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Have you heard the phrase, “the internet of things”? The Internet of Things is the network of devices, vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data. So, this is the light bulb that you can turn on from your phone, or the fridge that emails you your shopping list. Often these ‘Things’ have their own app, but if you are anything like me, there are already too many apps, accounts, passwords, and websites to keep track of.
That is one of the reasons I like IFTTT (If This, Then That). IFTTT is the free way to get all your apps and devices talking to each other. Amazon’s Alexa doesn’t normally like to add things to the to-do list on an Apple iPhone, but IFTTT can make it happen. Your Domino’s Pizza Tracker can notify your HUE lightbulb and turn on your porchlight when the pizza delivery person pulls up. Yeah, way SciFi, and definitely on that scary but handy continuum. There are thousands of possible ‘Applets’, or if this, then that combinations, and many services that work with IFTTT. Appliances, business tools, clocks, cars, email, environmental controls, lighting, music, news, notes, security systems, your router, and even the Library of Congress are services you can use in an Applet.
So, what can this do for libraries? Let’s start with workflow and reporting. You can use an Applet to take any event added to your calendar and save it to a spreadsheet, which can be handy for keeping track of the number and type of events that you may have had in a year. Adding a new row in a Google Sheets document every time a tweet matches a particular search or hashtag can be a handy way to keep count and an eye on what Twitter is saying about your library. If you put a label on an email in Gmail you can create an entry in Google Sheets. This is a good way to keep track of the number of emails on a certain topic, or on book requests or other service requests. Actually, the Applet, ‘Keep a tally on anything’, can help you track Reference Interviews, interlibrary loans, people using computers… seriously anything. ‘When a new book is added to Kindle Top 100 eBooks send me an email’ applet and ‘When a new book is added to the NY Times Best Sellers List, send me an email’ applet can help your acquisitions process. They both utilize the RSS applet, so the possibilities for these sorts of recipes are endless. The blog Information Twist has a blog about using IFTTT to tweet about the weather and library visits in a cute way – https://informationtwist.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/its-raining-twitter-says-get-to-the-library/.
Play around with IFTTT and see what connects with your library.
Introducing your patrons to applets in IFTTT could even be as simple as using one to help them turn on their porch light when their car is a few blocks from home, so it might be a site to keep in your Bag of Tricks. Bag of Tricks is a virtual toolkit that you create to help familiarize yourself with new technology and websites that you or your patrons might find handy. Here’s an example of a Bag of Tricks that you can use as a jumping-off point for creating your own: https://padlet.com/kieran/CSLSHAREANDLEARN.
As we talked about in other parts of this Bag of Tricks series, having resources at your fingertips and a basic familiarity with up-and-coming technology can come in very handy for better serving patrons and can also give you a bit more confidence.