Web 2.0... for your patrons!

An interesting thread on publib last week covered a discussion around web 2.0 and how it's used in libraries. I think Sara Weissman from the Morris County Library (NJ) said it best when she mused, "What are the patrons getting out of any/all of this?" Sara continued, "the most effective channels to/for our patrons, to date, are an events listserv (995 subscribers, no postage!) and electronic reference via good-ole web form/e-mail."

The fact that Sara is an avid web 2.0 user makes her question even more compelling. While at ALA, I chatted with a librarian who wondered if web 2.0's purpose in libraries was to communicate with other librarians. Where are the patrons in all of this? Bobbi Newman from the Missouri River Regional Library (MO) offered a thoughtful response on publib:

One of the problems I've seen with 2.0 is the library runs out and gets a blog or facebook page or whatever and declares themselves 2.0. They don't consider who they are trying to reach, what they are trying to accomplish, how they will accomplish it or measure success. We need to take the same approach to 2.0 that we've taken to library services for years. Not every tool will work for every library and community. Some libraries have wildly successful film programs or extensive tools for small businesses, but not every library does. We look at what our community needs and what works best for them. The same approach should be taken with your web tools.

Want to provide help for patrons who are looking for jobs or other services during these tight times? Many of these people probably only have access to a computer at your library. Have you showed them the free online word processing tools so they don't have to buy and keep track of a flash drive? Many jobs require online applications, do you allow your patrons to access their email and download item to your computers? Can you teach them how to download a resume from google docs as a pdf and attach it to their email? Create a resources page with links to sites about job openings, or tips and tricks page on writing a resume or cover letter using a blog post or create a new wiki page or delicious account and tags. Many families can't afford to travel to visit each other, are you posting pictures of (your free) library events on your flickr account so grandparents in another state can see it? Or teaching patrons how to set up their own flickr account to share these photos with their families. These are just what come to mind off the top of my head as I write this.

There are a lot of libraries out there using some or all of these tools with great success and by success I mean their patrons are getting services/information/interaction etc. they weren't before.

Don't write off Web 2.0. Instead pick one or two things that will really work with your patrons and use that!"

Bobbi L. Newman
Aka Librarian by Day
Digital Services Librarian

Great tips, and something to think about this fine Monday morning. How do you use web 2.0 to engage with patrons?