The last post for INF206

•January 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Social networking has increasingly become integrated into people’s daily lives.  The platforms and media may change, some becoming easier to use and more mainstream, some becoming easier to access, through personal ICT and mobile internet connections, and some becoming obsolete by the mainstream adoption of the next trend that out-performs its predecessor.

Institutions and information professionals have adopted some of these tools to better reach their clients and provide services and information that give clients the ability to become involved in their library’s communities and collections.

This blog evaluates some of these technologies and the way they are currently being implemented in libraries, and the possible expansion of use in the future.

In “A Foray into Second Life” a platform was experienced for the first time, without any knowledge of libraries that had been utilizing it.  This experience allowed for a critical analysis of the technology with fresh eyes and generated speculation of the potential use for institutions and library professionals.  It examined some of the pros and cons that such unique software presents, both for institutions and their clients. After limited use, it seems an excellent tool for recreational roleplaying and chat, an endlessly customisable platform for world and item building and avatar editing. For institutions is could be useful for exploring collections, conferencing, training, teaching, augmenting the library’s  web presence, and sharing electronic information.  It is a free platform that most modern computers are capable of running adequately. Unfortunately, creating anything substantial and polished in Second Life takes a great deal of time and expertise, and even for learning the basic functions, a four hour orientation is recommended.  Also, much of the non-roleplaying, non-submersive functionality of Second Life can be done more easily with other web 2.0 technologies.

Information professionals are the driving force behind making the web 2.0 technologies useful to institutions and their clients.  If they are not being promoted, populated with engaging and useful content, and used to generate conversations, collaboration and feedback, the clients will not engage with their library through the tools.  Also, it is easier to engage clients with tools they are already using.  These concepts are explored in “What Does it Mean to be Librarian 2.0?” along with some way information professionals can make their social networking more effective.  Some ways these can be achieved are by experimenting with and assessing new tools to see if they can be adopted.  Sometimes when a librarian is exploring new tools it will be to early for them to be useful and they will need to be reassessed at a later date when more of the client base have adopted them.  It is important for information professionals to go to their clients, rather  than waiting for the client to find them.

Social networking and information policies can help an institution maintain a focused and coherent social media presence, as well as guide issues such as bridging the digital divide in the community.  Policy needs to develop alongside new and evolving online platforms and be regularly reviewed to reflect the needs and expectations of clients and the community.  In Implications of Social Media two of these considerations are explored.

At the commencement of INF206 social networking was purely a recreational and social pursuit for me, with no inclination to use any of the available platforms or technologies for library work, client engagement, or professional development.  I had only a vague sense of what libraries were doing with web 2.0 technologies, and largely regarded their efforts as just another way for them to market.

Throughout exploring the readings, slideshows, podcasts and videos of this course and discovering the many real-life examples of how libraries and information professionals are using social networking, a much more complex idea of the realities and possibilities of social networking has been formed.

It is now clear that using web 2.0 tools such as RSS and micro-blogging networks to filter and direct information and to keep abreast of the latest trends and ideas is fundamental to professional development.  While self-discovery of information, and sharing those discoveries through social networks is also desirable, using the discoveries of others on “friend” or “follow” lists or delicious stacks is an efficient way finding the most relevant information.

I will continue to follow a number of useful blogs discovered throughout the study of this course through their RSS feeds gathered on My Yahoo.  Also, the institutions and library professionals I’m following on twitter and the peers I have friended on Facebook regularly provide links to further interesting information.

To be more useful to the information professional communities and networks I’ve joined, more effort needs to be directed into commenting and contributing.  At this early stage of learning and discovery, very little has been contributed.  Participation will become more important when building networks after graduation from this course, during job searching, and into my professional career.

Participation, content creation and collaboration are also going to be what will make me an effective Librarian 2.0 in the future.  Throughout this course I have discovered a few ways I can contribute in my current position at work.  The social networking policies there discourage all staff from contributing directly, but the few staff whose job it is to do so are always looking for more content, and encourage other staff to contribute to the corporate feeds through them.

I’ve also become a follower of those corporate feeds and occasionally contribute to conversations there in the capacity of a client of the library.

A greater understanding of how libraries social network and, more importantly, why they network, and also the many implications and considerations has been reached through this course, in part through the readings, but even more so by exploring real examples of social networking in action, and gaining a better understanding of what is being implemented at work.


Implications of Social Media

•January 30, 2012 • 1 Comment

One of the more popular attractions for people to visit the physical locations of modern libraries is the free internet connection, and access to connected computers.  Wireless connection becomes increasingly demanded as more people bring their own ICT into the library to work, study and social network.

Libraries do their best to ensure these resources are shared fairly, often through policies about timed terminals, and requiring clients to join the library to access wireless networks.  Often these policies also make monitoring and collecting statistics on usage easier as well.  Such statistics can become important when placing bids for increased funding to better provide adequate internet connection.

Providing access is one of the important aspects of how libraries work to close the digital divide.  It is particularly important with the government moving its primary information point and access to forms online.  Another important reason is the requirements of many job applications to be submitted, if not entirely filled-out, online.  Job searchers can be among those in the community less likely to have private access to internet connection and personal computers.

Providing adequate access is expensive and the more simultaneous users there are, the less adequate it becomes as each user takes up some of the bandwidth.

As more people adopt cloud computing instead of using terminal or server based software and storage for work, access to reliable, steady internet connections will become more of an issue.  With their documents created, saved and backed-up on the internet instead of being housed on a local hard drive, they will be more secure as they are not prone to physical damage or malware that affects hardware, but will be no longer accessible offline.  Another advantage is that multiple authors can collaborate on the same document without having to send it back and forth between them.

As cloud computing is still an emerging trend, libraries should encourage the use of clouds that run on the most open source platforms, accessible by the widest range of hardware. By championing these, they could join early adopters in shaping the future of the cloud, towards a compatible, interchangeable, customisable platform.  The advantages to libraries in the future would include no longer having to purchase server-based software packages, and requiring less storage space on their physical systems.

What does it mean to be librarian 2.0?

•January 30, 2012 • 1 Comment

To me, librarian 2.o is a not a tightly defined thing to be.  It still has ties to traditional library skills and services, but is looking forward to new technologies and trends, further afield in the community, well beyond the library’s walls, and experimenting, learning from mistakes and building on successes by listening to feedback from users and networking with peers.

At this stage, being an effective information professional is closely tied with using social media.  As Harvey stresses in her article, What Does It Mean to Be a Science Librarian 2.0?, it is not good enough to just choose a social media platform and run with it.  Librarian 2.0 needs to go where the users are, but also needs to use the platforms that are going to perform the best for the required task.  Sometimes this will mean adopting the latest trends, but sometimes an older platform will perform better.  Harvey also notes that combining a new platform with an older communication method can make both of them more effective.

To discover what will be most effective it is important that librarian 2.0 experiments with all the latest innovations, pays attention to how clients are using them, and encourages and listens to feedback from users.  Nearly all social media platforms encourage a conversation rather than merely delivering a message, and it is important to acknowledge or respond to client participation.  To that end, it is also important that librarian 2.0 is not trying to use too many platforms at once, resulting in client input or questions being missed, rendering the platform ineffective.

It is also important for librarian 2.0 to use all these tools to deliver resources that are useful to their clients and help clients to build awareness of resources appropriate to meet their needs, both within and without the library’s collection.

ASU and the 4 Cs of Social Media

•January 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Arizona State University Libraries (ASU) seems to be doing a lot of things very well with their social media.  Of the 4 Cs of social media, three are heavily in evidence at their blog, The Library Channel.  Conversation, Community, and Content Creation are the driving forces behind the blog, which ties together library news, exhibitions and events, the Library Minute videos, and other multimedia including recordings of events and addresses around the campus.

Links to the other social media platforms the library utilises, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, are pinned at the top of the sidebar, which also contains the twitter feed further down.  Nearly all of these platforms encourage communication through commenting, responding, and rating, and community involvement through tagging and sharing.  All posts have comments enabled to encourage community feedback.

Building a stronger community is also achieved through the content of the posts, encouraging readers to participate in events in person, and be involved with the libraries on campus during their studies.

The Library Minute videos are very strong examples of content creation.  They are short YouTube videos, each on the subject of a service, event, hint, or how-to to to make student life easier at ASU.  New videos are posted on The Library Channel blog, and they are archived on a featured playlist at ASU’s YouTube channel.

Each video is sharply scripted to be informative and entertaining with many images, soundbites and short clips of popular culture mashed-up into the presentation.  The presenter is engaging and professional without being too dry, or over-the-top.

The entertainment value of the Library Minutes, their short run-time and the YouTube featured playlist’s autoplay function conspire to ensure viewers will watch more than one…  More like 15.

The only one of the 4 Cs that is not as obvious in the finished product is collaboration.  There is probably a great deal of collaboration happening behind the scenes to achieve such results in the other 3 Cs, with libraries working with web teams, AV teams, exhibition curators and staff, and student groups, but it is difficult to see such work revealed in the finished product.

The following is my favourite Pythonesque Library Minute:



A Foray into Second Life

•January 24, 2012 • 1 Comment

I was dreading my first attempt at Second Life.  I’ve never been any good at first person immersion games.  They take up way too much time, the controls always confused me, and they seem ultimately pointless.  My brother is a serious gamer and watching his LAN sessions with his friends and their super-charged computers heating the house to uncomfortable temperatures for 14 straight hours never made it seem very appealing to really get into.

So it was with trepidation that I signed up and downloaded the software.  Within the first 4 hours I was customising my avatar and collecting free alternate avatars, running and flying around, teleporting, making gestures, adding places, friends, and items to my inventory, and even chatting to a few strangers.  Not owning a microphone didn’t get in the way too badly as my days in Yahoo Chatrooms prepped me for typing quick responses.

The first 40 minutes were spent flicking between some intro and help webpages and the Second Life Welcome Island where my avatar was first resolved, figuring out the basics.  All the instructions were really clear and only needed a little practice to become reasonably fluent. After that I was flicking between the Interact Module exercise and Second Life CSU-SIS Learning Centre, where the exercise was completed with minimal hassle.

Afterwards a few hours were spent in unstructured exploration of some random destinations.

Went on a tour the next day to visit some education and library destinations.  It is clear that Second Life does a few things really, really well, like virtual galleries with enhanced information, the ability to add notecards that visitor can collect  and embed links, multimedia and other destinations.  Libraries could build a gallery of their art, photos, and realia, or even build virtual versions of their actual exhibitions, embedding catalogue records, descriptions, essays, audio tour guides, or video mini documentaries into each item on display.

It could also be useful as a conference space or training space for communication and staff development.

The disadvantages of Second Life include the large investment of time needed for each user to learn the basic functions of the software, which are not like any of the regular computer programs most people are familiar with (eg. office suites, web browsers, etc.).  Another disadvantage is that for many of the things that Second Life can do, other software does better. For example,  Skype is better at communications and conferencing.  Flickr is better at displaying and sharing images, and allows social interacting through comments and tagging.  And none of them suck up as much time as Second Life does in customising avatars and playing…  but then, they are not as much fun, either.

Maybe I could handle Neverwinter Nights, or Little Big Planet after all?

RSS Feeds and Libraries

•January 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

RSS is something I’ve used to keep up with entertaining blogs and webcomics for a number of years now.  Back when it was a new thing I set up an iGoogle homepage and populated it with feeds.

A screen-grab of a fragment of my current iGoogle homepage.

Originally, it was half covered in widgets also, but they proved too annoying and space hungry, so they were slowly replaced by more RSS feeds.

It is only during the study of this course that I have considered signing up to RSS feeds for education and keeping up with new library trends rather than for pure entertainment.  As such they could be extraordinarily useful to a library professional as most library tech and innovation blogs offer RSS feeds. Blogs like Moxie Librarian that has a neat little post about using RSS feeds in libraries.

RSS is useful for libraries as well.  Frankston City Libraries have several RSS feeds availible to alert their clients to new titles in the collection.  Clients can also opt for email syndication if that is preferred.

By grouping the new acquisitions into multiple, item-type feeds, it allows their clients to customise their feed to only include the type of items they are interested in, making their feeds shorter, more focused and manageable.  All the new title entries in the feed include a link to the  OPAC, where checking locations and placing reservations is simple.

The Frankston City Libraries blog, The Blogalogue, is also available through RSS and email syndication.

Boroondara Libraries have four blogs and a tumblr, all of which have RSS feeds.  Links to the blogs, and the library’s other Web 2.0 communication tools can be found on their Keep in Touch page, but adding these to an RSS feed can only be done from each of the blogs/tumblr individually.  Again, this gives the client the choice to follow only the feeds that interest them.  The disadvantage is the links to the RSS feeds are not collected in one place, and each of the blogs/tumblr has a unique layout, with a different position and appearance of the RSS link, making them sometimes difficult to locate.

Discovering Delicious

•January 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Delicious is one of the tools we get to play with in INF206 that I have never played with before.  I had heard of it quite a few times, but had never gotten around to actually going to the site, let alone  using it.

My first impression was that it would be a good place to back up your browser bookmarks on a regular basis so that you can access them on any computer, which makes a lot of sense if you are travelling without your own machine but still want to access all your favourite sites.  But that’s not got much to do with social networking.

When I tried to add other people’s link feeds to follow I found it quite clunky.  It is very easy to search links through tags, but there doesn’t appear to be a search for users.  Eventually I figured out I could write the username I was looking for into the URL where my username was at the time to bring up their profile and link their feed to my feeds page from there.

A more serendipitous way to add people to your feed is to find a link you like that has multiple saves, and browse other people who have saved that link to see if you would like to follow them in your feed.  If so, add them.

I quite like the Stack feature where you can house similar links together making them easier to browse, without excluding the ones that don’t have the exact tags, as merely filtering tags would do.  Also, stacks can be shared through their URLs. I could see a library creating multiple subject-specific stacks to help their clients find relevant and valuable websites and pages to browse, much the same way some libraries file newspaper clippings by subject.

Another feature I noticed is that you can incorporate an “add to” button to your  own websites and pages.  This is something that Picture Australia has done on all it’s result pages.  A similar button can also be added to your bookmarks bar to make adding links to delicious even easier.