Innovation

The Internet was first based on the “Web 1.0” paradigm of Web sites, email, search engines and surfing. Web 2.0 is about conversations, interpersonal networking, personalization and individualism, a much higher level of interactivity and deeper user experiences. It is vital that libraries be at the center of these new community conversations. Libraries are traditionally a trusted resource, a community institution that offers universal access and that can now be a point of practical information technology innovation — the third place in the physical and online community (beyond the workplace and home).

Free and Open-Source Software in Libraries

Different experts have different ideas about what exactly qualifies as “open-source” software. In general, the term refers to any program with a licensing agreement that allows you to view and modify the source code, which is a series of high-level, human-readable instructions that defines a particular program and tells the computer what to do. Under an open-source license, if you choose to distribute your modifications of someone else’s software, you have to do so under the same terms. Simply put, other developers can view and modify your source code, just as you could view the original code. An open-source license doesn’t require that the software be available free of charge, though that’s usually the case.

For most people, the Linux operating system is the archetypal open-source application and it’s the platform for which most open-source software was designed. There are hundreds of Linux variants (called distros) that differ from one another in look, feel and bundled applications, but all share the same underlying structure (embodied in the Linux kernel). For more information on Linux and Linux distros, see Further Resources.

Skeptics and Windows fans like to say that open-source software is “free like a puppy.” In other words, they argue that the ongoing support and training costs of open-source software will outweigh your initial cost savings. Open-source advocates respond that all technology has support and maintenance costs. The real Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for open-source depends on which program you’re considering and your staff’s expertise.

  • Some open-source programs run from the command line and intimidate non-techies.
  • Others are supported by a few part-time programmers so it’s hard to get bugs fixed and questions answered.
  • On the other hand, well-known programs, such as the ones at Open Source for Windows and the major Linux distributions, are highly polished, reliable and easy to use. In these cases, you can almost always get free, informal support from volunteers or formal, paid support from the software developer or a third-party company.

Why Use Open-Source Software in Your Library?

  • It’s free. If your library is on a tight budget, a no-cost solution has to be tempting. However, nothing in life is entirely free. As we’ll discuss in more detail, all software, as well as all hardware, has a total cost of ownership. You and your staff will spend time learning the open-source software, installing it, customizing it and maintaining it.
  • It’s customizable. There are no restrictions about what you can do with open-source software. If you need some functionality that isn’t currently part of the program, you can hire someone to develop that function or write the code yourself. You have to release your improvements to the wider community, but that’s not a problem for libraries, since we’re not in the business of selling software. Moreover, the open-source community might latch on to one of your improvements and develop it further.
  • You are vendor-independent. With proprietary software, you’re usually dependent on a single software vendor. If you need some specific, added functionality for a core piece of software, such as your ILS, you have to ask the vendor and pay their prices. If the vendor is too busy to address your request, all you can do is wait. With open-source software, you can often choose from thousands of developers for well-known programs. For more obscure products, you may have fewer choices, but you’re never completely trapped. Moreover, with open-source software, you’re less likely to face the “we no longer support this product” scenario. When proprietary software vendors upgrade a program, change strategy or go out of business, they often abandon older software, forcing their customers to migrate and/or choose another vendor. This is less likely to happen with open-source software. If one open-source company stops developing certain software, customers can take over maintenance of the software themselves or hire a new company to do it.
  • There’s security and reliability. Windows advocates and open-source advocates can argue for days about this topic, but Linux/Unix lovers suggest that their favorite tools are lower-priority targets for hackers. They also point out that “with a million eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” In other words, bugs and security holes are found and patched quickly because so many developers have access to open-source code.

Key Actions

  • Start slow with OpenOffice and Firefox. If you haven’t used them before, install OpenOffice and Firefox on a test machine. These two programs are by far the best-known, most popular open-source applications.
    • OpenOffice is an office productivity suite, with word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. In style and functionality, it’s similar to Microsoft Office.
    • Firefox is an open-source Web browser that competes with Internet Explorer.
  • They’re both well-designed, easy-to-use applications, perfect if you’re still intimidated by the idea of open-source software. Also, both run on Windows, and they don’t conflict with Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office or other common applications.
  • Think “free” when you shop for software. For almost any commercial application, you can find one or more free, open-source alternatives. Even if you narrow your choices down to software that runs on Windows, there are several open-source programs in almost every major category. The Open Source Alternative site lets you search for well-known commercial programs and then offers open-source alternatives. The Open Source for Windows page suggests two or three popular programs for most major categories.
  • Try Ubuntu by running it from a “Live CD.” Ubuntu, a relatively new Linux distribution, has taken off quickly and boasts a huge, active user community as well as great documentation. It’s intuitive, user-friendly, and resembles Windows enough that Linux-newbies won’t be overwhelmed. When you boot to a LiveCD, the operating system runs from the CD itself and main memory (i.e. RAM), but doesn’t install itself on your hard drive or overwrite any files there. Of course, changes you make to your settings won’t stick by default and reading files from a CD is slower than reading them from a hard drive. Using a LiveCD is a good way to experiment with an operating system without committing to it.
  • Join the open-source for libraries movement. Check out a few of the sites under Further Resources for descriptions of open-source software specifically designed for libraries.
  • Consider the total cost of ownership. As we mentioned above, before you install any program, look at the documentation and the support community. Who will you turn to if you run into trouble? Will your staff adapt quickly to the new software, or will they need retraining?

Stories from the Field

I think if there’s one thing that makes people gasp and flinch even more than mentioning Macintosh, when they’re used to dealing with PCs, is mentioning open-source. But, like you say, once you get it going and you say, ‘Go ahead, touch it, it won’t bite,’ I think it gets really exciting after that because it’s like, oh, hey, this does work. I think people are still kind of spooked into thinking they’re going to have to sit there and do all kinds of coding or something.

Lisa Shaw
Turner Memorial Library, ME

We are actually using, and I talked about this once before, M0N0wall, and we use it for our wireless. It creates what you call captive portals so that way, a page will come up that the user has to accept. And, along with that now, we use Kiwi, so we can get statistics on how many people are using the wireless in certain libraries. Another product I just played with was Cybera, which is actually Internet café tracking software, so if a person wants to use a machine, [the software] will time them, and it will kind of keep statistics on them, and that’s open-source. I’m trying to think of some others. MRTG — that’s from an open-source product. Our listserv is an open- source; it’s just called List Serve Lite. I’m big on open-source because other stuff costs so much money. And, you know, when you are a small library, you don’t have a lot of money, so those are the kinds of things that we’re looking at.

Jean Montgomery
Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation, MI

Linux thin client terminal project

The thin client project was my first major open- source project that we implemented here, the first one that I was responsible for. And it’s gotten a lot easier since those early days, because, for example, Ubuntu has the Edubuntu distribution that already has the thin client server installed on it. You could just potentially do an installation of that and be up and running.

We tend to buy a pretty powerful server. I think the one we have now has two dual-core processors on it. I don’t remember their exact specs. Right now, we only have 2 GB of RAM on this one. I’ve been meaning to upgrade it, but the speed is pretty good, so it’s been all right. I also upgraded our internal network to gigabit, so we’re using all gigabit switches. That helps the traffic flow through the network. We have a little [more than] 30 thin clients on the same server. We’re also using 64-bit. The server uses a 64-bit kernel, but I think it serves up 32-bit software.

The Linux terminal server project has a Web site. It’s www.ltsp.org. They have a wiki on there that has a lot of information on how to set it up. Ubuntu also has a lot of documentation on their Web site about setting up a linux terminal server project (LTSP) server. Those are good places to start. I think Edubuntu has a handbook, too, that includes LTSP information.

On our public computers, I use K Desktop Environment (KDE) as the default desktop, because I tried initially locking down Gnome and I used to use IceWM, but KDE is really easy to lock down. You can create different profiles. All the configuration files are text-based, so you can edit those and create a profile for your various user types — like I have one for the online public access catalog (OPAC), one for the [circulation] computers, one for the public Internet computers. Also, we have another one, because we have an on-staff software developer. He just wrote a kiosk management system called LIBKEY. If anybody wants it, it’s on SourceForge. We created a profile just for LIBKEY so that instead of the desktop, a patron first sees a login screen, and they have to log in with their user name and password, and they get half an hour to use the Internet. Then it kicks them off. We’re using that for patron time management to avoid arguments about “I have five more minutes” and the librarian says, “No, you don’t” and that kind of thing. It’s tied into our [circulation] system. We’re using Koha. It grabs the patron database from Koha every night and that’s what it uses for the user name and password.

Cindy Murdock, Open-Source Guru
Meadville Public Library,PA

Using an open-source ILS (Koha)

You don’t need to have an on-staff developer. We wanted to change quite a bit of it. We made our own interface for the [circulation] system to suit ourselves. It’s nice to have a developer on staff if you want to change a lot of things or tweak things. But you can get support from various vendors, like LibLime. There are vendors that do hosted solutions. So if you don’t want to muck around in the database innards or anything like that, you can do that as an option. Since it’s open-source, you can also download it and install it yourself if you want to see how it works. That’s a nice thing, because most vendors don’t give you that option to play with it without paying for it in some way. We’ve been using it since mid-May. We just finished migrating our third library to it just this past weekend. We have nine libraries in the county. I think we’ll be able to get the next few up pretty quickly. We had some issues because we’re encrypting all of our traffic for security reasons on the intranet side, the staff side. We found that it was really slow at the farthest library from the system headquarters. I had to use a hardware solution to get the encryption to speed up. Now that we’ve got that done, I should be able to get the other ones done pretty quickly.

Cindy Murdock
Meadville Public Library, PA

Further Resources

We’ve included several additional resources on the topic of open-source software.

Gaming in Libraries

Board and card games have a long history in libraries. Most librarians have no problem with a quiet game of chess or gin rummy, and many libraries make these and similar games available for checkout. Video games, on the other hand, haven’t always had the best reputation, so libraries have tended to steer clear of them until recently. The idea that video games cause violent behavior has been strongly disputed, but some librarians still feel that they’re a waste of time with no relevance to our profession. However, there’s more and more evidence that games in general and video games in particular develop a wide range of useful skills. Furthermore, gaming events in libraries can generate great publicity and they create a strong, lasting connection between teens and the one institution in town that actually supports and encourages the activity that they love so much.

Our purpose here is to describe the logistics and details you should think about before you host a gaming program. We will not be covering the steps you need to take to build a collection of video games for checkout, but the Further Resources section will lead you to information on that subject.

Why You Should Care About Gaming in Libraries

  • Gaming events can:
    • Draw teens and their parents to the library. For years librarians have worried that they’re “losing a generation.” Teens have been visiting the library less often and checking out fewer books as their information and entertainment options increased. There’s increasing evidence that gaming events in the library will increase circulation and reading among young adults.
    • Create a connection between young adults and library staff. Teens (and adults) are more likely to ask for help from someone they know.
    • Help teens develop teamwork and organizational skills. A lot of libraries involve teens in planning and monitoring their game nights. Teens help select the games, market the events, set up equipment, enforce time limits and so on. Furthermore, the games themselves often require teamwork and cooperative problem solving.
  • Video games can be beneficial. There’s no universal consensus on this controversial issue, but there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that well-designed games improve fluid intelligence and one’s ability to solve complicated, multifaceted problems. For a book-length discussion of this topic, see Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson. Animeted.org has more arguments in favor of gaming in libraries.

Key Actions

  • Talk to your target audience, which is typically made up of teens. Ask them which gaming platforms they prefer and which games will draw the biggest audience. Teens can also help you with the set-up and take-down of the equipment. Finally, peer marketing will get the word out and make your gaming nights successful.
  • Create partnerships. If you have a GameSpot or a similar store in your area, drop by and see if they can offer any advice or assistance. They know the gamers in your town and can recommend age-appropriate games. Also, they might donate games or gaming equipment to your library or at least offer you a discount. The local YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club or any other kids program might be looking for someone to partner with. They can provide space, money or help with marketing and outreach. Get creative with your partnerships. A library in West Virginia recently partnered with the State Health Department. It makes sense. When teens play Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit, they burn thousands of calories. And seniors love Wii Bowling for some reason (Wii Bowling is part of Wii Sports, the game that comes with your console). Talk to local senior groups and elder care facilities and see if you can collaborate on a Wii Sports night.
  • If possible, borrow the games and the game consoles from local teens or a local gaming store. You might be able to borrow TVs as well, but these are harder to transport. Of course some equipment is less durable, so be careful about what you borrow and how you take care of it. Furthermore, only borrow from patrons you can count on. Gaming events where the equipment doesn’t show up are generally unsuccessful. Finally, if you plan to put on regular gaming events, you should get your own equipment.

Other Ideas and Possible Actions

  • Think about making formal competition a part of your gaming events. Setting up a tournament with rules and scorekeeping takes a lot more work, but it’s been wildly successful for Ann Arbor Public and other libraries. Ann Arbor Public also keeps a running leaderboard.
  • Plan your purchases carefully.
    • Which consoles will you buy? You can focus on the latest and most expensive consoles (the Wii, the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3). But older consoles (i.e., the Gamecube, the Xbox and the Playstation 2) are still popular and considerably less expensive. Some libraries have also had success with events that focus on PC games, handheld devices such as the Nintendo DS and the PSP (Playstation Portable), and multiplayer online games. ConsumerSearch has buying advice on the latest generation of consoles. Wikipedia has an overview of the previous generation.
    • Should you buy wireless controllers? Probably not, as they tend to wander and get lost.
    • How many controllers will you need? Most game consoles only come with one, but you’ll need more than one for your events and tournaments. You can buy the extra controllers (usually about $50 apiece) or ask participants to bring their own. Again, if you’re asking someone to help you with equipment, make sure they’re reliable.
    • Do you need to buy extra TVs? If so, some TVs work better with video games than others. Most new TVs work well with video games, but if you’re looking at older models, try to find one with a response time under 12 ms. Also, if your console and your TV both support it, you can often get a better-quality image by purchasing an HDMI cable.
    • Do you want to buy a projector? They’re usually more expensive and harder to set up than a TV, but projectors can add an epic feel to your gaming events and they offer teens an experience they can’t get at home. Library Success Wiki has some tips about projectors and their compatibility with various consoles.
  • Assess your game needs. Not all popular games will work well at gaming events. Some games are designed for one player, and others focus on long, involved quests and puzzles. Look for games with good match play, multiplayer or cooperative modes. Also, it should be possible to complete a round of play in a half an hour or less so players can cycle through quickly and everyone gets a turn.
  • Be prepared for questions from parents and other concerned citizens. Parents may want information and reassurances before they let their children participate. Library board members, journalists and others may have a bad impression of video games due to news reports about Grand Theft Auto and other games designed for adults. ALA has a list of Talking Points about Gaming in Libraries that may address some of the questions you’ll get, and most of the web sites in our Further Resources section talk about advocacy in one way or another. A Parent’s Guide to Video and Computer Games speaks directly to parents of young children and a simple Google search will pull up similar pages. The Parent’s Guide to Game Ratings explains the major game categories.
  • Shape your message proactively. Most of the press surrounding library gaming events has been overwhelmingly positive, so don’t be afraid to promote and publicize your events. In doing so, you can also address community concerns about supervision and appropriateness of content.

Stories from the Field

And so we have a little teen area. It has this little moveable wall that’s four feet high around this table and that’s the teen area. One of our staff members, Natalia, donated a television, and we had a community member donate a video game system, and I just literally dropped it. I didn’t even hook it up. I just dropped the bag of donated stuff in the middle of the teen area and walked away, and the kids had it set up and playing within minutes; I don’t use a lot of staff time on that. I made a sign and it says if you’re really loud, we’re going to kick you out. If you’re consistently loud we take away the video game system. This is yours. Use it. Please use it but just know that it’s got to be quiet. It’s got to be respectful, and I don’t keep track of who’s playing what or anything. The kids maintain it themselves and they regulate themselves. Usually whoever wins gets to keep the controller and the next kid plays and they don’t really need clipboards. It’s more like sandlot baseball. Pick your teams.

Kieran Hixon
John C. Fremont Public Library, CO

We have a projector that hooks up to laptops for PowerPoints and I thought, 'We have to get a video game system and hold a tournament.' What could be better than playing on a screen that’s six feet tall? Let’s get everybody here. The first thing I did was ask people in the community to donate stuff and I got more Xboxes than you can shake a stick at because the community does want to be asked and does want to help.

So we did our first tournament. We had two TVs in two different corners. One was a Dance Dance Revolution. One was a driving game, Burnout, I think. We close on Saturdays at 2:00 and so we scheduled the tournament at 2:30, and at 2:15 there was this kid knocking on the back door. Well, we were still setting up and the parking lot’s full of kids! It’s like a riot and we looked outside and sure enough there were 50 kids standing in line and we were 'Oh, my.' We expected maybe twelve, thirteen kids. It was crazy the tournament we had — it went really well.

We made a rule that you had to have a library card without any fines on it; then you could play the video games. The amount of kids we had sign up for cards was outstanding, and the kids that came in that didn’t have library cards said, 'Oh, I haven’t been in here. This place is really cool.' It’s really brought a lot of kids into the library and now we have probably 80, 90 video games and it’s the second highest circulating collection in our library. We have a video game tournament every month. At the last video game tournament sixty kids showed up. Think about it, ‘cause our district’s only 5,000 people.

Kieran Hixon
John C. Fremont Public Library, CO

One of the head librarians gave me a heads-up with Best Buy, and we filled out a form to get some equipment donated to us. And there were two choices — the Wii and the Xbox 360. If we do the Wii, everyone from different generations can more or less adapt to it, and it seems like we can more or less use that for singular tournaments and for gaming tournaments for seniors and stuff like that. But the Xbox 360 has more games. I think either way, whatever one they decide to donate, we'll probably do good either way. And then we asked for the Guitar Hero bundled package.

Tanya Finney
Cheltenham Township Library, PA

One of the things we do every Friday afternoon with the laptop lab is we actually invite teens to come in and do online gaming for about an hour and a half before we close.

In 2005 we bought a PS2 and we put that on the children’s floor in the teen area and we let them play games on that. Then late last year we started doing once-a-month teen gaming after hours for two hours and we’d get pizza in and stuff like that. We were getting about 10 to 12 kids to come in for that. We bought a Nintendo Wii. We had an Xbox donated to us, so we’ve now got three gaming systems for them to use every day when they come in. And then the weekly gaming started about September, a couple months ago, so it was just a case of we had the laptops. Let’s take them upstairs. That way we can put the gaming upstairs and get them out of the Internet room so they can make a little bit more noise up there, and it frees up some of the computers downstairs for other people who want to use them. We’ve got about seven or eight regulars and then we have the odd two or three that sort of drop in.

Terry Caudle
Madisonville Public Library, KY

Martha Fuhrman is our teen librarian and she got us Guitar Hero II and DDR [Dance Dance Revolution] and she was just telling somebody today that they did a Guitar Hero event at one of our branch libraries and got just a monster turnout of boys coming into the library so, yeah, that’s parting the Red Sea.

Stef Johnson
Flathead County Library, MT

Further Resources

To learn more about gaming programs, materials and resources for your library, check out the Further Resources section.

Collaborative Tools

The term Web 2.0 has been around since the end of 2004. Wikipedia, the free user-created Web encyclopedia, defines it as “the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and Web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing and, most notably, collaboration among users.” Web 2.0 is as transformational as the arrival of the Internet itself. It isn’t about technology, but about community, sharing and openness.

Specifically, Web 2.0 can enhance your library’s ability to:

  • Fulfill the library’s mission and vision. Libraries need to look at emerging social technologies as valuable tools for communicating with and serving their current patrons, as well as attracting new library patrons.
  • Tell and share stories. When the library takes a role in showcasing and collecting the stories of its community members, it becomes an agent for expression and community development. Engage your community in a new and different way.
  • Harness the collective intelligence of our profession and our communities. We know more together than we do as individuals.
  • Understand and meet your online library users. This involves finding out how they are communicating, what content they are developing and what is most important to them. People are doing library things online. For fun! Go where our users are (or will be) and strengthen community ties with social software. Also, get feedback on your library services.
  • Network and build online community. Web 2.0 technologies can give the library an online face by profiling the library space, the staff and the services they offer and by participating in ongoing online conversations. Enhance your library’s Web presence with a more personal and personalized online experience.
  • Attract and serve teens. This can be accomplished through online gaming, a magnet that attracts library users of all types and, beyond its entertainment value, has proven to be a powerful tool for literacy and learning. More than half (55 percent) of all online American youths ages 12 to 17 use online social networking sites.
  • Become part of the participatory culture. A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations and some type of informal mentorship in which what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which all contributions matter and there is some degree of social connection. Participatory culture is about community involvement. There are opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, changed attitudes regarding intellectual property, diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace and a more empowered conception of citizenship.
  • Provide digital collections. Libraries can expand traditional collection development practices by incorporating collections of online videos, photos and Web sites.

What Collaboration Tools Can Be Useful to Libraries?

There are varieties of online participatory culture, including:
  • Affiliations — These can include memberships, formal and informal, in online communities centered on various forms of media, such as Flickr, Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, message boards, gaming or MySpace.
  • Production of new creative forms — This involves producing new creative forms, such as digital sampling, programming, videos, mash-ups, podcasting, widgets and writing via blogs, zines or other technologies.
  • Collaborative problem-solving (whether formally or informally) to complete tasks and develop new knowledge (for example, through wikis, alternative reality gaming or spoiling).

Web 2.0 is about sharing, about making information available where people are — whether it is photos, videos, news, bookmarks, knowledge or shared lives. A key component of Web 2.0 is social software that lets people connect, collaborate and communicate over the Internet. The collaboration may occur in real time (called synchronous collaboration) or at different times (called asynchronous collaboration), while the locations may be across the world or across an office. Most of these tools are free, enabling anyone with access to the technology to be a publisher. The common goal is building communities in which participants constantly give and receive valuable information. The Collaboration Tools Chart, which is available in a downloadable PDF, outlines some of the broad categories of tools available.

What to Consider When Evaluating and Implementing Web 2.0 Tools in Your Library

  • Be adept at exploring new technologies. One of the most important things to remember when it comes to Web 2.0 is that there will always be new tools. Libraries must consider the training needs both for their staff and their users. Staff must be given time to learn and participate in the online world.
    • Build staff training programs for late-bloomers.
    • Let staff communicate and share what they are learning weekly using 1.0 methods, such as emerging technology committees or newsletters.
    • Encourage staff to share and work together.
  • Creative Commons (CC) is another topic for library staff to consider. This allows content owners to specify a level of copyright protection that works for their needs. CC often relaxes copyright restrictions to promote creative freedom and remix, balancing end users’ desire to freely use Web information with authors’ intellectual property rights. CC replaces “all rights reserved” with “some rights reserved,” usually that the work be attributed, not sold and, if remixed, then reshared under CC.
  • It’s important to be aware of the tools the public is using. If the vast majority of one of the library’s user populations use instant messaging, it is important to offer virtual reference services via IM. If your patrons are avid blog readers, your library might want to start a blog to disseminate information about programs, services or resources.

Libraries should not only examine how social software can improve services to their patrons, but they should also consider how these tools can improve internal communication and collaboration. While social software tools can improve the ways in which libraries communicate with patrons, they can also improve internal communication and knowledge sharing. Blogs, wikis and social bookmarking each can play a role. A library wiki knowledge base can decrease people’s dependence on their colleagues’ in-person expertise. Blogs are a great way to disseminate news about broken printers or new databases. Social bookmarking can help colleagues share useful Web links.

Stories from the Field

Libraries can play a greater role in their communities by building dynamic, interactive Web sites, reaching out to users via instant messaging, feeding out content such as library holdings and library news to other community-based Web sites and offering mechanisms for users to create or mash up library content. Before there will be success, however, there must be a commitment by the librarians to sustain successful services and participate in the ongoing conversation. A library’s online presence should never be an afterthought or an aside with just one or two librarians contributing. There should be a collective voice made up of the individuals of the library staff.

Michael Stephens
Spring 2006 SirsiDynix UpStream

Allen County Public Library has used Flickr for three years in a row to do A Day in the Life of Allen County. They’ve encouraged their community to, on one specific day, take pictures in the community, upload them to their own Flickr account, tag it a specific way or if they want to email it to the library they can, and then Allen County showcases it on their Web site. And the nice thing about that is they’re not sustaining a whole year of capturing pictures about whatever. They're doing it in a really small timeframe.

Helene Blowers
Columbus Public Library, OH

Further Resources

We have included a large number of resource links related to Web 2.0 reference information and tools.

Further Resources

Open-source Software

  • Open-source licensing:
    For a longer definition of open-source licensing and how it differs from commercial, proprietary licensing, see Open Source for Beginners at OSSwatch.

  • Linux for beginners:
    Wikipedia has a good definition of Linux and links to other resources. If you want to know more about the different flavors of Linux out there, see the top ten list on DistroWatch, which compares the most popular Linux distributions. A larger matrix is available on Wikipedia.

  • Ubuntu for beginners:
    For Ubuntu, the official documentation and the User wiki are great resources. In particular, you might want to look at Switching to Ubuntu from Windows and documentation about using the LiveCD. If you’re a visual learner, watch some of the “how to” screencasts. Once you’ve decided want to install it permanently, check out Installing Ubuntu or Dual Boot Ubuntu and Windows. Of course, you should back up important data and get permission from your IT department before you try this.

  • Open-source software for libraries:
    Koha and Evergreen are the open-source projects with the highest profile among libraries and librarians. Koha is an Integrated Library System (ILS) for small and medium-sized library systems. Evergreen is an ILS for large systems and consortia. However, there are dozens of library-centric programs, designed to handle everything from patron management to interlibrary loan. The lists on OSS4Lib, Library Success Wiki and Sourceforge are all good starting places.

    In other cases, the library community is extending and adapting software that already exists rather than writing new programs from the ground up. For example, a lot of libraries use Drupal, Joomla, Plone or WordPress to manage their Web presence. Drupal for Libraries, Joomla for Libraries, Plinkit (based on Plone) and Scriblio (based on WordPress) are four sites with more information on the ways that open-source software is being adapted for use in libraries. Also, the Library Success Wiki directs you to numerous sites that help you integrate your Firefox Web browser with your library’s digital resources.

  • Open-source software for windows:
    If you’re not ready to switch your entire library to Ubuntu or another Linux-based operating system, take a look at the Open Source for Windows page. Rather than overwhelm you with a thousand choices, this site lists roughly 60 popular programs that run on Windows and breaks them down into categories. For a more comprehensive list, see the OSSwin Project. If you’re just looking for all the free software you can download, check out these popular freeware sites. But bear in mind that freeware is not the same as open-source, because you usually can’t view or modify the source code of a freeware program.

Gaming in Libraries

Introductory material: If you’re having trouble with the gaming terminology, InfoPeople has a handy glossary. Animeted.org has a great discussion of the practical details involved in setting up a gaming event (though some of the technical details are a bit out of date). You’ll also find excellent advice on the Library Success Wiki, including tips and suggestions from libraries with successful gaming programs. And if you want to talk to a colleague about his or her experience with gaming events, the Wiki provides contact information for libraries of all sizes. Gaming the Way to Literacy tells the story of a poor, rural library in South Carolina using gaming to engage youth and promote reading.

Intermediate resources: ALA now has a Games and Gaming Wiki with a strong bibliography, good advice on advocating for your gaming program and lots more.

Advanced resources: If you’re looking for a longer, more detailed discussion of gaming in libraries, ALA devoted two recent issues of Library Technology Reports to this subject (both edited by Jenny Levine). Also, Eli Neiburger, who manages the highly successful gaming program at Ann Arbor Public Library, has written a book about gaming tournaments. Finally, the library gaming listserv is a great place to ask specific questions. If you’re really excited about the intersection of games and libraries, you might attend the second annual Gaming, Learning and Libraries Conference this November or read up on the latest academic research being conducted at the Library Game Lab.

Gaming blogs: There are too many blogs covering this topic to mention them all, but Game On and The Shifted Librarian are especially strong on library gaming. ALA also has some great postings at their Gaming News site.

Web 2.0 References and Tools

  • Everything You Need to Know About Web 2.0 TechSoup explains ways nonprofits can benefit from the use of emerging technologies.

  • Five Weeks to a Social Library The first free, grassroots, completely online course devoted to teaching librarians about social software and how to use it in their libraries. It was developed to provide a free, comprehensive and social online learning opportunity for librarians who do not otherwise have access to conferences or continuing education and who would benefit greatly from learning about social software.

  • Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service, by Michael E. Casey and Laura Savastinuk. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. 2007.

  • Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” This Cites and Insights article by Walt Crawford is a thorough look at the phenomenon of Library 2.0 and examines whether it is hype or an actual movement.

  • Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and Its Implications for Libraries This article by Jack M. Maness of the University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries addresses the application of Web 2.0 social software in libraries.

  • Library 2.0: Service for the Next-Generation Library, by Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk, Library Journal, 2006. This article brought the concepts of Web 2.0 into the library arena, dubbing them Library 2.0. Explains “long tail,” collaboration, social networking, tools and services for today’s users.

  • OPAL: Online Programming for All Libraries is a collaborative effort by libraries of all types to provide free Web-based programs and training for library users and library staff members. You can find free courses, such as the Ten Top Technologies for Librarians, Day of the Digital Audio Book, Wikis and How to Google: An Introduction to Searching the Web.

  • SirsiDynix Institute includes free Webinars on blogs and libraries, Library 2.0, gaming, etc.

  • Techcrunch profiles and reviews Internet products and companies.

  • The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation, Thomas Frey, Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute.

  • The Machine Is Us/ing Us is a YouTube video that explains the dynamic Web.

  • Web 2.0 This Wikipedia article does a good job of explaining the various services that make up Web 2.0 and the technologies behind it.

  • Web 2.0 and Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software This article from ALA's TechSource by Michael Stephens of Tame the Web, discusses how Web 2.0 social software can be put to use in libraries.

  • Web 2.0: Building the New Library This article, by Dr Paul Miller in the online journal Ariadne, examines the characteristics of Web 2.0 and how they can and/or should be employed in libraries.

  • WebJunction’s Online Courses Everything from basic computing skills to training on advocacy and outreach.

  • WebJunction Webinars Live and archived free Webinars on topics including technology, training and outreach.

Library Technology-Related Blogs to Read

  • ALA TechSource Blog is published by the American Library Association with authors Michelle Boule, Michael Casey, Michael Golrick, Teresa Koltzenburg, Jenny Levine, Tom Peters, Karen G. Schneider and Michael Stephens.

  • BlogJunction is WebJunction’s blog authored by WJ staff and will keep you up-to-date on WJ events, programs and staff observations.

  • Information Wants to Be Free by Meredith Farkas, Distance Learning Librarian at Norwich University, includes posts regarding the library profession and technology.

  • It's All Good is maintained by five Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) staff members, with posts about “all things present and future that impact libraries and library users.”

  • MCLC Library Tech Talk. Blog of a technology interest group in Maricopa Country, AZ. Profiles a different Web 2.0 tool every Friday.

  • LibrarianInBlack is by Sarah Houghton-Jan, Information and Web Services Manager for the San Mateo County Library, who writes “resources and discussions for the ‘tech-librarians-by-default’ among us.”

  • LibraryCrunch: Service for the Next-Generation Library — A Library 2.0 Perspective, by Michael Casey.

  • Stephen’s Lighthouse by Stephen Abram, SirsiDynix’s Vice President of Innovation, includes his thoughts on library technology issues and notes from his national presentations.

  • Tame the Web: Libraries and Technology by Michael Stephens, Instructor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University, focuses on Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, technology-related articles and presentations and technology trends.

  • The Shifted Librarian by Jennie Levine, Internet Development Specialist and Strategy Guide, American Library Association, contains posts on technology gadgets, gaming and social technologies.

Podcasts: These are audio-only broadcasts that can be downloaded for free online.

Examples of Successful Web 2.0 Projects Happening in Libraries

  • PLCMC’s Learning 2.0 project, an online self-discovery program that encourages the exploration of Web 2.0 tools and new technologies, specifically, 23 Things.

  • Princeton Public Library’s wiki for a summer reading club.

  • Infodoodads Librarians review online info tools.

  • Superpatron. Edward Vielmetti is a patron of the Ann Arbor District Library and a member of its Technology Advisory Board.

  • Hennepin County Library offers RSS feeds, comments within library catalog and Amazon links from the catalog.

  • St. Joseph County Public Library - Subject Guides SJCPL has created subject guides using wiki software, updates a SJCPL GameBlog and posts photos on Flickr.

  • Lansing Public Library Home Page The Lansing Public Library in Illinois offers RSS feeds and podcasting.

  • Wadsworth Public Library in Ohio is using MySpace for teen programming.

  • Western Springs History This is a joint project of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library and Western Springs Historical Society. It uses blog software to share photographs and collect comments from the public.

  • Westerville Public Library -- Celebrate Westerville's 150th Anniversary. This is a great example of the power of Flickr, used to create a timeline and show images of the town’s history.

  • The Coastal Resource Sharing Network (CRSN) is a consortium of public and academic libraries serving Tillamook and Lincoln counties in Oregon. Their staff intranet includes email contacts for all library staff, documentation, policy documents, reports, events, current and historical collection and circulation statistics, and a Staff Toolkit of special tools for staff use, including the Weed-O-maker, to generate shelf lists for weeding, reporting or other purposes.

  • Ann Arbor District Library, Michigan, has an innovative online presence created through the use of an open-source content management system, several blog mechanisms that allow easily updated content to display on the front page and a dedication to interaction with library patrons. AADL has created a thriving community with an online branch. In the teen area and gaming blogs, it is not unusual to see discussions with more than 200 comments.

  • Public classes at ImaginOn, a collaborative venture of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte include:

    • YouTube Video Contest: Film and edit on site with free help from staff and interns.
    • Take Photos for Your Webpage: Got a MySpace, Facebook or other online account? Need cool pics for it? The Loft can help! Just drop by The Loft on Thursdays from 5-7 p.m, and we’ll snap your picture for you.
    • Teen Second Life: Get one! Explore the virtual world of Second Life. Learn from other teens how to build in 3-D, script objects and interact with other avatars. Your world. Your imagination.
    • Make Your Own Computer Games: Use Game Maker to create many different types of games. For ages 9-11. Participant should be familiar with using a mouse, dragging and dropping objects and online game play. Creating games builds visual literacy, strategy and symbolic recognition skills.
    • Gaming for Parents: Learn why video and computer games are so popular and how they can benefit tweens and teens. This workshop will look at research, suggest games that are brain-power builders and then we will also play a few games.
  • Princeton Public Library offers an amazing array of technology classes for the public, including “Fantastic Freebies for Everyone,” which focuses on free Web 2.0 tools. Here’s the class description: “Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a ‘free lunch,’ and you can find it on the Web. The number of free services, sites and downloads is multiplying monthly at an astonishing rate in a new era of Internet innovation. This class will take you on a tour of some of the hottest freebies currently available. Everything from system tools to image editors to word processors and much more can all be found online for no cost. This session will ensure you know where to find the newest and most useful tools to keep you on the cutting edge of technology.”

Tools

Web 2.0 services and concepts make it easier to facilitate group use of information and allow for the creation of new data and value for library members. We hope you’ll find the following tools greatly beneficial as you select and apply Web 2.0 to drive and implement innovation in your library.

What You Need to Stay Future-Focused

By creating an environment of continuous learning, by finding ways to stay aware of changing trends and needs, and by staying committed to thoughtful planning, it is possible to achieve that future-focused service vision in your rural library.

How can your library achieve goals and prepare for an unknown future? When doing strategic technology planning, here are seven key areas to consider:

  1. Staff technology skills (and volunteers and trustees) as a continuous priority. Make learning an expected part of everyone’s work routine. Find ways to teach one another and to help keep each other appraised of changes and ideas. This culture of learning will help alleviate some of the stress around not feeling “caught up”. The reality is, there will always be more to learn. Try to embrace this thought and even make it fun!
  2. The continued development of patron skills. Some people come to the library with strong technology skills and high expectations. Find ways to stay aware of popular tools and “gadgets”. Are you noticing a lot of people carrying iPods or other MP3 players? Ask questions and pay attention to the uses. There is also a need, however, to always look at the gaps. Who does not know about technologies that could potentially benefit them? What role can the library play in closing that gap?
  3. A means for continued awareness and planning need to be in place. Some ideas to be discussed in more depth later in this section include the development of a new technology advisory group, a guest speakers series, and/or panel discussions on technological topics.
  4. A larger library world connection to glean new ideas/create partnerships for learning, purchasing, and more. Use online resources like WebJunction to connect with librarians from many places. Consider organizing face-to-face meetings or partnerships with libraries in your geographic area, too.
  5. Community outreach and communication to develop relationships. The goal here is for the library to be seen as a center of technology in the community. Are there other.
  6. The Pew Internet Reports site offers an overview of the changing ways in which people use technology. You may also find it useful to view census data for your community – past, present, and future predictions – and to think about the implications they may have for library services, including public computers.
  7. Advocating for the library! Make sure that you get the word out about all of the great services you offer. Do not take for granted that people know about the technology that is available in today’s libraries. Many do not. When you begin offering a new service, make sure to highlight it prominently with publicity efforts. Develop relationships with your local legislators. When a library technology issue is being discussed in the legislature, make sure your local legislators know how the issue affects your library and community.

Collaboration Tools Chart

CATEGORY EXAMPLE OF TOOLS
Blogs and microblogs — Short for “Weblog,” a blog is an easily updated Web site, generally in reverse-chronological order by date. These Web sites range from personal diaries to professional tools, and you can often subscribe to them via RSS using an aggregator. Often, they contain links to and comments on other online information. Microblogging involves sending brief posts to a personal Web space or a microblog site (such as Twitter). Microblog posts are short (Twitter limits them to 140 characters). Blogs represent the fastest-growing medium of personal publishing and the newest method of individual expression and opinion on the Internet.

Blogger Blogging software owned and powered by Google.

Movable Type Blogging platform for organizations.

Twitter A microblogging service that allows users to immediately share short (140 characters) snippets of content via text messaging, the Web and other interfaces. The New York Times called Twitter “one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.” TIME Magazine said, “Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app.”

WordPress Personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, Web standards and usability.

Social bookmarks and tags — This involves online services that allow you to store your bookmarks online, categorize them and share them with other site visitors interested in similar topics. Tags are descriptive terms to categorize online content. Tagging content allows it to be shared with others interested in similar topics; multiple tags can be given to the same content. Also referred to as “folksonomies,” created by folks.

Delicious A “social bookmarking” site. Users can store URLs, personal comments and descriptive tags to organize Web pages. It is like a Favorites folder that is located on the Internet, and it can be accessed from any computer.

Digg Digg is a user-driven social content Web site, where news and online content are submitted and rated through online votes and displayed in order of most votes.

Squidoo is an easy-to-build Web page that can point to blogs, favorite links, RSS feeds, Flickr photos, Google maps and/or eBay auctions.

SuprGlu helps you gather your content from all over the Web and publish it in one place.

Multimedia sharing (including audio, photo and video) — Podcasting involves putting audio content on the Internet, and may be delivered via RSS feeds so that subscribers receive new content automatically. Podcasts can be downloaded to iPods or other players, or listened to on a computer. Screencasting is the capture of a video of computer screen activity (for example, to show people in real time where to click, what to type or to capture video for tutorials, presentations, etc.).

Audacity is free, open-source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. Many libraries offer podcasts of book talks, library news items and book reviews.

Camtasia and CamStudio are common screencasting tools. Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application that includes the use of tagging. You can share your favorite photos with the world or securely and privately show photos to only your friends and family.

Live Plasma allows users to map music and movie interests.

Pandora makes a streaming “radio station” just for you, based on your ratings of favorite music.

Picasa is a free software download from Google that helps you find, organize and share your photos.

SlideShare provides a place to share and discover slideshows and presentations.

YouTube has been called the “million-channel people's network” and allows for the viewing and uploading of videos.

Collaboration, projects and productivity — The collaboration and community evident in Web 2.0 even led TIME Magazine to name the Person of the Year in 2006 as “You.” The magazine designated Web 2.0 as a revolution and a massive social experiment. “The new Web is…a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.…it's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”

Furl allows you to save a copy of your favorite Web sites with 5 GB of free storage space.

Google Docs and Spreadsheets provides an online tool for individual or group document creation and editing.

SurveyMonkey.com is a tool to create and publish custom online surveys in minutes and then view results graphically and in real time.

Ta-da Lists creates simple, sharable to-do lists.

Writeboard creates sharable, Web-based text documents that let you save every edit, roll back to any version and easily compare changes.

Zoho offers a suite of online Web applications geared towards increasing productivity and collaboration. Includes a word processor, spreadsheet application, presentation tool, hosted wiki, notebook, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, etc.

Gaming — This is not just for fun! Libraries find that offering gaming attracts teens and young adults to other library services and is a good marketing technique.

eGames Generator allows you to create your own custom learning games. Since eGames Generator is online software, there are no downloads or installations necessary: You can create a game in just a few minutes.

Neopets involves keeping a pet alive in this online community; great for children.

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Not just a game, there are opportunities for communicating with the public, including in the library on “Info Island.”

Instant messaging and communication — Differs from email in that conversations are able to happen in real time. Most services offer an indication of whether people on one’s list of contacts are currently online and available to chat. This may be called a “Buddy List.” In contrast to emails or phone, the parties know whether the peer is available. Examples include AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Yahoo! and MSN, also embedded in gmail.com, Facebook, etc.

Meebo is a Web-based instant-messaging application that combines all the major IM services into one.

Skype is an Internet call software and service.

Trillian is a software application for instant messaging. Compatible with all the major IM applications.

Library and book-related tools — People are doing library-related things online for fun!

Social software can provide ways to communicate, collaborate, educate and market services to patrons and other community members. Libraries can be the online hub of their communities just as they have traditionally been the physical community center. Often, a library is the only place where someone can get free connectivity, free training and free assistance and access to technological information.

Goodreads and Shelfari. Like Facebook and MySpace, users sign up for an account, post a profile, add friends, create personalized online bookshelves, find reading recommendations based on friends' shelves and reviews, connect with authors and the literary community, read about book signings and view excerpts.

Library Elf is a personal reminder service for library users that will send library notifications, such as overdue reminders with email alerts and text message alerts for holds.

LibraryThing catalogs your books online, easily, quickly and for free.

Scriblio (formerly WPopac) is a free, open-source CMS and OPAC with faceted searching and browsing features based on WordPress.

Mashups and widgets — Mashups involve combining multiple tools and Web sites to create a new interface, product or tool, such as a Web site. Widgets are small, specific applications that can reside on a desktop or Web site, such as displaying a weather forecast, playing a game or a list of activities. Widgets are simple to develop and easy to install on a Web page. Most require a few images and expertise with JavaScript and XML to create.

Mashup Dashboard lists hundreds of mashups, with new updates daily.

Web 2.0 Mashup Matrix is a programmable Web 2.0 mashup.

Yahoo! Widgets allows you to create, find and rate widgets.

“Real Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary” (RSS) and aggregators — You can subscribe to RSS-enabled blogs, newspapers, journals and other online content so that updates automatically come to you, rather than having to return to the original site to see if new material has been posted. It’s a way of packaging Web items such as blog entries in a stripped-down, XML-based format so that they can be imported into other Web pages. Most blog-hosting services automatically create RSS versions of blog posts. That means bloggers can “syndicate” their content across the entire Web, while readers can subscribe to RSS feeds. An aggregator, news reader or feed reader is a usually free service that allows you to subscribe to and read blogs, news or any type of feeds in one customized Web page. It is client software that uses a Web feed to retrieve syndicated Web content. Subscriptions can also be created for podcasts, photos, searches or other media. Web sites publish updates — called “feeds” — that indicate when new content has been posted. Aggregators automatically update and keep track of what you’ve read!

Bloglines is a Web-based RSS reader, which includes blogging capabilities.

FeedBurner is a provider of media distribution and services for blogs and RSS feeds. It offers tools to assist bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers promote, deliver and profit from their content on the Web.

Google Reader is Google’s RSS reader in its “lab.”

NewsGator Online is a free, Web-based RSS aggregator.

Search engines — Search technologies today have moved beyond traditional content retrieves. They are now designed to combine existing Internet search engines with new and improved models that allow for stronger connections to user preferences, collaboration, collective intelligence and a richer user experience.

BlogPulse is an automated trend discovery system for blogs. BlogPulse applies machine-learning and natural-language processing techniques to discover trends in the dynamic world of blogs.

Google Blog Search allows you to find blogs on your favorite topics.

LibWorm: Librarianship RSS Search and Current Awareness is intended to be a search engine, a professional development tool and a current awareness tool for people who work in libraries or care about libraries.

Podscope lets you search the spoken word for audio and video that interests you.

Podzinger is an audio and video search engine.

Technorati searches and organizes blogs and other forms of user-generated content (photos, videos, voting, etc.).

Top 25 Web 2.0 Search Engines Online Education Database’s Top 25 Web 2.0 Search Engines.

Social and collaborative networks — Researchers are discovering that beyond the original digital divide, separating those who owned technology from those who didn’t, there is now an increasing social divide, termed technocultural isolation. Social technologies are connecting people and providing communication structures in more ways than ever before. Even teens are conversing and networking across countries and cultures. Those who do not have continual access to these tools will be isolated and at a societal disadvantage, particularly in the workforce.

Classmates.com allows you to connect with school friends.

Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.

FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date and discuss the Web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing.

Friendster is a social network emphasizing friendships and the discovery of new people through friends. Search for old friends and classmates, stay in better touch with friends and share photos and videos.

LinkedIn strengthens and extends your existing network of professional contacts.

MySpace is an online community that lets you meet your friends’ friends and share day-to-day events.

Ning allows creation of public or private social networks, including groups, forums and sharing.

WebJunction is an online library community, created by librarians for librarians, and includes articles, forums, etc.

Wikis — Collaborative Web sites where anyone can create new content or edit existing content. Share staff knowledge through wikis, communicate regarding policies and brainstorm on projects.

Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki This wiki was created to be a one-stop shop for great ideas and information for all types of librarians.

LISWiki The Library and Information Science Wiki, a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

PBwiki lets you quickly set up your own free, hosted, password-protected wiki to edit and share information. It’s as easy as a peanut butter sandwich.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that allows anyone to add or edit the entries. With over 10 million articles written in 253 languages, it is the world’s most comprehensive (though not most reliable) reference work. It may be the largest collaborative literary work in history. Wikipedia proclaims it is a project that attempts to summarize all human knowledge.

Fifteen Ways to Effectively Use Web 2.0 Tools

It’s all about sharing information, just using new tools. Instead of pencils, card catalogs or even databases, it’s blogs, wikis and del.icio.us. There are millions of blogs and online resources. The library cannot track and keep up with everything. Create teams and pilot Web 2.0 projects. Some key ideas include:

  1. Web 2.0 lunch discussions
  2. Learning partners or mentors
  3. Fifteen minute demos for staff and patrons
  4. Fifteen minutes of personal learning
  5. Online marketing projects
  6. Workshops on emerging technology updates
  7. Personal development time for online exploration
  8. Promote staff use of WebJunction.org
  9. Show and tell technology topics
  10. Attend state and national conferences (Internet Librarian and Computers in Libraries are great)
  11. Host blogs; read and comment on blogs
  12. Subscribe to journals that address Web 2.0 technologies
  13. Participate in Webinars and Web casts
  14. Attend local workshops
  15. Create an emerging tech committee, wiki and/or blog

Instant messaging is important, and Meebo in particular seems to be a library favorite, as it is easy to use and to add to an existing library Web site (see www.lib.berkeley.edu/math). Meebo adds value to a static Web site without requiring big changes. Instant messaging with Meebo “pushes” your reference service where it’s needed the most — side by side with other instantaneous services. But the true value point is the human being — moderating and interacting with the community.