There has been an awful lot written about Flickr, one of the top online photo-sharing sites. I’m not out to re-create the wheel, so here is an excellent slideshow presentation on what Flickr is, from Michael Sauers, the Travelin’ Librarian.
So, why should a public library consider using Flickr? Here goes:
It’s another way to not “silo” your library’s unique visual information. In this era when competition to library web sites is one click away, it’s essential that we put our content out into the community, where the people are more likely to be. No, not everyone even knows Flickr exists. But a whole lot more know about Flickr than about your library’s website, guaranteed.
When it comes to promotion, a picture says a 1000 words…or more. Grab the digital camera, a stack of photo waivers and the name of your Flickr account, and head to your library’s next event. Tell people their pics will be online for them to see in the next day or two. Watch them get excited.
Flickr is incredibly cheap. Even the smallest library can afford the approximately $25.00 a year for an incredibly large amount of photo storage.
It requires no special knowledge to upload, tag and caption photos for viewing. No waiting for a web person to get around to marking up photos and getting them online.
Flickr is about sharing, and Flickr has chosen to share its API (Application Programming Interface, if you want to know). That means they allow anyone to create useful and fun third-party applications using the underlying Flickr engine. Need an automatic slideshow? A randomly-rotating photo area for your library’s blog? Even a game based on your photos? Somebody has already created the code for these kinds of things, and many more, and you can plug them right into your website or blog for instant gratification and content.
But what about…
Bad apples? Like most modern (Web 2.0) web sites, Flickr provides functionality to allow users to comment on pictures. Yes, you might get some bad comments. Don’t let them spoil the entire barrel for you. The Internet is really all about people. Some behave themselves, some don’t. Most people understand that. Move on.
Branding? More traditional librarians may have a hard time moving past the “It’s not our stuff” issue. The thinking is along the lines of “If the site is not totally branded as being that of the library, it’s not worthwhile.” However, this is symptomatic of siloing. If you hear this argument, point them at the photostream of the Library of Congress. Even the LOC has figured out that siloing is poor practice, and that the real goal is to share the content, not brand it.
High quality images? Flickr cannot replace high-quality systems like ContentDM, that also provide all of the metadata libraries need. Flickr is best used for more casual or immediate content (like event photos), or as a supplemental way (such as in the case of the Library of Congress) to get to photos.
Does your (Ohio) library have a Flickr stream or cool Flickr-related application? Send me the URL and I’ll post ‘em here!