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The NCSLA Web 2.0 Roundtable held July 24 at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle Park offered an informative round of musical tables. Seven roundtables covered blogs & wikis, Facebook & LinkedIn, RSS & News Feeds, Podcasting, Library Thing, SLA’s Course on 23 Things, and Del.icio.us & Flickr. Some 50-plus attendees got to choose four 30-minute sessions, and as sessions drew to a close we could be seen eying the next sought-after table and assessing the most expeditious route for getting there in time to obtain a seat.
A variety of libraries were represented there, not only biotech and business, but art, public, and academic as well. The Web 2.0 library applications presented during these brief sessions shared a common (and commonsensical) premise: reach patrons by making library information available in places where people already are spending time.
Karin Shank of the NC Biotechnology Center demonstrated how Del.icio.us and Flickr can be exploited in libraryland. Sharing categories of URLs with staff, pooling bookmarks, bundling tags, linking in blogs, and using del.icio.us/url to view the history of a website with comments submitted by people are all approaches being explored at her library. Using Flickr, Karin showed an interesting art historical application: the digital image of a Renaissance painting, divided up into sections of apparent painterly issues where students would point and click, and then make comments for an art history professor to view and no doubt assess.
John Wilson from NC State laid out blogs and wikis at his table, focusing on “WolfBlogs,” which can be used for both academic and personal purposes. He said that there are not many light users; once converted, people tend to be committed. He showed a wiki set up for a NCSU chemistry course, as well as his reference wiki which permitted him to pull together numerous subject and instructional guides, whether in print or electronic incarnations, and which are now available through a large and growing, interlinked site .
Sheila Devaney of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (where former ZSR business reference librarian David Ernsthausen still works), addressed Facebook and LinkedIn. She recounted earlier efforts to keep up with students’ preferred modes of communication; however, by the time a library was able to utilize, for example, a palm pilot as a means of connecting with students, they had long since moved on to something else. She saw students managing their lives from Facebook, using it extensively for communication. So she created Facebook profiles in hopes of making it the first window to library services, essentially a PR function. She noted that friends and fans proliferate virally, pointed out that Georgia Tech started a page this Monday, and by Tuesday it had more than 80 friends. Fan pages can be found for ACRL, OCLC, and NCSLA, as well as UNC- Wilmington and the southern Folklife collection at UNC-CH. The Metropolitan has 8000 fans, not a negligible amount! LinkedIn, because of its orientation to the corporate environment, is “pushed” at Kenan-Flagler. Not many libraries use it, but it is another place to get contact information out; headhunters also use it as a way of doing research on people before interviewing potential candidates. It’s one more example of putting things in a form or medium people are actually using. Incidentally, in an aside she noted that NPR’s Carl Kasell solicits wishlists for program guests via his friends and fans on Facebook. Something to consider!
The final brief roundtable I was able to attend was on RSS news feeds, presided over by Erin Iannoacchione who works for Intermune. As a librarian for a biotech firm, she spends hours each day tracking down news stories of interest to her clientele. RSS feeds have simplified her work enormously, since she no longer has to go out and do individual searches on various databases and web sites; the feeds bring the information to her. She specifically recommended Page2RSS.com to create feeds from web sites that don’t offer any. Like the other four sessions I attended, it was rich in tips and helpful examples.
The National Humanities Center, incidentally, is unique. The only such private, non-profit center of its kind for the humanities, it offers approximately 40 scholars in the humanities a year in which to carry out research. It is not a program for young scholars endeavoring to wrestle a dissertation into a publishable scholarly monograph: generally one has to have already published at least one book. The library director, Eliza Robertson, told me that they provide services ranging from locating online resources, submitting interlibrary loan requests (80% of which are filled by Duke, NC State, and UNC-CH libraries), and assisting in other ways as needed. The WFU English Department’s prolific scholar, Professor Eric Wilson, has been there and gratefully acknowledged the helpful role played by the NHC in enabling him to carry out his research and bring his scholarly projects to completion.