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Why link collections are dead…sort of


I am hoping, nay, I’m practically praying, that your library does not have either of the following:

  • A collection of links to external websites (often called “Links” or the “Link Library” on the library’s web site, or
  • Bunches of sites bookmarked at the Reference Desk that staff use to find information for patrons.

Why do I have these in my craw today? Because these practices “silo” information; they take valuable, vetted resources and put them in places where your patrons either aren’t looking, aren’t going to look, and/or can’t get to. “Siloing” (Is that a word? I guess it is now.) is a common practice in libraries, and one that we may not even be aware that we’re doing. As librarians, we like to collect and organize information. That’s fine, keep doing it! It’s just time to update your methodology, so that you can serve more people, better.

It’s time to move your link collections out of the silos and out onto the public floor. In this case, the “public floor” is a web service called del.icio.us (yes, they took the .US domain and had fun with the address). This is the most popular social bookmarking site, and it solves several issues for link collecting all at once:

  1. Ever been at work and wished you had your bookmarks from your home computer, or vice-versa? Yeah, I’ve been there. Not anymore. Del.icio.us stores your bookmarks in a web-accessible account, so anywhere you have net access, you have your bookmarks.
  2. This is a social bookmarking site. Other people can see what you’ve bookmarked, you can see what they’ve bookmarked, and you can even see how many people have bookmarked a particular site. Yes, this is a great voyeuristic way to kill an afternoon…and find great new resources.
  3. You can tag your bookmarks for easy retrieval, and del.icio.us even provides ways to embed a tag cloud directly into your web site of your collection for visual browsing.
  4. You automatically get an RSS feed of your collection that patrons can subscribe to.
  5. Yes, you can link directly to your del.iciou.us account from your library’s web page.

Signing up is free and easy, and there are even browser buttons for both Internet Explorer and Firefox to make adding things to your account incredibly simple. Want to learn more about del.icio.us? Here’s the About page.


  • It’s time to get all those research links, wherever they might be, out into the Internet community where they can do some good. Let’s be honest here, shall we? People are not looking at library web sites any more for links. That’s what Google is for.
  • In this new(ish) digital age, most things online have a social element. Don’t be antisocial.
  • No more waiting for your web person to add links to your site. You can DIY and get more functionality out of your link collections, with built-in RSS and tagging, and many third-party applications.

There are 8 comments

  1. Laura, just a belated note to say that I hadn’t heard of the term “siloing” before, but it’s something I’ve consciously done over the years, thinking it’s desirable to keep visitors with me instead of losing them to some other site. Your logic is persuasive, to say the least. I’ve acted on this in the couple weeks since I read this post. Right now I’m trying to think of ways to persuade others (the other people involved with our little library) to participate in the “group” Flickr and Twitter accounts I’ve set up.

    Thanks for all the advice!

  2. I honestly don’t remember where I first heard the term “siloing” before, but I don’t think I invented it. At any rate, it seems to fit the bill. Congrats on your new Twitter account (I’m going to go follow you as soon as I’m done writing this) and on helping your library to join the mainstream Internet community! I am curious how you came across my blog–I’m so pleased to find out that it has interest to librarians outside of Ohio!

  3. Thanks for following! I’m not a librarian but a volunteer/supporter. I built the support Web site for our branch right after Hurricane Katrina, and I webmaster it from afar. I think I found your blog when I was browsing library-related tweets, and read yours about this article. You seem to address other stuff of interest to me, too, so I’ve subscribed to your RSS feed.

  4. I’ve read this posting, and a couple of other librarians I work with have, and we cannot figure out the advantage of siloing your links with delicious as opposed to anywhere else. I use delicious myself to make my stuff portable, but if a patron asks for my library’s links on a particular subject, I can always give them the library’s website. Delicious gets more hits, but whether someone finds yours or not–unless you tell someone to look there–is entirely hit or miss. So there is no advantage. And, if you put them under the library’s webpage, they can be grouped with the dbs that your institution subscribes to, and that patrons have to sign on to use. The only advantage is that it’s “cooler,” I guess. But so what?

  5. Linda,

    I can see why you might see it that way. But, for me, del.icio.us is all about the additional functionality that wouldn’t probably be available otherwise. If I like the kinds of things you bookmark on del.icio.us, I can subscribe to the RSS feed for it and get new additions automatically. Having del.icio.us buttons in my browser is a godsend, and if I find a link on your library’s web site, there’s no way to easily add it to my collection. And the social element is not to be underestimated. I am sure that many people, like myself, enjoy browsing through and seeing how many other people have bookmarked a site and what comments they’ve made on it.

  6. Oh, and you can still put links to tags in your del.icio.us account that correspond to your library’s databases, so the effect is the same.

  7. Agreed that having the delicious button on my browser is a good thing, and love being social–have found other good websites through linking to people who have linked to the same stuff.

    But it bothers me that having links on a library’s own page is dismissed as “siloing.” A well-done page has more than links–it presents a context to the links that beats even the notes on delicious. Consider this, for instance, by Pima County (AZ) public library:

    It presents not only links, but a coherent framework for information about grants–solid, non-misleading information by honest information brokers. And it is tied to a local institution’s website, with information that is meaningful to the people of that locality. It adds value beyond a string of links. This is the sort of thing libraries should be doing.

    And for the DIY ability that comes from librarians using delicious and flicker, I agree. But top library administrators could make this possible at library websites, too. The company that designed my web page has made it possible for me to update from home, even with my meager html skills. It’s a matter of sharing power and access with your staff.

    Anyway, I’ll get off the soapbox. Have a good holiday.

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