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No time for Websites by Subject: Best Practice?

LINKS! Hardy-har. I need some advice. When I help a library plan website changes, a list of "Websites by Subject" is frequently on the wish list. A list of high-quality, authoritative sources on locally-relevant topics can be helpful for patrons; however, in many cases library staff time is too limited to actually compile and maintain such a list. I've considered potential ideas, but each one has a downside:

  • Link to a library that already maintains a comprehensive list of websites by subject. Madison Public Library has a list like this, but will it confuse patrons when a link on their hometown library's website takes them to a different library's website?
  • Copy another library's list of websites by subject and put them on the new site. Even if this weren't a copyright violation, the copied list would still need to be maintained (weeding, fixing broken links, and adding new resources). It only saves staff time for a little while. (And it is a copyright violation if you don't get permission first.)
  • Link to a resource like ipl2. Well maintained, but it lacks that local focus.
  • Don't include a list of websites by subject at all. Does this do patrons a disservice?

If there isn't a good solution to this problem, which one is the least bad? Are there alternatives I'm overlooking? Let me know in the comments!


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I'm completely ignoring the (well-said) point of this post, but I'm confused at how copying another library's list would be a copyright violation.

I'm somewhat of a copyright wonk, and searching for an answer led me to believe that compilations have only weak copyright protection. Like, oh, the information in a phone book, or a recipe.

The recipe might have copyrightable material, but it's in how the recipe is phrased, not the recipe itself.

In this case, I'm not seeing how a list of websites by subject would be more protected than the phone book.

The descriptions of the web pages, though, would doubtlessly be covered by copyright. Is that what you meant?

You might want to consider using Delicious or a delicious-like service (I'd suggest pinboard) to crowdsource locally relevant websites from your librarians. This way you don't put the onus on a single librarian or depend on an outside institution.

Pinboard uses a copy the v1 Delicious API so you can copy some of the existing widgets that use delicious without any major overhauls.

Just have a look at the usage statistics of these lists... and your find your problem solved ;-)
Librarians have to understand that providing a "dead" list is useless ; if they really want to emphasize valuable websites, they have to "editorialize" them - and it's a real work...

@Clay: Yes, my copyright concern is primarily based on the annotations that often accompany the links. I believe you are correct about lists of links without annotations having weak copyright protection.

@Brett: Crowd-sourcing the links might work. In small libraries, website maintenance is often assigned to one employee -- maybe broader participation would be more viable with a tool like Delicious/Pinboard.

@Marlene: For libraries that don't already have lists of websites by subject and are considering developing them, maybe I should be analyzing usage statistics from other libraries in the region?

There are websites such as BUBL Link that catalogue websites for scholarly purposes, although they are associated with a university, it's not blatantly obvous that this is the case. There are probabaly other sites like this and it's worth using them if the staff at the library don't have the resources or time to create their own list which probably wouldn't be as complete as a website which has dedicated such such as BUBL. http://link.bubl.ac.uk/reference/

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