Tech Roundup

Technology Committee members here at Towson University’s Cook Library are always on the hunt for new technology applications to bring into the library or technology-related issues our library should be addressing.  As we scour the internet for important, interesting, or just plain cool examples of technology applications, issues, or news, we post links and  summaries with our take here to the blog.

“Digitizing Our Stories”

Hack Library School is a great LIS student blog which frequently discusses relevant library technology topics. I found a recent article very thought provoking as the author pointed out how important digital service is, beyond just an online catalog. So I searched through a few of my favorite library blogs to find examples of expanded digital services.

  • Information Tyrannosaur – author Andy Burkhardt wrote about the use of Twitter for libraries
  • Information Wants To Be Free – author Meredith Farkas summarized her online research methods and the technology that helps her stay organized, including the use of Mendeley, a desktop citation management tool that she runs a library workshop on.
  • Librarian in Black – author Sarah Houghton attended the Internet Librarian conference and summarized many of the sessions she attended in her blog. One which I found fun was the Speed Technology Dating entry, which provided a list of fun technologies you can hear about briefly and maybe research further.

Submitted by Laksamee

MacBook Vending Machine

An article from TechHive that details a laptop vending machine that Drexel University’s library uses to loan laptops to its students. The program was designed, in part, to respond to student safety concerns about carrying their personal computers to and from the library late at night. What to know more? Check out the Drexel news blog.

Submitted by Matt M.

Wolfram Alpha

WolframAlpha defines itself as a “computational knowledge engine”. Instead of searching the internet for text similar to your search and providing you with links, WolframAlpha attempts to contextualize your search and return meaningful data. This ranges from simple to complex possibilities, for example search the word ‘orange’ and results include the wavelength of the color or the nutritional value of the fruit. The engine is especially good with numbers and pulling data to create meaningful statistical analysis. This is perhaps most obvious after entering ‘facebook report’ into the search box, and after setting permissions, users will get an amazing page full of facts about themselves based on their Facebook history. Word clouds of status updates, a visualization of how all your friends are connected, which of your pictures received the most ‘likes’, the list goes on. If your library has a Facebook page, you are receiving a weekly statistics update email, however consider sending the page through WolframAlpha for additional depth.

Submitted by Laksamee

Undergraduate Students & Technology

An infographic from the “Bachelor Degrees Online” blog that highlights some trends in undergraduate student technology use. With data from the 2012 ECAR Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, this infographic highlights the types and brands of devices students use, as well as how they use these devices in their academic lives. As libraries continue to develop services for users in the digital space, data on user populations can be useful when setting priorities, designing programs and/or websites, or trying to understand the user’s technology environment.

Submitted by Kim

What do you think about some of the issues or technologies presented?  Have you found anything interesting online this week? Share in the comments!

Managing Social Media with IFTTT

Yesterday I attended the first *official* meeting of the Maryland Library Association’s Social Media User Group. The primary discussion focused around a panel of local library professionals who are active in managing library social media accounts. Throughout this discussion, several tools were mentioned for managing multiple social media accounts to create a cohesive presence across platforms. With many of the panelists singing the praises of “IFTTT” for managing content, and several attendees left wanting to know more, the site seems ripe for further discussion in the library world.

What is “IFTTT?”

If This Then That logo

“IFTTT” (pronounced like “gift” without the “g”) stands for “If This Then That.” It is a web-based service that allows you to create automatic connections between different internet applications. These applications, which IFTTT calls “channels,” currently include over 50 sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Delicious, as well as productivity applications like email and Google Drive. Once you’ve created your IFTTT account, you can activate any of the channels in which you have an account and would like to link to other applications.

After activating channels, you will be able to create “recipes” to automatically link content across accounts or to automate activities you perform frequently. Recipes consist of a “trigger” from one channel that leads to an “action” in another channel. Want to archive your Facebook posts as a journal in Evernote? Or automatically post a link of your most recent blog post to your Facebook timeline? Create a recipe!

Recipes in IFTTT

Create Recipe in IFTTT

Create a Recipe in IFTTT

IFTTT gives you the option to set up personal recipes or share your recipes with other users. This means there are already several shared recipes set up for IFTTT channels that you can use or view as examples.

IFTTT leads you through creating a new recipe in a few simple steps. Let’s say I want all of our new LibTechTalk posts to automatically appear as links on my Facebook page. First, I select the channel that will initiate the trigger (or the “this” in the “if this then that” chain).

Choose Trigger in IFTTT

Choosing a trigger channel in IFTTT

Once I’ve selected a channel, I need to choose a trigger action. For this recipe, I’ll choose “Any new post” in the WordPress channel. This means my recipe will be “triggered” every time a new post appears on LibTechTalk.

Choose Trigger in IFTTT

Choose “Any new post” in the WordPress as the recipe trigger.

Next, I choose the channel in which I want the next action to occur (or the “that” in the “if this then that” chain).

Choose action in IFTTT

Setting up an action

In this case, I want the action to occur on my Facebook page, and will select the Facebook channel accordingly. Then, I’ll choose the action I want to occur in Facebook, in this case “Create a link post.”

Choose action in IFTTT

Choose an action in IFTTT

After selecting the action, I can customize how the post will appear in on my Facebook page.

Complete action in IFTTT

Customize an action

Finally, add in a description of the recipe and I’m done! I can also choose to share the recipe with other users, turn the recipe “off,” or delete the recipe altogether.

Finished personal recipe

A personal recipe in IFTTT


Although IFTTT does not allow you to monitor any of the activity in your social media accounts, it takes some of the hassle out of linking activities and content across several different sites. You will still need to manage the spontaneous engagement that is so important in cultivating a vibrant social media presence, but IFTTT can help you automate the routine tasks you find yourself completing time and time again. Best of all, IFTTT is free to use and can be accessed anywhere you have internet access.

Ready to dive into IFTTT?

How do you use IFTTT? Do you have any great recipes? Tell us in the comments!