Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Libraries and QR Codes

Image: QR code for the shelf location of  Princess Bride by William Goldman at UQ Library

I have seen QR codes in magazines and at the movies but I really had no idea of what they were. For those of you in the same situation as me, I can tell you that QR codes stands for Quick Response codes and are a type of barcode but can hold more information as they are two dimensional (Walsh, 2009 p.7). They are readable by smart phones and mobile phones with cameras which use a downloadable QR reader. QR Codes can store different types of information such as text and more often a URL and links you a website.

I have difficulty with the concept of QR as social media or social networking software, as on its own it doesn't involve any social interaction. However it is certainly a tool that facilitates social networking as is a means of sharing information and leading people to places where they can collaborate and create content. To me they are more of a marketing tool that is the digital equivalent of business cards. A QR code could be displayed on a shop front which links people to a website which contain more information than could be typed on a business card.

However when I look at how libraries are using QR codes it can be used from more than marketing, and does link people to sites where they can create and share content. QR codes on book can link to information about the author and other books they have written, they can be added to the catalogue to get the shelf location of books, can be linked to library services (Massis, 2011, p.467). QR codes can link patrons to content sharing sites such as Blogs, Facebook pages and Flickr streams which invites them to dialogue with the library on these sites. It can also encourage creation of content. For example a QR code on a book can link patrons to a site where they can review the book. For more ways on how libraries are using QR codes see QR codes on Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki

The benefits of QR codes to libraries is that it joins together the physical and the virtual spaces of the library. They are low cost, easy to implement and have the potential to link patrons to lots of information (Ashford, 2010, p.527). One issue with QR codes is that users require a mobile device that can take photos and those patrons who do not have this technology will not be able to access this added information.

Ashford, R. (2010). QR codes and academic libraries: Reaching mobile users.
College and Research Libraries News, 71(10), 526-530. Retrieved from
Massis, Bruce E. (2011). QR codes in the library New Library World, 112 (9), 466-469
Walsh. Andrew. (2009).Quick response codes and libraries. Library Hi Tech News, 26(5), 7-9.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Library 2.0: I Want it All Verses What Patrons Want

(Image by Vespertin via Flickr)
I feel I may be getting carried away with wanting to use Web 2.0 technologies in libraries. I have been guilty for bemoaning why the library I work at doesn't have any social software for patrons. I want it all for my library. I want blogs for teens and for book reviews. I want a Facebook page where I can promote library events and share witty library related photos. I want a new library website that links to all our social networks sites. I want a library twitter account, I want a wiki, I want.... I want.... I want.....

This week I read Meredith Farkas’s post The essence of Library 2.0 and at first it was like a wet blanket to my enthusiasm. I want my library to be part of the online conversations that are happening all around me using great tools and she was encouraging me to look past the tools to focus on my patrons needs. I was like a child a Christmas with all my nice new shiny toys, who had forgotten about all the other toys. I had forgotten all about what I had learned throughout my library course, about always being user-focused. I was focusing on myself and what I wanted for the library. I was also fueled by the fear of being left behind by not using social networking tools. However having a tool and using it well are not the same. As I have been searching for libraries using social technologies I have found many libraries have them but that they are not being used. There are library Facebook pages with the most recent status updates in 2008, library Pinterest pages with no pins, Twitter accounts with only 2 tweets, library blogs that have been abandoned. While it may look great to have Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, blog symbols on a library website linking to pages, it is disappointing to a user who may want to dialogue with the library in this way to find them out-dated or unused. I will not let that happen to my library!!

Frakas suggests the way to stop this happening is for needs assessments. To discover what users want and to assess what tools, social or not, would best met these needs. This course is helping me to explore social technologies and what they can do for a library. Armed with this knowledge, when I assess the needs of our users, I will know if a social media tool would help to address a need. Making a needs assessment doesn't seem as exciting as introducing all my shiny new social networking technologies, but it is the only way to ensure that patrons will engage with the social technologies I introduce.

Frakas, M. (2008, January 24). The essence of Library 2.0 [Weblog post]. Retreived from

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

RSS Use In Public Libraries

I used to think that RSS was the poor sister in the range of social media tools that were available, but after seeing is ease of use and its benefits, I am changing my tune. RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication others refer to it as Rich Site Summary (Wusteman, 2004 p. 404). It is an application used on sites that are regularly updated. Users subscribe to a feed using a newsreader which then checks that site on a regular interval and notifies users of changes to those sites of pages(Wusteman, 2004 p.404). It is a fantastic time saver. Instead of visiting these sites regularly to note updates, new blog posts, or the lastest news all you need to do is regularly access your newsreader and it pulls on the new information from your feeds into a central place (Mu, 2008 p.10).

I have been investigating how Australian public libraries are using RSS, and I selected two examples  Eastern Regional Libraries and Yarra Plenty Regional Library to explore how they are using RSS.

Many libraries now have their own blogs either on their library websites or on a blog hosting site with links to them. Many of these have a RRS feed that notifies subscribers of a new post and pushes it out to them. YPRL has a quite a few blogs but not all of them offer a RSS feed.  ERL has 4 blogs,  all that can use RSS technology.

Some libraries use RSS to alert subscribers to changes in library locations and opening times. ERL's Find a library page has a google map of all the branches of the libraries, has the phone number of each library and the opening hours. RSS allows subscribers to be alerted to any changes on this page which means that patrons would be quickly notified of any change in opening hours that may occur, especially relevant for public holidays  or emergency closings.

Usually the RSS feed symbol is found on the address bar in your browser, ERL has placed symbols direction on their pages which makes it much more prominent – especially to people who are not so familiar with RSS. Many individual pages on the ERL website have RSS feeds. ERL has possible gone overboard with its use of RSS. RSS is particularly use for pages that regularly contain new information. ERL has RSS on pages such as on online resources and newspaper holdings  which are quite static pages. However, for those users that particularly use online resources at the library being notified of a new resource can be invaluable.  Interestingly, there is both a ERL newsletter and a YPRL newsletter  but at the time of this blog entry they can only be subscribed to via email and not RSS.

Getting feedback from patrons is an important aspect the social media technologies offer. Eastern Regional Libraries has a feedback page that is part of the I love Libraries campaign in Victoria. Visitors to the website and library users are invited to share their memories and experiences of the library. These are posted to a page entitled 'Why I love my library” It has an RSS option. As subscribers are notified when changes are made to the page they will be able to read of new memories other have of the library and builds a feeling of connectedness to the library and those who use it especially if people have similar experiences.

A great way of keeping patrons informed about new acquisitions to the library is to create a RSS feed linked to the catalogue. This way subscribers are the first to find out the new books and can reserve them. Although ERL and YPRL don't  Central West Libraries  has RSS feeds of the new titles added to the catalogue.  Users can subscribe to new titles, series issues and rating and reviews of books.

Another option for using RSS that none of these libraries are using (yet) is linking an RSS feed to a users library card. This then alerts the user to any changed on their card, overdues, fines, and reserves ready to pick up. An example of this is the University of Sydney's Myloans 

Wusteman, J. (2004). RSS: the latest feed. Library Hi Tech, 22(4), 404-413.
DOI 10.1108/07378830410570511

Mu , Cuiying (2008). Using RSS feeds and social bookmarking tools to keep current . Library Hi Tech News 25(9) 2008, 10-11. DOI 10.1108/07419050810946196


Monday, August 6, 2012

Twittering about spam

I joined Twitter over a year ago, sent my first tweet and felt proud! However that was the extent of my tweeting experience. Now my account has become more active as I interact with students from my class and as I post tweets to do with social networking. I have found that more of my friends are on twitter than I thought and I am  communicating with them and I am tweeting support to Australian athletes in London for the Olympics.
However, it has not been all smooth sailing, actually I am finding things about Twitter quite frustrating. I was happily tweeting away adding tags to my tweets that would allow my classmates to search from my tweets. However after a while I began to notice that some of my tweets were not being captured in a search. Any tweet with a URL link would not show up in the #tag search. This was frustrating as I had felt that these tweets with links were important articles that I wanted to share, yet unless my classmates specifically subscribed to my tweets, they wouldn't be able to see these tweets.
Unsure of what was going on as all my setting seemed fine I went to Google to investigate and found that there were other users that have reported other problems, but had no solution. I searched Twitter help and information about why tweets weren't appearing, but none of they quite fit my situation of why only some of my tweets were missing from search.
This is when it was suggested to me that perhaps it has to do with spam protection. My account had very little activity and suddenly I was tweeting a lot and using links. It could look a little suspicious. One of the ways in which twitter looks at spamming is “If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates” I was wondering if Twitters spam protection was stopping these links from coming up in search.
A question to Twitter support suggested that “The best course of action is to continue tweeting, re-tweeting and mentioning others to gain resonance amongst your followers” So it seems that I have to gain authenticity as a Tweeter for all my tweets to show up in #tag searches. It seems disappointing that spammers do make it difficult for everyone else.  This raises the question of how this need to gain resonance amongst followers affects a library that is just starting to tweet and wants to link to their library site.