Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Jaunt in Second Life – Experience and Reflections

For this week’s module I spent some time as a dog in Second Life.  After following a trail of arrows I ended up in what was described as a world to help orient newcomers. I didn’t find it very helpful upon entering since most of the signs appeared to be in a fictional language, but was eventually greeted by another dog in a “doggy language”.  He/she told me there wasn’t a library when I asked about where to find it and no one else seemed to know where the library was either.  Eventually I got tired of fumbling around with the keyboard arrows and exited the virtual world.

Despite my disinterest, Second Life is well populated, so what’s the appeal?  It’s obviously there, but maybe not for traditional library users.  In their article titled, “Library 2.0 or Library III: returning to leadership”, Frederick Nest and Jia Mi write the following:

While we agree that library interaction with students and faculty is essential, whether students or faculty see the library as a “social institution” is questionable… Libraries are many things, but they are not social networks. They may be important to faculty and to students and they may be highly valued, but they are no more part of user’s social networks than are their academic department or scholarly association (p.93).

Simply put students don’t want to hang out in the library on a social networking site.  This reinforced the point for me that we do not necessarily need to use every social media application out there, yet I don’t think librarians should necessarily write Second Life off completely. In this article, Hedreen et al discuss a number of niche libraries/programs which seem unique to Second Life:

  • Interactive role playing emergency  preparedness program
  • The Mystery Manor – a tribute to mystery and horror genres at the library
  • Caledon’s special collection – collection created around the interests of a 19th century fictional world

For potential library users with very specifics interests, Second Life may in fact be an excellent place to connect with peers dispersed across the country or world, and does provide a valuable social/educational space.   So I guess my final verdict would be that it’s probably not that cost or time effective for librarians to be in Second Life, but there are some unique resources in the virtual world that we should be aware of and able to recommend to interested patrons.

Does this seem like a fair middle ground?

Adventures in Aggregating

I have an embarrassing confession to make: I don’t use any sort of aggregator.  I just sit at my computer and type in the web sites and blogs which I typically visit as the mood strikes.  I realize that this is terribly inefficient, but to be honest I don’t really enjoy spending too much of my free time on the computer.  When I’ve been on it all day for work/school, I prefer to get out of the house and move around.

However, I realize that I will need to aggregate in my future career so I decided to give two aggregators a try.  To start myself off I got a Symbaloo account.  Here are some of the things I enjoyed most about it:

  • It was easy to set up and figure out – Intuitive software is a major selling point for me. If I have to spend hours trying to figure out software, I’m probably not going to use it
  • It allowed for tidy organization – I appreciate the large colour coordinated building blocks on the front page, especially when first gathering and sorting sites
  • Not too cluttered – I appreciated how the desktop and news feed were separated from one another by tabs.  It can be both overwhelming to be greeted by cluttered newsfeeds every time you log in and I also find it distracting if I am trying to do something quickly and am trying not get drawn in

I also took a look at Netvibes for comparative purposes:

  • I liked that you are able to mark to content to read later. I don’t know how much time I would spend going back and reading old stories but it is a nice feature to have
  • More scan-able interface than Symbaloo – don’t have to go to the website to decide if I’m interested in the content
  • Not as intuitive to first move around as Symbaloo, but still simple enough that I had no problem using it
  • As an aside, I found the pre-installed BMW widget somewhat amusing. I wonder how many people are actually interested in BMW news (yes I know they probably paid lots of money to get themselves up there)

Even though Symbaloo seemed a little easier to navigate initially, I think I might go with Netvibes since it seems a bit more customizable and has some interesting features. And if I don’t like it I have no shortage of other options…

Tackling Social Media Head On

I know I’ve alluded to this before, but I’m not a natural techie.  I wish I was, but no dice.  They are so many fantastic applications out there, but new programs are just not as intuitive to me as they seem to be to others.  In the end I am often intimidated by the learning curve or run out of time so I stick with what I know.   However, since we were required to create something for this week’s module (well okay, last week’s, but I ran into some time management issues so I hope you’ll all forgive me), I decided to bite the bullet and create a Prezi.  I’ve always enjoyed the effects of Prezis when other have used them in presentation and thought it might be a useful tool to master.  So without further ado, here is my Prezi, which promotes VPL’s summer reading program (in a completely non-official capacity of course!):

Summer Reading Club – Promotional Prezi

It’s pretty basic, but now I’ve at least got a foundation and the next one will be better.  If you struggle with mastering any sort of program I think it’s always better to start slow, learn the basics and walk away with confidence and instead of beating yourself up over what you couldn’t figure out.

As for the effectiveness of this Prezi in the provision of library services, I have mixed feelings.  I like how dynamic and colourful it is, yet at the same time I wonder if patrons would be willing to sit through this presentation considering it is purely promotional and provides no specific information.  A poster which they could glance at quickly, or maybe a glog, might be more practical for quickly promoting services such as the summer reading club.

So to sum up what I learned this week:

1) My first go at a Prezi was, in my eyes, a success, and while I might not use it within the library to promote the summer reading club I do think it’s a great platform for providing services which are more instructional in nature.

2) Social media programs, even the seemingly confusing ones, are just like anything else.   Ultimately you just have to be willing to buckle down and put the time in and you will figure it out.

Anyone else find themselves faced with a steep learning curve? What tips and trick have you used to work through this?

Creativity and Collaboration

As part of this week’s module we were required to watch a video clip of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about creativity in organizations.   In the video clip Robinson makes some interesting points about the application of imagination, namely that imagination must be applied before it can become creativity.  In other words, imagination that we do nothing with is useless.  He also discusses the importance of taking originality and value into account when developing a product.  What you put out there must be original and you should know in which context specific values should be applied and whether they are relevant.

Now, are these points applicable to librarians and are they important for collaboration? Absolutely.  Libraries are often large multi-faceted institutions.  They serve a multitude of different people, all of who have varying needs and interests.   Yet, in order to be good at our jobs, we (librarians) all need to specialize to some degree.  A child’s librarian in a public library should be dedicating most of his/her time to operating and enriching children’s services, meaning that s/he may not be tuned into the needs of adult ESL patrons. Similarly an academic librarian specializing in biology is unlikely to be extremely well versed in the needs of archeology students or developments in art history.   Yet, as organizations, libraries often have to merge the interests of their various patrons when developing new initiatives so that everyone benefits.  A creative idea from the children’s librarian may not work for the whole library, but with input from librarians in other departments it can very likely be modified into something that will.

Collaboration is equally important for assessing originality and value.  It’s very hard to decide for yourself whether an idea is original.  If you have never heard of it, but all of your colleagues have, this is probably a red flag .  Similarly, assessing the relevance or value of an idea is best accomplished through a collaborative effort.  What seems relevant to one librarian may not hold the same value to a colleague in a different field.  Only through collaborating can a diverse group of librarians find a middle ground so that the finished product is most valuable to all the library patrons.

So to sum up I think Robinson is really onto something.  During these times when many library budgets are being cut and branches shut down I don’t think we can afford to be off in our own little corners.  We should be combining the limited resources and (wo)manpower that we have to create the best possible product.

Social Media and Stewardship

The topic of this week’s module has been Participation, which really seems like the core of social media use.  As Dean explains at the beginning of the module, “participation evokes the notion of ‘getting involved’” and social media provides the tools for this interaction and involvement.  Yet some libraries appear to have minimal success in engaging library users in conversations through their social media outlets, an issue which leads to a several important questions: How effective is social media at encouraging/enhancing library participation?  What can librarians do to encourage our users to participate via social media?  Ultimately these smaller questions seem to revolve around one big one: Why should libraries use social media?

I hadn’t really come up with an answer that I was completely satisfied with until recently, when I came upon this blog post by Brian Mathews.  Mathews writes:

Our purpose—the reason why we use the social web is to find people who “like” the library and give them a way to express it. We will use this platform to nurture that bond and move them from like to love. [Develop their passion.] We also want to enable them to share this experience and help bring others into this relationship.

Do you see the difference? It’s not about promoting the library, this is about building brand loyalty. It’s not about posting library news for students, but about building an ambassadors program, a network of friends and allies. The goal is a transition patrons from being library users to library advocates.

What Mathews is suggesting is a form of stewardship.  He’s moving away from the idea of courting the masses and instead suggests that we should encourage and reward loyal followers.  This was a totally different take for me and one that I could definitely get on board with.  Targeting and pampering those who already have some investment in the library seems both smart and effective, and more importantly it creates an online environment where the technology will be used interactively, as it was intended, instead of as a broadcasting interface.

It would be fantastic if we could widely engage all library users through social media, but if we (or they) aren’t there yet then I think focusing our efforts at those who are most enthusiastic becomes a very effective use of resources.  I’m definitely not advocating that we ignore new users, but finding a balance has definite potential in my eyes.  Enthusiastic users are already present online and social media applications provide an ideal platform for encouraging even greater participation.

What does everyone else think? Should librarians use social media to create an army of library ambassadors or should the focus of social media be to draw in hesitant or new users?

Google+ (or minus)?

I figured I’d start my first post by discussing a social media application that I spent a bit of time looking at this week – Google+.  My study buddy and I defined Google+ for the course’s social media glossary, which can be found here, so I did quite a bit of reading and have to say that I’m actually pretty interested in how this application will fair once it hits the open market.  Currently it is being run on a trial basis and is not available for widespread use by the general public.

Currently I use facebook, which I believe is the closest application out there to Google+.  Google+ is being marketed as an alternative to facebook, which allows for more nuanced online social interactions and features a system through which you can divide your contacts into different groups, or “circles”, and communicate separately with each.  This means that you can send very personal messages to your best friends about your awful boyfriend and messages to your co-workers about the company’s next retreat.

There are of course many merits to being able to segregate information sharing, but personally I don’t use, or want to use facebook to connect deeply with the people I’m closest to.  If I want to have a real heart to heart with my best friend I’ll call her or meet up for coffee and a long chat.  I actually find facebook most useful as an inroad for connecting with people who I’m just getting to know.  I also use it for picture sharing and in place of email with closers friends, but only because doing so is convenient.  I don’t think I’d be that comfortable putting anything deeply personal on a social network site, even if I believe only close friends will be seeing it (just in case).  Essentially I’m happy with the more public form of communication available through facebook.  I don’t expect any social media application to truly be as nuanced as offline communication or enable me to communicate with everyone in my life in the different ways that I need to, so I’d prefer not to overcomplicate my relationships through social media use.  I suppose the usefulness of Google+ will depend very much on how you use online social networks, but all this categorizing, organizing and in some cases, ranking seems like a lot of unnecessary work to me.

To briefly foray into libraries, at a quick glance I can’t see this application being terribly useful to most library systems.  Libraries seem to use social media to disseminate information as widely as they can, so they have little need to segregate viewers into groups.  Even if the library did wish to provide different information to different users, I have no idea how they’d go about identifying who was interested in what.  That being said, I’m sure the system is much more complex than I’m making it out to be and the Google gods may have figured all of this out already. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!