First of all, I have to admit to having a major "Well, DUH!" moment when I clicked on this 'thing'. I know we have access to ELM, really. At least somewhere in the back of my mind I do...I just had forgotten about how much information ELM actually has! For the last few years, I've used the databases of the schools I've gone to when doing research. But, not everyone has access to those same databases, but they do have access to ELM. I've also used all of the different parts of this "Thing" at one time or another for my own research, so I already know how to use them. I can tell you this will be my newest del.icio.us link!
What I like about ELM is the ease of use, and how things are sorted into categories. Need biographical information? No problem. Need information on the Arts? Again, no problem.
How can these tools be applied to your everyday work?
For my everyday work, I can set up folders to pull in news articles and other information about whatever our current needs are. They could also be used to create pathfinders for our research needs.
How can these tools facilitate collaboration with your colleagues? Even just thinking about some of the group projects I've had to do over the last few years...wow, would this have come in handy more than once. Especially on the projects which involve doing lots of research supported by various articles and sources. The same could be done in a work setting. If a project is being done, and different people are responsible for bringing different parts to the table, so to speak, all of the items could be brought together in a central space.
How can these tools benefit your patrons/students? I think that many of our patrons think about using Google as a first stop on the information highway. But, sometimes Google gives too much information, which the patron then has to sort through.
One of the things I think could be done with these tools is to start to create some pathfinders for the school assignments that we know we'll be asked to find information for. Sometimes when a patron is doing an assignment for a class, there are particular source criteria that needs to be met--ELM can help with that, plus add some multimedia sources as well.
There are other reference sources that I use as well, and probably will continue to do so. But for the everyday patron, ELM is something that they themselves can access from home too.