There are a lot of online review sites. But one in particular is hitting the mainstream and has made the top 500 of all U.S. web sites, with over 3.5 million visitors each month. That site is Yelp. This Web 2.0 service is great for finding and creating reviews of restaurants, salons, all kinds of services and businesses–and, you guess it–libraries.
In fact, libraries are their own unique category (under “Public Services & Government”). You can not only find library reviews by city, state or zip code, but the options for sorting by highest rated, most reviewed and distance make this a very useful tool. Additionally, the site uses an interactive Google Maps mashup to show locations. In a unique show of usability, the Google map actually follows you as you scroll down the page…and you can tell it to quit following you at any time by simply checking a box.
Additional features include discussions about places and requests for recommendations. Going to ALA Midwinter? Ask Yelpers to recommend the best places to eat near your hotel. Want to know what people think is the coolest attraction in Cleveland? Or want to discuss what’s wrong with your place of worship? Talk topics related to geographical locations are available with almost any given search, or through the “Talk” navigation option.
Not only can people rate places, but they can rate the reviews of others. You can choose to rate reviews as Useful, Funny or Cool. You can even compliment or message the reviewer directly. This form of feedback helps visitors determine who dependable reviewers might be, much in the way feedback ratings on Ebay allow buyers to evaluate potential sellers.
What does this mean to me, Laura?
- Your library may not be in there…yet. Once you have an account (yes, they’re free), you can add your library/library branch. (However, don’t review your own library–not much credibility there, right?) Rather, try recruiting patrons to write reviews. Or even start a discussion on Yelp asking for reviews; people can be very obliging.
- People are generally very honest in their reviews. This can be a good source of constructive criticism and perhaps even testimonials.
- One important feature that’s missing, in my opinion, is the ability to get an RSS feed for any given establishment. Owners could then keep up more easily with the reviews. As far as I can tell, that is a manual process. There are only very limited RSS feeds available for certain cities and for your own or friends’ reviews so far.