Library Training Video Critique

This video was created for the San Diego County Library (SDCL) system, and demonstrates three ways to request items: from other branches in the SDCL system, using the Link+ network of libraries and Universities, and San Diego Circuit network of University libraries.

Pros:

  • The video provides step by step instructions for the three types of requests.
  • Utilizes screen shots of the library website annotated with directions and red arrows to guide patrons through the various stages of the process
  • It gives a brief overview on searching the catalog as part of the requesting process.
  • Remind patrons to be aware of the format of the item they are requesting (audiobook, book, DVD, etc).
  • It shows how the system will even be forgiving with spelling mistakes to help you find the author or book you are looking for.
Cons and Suggestions for improvement:
  • Must be viewed in full screen to read much of the directive text.
The annotations are added in as text white boxes surrounded with a red border with a red arrow coming off of it to direct the patron to specific locations on the webpages. The text in these boxes, as well as the general text on the screenshot of the webpage are not easily readable if viewing the youtube video at it’s embedded size. The videos are intended for people who are not all that proficient with computers or the library catalog, which often times are older patrons. Unless the video is viewed as fullscreen, the small text size could render the instructional video near useless.
  • There are two different versions of the catalog: Classic and Encore. The video only addresses one, and doesn’t explain which one they are using, or even address the fact that there are two methods.
The classic catalog is a basic database. Novice searchers or those who are mostly familiar with general internet search engines might have a difficult time utilizing it. Encore is “prettier” and slightly more intuitive and is the method used in the video. The classic catalog isn’t even mentioned or addressed, nor is the fact that the video takes place utilizing Encore. This might cause confusion for some patrons when they are attempting to do things on their own.

While I still have yet to play around with screencasting much myself, I might re-make this video and use the screencasting method instead of the series of annotated screenshots. Screencasting allows the viewers to see the process, including mouse and keystrokes, in real time with narration to clearly explain the process while you see it. The narrator is also free to mention various tips and tricks that also might be useful.

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How does Facebook do it?

What are some of the challenges of building an active online community?

I think today, the main challenge in building an active online community is that there are already SO MANY in existence. In terms of just social networking from back in 2003 to now, we’ve seen the rise and fall of Friendster, Myspace Six Degrees, and many, many more. Facebook seems to have prevailed as the overall winner, though who knows for how long. People are overwhelmed by all of the social websites out there, and are being asked to join more and more each day. I know often times I lose track or can’t even remember some of the places I’ve created accounts, which when I think about it makes me a little nervous in the sense of internet privacy and security.

In my opinion, to create a successful online community today, you need to either have a really original idea or simply do things better than your competitors.

Facebook has risen above the rest because they have worked out how to do things better than their competitors like Myspace, and even a new competitor Google+. Google+ came about in an attempt to give users some things that Facebook didn’t by introducing the concept of “circles”, but didn’t quite execute it as well.

Facebook retaliated by introducing “lists” which allows users to further customize who can see what they share, and how they view their contacts.

So many people are already established on Facebook that it would take a lot for a competitor to sway away the masses, especially if Facebook turns around and offers their users the same exact thing.

The other way I can see a successful online community being created is to have a unique and original idea that people will be drawn to. I see this happening in the beta project fronted by Chris Hardwick, aka The Nerdist. He is in the process of creating the online collaborative community called The Node.

“The Node is the official Nerdist community. It is a collaboration network for creators to nerdsource (crowdsourcing with nerds) and exchange ideas. We share photos, links, videos, and pretty much let our nerd flags fly. Seriously. Look at my face. I am serious.” – Chris Hardwick, The Nerdist

Definitely a fairly unique idea to celebrate nerds and nerd culture, with a positive message to promote collaboration and innovation amongst talented and like-minded people!

There’s even a sub-group for librarians, future librarians and people who simply love libraries  🙂

Is librarianship a doomed career?

Do you see tools like Ask Metafilter and Yahoo! Answers as a threat to our role? Why or why not?

The internet has become a pretty constant fixture in our lives, providing a wealth of information at our fingertips and results within seconds. With free-wifi hotspots in coffee shops and eateries everywhere (I’m currently typing this from a Panera Bread) and a growing population of smart phone users that can connect to the internet almost anywhere, information and answers to almost any question are available practically anytime and anywhere.

Tools like Ask Metafilter and Yahoo! Answers allow users to ask questions and then receive answers from other users. The answers are voted on so that that most useful or accurate answers will appear first. People can also search the questions to see if their question has already been asked or answered and hopefully immediate results.

But what does this mean for librarians? Do these services and other search engines pose a threat to their role?

Personally, I don’t think so. And here’s why:

I consider myself an internet savvy person, as well as very competent in finding information without assistance even before falling into the field of library. I am an efficient searcher and rarely feel the need to ask for help, however this doesn’t mean that I never do, or never will again. I consult the internet for questions or ponderings that are random, quick or easy to answer. Anything more complex, I would consult a library and even a librarian for help in researching, and I’m sure that I am not the only one who acts this way.

Currently, the most popular question on Yahoo! Answers is “Are you sad that Steve Jobs died?” This isn’t really even a question that would be posed to a librarian, but perhaps on a discussion forum.

And the following question is on the front page of Ask Metafilter:

I need a hotel for 2 nights in San Francisco (10/31 & 11/1) next week. I’d like to be in the Fisherman’s Wharf or Marina area, but Chinatown/Union Square area is OK if I can’t find a hotel in the FW/M area. Ideally I’d like a room for $100 or less. I’ve checked the main travel sites, but the lists are overwhelming. It’ll be 3 ladies, so cleaner, newer is best. I don’t mind independent, older hotels as long as they’re clean. Any suggestions or recommendations?”

Again, not a very “librarian” kind of question and doesn’t really imply any sort of threat to the need of librarians.

If anything, I think the internet makes librarians even more necessary. With so much information available to the masses, people are likely to get overwhelmed and may not know how to decipher between quality information and that which isn’t as credit worthy. As information specialists, librarians can help patrons weed through the information that is out there and find resources that are of value.

Collaborative Filtering

I’m always amazed when I discover things in my daily life that I completely take for granted. For example, Netflix is always suggesting new movies and television shows that it thinks I will like, and never once have I really thought about why or how it does this. In this week’s reading, I learned that this is due to a concept known as collaborative filtering and is something that I encounter pretty much every day without even realizing it.

Collaborative filtering is based on the idea that people who have the same opinion of certain things, will likely have the same opinion of other things as well. Just like how people enjoy getting recommendations from friends and people who have similar interests to them. For example, if I like Hello Kitty and someone else likes Hello Kitty but likes Tokidoki as well, there is a good chance that I would also like Tokidoki.

Now that I’m aware of it, I can see how collaborative filtering is built into nearly everything I do on the internet. From internet shopping on Amazon, to advertisements that are directed at me, to the music I listen to and how I discover new artists and bands.

Currently, the new rage in music discovery is a program called Spotify. It basically is a massive database of music that is cleverly designed to promote the discovery of new music. If you like Fiona Apple, it will suggest to you other artists like her, or allow you to listen to an artist radio station that will play her music as well as things similar to her.

And on top of that, it has a social aspect where you can add your actual friends to see what they are listening to and recommending, or even connect your Spotify with Facebook. Spotify+Facebook will add your listening habits to your Facebook stream. This allows your friends who may not be on Spotify to see what you are listening to as well, and maybe discover things that they also would like.

For a library, collaborative filtering could be a great way to allow patrons to connect with their friends and see what books/movies/music their friends are checking out and find new recommendations. Patrons could also review the items they check out, similar to Amazon.com’s review system. Not only does this cultivate conversation and expression, it allows patrons to feel another sort of connection to their library.

Mmm, Delicious!

What do you think of the idea of using wikis and social bookmarking for library subject guides? Which one would you rather use and why?

In spring 2011, I took the class Libr 210 regarding Reference and Information Services. As the final project for this class, we had to create a pathfinder, either in handout form or as a libguide. I had never encountered the concept of pathfinders before, but thought it was a great idea and chose to do a handout on Learning to Sew.

 

In the handout, I highlighted resources that could be found in my local library’s collection, as well as resources local to the area or found online. It’s a great starting point for anyone who comes into the library looking for a place to start on a given topic. However, many people are more on the tech savvy side, which is where the idea of using wikis and social bookmarking can become very useful.

As a librarian, I can start a wiki entry, or subject for social bookmarking and add links and information to it. So for example, just as I did with my pathfinder on sewing, I could create a wiki entry or del.ico.us subject stack on “sewing” as well and include blog entries and various web resources and then make this information available to patrons via the library’s website for access at any time and from anywhere.

For example, here is a sample delicious stack I made on learning to sew.

I’m still learning all of the functions and uses for delicious, but what seems to be the main perk for using it or a wiki, is that they are collaborative efforts. I can start a stack or wiki page and others and use their knowledge and resources to add links of their own, creating a complex and comprehensive overview of any given subject.

While I don’t think we are quite to the point where wikis and social bookmarking will replace things like pathfinders, they certainly have their uses and should be embraced.

RSS: Is it REALLY that simple?

Write your own reflections on what you learned this week. 

The main thing I learned from this week’s readings is that I still have a LOT to learn about RSS.

I consider myself to be a rather tech savvy person and am generally particularly in touch with the internet and internet happenings, but despite numerous attempts I seem to fall a little short when it comes to blogging and getting a handle on using RSS. About 10 years ago, I was very active on the blogging service “Livejournal.” This format utilizing a friends page, made it so easy to stay on top of things posted by my friends, communities based on topics I was interested in, and allowed me to add RSS feeds of popular blogs that interested me. But, I’ve since drifted away from Livejournal and now find it very difficult to even stay on top of the blogs of a few of my good friends.

So far, Google Reader is the only RSS aggregator I’ve really used, and it works very well! When I remember to look at it… Which, before this class, was a rare occurrence.

But, there may be hope for me yet! This week, I learned about a number of different RSS solutions. I was particularly interested in the e-mail notification services, such as Google Alerts. As a fan of Google innovations, I was surprised that I hadn’t actually head of this service before and am eager to try it out. I am rarely away from my e-mail, and assuming I can get a handle on the amount of junk that floods my inbox on a daily basis, it would be nice to have a friendly reminder to read my RSS feeds or to notify me when new things are posted on blogs that interest me.

Topikality and PubSub, were also mentioned in the readings and I was interested in trying them out as well, but it seems that they are no longer available…

Instead of RSS, I tend to frequent websites like Reddit which allow the user to see what is new, interesting and popular on the web through community moderation, as well as follow similarly moderated sub-reddits on specific topics of interest. For example, the main reddit will have articles and posts from all categories, including top news and interesting phenomena from around the web. But, I may also be interested in cooking, or a specific sports team and would be able to subscribe to a sub-reddit devoted to information about those specific topics.

Facebook as a Library Tool

Do you think libraries should be building presence and providing services in MySpace and/or Facebook? Why or why not?

Facebook is one of the most popular websites currently in existence. Nearly everyone across all generations has a Facebook profile for interacting with their friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances, as well as staying in touch with things that interest them such as celebrities/entertainers, musicians and bands, brands and products. Aside from it’s extensive user base and functionality, and is relatively easy to navigate so that even my 70-year-old parents are frequent users.

Libraries should definitely take advantage of what Facebook has to offer. They should create a Facebook fan page and make sure to publicize it to their patrons in the branch and on the library website. The library can use this page to advertise library events and programming, new acquisitions, or items that are popular right now. It is also a great way to get feedback from patrons, as they are able to leave comments on this page.

Another way Facebook can be utilized by the library is as a forum for virtual reference services. Patrons can be encouraged to comment with information needs and librarians can respond to them right then and there.

While Myspace has been around much longer and is a similar concept to Facebook, I feel it is waning in popularity and eventually will fall completely off of the radar. Facebook has been around since at least 2003 and still seems to be going strong, even in the face of the introduction of direct competition such as Google+.

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