Social Software for Libraries and Librarians

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Aston University]On: 04 October 2014, At: 09:27Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Hospital LibrarianshipPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/whos20

    Social Software for Libraries andLibrariansMelissa L. Rethlefsen a , Nicole C. Engard b , Daphne Chang c & CarolHaytko da Learning Resource Center , Mayo Clinic College of Medicine ,Rochester, MN, USAb Jenkins Law Library , Philadelphia, PA, USAc Jackson Library , Graduate School of Business, StanfordUniversity , Stanford, CA, USAd Souderton, PA, USAPublished online: 08 Sep 2008.

    To cite this article: Melissa L. Rethlefsen , Nicole C. Engard , Daphne Chang & Carol Haytko (2007)Social Software for Libraries and Librarians, Journal of Hospital Librarianship, 6:4, 29-45, DOI:10.1300/J186v06n04_03

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J186v06n04_03

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Social Software for Librariesand Librarians

    Melissa L. RethlefsenNicole C. Engard

    Daphne ChangCarol Haytko

    ABSTRACT. This paper describes social software and its potential andcurrent use in libraries and by librarians. Technologies discussed are so-cial bookmarking tools, social reference managers, social media applica-tions, and collaboration tools such as wikis and group word processingas well as RSS, browser tool bars, and blogs. doi:10.1300/J186v06n04_03[Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Ser-vice: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: Website: 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc.All rights reserved.]

    KEYWORDS. Social software, Web 2.0, collaboration tools

    INTRODUCTION

    Social software is a new name for an old conceptsoftware that letspeople collaborate, communicate, and connect. From the early days ofthe Internet, where Usenet, bulletin boards, and multiplayer text-based

    Melissa L. Rethlefsen is Education Technology Librarian, Learning ResourceCenter, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN (E-mail: mlrethlefsen@gmail.com). Nicole C. Engard is Web Manager, Jenkins Law Library, Philadelphia, PA(E-mail: nengard@jenkinslaw.org). Daphne Chang is Librarian, Jackson Library,Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, CA (E-mail: daphne.chang@stanford.edu). Carol Haytko is a writer and activist from Souderton, PA(E-mail: carol.haytko@gmail.com).

    Journal of Hospital Librarianship, Vol. 6(4) 2006Available online at http://jhspl.haworthpress.com

    2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1300/J186v06n04_03 29

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  • games were popular amongst the computer-savvy, social software hascome to a new level of popularity. Due to their low learning curve, highutility, and cool quotient, millions of people use social software applica-tions every day. Common applications include established technologiessuch as blogs and instant messaging, and emerging technologies like so-cial bookmarking, social networking Web sites, and wikis and similarcollaboration tools. The crux of all these technologies is sociality.

    SOCIAL BOOKMARKING

    Out of social bookmarking, one of the newer types of social softwarehas spawned huge user communities, new terminology and thinkingabout classification and social processes, and several research studies.And, on top of all that, it is incredibly fun and very useful. At its heart, itis a place for people to store their bookmarks online. In addition to sup-plying convenient, everywhere accessible bookmarks, social book-marking Web services allow users to tag (and often annotate) each oftheir bookmarks. By tagging, or assigning personal keywords to, book-marks, users can create mental paths to help them find their bookmarksagain. Thus, social bookmarking sites are in large part personal mne-monic devices.

    The real benefit from social bookmarking services, however, is thesocial aspect. When a user bookmarks a Web page, he/she is shown themost popular tags other users have chosen to describe it. After book-marking it, the user can check out who else has bookmarked it, whatthey have tagged it with, and what they have said about it. By presentingthis kind of feedback and social connection, users can find others withsimilar interests whose bookmarks they can then monitor. By searchingand browsing through collections of users bookmarks, it is possible tonot only stumble across resources you might not ordinarily have found,but also to find those resources considered best or most credible on acertain topicjust by looking at how many people have implicitly markeda resource as important.

    For librarians, the tagging phenomenon connected with social book-marking is also one to watchmany in the social software world seetagging as a way to increase findability of materials on the Web and inlibraries, as tagging is a kind of social, collaborative classification. In-deed, many hope that studying the tagging patterns that emerge, alsoknown as the folksonomy, will help improve subject mapping, indexing,and taxonomy development (1) there are several social bookmarking

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  • Web sites available today, the most popular of which is del.icio.us(http://del.icio.us), with over 50,000 users (2). del.icio.us is primarily aresource for personal use; in fact, dozens of librarians use it to manageand store their own bookmarks. Libraries are also starting to leveragedel.icio.us and other social bookmarking tools as a resource for their pa-trons. For example, the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Illinois has itsown del.icio.us account. Its del.icio.us bookmarks are fed via a smallpiece of javascript code into the librarys Web site in a link roll, or a con-tinuously updating list of the librarys most current bookmarks. Patronscan use the newest links from the library Web site or subscribe to the RSSfeed of the librarys bookmarks. In the medical world, several medicalblogs such as KidneyNotes (http://kidneynotes.blogspot.com) and an-tifaust (http://www.antifaust.net) have also created del.icio.us accountsand feed their bookmarks into their blogs to add additional content.

    Perhaps the best and certainly, in March 2006 when this paper waswritten, the most intense use of social bookmarking by libraries comesfrom the University of Pennsylvania Library, which has created a socialbookmarking service of its own, PennTags, for the institution. Penn-Tags has the same basic capabilities of any social bookmarking service:marking, tagging, annotating, and retrieving. Two aspects of PennTagsmake it particularly worth noting. First, its institutional focus may pres-age the adoption of social bookmarking tools as enterprise technologies,particularly for Intranet deployment. Second, users can tag and annotateOPAC records, increasing resource findability. Though some librarianshave developed ways to display tag clouds (groups of tags displayed toeasily discern popular tags and themes) of OPAC content, PennTags isthe first to allow in-OPAC tagging (3).

    SOCIAL REFERENCE MANAGERS

    Social reference managers are a twist on social bookmarking tools.Though usually social reference managers allow general Web book-marking as well, social reference managers are geared towards scholar-ly bookmarks: citations, journal articles, and institutional repositories.Particularly appealing about social reference managers is their ability toparse citations for easy storage, retrieval, and use.

    One excellent social reference manager is Connotea, a combinationsocial bookmarking/social reference manager service developed out ofthe Nature Publishing Group and designed for scientists (4). Connoteahas the ability to automatically decode citations from PubMed (http://

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  • www.pumed.gov), PubMed Central (http://www.pubmedcentral.com),Nature.com (http://www.nature.com), Science (http://www.sciencemag.com), Wiley Interscience (http://www.wileyinterscience.com), Black-well Synergy (http://www.blackwellsynergy.com), Amazon (http://www.amazon.com), Eprints (http://www.eprints.org) repositories, andseveral others. Users can create public or private groups to share citationswithin, which is particularly handy for working on group projects. It alsofeatures connectivity with desktop reference managers; users can importup to 1,000 citations from their desktop manager into Connotea at a time,and users can export their Connotea libraries back into the same desktopreference managers. Fashioned after del.icio.us, Connotea is easily navi-gable by tags, users, and combinations thereof. RSS feeds and export op-tions are available for every page. Connotea also allows users to associatetheir account with their librarys OpenURL link resolver.

    Because Connotea is an open source program, it can be utilized by li-braries and institutions for a number of purposes. For example, Con-notea is now being used on the Electronics and Computer ScienceEPrints repository to help increase findability through content descrip-tion, improved browsing, and suggesting related materials. Connotea isalso being investigated for internal deployment by the Los Alamos Na-tional Laboratory (4). The bibliography, tools, examples, and additionalresources for this article are all stored in a Connotea account for publicaccessibility (see More Resources).

    SOCIAL MEDIA APPLICATIONS

    One of the Webs most popular social software sites is flickrTM, aphoto-sharing tool. Like social bookmarking applications, flickr allowsusers to tag and annotate their materials. Other users can also tag, anno-tate, and comment upon the same photos if the photo owner grants per-mission. flickr content is all available via RSS, making it easy to add toWeb sites. Libraries are widely adopting flickr for storing and manag-ing photos and images for handouts and blogs, creating photo streamsfor Web sites and blogs, and documenting library events, practices, andmaterials. Even edgier uses could be cataloging and socially annotatingmedical images for medical education, journal clubs, or grand rounds;photographing anatomical models; or linking to photos from catalogrecords.

    One Entry to Research (http://oneentry.wordpress.com), a Swedishmedical library blog investigating citation indexes, uses flickr to store

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  • all screenshots and graphics used in the blog. Colorado Colleges TuttLibrary uses flickr to document library events and materials; the flickrimages are incorporated in and linked from the librarys public blog.The Albany County Public Library, in addition to including a link to itsflickr images on its web site, used flickr to store images for a technicalservices manual. Library conferences are another popularly flickredevent; Computers in Libraries 2006 logged well over 500 images. Oneof the most ambitious library flickr projects is from the National Libraryof Australia, which recently announced that anyone can submit contem-porary pictures to the massive PictureAustralia image database via twoflickr groups (5).

    Other social media tools allow users to socially catalog their personalcollections of DVDs, books, and more. Library Thing, which helps cat-alog books, lets users browse each others collections, rate materials,tag books, get a quick grasp of book content through tag clouds, graphi-cally display their books on a shelf, and link to several places to pur-chase the book. Since Library Thing also has RSS feeds, it is easy to pullcontent into blogs and Web sites. Though similar, lib.rario.us (http://lib.rario.us), a newer tool, also catalogs DVDs, CDs, and other media.These tools are often used in the library world for blog enhancement,but could be used to push photos of new books on to library Web sites,or as a readers advisory tool.

    COLLABORATION TOOLS:WIKIS AND SOCIAL DOCUMENTS

    Wikis and social document tools are applications with a very practi-cal purposeproviding a space for people to collaborate. Because ofWikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), the collaborative online ency-clopedia, most people have at least heard of wikis. Wikis are essentiallyblank web spaces that can be edited and stocked with content withoutknowing HTML, using FTP, or worrying about firewalls. How the wikidevelops varies; some wikis emerge as large, complex databases, othersas a simple page or two. Some wikis (such as project-specific wikis)require an account to see or edit content; others are open to all. One ofthe most notable library-related wikis is Library Success: A Best Prac-tices Wiki (http://www.librarysuccess.org), which contains editableand detailed information about cutting edge library technology andprogramming (with numerous examples). Other recently launchedwikis include the Public Health/Health Administration Sections wiki

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  • (http://www.phha.mlanet.org) for incoming officers; a wiki discussionof code4libs (http://www.code4lib.org) potential new journals mis-sion, policies, and guidelines; and the Information Commons wiki fromthe Canadian Library Association (http://cla.ca). A new Nature Publish-ing Group product due for release in June 2006, Nature Protocols, ap-pears to have a major wiki component.

    Social document tools are less ambitious than wikis, but are still ex-tremely useful. Though they do not manage files or provide the kind ofnavigation wikis do, these tools make it easy to share and collabor-atively edit basic word processed documents. The most popular of thesocial document tools is Writely (http://www.writely.com), a beta prod-uct allowing real-time collaborative editing.

    REALLY SIMPLE SYNDICATION (RSS)

    According to a whitepaper by Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com)and Ipsos Insight (http://www.i-say.com), only 4% of Internet users areknowingly using RSS; on the other hand, 27% are reading syndicatedcontent on personalized home pages like My Yahoo! (http://my.yahoo.com) and My MSN (http://www.msn.com) without even realizing thatwhat they are reading is provided via RSS (6). A similar study by thePEW Internet & American Life Project finds that 65% of Americans arenot really sure what RSS means and 26% have never even heard theterm (7). What percentage do you belong in? Hopefully by the end ofthis paper you will be one of the 4% who understand what RSS is andare knowingly using it.

    Understanding the Technology

    RSS is short for Really Simple Syndication, which doesnt reallyclear things up for the average Internet user. So, what does that mean?An RSS feed is simply a file written by Web developers to provide usersa way to easily keep up with site content changes. On its own, an RSSfeed is nothing but a hard-to-read text file, which is why you will need tofind the right feed reader, or aggregator, to translate for you.

    An aggregator is a program that helps users collect RSS feeds andread them all in one interface. Think of the aggregator as your inbox forRSS feeds. When a site is updated there will be a new message in your

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  • inbox. Using an aggregator eliminates the need to visit every page youwant to keep up with on a daily basis; now you just log in to your feedreader when you have time and see all of the updates in one place.

    How to Use RSS

    Now that you understand the terms, you need to understand how RSSfeeds can help you. As mentioned before, RSS is a great way to keep upwith changes on a website. For example:

    Blogs use RSS feeds to notify readers of new posts News sites deliver new headlines using RSS Some professional journals delivery articles or abstracts through

    their RSS feeds Search engines like PubMed, Google (http://www.google.com)

    and Yahoo! let you save your search query as an RSS feed Libraries are starting to use RSS to notify their patrons when books

    are added to the collection, or just to share library news and events.

    There are many ways RSS can help you keep up with what is happeningaround the world, in your profession and in libraries, but how do youfind the right feeds for you?

    Finding the Right Resources

    Right now there isnt a standard way for a webmaster to notify usersthat there is an RSS feed available; for this reason you might have tohunt a little to find the address for the feed. The first thing to look for isan orange button. This button may say XML or RSS on it, it may saysubscribe or it may simply look like a sound wave; the only thing that isalmost always consistent is the color, so look for orange. If you dontsee an orange button on the site, scroll down the page and see if there isan XML or RSS link on the menu or in the footer or use the sites searchengine to see if they mention RSS anywhere on their site. This tech-nique is a bit cumbersome so it might be best to use an RSS or Blogsearch engine or directory to help you learn which sites offer RSS feeds.A few sites that may help are:

    BlogPulseTM [www.blogpulse.com] FeedsterTM [www.feedster.com] Rss4medics [www.rss4medics.com] Syndic8 [www.syndic8.com] TechnoratiTM [www.technorati.com].

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  • Starting your RSS collection can be a daunting task. There are mil-lions of resources out there to subscribe to, so how do you choose? Startwith your bookmarks. What sites do you visit on a daily or weekly ba-sis? Maybe these sites offer RSS feeds and you never knew what thatmeant. You may also want to visit the official sites for journals or otherpublications you like to read. These sites sometimes offer news updatesor journal abstracts through RSS.

    Next, turn to your peers. It is important to remember that your peersare not necessarily the same as your friends. They can be people youvenever met in person, people who share your views and interests, peoplewho belong to the same online communities or people by whom youmay have read something. E-mail these people or search their Web sitesto see what sites they like to read on a regular basis. Some people willeven include a link to their blogroll (a list of links to blogs or sites that aperson subscribes to) on their personal site.

    Some sites with feeds that may be of interest to you:

    Dragonfly [http://nnlm.gov/pnr/dragonfly] Hospital Impact [www.hospitalimpact.org] Hospital Library Advocacy [http://hosplib.blogspot.com] The Krafty Librarian [http://kraftylibrarian.blogspot.com] Librarians Rx [www.library.ualberta.ca/mt/blog/librariansrx].

    Setting Up Your Aggregator

    Different news aggregators work on different operating systems, soyou will need to take this into account when making your decision. Forexample, Bloglines [www.bloglines.com] lets you organize your sub-scriptions and keep track of them all online, which means you canaccess it from any computer with an Internet connection. On the otherhand, programs like FeedDemon [www.newsgator.com/NGOLProduct.aspx?ProdId=FeedDemon] need to be purchased and installed on acomputer running Windows. This means you can only read your feedson one computer. The choice is yours.

    Once youve chosen your aggregator and compiled a list of feeds,youre ready to put everything together. Each reader works differently.You will want to click on the add button or link to add your feeds intothe aggregator. Once on the add page, you will be asked for the feedURL. This is where you paste the address you got from clicking on theXML or RSS button. For example, the feed address for Librarians Rx ishttp://www.library.ualberta.ca/mt/blog/librariansrx/index.rdf. Some sites

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  • will offer reader specific subscribe buttons. Clicking one of these willautomatically add the feed address to your aggregator with little efforton your part. Once the RSS address has been added to your feed readeryou will be able to read new posts as they are added without having tovisit the site itself.

    Things to Remember

    You now have everything you need to start using RSS effectively. Re-member to find feeds that interest you by asking people with similar inter-ests. It is always possible to unsubscribe from a feed if the content doesntlive up to your expectations, so feel free to try reading something new.

    BROWSER TOOLBARS: FASTJACK

    FastJack empowers customers to choose their own paths in the vir-tual library space. As libraries face increasing competition from popularsearch engines such as Google, librarians need to educate and remindtheir customers the value of library resources. As library customers in-creasingly demand access to electronic resources in response to needs,libraries should expand their virtual presence to fulfill this growing de-mand. Facing the vast dimensions of expanding virtual space and evershrinking personal time, library customers could benefit a great dealfrom the availability of a set of self-selected library resources undertheir fingertips whenever they are on the Web. A good marketing chan-nel to reach their customers wherever they are on the Web is through thelibrary toolbar (Figure 1).

    FastJack, the Jackson Library toolbar, is the very first library toolbarof its kind. Designed as a Web navigation tool for the librarys primarycustomers, and as a marketing tool to promote the use of Web resources,FastJack, was first introduced to the business school community atStanford University in 2004. Ease of use and the capability of end-usersto personalize their own toolbars made the toolbar a welcome researchtool among active researchers at the business school.

    Rethlefsen et al. 37

    FIGURE 1. FastJack

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  • Project Overview

    Jackson Librarys Head Technical Services Librarian was first tocome up with the idea for a library toolbar. Noticing the proliferation oftoolbars, he researched and affirmed the feasibility of the Library pro-ducing its own. The project started in January 2004 with a two-personteam, consisting of the Technology/Research Librarian and her part-time assistant. Because of the availability of a number of toolbar build-ing software packages already on the market, and the limited library re-sources allocated to this project, it was decided from the start that theteam would not re-invent the wheel by programming the toolbar fromscratch. After investigation of several software options, the team choseToolbar Studio from SoftOMate (http://www.besttoolbars.net/). A pro-totype toolbar was built in February.

    At this point, the main challenge was to select the right resources tobe included on the toolbara balancing act between complexity andpracticality. A good toolbar should be simple to use, yet provide end-us-ers enough flexibility to shape their personal virtual library space.Fast is the key concept of the Jackson toolbar. It gives busy customersquick access to a self-tailored list of Web resources, thus saving themtime. The Technology/Research Librarian recruited a number of fac-ulty, students, and staff to test and provide feedback at each develop-ment cycle. User feedback, along with Web site and database usagestatistics, and statistics from Document Delivery service were consultedin deciding on the components for the toolbar. In addition to popular li-brary resources, links to popular Business School pages were added toenhance the value of the toolbar.

    The initial versions of the software had a number of bugs discoveredby the Jackson Library team which were eliminated by working closelywith the vendor. These customer/vendor exchanges generated manynew versions of the toolbar, the latest of which was soft-launched in Oc-tober 2004. The innovative toolbar attracted much attention amongbloggers. Comments from the library community flourished and pointedto an expressed interest or need to implement a similar toolbar for theirown libraries.

    The Marketing of the Toolbar and User Feedback

    Encouraged by overwhelmingly positive feedback, the Technol-ogy/Research Librarian felt confident in introducing the product to asmany Business School customers as possible. The marketing campaign

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  • was entrusted to the Librarys Marketing Team which ran a toolbarnaming contest to draw its attention to its intended audiencethe busi-ness school community at Stanford. Thus FastJack was born. In addi-tion to Stanfords MBA students, the Business Schools faculty havebeen among the early adopters. The adoption rate among the businesscommunity is about 50%. Many customers have expressed how theylove the convenience of FastJack; it saves them time by bringing to-gether their favorite resources right on top of their browser.

    The positive response that the toolbar received from Jackson Li-brarys customer groups was mirrored by its reception in the librarycommunity worldwide. The functionality and popularity of the toolbarhas inspired many libraries to create similar tools thereby enhancingtheir own customers research experience.

    Now at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, FastJack has be-come part of the standard installation package for all public computersin the library and the student lab, as well as all new office computers forfaculty, staff, and PhD students. The original toolbar only worked withthe Internet Explorer browser, but at the request of a number of earnestusers, the library later offered a Firefox version for both PCs and Macs.

    Following the success of FastJack, the project team developed an-other version for the business school alumni. The Stanford GSB AlumniToolbar was released in May 2005 (Figure 2). It helps students stay con-nected with the School after graduation.

    The Future Development of FastJack

    The next generation FastJack will incorporate a federated search en-gine into its search box which will allow end-users to do a quick search ofselected popular resources simultaneously. The possibility of incorporatingRSS feeds, blogs, real-time stock quotes, and Web co-browsing feature isalso under investigation so FastJack continues embracing simplicity andusability desired by customers as the principle guiding its development. Itis available for download at: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/library/toolbar/index.html. The Stanford GSB Alumni Toolbar can be downloaded at:https://alumni.gsb.stanford.edu/lifelonglearning/toolbar.html.

    Rethlefsen et al. 39

    FIGURE 2. FastJack Alumni Toolbar

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  • BLOGS

    Since its inception almost fifteen years ago, the popularity of bloggingthe abbreviation for Web logginghas skyrocketed. A blog is a web-basedpublication consisting primarily of periodic journal entries, articles, or re-views, typically displayed in reverse chronological order. In the beginning,blogs were manually updated, meaning that a certain amount of Internetlanguage skills was needed; today, tools to automate the maintenance ofsuch sites, including browser-based software, have made them accessibleto a much larger population. Due to the technical advances associated withblogging, institutions, such as libraries, have taken the contrivance andmade it into a tool that works for both education and promotion.

    Blogs date back to the early nineties, with the National Center forSupercomputing Applications Whats New being considered one of theearliest blogs; with regards to libraries Jenny Levines Librarians Sitedu Jour is considered the original (8). Before the acquisition of the title,however, electronic communities were thriving; the current inception ofthe blog is just an update to the bulletin boards of old. At inception, theywere nothing more than a list of links. As they progressed, they becamecommentaries and even product reviews. They combined the personalweb page with tools to make linking to other pages easier, while provid-ing the reader with a commenting feature (9). These changes eventuallyled to the combination of diary, newspaper, and link digest that themajority of blogs are today.

    According to Fortune Magazine, e-mail is . . . old [and people] preferto communicate by . . . keeping blogs (10). During the 2005 holiday sea-son, the estimation was that 23,000 new blogs were created every day(approximately one every three seconds); however, new statisticss are re-porting that over 75,000 blogs are created daily, which means that on av-erage, a new blog is created every second of every dayand 13.7 millionbloggers are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created (11).

    What Blogs Mean for Libraries

    Libraries are gateways to knowledge, especially current figures. In ahospital setting, this is even more important. While blogs cannotandwill notreplace peer reviewed journals for up-to-date information, theyare an excellent way to stay up-to-date with others in the profession.News travels down the blogging pipelines long before it appears inprint. By visiting the blogs of other librarians, the perspective of othersworking in the library field is shared, allowing others confronting simi-

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  • lar issues to explore solutions (12). In addition to this inside use, manylibraries have used this service to create blogs for patients, patrons andfacility staff. Most hospital librarians will want to begin with a blog foroutreach to doctors and nurses.

    For hospital staff, the library may serve as a meeting place or wealth ofwisdom; for others, it is an antiquated room collecting dust. In order tostay relevant, librarians must make their libraries appealing to those whofeel they can function just as well with the Internet and believe the librarywill vanish like 8-tracks and beta. For the next generation of medical pro-fessionals who carry electronic charts and PDAs, the library blog be-comes another electronic tool that is indispensable; in a time whenhospital libraries are fighting to stay alive, this is desperately needed. In aNovember 2005 article in Library Journal, Cheryl Banick attributessome of the lack of library support to an absence of important outreach.Outreach to clinical and nonclinical staff is more important than ever,she says. Be proactive, and whenever you see an opportunity to fill an in-formation need, go for it (13). One of her suggestions includes blogging.In addition to promoting the concrete library, the medical library blog canpost relevant, dynamic information, while also keeping links to electroniccontent static on the page. Staff can subscribe to your blog via RSS feedsso that they will always be able to view your varying content.

    While some libraries have Web sites, a blog is a new genre of infor-mation. Web sites are static entities, updated perhaps once a month by afew peoplein many cases a single personwhile blogs allow for multi-ple editors, interaction with patrons, and constant updates of pertinentinformation. It is the mix of e-mail updates and general Web site inter-faces that is appealing to many young professionals. In addition tosubscribing to postings, the end-user can read the postings at their con-venience while also recognizing the blog as one stop shopping foressential data and links.

    Creating a Blog

    There are two styles of blogging: software and manual. Manual-basedblogs are written by the blogger and do not use software interfaces for up-dates. This section will focus on using a browser-based Web application.While there are a variety of pay and free services on the market for blogs,an interface that is tailored for the non-Web page designer, one of the eas-iest to acclimate to your setting, and is free is the Google-owned service,Blogger. Using the following steps, even the most unfamiliar blogger willbe able to create and edit an institutional blog.

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  • First, open your Web browser and get to Bloggers home page: www.blogger.com. On the main page, click on the Create Your Blog Nowlink. This is a three-step process that begins with creating an accountand ends with naming your blog and selecting a template (or back-ground). Once on the Account page, you must select a username, whichwill serve as your login each time you visit Blogger. You must also cre-ate a password. In addition to these, you must put in a display name andan e-mail address before accepting Bloggers Terms of Service and con-tinuing. You must give your blog a name and a Web site address. Thesedo not have to be the same. Your title should be longer than your Webaddress, which will be name.blogspot.com. Your title will reflect yourinstitution and the reason for your blog. For example, a staff-centeredblog might be named Getting Lost in the Stacks: a Guide to XYZ Li-brary or, simply, Working with XYZ Library. As with most services,you will complete the word verification before clicking Continue.The last step to setting up your blog is choosing a template. These arepreset designs, known as skins. While you can always download addi-tional skins, be aware that skin changes delete modifications. In order tomake your blog work for you, you will be modifying the template code;changing skins will delete those adaptations. Depending on your levelof alteration, this could be a very time-intensive project. Two commonbackground series among libraries are Rounders and Thisaway, bothwhich come in several colors (although to get to them, you must set apreliminary skin and then go into the Template tab of your blog and surfthe different templates, which is recommended to make sure that youfind the skin that is right for your library).

    Once your blog has been created and you have chosen the template,you must make several changes before your blog is live, including mak-ing a post (or entry). Prior to this, there are simple changes that must bemade to ensure your blog is to your specifications. Select the Settingstab. Under the subheading of basic, you have the option of changingyour title and setting a description. A sample description could be Thisis the staff blog of the XYZ Library. Any questions can be directed to LiBrarian at extension 123 or at librarian@xyzlibrary.org. The other im-portant feature on this page is the setting to make the blog public.Choose very carefully. If you decide to make your blog public, then itwill be searchable and the information posted must be done so with theknowledge that anyone could find it. Under the formatting subheading,you can select your correct time and date stamps, while the commentingfield allows you to choose who can comment and set stipulations (suchas moderation and word verification, to prevent spam). For a blog where

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  • more than one person will be posting, select the members subheadingand add team members (who must create Blogger accounts but do nothave to create a blog).

    For the non-Webpage designer, the Template tab can be very confus-ing. Within its confines are the codes that define your page; deleting or in-correctly writing can destroy the file and leave you with a mess. It istherefore very important that you modify carefully and leave that respon-sibility with only the most savvy of your employees, preferably assigningthe task to a single staff member. Over half of the code is the header,which defines colors and line width and should not be modified. Thesidebar is the portion of the blog that allows for you to set static text.

    By nature, your blog will be dynamic. The body of the blog will be inreverse chronological order, with your most recent post at the top of thepage. The body will change as you post and older posts drift to the bot-tom of the page and, ultimately, to the archive. The sidebar, by contrast,is a constant that appears beside the body portion of your blog and con-tains contact information and other important data. It does not archiveor change (unless you change the code). The sidebar is also preset withdata that you will, most likely, want to remove.

    Blogger sets a profile, similar to that of free e-mail accounts, whichgives information about the creator from a preset form (that is often notinitially accessed). In a library setting, this portion of the sidebar shouldbe changed to represent the institution. Find the text that reads:

    This is Bloggers internal language that pulls the profile of the blogowner. Instead, you can fill in the appropriate contact information. Forexample:

    Welcome to Your Library Name

    We are located at 123 Your Street in Your Town, Your State.During our hours of 9-5, Monday-Friday, we can be reached byphone at (123) 456-7890 or email at library@email.org

    At the end of each bracket (>), complete a hard return, and go to the nextline.

    You can also make changes to the Links section. Blogger has defaultedin several links, like Google, however you can add links to online refer-ences, news sources, or even other blogs. To change the name of the sec-

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  • tion, highlight Links and overtype your new title, such as Filing Cabinetof Resources. Using the format of Name of Site, you can create links to a variety of resources. Youcan add as manyor as fewresources as you need.

    Choosing to keep your archives and post history accessible allowspatrons to view previous information at the click of a button. However,if you would like to add more information, you can follow the languageof addition of contact information or links, depending on your needs.Once you have completed all your changes and refreshed your blog, goto the Posting tab and create your entry. Once published, you can viewyour blog and then, using the steps detailed above, make any necessarychanges. In order to continue visiting and changing your blog, you willneed to sign in at www.blogger.com, where you will enter your user-name and password before being brought to the Dashboard page. Thispage allows you to go into your blog, to add a new post, or to modify set-tingsall at the click of a button.

    CONCLUSION

    Mcinformation, Cheryl Banick notes, has created an environmentwhere patrons want information delivered as fast as their burgers. De-spite the Internets lack of control and quality, it is hailed as the infiniteultimate library (13). Social software applications are an emergingtechnology with enormous potential for medical libraries and medicallibrarians. All social software tools discussed in this paper are amaz-ingly easy to learn and incorporate into daily practice. From managingbookmarks and citations to serving as collaborative workspaces forcommittees and work groups, social software provides many venues toincrease library visibility, increase productivity, and enhance connec-tion and communication.

    If libraries are to survive in this digital era, we must promote ourselvesusing the same tools that our patrons flock to. In this way, we not onlycontinue to be on the cutting edge of technology, but we play a relevant,non-dismissible role in information investigation and dissemination.

    Received: April 3, 2006Accepted: May 3, 2006

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    1. Mathes A. FolksonomiesCooperative classification and communication. De-cember. http://www.adammathes.com/academic/computer-mediated-communication/folksonomies.html. (30 Mar. 2006).

    2. Hammond T, Hannay T, Lund B, Scott J. (2005). Social bookmarking tools (I): Ageneral review. http://dlib.org/dlib/april05/hammond/04hammond.html. (31 Mar. 2006).

    3. Bell S. (2006). Social bookmarking and tagging at academic libraries. http://acrlblog.org/2006/01/02/social-bookmarking-and-tagging-at-academic-libraries/. (31Mar. 2006).

    4. Lund B, Hammond T, Flack M, Hannay T. (2005). Social bookmarking tools (II):A case studyConnotea. http://dlib.org/dlib/april05/lund/04lund.html. (30 Mar. 2006).

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    8. Fichter D. (2003). Why and how to use blogs to promote your librarys services.Mark Libr Serv 2003; 17(6):1.

    9. Howell L. (2005). The History of blogs. http://www.juiceenewsdaily.com/0505/news/history_blogs.html. (3 Mar 2006).

    10. Kirkpatrick D.(2005). Why Theres No Escaping the Blog. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2005/01/10/8230982. (2 Mar. 2006).

    11. Sifry D. (2006). State of the blogosphere. Part 1: On blogosphere growth.http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000419.html. (2 Mar 2006).

    12. Schwartz, Greg. (2005). Blogs for libraries. http://webjunction.org/do/DisplayContent?id=767. (12 Mar. 2005).

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    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

    For more resources and links to all tools and examples mentioned in this pa-per http://www.connotea.org/user/socialsoftware.

    doi:10.1300/J186v06n04_03

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