Library of Congress

Even though the Library of Congress is not really the national library of the U.S., it functions enough like one that we can include it in our exploration of national libraries and Web 2.0.

I had a bit of trouble trying to find out what kind of tools the Library of Congress has integrated into their website.

Library of Congress homepage

Screenshot of Library of Congress homepage

I read all the headings, and scrolled down a bit, but couldn’t find anything.

Screenshot of the rest of the Library of Congress homepage

Screenshot of the rest of the Library of Congress homepage

As it turns out, you have to scroll down to the very bottom, further than I had done. I assumed that I had reached the end, because there was a horizontal line above the section with the links to the Web 2.0 tools. This line is pretty confusing, and I can imagine that people who are not looking for these tools might easily miss them.

When you have found the bottom of the homepage there is a link ‘all ways to connect”, which leads you to a Connecting with the Library page (again, no new window that opens…) that mentions all the ways in which the library can be contacted.

Apparently, the Library of Congress

is using social media technologies and websites to engage the public with library news, events, acquisitions and exhibits. We’re also sharing selected historic content from our collections (where no copyright restrictions exist) in more places and more ways.

They use many applications and tools: several blogs, multiple Facebook profiles, Flickr, a Mobile Application, Podcasts, RSS feeds, Twitter, and Webcasts and videos (like Youtube).

For people who have never used these kinds of tools, or even for people who have (like me), the sheer number of options can be confusing and somewhat overwhelming. I don’t even know where to start. Of all the libraries that I will be discussing, the Library of Congress definitely has the most blog posts, Podcasts, Facebook fans, Youtube subscribers and videos, Twitter followers and Flickr photos. The sheer numbers are incredible.

For this post I want to focus on the Library’s Flickr page, since they are very active on this site, and it provides a good example of online community involvement with the Library.
The Library of Congress has an amazing number of photos available online, which also have an amazing number of views per set. We’re talking tens of thousands views here, and the “1930s-40s in color” set even has 2,448,596 views! This resource is clearly used extensively, and people seem to not only view but also engage with the photos. Several of the sets and individual photos have comments added by visitors.

The Library is actively seeking to encourage online participation by their users, and when they asked people to add comments and tags to the photos in the Flickr sets when they first set them up, the response was astounding. Some time later they wrote a blog post to thank everyone. On the profile page of their Flickr, they open with

Yes. We really are THE Library of Congress.

We invited your tags and comments and you responded. Wow, did you respond!
Thank You. The identifying information is appreciated–many of our old photos came to us with very little description.

They also provide an extensive FAQ for their Flickr Pilot project. This page is also an excellent example of successful integration of the different tools that they offer: at the bottom they provide links to many of their other social networking tools and other websites.

Crop of LC's Flickr page

Screenshot of the Library's Flickr profile page

When we then look at their Twitter profile, we find that these tweets also link back to one of their blogs:

Mysterious Faces, Gazing Across Time: A forlorn-looking girl in a mourning dress holds a picture of her late fat… 1:31 PM Dec 3rd via twitterfeed

When we click on that link, it takes us to a blog post, which in turn has a link to the relevant Flickr set. Now that is what I call good integration of tools! The sheer amount of Web 2.0 options on their website can be quite overwhelming. I am not sure whether I would actually spend the time looking through all of them if I started on that main page, but the thorough integration of several of their tools leads you to others anyway, wherever you start.

It’s nice that they have the option for all tools on one page, but there it just seems a bit much. Information overload, as they say. Still, if you are interested in the Library of Congress, and you want to receive updates from them or get involved, there are plenty of options! You can just choose which one suits you best.
I therefore don’t have any suggestions on how to improve their service, since they seem to have it down, other than that they might want to do something about that horizontal line on their homepage

This entry was posted in National Libraries and Web 2.0 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s