« The Time Traveler Convention | Main | NELINET Annual Meeting »

May 03, 2005

Tools in Personal Environments: A Taste of New Technologies

by Megan Fox.

I'm blogging from another library conference, this time it's the NEASIST Spring Program Syndicate, Aggregate, Communicate: New Web Tools in Real Applications for Libraries, Companies and Regular Folk. Check out the Program Weblog.

My notes on the first presentation:

See the outline and bibliography here.

The Toys, er, Tools

Tools are getting cooler and are finally starting to converge. Phones are no longer just phones and pda's are no longer just calendars. The new devices are starting to combine more than two functions (phone, messaging, mp3 player, web browsing, personal organizer). The words of the day are "handheld" and "mobile." This is what our young users have and how they want to access the library.

How are librarians using these tools?

Distribution of information (hours, circulation, news, events, policies via small format web pages, text messaging)

Some dissemination of library collections (ebooks, audio)

Reference (real-time messaging)

Tours, Tutorials and more!


Blogs are on the scene. (Cover of business week)

Everybody's blogging: librarians, vendors, oclc.

Blogs are not just personal diaries.

In addition to use by indivduals as a professional development tool, libraries as organizations are starting to use weblogs. Some are starting to call these weblogs "Enterprise blogs".

"Enterprise blogs" are used internally in the library for information distribution, project managment, knowledge management, and content management.

Blogs are also being used by libraries to share information with their patrons (see tools section for list of information).


Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary or RDF (Resource Description Framework) Site Summary.

RSS is a reformatting of website/weblog content in xml for easy syndication.

When used with an aggregator, RSS simplifies the process of scanning the morass of information resources on the world wide web. If supplemented by instant messaging for immediate communication may be able to replace the widespread (mis?)use of email.

Like blogs, first useful to librarians as a professional development tool.

Libraries are also using RSS to enhance services, again in the area of sharing important information with their patrons (see tools section).

RSS allows library patrons to personalize their information exchange with the library (selecting and customizing the information feeds to which they subscribe).


An application of RSS to publish audio. A podcast can be thought of as a blog with audio and RSS. Patrons can subscribe to the podcast and get updates when new audio files are available. The podcast reader will automatically download the audio files to the patrons mp3 player when they sync it with their computer. In this fashion the internet is being used to syndicate regular audio programs as an alternative to radio.


A collaborative tool for writing web sites and pages. Part of what is called the "Read/Write" Web. This means giving editorial control to multiple persons in a group. Wikis represent collaborative memory, and a great content and project management tool.

Instant Messaging (IM) and Text Messaging

The "Millenials" IM far more than they email or any other of the technologies.

Libraries are starting to use IM to communicate with patrons (often for the first time). Many IM Reference desks have recently opened. Before Libraries implement this service they need to think through the policy questions. IM can be demanding and needs to supplement, not replace other librarian/patron interactions.


These are ridiculously useful and are part of trend of integrating internet/web services with desktop applications other than the browser window. Why travel to google.com when you can very quickly engage the google search engine with many fewer clicks.

Desktop Search

The Web Search vendors are also producing applications that will index your hard drive and improve your ability to search for files/applications (and bits of information in files/applications) on your own hard drive.


Bookmarks with a tiny bit of javascript to do more than just retrieve html pages. It might also search the page/database. Bookmarklets make our life easier.

Social Bookmarking

New tools to allow you to store your bookmarks on a public server and catalog them with your own tags and share these bookmarks (and tags) with others.


Megan mentioned that Folksonomies put the power to organize information resources in the hands of the public who supposedly are most familiar with the content and also familiar with how they will search for the content. Is this true? Are patrons aware of their organization and search habits?

Megan mentioned that folks think that calling Folksonomies "Tagging" diminishes them. That there is something in Folksonomies that transcends untrained individuals adding keywords to their public information resources.

? Is the distinction between Folksonomies vs. Tagging real? Have Folksonomies ever really happened?

Metametadata's Comments

It seems like the early adoption of all these tools is undertaken by brave pioneers who employ them for professional development. But that the real usefullness of these tools comes when libraries themselves employ these tools as new mechanisms for exchanging information with users.

It seems like the benefit to libraries that these new tools provide in common are:

  1. New avenues for disseminating important information to the patron
  2. New ways to communicate in real time with patrons
  3. New ways to collaboratively organize and produce information/collections within the library

Posted by MetaMetadata at May 3, 2005 05:32 PM | TrackBack