Automate with “If This Then That”

IFTTT (pronounced pronounced like gift without the g) is a service that lets you connect different services using simple recipes in the form of If/Then statements — if this thing happens, do that thing. You set these up by using shared recipes or creating your own through the IFFT site’s beautifully simple interface, no code required. There’s a good, simple overview of the process on the About IFFFT page.

The site is built around Channels, most of which are various websites that provide access to their system through an API (Application Programming Interface, a way for computer systems to interact without users going through the interface. Some of the popular channels include Flickr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Calendar and Dropbox, while others are basic actions on your system like the date and time, sending texts, making phone calls and accessing iOS photos.

Each service has a set of triggers and/or actions that can be connected in different ways. For example, you can set up a recipe so that every time you upload a public picture to your library’s Flickr account, a copy of the original photo is saved to the library’s Dropbox account. (This could be handy if several different people upload to the Flickr account and you want to make sure you have backup copies of all the images.) You can do the same thing with other sites like Facebook or Instagram, and in addition to DropBox IFTTT supports Google Drive or other similar services. Most recipes can be set up on the website, but to access some some triggers, you’ll need to add the IFFT app to your mobile device. For example, I set up the IFFT app on my iPad to copy every new screenshot I make on the iPad to a special folder on in Dopbox so I can easily access them while working with PowerPoint on my laptop.

There are eighty different channels, most of which have multiple triggers and actions, so there are lots of different combinations to try. Right now the ESPN Winter Olympics is a channel, and you can set up all kinds of recipes, including one that posts a Tweet when a particular country wins a gold medal, and one that automatically updates a Google spreadsheet for a country’s medals.

IFTTT: ESPN Winter Olympics

As a librarian, my favorite recipe is one that sends me an e-mail message every time a title is added to one of the New York Times Bestsellers lists. I could just as easily set this up to send me a text, send the news out on Twitter, or add the book’s information to a spreadsheet.


This screencast shows how simple it is to set this up:

Using IFTTT makes me wish we could interact this easily with with our library system! NOBLE uses the Evergreen open source library system, which also uses triggers and actions to handle a lot of tasks, but they are certainly not as simple to set up, monitor and manage as the recipes on IFTTT. I wish we had a web-based interface similar to IFFT with triggers and actions for both staff and patrons. Staff could set up all sorts of alerts and have the system automatically create and add to spreadsheets. Instead of “When the U.S. wins a medal ad the information to a spreadsheet called Winter Olympics U.S. Medals” I want to be able to say “When my library has a copy with the location Biographies that is 60 days overdue, add it to a spreadsheet called Biography Replacements.” Or perhaps it could go ahead and create a purchase order for approval. Library users could set up all sorts of things “When a new book with a subject that contains “Origami” is added to my library’s collection, send me an e-mail message, place a hold for me, and add it to my bookbag called Japanese Arts.”

Embed a Tweet on Your Blog or Website

It’s easy to share a tweet on your library blog or website. You might want to do this if you’re writing about Twitter itself, or if there’s a tweet on your library’s Twitter account that you want to share. Or you might see a tweet on someone else’s account that you want to share. You can just quote the words, of course. You can just quote the words, but it’s easy and effective to embed the tweet directly in a post or page. This presents it in the Twitter context, with all the metadata including date, time and location information, with all links active, including Favorite, Retweet and Reply.

Here are two examples, taken from my personal Twitter account, the first just a plain tweet without an image, and the second with an image:

You’ll find the Embed option under More on the Twitter website: just copy and paste the code and added it to post or page. If you’re using WordPress, it’s even easier. First, find the URL for the individual post by clicking on the date/time stamp for the post. (For new posts, it will give a number of minutes or hours since it was posed, for example, 30m or 2h, otherwise it will have a date, like 18 Aug. Copy the link location or follow the link to get the URL, which will look like this:

Paste it on a new line in a post or page, save the draft and click Preview to see how it looks.

This is a useful WordPress feature, something that formerly required the use of a plugin. But there are times when you want to show the URL for a tweet without having it embedded in the post, as I did above. Just make the URL bold or enclose it in the <code></code> tag to turn off the embedding.

Spring Library Photographs

Swampscott Public LibraryIt’s spring! Birds are singing, trees are blossoming and flowers are blooming. It’s a good time to take the camera outside and take some pictures of your library in all its spring loveliness to put on your library’s website or post on Flickr or Facebook.

Sometimes we’re so focused on taking pictures inside the library, showing our services, displays and programs that we don’t think about stepping outside to take pictures of the library building and grounds. But these outdoor shots show the library as members of our community experience the library every day as they walk by, drive by or come for a visit. And if your photographs showcase trees and plants, be sure to identify them in your title or description — consider it preventative reference!

Peabody Institute Library of DanversThese seasonal pictures are also nice additions to Flickr groups. Many libraries add their pictures to library groups, like Libraries and Librarians. That’s great, but pictures there will mostly be seen by other librarians. Consider also posting them in regional and local groups, like Boston and Surrounding ‘Burbs or North Shore, Massachusetts. There are also groups for many individual cities and towns — do a Group Search to see what’s out there. Adding your library photos to these groups helps them be seen by members of your own community — just another way to remind them we’re here! And of course you’ll want to feature these pictures on your library website, Facebook page, Pinterest boards, and anywhere else you can think of it.

Just get out there and take those pictures while the trees are still blooming!

[Sightly updated and reposted from 2009]

WordPress Plugin: Enable Media Replace

This simple WordPress plugin created by Måns Jonasson is useful for almost anyone who maintains a WordPress site of any size, but it’s especially useful if you maintain documentation of any kind and have a frequent need to update screenshots. It does exactly what the name implies — it makes it easy for you to replace one image file (or any other type of file) with another. No more uploading a new file and deleting the old one, or confusion over versions or file names.

Once you install and activate this plugin, you’ll find a new button labelled Replace Media at the bottom of the Edit Media page. Click this and browse and select a file from your computer. You then have two choices — you can either retain the original file name (renaming the file you’re uploading if necessary) or you can replace the file and use the new file name, changing all existing links to the old file to point to the new one. For the first option, you need to be uploading a file of the same type, but for the second option you can replace your original file with one of a different file type, like a gif with a jpg or a Word document with a PDF. Nothing fancy, but a great timesaver!

Enable Media Replace — Read more or download this popular plugin here

[Enable Media Replace Screenshot]

Enable Media Replace Screenshot

1 2 3 20