The Library of Congress on Flickr

January 17, 2008

In the last two weeks, the Library of Congress quietly uploaded more than 3,000 photographs to its new Flickr page. The collection of images range from New York Christmas scenes to early twentieth century baseball. Pictures of Mexico, Texas, Chicago, ships, railroads, and landscapes are included, too. The Library selected the photos, in part, because they have no known copyright restrictions. Flickr members are invited to help add tags.

One photo that jumped out at me showed Joe Jackson in his first full major league season. He was fit, trim, and only 22 in 1911, but the future baseball great (and future black-listed White Sox) appeared older than his age would imply.

It’s wonderful to see libraries using Flickr to share portions of their picture archives with the public. The National Library of New Zealand was the first one I ran across last year. Several smaller libraries have scanned old community photos into Flickr. I hope many others join in 2008.

UPDATE: The ShiftedLibrarian mentioned PhotosNormandie in her blog today. That archive is also being uploaded to Flickr.

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Learn More: Flickr

November 5, 2007

[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]

Last week we had some fun but kept to ourselves. This week we’ll venture into a true social networking site and start mixing it up.

At Flickr, people can upload photos, label them, and share with others. Using tags and sets, Flickr members can organize their photos and retrieve any specific picture quickly and easily anywhere the Internet is available. Sounds productive, right? It is. But let’s not overlook the social networking magic!

Let’s say your family or friends live far away. Rather than email pictures to everyone, why not simply post them? Once your family knows your Flickr address, they can check in at any time and see what you’re up to. Post vacation photos, pictures of your craft project, the new puppy, and the last birthday party. You can add descriptions beneath any photo and your friends can leave comments when they visit the page.

If your friends join Flickr, you can browse and comment on their photos, too. Carry on a daily or weekly conversation using pictures for ice-breakers. But you’re not limited to existing friends and family. You can browse the world’s photos. Interested in dogs? Search “Yorkshire terrier” and choose from more than 14,000 pictures (like the one shown here). Pick favorites. Comment. Find other photographers who share your interests.

Meaning for libraries

Oh, my! Where do I start? The list of library possibilities using a photo-sharing site like Flickr could run pretty long. Here’s a few to consider.

  • Patrons might want to upload photos from a CD, a flash or USB drive, email, or digital camera cable. Will your library’s workstations let them do that? Do you make photo editing software available?
  • Many libraries have their own Flickr accounts. Some post photos of facilities, people, and public events (think marketing!). You could take pictures during an event and encourage attendees to visit your Flickr page and comment. Get some interaction going!
  • Pictures uploaded and organized on Flickr can be mashed into a library’s website or blog.
  • Some libraries display their collections using Flickr. Maybe you have historic community photos you’d like to make available. There’s ample description space to give details for each picture.
  • Brainstorm fun projects. Let kids or teens submit photos. Get them involved.
  • Libraries and librarians interact with each other on Flickr. It’s a great way to share ideas.

Learn more by participating

Set aside 15-20 minutes and try to do steps 1 and 2 in one sitting. On another day, try steps 3 and 4. Return on a third and fourth day for step 5 (and maybe a little more of steps 2, 3, and 4!).

  1. Open a Flickr account. It’s free for the first 200 photos you upload, but you should get a sense of the Flickr community long before that. (Hint: Be sure you write down your login name and password so you can get back in later.)
  2. Upload a few digital photos.
    * Add titles and captions. Be as vague or as specific as you’d like. Just let your personality come through.
    * Add tags. Type in words that give the photo meaning to you. Examples: beach vacation baby sand castle ocean. Tags will help you retrieve photos later.
    * Set permissions. You can decide who sees each photo. There are settings for you, family, friends, and anyone. Most people choose “anyone” most of the time (it’s a sharing site, after all), but make some family shots a bit more private.
  3. Browse. Enter a word or a place in the search box and browse any photos that come up. Then try another word. You might also explore the best of the best: interesting Flickr photos from the last seven days.
  4. Make friends. Connect with other Flickr people whose photos you like, or invite family and friends to open accounts and connect with them. (Hint: give them your Flickr page address.) You’ll find the “add as a contact” option on other members’ profile pages. You’ll be asked whether they are friends, family, or just contacts. That determines which pictures of yours they’ll see.
  5. Interact. View your contacts’ photos and comment on them. They might comment on yours, too. The ongoing dialogue you might foster is one of the wonders of social networking.

Have fun! It’s your web now.


White collar Halloween

October 31, 2007

I just had to share this:


Originally posted by piercecountylibrary.

Everyday John comes to work at the Lakewood Library wearing a white shirt and black slacks, but punctuates his look with a tie from what must be the greatest collection on earth. (He has funny ties, good ties, wood ties, …) Staff and patrons all know and like him. Today his coworkers came to work dressed up for Halloween as John: white shirt, tie and “John” printed on their lanyards. All except John, that is. He was told to leave his usual attire at home and wear something different for once. That’s him in the foreground: the only staff member without a tie.

Not only is John the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet, but his coworkers put on a great (and pretty darn funny) tribute. I’m also glad they chose to post this photo on Flickr so the patrons (and you) can see the Lakewood Library dress up for Halloween.


Marketing a vibrant community place

October 18, 2007

First, a personal story; second, a library connection.

Although I’ve been using the photo-sharing website Flickr for nearly a year, September was the first month in which I posted a new picture every day. That’s not an achievement by Flickr standards, of course. There are some dedicated “365” folks who not only post photos every day for a year, but put themselves into the shots day in and day out. That’s got to be stressful.

My month went by with barely a glimpse of my own face. Instead, the 30 days of photographs (at right) document some of the people, places, and things I encountered along the way. In that regard, this compilation is quite astonishing to me — even though I lived it. I see some yard work; a published article; my daughter’s puppy; some hikes, bikes, and climbs; people I met; money I needed for a car; the car the money bought; and a spider I met face to face. That was my month — packed together on a calendar grid and posted a few weeks ago on Flickr.

Looking back at the grid — a diary of activity, in a way — I can’t help thinking:

We live life one day at a time, but don’t always see the quilt those daily patches make over time.

This calendar is a quilt showing me just that.

Now the library perspective…

Libraries are part of the communities they serve. They’re often a very active part — sometimes central to the daily life of community events, programming, and resources. So why not show that pulse? Why not display the vibrancy of daily life? One photo at a time might not mean too much, but look at the same sort of calendar quilt done for a library.

For nearly four months (until my schedule grew temporarily thick with other obligations) I posted daily photos to my library’s Flickr account. Seeing the calendar grid for just one of those months (May is shown here) we can reflect on programs, materials, the advent of summer reading, staff rolling bookcarts in a community parade, and a smattering of other scenes.

This is the library. This is a vibrant community place.

Collected and shared on a social site like Flickr (even if marketed in other ways*), photographs can demonstrate that. Libraries should show off their activities and share the evidence with the community. We should advertise the daily patches of life AND the whole quilt. Social sites and their tools can help us do both of those things.

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*The lone Sunday image in May celebrated the publication of a newspaper article featuring a 6×6 block from our Flickr images.