Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We Get By With a Little Help from our Friends

How Participation and Contribution from Patrons and Staff Enhances One Public Library’s Website and Builds Community

Presented by Marilyn Turner from the Hennepin Public Library System at the Enhancing Quality Staff Symposium May 2007

I found this to be the most exciting workshop that I attended that day. Hennepin County Public Libraries really focus on providing quality reader’s advisory services. They took this value and added it to their website. First in 2001, the staff began adding the booklists that they create to the website. Currently there are about 100 staff members who create and maintain about 250 booklists as part of their job responsibilities. Also in 2001, kids were able to submit online book reviews from the HCPL website. Online reviews for adult materials began in 2002.

Staff found that the booklists were helpful for themselves and also started creating subject guides with links to the catalog, events, websites, etc. The subject guides allow staff to really focus in one area while allowing other staff members to keep up on the subject easily. A couple of factors that add to the success of the website is that the staff rely on each other for the information and to give feedback, the subject guides and booklists are high priority for the library system, staff have time to work on them, and staff have tools on the intranet for submitting the information.

In 2007 the HCPL embraced Web 2.0 on its website and began allowing comments on any title in the catalog. The public now enriches the site by adding comments and participating in the discussions about items in the catalog. So far there have been over 5700 comments added to the catalog. These go up immediately and are viewed by staff as they come in. An email is sent automatically to a select few who check the content of the review. Users are also able to create their own booklists to share with others. Over 200 costumer booklists have been contributed so far.

The HCPL website also has RSS feeds for upcoming releases by certain authors or for individual searches so that patrons can be notified of new items of interest in the catalog or on the website.

It was really exciting to hear about the website and to see the results. I think that libraries can do so much more in terms of supporting the online expectations of library users and this website is an example of good web 2.0 uses for libraries. It takes commitment from the library as a system, the staff contributors, and public participation. And a lot of trust is required from everyone.