29 September 2008

#22 Social networking and libraries

Social networking sites offer libraries the opportunity to reach out to potential and actual patrons at the places where they gather socially. At present the target group is teenagers to early twenties as is it the group that is most active in online social networks.

What kind of opportunities does a presence in online social networks offer a library?
  • Relationship building - both maintaining relationship with current patrons and reaching out (making contact) with new/potential patrons
  • Publicity and promotion of library events and services
  • Raising the library's profile, enhancing visibility within a particular group who may not otherwise consider the library as a possible contact point or resource
  • Picking up trends relevant to that social group
  • Getting new ideas, new insights and another perspective from interaction with the group
  • It's about connecting with patrons and how we can help them.
A lot is written about networking in the business literature and I think some of the advice on networking in the 'real' world is also applicable in online social networking (or virtual world). Advice that is of use in all networking environments:
  • Listen to your contacts to see where you share interest and goals
  • You need to be clear in what goals you want to achieve with networking
  • You must be able to convey clearly what you (or your organisation) do to find points of common interest
  • Follow up quickly and offer feedback where appropriate
  • Good and effective networking takes time and dedication
I think for libraries to have a meaningful presence in online social networks they should regard their social space as a service delivery point which should receive the same effort and support as the other service delivery points, such as the physical library space and the website.

As the majority of the social network users are individuals, it would make sense to have a 'representative' in the profile. It is always much easier to connect with a person rather than a 'faceless' organisation.

As always, we shouldn't neglect to link our services. I have come across many library blogs with no links to the library website, or vice versa. The same should also happen in social network spaces - links to the website and on the website links to the social network (and other online activities).

What an exciting era for the library - so many ways of communicating with and delivering services to the public. It also presents a challenge to reach our patrons and not get lost in a sea of information and distractions.

24 September 2008

#21 Get social

I have known about social networking for some time, but have not yet used them myself. So with this exercise I had a closer look at social networking.

Both Auckland and Rotorua Libraries' Bebo sites look good - obviously pitched towards the Young Adult library patrons. It is a good place to meet that group because that is where many of them spend their time socialising / keeping in contact. (They are known as the 'connected' generation.) Facebook doesn't allow exploration unless you sign up, though a colleague with a Facebook account has shown me a bit of Facebook. Had a look at MySpace - people's profiles, forums. The conversations seem so meaningless. Maybe if you have an account and develop relationships over time the nature of the conversations will change. Or, maybe the public profiles have parts they keep private. It would, of course, be a different story if you know that person in 'real' life, which makes sense to me. I know of a few people who keep in contact with family and friends through social networking sites.

Generally, I found these sites looking busy/cluttered. There is a whole culture in using social networking sites - came across this blog that is about Facebook etiquette - but at this stage I still feel reluctant to join. It looks like a lot of work and time involved. Tristan Louis wrote this article on 5 reasons why social networks fail. The points mentioned makes sense, but I found the comments on the post revealing especially those that relate their personal experiences on social networking:
  • We use these to keep in touch with people we ALREADY know or have met.
  • I have been in several groups over a number of years. It depends on what you put into a group as to what you get back. As my life has changed, I have moved away from some groups and toward others. It can be a lot of work.
  • I’ve yet to visit a network where I don’t think ‘what now?’. Okay, it’s a ‘lean back’ activity for people who want to browse / kill time, but man, I can think of better ways.
  • ... people are much more public in showing their character and have the opportunity to do so, much more easily online.
He also wrote another article on 5 reasons why social networks can succeed - very interesting points we need to take note of if the library wants to get involved in social networking.

There are also social networking sites for older adults: Eons, Rezoom, Multiply, Boomj, Boomertown. These sites have a different look - more uncluttered with articles of general interest to older adults. Will explore them when I have more time after this programme. Topic social networks, like Ning, attracts people interested in a specific topic - some more explorations to do later. Another place to learn more about social networks is this social networking watch site and this Social networking blog. Social networking is, like any web service, developing fast and it will be interesting to watch the emerging trends.

22 September 2008

#20: eBooks

It is wonderful that so many books are available online. As expected there were many of the well-known classics on the Project Gutenberg site. To see how the search engine works, I tried out a quick search, using Advanced Search: house keeping in the full text search box, Language - English, LoCC - Technology Home Economics. Results = 70 books. Here are a few interesting titles:
It would have been helpful if there was an indication of the publication date. Full text searching opens up this collection for research. Downloading is easy and, depending on the file size, done fairly quickly. The site is also easy to navigate. (I was delighted to find this book: Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont. Browsing through it reminded me of my grandmother's embroidery.) Had a look at the audiobooks as well. As expected audio files take a bit longer than text to download. Didn't like the computer generated audiobooks - that emotionless voice is creepy to listen to. It was also interesting to see the links to Wikipedia articles on authors - very useful. Project Gutenberg is definitely a site to keep in mind for reference purposes.

LibriVox was another interesting site. I'm impressed by the choices the site offers. Had a look at a few titles. Many of the classics have links to Wikipedia articles (author and title links), also sometimes links to Gutenberg e-text, gives you a choice to download individual chapters or the entire work in a zip file, also the choice to subscribe to RSS chapter-a-day in iTunes. As with all audiobooks, the reader can play a role in your enjoyment of the book, and the audio files are big, so time is a factor when deciding to download. Although a third of the titles are nonfiction (530 at time of writing), it isn't catalogued according to subjects, which makes it more difficult to find information. I think the way to approach nonfiction at LibriVox is to know the title or author of the work you are looking for and not use LibriVox for subject searching.

Google Book Search is a delight to look through. I was surprised to see books published in 2008 listed, e.g. The book of love by Andrew M. Greeley & Mary G. Durkin. This search engine can be very useful in reference work. For example: I did a search for burial artefacts of an ancient Ahtens priestess' grave (a year 12 Classical studies project) and came across a book that had exactly the information I was looking for - will recommend that book for purchase for our library. As with all Google searches you will have to define your search well to avoid getting a long list of irrelevant items.

While doing this exercise I couldn't help but marvel again at the amount of information available at our fingertips and the possibilities the new media opens up. Though, having said that - it is still easier and more comfortable to read printed text. And it isn't just me and people of my generation that will agree with this, but young people who have grown up with computers and the internet will often ask for a hard copy for that same reason.

17 September 2008

Podcast issues

Since looking at podcasts I have seen quite a few that could be useful for answering reference questions. Often students need different formats of information for their projects. Podcasts can give them both visual and audio formats. I'm thinking about interviews with authors, commentaries on science and technology, social & political commentaries and podcasts on historical events/eras. But, to be able to incorporate podcasts in our arsenal of sources there are a few technical issues to consider.

The first one is content. We are so used to have access to an overwhelming amount of information and recreation sites in text format that podcasts seems a fairly paltry offering in comparison. That means it is harder to find a good podcast that appeals to you or that you will find useful.

The audio/visual format of podcasts makes it harder to search for them. So far the web is primarily geared towards text searching. The full content of the text can be searched and it is much easier to find relevant items. The search for podcast content relies mostly on the description and written reviews. There is a video search engine Blinx that claims it "uses a unique combination of patented conceptual search, speech recognition and video analysis software to efficiently, automatically and accurately find and qualify online video." Will have to play around with the different search engines to compare the results.

Another issue about the text based web is that you can quickly skim through text to get an indication of its relevancy/appeal. That's not the case with audio and video formats. First of all it is much slower to download, then you have to listen/watch it before you really can decide whether this is what you are looking for. So it requires much more in terms of time and patience, which are in short supply at times. That is maybe why a large percentage of podcasts is about music.

Then there is the technical issue of different file formats that need to be played in different podcatchers. And also feeds that may or may not have been created and hunting for the feed link on the page which doesn't use the conventional feed icon - it all caused a lot of confusion. It was so easy to subscribe to some podcasts, others were so difficult to finally be able to subscribe to, and there were quite a few that looked interesting but were impossible to subscribe to for some known/unknown reason(s).

Now that I have subscribed to a few podcasts, it will require a lifestyle change to make use of them. I thought that the best way to do it is to download them once a week from my Bloglines account onto my mp3 player and then listen to the podcasts while driving in the car or doing boring housework. (Learning to use my mp3 player is another skill I still have to master - once I can remember to charge it and take it with me.) These are my thoughts on podcasts written down so now my mind can let it go and concentrate on the next thing.

14 September 2008

#19 Podcasts - New Zealand and libraries

New Zealand podcasts:

Looking for New Zealand podcasts and podcast directories I found the following:

Skimming through the directories it seems that some of the podcasts are experimental and the ones that are steady in forthcoming podcasts are from the main media, which indicates that a lot of the podcasts are from amateurs that podcasts when they have time.

Libraries and podcasting:

Looking at the buzz in the library world - what is being said about the use of podcasts for libraries, advice and how-to articles - shows a variety in the uptake of podcasting as a medium to promote services, inform patrons and deliver information. Here are a few of the sites I looked at:

I found this very interesting article: The age of podcasting: How newsrooms in the United Kingdom are using the iPod revolution to their advantage. Lessons for New Zealand about podcasting and online audio/video operations. Although it focus on news media, there are a few points that could apply to the use of podcasts in a library setting. I have just skimmed through it and would like to get back to it.

13 September 2008

#19 Podcasts

Although I knew about podcasts I hadn't had a good look at them until this exercise. I have downloaded French language lesson podcasts earlier this year for my daughter in case she would like to use them for revision. (Yeah right - I know! But she did listen to the first three because it was difficult to ignore my enthusiastic expectations.)

The great variety of topics make it difficult to limit to a few - so much to read / view / listen to and so little time! I looked at the podcast directories listed in the exercise notes and also did a Google search for popular podcasts to see what people are listening to. Some interesting ones I came across in my search:
This is just a short list of what caught my attention. I didn't include anything on music which make up a large percentage of podcasts, or on culture, politics and comedy. There were quite a few inspirational podcasts - some to which I have subscribed and a whole lot on science and technology for which I need more time to explore. There were also serial novels which reminded me of the days when we used to listen each night to stories on the radio after dinner - oh the magic voice lends to a story, but I need more time to look at those as well. (Oh time, time, time!)

There is more I will write about in a next post. I need to record my discoveries and experiences for now as there is so much more to explore and think about on podcast.

12 September 2008

#18 YouTube

YouTube is another of those sites where you can spend a lot of time both in enjoyment and in frustration - enjoyment in watching all those fascinating and funny videos, in frustration waiting for the video to download and also searching for the gems amongst the junk. The first videos I watched on Internet a few years ago was when R showed us this beer commercial. We still love watching it:

I opened a YouTube account soon after that and every now and then visit the site to look at some interesting videos people recommend via emails, blogs and other forums. One of those videos was Evolution of Dance by comedian Judson Laipply. This video was the most popular video of all time according a blog post of the ReadWriteWeb blog.(Viewed 98,368,870 at time of writing.)That was in 2007. Of course things change over time and in 2008 Google Blogoscoped reported that CANSEI DE SER SEXY Music is My Hot Hot Sex is the most popular video - viewed 13,746,509 at time of writing. What I find puzzling is that neither video is listed on YouTube's most viewed videos of all time.

Another interesting series of videos I came cross was this Manga artist, which I'm sure some of our patrons would be very interested in - beautiful, expressive drawings. The YouTube videos cover all kinds of subjects. I can remember that a student once needed information in audiovisual format and we found a suitable video on YouTube.

Video is a very versatile medium which can be effectively used for marketing & promotion, instruction, information and recording of events. This list of 100 Awesome Youtube Vids for Librarians compiled by Laura Milligan illustrates the many ways video can be used by libraries. Looking at many of the YouTube videos I think that making videos for the library should be done by professionals to project the right image and quality of presentation.

Having mentioned professionalism, the video I want to share with you is a typical home video, but it has an amazing story. It is a bit long (8.24 minutes) but worth the wait while downloading it. IslandSchoolHongKong did a remix and shortened it to one version of 4.09 minutes and another shorther version of 2.58 minutes. This video caused such a sensation that it caught the attention of the main media and there is an entry in Wikipedia. Enjoy!