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#2 Customize Your Window to the Internet

2011 March 29
by nditullio

Overview:

Ever wish you could create a customized homepage for your library patrons, or even for yourself?  Well, now you can!  There are several customizable homepage options out there: iGoogle, Netvibes, and My Yahoo! are just a few of them.

What exactly is a customizable homepage?  It is a space where you can specify what you see when you open up your internet browser.  Want to see the weather?  News?  Blogs?  Your customizable homepage can show you all of these things, without leaving your homepage.

Most customizable homepages allow you to organize the content that you see (news, weather, websites, even Facebook and Twitter) into something called a widget.  A widget can be thought of as a mini-window that shows information from a specific website.

Why would you want to create a customizable homepage? 

Think of it this way: If you created a customizable homepage through a service like Netvibes, your staff could have instant access to their email, updates to blogs that they read, and any other news or resources applicable to their work from the very first page that comes up on their computer.

A few of these services even allow you to make your customizable homepage public, meaning that you could have your public access computers set to open to that homepage.  That way, you control what your patrons see when they first access the internet!  This is a way to easily highlight databases, library websites, job resources, and more.

Let’s take a closer look at two of the most popular systems out there, iGoogle and Netvibes.

iGoogle

[Note: iGoogle will cease operation in November 2013, amid outcries from many people who still use it and still believe it to be relevant. As iGoogle was a formidable force in the world of customizable Internet home pages, we are leaving this information in this "method" for historical purposes at this time and will remove it once it ceases operation.]

If you have a Gmail account, you have the ability to create an iGoogle homepage!  You can go to http://www.google.com/ig, click on the Sign In link, and sign in with your Gmail user name and password to get started.

Take a look at this video to get a general overview of how iGoogle works:

One of the great pluses of using iGoogle is that if you already have a Gmail account, you will have immediate access to iGoogle.  iGoogle works similarly to other Google products, making the learning curve pretty low.  One of the negatives, however, is that there is no way of making iGoogle a public page, so there is no true way of making an iGoogle page for your public workstations.  You or your staff could, however, make one for their own workstations; this is a great productivity tool and can save a good deal of time!

Netvibes

One of the major competitors to iGoogle is Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com).  Take a look at this overview of Netvibes:

Netvibes is very similar to iGoogle in its ability to select widgets from which to view information.  One of the great pluses to Netvibes is that you can make your Netvibes page public, which makes it a viable option for creating customizable homepages for public access computers.

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Read this July 2012 PC World article Three Alternatives to Your iGoogle Home Page.
  2. Read this July 2012 Information Week article iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes.
  3. Read this article on using customizable homepages in a staff environment.
  4. Take a look at how some libraries are using Netvibes:
  5. If you would like, log on to Netvibes (creating a Netvibes account). Play around, and have fun!
  6. Create a blog post (titled “Beyond Method #2″) about which customizable homepage looks to be the best option for librarians.  Explain what you think you could do with a customizable home page.

More information for the curious:

1) Take a look at this historic article for some good background information on start pages in libraries:

Start Pages as Library Virtual Reference Tools

2) If you have time, take a look at this archived webinar from the Texas State Library & Archives Commission: Tech Tools with Tine: 1 hour of Netvibes!

3) Take a look at this My Yahoo! What’s New page to learn more about what you can do with this customizable homepage service from Yahoo!  Want to try it?  Go to http://my.yahoo.com/.

Finished learning this Advanced Dance Method? When you’re ready, move on to Method 3.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Cheri Norris permalink
    July 9, 2011

    This has been so much fun! I showed my 19 year old granddaughter the “iGoogle” homepage designer and she loved it. We are having such fun looking at all the offerings they have.

    Can see where this could be really useful for a public library page. Frequently used tools such as get directions and dictionary could be displayed for easy access.

  2. December 15, 2011

    The Houston Public library has really juiced up their site and customized it for their patrons. I certainly see how a large area with several branches would benefit from this technology. In our rural community our staff takes great pride in actually knowing our patrons. We make an effort to provide personal our service to each patron, addressing them by name and asking after pets, children, grandchildren, projects, etc….. It is an aspect of the library I genuinely love. Because we are smaller we are able to provide specialized care for our individual patrons.

    If/when technology gets so far advanced that we’re talking to each other on devices that are literally part of our physiology THEN I’ll be ready! :)

  3. Jean Steinhardt permalink
    March 24, 2012

    NetVibes is quite amazing. I already had an iGoogle dashboard. Now I have to decide which one I like better … or whether I need both.

  4. May 16, 2012

    The Cranbury and Dublin City public libraries have great sites! I like that NetVibes has podcasts available. Some of our students are really interested in listening to them.

  5. June 18, 2012

    I already use iGoogle, so for this exercise I tried Netvibes. There are much more capabilities on Netvibes than iGoogle.

    It depends what you want to do. I think IGoogle is great for a personal site, but the Netvibes will be better for a library since there are many other options.

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