Libraries first came online with webopacs and it was good. Then came the wave of next generation library catalogues (including Encore, Aquabrowser, Primo) and they were suppose to be better. How much better? They were supposed to be more "google like" (no more field searches and boolean!), they had faceted browsing, relevancy ranking, autocorrect and "did you mean" features? And above all they were SOCIAL, allowing users to tag, rate, add comments etc.
Now 5 years down the road, while some of the other features like faceted browsing and relevancy ranking seemed to have had some value (e.g. Facets are used more than advanced searches), social features seems to have mostly being a failure particularly at academic libraries (anyone disagree?).
The main reason seems (1) Users have no incentive to use social features leading to (2) lack of mass. Even Google with all their clout are laboring mightily to push their Google+ social network, would libraries on their own institution by institution stand a chance?
It's heartening to notice that ILS vendors seem to have finally grasped this point.
Innovative Interface's recent press release, Encore Release 5 brings social networking capabilities to discovery platform says this
" In Release 5 of Encore, users will be able to "like" all kinds of library content such as books, movies, and music. Sharing these finds on social networks will be easy, with the use of a standard set of sharing links that include Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. Encore Release 5 will also provide users with the ability to create and share their own home page with options to include a profile, reviews, reading lists they create, or items they have checked out or put on hold. What's more, library users will find more content created by their peers thanks to a pool of reviews and shared lists created by Encore users worldwide."
"The new capacities of Encore represent the right way to approach social features in libraries," says Encore Product Manager Alan Dyck. "We've formally surveyed librarians and found that an approach that connects with social activities, rather than recreating a social platform, will be most desirable for them and their communities. At many points, users will find options to share things to social networks patrons are already using, while also discovering the views and reviews of their peers in Encore."
Exactly right! No point creating a separate social platform if it does not connect to current dominant ones like Facebook. The idea of pooling content from all users of the system not just from one library is another good step, though one wonders if one could pool with only academic libraries etc. Another system that does the pooling user generated content trick across institutions is Bibliocommons and LibraryThing for libraries.
"Patrons of SirsiDynix Social Library can securely log in to their library via Facebook, just as they do today at their physical library using the same credentials. Among other capabilities, the SirsiDynix Social Library solution also enables library users to:
Search their local library catalog and place holds on materials of interest right from the library's Facebook page.
Access My Account features including checkouts, hold management and payment history.
Share and ‘like' library materials within the social environment where users worldwide currently spend more than 700 billion minutes each month."
Native facebook apps that allow logins (not just a search box) are not easy to do (I know of only 2 libraries that have done so), so this is a very amazing feature. With so many users already stuck on Facebook for them to be able to do all their library searching in Facebook would help tremendously
It seems to me that the next obvious thing to do is to include such social features into the latest "Discovery" or unified index products like Summon, Ebsco Discovery Service, etc, many of which currently do not have much.
After all if this works for books, it's probably even better for articles, particularly the "pooling" of all user generated content in the system across institutions feature which might suddenly become the fabled "Facebook for Scientist/Researchers" that people have being trying so hard for the last few years without success (many are dying off, Mendeley & ResearchGate seem to be around?).
Incidentally I am not sure why database platforms insist on trying to create private workspace type features that are supposed to serve as a way to manage one's research, are these really going to takeoff? The chances of me wanting to go learn this one interface to manage my research project is limited as it's a very closed and worse yet limited silo that can't easily pull in other articles from other sources.
Compare to Summon-like solutions which while not being close to 100% complete, are close enough to be worth using (though I imagine they should include ways to pull in papers not indexed if they really want to function as a place to manage research, though frankly my money is more on online citation managers finding winning the crown)
I can imagine though I am searching Summon etc and I find a couple of papers that might be of interest to my collaborators, one click and it goes off to a Facebook list of my research collaborators.
But I guess that's a longshot, as for that to succeed, a lot of other features have to be put in, beyond a posting of reviews to Facebook feature so my money is still on something like say Mendeley or citeulike or ResearcherID winning the crown for "Facebook for researchers"
The other stumbling block is that there is still some confusion over whether such unified index products can eventually take the place of webopacs etc, so will there ever be a Facebook app for say Summon or EDS that allows you to check your loan account in Facebook? (Note: some products are all-in-one)
But the above is still pretty trivial and the library automation industry is typically a few years behind what is cutting edge in silicon valley etc, so all the announcements coming out last week from ALA MidWinter is still really playing catching up.
So what's currently hot? Gamification ! In my opinion in the lead among libraries now I believe is University of Huddersfield's implementation of Lemon Tree , current development blog
The idea here is obvious to use game and social based techniques to encourage increased usage of resources.
"You get points for doing all sorts of things in and around the library like; visiting it, borrowing items, doing things at specific hours, returning items in certain combinations and much more..." .
Here's the game in the words of the developers themselves
I also highly recommend downloading and watching the presentation by Andrew Walsh to get for a full view.
But here are some screenshots. You can see what is happening currently, and performance by schools
It's curious how much of the data is open even to someone unregistered like me. When you register you can choose to hide the titles of books borrowed though.
But I guess this reflects perhaps the current trend of being open, after all users of LibraryThing, Goodreads, and traditional Social networks like Twitter are by default open. However, these are generally for non-academic uses, so it's unclear if students might be uneasy with letting other students see what they are reading particularly if it can be keyed to a course for competitive reasons.
It's by a company called Running in the halls who are very into libraries and who state that they want to
"Work with specialists to support more library systems and interoperate with other services. we’re obviously really keen on talking to Talis, Axiell and SirsiDynix as well as the people behind enrichment services such as librarything *which we love*..."