Start pages – how library portals became sociable

Dublic City Public Libraries
Dublin City Public Libraries on Netvibes

It’s great to see more libraries using start pages in different and creative ways. I’d previously feared personalised start pages might have had their day, usurped by new browser features and dedicated social media tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck. Instead they seem to have found a niche within libraries, providing new ways to communicate with users and manage increasingly complex social media presences.

One of the main benefits is that start pages provide library staff with an easy way to manage RSS feeds, multiple social networking identities and other web content and share this with users.  CILIP’s use of Netvibes to manage the Defining Our Professional Futures project was a good example of this in action.

Public and NHS libraries are putting start pages to good use already as a way of sharing information with users and as flexible homepage option on public PCs.  Eddie Byrne’s presentation about Dublin City Public Libraries’ experiences using Pageflakes and Netvibes , gives a good overview of implementing a start page.

For those who haven’t used them before, start pages are a personalised home page for your browser customised using widgets.  There are some comprehensive introductory guides available. The most common tools are iGoogle, Netvibes and Pageflakes (though Pageflakes has fallen behind a bit for various reasons). The Library 2.0 site has a great summary of the top-three , but there are many other options available.

Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust
Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust on WordPress.com

There are some lesser known start page platforms providing unique takes that are also worth considering. 3×3 is a pretty basic, fast-loading landing page service . Symbaloo is also an interesting new development with good potential for library use. Netvibes continues to roll out new versions (and a new motto to match), including the Netvibes2go mobile version and the Wasabi edition. Protopage is another one. As well as dedicated start page options, blogging platforms are becoming more flexible and can be used as customisable library portals. I’m still looking for something that works like HootSuite but more start page than dashboard but new developments are surfacing regularly.

Check out the NHS Library Web Portals directory, set up by Catherine Ebenezer from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, for more examples of start pages in action.

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