Monday, November 07, 2011

Designing for sharing and then for re-sharing

About a month ago, we did a soft launch of our new A to Z list of indexes that we put together using Drupal 7. When we re-built this page, we had two specific design goals: the first was improve statistics collection and the second was to make our licensed resources easier to share among faculty, staff and students. And it ended up that our our two design criteria were both addressed by the same solution: to use URL shortening software that would embed cumbersome ez-proxy information while also tracking clicks on these new easy to share links.

Now that we have a month's worth of data, I thought I'd take a look to see how the new re-design was doing. What I was really hoping for was some evidence that folks were emailing links to each other. And on that count, my hopes were dashed. From our most popular link has received about 900 clicks, it appears that only one came from within an email (under "various")

But what was surprising to me was how many hits were 'direct' hits. If fact, almost 1 in 10 click were done without coming from the A to Z list at all. It's particularly odd because you can't easily bookmark the link in question (although you can bookmark ... but no one has seems to have done so yet). I've been trying to figure out what's happening here and I *think* that some folks are now accessing databases by typing its name into the URL field aka The Awesome Bar. If that's right, that was completely unexpected and totally cool.

Right now, these short urls are only available on our A to Z page and in some of 'library news' items that come from our blog which are re-transmitted to the library's Twitter and Facebook accounts. While no where obsessed as much as a SEO, I have been keeping an eye about how our little promos have been received by our campus community.

I don't have enough information to do any sort of generalization at the this point, but I can tell you that last week's campaign to promote our Cochrane Collections were pretty much a bust while our Reading List for Future Journalists was much better received, being retweeted a couple of times to over 700 potential readers in addition to our own existing 280 Twitter followers and 900 or so folks who "like" us on Facebook. "Likes", however, don't mean that they've opted to read the updates. According to Facebook, the reading list gained over 300 "impressions" while our "Evidence based reviews: trials, error and the God-complex" received about half those views.

Now, making up book lists is much more time consuming than it seems it should be. I should know. This week, in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the Massey Lectures, I thought I would create a blog post promoting our library's available Massey Lectures in a way that could be re-used by other librarians and other readers for their own use.

I've have been a fan of the Massey Lectures for some years now and some of its books in its series have been influential to my own thinking. This is why my first list of Massey Lectures was started on in 2007.  And so I thought I would take this opportunity to create not just a shopping list - but reading lists promoting the Massey Lectures. To start off, this weekend I made a list for my local library using Bibliocommons.

My own library makes use of the Evergreen OPAC and it allows users to easily add items into 'book-bags' that can be made for public viewing, generate an RSS feed, and can be exported into RefWorks. And just for kicks, after creating my collection of Massey Lectures, I exported my RefWorks collection to create this public Zotero library.

But I wanted to do more. I wanted to create a list that could not be used, but could be re-used in ways that I couldn't forsee. This recent post on Drupal4Lib was foremost on my mind:

I mean, just think of how many libraries are out there and how many hours are spent having to cull together the same raw materials for lists like the Massey Lectures or annual award winners. Or more sobering, how many lists are not created and shared with our communities because they take too long to make. We could do better!

So I have been slowly working through this particular list of Massey Lectures on the Open Library. Unfortunately, Open Library's ability to export lists as HTML, JSON, and BibTex isn't functioning properly at the moment. So I've created this text file of Massey Lectures names, with links to cover images to the corresponding sections on the CBC Massey Lectures website. Trust me, it will save you a lot time if you are so inclined to make a blog post similar to like the one that I just published on the Leddy Library New Blog.

And even though the list export function isn't likely to be fixed by the time that Adam Gopnik reads his first Massey Lecture tonight at 9pm on Radio One, I'm still going to work on my Open Library Massey Lectures list.  I have come to really enjoy working on it during the moments when I'm too tired to move and too tired to read. I add descriptions to these books, add tags, clean up author entries and add cover images. And it's very gratifying work. The cover of Inscape and Landscape that I scanned and added last week already appears in our own library catalogue and presumably in every Evergreen library catalogue that opts to use Open Library as a source for cover images. And all the detailed records I'm creating in Open Library may one day also be found in many Evergreen library catalogues -- and maybe even in Koha ones too.

I would be very happy if someone ends re-using any one of the lists mentioned above. I'd be delighted if someone is inspired to make a similar list on a completely different topic. Sometimes I think that the possibility of surprise and delight is a great measure of what work is worth doing.

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