Things have been quiet here, mostly because it has been crunch time the past month or so as the debut of the systems new website has drawn closer. Well, that time has finally come and I’m proud to unveil the redesign of our systems website. It is a big change from the old, rather unfriendly and garish, design we had for quite a time. But it wasn’t only a pleasing look and interface that we were going for but a modern approach that integrated Web 2.0 technology for the benefit of our customers. Please take a look at the Osceola Library System at http://www.osceolalibrary.org.

We have included several blogs including those for news, teens, and our book club. All offer RSS feeds and we are also offering RSS feeds for our monthly updated new book releases. This is something I personally wanted and I hope to expand it in time. We have also utilized a javascript framework to offer photo tours of our branches. We are also participating in the 365 Days Library Project over on Flickr. We have just over 100 photos up at the current time. We’ve also added forms for customer use which we’ve never had before. Our librarians are using meebo for virtual reference for adult and teen customers.

I am very much hoping this new website will far better serve our customers and allow them to feel they can truly connect with the library at any time and any place and also to let them know that we’re not just about books and shushing.  More updates will come as time goes by.

I’m not dead, I promise. Things are very busy in my system right now, most especially in my department. Hopefully in less than a month I’ll have something to show you all and I can post more regularly. But for now, just something little.

When trying to visualize the sheer scope of the Web 2.0 beast it’s a bit hard to wrap your head around in simply because of the very wide amount of services that these sorts of applications provide. From Wikipedia, to The Best Stuff in the World, to Flickr. And with the amount of startups you hear about constantly coming and going it’s little surprise that people are often overwhelmed.

In the Web 2.0 class that I co-teach we often use Go2Web2.0 and Web2Logo to let the class participants see the different types of sites that are out there and to help them explore a bit more if they wish to do so. These are both good, but at times it’s hard to navigate around them if you’re already overwhelmed by the choices that are out there. However, there is a newish site out there called Simple Spark which, according to Download Squad, is looking to be for web apps what Google is for everything else. At over 3,000, we can see where this is going.

On first glance, it’s laid out really well with multiple catagories that open up which give you specific sections to choose so you can get right to the meat. Picking almost any provides an extensive list of Web 2.0 type applications that provide that sort of service. It does make it easy to find the type of app you’re looking for. The social network heading is one of the more interesting to look at and seeing the many many ways that people are connecting these days.

So, what is the real size of the web 2.0 beast? I’m not sure anyone will really know and even with indexing sites it’s almost impossible to keep up with the new ones springing up almost everyday. It will be interesting to see how the development of applications like these grows and changes and more and more people embrace Web 2.0 and technology like it.

This is just something I thought I would mention as it was brought to my attention by a friend of mine. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, was on The Colbert Report last night for an interview (heres the video). Surprisingly enough, considering the fracas last year with the elephant population where they had to block the page and accused Colbert of vandalism they seemed to get on really well. But that’s mostly because I think that both of them know what the other one is doing/trying to do. However, once again (though far more subtly this time) Colbert asked the populace to change things on Wikipedia. Some of the more prominent pages included Oxygen (It’s poison) and Albert Einstein (COLBERT=GOD). The oxygen article is still locked, but the Einstein one is open again. There was also an interesting (silent) mention of librarians. Perhaps we are hiding something. Stephen Colbert would know and it’s common knowledge that if it’s on Wikipedia, it’s the truth.

Heres a screenshot:

Librarians are hiding something.

I’ve seen quite a few good services that somewhat mimic what librarians are trying to do in the physical library space, answering services and the like though I don’t think I’ve ever come across something quite like this before. And, really, it makes me wonder who came up with it. BookSwim, a book rental program in the vein of Netflix but, you guessed it, for books. Normally I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it at all, but a ‘review’ of this from Download Squad got me laughing. Thanks for the vote of confidence in libraries guys.

When you think about it though, it makes you wonder just how far Web 2.0 services like this are destined to go. I’ve heard this time and again in the Web 2.0 classes we give for the staff in my system, usually from the slightly older employees but not always, about the sheer amount of whats out there wondering how anyone could possibly keep up. Just today we’ve got Flickrvision and Bringo, the first of which is more a time thief and the second I hope grows in size. It’s why my coworker and I were so careful to pick and choose the services that we included in the class, though those services have changed since the first time we taught the class as the face of Web 2.0 has shifted right under our feet.  I don’t think I’ve ever taught such an interesting class before.

I thought I would drop a link to the Map of Online Communities. Infomancy mentioned it today and I thought it was of very interesting merit. I am a little surprised that Google isn’t on there and owning a large chunk of the real estate (though they would clearly not be banished to The Icy North with Yahoo, Windows Live, and AOL). But still, its a very interesting visualization of Web 2.0 land and just fun to boot.

Fun With Surveys

 A List Apart has set up an online survey for web design. It’s worth checking out.

In the upcoming website revamp one of the main concerns, outside of format and graphics, is bringing the library together on the website. The concept of a virtual branch is heavy in the air, the idea of ‘walking’ into the website and knowing where to go. Intuitiveness, in short. This can be a tricky concept, since no two users will go to the same place or even have the knowledge to find those places the first time. That is why making the navigation and the layout as open and friendly as possible, yet keeping a keen and contemporary look is so important.

However, perhaps even more than this is showing our users what we have. Even customers that come into our library on a frequent basis often don’t realize the myriad of programs and services that the library offers. It’s only on the off chance they pick up a flyer or see a poster on the wall, just that one time. But is usually only takes that one thing to get them hooked. This is where I hope Web 2.0 technology will lend a helping hand. Already we’re putting ourselves out there on Flickr and Librarything and both have done well for the limited uses we’re currently employing them for. But they can do so much more. Using a blog to promote events and allow users to comment on whats going on, to give their feedback on things, what they like and what they don’t. That is important to any business these days, feedback when and where the customer wants it. RSS to keep them updated, along with explinations on how to use it, since we can’t assume anymore, about anything. And things like Flickr to chronicle what has happened, changes in the library, the history in pictures instead of dry paragraphs. That is what brings the library to life.

It will take time of course, though setting up and using Web 2.0 utilities is a heck of a lot easier than writing CSS and XML, I can tell you that right now. I’m rambling by this point, yes, but this is important to create a virtual branch that is as interactive as a physical one. (And perhaps less intimidating too.)