I’ve been using Flickr for quite a while and I really like it. I used to use DeviantArt for a lot of my photography and art that I did during my A-Level years but after a lot of fellow users suffered a lot of art theft, I decided to shut down my account and look for something slightly more structured.
Flickr is very useful because you can host photographs on there, set them to various privacy settings such as keeping access to certain things just for you, or just for your friends or you can just go for it and allow them to be accessed by the public!
As for Flickr in the context of libraries, I think it is an amazing tool! Not only can you put promotional materials online for book and exhibition events but you can also keep people updated if you’re having a refurbishment or are remodelling an existing section of your library.
Flickr also offers the opportunity to add notes to your images that pop up when someone hovers their mouse pointer over a certain area. This could be invaluable to reader/user education and outreach if used effectively. For example, the UL installed some horrifically complicated photocopier/scanner machines last summer and of course no-one really knew how to use them! Staff and readers alike were baffled. Thankfully things have moved on quite well since then. I do think that in such a situation, having a how-to link from the UL’s main page to a Flickr image of a photocopier with notes such as “Press this to scan” and “Press this to copy” hovering over certain buttons would at least allow newer readers to get to grips with the general layout of the machines before coming in and inevitably scratching their heads some more!
I do like the concept of libraries using Flickr for an online virtual tour of your library. This is a wonderful idea to get undergraduates used to what their college/faculty/University library looks like before they’ve even gone through the doors thereby making the whole experience less daunting. One of the most common reasons I hear for students not using the UL as much as their peers is that they find it intimidating and confusing. Admittedly it is a huge building and the lack of space in the open book stacks makes navigating them pretty frustrating, even for me and I’ve been doing it for ages now! So by having a simple virtual tour or walkthrough available online, students would be able to get over the UL’s horror factor and just be able to benefit from it rather than fear it! Also, we’ve just participated in the University’s Open Days, some people did not have a chance to go on our offered tours because they had other things to go to. A virtual tour would also benefit prospective students in this scenario as they would be able to have all the information that their peers got on the actual tour. It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, especially if those words are my own as I yammer on about online journals and book sizes!
In a UL context again, I feel that photographers such as Sir Cam and Idlethink (as mentioned by Cam23) do us a massive favour. If you are not a member of the university, it is nearly impossible to come in through the security barrier in the UL’s Entrance Hall. By having photographs of the mysterious depths of such a famous library placed on Flickr allows for the world to enjoy the wonders of the building and its collections, even if they are not physically inside. Sir Cam takes gorgeous photographs of the UL and all of Cambridge and is a very nice man (yes I have met and been photographed by him). He manages to make even the slightly less architecurally attractive parts of the Library look beautiful and far more arty that you would ever consider them in your working day. He makes many reappreciate how amazing Cambridge and its University can be!
Cam23 does highlight the fact that idlethink has broken one of the more serious of Sydicate rules of the library by taking photos (Sir Cam has permission) and this does make me wince as a librarian, but as a Flickr user this rare and stolen glimpse of the Reading Room or the open book stack from another person’s perspective is fascinating. By the way, I don’t condone people trying to break the photography rule because it is there for many good reasons.
So, to conclude, Flickr = good. While I’ve been a bit reluctant to embrace other online devices such as Twitter, I fully support Flickr as a means of communicating through the photographic medium to a wide range of different people whether they are students, media, public or researchers. Whether its photos of your library’s layout or images of some of your more interesting collections, Flickr can be used as an excellent marketing and outreach device and can be applied to a wealth of different situations.
I followed Cam23’s advice and now have an RSS feed of Sir Cam’s Flickr Photostream on my iGoogle page and its great! Nothing like a medical skeleton the brighten things up!