Using Mashups and API in the Library

Ah, the end is here. This week marks the last lesson in MLA’s Intro to Web 2.0 class. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned much about many helpful (or just plain fun) tools that I otherwise wouldn’t have experimented with. That said, I’m glad to be at the end, especially if this week’s topic is any indication of what’s to come next!

Maybe I’m just tired of the tools now, but for whatever reason, I feel mashups and API are beyond the grasp of this librarian. Can there be a use for them in the library? Like everything else we’ve looked at, I can say wholeheartedly, “maybe”. But unlike the other tools we examined in the course, the creation and/or implementation of mashups appear more than I at least want to tackle. And that alone makes them problematic for a library.

This is not to say that I am the Great and Powerful Oz and if I personally cannot create and/or implement a mashup, no one can. But what it does mean is that they appear – in my very brief and initial introduction to them – to be the type of thing that requires a systems person or an IT person or just some librarian with enough time and geekiness quotient to tackle them. Fortunately, we have such folks in our libraries, but the need to use the expertise of such folks in turn limits the number of folks who could and/or would ultimately take advantage of this tool.

More, I can certainly understand the interest to combine things with maps, but honestly… need it be practically everything? Books and airplane flights and auction sites and video arcades and weather and news and women and worksites. The list is neverending. By a larger margin that the Boston Red Sox might beat the Kanosha, Wisconsin Little Leaguers, the tag “mapping” outpaces all others on ProgrammableWeb’s mashup directory. People are utterly fascinated with maps, but are they really all necessary?

It kind of reminds me of the latest trend whereby everyone seems to need a GPS device attached to their windshield. Seriously, the Mass Turnpike is pretty much a straight line across the state with only so many exits off of it. In fact, Interstate 90 overall is pretty much a straight line from Boston to Seattle. Is it really that complicated a route that you need to look at a little screen on your windshield instead of the road in front of you? Trust me, we drove it from one end to the other a couple of years ago completely gizmo-free. And we made it.

So I think I’ll pass on the obsession with bells and whistles right now and I think I’ll pass on recommending this tool to my library right now.

[We were supposed to find one mashup that we liked. To fulfill that requirement, I confess that FlickrSoduko is pretty cool.]

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