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Second Life

2011 August 19
by douellet

A few years a go I remember a friend telling me about second life. It didn’t interest me then, but when it didn’t go away immediately, I stated to wonder if it was something that might be interesting. So when module 6 was about immersion and virtual worlds i decided to make an account and try Second Life.

Well i have to report that I found it neither interesting nor useful. I fully admit that maybe I didn’t give it enough time, but (45 minutes was enough for me). Research has shown that Second Life can be useful in the academic library context, but that it has a steep learning curve (Condic, 2009). Perhaps I was not on Second Life to get myself over the peak of the learning curve. But I found the program to be disorienting, difficult to use and just boring. I could not find anyone to interact with. After 45 minutes I still hadn’t figured out how to chat.

I really do believe it is a question of purpose of motivation. That is to say, it was not interesting to explore. If there was a purposeful meeting then i might have had more motivation to learn than aimlessly wandering, as i did for this assignment. What reason does second life provide to motivate users to participate? There is no purpose or object like in a game.

For example, I use to play World of Warcraft, an extremely popular MMORPG game, which is basically an immersive world. In contrast to second life it was easy to use, and there were always new objectives (quests) to complete and I was always motivated. in fact i was probably too motivated. It was very addictive.

So maybe if there was a specific purpose Second Life might be more interesting. For example, If there was a virtual meeting. However, i found it so confusing and difficult to use, that I cannot believe there is not a better way to have that meeting. Skype, or any other video conference software would be far easier to use, and in my own opinion more effective. So I see no real use that second life offers. Everything that can be don there can probably be done better, or at least as good, with another easier to use technology.

Netvibes as subject guide???

2011 August 14
by douellet

So I decided to blog about the one topic that actually interested me this week about aggregators. That is the idea of using an aggregator such as netvibes as a subject guide.

Basically subject guides themselves are aggregators of information wherein librarians provide users with a list of links to the most relevant resources for users interested in that subject. However, unlike most online aggregators subject guides are static. They must be manually updated by a librarian.
So the benefits of using an aggregator such as netvibes as a subject guide is that it is not static. it saves librarians from needing to constantly update links, as this is done automatically in the feeds put into the netvibes subject guide.
All of the netvibes aggregators that I have seen are generally too busy and present the user with the problem of information overload. Guides are mean to “guide” the user to only the best resources. The great value of subject guides comes from the static nature of librarians evaluating and choosing only the best resources to link to.

Netvibes subject guides do not “guide” users to the best information, but rather give the users a long list of links which have not been vetted or evaluated by an information professional. Furthermore these links are presented without context.

Finally, research has shown that users do not want web 2.0 tools incorporated into subject guides. Rather, users want clean and simple guides that guide them only to a limited number of the very best resources relevant to that subject. See: Hintz, Kimberley, Paula Farrar, Shirin Eshghi, Barbara Sobol, Jo-Anne Naslund, Teresa Lee, Tara Stephens, and Aleha McCauley. 2010. “Letting Students Take the Lead: A User-Centered Approach to Evaluating Subject Guides.” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 5: 39-52.

Therefore, the netvibes subject guides I have seen are not guides at all but simply long lists of links. I would argue that this is not a valuable service to provide users.

For example, I want briefly review 2 specific examples.

The BCIT Occupational health and safety resources page offers a netvibes subject guide which has the exact problems mentioned above. It contains 25 tabs, which is more than any student would have time to search through. Many of the tabs simply contain a link to another guide. And those that actually contain links to relevant resources, contain far too many. The ergonomics page contains 24 individual boxes of information and requires the user to scroll down quite a ways. This is not effective design.

In contrast, the Refuge Archives subject guide is relatively well done. Keeps the tabs in one row with only 5 tabs. However, this guide too contains long lists of links without context, which have not been vetted or evaluated. They may or may not be relevant to the user, and though they offer the rouse of saving the user time, they still require the user to sort through and process several long lists of information to find a few items which might actually help their information need.

Although I already mentioned this in class, I firmly believe that although netvibes seems like an interesting way to offer subject guides to users, it is not an effective platform for offering subject guides. I would highly discourage any librarian from using netvibes as a platform for creation subject guides. It simply does not meet standard Web usability principles, nor does it effectively meet users needs with regards to subject guides.

Camtasia for Information Literacy

2011 August 7
by douellet

So this week my group decided to take a look at various uses of video tutorials, and screencasts used by libraries.  I was inspired by the succinct and very professional Libcasts created by Dalhousie University Libraries. They are excellent resources for learning everything from basic searching, finding books, citing, right up to the detailed feature of subject specific databases.

In that vein I decided to try my hand at making an information literacy screencast using Camtasia.  I decided to focus on a topic that I know well.  So I created a short (<2 minute) video showing biblical studies students (I am actually the liaison with the religious studies and biblical studies department) how to use the “scripture” feature in Ebsco’s ATLA religion database. You can see the video here:

There were several challenges with this.  First of all, I did not want to pay the $99 just to do this assignment (I will assess this tool a bit further and make the argument that the library I work at should invest in this).  This meant that many video editing features were not available to me in the free trial version.  So the video is a VERY rough draft.  If I had the time to do a few “real” videos, I would edit them with clean transitions, zooms, and use feature to highlight what I am telling the students to click on.

However, my experiment in both searching for screencasts and creating one has shown me that they are a way of presenting information literacy instruction that could be very effective.  They could especially important for distance students, or reaching students who are just too shy to approach the reference desk, or who might never attend a library instruction session.

I found it very valuable, and I hope to get Camtasia Pro in the future and dedicate more time to making tutorials.

Collaboration: the key to superior services and research

2011 July 26
by douellet

This is going to be more my personal thoughts and opinions than serious academic writing, but I have some very strong opinions on how important collaboration is for LIS professionals.  Collaboration has been one of the keys to my success in the field and I firmly believe that it is the key for success in an organization.  I would also offer the final caveat that I am an academic librarian, and have never worked in any librarian role outside of an academic library. This post reflects that bias.

Historically, collaboration has been at the heart of library and information service, and this is still just as true today.  Perhaps even more true.  As the information field has increased specialization, and now includes complex web-based resources, no single librarian can be expected to be an expert in everything. Collaboration goes many different directions, and collaboration is necessary both internally with other information professionals in the organization, externally with users, faculty, IT professionals etc…

External collaboration

I myself am in charge of Web content and Web usability, but I am not a programmer (I know enough about using drupal, and enough XHTML and CSS to get by) and get to work closely with programmers and IT experts who can implement the changes needed based on usability testing.  This sort of collaboration between librarians and IT staff is necessary in order to offer our users the best possible web content. Apart from that it is enjoyable.  I kind of wish i was a programmer and I enjoy getting to work with programmers and learn from them.

Most academic librarians serve a faculty liaison role and this too is a form of collaboration.  Both the faculty and librarian want to see the students succeed academically (at least in an ideal situation the faculty and librarian do).  This of best done through collaboration.  The most successful librarians I have seen, have gotten faculty buy-in with regards to library services, IL instruction, and collection development.  successful liaison librarians often attend faculty meetings, sit on a committee such as the curriculum committee and at the very least get syllabi for the large courses taught in that faculty.  This allows them to customize the collection and services to the topics discussed in classes, and directly to the assignments that students are doing.  Again as seen above, collaboration not only helps both parties, but helps offer the students the best possible service and best possible chances for academic success.

Internal collaboration


I don’t know how I would do reference if it wasn’t collaborative.  Sure we all know how to guide someone to academic search complete and find basic information for their English 102 assignment (at least I hope everyone at the reference desk of an academic library does).  But when someone needs statistics on job turn over rates of real estate brokers in Alberta, I’m glad there is a business librarian on hand to work with.  We all have different strengths and in my view collaboration is when all parties work together for a common goal.  Even if it isn’t a long term project, asking a librarian who is more experienced is collaborative, because it is two people working together for thecommon goal of helping that student find the best information possible.  And if you ask me that is a worthy goal when doing reference.


I have been fortunate enough to be involved with a few collaborative research projects and they were not only rewarding, but so much easier than doing it on your own.  Although I must admit that my solo research on subject guides has been very rewarding and helped with my career, it was much more time consuming than joint projects I have worked on.  In the last year I worked on 2 research teams and it makes life so easy to have one person focus on the literature review, one person develop the focus group guide, and another work on ethics and recruiting.  Everything goes so fast, and you learn and can incorporate the collective knowledge of the group into your research. The result is quicker results, more publications with less work from each individual, and ultimately a better product.

I don’t know if I can convince anyone, or if anyone needs convincing.  But I hope I have made the case for collaboration in all areas of LIS. Of course sometimes you just need to close the office door, put some music on finish spending your budget on anthropology books.  But collaboration has been a huge part of everything I have been successful at in this field.

I am grateful to work with and work for such amazing people who help me everyday, and who allow me to help them when in areas I have more experience.  In the end, collaboration allows us to offer better services to students, and as far as I am concerned that is my bottom line as a reference librarian.

Science 2.0

2011 July 25
by douellet

Unlike a few other topics discussed this week, Science 2.0 is a fairly well developed concept. It generally refers to the more open data sharing made possible by social media technologies.  The term is often associated with the open data movement.  Social networking sites have allowed scientists to share research data allowing other scientists to very quickly replicate the experiment and compare their results to the original data and verify the original results.  Social media, has in general allowed greater collaboration and sharing between scientists and researchers around the world.

And yet that isn’t the full story here. The 2.0 is also not entirely helpful because collaboration and data sharing/verification has always been important in scientific research. What was 1.0?  If we know the stories of data sharing (albeit much slower) through letters and visits from Aristotle to Darwin to today.  If collaboration and data sharing have always existed among researchers, how is 2.0 any different than what came before it?

The answer is it isn’t very different. There are 2 main differences.  Science 2.o does allow for faster collaboration, but really that isn’t much difference. Secondly, since social media broadcasts to a large audience (as opposed to a letter addressed to one scientists) it does creates greater transparency within the scientific community.

Yet even with a well defined concept such as Science 2.0, the 2.0 suffix is not helpful.  It is more a hinderance because it is not descriptive enough. science 2.0 is not different enough from what came before it.   Terms such as “open data movement” or other terms describing sharing and collaboration would be far more helpful than adding a suffix which needs to be explained.

Incorporating Social Catalogues in Library Websites

2011 July 18
by douellet

To be entirely honest, I have had a difficult time wrapping my head around the concept of affordance. A classmate (Adedoyin Adenuga) actually helped me understand the reason for my inability to grasp the concept of affordance. I think it is because I have done usability testing, and research student perceptions of library webpages and this my experience with Web usability has biased my perspective. But discussions in class have helped me realize that usability is about how effectively and efficiently users can conduct desired tasks, while affordance is really about the possibilities. Although, I am starting to get the concept a little bit now, it still isn’t the most clear concept to me. I am just starting to wrap my head around it though thanks to the discussions of LIBR559M.

What I have really been contemplating is the affordances that social media offers to libraries and library users. That is to say, how can social media be used by libraries? Or what can social media offer to libraries?

I have previously thought that social media was a fad and libraries are just jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of being on the bandwagon. And maybe to a certain extent that is true. There certainly is evidence that academic library users do not want to use Web 2.0 features, rather they would prefer to quickly get their information and leave (See Hintz et al.). However, I have recently come to realize that there are certain things (i.e. affordances) that social media tools can offer libraries.

Social tagging through a Web 2.0 catalogue such as bibliocommons has certainly been very popular with public library users at many diverse libraries such as Edmonton Public Library, Vancouver Public Library, and even more recently the New York Public Library. This social OPAC offers users the ability to interact through tagging and reviewing their favorite (or even least favorite) material, and sharing it with other users. This increases a feeling of ownership (and thus brand loyalty) and participation, and also increases the findability of materials. However, Web 2.0 tools have also been used effectively in an academic setting (although much less common) such as with the University of Pennsylvania’s Penntags which incorporate’s their own social bookmarking site right into the catalogue.

Even though, I have been able to look through a few effective uses of social media for libraries, even academic ones, I still remain skeptical. I am a proponent of evidence based librarianship, and there is very little evidence available on how effective these tools are for users, and if users prefer social media tools on their library’s website or if they would prefer standard catalogues. I would like to see a lot more user-centred research on this before more libraries continue to use Web 2.0 catalogues. In the absence of hard and fast evidence, librarians should make the most educated decision possible, with their best knowledge of their users and their desires/preferences before jumping on the bandwagon.


2011 July 12
by douellet

Hello everyone,

At Canada Cup RaceMy name is Dana Ouellette (although in many parts of the world Dana is traditional a female name I am male). I have lived many places, but i’ve been in edmonton for about the last decade (minus 2 years I lived in Langley, BC). I just finished the second year of my MLIS at University of Alberta. I need to 2 more courses (after this one) until i graduate and will be done by December.

My academic background is mostly ancient literature. I have a B.A. in classics, and an M.A. in religious studies mostly using social science methods for interpreting the gospel of Mark. I was drawn to LIS because I wanted to be connected to the academic community but actually able to get a job. I love it so far. I work for Grant MacEwan library in Edmonton and do reference and I also do a lot with subject guides. My current academic interests are in library website usability, especially subject guides. I have recently finished a research project on student’s use and perception of subject guides in academic libraries. I enjoy usability testing, and helping to make library websites more user-centered.

I have very little experience with social media. I have a facebook account. That’s about it. Some of my friends think I am a bit of a ludite. Although this isn’t true at all because I have a computer and use it often. But I don’t have TV, I don’t own a cellphone and i’ve never sent a text message in my life, I don’t have a twitter account. In a lot of ways I am opposed to these things. I doubt i will ever own a cellphone as I am very against cellphones. and to be honest i am dreading having to use twitter because I dislike most uses of twitter that I’ve seen.

I’m interested in taking this class because I want to see if there are any useful applications of web 2.0 technologies for libraries. As a general rule, I think libraries who do use such tools, do so just to jump on the bandwagon and do it ineffectively. My research on library websites has suggested students just want to get the information and go home not interact via social media. So I am skeptical how effective these technologies can be in the context of academic libraries. But I am open to learning. I haven’t set up my blog or twitter yet but I will post those links when i do.

Other than that, I love cycling and beer (preferably Belgian abbey ale i.e.trappist ales). Thanks,

Dana Ouellette

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