An ongoing conversation about the changing landscape of public libraries.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

From Web Sites to Widgets

How can libraries cash in on the widget craze? A colleague of mine recently suggested an answer: using widgets to provide specific services offered by public libraries.

It’s time to start thinking less about complex web sites and focus more on widget applications that allow libraries to highlight particular services that our users want. For example, I’ve downloaded applications for Google Maps and ESPN to my BlackBerry, and I use these constantly. One benefit is that since I’m opening a smaller application and not the entire web site, the load time is quicker and I spend less time getting the information I want. Making it easier to locate information – sounds like a responsibility of librarians, right?

Here are some services offered by public libraries that could potentially be utilized by a widget:
  • Online catalog (search for materials, locate where they’re checked in, place holds)
  • Account login (view holds, fines, blocks; edit personal information) Events calendar (upcoming programs)
  • Readers Advisory (searchable lists by topic)
  • Electronic databases (newspaper, magazine, journal articles)
  • Ask a Librarian (chat reference)
  • Homework Help (for kids and teens)
Web sites may become the middle person that we increasingly find ourselves trying to eliminate. If we can make it easier for users to locate information, why not do it?

1 comment:

Josh Greenberg said...

Funny you should mention this - we're about to release the results of a planning grant for HomeworkNYC that point in this explicit direction; offering digital service means way more than just building websites, and the fragmentary approach represented by widgets is likely the best way to reach populations whose online experience bridges platforms, devices and sites...keep an eye on labs.nypl.org for more on that soon. (And where at NYPL are you? It would be good to cross paths someday soon...)