December 30, 2009

Mash it up

The previous post was intended to be my final blog update for 2009, but while listening to a Library 2.0 Gang podcast during my run this evening, I was inspired to add one more before the year ends tomorrow.

I discovered the Library 2.0 Gang podcast series a couple of weeks ago, which is delivered in a host/moderator + panel discussion format. The most recent podcast on social software was great, so I decided to listen to previous recordings. I suppose I'm a little late to the party because it's been going on since 2008, I believe.

The episode I listened to today was about mashups. For anyone unfamiliar, Webopedia explains that
the term mashup refers to a new breed of Web-based applications... mix[ing] at least two different services from disparate, and even competing, Web sites. A mash-up, for example, could overlay traffic data from one source on the Internet over maps from Yahoo, Microsoft, Google or any content provider. The term mash-up comes from the hip-hop music practice of mixing two or more songs.


On this particular panel was Frances Haugen, who made some really interesting contributions to the discussion about what mashups could be and how libraries could benefit. For example, a forgotten book from the 60's might be essentially "dead," but with a recommendation mashup (similar to Amazon's), people might start interacting with the resource again, revitalizing its use. Another example she explained was regarding smart phones being used to help direct patrons to resources by showing them how to locate resources: the librarian would help them figure out how to find the information, and the smart phone would guide them to the materials, physically.

While being enrolled in the LIS program here and using the library heavily, I had sort of daydreamed about there being a map feature for *within* the library. I don't have a smart phone, but if I did, I could have my position listed as "you are here" with specific directions to get to the section of the library I would want to go to. I especially thought this would be useful when the UA Main Library was moving materials around, or even just when I was new to the library as a new student. Western Illinois University's Text Me! service is such an innovative idea and could potentially be the start to a mashup of this sort. While searching the catalog, you can elect to have a call number texted to your phone so you don't have to write it down and could more easily find it while in the library. If that information could be mashed up with directions inside the library, it would be so easy to find materials.

**Edit (1/3/2010):
After now finishing the most recent issue of American Libraries, I just read that my daydream has essentially come true in Bozeman, MT at Montana State University. Joseph Janes (p.34) talks about a new Flash tool in use to "mouse over stack locations on a map, the LC call number ranges and subject areas appear on the side." Pretty excellent!**

An example of a great mashup I recently found is Rent Sleuth, combining information on available apartments in NYC, nearby public transportation, crime rates, and incidents of bedbug infestations all on one map. For my job I also recently created a mashup to show students all the buildings they would need to know of for a summer science internship program on campus, as well as which researchers and mentors are in those buildings plus their websites.

As the panel pointed out, not all mashups are or should be maps (but those just happened to be some examples I had to share). Nicole Engard, also on the panel, shows further examples of library mashups in her book, Library mashups: Exploring new ways to deliver library data, and that link also has further online resources listed.

Anyhow, I think mashups are very exciting and it's so interesting to think of all the ways libraries could combine various data to make collections and services more accessible to users, as well as provide better tools for assessment. I look forward to seeing what the new year will bring in these technologies.

On that note, this is definitely my last post for the year, goodbye 2009, and happy new year!