Scriblio: Web 2.SO? – Why it matters to Libraries

Lichen RancourtTuesday, 8:30-10:00

Scriblio is a program to help libraries create a stronger online presence developed by Casey Bisson of Plymouth State University and Lichen Rancourt of the Manchester (NH) Public Library. Lichen demonstrates why this just may be a new model for future OPACs. It provides keyword searching, faceted searching and browsing, persistent URLs for easy linking and full integration of website and catalog content and… it’s open source and can be used for free.

Slides available at

What is a library?
A collection that is cared for and made available to the public

  • A collection: is not just books, but information resources – audio books, DVDs, internet resources
  • Cared for: librarians manage these materials and assist in their location and use
  • The public: the people we serve; our town, our consortium, anyone who uses our website or comes into the building (not limited to geography)

Enter Web 2.0
Libraries are no longer just destinations, but are a platform for information exchange (library to patron and patron to patron). This is also what Web 2.0 does – lets people share information with each other easily.

Geography is becoming less and less important, because some interaction happens online.

Three characteristics of Web 2.0

  • Usability: Traditional library tools are built to be used by experts. Web 2.0 tools are built to be used easily by anyone (2.0 = do it yourself)
  • Remixability: How easy is it to use content from our source and use it in another (embedding YouTube videos or flickr pictures into a blog, etc)
  • Findability: How are these tools found online? Patrons can’t find library books through google because traditional ILSs are “closed systems.” Web 2.0 tools are open to external searches and links

If libraries are about serving communities and Web 2.0 is about building communities, then Web 2.0 needs library service. Because, what do libraries have that Web 2.0 tools don’t have? Librarians to help.

Enter Catalog 2.0
This allows ILSs to serve patrons however they are searching online (the library website is just one avenue to the collection).

Traditional ILSs don’t like to share their data – even with librarians. New options are:

Scriblio meets all of the above criteria – easy to use by non-experts, but provides expert information in an open and shared way.

It’s a small plug-in for a wordpress blog

Tamworth Library website:

  • Sidebars has calendars with upcoming events and library hours (based on Google calendars (one location for data is represented in multiple locations, instead of having to update multiple locations)
  • Sidebar also has a flickr badge, showing the latest uploaded photos (of programs, resources, etc)
  • Blog posts serve as announcements, in the center of the homepage
  • Pages are for more static content, which exist within the website’s navigation
  • Catalog data is also treated as “live” data, so they show up as new books on the homepage (like a blog post) – having data in this format makes is very easy for patrons to browse new books. Catalog records use all existing library controlled data, as well as incorporates user tagging data (patron-generated data is not stored in the ILS – it is stored in Scriblio)
  • All three data types are searchable from one search box
  • Drawbacks: data is not live (uploaded manually in batches), so circ status is not completely accurate, and holds cannot be place. YET – this is open source and always in development
  • Some data provided by amazon – images, reviews, etc. – in return for a link back
  • RSS feeds are available through Scriblio automatically – for anything you want, based on the way you tag/categorize records
  • Patrons are adding comments and book reviews
    • this data is also included in the search
    • this is how Tamworth is currently handling reserves – they are sent as emails to staff (and this comment is not published)
    • All comments are moderated (patrons can choose “private” so that librarians see it but other patrons don’t)
    • Patrons also suggest things to do/purchase
    • Makes homebound patrons feel welcome

Jay RancourtJay Rancourt, Director, Cook Memorial Library

  • Implementing this makes the Board of Trustees nervous – be ready for this, but push forward. The Board likes it, but are worried about privacy
  • Posting policies for privacy issues: library incorporates web posting into their policy: get permission in writing from program presenters, and get verbal permission from parents (and try to avoid taking recognizable pictures of kids faces)
  • Managing information is less work than the old site – all web-based, so it can even be done from home (think snow days)
  • Knowing how people get to the website is a favorite thing – people coming from search engines is now equal to people who go there directly (it means the library data is findable to the world)
  • Kids and Teens love this, and get interested in posting
  • Use this to promote local history resources (much better than a vertical file). Best of all, patrons who know this local history can contribute
  • This is a great way to open a new channel to patrons – we already do in-person, phone, fax, email, etc… now we do IM and respond to comments

Back-end (WordPress)

  • Try setting up a free blog at to see how it works and how easy it is
  • New posts are easy forms to fill in
  • Changing the look of the website is just choosing a theme
  • Different permission levels for different users (staff can each have their own login and level of rights
  • Plug-ins are easy to add and turn on/off
  • Scriblio is a plu-in, with it’s own admin screen. Easy form to upload new catalog records
  • See for a working example of a “fresh” Scriblio install

Is this tied in with LibraryThing?
Tagging is separate from LibraryThing tagging

Is it really just two people doing this?
Yes (Casey Bission does code, Lichen interacts with libraries, both develop ideas), with Jessamyn West helping with documentation.

Do you work with other Open Source projects?
Not directly, but the OS community is very open and friendly

How much time do you spend doing this?
Maybe 2-3 hours a week; the interfaces are so good that it’s easy and fun to use – especially since results are immediate

Is this moving the idea of a community center online? ie, are you helping community patrons start and use flickr accounts, etc., so they can contribute, too?
We hadn’t thought of it, but that’s a great idea. It’s also a great idea for programs. However, we do post information from patrons – one Trustee posted a video to YouTube of the 4th of July parade, and the library embedded that in a blog post.

When will this be ready for us?
Soon – maybe summer 2008. Contact Lichen for more information.

One Response

  1. If it is a small plug-in for WordPress, that will go along way to establishing an installed base right there!

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