Another problem with using these kinds of services is that the frequency of updates is directly related to amount of exposure they can provide.

The ability to contact the Reference Desk through IM and text is also a great way to increase the accessibility and visibility of the library’s services. Perhaps placing more emphasis on the service by advertising, or creating podcasts, videocasts or even an “about” page would help increase usage even more.

University of Waterloo & Musagetes Library

Waterloo Library contact page

University of Waterloo Library contact page

In many academic institutions, there are several different branches of library, offering different kinds of services. The University of Waterloo Library’s website is one example: the main library site is distinct from the Musagetes’ Library site (which is the library branch that serves the School of Architecture). We’ll take a look at each of these branches, and the different kinds of Library 2.0 services they offer.

The main library’s 2.0 services revolve around providing a variety of ways to communicate with a librarian. Their Ask a Librarian page features a useful list of usernames that their on duty librarian, on MSN, Google Talk, Yahoo and AIM. There is also an embedded chat box on the right side, which can connect users with the librarian when there is one on duty. One interesting addition to the contact options is that of Skype, which not only provides another avenue for textual communication, but also voice calls.

Musagetes Library, on the other hand, offers a wider range of Library 2.0 services. Their main page takes the form of a blog, with updates on news and events happening at the library. If one thing could be improved, it would be the frequency of posts; while posting one a month is certainly enough to populate the blog’s archives, having even more might increase the blog’s traffic and user base. The site also offers an option to subscribe to the blog feed via email, and a list of the Library’s Twitter feed updates. And Musagetes advertises its other social networking presence on Facebook and Flickr. Using Twitter and Facebook to update library users on news (such as changes in hours of operation, interesting events happening in the building) is an especially effective way to communicate information, because of the real-time, informal nature of these platforms. As a student, Twitter and Facebook would provide me with instantaneous updates from the library, and because I’ve already chosen to either follow or accept the library as a friend, I would not be bothered (and might even welcome) the frequent update messages. Another interesting feature of the blog page is the inclusion of the same IM chat box that is part of the main library page; while the Musagetes Library page seems to be a separate space from the main library, the IM box does create a sense of some continuity.

Musagetes library blog

Overall, the websites of the University of Waterloo Library and the Musagetes Library represent two different, but effective, ways to utilize 2.0 services. The main library keeps it simple: offering an interesting variety of ways to communicate with librarians. Musagetes, on the other hand, has a much larger 2.0 presence, including social networking and RSS feeds.