Catching up with David Lee King

By Daniel A. Freeman |

David Lee King certainly doesn't need anyone to give him a voice--whether on his blog, through presentations or in publications, when David talks about libraries and technology, people listen. We received tons of positive feedback on David's August 2009 issue of Library Technology Reports, Building the Digital Branch: Guidelines for Transforming Your Library Website and accompanying webinar.

I had a chance to chat briefly with David and see what kind of feedback he received on this work, and what else he's up to.

Dan Freeman: So the last time you worked with us at TechSource, you did a Webinar on Building the digital branch. What kind of feedback did you get about the webinar and your corresponding issue of Library Technology Reports?

David Lee King: I have gotten some great responses from both. Just last night, someone posted the webinar for their library science students to watch (discovered through the wonders of Google Alerts). Access it here: I also receive regular emails from librarians, too, usually stating they just read the LTR and have a question about staffing, timeframe, administration acceptance, etc.

DF: Have you provided any guidance to people building new digital branches? Anything people can check out on the web?

DLK: Well, I often focus my blog posts (at on some aspect of building digital branches, so people could certainly check that out. I also answer the occasional email question, and do do presentations about the topic.

What I've seen are lots of librarians who have read the LTR, are interested in doing more on their websites, and have asked me questions about the LTR or have asked for clarification (or even support before they go talk to their administration about the "new ideas').

DF: So what projects are you working on now?

DLK: We are at the very beginning stages of upgrading/changing our ILS system. We're also at the beginning stages of doing a website redesign again! So right now, just like I wrote in the LTR, I am meeting with most of the library's staff and gathering thoughts on what they like and don't about the current website, and what they have seen patrons getting hung up on. Our goal is to be done with the website project by December (fingers crossed).

And those are just two large projects out of many - we're pretty busy at the moment!

DF: You’ve been posting some material on FourSquare and its potential for libraries on your blog. I think a lot of people would like to learn more. First of all, can you just give us a basic explanation of FourSquare?

DLK: Sure. Foursquare is a location-based game played on smartphones. The basic jist is this - you go somewhere (like a grocery store, restaurant, etc) - and "check in" using a foursquare app on your phone. You get points and badges for the check-in, depending on how many times you've been there, what type of establishment it is, etc.

While doing that, you are also mapping out all the places one can go in your city - you connect the name of the place to a Google map. And you friend people, so you end up competing with your friends list - there's even a leaderboard showing friends' scores (it resets every week).

You can also add tips and things to do to each place you visit, and you get points for those. Other people who visit that place can use your things to do list too, and get points as well.

DF: So what about its potential for libraries?

DLK: I see it as one of many ways to attract people to the library. If you've never been somewhere before, you get more points - so if someone's never used the library, they get points for visiting. If you've added things to do lists, like "get a library card" or "check out three books", people get points for those.

Plus, you can add tags to places. So at the library, I have added tags like books, wifi, cafe, etc. If someone's visiting from out of town and needs wifi access, and they play this game, it's a way to discover a wifi hotspot (since there's a location-based search option, too).

Fun game - lots of potential for attracting people to the library, I think.

DF: Since you’re a tech-oriented librarian in the Topeka, Kansas, I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask for your thoughts on the town becoming known as “Google, Kansas”. What are they?

DLK: My thoughts ... I think it's really very cool! Look what a small group of people in Topeka did in two weeks time:

  • created a facebook page with over 12,000 fans
  • get local media time
  • stage a flash mob that had hundreds of participants
  • get the city and the county to support the project
  • get the mayor to unofficially rename the city for a month
  • and make international AP headlines about it!

Pretty impressive for a small city in the midwest! But more importantly, if this happened in Topeka, it would potentially be HUGE ... and the library would support it (check out our logo right now - we've added "Google" into it for March). I see it as providing fast internet for my digital branch patrons - what's bad about that? Absolutely nothing.