Category Archives: RSS

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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Greater Victoria Public Library

We begin our trip in western Canada on Vancouver Island in the provincial capital Victoria at the Greater Victoria Public Library. The Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) website provides service “to almost 300,000 residents in 10 municipalities” in the greater Victoria area and Brentwood Bay. On the homepage, the eye is first drawn to an animated image scroll of upcoming events in the library or services available through the website. It’s evident at first glance that the website has quite a bit to offer patrons online.  Steampunk scavenger hunts and a language-learning program are two of the entertainment and educational activities available to patrons through the website. My favorite feature on the website is Tales from the Vault, which GVPL describes as “our ongoing look at local history. In it we present some of the stories you’ll find in our old and rare books, newspaper clippings and hundreds of more recently published books of local interest.” Anyone can access the enticing tales from the website.

Let’s move on to social media. The GVPL uses 3 social web tools: Twitter, Ask Now, and RSS feeds. GVPL’s Twitter and Ask Now buttons lie unobtrusively at the very bottom of the page in shades of grey and blue. The buttons aren’t hard to find, but they would be more obvious if they were colorful. The image below is taken from the library’s homepage and shows the Twitter and Ask Now buttons.

Greater Vancouver Public Library Homepage

Greater Victoria Public Library homepage

GVPL has an active Twitter feed, and to date has

1,292 tweets

373 following

1,462 followers

GVPL tweets regularly, either every couple of days and once in a while several times per day. GVPL both tweets about upcoming and current events at the library, good reads,  job postings, links to relevant articles, and much more. The tone is upbeat and friendly, and the language is clear. GVPL often responds to other tweeters who mention GVPL in their tweets, which is a good way for them to keep in touch with patrons and reach those who live far from a branch or aren’t able to make it to the library regularly.

The Ask Now instant messaging service is often offline, and this is because they have set hours that do not correspond with their branch hours. Ask Now is closed Sunday. Monday, Friday, and Saturday, the service is available 1-5pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the service is available 1-8pm. When Ask Now is offline, you can click on the Ask Now button and a box where you can leave a message pops up. The limited hours may be inconvenient for some users, who prefer to do their work in the morning, but it is possible to leave a message. GVPL does have a Fast Answers page that can be found in the drop-down menu under “Digital Content.” Fast Answers lists links to ready-reference sites such as dictionaries, encyclopedia, telephone directories, local organizations, and the library’s most popular websites. Fast Answers isn’t too difficult to find, but it might be helpful to some users if they were either given a link to Fast Answers or made aware of the page when they clicked Ask Now when the service is offline.

GVPL also has a news feed that you can subscribe to via RSS. There is quite a bit of overlap between the library’s news feeds and tweets. For example, both feeds posted about a job opportunity and an upcoming book sale. I think this overlap is ok and to be expected. Some users may not subscribe to twitter and may be more accustomed to checking a website’s news page. Also, the library’s RSS feed often provides more information than a tweet. Sadly, there was only 1 person who subscribes to the news feed compared to the 1,462 (and growing) who follow GVPL on twitter. While RSS feeds are useful for those who want to receive information, it is not a networking tool. Twitter, on the other hand, enables people to respond to posts and communicate with one another.

Overall, GVPL uses social media tools effectively. The RSS feeds don’t seem to be doing too much though and perhaps having news feeds on the webpage and updated tweets is enough. The Ask Now service would improve if service was available weekday mornings. It would also be a good idea if the “Send a Message” pop-up provided a link to their Fast Answers page when offline. GVPL’s web 2.0 asset is their Twitter feed. They tweet regularly, engage with their patrons and community members directly, and express enthusiasm. If I lived on beautiful Vancouver island, I would likely subscribe to their twitter feed and wouldn’t hesitate to use the Ask Now service. I wouldn’t feel the need to subscribe to the RSS news feed because I would feel confident that the twitter feed would keep me up to date and in the loop!