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Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Evolution

... so I really enjoyed blogging here last semester and want to continue exploring technology and libraries by these kinds of postings. This blog was a highly successful experiment for me and for gaining a greater understanding of how powerful and important technology and Web 2.0 software is to the future of libraries.

Through blogging I feel like I am really finding my own 'voice' and my way of exploring libraries. Also, how I perceive their place in  society is evolving and changing.

Libraries are where patrons and staff can explore any information they can find and make discoveries about themselves and their world.  This exploration means libraries are continually experimenting with all the new technology that is developed and discovering ways to use it that promote greater informational exploration for themselves and for their patrons.

Please join me on my new blog, Experimental Library.

Let me know if you too have moved on to another blog.

Thanks for following and sharing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Organization 2.0: Avoiding the Social Software Graveyard

I was fortunate enough to attend the keynote presentation of the Trendy Topics online conference, Social Media & Libraries: Twitter, Facebook, & More.  Meredith Farkas, widely known as a social media expert when it comes to libraries, was the keynote speaker.  Her address, Organization 2.0: Avoiding the Social Software Graveyard, was informative and touched on the many ways libraries can essentially fail at successfully implementing social software.  She also discussed the characteristics of effective 2.0 projects and how libraries and other organizations can build more capacity for Web 2.0 initiatives and services.  What follows is a review of the points Meredith touched on and her perspective.

From Implementation to the Grave
Meredith started out by listing off how many libraries have failed at implementing social software and made their way to the proverbial graveyard.
  1. Jumping on the bandwagon: When one library is successful, another library takes notice of their success, and the other library decides to attempt to duplicate the first library’s efforts.  The second library usually fails, since they do not take into account the uniqueness of the first library with regard to patron usage and the library’s capabilities, which are specific to that library.
  2. Assuming every library is the same: This is related to libraries jumping on the bandwagon.  If libraries are not all the same, then why to other libraries try to duplicate what the first library has accomplished?  Libraries need to take into account why certain technologies and techniques have worked at other libraries before copying them.
  3. Techno-lust: Librarians getting wrapped up in the excitement of the technology.  When this happens, usually the focus and the point of implementing the technology is lost and therefore not effectively implemented.
  4. Assuming “being there” is enough: Libraries create a Facebook fan page for their library and do nothing else.
  5. Thinking free means ‘no cost’: Social software in libraries is not free, it is only free in that libraries do not have to pay to use the social platforms.  However, the librarian monitoring the software still needs to be paid and that librarian still has to find time in their work day to accomplish all their other work as well.  Meredith used the euphemism, “free as in kittens,” they still need maintenance, the librarian still needs to create content.
  6. The Lone Ranger: That person who acts alone to create the social software content.  This person will eventually get too busy to keep up.  This is a good example of why there should never be one person running these types of services.
  7. Assuming more than 40 hours of work can be fit into a 40 hour work week: Adding more work to a librarians work load means either they have to work faster or they need to give up some responsibilities or tasks.
  8. Assuming all you need is enthusiasm:  Once the newness of implementing the new social software technology has worn off, the enthusiasm diminishes and it becomes another task to complete.
Effective 2.0 Projects
Meredith next discussed what she felt were the characteristics of effective 2.0 projects.
  1. Know your users.  What will work for your unique library patron?
  2. Have clearly defined goals.  The social software is more likely to succeed if it is included in the organizational goals.
  3. Involve staff from all levels in the planning process.  Having people with fresh eyes and fresh perspectives can help add to the success of the social software.
  4. Planning for the continued use and maintenance of the technology.  This includes creating content.
  5. Using tools that actually solve problems.  One example was using Facebook as a portal to the library’s services, where patrons that could find the library’s Facebook page could gain access to the library’s services through that page.
Growing Web 2.0
Meredith Farkas additionally discussed how organizations can build more Web 2.0 capacity.
  1. Question everything. Use jargon that patrons will understand. 
  2. Look for good ideas everywhere.  Ask the staff what can be done differently.  Look for insights from employees.
  3. Encourage staff to learn and play with Web 2.0 technologies.
  4. Develop a risk tolerant culture.
  5. Be agile, do not become attached to technologies and processes.  This will help with creating new services and using new technologies.
  6. Give the staff time to be creative.
  7. Encourage network building.  Social media ‘friends’ are a virtual rolodex.
More Information
The keynote speaker also has made the slides to her presentation available on her Web site.  Her blog can be found at:

I felt that the keynote speaker gave a good presentation.  It was thoughtful and full of useful information.  Also, her presentation seemed to be a perfect summary of the ideas behind implementing and using Web 2.0 technologies in libraries.  She made good points that compliment the content of this class well.    Many of the core concepts learned in this class are present in the points Meredith made in her presentation.  Hopefully, the content and information presented and consumed in this class coupled with more presentations regarding Web 2.0 technologies will transcend this semester and be integrated into the thoughts and ideas of mine and my classmates’ library and information skills toolbox.

Please share your thoughts below.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Screencasting With Jing

There are so many different ways and softwares available for creating a screencast.  In the past I have used some of them, creating training videos at work using still frame pictures, Audacity, MS Powerpoint, MS Movie Maker.  It sounds complicated, but it really isn't and I have a great deal of fun creating videos using different types of software.

For this week's assignment I was tasked with creating a screencast of one of my favorite social software platforms, I picked Twitter.  I had fun creating the screencast using Jing and I have to say it took a couple of tries.  It's a short, 5 minute demo on the basics of Twitter.

Jing is an excellent tool for screencasting.  It's easy to use and intuitive.

Please let me know what you think.  Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Online Community as a Library Service

Online communities are the places Internet users go for information gathering, camaraderie, and belonging.  These online communities are the places where individuals are able to express their interests, debate topics, and make professional and personal collections.  Online communities play a vital role within information sharing and creation on the Web.

This is partially why online communities should be perceived as of paramount importance to libraries.  As Meredith Farkas discusses in her book Social Software in Libraries, libraries are already acting as a hub in many ways for their communities.  Many of the physical community functions libraries already provide could be provided via their Web presence.  This would make the library more valuable to their community for a number of reasons.

Mainly it would allow individuals within the physical community to connect with others online on subjects of mutual interests, which instantly adds value to a library.  Also, it shows the community, physical and virtual, the library is interested in the community’s needs by allowing them an area for discussion and dialogue online.
However, as Dion Hinchcliff alludes to in his article Twelve Best Practices for Online Customer Communities, creating and maintaining a successful online community is no task to be accomplished overnight or instantly.  The development of a community around the services a library provides takes time, patience, and a solid strategy.
If libraries are willing to start down this road, they will need a clear path, know specifically what the need is they will be fulfilling for users, and then make time to reasonably maintain the community.   Andrew Cohen also discusses the successful aspects of online communities in his article Characteristics of Successful online Communities.  He touches on what the building blocks of a strategy should be and briefly discusses the elements needed for carefully maintain the delicate balance.

The additional work created by maintaining an online community is no small undertaking, policies regarding acceptable behavior and postings by users need to be developed and consistently applied.  Within the same thought, the policies will need to address how users will gain access to the community.  Will there be required membership for participants, and will there be anonymity or pseudonymity? 

These considerations and others pose formidable barriers to the implementation of online communities for libraries.

Here are some examples of online communities: Edmonds, Flickr, and IdeaStorm.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Collective Wisdom-Crowd Sourcing

Crowd sourcing is a new supply of information.  It seems that this new supply is shifting and changing the creation and consumption of information.  No longer are the go-to experts the only ones with knowledge, now knowledge and wisdom can be gleaned, loosely, from large groups of like-minded individuals contributing to same site.

This shift will have huge implications for how information is created and used on the internet.  In extreme circumstances, the accumulated wisdom of an online community could eventually differ from that of an individual expert and if the group is large enough, their collective ‘voice’ could overwhelm the individual expert.  Would this make their collective wisdom more credible than the expert’s?  Would the rest of society be so accepting?  I know, let’s have our community vote on it.  Just kidding.

I truly think that a shift away from the wisdom of experts is not necessarily a bad thing.  Depending on the subject matter, using the wisdom of crowds could be hugely beneficial to individuals needing guidance on all types of issue.  This is only true if there is a large or significant contribution from the community being queued for their collective wisdom.  As seen in The Wisdom of Community, by Derek Powazek, the jar of pennies example show’s that if you ask enough people the group’s median guessed numbers will be close to the number of pennies in the jar.  Powazek also touches on the fact that large groups of people should not be asked to solve complex problems, they should be given simple tasks to accomplish.

There are also implicit problems with using this type of information, since it is subject to many problems if not implemented correctly.  This could be said of many different types information gathering attempts, however cultivating and harvesting this type of information requires a tight grip on the procedures to be used.  Without making the process simple to the contributors or by not having controls on how users make those contributions, the collective wisdom is subject to a small group skewing the results and or the information being useless because the task was not simple enough for the group.  These types of issues are covered by Kristina Grifantini in her article Can You Trust Crowd Wisdom?.

The opportunities and problems of crowd sourcing are amplified considerably, since libraries depend on a large degree of control in providing their online catalogs and curating their collections.  By allowing the collective wisdom of their patrons to augment their collection libraries open up a greater degree of interaction with their users and share the responsibility of curating their collection.  However, this would raise the issue of how this would affect how library materials are searched and found.  Crowd sourcing could be more effectively used for understanding user services needs or helping with library policy issues.  Where is the best place to build additional library space or the best place to put new public workstations?  Let’s ask our patrons.

The wisdom of the crowd has many uses and definitely has a place on the Web.  The gathering of this information is implicitly collaborative and has the potential to make seemingly daunting tasks more manageable.  Its power and substance are beginning to be realized and it has great potential.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Internal Collaboration: What's Really Important

This week we read more about wikis and using them and other collaborative technologies within organizations.  While it was no surprise to me to find out that there are many more factors involved when gauging a collaboration's success than merely having a smooth implementation of the technologies, I did experience an 'ah-ha' moment when reading about the other contributors to internal collaboration.

Besides the technology being used, the organization's culture needs to be analyzed for its fit to that technology.  This is not new news, but it is an aspect I think is lost on many large organizations and libraries.  This was my 'moment', it made me think of how often an organization actually looks at a collaborative software and measures it against its own organizational culture.  How will implementers develop and nurture buy-in, what internal technologies are they already using that will need to be stopped to encourage use of the new software, and what is the measurable added value of this collaborative software for the organization?

The article, Corporate Culture, Not Technology, Drives Online Collaboration, helps with beginning to develop a framework for large organizations to use when deciding on what type of internal collaborative technology to use.  The culture of the organization is required to be more open and trusting, with very little micro-management and technically savvy, willing employees.  The article also discusses knowledge archipelagos, where the hoarding of information or knowledge is counter productive to the collaborative process, obviously.  These are just a few of the elements that contribute to having a collaborative organizational culture and would seem to be useful for almost every large organization, not just corporations.

The upshot of reading this week's articles and thinking about using internal collaborative technologies, such as wikis, drove home the fact that no matter how wonderful or integrative collaborative initiatives are, it's the culture that can make or break a successful implementation or use of these innovative and creative methods of working together.  It is the people and how they interact, a culture of micro managers and paranoid coworkers will always torpedo collaborative efforts.

Understanding the Value of Social Bookmarking

My experience ...

I recently enjoyed using and exploring the bookmarks on Delicious.  I have been using it for accumulating many helpful and interesting tips, tricks, and advice for using social media technology in general and for libraries and have to say WOW!!!

Delicious has been out there for a while and I had dabbled in it in the past, but not as thoroughly as list last time, the discovery experience is unmatched in my opinion.  This is the most fun on the Internet I have had in a long time.  It is reminiscent to using maps or an atlas, where you start in one location and start allowing your curiosity of a nearby geographical structure, a city, or a highway to take you to different locations and look for other interesting aspects of those areas.  In the same way you can start out looking at a road atlas, looking at Eastern Washington and finding yourself perusing the Rocky Mountains or the Gulf Coast in the southern United States, you can find yourself exploring and following tags through the Delicious universe of information.

I started out following tags while completing my class assignment and found myself exploring and experimenting with Tag Galaxy.  This site is a tag cloud search service using a relational visual interface to search and display images and photos on Flickr.  Since this visual interface is not new, you may say, "what's sooooooo special about it?" It is interesting because its not just circles surrounding another circle with your original tag cloud search, it is depicted as a solar system.  Your initial search is the 'sun' and the related tags are orbiting 'planets'.  By holding your cursor over a 'planet' the number of photos with that tag is shown.  Clicking on a planet changes the 'sun' to those specific tags and clicking on the 'sun' will allow you to browse the pictures with that specific tag.

I found some breathtaking sunset photos of the Washington Palouse.  If you cannot initially think of tags to search, try clicking on the suggestions on the left of the screen.  This was only one site I found by exploring Delicious.

This brings up another point I would like to touch on, the act of tagging and how it is used to categorize content.  Following tags, as I did, can lead to a serendipitous experience, but that is not always the case.  Social bookmarking sites are useful, but only as useful as the way tags are applied.  Without a specific set of standards to apply tags there is a great deal of subjectivity applied to how content on the Web is categorized and organized with these services.  While this can be interpreted and good or bad, it does make using these types of services more of a wild card than a tried and true method of discovery.

Some final thoughts: I quiet enjoy the serendipitous discovery of content by using services like Delicious and tagging and social bookmarking services will be invaluable to me in the future.