Final Thoughts

I came to this class at the beginning of the term knowing a lot about social media, and a fair amount about emerging technologies, but I wasn’t sure how they would be effectively used. I’ve seen many organizations (including my own employer) attempt to use tools like Facebook and Twitter, and either fail or at best have middling success. There have also been some great successes, but those have generally been marketing campaigns. Despite this, I wanted to be convinced that it could be done, and I think that by the end of this class I have been.

What I’ve really learned is that it isn’t about the tools themselves, but it is about the people behind them. These are social tools, so the motivation of those using them should be to create relationships and conversations. When they are used to simply blast information at people, that’s when they fail. So our job as librarians is to have a goal when we set out implementing new technologies. We need to ask questions like:

  1. Who do we want to reach?
  2. Why are we reaching out to them?
  3. What do we want to communicate to them?
  4. How do we engage them in meaningful conversation?
What struck me in the end, is these questions represent the same things that make Facebook so valuable between family and friends. In our personal lives, we have an audience that is important to us. We want to share moments and thoughts with these people, and so we reach out with comments, photos, updates, etc. In the end, if used effectively, we could potentially create really great relationships with our communities.
Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this class and getting to know everyone. I’ll miss having the blog next term. Have a great holiday everyone!

Video Games in the Library

I have to admit, I love video games. I have spent hundreds of hours playing them, and I can tell you, many of them are serious business. The very best of them can involve complex story telling, impressive scenery and artistry, economics, and branching story lines. They are a unique media that deserves to be studied and curated, and it is frustrating to hear people who don’t understand their value disparage them. I will allow that if used in excess, they can be detrimental, but the same can be said for spending too much time reading books, watching movies or television programs, or listening to music albums.

In game screenshot from the new Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Despite my belief that video games are a worthy art form, I understand the concern of critics mentioned Ben Weider’s article who are concerned that spending thousands of dollars on video game labs for libraries. It does appear as though it is just another form of pandering to students, and in some settings it certainly makes more sense then others. Libraries that serve people who study video games probably should make an effort to accommodate them, but I can also see arguing that any library that provides contemporary and popular fiction, DVDs, and CDs should also make them available.

At some point in the future, I’m sure video games in libraries will become less controversial, as their largest hurdle at this time is the fact that they are a very new form of media that is primarily popular with the younger population. Over time, those that understand the value of video games will be the ones in charge of the decision to add them to library collections.

Everywhere I Go

There are a lot of really incredible things that can be done with location-based services, but I have to admit, I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of creating a deliberate record of everywhere I visit (both physically and online). That said, I know that there are records created every time I use my credit card, anytime I have to used my RFID badge at work, and every time I use my cellphone. The difference between those activities, as opposed to checking in on Foursquare, is that those are not publicly visible and they are things that can’t really be avoided. I can choose to not check in using Foursquare or Facebook, and I can choose to use private browsing on my web browser, but at the same time I feel as though I am probably just going to have to get over my discomfort. Trying to prevent digital records from being created just isn’t possible, and in a social media world, they are becoming more and more visible.

I hadn’t every really sat down and thought about why this concept bothers me so much before. Maybe it’s just from reading too many stories like 1984 and Minority Report, maybe because I have an untrusting and suspicious personality (so says the DISC assessment I took at work – I had a rock bottom I score), but it really comes down to a privacy and trust issue. How is the information collected by these geolocation services going to be used and stored? Are they gathering information they don’t need? If this type of service were to be implemented by a library, it would be their responsibility to ensure this data would be protected. I would be inclined to trust my library I think, but I don’t know that I would trust a third party service they might utilize, since developing this type of software would likely require resources they don’t have.

Empathetic Signs

Seeing some of the signs in this weeks lecture, with their dire threats and condescending tones, made me cringe. I completely understand that fact that food spills, excessive noise, and a myriad of other distractions can be a frustrating thing for libraries to deal with, but whether they intend it or not, these signs often come across as angry and vindictive. They are uninviting and hostile, and after seeing some of the more encouraging versions of these messages, they seem very reactive. Instead of explaining why these rules exist and asking that patrons comply, the signs yell at them and threaten them with expulsion if they violate the demands being made.

These days I rarely go to the library with the intention of staying there any longer than is necessary to retrieve what I came there for, so signs like this would probably just make me roll my eyes. It wouldn’t make me leave any sooner, although a sign saying I couldn’t use my cellphone might prevent me from ever going there for any extended period of time. For a college library however, this could be a very real problem. When I was an undergraduate I rarely used the library largely because it was incredibly inconvenient, as it was all the way across campus, there were no internet ports for laptops, and it was cold in there.  I don’t remember what the food/beverage/phone policy was, but I do remember that it didn’t take much to deter me or my friends from spending any considerable amount of time there. Hostile signage certainly wouldn’t have made us more inclined to use the library as a resource, and the primary purpose of school libraries is to serve the students. We shouldn’t be chasing them away.

While we are on the topic of user experience this week, I went to my alma mater’s website and found it incredibly difficult to navigate. Try finding the library from the main page! I hope they didn’t pay a lot for that design.

I Love My Nook

Last year for Christmas my boyfriend got me a Nook. While I was excited and appreciative of the gift, I have to admit I wasn’t sure how I much I would use it. As it turns out, about a third of what I read this day is on my e-reader, with most of them being library checkouts. I have not however, explored any of the shared reading or “conversation-based reading” as described in Scanning the Horizon. The type of activities described in that article, such as posting passages on Twitter, may not even be possible if you don’t have a Kindle, but I don’t know that for sure since I’ve never actually attempted it the Nook. I was going to go check, but the battery is completely dead at the moment (I’ve been told the Kindle battery lasts longer).

The idea of conversation-based reading is really appealing to me though, because I wonder if people who are normally not that interested in reading a book might find the activity more worthwhile if they could actively share it with others. Maybe something even like a book club, but one that could be carried on in there own time, where they could interact with the others reading the same book using social media wherever they happened to be. If a community library could get enough licenses for a book, or use ones that are available through Project Gutenberg, they could organize their own book club.

It could also be a good way to make kids in school want to read their assigned books, or even just compel them to read them at all. Although with students it would probably only work with college students, where you could ensure that they would have at least a personal computer that could be used to read the ebooks on.

How to Talk to Your Community?

When I consider the prospect of actually implementing social media, the most intimidating step is deciding what the best platform or platforms should be used to reach the intended audience, and how they should be used. In her article “Ten Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy,” Sharlyn Lauby says that social media is more likely to pay dividends if it adds value to the users. So the problem then becomes who are we trying to reach and what types of social media are they already using. These days it seems Facebook is probably the safest bet, but the internet is fickle, and perhaps the best social media plans are ones that can be somewhat interface agnostic.

Another thing that I think should be considered is that websites like Facebook and Twitter have become kind of overwhelming. Most people are flooded with posts from dozens (and often hundreds) of people and organizations they are linked to. Things get pushed down very quickly in the activity feed, and in the case of Facebook, they are only provided with a sample of the most recent posts in the default view. They might not ever even see your posts unless they go to your actual page. This suggests that whatever you desire to be broadcast-ed to the community you serve needs to titled with a very enticing tagline or else it will just get passed over.

One way that these tools could be very helpful is in they way they can be used as a forum for interacting with library users. I wonder if people who are not very technically savvy might find the typical message board in the style of http://www.reddit.com/ difficult to use? I personally try to avoid them whenever possible, as they seem like a kind of mucky swamp of unanswered or inadequately answered questions – and I am a rather enthusiastic browser of the web. Facebook and Twitter allow direct questioning, and as long as they are properly moderated, I think that the typical library patron might feel more comfortable communicating online in this fashion.

Millennials

As someone who falls into the category of a “digital native” this week, reading about the different arguments about this groups learning and technology needs this week was kind of odd for me. I was born in 1982, and for several years now I’ve read about the “millennials” and how growing up with information and communication technology (ICT) has changed the way we learn and our expectations with how people will communicate with us. But until this week, I’ve never really contemplated this all that much, I’ve just kind of thought “well, I guess that makes sense” and moved on.

I don’t recall any specific articles I’d read previously, but my impressions have always been one of urgency and the need for radical change. The paper by Bennett, Matton, and Kervin was first I’d read that urged any sort of caution. There were many good points made there, such as the fact that although digital natives maybe more familiar with ICT, they were not necessarily more adept at using these technologies, and that there are definite socioeconomic factors that affect students comfort and confidence with ICT. In The digital natives debate: A critical review of the evidence one quote at the end rang very true for me:

“We may live in a highly technologised world, but it is conceivable that it has become so through evolution, rather than revolution.”

In my experience, most people my age are comfortable with and confident while using ICTs, but it’s not as though we were suddenly submerged in these technologies. They have been around, but our schools generally employed traditional learning methods, and those methods didn’t hinder our learning experience. They also didn’t inhibit our ability to learn those technologies when they were in front of us. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I feel that ICT may not be critical as part of the learning process, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. I don’t really think anyone is saying that we shouldn’t, but we have these powerful tools that students aren’t always able to use effectively, and it seems the more students learn to use them in school, the better.

Interactive Archives at DOK

Of all the things we read about this week, I found the Heritage Browser as described by Erik Boekesteijn to be the most intriguing. That article led me to another article led me to another article published a few months earlier at http://www.libraryjournal.com that demonstrated some of the other technologies implemented at DOK. While the technology and software is very impressive, and appears to work quite well for them in the Netherlands, I can’t help but wonder if it would work quite as well in smaller and less populated regions over here in the States. They have a much older and richer history there, and a much larger population to draw records from. I’m not trying to say that it couldn’t be implemented here either, but it made me contemplate how as system like that would be structured for a small county in Oregon. Potentially it could be linked to records for the entire state, or several smaller counties together.

I was also curious as to how much it was used as a resource, and how much as a novelty. It would still be valuable as more of an entertainment type media, but would it be enough to draw people into the library, or would it be something that people just happened to stop by as they wandered by.

The http://www.libraryjournal.com article also suggested the possibility of making the Microsoft Surface table mobile, and bringing it around to schools, museums, and homes for the elderly. This would make it even more valuable, and if they could adapt the software to function on smaller tablets, it could become more valuable still.

 

The Unquiet Library

The article on “unquiet libraries” by Brian Mathews really struck me, as it made me consider the two libraries at the two different high schools that I attended. My first high school was a very small school, so small that the middle school was part of the same campus. The library was shared between the two schools, and it was rather impressively large considering it had only about 400 students to accommodate. Like the Creekview High School, this library was a meeting place, a place students were encouraged to go. It was very open, with many windows and sitting areas, and there was no beverage ban. Students wanted to go there, and teachers frequently gave passes to students who wanted to spend part of their class period there.

Then I think about my second high school library. This library had only a couple external windows, and they were not very big. It was actually smaller then the library at my previous school, despite the fact that it served three times as many students. It was not a place that students went for their lunch break, nor was it a place where students requested to visit during class. We typically only went there when we had research assignments to do, and after the appropriate books were located, we left.

Until reading this article, I hadn’t contemplated how much more valuable a resource my first high school had in it’s library. I love the idea of the “I geek the Unquiet Library” mantra the students at Creekview have adopted, and it is exciting to think that we could potentially instill a great enthusiasm for this new type of library in the current generation of students. Having them realize the value of the library as a media center will help keep it alive in the future.

Licensing and Ebooks

One of the concepts that Buckland explores in Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto is the idea that electronic records and media could be used by more than one person at a time, without the restraints of a physical resource. In one respect this has already occurred, with the use of OPACs and online article databases like LexisNexis. What this topic brought to mind for me though, was the usage issues with ebooks, specifically an article on HarperCollins I ran across early this year.

In purely technical terms, an ebook could be accessed by multiple people at one time. A problem with this model however, is the desire of the publishers to force usage of ebooks to the same restrictions of a physical book. In order for multiple people to access an ebook, the library or consortium must hold multiple licenses for that work. HarperCollins has decided to take this a step further, and has determined that after 26 checkouts the vendors license should expire, assuming that a typical physical copy wears out after a year of continuous two week lending periods.

To me, this is an interesting dilemma. My first question would be how long does the average book last, and does this vary by subject? Second, what is the actual demand for ebooks in libraries? It seems as though there may be a better model that could make both parties happy. Buckland’s main point is that electronic media is different then hard copy, and if this is true, it should have a different method of licensing.