“Copy and paste” is becoming a more frequently used tool to build websites as online services continue to offer their services and content for use anywhere, not just on their own pages. As I show in presentations, these days you can build a very decent community site using either RSS or “copy and paste” (see a proof of concept I built around the La Grange Park Public Library almost two years ago).
It’s a different way of thinking for libraries, that we can actually integrate external content and services into our sites, not just link to them, but the world around us is changing and everyone else is mashing up. It’s not just the growing unstickiness and promiscuity of bits and bytes but also the disintermediation of content and the fact that people want to — and now can — get a particular piece of something, not just the whole. Again, a different concept for online library services.
So, in this type of environment, what services make good mash partners for libraries? Who do we want to play spin the bottle with?
The first time I saw MeeboMe, it seemed like an obvious candidate. Integration in library websites as a cheap (read: free), lightweight reference chat client was a no-brainer. I’ve highlighted libraries that provide links to live help in their catalogs, especially ones that are based on what our patrons use, instant messaging. Using MeeboMe for this type of services offers two advantages:
- The user doesn’t need to have IM software installed.
- MeeboMe offers the equivalent of web voicemail, allowing the patron to “leave a message” if the library is closed.
So I’ve been wondering if a library would add this service to its catalog, but because there is sometimes a lag in either page loading or chat window loading with the Meebo widgets, I wasn’t sure how feasible this is. Plus, I still have some privacy concerns because the chat goes through Meebo’s servers, a company that may or may not protect privacy to the level libraries do. Still, I found the idea intriguing, as apparently did others, since at least four libraries have started doing this recently.
Technically, I think the University of Calgary was the first to do this, probably because Paul Pival works there. And they didn’t integrate MeeboMe halfway or on a test page. No, they integrated it everywhere — on search results, item records, and my favorite, the “no results found” page. That last one is particularly brilliant, as it provides a lifeline at the point of need at a dead end for patrons. So I immediately added this mashup to my core set of slides.
Around the same time, McMaster University did the same thing, proving that great minds do indeed think alike. Then a month later, David King announced that the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library had also integrated a MeeboMe widget into its catalog on the “no results found” page. Thanks, David — I love that I now have a public library example to show. How is a small city library matching services with a big university one? Simply by using copy & paste.
Since pretty much anyone can copy and paste, now Baylor is doing it, too. Can you do it, as well? You bet. Just go to MeeboMe, create a widget, copy the code they give you, and paste it where you want the chat box to appear on the page. So far the results seem to be positive, but I’m hoping these folks will gossip about their mashing in a few months to let us know how it’s going.
In the meantime, I’m waiting for a library to be the first to implement Twitter for catalog or website status updates, to display the latest articles from a database (such as EBSCOHost) on their website using RSS, or to do a Google Maps mashup of local history sites that is displayed on the library’s site. Please let me know if you’ve spotted any of these in the wild.