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Image Sharing

A good start for this post would be with the site Flickr…a photo sharing site that is made possible by the ease with which an individual can upload an image from a camera onto a computer. Similar abilities exist on Facebook and MySpace (discussed in further detail in an earlier post), but Flickr stands apart from these other two in that its sole purpose is the uploading and viewing of images.

Libraries have been joining, as indicated by this thread, and uploading.

Let’s create a list here of libraries that have Flickr accounts. Please list the library name and the Flicrk URL. We’ll compile the entire list here in a few weeks.

Though the initial estimate of ‘a few weeks’ is a little off, seeing as it was posted over three years ago. As recently as 2 days ago, the most recent library joined the sharing; VPL posted their site this past December.

Posting news on library wikis and blogs is mainly focused at the users of an individual library, but images can be viewed by almost anyone and still possess meaning. Sharing images is a way for libraries to connect with their users (the theme of most of the posts on this blog) as well as with each other.

This blog generated a lot of responses when it asked if readers, “know of any examples of a library using Flickr that…are particularly cool.” Of the 19 responses over the two weeks following the initial post, several of the libraries reported using Flickr to show the progress of renovations or remodeling going on the building.  One reported uploading images of programming and another for an art contest.

While users of these individual libraries would have to be familiar with the workings of Flickr to browse their way to these pictures, the libraries can also make the link available on their website. On the Denver Public Library site, they do have a Flickr link, though it is hard to find, thus minimizing its traffic. The University of Michigan’s library Flickr page was much easier to find, and features pictures uploaded by several different members.

The downside to sites like Flickr and Photobucket is how young they are; they’ve yet to be legislated. This leads to uncertainty and, unfortunately, allegations of wrongdoing. This past September, tametheweb.com asked the void whether or not libraries should be using Flickr. The response was a bit mixed…one of the replies argued the point that people may be unknowingly photographed, only to have that image picked up and randomly circulated throughout the internet. Another memorable reply rebuked the author for even asking the question, saying:

I think this analysis stinks. Not that it isn’t accurate nor am I to argue any points, however, this kind of thinking is exactly why libraries don’t try new things. We try to play by the book when no one else is. We try to protect user privacy when they don’t care. It cripples us. No one is going to sue me because I put someone’s face on my library’s flickr account. They think it’s awesome!

Part of the enjoyment to be had from these sites is the communal nature of them…a collection of images uploaded by a large number of people will likely produce some good pictures of enjoyable activities. One aspect of Flickr that hasn’t even been discussed here is the tagging of images. Users are enabled to give their images labels, like this author enjoys doing for his blog posts. This concept, tagging, is also a recent development, and a subject unto itself. We’ll just let that go for now.

The moral for dealing with the sensitive nature of taking pictures of people is addressed here, a post also mentioned on that same tametheweb post. The simple way to avoid getting into trouble is to either avoid taking pictures of people that can be identified, or to have some type of disclaimer signed by the would-be subjects of the picture. After that, photos should be good to go up on the web.

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