Users Creating for the Library AND Each Other

It is exciting to see all the ways libraries are collecting and utilizing content from users/patrons. When you think about it, gathering user-created content means that libraries are not only adding value and interest to their online presence and collection for themselves and their users, but the users are adding value for their fellows as well. In a lecture for the class I take from Meredith Farkas‘s, I learned about Penn Tags and how it can be used as a “treasure map” (Meredith’s term) for students doing research. If another student has already created a tagged, “annotated bibliography” on the same or a similar topic, there will be a beautifully laid out list of resources for them to start with and, perhaps, build upon. What an interesting way to help fill out the research guides reference librarians already create! I think it would be interesting to have students within a major or a specific class create subject guides for classmates or future students via wiki or Libguides. It would be a collaborative assignment that librarians and professors could put together as an ongoing user instruction/information literacy initiative. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people already doing this, it’s not a terribly original idea, and it could be a fruitful undertaking if it were done right.

I also learned about what Danbury Library and Bedford Public Library did with their catalogs and LibraryThing. I linked here to the record in each for Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood. It’s interesting to see how patrons tagged them, and I really like that “similar books” are provided (I’m not completely sure these are generated by LibraryThing and, therefore, the “crowd” – anyone know?). It’s neat to see the published review blurbs on Bedford’s site as well, but it would be REALLY cool to see reviews from actual patrons of those libraries and to see what books those in your community would recommend having read that book – readers’ advisory from your users themselves! Again, I bet there are libraries doing this that I have missed. Certainly, other libraries have places on their sites where patrons can write reviews of books (e.g. Denver Public Library’s Evolver site’s reviews by teens). But it would be great to see reviews integrated into catalog records as well.

At Emerson College’s Library (full disclosure: I work there) they have started an outreach/marketing campaign for National Library Week so that people visiting the library’s website can submit their own stories on the subject “How the Library Saved My Life”. (Submission happens via LibGuide widget.) The stories will be moderated, similar to the way blog comments are moderated in that the story will need to be approved before it gets officially “published” – I think on the library website, but since it’s a new thing I’m not totally sure where it will be published yet. This is such an interesting way to get students to participate and “sell” the library to their peers. You might also enjoy checking out the superhero-style posters they’ve created in conjunction with this campaign introducing each librarian and their “lifesaving” superpower!

I realize some of my suggestions might be a bit technically naive if they haven’t been done already – maybe pie-in-the-sky. But it’s fun and interesting to think about the new and collaborative ways users can be induced to create content for the library and, ultimately, themselves and their fellow patrons. From what one is always reading about the characteristics of the Millennial generation, collaborative creation with the library could be on the upswing – or at least welcome.

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