Facebook Fan Pages & Libraries

The Globe & Mail had a story today about universities setting up Facebook Fan Pages.


Libraries have been trying to find their place in Facebook and as I wrote about earlier, they have been stopped from the traditional avenue of creating a Facebook Profile and were left with creating a Facebook Group which is not as powerful a tool for interacting with an audience.

In the last few weeks the blogs have been starting to fill-up with information about various libraries setting up one of these Fan Pages.


As a test I created a Fan Page for a fictional library, the Happytown Library.

The Fan Pages provide a lot of options for the type of content you can present. You can add any of the applications created for Facebook. I added the “My Feeds” application and I was quickly able to upload entries from my blog which I think a library with a separate news blog would find quite useful.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Fan Pages is the information that can be gathered about the “Fans”. Facebook created this ability with the goal of getting you to buy targeted ads for your company but the data is useful even if you don’t plan to create an ad.

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough fans to see just what type of demographic data is provided but I imagine it would be sex, age, network affiliation, etc.


From a quick scan of the various Fan Pages there does not appear to be a lot of activity but since they are so new and I’m not sure the various libraries/schools are actively promoting them yet, this is understandable.

Of course this again raises the question of whether libraries will create a Fan Page just to be “current” and “hip” or will they take advantage of the opportunities it provides.

This article does a good job of describing of how companies should use Fan Pages, with the point being that it makes no sense to just create another page where your users can get the same information they can from your web site.

The author says the whole goal is to create a “conversation hub”. But when I look at the page for the University of Toronto they have eliminated the Wall and the Discussion Board. It is a very one-way space for communication.

The University of Victoria Library on the other hand has their Wall and Discussion Board up and running (even if it is mainly the library posting comments at the moment). As well they have already integrated the JSTOR Search application and a search box for their catalogue.

It will be interesting to see these Fan Pages six months to a year from now to see if they have really grown in to places where users ask questions , provide feedback, etc. I suspect users will be much more open to “Faning” a library as opposed to “Friending” one given all the personal information you are liable to share with your Facebook friends (no one at the library needs to see a students’ pictures from the beer-bong showdown in the dorms last weekend).

Piping Hot

Having some free time over Christmas, I have gotten around to playing around with some of the new mashup for dummies technologies being made available.

Besides Microsoft’s Popfly and Dapper, I have spent time trying to understand the basics of Yahoo’s Pipes. Some of the Pipes people are creating are quite complicated with geocoded maps and lots of localized information. In trying to figure out how to create something simple and at the same time wondering how tools like this can be used in the library environment I tried to think of ways to combine various RSS feeds. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Ontario Nursing News
When I think about the future evolution of the traditional library subject guide I feel a big part of it should be automated updated content. We have a lot of nursing students in our library and I imagine a feed they could view which had up to date relevant information to them would be useful.

So I went about creating a Pipe from 3 different feeds. I created a simple Google News RSS feed for a search for stories that mention Ontario Nurses. But I also wanted to extract the news sections from the Canadian Nurses Association and the Ontario Nurses Association which do not provide their stories in a RSS feed. Pipes mentions using the tool Feedity, which scrapes a basic web page and creates an RSS feed from it. You can see below what this Pipe looks like:


The results list is not as perfect as I would like. For some reason when Feedity scrapes the ONA site for stories it includes the ads from the site in the results of the Pipe. But overall, it does what I intended it to do. And now I can use the output of this Pipe as an RSS feed.

Access Copyright News
With all the news about copyright law changes coming I wanted to create a Pipe that combined a variety of feeds that mention everyones’ favorite copyright collective Access Copyright. This pipe is fairly basic and combines a feed from an Ebsco search and ones from Google Blogs, Google News and Yahoo News.


The Filter module was needed to make this Pipe useful because with the Ebsco, Google and Yahoo searches it was not easy to verify that the phrase “Access Copyright” was returned and not the word access and copyright separated by a paragraph or a period. Before I put the filter in I was getting a lot of unrelated stories which had the word access as the last word of the articles and the copyright notice at the bottom of the article. Now I have a useful feed that keeps me up to date when Access Copyright news is happening or when articles that discuss the collective are written.

Library Catalogue Alerts on NCAA/College Basketball
Finally, I wanted to try a library focused Pipe. Knowing that there are a growing number of libraries with modern OPACs that create RSS feeds for searches I created a Pipe on the topic of basketball with a filter for NCAA/College basketball. I used the catalogues from Ann Arbor District Library, Plymouth State University Library, and North Carolina State.


I’m not sure how useful this particular Pipe is. It was more of an effort to see if it would work. I can imagine that if WorldCat had a way to create similar RSS feeds, the ability to filter results that Pipes has would allow you to create some interesting alerts about books on very specific topics being added to libraries across the continent.