Panera Fridays

January 24, 2008

Michael Stephens posted a photo yesterday mentioning that he holds his Wednesday office hours at Panera Bread. It reminded me of an effort I made last year to encourage some of our reference librarians to set up a weekly shift at Panera (or Starbucks or Safeway). It seems like such a simple idea to get the library out in the community — visible in a place our patrons are.

  • Talk to the proprietor. I’m sure most would be happy to support a public library in such a simple way.
  • Buy a sandwich and coffee/tea.
  • Prop up a sign “Got a question? Get an answer! I’m a librarian.
  • Turn on your wireless laptop.

A librarian with access to the Internet and the library’s online collection of databases could surely answer most questions on the spot. Difficult puzzlers might be solved with a quick email or IM to the folks back at the branch. Answers could be sent to a portable printer or the patron’s email address.

Busy people might not think of the library in their daily routine. Let’s change that! A consistent reference shift (say, every Friday from 11-3) at a local wifi hotspot could make the friendly librarian at the next table much more visible than the big library building itself.

No one in our library has done this yet because, so I’ve been told, there’s not enough staff to spare and no overall vision for this to fit. (Sigh.) Does it need to be a big, planned project? Can’t we just try it and see how it’s received? Tell the staff you’re going to take a long lunch tomorrow … and do the field research while you’re at it.

My question to readers in LibraryLand: Is anyone doing a “Panera Friday”? Would anyone like to give it a try?


Learn More: Delicious

November 26, 2007

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

If you’re like most Internet users, you have favorite web sites. You probably tuck a few away in your favorites or bookmarks folder so you can retrieve them with a couple of mouse clicks. But favorites and bookmarks belong to the browser you’re using. Change browsers or change machines and you lose your access. Suppose you find something good for reference while surfing the net at home. What if you’re at work when you discover a great site you’d like to have at home? I’ve known librarians who emailed themselves or saved URLs to a disk which they carried around. That’s old technology!

Social bookmarking solves the browser problem and adds a beneficial collaborative tool to the mix. If you’re a Delicious user, you can bookmark sites to a web account (which makes them retrievable from anywhere) and you can browse the bookmarks saved by others (letting you benefit from their discoveries).

Meaning for libraries

The most obvious library application for Delicious is at the reference desk. Each librarian has his/her favorite online sources and either marks them in the local browser or relies on Google to find them. But suppose each librarian added URLs to a personal Delicious account and then networked with other librarians for a truly collaborative collection of bookmarks. Not only would the librarian make his/her own list available on whichever machine is in use, but everyone in the network could benefit from websites on the consumer specialist’s list or the genealogist’s list or the music librarian’s list.

But don’t stop at the reference desk. Other library staff use and share websites, too; introduce them to social bookmarking. And don’t forget the patrons. If you have a list of sites to share, enter them into a separate library account and refer to it on your library website or in conversations: “Oh, and don’t forget our Delicious site. It has many more great recipe links.”

Learn more by participating

This should be an easy project this week. Set aside 15 minutes on the first day to get started. You could do just Steps 1 & 2, or quickly run through all the steps in that time. No matter what you do on Day One, however, return to your Delicious page at least three other days this week. Get it into your routine. Add more favorites, add more tags, and browse. You won’t regret it.

  1. Open an account. Just go to Delicious and sign up. Use whatever name or alias you’d like.
  2. Save a few of your favorite websites. After clicking “post”, all you will need is the URL (which you can copy and paste), the website name, and a few tags. There’s a description box for optional notes and comments, too.
    * Need help getting started? Why not add a few social web sites we’ve already talked about in this series? Flickr and YouTube, for instance.
    * Tags are like keywords. Let’s take Flickr as an example. Good tags might include: photography photos images sharing socialsites socialweb web2.0. Use words that might come to mind the next time you want to retrieve the site. Delicious will offer tag suggestions based on other users’ tags, but use whatever YOU want. [By the way: we’ll delve further into tags in an upcoming lesson.]
  3. Give your tags a test drive. As you enter your websites, you’ll see your list of tags grow on the right side of the screen. You’re bound to see on tag listed for two or more sites after a while. Click that tag and watch Delicious quickly retrieve just the relevant sites.
  4. Visit other people’s website lists. Delicious tells you how may other users already bookmarked your site. Click that number to see the list of users. Click their names to see their lists.
    * If you and another user share one site in common, he/she might know about other sites you’d enjoy. Browse the list and click “save this” for any sites you’d care to copy into your stash of sites.
    * You could subscribe to someone’s RSS feed, too. [RSS? We’ll cover that concept in a later post.]
  5. Network with others at your library. If anyone else in your workplace already has a Delicious account, add them to your network. You might even encourage everyone in your workplace to sign up, add websites, and create a collaborative network of bookmarks. You will all benefit from each other’s finds.

Would a demo help? There’s a fun 3 1/2 minute video (Social Bookmarking in Plain English) that the folks at the Common Craft Show created.

Ha! Bookmark THAT site, too. Or THIS site. Why not? It’s your web now.