World Digital Library, and a celebration of hash and hashtags

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Okay, I admit it: the Internet can actually be pretty darn cool. I could happily waste hours of my youth exploring the World Digital Library. I mean, check it out, you can search through a basic search box, or a map, or a timeline, or a language. Or you can browse around. So many options! And yet you aren’t distressed by the options because they are laid out in such a clean, intuitive way, with the lovely map in center stage, the timeline beneath, and the other options up top, arranged clearly and obviously but unobtrusively.

And seriously, how awesome is this? A nineteenth-century historical and political atlas of one of my favorite countries, Chile. Allow me to state the obvious: the Internet allows you to see things that you never, ever would see otherwise. Of course, being alive and out in the world also allows you to see things that you wouldn’t see otherwise. I don’t know. I could rant for a bit about implications (that I imagine) of having this much magic at your fingertips, of not really having to work for some pretty amazing rewards. But that’s neither here nor there, and I’m in a good mood.

So, the WDL clearly has access to some hard-core web designers. The tweeters also, clearly, know what’s up, and they are vastly increasing my appreciation of hashtags. Many of the tags here are “#onthisday”, which signal the sort of tantalizing historical tidbit that the Smithsonian Libraries also used, though not quite as often or quite as effectively. Here, you get a quick fact and an image. And again, I could probably grouse about the downsides of this, how it feels sort of like cheating, how it lets you think you know something without any real work or engagement. Instead I’ll say, it’s an informational amuse-bouche. Classy!

Amuse bouche!

Image used under Creative Commons License.

Image above is from Wikipedia.

Hashtags are one way in which even a small organization can manage tweets. You retain all the wonderful randomness of topics, but you also make use of your controlled vocabulary skills to make information in your Twitter feed easily navigable and comprehensible to your users. I don’t think you need to be super-obsessive about creating this vocabulary. But what if everything that happened in the library, from a planned story hour to a surprise visit from Eddie Money, were nested under the broad heading of “#events”? New acquisitions, books the librarians are reading, and rearrangement of shelves could all be tagged with “#collection.”

And now, because WDL has inspired me to share the ephemera of my own life, I’ll close with a shout-out to Hash:

During the hash-making days in October the smell of her cooking spread as far as Inreliden and Lillåberg, and the folk went and stood out in their yards just to be able to breathe and sate themselves on the vapors and fragrances.

“You don’t happen to have the recipe?” Lars Högström asked.

“Recipe?” said Eva Marklund. “A recipe like that wouldn’t be possible. Who would be able to understand it? It could never be written down on paper, there’s a limit to what words can describe!

“But,” she went on, “I’m not one to complain. We must all be content with the hash we’ve been granted.” (from Hash by Torgny Lindgren, p. 54)

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