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Meebo Bar for Libraries

A lot of libraries use widgets on their pages to answer virtual reference questions. They use things like Meebo, Digsby, AIM, and the very cool Library H3LP.  Yet recently Meebo co-founder Seth Sternberg, one of the pioneers of widgets on the web, pretty much said that widgets suck. His argument was that widgets can’t be easily updated (you have to copy and paste in an entirely new widget) and that they take up a significant amount of screen real estate.

Enter the Meebo Bar. It’s a piece of javascript code that’s sits as a layer on top of a website.  This allows it to be on multiple pages so your widget is not just on your “ask a librarian” page or your homepage; it’s everywhere without taking up a bunch or room. In addition, it’s fully customizable so you can include your library’s Facebook page, posts from your Twitter stream, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, and more. Users can get help from a librarian and also connect with them on social media all from a single bar on any of the library’s pages.

For possible downsides, because it is all hosted on Meebo’s server it could be changed at anytime. They might decide one day to include ads on all their bars. Though I think their current model of opting into ads for a small cut of the revenue is working for them. But other than that it seems like it could be the next generation of service for libraries providing virtual reference to their members. I made a quick screencast demoing an example of what a library Meebo Bar could look like. If you want to play with one yourself, you can visit their website or see it in action over at Slate.

Is anyone currently using this? Would this be something that could be useful at your library?

Andy Burkhardt

10 Comments

  1. Yes very nice this Meebo Bar and similar tools, I’ve being toying with the idea as well. The obvious thing to do is to see if we can get this into our Libguides and LibAnswers page, currently I can’t figure it out yet.

  2. Oooh, I think that’s a great idea Aaron. A lib guide or subject guide would be a great place to use something like this. We are using wikis for ours. I may have to try experimenting with this there. Do Libguides allow that level of customization and control for adding a piece of javascript? I haven’t actually tried playing with them.

  3. I read your blog post Robin and it looks like a great experiment that you’re trying out! I hope that it allows you to help a lot of students and teachers at your school. It can be a really easy way to allow people to reach you instantly. Let me know how it works for you.

  4. Hello Aaron, Andy, and others;

    Slaven Zivkovic, from Springshare (LibGuides/LibAnswers) here. Regarding embedding the meebo bar into LibGuides/LibAnswers, send us an email over at support and we will help you get it up and running.

    Coincidentally, we have been toying with the idea of developing our own toolbar (very similar to meebo’s, conceptually) and while we haven’t made any decisions yet we are leaning in that direction so I think you can expect something from us in this regard in the next year.

  5. Thanks Slaven! That’s really helpful. An optional toolbar could be a really cool feature for libguides. I can’t wait to hear if you decide to develop it.

  6. Is the Meebo bar customizable with RSS feeds? In other words, could I include a wordpress blog or something similar? Thanks for bring this to our attention, Andy.

  7. Emily, RSS is another option. You can set up an RSS button and have it feed from whatever source you want that has a feed, whether it’s your library’s blog or your new books.

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