public library photos and reminiscences

New Canaan Public Library from LoC
Shorpy is a great source for old photographs. They often get them from sources like the Library of Congress which is where this photo of the New Cannan public library in 1953 came from. You can also see the original set of photos over at the Library of Congress [did not see this one over at their Flickr photostream]. The big add that Shorpy’s has, however, is the community. It’s not just a photo of a library, it’s also people commenting about their memories of the library including where else they’ve seen that certain floor tile [fun fact: it's also the tile that's in my bathroom as near as I can tell] [thanks mike]

Library of Congress reports on Flickr project

The Library of Congress has finished a report (full report and shorter summary in pdf) summing up what they’ve learned after the first nine months of their experimentation with Flickr. Here is an excerpt from the summary. Look at these numbers.

The following statistics attest to the popularity and impact of the pilot. As of October 23, 2008, there have been:
  • 10.4 million views of the photos on Flickr.
  • 79% of the 4,615 photos have been made a “favorite” (i.e., are incorporated into personal Flickr collections).
  • More than 15,000 Flickr members have chosen to make the Library of Congress a “contact,” creating a photostream of Library images on their own accounts.
  • 7,166 comments were left on 2,873 photos by 2,562 unique Flickr accounts.
  • 67,176 tags were added by 2,518 unique Flickr accounts.
  • 4,548 of the 4,615 photos have at least one community-provided tag.
  • Less than 25 instances of user-generated content were removed as inappropriate.
  • More than 500 Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) records have been enhanced with new information provided by the Flickr Community.

Between January and May 2008, the Library saw an increase in hits at its own Web site. For Bain images placed on Flickr, views/downloads rose approximately 60% for the period January-May 2008, compared to the same time period in 2007. Views/downloads of FSA/OWI image files placed on Flickr rose approximately 13%. Average monthly visits to all PPOC Web pages rose 20% over the five-month period of January-May 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. For additional information, see the Outcomes section in the full report.

Not only is that data good news about the project but being able to say “Hey when the Library of Congress opened up their photos to commenting and tagging, they only had to remove 25 inappropriate tags/comments out of 75K instances of user-generated content” thats a big deal.

Another library on Flickr

“The library structure was originally a hot dog stand operated by Harry Lewis. Lewis’s grandfather, W.R. Surles, owned the land and structure, which he provided for use as a library in the late 1930s.” [read more in the picture comments over at Flickr.]

updatefilter – BPL’s evolving online collection

Just got this in my inbox this morning and figured I’d share. I edited a little bit and added some hyperlinks, also suggested that BPL needs an announcement blog along the lines of the nifty one at NYPL Labs.

Hi Jessamyn and Alison,

Thanks for blogging about our Flickr presence last week… your influence was greatly felt (to the tune of 2,500 hits on the day of your post, with virtually no other publicity at all).

I wanted to let you know about a couple of this week’s developments:

  • In response to comments on Jessamyn’s blog, we’ve gone ahead and opened up all of our items to tags and comments from any Flickr user; we welcome/encourage/request any and all submissions. We’ve made the photo titles more meaningful as well, instead of simply using our digital accession numbers.
  • In addition to the 1,227 items posted last week, we’ve added 4,523 really cool vintage postcards of New England, geotagged by the location pictured (and therefore viewable on our map). It’s so cool that I’d probably lose a lot of productive time playing with this stuff if it weren’t my actual job to play with this stuff.
  • We’ve got two or three more collections identified for uploading in the very near future, with plenty more to come after that.
  • We’re still waiting to see if Flickr will let us use the “No known copyright restrictions” license that they created for the Flickr Commons pilot project.

    If you feel like any of this is newsworthy enough to treat your readers to a followup, we can always use a little pre-launch publicity. :-) Either way, I’ll be sure to keep you both posted as the project continues to grow.

    Thanks!
    Michael


    Michael B. Klein
    Digital Initiatives Technology Librarian

look who is putting archival photos on Flickr

Boston Red Sox players in salt baths at Redondo Beach, California

It’s Boston Public Library! Photos and metadata! Red sox in swimsuits! Neato. Meanwhile NYPL “soft launches” a redesign for their Digital Gallery. Go peek. Give feedback. [via spinstah]

Why should libraries be socially networking?

For some reason, writing the talk about tech support in libraries has been making me think about libraries on social networks again. Maybe it’s the little push of friends I get on Facebook after I give a talk to a new group of people. Maybe it’s because I had to explain yet again that I think it’s worth powering through bad design and usability in order to have presence in a place where your users are or might be. Maybe it’s because social software seems like a free and easy way to give your library a human face on the larger Internet. Maybe it’s because after being at SXSW I just see social software as the default way to be on the web and so libraries that are moving forward with blogging and other web tools may as well expand into using social tools as well. This has nothing to do with 2.0 anything, although I guess you could see it that way.

So, to that end, I’m making a small list of ways that I think libraries and librarians can use thse tools to further the existing missions of their institutions. It’s nothing new, but I’ve been pondering it lately and I think specifics, and links to examples can he helpful. Feel free to add more in the comments.

  • Get your library a Flickr account. These accounts are now nearly free through a collaboration between Flickr and TechSoup. TechSoup has an article about how nonprofits can use Flickr. My advice: free image hosting and easy image uploading for staff. Consider uploading some historical photos that you can share with the people in you community. Check out what the Library of Congress has been doing and how much tagging and commenting is happening on their photos. It’s like a Letters to the Editor section for you archival photos. I use this photo quite a lot on my photoshop class, teaching people how to edit pictures.
  • Anyone can get an account on Facebook. Facebook now has the ability for businesses and organizations to create “pages” (as opposed to profiles) where you can put information about your organization. You can see a few library pages here: NASA Glenn Technical Library, Iowa City Public Library, The National Library of Scotland. You can click here to create your own organization page. For people who are already on Facebook, which includes a huge percentage of high school and college age people, they can become “fan” of your organization which means they will get your updates. If you already have a blog, you can set your Facebook page to automatically read and republish your RSS feed inside Facebook. I do this with my personal blog so people who are my friends on Facebook can read my blog updates. The same way Google really let us get information out of the web, people are searching their networks on Facebook sometimes before Google.
  • If you’re a librarian, think about getting on Twitter. You can read this post for background information about Twitter or this Library Journal article for more information about messaging services generally. This is not so much, as I see it, to communicate with patrons but to do two things. 1. create a short pithy easy to update RSS feed of news or information or links that you can repurpose to put on your blog, website, Facebook profile or elsewhere. 2. communicate with librarians who are on twitter in droves. When I was creating my talk I asked a question, literally hurled it out there into the aether, and got back seven or either useful responses within about an hour. That’s ready reference.
  • Added later: think about a 23 Things type project. Vermont is doing this. It’s an easy way to give staff a casual fun exposture to a lot of social tools and let them see for themselves what they’re good for. Offer continuing ed credits or other fun incentives. The set-up costs and investments are nearly nothing and the ongoing investment is mostly time. One of the things I hear all the time is that staff are interested in new technologies generally but lack the time to explore and so get technostressed because they feel that they’re jumping in to some very public online activities without feeling competent in what they’re doing or what they’re there for. a 23 Things project can help that immensely.

The reason I think it’s important to show good examples and best paractices is because we’re still dealing with libraries like Mishawaka Library which thinks that blocking social software sites in their library because they can’t manage unruly teens is some sort of solution to a problem. I’m not saying there aren’t problems surrounding public computer and internet use in libraries generally, maybe there are even sometimes problems with teens, but really responding to the problem by blocking wide swaths of the Internet is not really going to help anyone understand the problem better. It just makes libraries look hostile and librarians look reactive. I’m sure there’s a larger post here about dealing with teens + comptuers + internet + understaffing + the fear factor of unknown online socializing, but I feel that it’s all of our responsbility as online community members of various stripes, to provide positive examples of social software online. This is mine.

LoC + Flickr – Commons steps in the right direction

I got into a funny conversation with a friend of mine at the MIT Puzzle hunt this weekend (my team came in third out of 37!) about finding images of things. There’s a lot of data collection in puzzling and a lot of times when you have to do is, say, look at a photo and figure out what it is or where it’s from. This is great of someone recognizes it, not so great if someone doesn’t. Every puzzler has their own personal sites they use for this. I tend to use Google images because it’s fast and I can move through it quickly. Others use Wikipedia. My friend was saying he uses the Commons site. At first I thought he meant the Creative Commons search which I don’t fiund super-useful and told him so. He actually meant the Wikimedia Commons which is a great place to find freely licensed images.

Now Flickr has launched their Commons site which does a few things.

  1. Makes LoC images available for anyone to see
  2. Allows people to tag and interact with these photos
  3. Creates a new way of licensing or explaining their IP idea called “no known copyright protections” which they go on to explain

These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which the Library is not the intellectual property owner. Flickr is working with the Library of Congress to provide an appropriate statement for these materials. It’s called “no known copyright restrictions.”

Hopefully, this pilot can be used as a model that other cultural institutions would pick up, to share and redistribute the myriad collections held by cultural heritage institutions all over the world.

So, they’re taking a risk, they’re sharing their data, they’re presuming good faith, and they’re going to try this out. Close readers may also note the small text on this page “Any Flickr member is able to add tags or comment on these collections. If you’re a dork about it, shame on you. This is for the good of humanity, dude!!” Which, loosely translated means they’re starting out trusting people and trying to maintain a light tone about it.

So, the original photos are still held by the Library of Congress and Flickr has no “ownership” of them as a result of this partnership. They’re available worldwide [well except Dubai and other places that block Flickr entirely] and they’re in a system that allows for user-generated content additions to the content. I’m pleased that the LoC, or someone at the LoC decided to step up and really demonstrate how trust and openness can help further the mission of culutral institutions. Now if I could only get LoC to friend me….

LoC goes 2.0!

The Library of Congress is on Flickr! I am charmed by their profile. “Yes. We really are THE Library of Congress.” Update: please read this longer very well thought out essay about the project that does a lot more than just my “woo!” announcement.

in praise of small town libraries

In New England, in Autumn, there is a lot that is beautiful. Here is a neat article about small town libraries in Western MA with an attractive slide show to go along with it. I’ve made a Flickr set of the libraries I’ve been to with one photo per library. They’re not all small town libraries, but they’re good for looking at as well. [thanks rob!]

Banned Books Week is This Week

And while I bitch and complain about the name “Banned Books Weekevery year [and the BBW acronym just continues to amuse] and think that “Free People Read Freely ®” is some sort of Orwellian catchphrase, there are some people doing some nifty things for BBW on the web. I’m not sure what happened to the logo thing that ALA was doing last year, I sort of liked it. The Office of Intellectual Freedom blog entry has some of the best information about how ALA is moving in to social spaces to discuss and promote BBW.

Feel free to include other projects in the comments here, this is just a few links I enjoyed and thought merited further attention.