Public libraries have started venturing out into the world of social services in order to connect with their patrons in a new and more personal way. In part, this is a reaction to the people who still seem to view the library as an anti-technology zone, a place that is forever stuck in the past. They see the library as an ancient book repository where the perpetually frowning librarian, with her mandatory bun and glasses, is lurking at the reference desk, ready to shush anyone who gets a little too boisterous. In order to remove this false perception of what a modern library truly is, and to promote their ever expanding selection of services, librarians are joining social media sites to tell the world what’s really going on in the library. This new interest in social services and tools has resulted in libraries creating blogs, Twitter feeds, podcasts, Facebook accounts, and even special widgets. Sometimes these attempts fail, but often they can be a great supplement to the classic library website. The Seattle Public library is an institution that appeared to leap at the chance to join the world of social media, and have an active Facebook account,Twitter feed, several blogs, and even make their own podcasts. Yet how useful are these tools for the patrons, and are they easy to use while still providing relevant content?
The first tool that I found while exploring the homepage for the Seattle Public Library, which was quite aesthetically pleasing, was their blog Shelf Talk. Not only was it remarkably easy to locate the blog, a host of other related services were also neatly clustered in the same location, not buried under a maze of other pages. Almost immediately after I found the first link to their blog, I found another link off to the side, and this one gave the option of going to the adult blog or a separate teen blog. Upon clicking either one of these options, the user is taken to an age customized blog that covers a remarkably wide variety of topics. This can range from book reviews, to notifications of library events, and even the occasional discussion about local events. I was definitely impressed by this idea of making separate blogs for different age groups, because it provides information tailored to specific users who can then avoid wading through posts that are not relevant to their age or interests.
Not only were these twin blogs easy to locate, they were designed it in a way where it’s easy to search for particular topics within the blog with relative ease. Even if a patron is unfamiliar with blogs, the SPL provides several ways in which this site can be navigated. They added a search bar so that a user can search for posts that contain certain keywords, and they also provide a drop down menu where the user can select a general topic to search under. They also ties in nicely with some of the libraries other services, such as the recommend a book feature. With this, a patron can type in five books that they enjoyed and a librarian will send the user an e-mail with book recommendations based off of their selected novels. This is similar to the book recommendations that are posted on the blog, but it is far more personalized. Because of all these wonderful features, I would undoubtedly subscribe to this blog if I lived in the area, actually, I liked it so much that I might subscribe anyway.