Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Libraries Creating Connections

"Libraries should stop focusing on their collections and start focusing on their communities" is something I've said before. Today, I learned that I may need to revise that. Two presentations today at Code4Lib 2011 showed how a library might do both at the same time.

Nell Taylor and Margaret Heller talked about the Chicago Underground Library, a grass-roots special collection that focuses on a specific place, Chicago.
The Chicago Underground Library is an all-inclusive collection of Chicago-specific media, produced by and for the community. Through our unique indexing of contributors and our open venue, we provide a space for individuals, organizations and ideas to come together, and creative connections to emerge.
They'll take anything into their collection, even a book of poems bought for a dollar made by a local guy Taylor met on a bus. Their goal is to use the collection and "obsessive cataloging" to create connections between people and places.

I'm guessing that a hot topic at Code4Lib 2012 will be Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but Taylor and Heller were the first and only to mention it this year. They make the metadata on their item pages easy for search engines to consume, and that's what drives the connections to people. People google themselves and their places, and lots of things happen and have happened that never enter the pages of The Chicago Tribune.

Whisper of the HeartThe Underground Library has a lot in common with the Chinatown Storefront Library project that I wrote about last year. They're running on a shoestring, living in borrowed space, and relying on volunteer labor. With some luck, they'll get some funding and some space of their own, but they have no shortage of courage and audacity.

The most surprising talk today came in the "lightning session". Haruki Ono, a student at University of Tsukuba in Japan, told us about project Shizuku. Shizuku is named after the heroine of Hayao Miyazaki's movie Whisper of the Heart. Shizuku loves reading books, and goes to the library every day. She notices that one other user has signed the checkout slip for many of the books she loves. To make a long story short enough for this blog post, they end up getting married.

Project Shizuku aims to use library circulation data to connect users, not to other books they would like to read, but to other users. When I wrote about "Biblio-Social Objects" in December, somehow it didn't occur to me how much local libraries could leverage their non-virtuality to create relationships and build community.

You learn something new and meet someone new every day, especially at Code4Lib.
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  1. Thanks for this post Eric. Very interesting project in Chicago. It make me think of a posting yesterday on ReadWriteWeb ( about crowdfunding. Taylor and Heller should take a look at as a potential source of funds.

  2. Hmm, Whisper of the Heart is directed by Yoshifumi Kondo and not Hayao Miyazaki. Those slides are trapped!