A Patron’s Suggestion Makes My Day

Okay, confession.  I think about social catalogues more than is probably healthy.  During the day, at night, on weekends…in the car while I’m drinking my Tim Horton’s… 

But, there are some days when you do wonder, just why am I doing this?  Is it worth the time and energy?  The stress?  But, then you receive a suggestion like this from a patron, and you think with a smile, that’s why.

Here’s the suggestion:

“Combine your website with social networking web technology so that when people put items on hold, they have the option to connect with other library users who have also put that item on hold at some time.  I got this idea as it occurred to me that I’d like to chat with other library patrons who might share similar interests.  I’d put a book on hold, such as “Songwriters on Songwriting”, and think how fun it would be to find other local people who share my interests in songwriting; others who would have also signed out this book.”

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9 Comments

Filed under Access Issues, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

9 responses to “A Patron’s Suggestion Makes My Day

  1. I think this is a cool idea. However, you would just need to be careful not to pull a “Google Buzz” and inadvertently violate patrons’ privacy. But yes, great Library 2.0 idea!

  2. I think that’s a great idea – but I have a question – do you think it’s ethical to share that information with your patrons in a non-anonymous form?

  3. Laurel Tarulli

    Privacy is definitely a BIG issue. Something I think we’re going to be struggling with more and more as these social catalogues increase in popularity and demand.

    What I’m seeing with AquaBrowser (and I’m using them as an example only because I’m most familiar with their product) is a separate account that allows users to choose a user name and password not affiliated with their library account. While a single account would be ideal, this current set-up allows patrons to use a screen name of their choice to add, rate, review and create reading lists to share. They also have the option of keeping their reading lists private. I think this allows more freedom in sharing while protecting privacy concerns. Also, you can search other users’ screen names, so if you are finding you like a user’s reviews or list, you can search them to see what else they’ve reviewed/created lists for. However, you’ll never know who it is “behind” the username (your Mom? neighbour? a stranger across town?)

    One really neat feature is the sharing ability – which may be a better alternative than the sticky privacy issue of seeing what other patrons have on hold. If you really want to connect with friends and what they are reading, there is an option in the catalogue to “share” through other social networking tools such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, MySpace, WordPress, and so on.

    What I’d like to see in catalogues – and maybe some are already doing this, is to somehow read the holding/circ information, but not the users’ information and generate it like Amazon. Example: “Readers who have this on hold also have checked out/are reading this…”

  4. I think the alternatives you suggest are a good idea. In the first one, the user makes a conscious choice to give up a bit of their privacy to share (and see) other people’s input. And it’s separate from the circulation information that the library holds and keeps confidential.

    I also like the idea of sharing non user specific information about circulation – just like you mentioned. Other users are reading… Do you think you would tell users up front that their circulation information would be used in an anonymous fashion?

    Anyhow, it seems to me that the two methods you mention are a good “middle way.”

  5. Hi, Laurel. This is an interesting idea. I share the privacy concerns that folks have already mentioned. But I am also concerned about libraries trying to develop social networks on our own that exist outside the most popular ones in current use (Facebook, et al.). I don’t think that we can compete with them in terms of numbers, and I wonder if our users are really going to want to create a whole new social network through the library catalog or web site in addition to the ones that they currently are using. I think that your idea of finding ways for us allow users to more easily take advantage of their existing networks makes more sense.

  6. Something like this is possible with WorldCat.org. If you register on the site, you can create your own lists. When you look at an item (book, CD, etc.) you can see who else has added that item to a list, and follow links to their profile and their other lists. WorldCat.org has pretty good controls on what your profile shows; for example, you can make your email address public or not, and make individual lists public or private.

    In theory, you could use WorldCat lists to contact other users with similar interests, although I like it as a way of finding other books I might be interested in — like Amazon’s, “people who bought this also bought that”. The local library’s OPAC, WebPac Pro, also has book lists in addition to your hold queue, but without WorldCat’s social aspects, presumably because of the privacy issues mentioned above.

    LibraryThing is another site that links users based on book preferences, although based more on users’ entire libraries rather than individual lists. I have accounts on both WorldCat and LibraryThing, but I find I use WorldCat more often, perhaps because of the (loose) linking to the local library.

    Based partly on WorldCat’s proof of concept, I’m convinced that book (item) lists are the natural platform for library social applications. For this purpose, I like general purpose lists better than my hold queue, because my hold queue is necessarily just the few books I want *now*. The challenge for libraries is that (imho) it doesn’t make sense to limit lists to the library catalog, since obviously I might be interested in books that the library doesn’t have (or new books that the library hasn’t yet cataloged).

    WorldCat.org has better coverage of the bibliographic universe, but what you give up is close integration with the local catalog, such as zero- or one-click access to holdings information or requesting.

    It feels to me like an application waiting to be built.

  7. Laurel Tarulli

    Hi Barry! You make a great point. I think a lot of professionals get concerned or hung up on the term “social networking”, creating visions of the catalogue becoming another MySpace, FaceBook or LibraryThing. Even if we wanted the catalogue to become a social network, we’ve already missed the boat.

    I do sometimes think that the use of “social” catalogue is misleading – collaborative catalogues? next generation catalogues? – it is the collaborative, interactive and sharing aspect that should be emphasized, which is what 2.0 is all about (imo). When I think of social catalogues, I imagine an extension of the physical branch experience – knowing if the item is available immediately, browsing shelves (which we can now do remotely thanks to LibraryThing!), listening to other patrons talk about books (reading reviews), sharing our own experience with books (writing reviews) or talking to a staff member for assistance (live chat).

    While there may be professionals who view this more as a social network, I see it as a way of allowing patrons to use the data how they want, when they want and on whatever mobile device they want. I believe this comes back to your last sentence “…finding ways for us allow users to more easily take advantage of their existing networks makes more sense”.

    Graeme’s description of WorldCat is a great example of how we can interact with data but his statement “It feels to me like an application waiting to be built” is spot on.

  8. This is a fantastic idea and one more reason why we need to have patron-driven libraries. And kudos to you for having a library where people feel empowered to make these kinds of suggestions — with the obvious hope that they might be implemented.

  9. Laurel Tarulli

    Thanks Michelene!

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