Nothing Could Be Finer

By Michael Stephens | I keep my eye on many innovative libraries. These libraries are at the outer edge of our market, leading the way with new takes on service and outreach. They inspire me. They also help me do my job. I love to see what Hennepin is doing, and what Darien will do as they build their new library, as well as many other libraries across the country and around the world. And I'm also keeping a close eye on the state of South Carolina. If there ever was a state filled with library goodness, it would be there.

Here are just a few reasons why:

TechTracks: This week, while finishing up my Library Technology Report "Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies" (due out this fall), I discovered a screenshot of a report from the State Library of South Carolina on emerging technology use in my Flickr feeds. Dr. Curtis Rogers, Director of the Division of Statewide Library Services, uploaded both pages of the report to Flickr and linked to the PDF. The report details libraries' and librarians' use of emerging tools such as blogs and IM before and after statewide technology workshops. For example:

SC survey resultsDoes your library use, or plan to use, Instant Messaging as a reference service for the public?
Before: 5.6% said Yes and After: 29.5%.

Does your library have a photo-sharing account?
Before: 8.6% said Yes and After: 23.3%.

Does your library have a blog?
Before: 14% said
Yes and After: 39.7%.

Does your library maintain a wiki?
Before: 7.4%
said yes and After: 10.3%.

Librarians reported on their individual use as well:

Do you have a personal IM (Instant Messaging) account?
Before: 34.5% said Yes and Af
ter: 52.5%.

Do you have a personal blog?
Before: 11.8%
said Yes and After: 37.9%.

Have you ever participated in or added content to a wiki?
Before: 18.4% said Yes and Af
ter: 32.8%.

The most important thing I see from this data is that the workshops got people thinking and at least using the tools a bit. This report makes me curious about use and adoption for all of the Learning 2.0 programs going on around the world as well. It's impossible to know what the sustainability of the new library or personal blogs might be or how the plans for IM might play out, but the percentages of folks who adopted the tools can now say they've participated in the Social Web. I'm also happy about this data as well, that hopefully illustrates a shift in thinking for the librarians who participated in the workshops:

60.4% of libraries have changed or plan to change their Internet policies to encompass emerging technologies.

I'd like to hear more about this. What policies are changing? Access to Flickr? MySpace & Facebook?

SC readingFlickr & A Day in the Life: Another notable initiative is the South Carolina State Library's “Day in the Life of SC Libraries” project. Created by Rogers, the contest yielded some humorous and touching results. Visit the Flickr site to see the various entries. Rogers was pleased with the results. In an interview for my Library Technology Report, he told me: “All total, I probably spent about 7.5 hours on this and what a great return on the investment of time. It really got people fired up and excited about promoting library services and programs, and excited about using Flickr!”

The SC State Library Web Page (Powered by Joomla): Take a look at the State Library Web Page. A social portal to the state library with user logins, social features and discussion areas -- built on an open source tool! I had to know more, so I spoke with Catherine Buck Morgan, Director of Information Technology Services at the South Carolina State Library, who told me about the genesis of the site.

SC State Library webpage"When we began our website redesign, we had over 2000 static pages of content, much of which was out of date," she reported via email. "In working with the home page team, we identified several key features we wanted to see in the new site. Those features included social networking features, RSS, ability for staff to update content, forums, search features, a site map, bread trails, online submissions of library jobs, and Section 508 compliance. The site needed to be dynamic, easily updated with fresh content."

Catherine told me that the State Library web administrator, Tao Gao, felt they really needed a content management system that would include social networking features. "Most CMS's are very expensive, and include things we would never use," she said. "Tao found Joomla (at that time it was Mambo) and tested it out. The setup is not difficult, and style templates are available. Tao, however, designed our template from scratch. We currently have three websites built on Joomla."

"One of the biggest misconceptions about open source software is "no support"-- our experience has shown that the users are the best support, and by participating in user forums, you quickly develop a feel for who is really in the know, and whose input you can trust," Catherine said. "Joomla has a strong user base that continues to submit bug reports to the developers, and to build other modules to interface with Joomla."

For more information, visit Joomla in Libraries, a site maintained by Catherine and Tao.

So here's to the folks in South Carolina, working so hard to make libraries better through education, the use of social networking, and innovative implementations of open source software. These projects could scale to your library, consortium, or state. Any size library could do the "Day in the Life" project on Flickr, or teach "TechExpress" classes, and possibly -- with support and planning -- look into the use of Joomla to build an interactive, social portal. The possibilities are endless.