All across the country, libraries are facing change. The advent of the Internet and World Wide Web presented new challenges and opportunities, but just when we felt we had a handle on that new technology, along came Web 2.0, a new wave of Web-based communities and tools. While some libraries and institutions are unsure about these new technologies, here at Missouri River Regional Library we’ve decided to wade right in and see how they can make the library experience better and more exciting for both our staff and patrons.
We recently became the second library in the country to complete Learning 2.0, a program created by the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County in North Carolina. Learning 2.0 is a program designed to encourage staff to explore and expand knowledge of Web 2.0 by having participants complete 23 tasks. Each staff member created a blog, and from there explored such tools as Flickr, RSS feeds, wikis, podcasting, and much more. As a result, MRRL now has a wide variety of Web 2.0 presences.
Bobbi Newman, our digital services and resources librarian runs our MySpace page, which contains links to new music, new *materials, and we have taken reference questions from visitors on that page.
We built a wiki for internal use, where staff members can add resources and minutes from conferences and staff meetings, and we’re exploring creating one for public use.
We also recently added a Twitter account—a kind of microblog—that takes information from our event calendar and blogs and puts it in the Twitter format, allowing people to receive library news and updates from cellphones and IM accounts wherever they are.
As a result of our work, our staff feels a lot more comfortable answering questions. Between 3:30 and 5 p.m., about 80 percent of our public computer center is on MySpace, and we receive many questions about how to do certain things on MySpace. One part of Learning 2.0 was a requirement that each participant create a MySpace page and become friends with the library’s MySpace page, so now everyone is much more comfortable fielding questions and answering knowledgeably about that service and others, and they can also refer patrons to the library’s MySpage page and other presences.
At the moment, we mainly have other libraries linking to our Twitter page because it’s so new and we haven’t advertised a lot. But quite a few patrons have friended us on MySpace. One 18-year-old who friended us and sent a comment saying “This is so cool—my local library is on MySpace!” While we welcome everyone, it’s great to get a message like that from an age group we were specifically targeting.
I believe that some of the hesitancy of institutions to embrace these new formats is due to losing some control. One of the things we’re looking at now is adding tagging comments and reviews to our website and catalog, and by doing so we’re giving up even more control, by allowing patrons to actually create content and attach it to the library’s site, content that doesn’t go through the traditional review and approval channels. But ultimately such features will make our website and catalog better, because they give people more reasons to visit and provide opportunities for discussion.
Libraries have always been about providing access to information. Before the 1980s, information was almost exclusively in the printed word. Now information is available in a variety of formats, and those formats are just another way for us to fulfill our mission of providing access.
We’re happy to share more information about our projects, and we would love to hear what other libraries are doing as well. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Digital Resources and Services Librarian Bobbi Newman at email@example.com.
MRRL website: www.mrrl.org/
MRRL MySpace: www.myspace.com/missouririverregionallib
MRRL Twitter site: twitter.com/mrrl
MRRL Flickr site: www.flickr.com/mrrl
MRRL’s del.icio.us links: www.mrrl.org/services/refer/links/index.php
MRRL’s Learning 2.0 blog: mrrllearning.blogspot.com/
Charlotte-Mecklenberg’s Original Learning 2.0 blog: plcmcl2-things.blogspot.com/
Robin Hastings is Information Technology Manager at Missouri River Regional Library.
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