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?


Pidgin more stable?

We use Pidgin at the reference desk to monitor our meebo widgets and IM accounts, so I was glad to see that the latest version fixed a number of bugs.  Pidgin tended to crash once or twice a day which wasn’t devastating, but it was still pretty annoying.  I guess nothing is perfect.  Anyway, I hope this release is more stable and there are less crashes.

Now, if Meebo could add just a little more customization ability to its widgets, our IM reference would be right where I want it.  It is a little annoying that the widget says to leave an offline message.  When users do, they do not leave a way to contact them so there is no way to get back to them and answer their question.  Someday…