Category Archives: Blog

Toronto Public Library

I know it’s incongruous to choose Red Deer Public Library as the library of focus for Alberta and then pick Toronto, Canada’s largest city, for the Ontario post. But, I think diversity is good. One blog in particular caught my eye, the Accessibility Services blog. Of course, TPL has a plethora of 2.0 tools, but the Accessibility Services blog will be the focus of this post.

The blog can be accessed by clicking the blog button on TPL’s homepage:

Toronto Public Library homepage

And then choosing the Accessibility Services blog from a list of active TPL blogs:

Toronto Public Library Blogs & Publications page

As you can see in the first screen shot above, TPL has all sorts of Library 2.0 tools (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr). They also have an Ask A Librarian Chat Service. On their homepage, they have a blog feed that lists recent posts. This is the first library on the tour so far that has given this kind of space and priority to their blogs.

The list of blogs is long, which can be expected from such a large library, and includes blogs for people who are new to Canada, science fiction fans, and healthy living. All of the blogs use TypePad and have a similar layout. The Accessibility Services blog lists Recent Posts, Categories, Archives, and has an About statement. The blog’s About statement is worth quoting to gain an understanding of what the blog offers and what it wishes to achieve:

“The Accessibility Services Blog provides information and updates on current and upcoming library trends, programs, collections, and services to existing and potential TPL customers with disabilities, along with their friends and family. The blog offers a forum through which library customers can interact with TPL and share feedback and ideas, and communicate with staff. Features of the blog include highlights on special collections and assistive technologies available through the library, opportunities to get involved, and staff recommendations for programs, books and other materials.”

As I’m new to Library 2.0 tools, and the blogosphere, I was surprised to see how libraries have created very focused blogs such as this one to suit their customers’ particular needs. I think that the Accessibility Services blog sounds like a great idea, and an important Library 2.0 service as it exists not only to serve the needs of users (in particular those with disabilities, their families, or caregivers) but also to promote the library. For example, the blogs features Children’s Braille Books in the library’s collection.

The blog is young and was born in April 2011. The frequency of posts varies from several times a month to once every two months, which, by most standards, is irregular and infrequent. However, the posts are substantial and feature reviews of products, such as the Kindle, to evaluate accessibility and personal anecdotes of living with a disability (there’s only been one to date). There are very few comments in response to blog posts and only 3 subscribers to the RSS feed. I really hope this blog, and others like it, can attract a larger following. The posts are thoughtful and well-written, and I would assume helpful. But, perhaps they are too few and far between or perhaps the blog is too new and hasn’t caught on yet.

The TPL is dedicated to accessibility in its library and has a page devoted to accessibility at the library that includes updates from the blog. But, it seems that this blog is going largely unnoticed. Infrequent posts aside, how can a blog with a good mandate, a focused user group, and useful posts go unnoticed? Maybe the posts aren’t very useful, or they provide information that people already know about? Or, maybe there are a lot of people who read the blog but choose not to comment or subscribe? If I was interested in accessibility services, I may consider subscribing to this blog or at the very least reading through the posts. I wish that they did update it regularly though or perhaps hyperlink to outside sources in order to create a network and maybe draw some interest from outside the TPL’s community. While it is imperative for Library 2.0 services to reach users, I think it can also be important for them to reach the internet community at large. Some of the blogs I stumbled across when I was researching, I found because they were linked in to a rich network of discussions online about social media and libraries.

I imagine that there are a lot of little blogs like this that go unnoticed and eventually either gain momentum or lose steam. This brings me back to a point I discussed in a previous blog about the Saskatoon Public Library asking what can be done when librarians make a concerted effort to engage in 2.0 tools, but their users are either disinterested or unaware? Is it that the need for some of these services doesn’t exist in the first place? Is the medium wrong? These are questions that I think have already come up and will continue to be addressed in the following posts. I really liked the Accessibility Services blog, but I would like to see more content more frequently and perhaps a little more zest in the posts before I would commit to reading it regularly.

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Winnipeg Public Library

With 20 branches in Manitoba’s capital city Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Public Library serves a population nearly double that of Saskatoon. Similar to the Yukon Public Libraries homepage, WPL’s main page is nested under the city of Winnipeg’s city services site, which is a pity since I think the library merits its own site. On the other hand, people who are new to the city or checking out the city website might be more likely to stumble upon the library site.  The library has several buttons that connect to its various 2.0 tools, which can be confusing at a first glance.

I checked out WPL’s Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube accounts, and they use them in much the same way as the Saskatoon Public Library. WPL’s YouTube account has only a handful of videos that range from entertaining in-library programs to informative how-tos. They also have a blog called Readers’ Salon, a forum to discuss books. But since we were on the topic of YA lit. in the previous post and because WPL uses Facebook and Twitter in similar ways to the Saskatoon Public Library, I thought I would focus on WPL’s teen blog Booked in this post.

I didn’t notice the Booked button on their homepage until I had already found the blog through the blog button at the bottom of the page. The Booked button isn’t very helpful since someone who is new to the library or doesn’t know about the blog would have no idea what Booked is. The same applies to the Readers’ Salon button.

So what is Booked? Booked is an engaging blog space for teens. Booked includes a blog, online polls, events at the library, hot topics, reviews, top tens, a link to the catalogue and the library’s social media tools, and a space called The Mash Up that I have yet to fully comprehend. There is a “What is a Mashup?” button on Booked, but the site is currently under construction. From what I can see, the Mashup is a space for teens (not for librarians) to post their photos, poetry, and create collaborative fiction. You don’t need a WPL card to post to the Mashup. So far, there have only been a couple dozen posts, but I think it has the potential to be a relatively safe online space for teens to explore and share their creativity.

The blog portion of Booked has been running since January 2010 and is updated several times a month. The posts are mostly substantial reviews of YA lit., book awards, and reading awareness such as I Love to Read Month. Comments on the blog are not enabled, which is too bad since readers might like to contribute feedback about the posts and discuss books that are reviewed. The Top Ten lists are for the most part subjective and provide useful links to the library catalogue if you click on a title, which is a great way to use social media to bring patrons directly to the library’s catalogue.

The online Polls are few but have the potential to get important user feedback. So far, the polls have focused on both library and non-library questions such as “Which of the following series is the most futuristic?” or “Do you use your cell phone during class?” People can suggest a poll they’d like to see on the site and while this might produce some amusing polls, I think the library could do more to include polls that relate to library services or the information and entertainment preferences of teens in particular.

YALSA’s (Young Adult Library Services Association) Teens & Social Media in School and Public Libraries toolkit says that when teens “have the opportunity to communicate with peers, experts, authors, etc. via online social media they develop social and cultural competence,” when they “have a voice in the future of the school or the library by using social media they gain a sense of personal identity and value,” and they may also see how positive role models such as librarians engage with social media. WPL’s blog Booked has the potential to help teens develop strong online social skills, a voice for their future, and a sense of identity as well as provide a model for how teens can use social media for educational, entertainment, and social purposes. I never want to be a teen again, but if I were, I can see myself using this space to write collaborative short stories.

As a final thought, here are some tips from Michael Stevens about how libraries can use social media to connect with teens. Overall, I think WPL’s blog Booked is trying really hard to engage with teens, and is keeping the posts fresh and relevant. I hope they can keep up with the numerous services offered on the blog and keep teens coming back.