I designed my first website in 1997. I use the word designed lightly, as it was full of gaudy background images—and at least one animated graphic on each page! I was so proud of that site, as I’m sure many of us were when we created our first. However, times have changed, and the tools have gotten so much better.
That first website was a hint into my future: It was a collection of all of my bookmarks organized into categories for easy browsing. (Sound like a future librarian to you?) I created a resource that my friends and family used when they needed to find information online. After years of maintaining this website with only simple HTML, I became frustrated by the lack of an easy way to keep things up-to-date and abandoned it.
It took more than 10 years, but the day is finally here when I can re-create that website (without the flashy images and gaudy back- ground, of course) and easily maintain a collection of useful links with my friends, family, and colleagues. That website is the companion to this book, found at mashups.web2learning.net. It was created using a simple mashup of my Delicious bookmarks (delicious.com/nengard/librarymashups) and a WordPress (www.wordpress.org) blog—a method I learned from reading a chapter in this book.
Mashups (as many of the contributors to this title will tell you) are web applications that use content from more than one source to create a single new service, displayed in a single graphical interface. This means that I can bookmark all of the links found in this book and share them with you on my WordPress-powered website with minimal effort. In fact, I just had to check a few boxes on a form and then copy and paste a snippet of code.
The following chapters will share similar methods and tips that will help you graduate your library website from its static form to a dynamic, easy-to-maintain tool that your patrons will return to over and over. Libraries and library-related groups around the world share their mashup experiences in hopes of showing you that updating your website does not have to be a full-time job—and does not have to be a chore you dread.
Although the Delicious mashup I used for my website was practically effortless, it is important to note that not all mashups are that simple. Some of the authors in this book go to great lengths to detail exactly how mashups work and the technology behind them. While this information is both important and useful, don’t let it scare you off from trying to use mashups in your own library. In many cases, web applications (like Delicious) will provide graphical interfaces to make mashing up data as simple as filling in a form.
The first section of this book, “What Are Mashups?,” introduces mashup terminology and provides general reference sources to continue your mashup education. While reading these chapters, and the rest of the book, remember to turn to Appendix B for a glossary of terms, which will help when you come across a term that you don’t know or remember.
In the second section of this book, “Mashing Up Library Websites,” the authors show you how to use mashups to improve your static library website. These chapters outline how sites you may currently be using for fun and personal organization can be turned into powerful tools for delivering information to your patrons and showing the human side of your library.
In the third section, “Mashing Up Catalog Data,” things get a bit technical as the authors show us how to pull valuable information out of our integrated library systems in order to remix it and improve its visibility to our patrons. As we all know, getting information out of most library catalogs (with the exception of open source offerings) is nearly, if not actually, impossible—but these authors don’t let that discourage them, and neither should you.
In the fourth section, “Maps, Pictures, and Video … Oh My!” we see how libraries are using some of the most popular types of mashups. By using tools such as Google Maps (maps.google.com), Flickr (www.flickr.com), and blip.tv (blip.tv), these libraries are able to create entirely new tools for their patrons, improving patrons’ online experiences and providing superior service.
Last but not least, the fifth section, “Adding Value to Your Services,” gives you additional mashup ideas for making your library’s online presence that much more valuable to patrons. Ideas like adding data from LibraryThing (www.librarything.com) to your library site and pushing your local repository data out to other campus resources show you that the power of mashups can be harnessed by anyone with a will to make a change.
The goal of this guide is to teach you the basics of what mashups are and how they have been used in libraries worldwide. It is my hope that after reading this book, you will be inspired to make at least one change to your library site. This can be as simple as copying and past- ing a bit of code into your site or adding a collection of ever-changing links. Take what you learn from these authors and add a dash of your own imagination; you’ll be surprised what can evolve.