Friday, June 7, 2013

10 Great Technology Initiatives for Your Library

Libraries have become technology leaders by integrating cutting-edge tools to enhance users’ experience. It’s not enough to redesign the library website. Best practices mean developing user personas and following usability strategies to produce user-informed designs. New digital collections are stored in the cloud and mobile applications are developed around them.

Here are 10 ideas for you to leverage today’s most innovative tools and techniques. All of these come straight from The Tech Set #11–20 series (ALA TechSource, June 2012).

Host a cloud-based collection

As libraries increasingly deliver digital content, storage requirements may strain their local resources.  In the absence of a full-fledged trusted digital repository that conforms to digital preservation standards and best practices, libraries will need to provide as much redundancy and security for digital object files as possible. Two options are Amazon’s S3 with Amazon CloudFront and DuraSpace’s DuraCloudservice.

Create a basic mobile website

Mobile sites and app generators offer everyone the opportunity to create a mobile view of their library data.Winksite is an easy-to-use tool that can create a mobile site using an RSS feed from a WordPress or Drupal content management system. The site is free and allows five mobile sites for each user account.

Start a location-based photo stream with Instagram

Featuring a powerful suite of location-aware technologies, Instagram claims more than 80 million registered users who have shared nearly 4 billion photos. Users shoot, manipulate, and share photos with their smartphones, associating them with location information through a mobile application.

Integrate LibGuides into Drupal

The Views module, developed for Drupal 7, enables access and interaction with library data—the catalog, for example—without having to export the data from its source and import it into Drupal before working with it.

Balance the library voice with the personal in social media

Useful internal guidelines for social media posting provide expectations and guidance to reach a level of consistency across the staff without stifling people.

Use crowdsourcing to create a collection

Crowdsourcing can be used as a great tool for archiving. For instance, that is how the New York Public Library has transcribed and categorized all of the menus in its extensive collection of historical restaurant menus.

Make a quick screencast

As librarians grow accustomed to screencasts, more ideas and possibilities emerge for their use in instruction. A great way to get started with screencasting is to dive in and use some of the software. With so many free recording and hosting options, all you need is a computer with internet access.

Create personas before you design your website

Personas are fictional depictions of your website’s target audiences. As composite character sketches generated from researching your library users, they represent the cornerstone of your website planning process and have an ongoing role as the site evolves. Personas help to ensure that everyone is on the same page about your main demographic.

Use Google Voice to implement text reference

Google Voice gives you a single phone number that rings all your phones, saves your voicemail online, transcribes your voicemail to text, and allows you to send free text messages. You can use Google Voice from your computer, tablet, or cellphone to respond to reference questions from patrons.

Visualize your Twitter relationships with Mentionmapp


Mentionmapp displays connections among your followers, along with the hashtags they are using. The interface is simple, yet the information it provides can be significant. To get started, sign in with your Twitter account and enter your library’s handle into search. Mentionmapp scans your account’s recent tweets and hashtags, along with those of your followers, and draws a map of connections along with hashtag labels.

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