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What a fantastic learning experience this course has been!  We’ve covered so much material in so little time, but I feel as though I was able to get a good grasp on most topics and understand how each has the potential to be used in a library setting.  I was surprised at how easy it was to understand a lot of the different concepts covered, like Web 2.0 and cloud computing, due in large part to the great explanations and resources provided by Dr. Rasmussen.  Prior to this course, I had always just ignored those phrases, because I figured that I wouldn’t be able to really understand what they were referring to.  Now I’m confident in my knowledge of a wider range of social media platforms and concepts.

I don’t think any of the topics covered really bored me.  I think I can do without Google+ as a social network, but am really keen on HootSuite and the potential it has for libraries using multiple different social media platforms.  As long as library patrons continue to use social software, it’s important that libraries at least consider using them as another channel with which they can connect and help serve their users.

Having taken the MLIS Issues in Distance Education course last term, I am quite familiar with Second Life – the professor held office hours every week in Second Life, and we were encouraged to attend and participate by discussing weekly readings and topics.  To be honest, it never quite won me over.  Overall, I think it lacked the following that other social media applications have.  When I was in the course, outside of other library students, I had only one friend who knew what Second Life was (in fact, he was surprised to hear that it still existed).  Throughout the course we were taken to a number of different virtual islands.  One island had a banned books exhibit on it, and another had librarians working reference shifts in a virtual library.  There were some very interesting things to look at and do, but on the whole, I found it extremely hard to figure out.  Even by the final week of the term, I still struggled to figure out how to sit down in the chairs that surrounded the table our avatars sat at for weekly discussions.  I can’t count the number of times I sat on the ground instead of sitting in the chair.  How embarrassing!

For this week’s post, I decided to revisit Second Life.  It had been a good four months since I had last visited the virtual world, so I figured I’d go back and see what had changed, and if there were any avatars hanging around the Western area of Second Life.  I ended up taking a ride on the Mustang Express, a virtual train that takes you around the island.  It was neat, but not exactly educational.  My laptop quickly started to get hot, and considering the number of final projects I had stored on it, I decided that it was best to end my return to Second Life and log off. 

I am definitely not a gamer, and I never really caught on to video games, even as a kid.  For this reason, I’ve had a tough time getting used to the idea of video games and libraries being compatible.  It also makes it hard for me to come up with answers to the questions posed by Dr. Rasmussen.  I suppose one reason why children might choose to convene at a library, is that they might not have access to these types of electronics at home, and can make use of the resources available at the library instead.  The library could also bring people from a wider gaming community together in one place (ie. if you only play one game all the time, you might never interact with gamers that like to play a different game).  If the library sets up programming that brings people together, you might be exposed to a much greater range of people and maybe gain some new gaming interests.  That being said, at this point, I don’t know of any really fantastic service or resource that the library can offer gamers.  I’m sure I was probably pretty perplexed when I first heard about libraries getting involved with Facebook and Twitter too though, so maybe it will just take some time for me to come around to the idea.       

As a result of the fact that everything is so easy to do these days when it comes to computing, I think I often lose sight of what is actually behind all the social media and technology applications that I deal with on a day to day basis.  Although I found myself getting lost in some of the tech language being thrown around in a lot of the course readings for this week, it was fascinating to learn more about the concept of cloud computing.  Although it is still a little bit unclear in my head, the implications for  people and libraries are both exciting and concerning.

Schnell discusses the nicety of taking the worry away from users in terms of their information being stored on devices like USB keys (2009).  Thankfully, he also acknowledges the fact that it shifts that worry to the cloud (Schnell, 2009).  For a recent presentation in one of my MLIS classes our group used a Google Doc type of setup to create a presentation.  Even though the assumption was that we would just simply bring it up and use it on the day of the presentation (no USB key necessary), the thought was still in the back of my mind that the site we were storing the presentation on might go down at just the moment we had to present.

Bansode and Pujar discuss the major advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cloud computing and libraries (2012, p. 510-511).  One that really struck me as being supremely advantageous was the possibility of the lack of need software updates (Bansode & Pujar, 2012, p. 510).  I’ve experienced this as a student using the computers at school.  It seems that every single time I log on to a computer on campus I have to install Adobe Acrobat just to access journal article PDFs.  I can’t imagine the frustration this would cause in a library scenario with all of the computers needing updating.  If cloud computing can take that worry away, as Bansode and Pujar allude to (2012, p.510), then it seems like a very positive development in the tech world.

In terms of disadvantages, the one that stuck out for me was the privacy factor (Bansode and Pujar, 2012, p. 510).  I’m paranoid having my own information hanging out on the cloud, let alone being responsible for allowing patron data to be on the cloud, and then having minimal control over that cloud (Bansode and Pujar, 2012, p. 510-511). 

With all of these recent journal articles being written on the subject, it seems obvious that things are moving in the direction of integrating cloud computing into libraries.  Owing to my lack of background in the subject, I feel unable to give my own predictions, but it will be interesting to see what develops nonetheless.

References

Schnell, E. (2009, February 17). TechTips: Cloud Computing. Retrieved from http://library.osu.edu/blogs/techtips/2009/02/17/techtips-cloud-computing/

Bansode, S.Y. & Pujar, S.M. (2012). Cloud Computing and Libraries. DESIDOC Journal of Library and Information Technology, 32(6), 506-512. Retrieved from http://publications.drdo.gov.in/ojs/index.php/djlit/article/view/2848/1392

I can honestly say I’ve never really caught on to tagging – even on Twitter I don’t tend to add hashtags to my tweets.  This is likely a result of my lack of knowledge on the topic.  For this reason, I was really interested in finding out more about tagging in this week’s lesson.

When I first read about Delicious in this week’s lesson I got really excited!  How many times have I wished I had access to the bookmarked pages on my computer at home?!  What a fantastic idea.  I quickly found out though that I might not be as technologically savvy as I once thought.  After creating an account, I had problems figuring out how to add a bookmark to my account.  Once I finally figured out how to do that, I then struggled to find those new bookmarks in my account.  Eventually I started to get the hang of it, and realized that they’ve made it quite user friendly after you get over the initial hurdles.  I really appreciated the fact that I could find sites similar to what I currently like.  I’m really very glad that we got to learn about this site, as I think it will make my life a lot easier!  Mind you, it also helped me waste a lot of time while writing this post, as I started to check out a bunch of new celebrity gossip sites I had never heard of before.

I really liked the example given by Dr. Neal with regards to recognizing “the social utility of folksonomies” (Neal, 2007, p. 8) by pointing to a picture she had taken, and to which another user added a new, and really useful tag (Neal, 2007, p. 8).  It was a great way to showcase how something like tagging, which looks so simple when you encounter it, can be so helpful.  I definitely agree with Dr. Neal’s sentiment that “it seems counterproductive to simply dismiss the value of user-assigned descriptors” (Neal, 2007, p. 10).  As Dr. Neal pointed out, there are definitely drawbacks to the concept, including “misspelled tags” (Neal, 2007, p. 10).  But don’t most things have drawbacks associated with them?

Neal, D.  (2007).  Folksonomies and Image Tagging: Seeing the Future?  Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 34(1), 7-11.  Retrieved from http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Oct-07/Neal_OctNov07.pdf

Although I would say I’m pretty much addicted to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, I’ve always had a hard time with the microblogging aspect of it.  Any time I’m about to tweet or update my status, I sit there, rethink it, and ultimately decide that my microblogging is unnecessary, and foolish.  I’m a little bit better at Twitter, likely because I only have five followers compared to hundreds of Facebook friends – the smaller audience helps make me a little bit more adventurous with my updates. 

With my hesitancy towards microblogging in mind, I really appreciated David Allen Kelly’s suggestions for library tweets.  I liked the idea of providing a link to the library’s catalogue record for a specific item in the collection (Kelly, 2009 July 29, p. 2-3).  Seems like something I’d be interested in clicking on as a patron, so makes sense to provide it as a tweeting librarian. 

I never really considered the tweeting that occurs during a television show as a “communal experience of group viewing without being physically together” (Wohn & Na, 2011, p. 2).  Thinking about all of the recent tweets that have occurred during my new favourite television show Duck Dynasty however, I can really see how this is the case.

Since I am already familiar with Twitter, I chose to check out HootSuite this week.  I had recently been told about it by a friend, and was interested in trying it for myself.  Interest quickly turned to fear when I had to provide my password information for the different social media platforms I wanted to add to my account.  I realize that for HootSuite to do what it does, it needs this information.  Recognizing this didn’t make it any easier to provide that information though.  After recently having my Pinterest account hacked, I am extra conscious these days about protecting my accounts and account information.  I was definitely impressed by what I saw while exploring and utilizing HootSuite.  Having the ability to schedule posts is clearly a fantastic option, especially for libraries and organizations that have a lot of stuff going on.  Having the ability to create reports might come in handy for the project we’re doing for this course, and is something I definitely intend to investigate further.  HootSuite proved that the things that people come up with and create these days, are exceptionally innovative!

References

Kelly, D.A.  (2009 July 29).  How Your Library May Not Be Using Twitter But Should.  kellydallen.  Retrieved from http://kellyd.com/2009/07/29/how-your-library-may-not-be-using-twitter-but-should/

Wohn, D.Y., & Na, E.K.  (2011).  Tweeting about TV: Sharing television viewing experiences via social media message streams.  First Monday, 16(3).  Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3368/2779       

Although I had heard of Google+ before this week’s lesson, and had always wondered about it, I had never used it or taken the time to explore it in any depth.  When the opportunity arose in this week’s exercise to try out a new social networking platform, Google+ was obviously an easy choice.  My first impression was that Google+ was really quite simple to use, but lacked the visual appeal of Facebook.  I was also unable to find the majority of my friends.  Unsurprisingly, it was my MLIS classmates who had accounts.  This is also something I’ve noticed on Twitter – the majority of the people I follow (outside of celebrities) are MLIS classmates and friends.  As far as I can tell, the majority of MLIS students are keen to try new things, and seem to be on top of social networking options, when compared to my non-MLIS friends.  I think it will certainly take me a long time to get accustomed to Google+, mainly because I struggled to find things that were an improvement over Facebook.  Likely I’ll have to spend a bit more time exploring what it has to offer.  I must say that it didn’t make a tremendously great first impression.

In contemplating the question that Dr. Neal posed regarding the library’s role in this social media and networking boom, I found that I was very conflicted.  This conflict all stemmed from last term, when I created a library Facebook profile for a previous course.  After creating it, I really began to consider how much effort it would take for a library to stay visible to its students in the Facebook world.  That’s not to say that I don’t think libraries have a place on Facebook.  I guess I just feel like it’s another way for school to interfere with a student’s life outside of academics, and it would take something really exciting/interesting for me to want to find a library’s page on Facebook.  For me at least, Facebook is a time-waster, what I turn to when I don’t want to think about school work and projects.  Interestingly enough, I don’t hold these sentiments when it comes to other social networking platforms.  Twitter for example, seems like the perfect way for libraries to reach students.  Why am I so quick to accept libraries and follow them on Twitter, but can’t be bothered to hunt down the same library on Facebook?  I don’t know that there’s a straightforward answer to that.

To keep up with and participate in the social media conversation, I think libraries have to really understand their audience.  If university students are flocking to Instagram, posting/tweeting pictures is probably a good way to keep your followers interested, and even gain some new ones.  Making sure that your social networking material is relevant is also a huge consideration, which again comes down to understanding your audience.  It sounds so simple, but as I learned from my experience, it’s not nearly as easy as it seems.  

Although it makes complete sense for libraries to institute social media policies, I was astounded when Kroski mentioned that these policies “can help establish clear guidelines for staff members who are posting on behalf of the organization as well as employees with personal social media accounts” (2009, p. 2).  If the account is work related then I am in complete agreement.  What an employee chooses to post, tweet or blog about on their own personal account however, should in no way be controlled by their employer.  I guess my sentiment is based on the assumption that not posting work related material to your own personal account would be common sense.  That being said, I’m not sure where LinkedIn fits into this discussion.  Am I doing something wrong by posting my work history on LinkedIn?  What ramifications are there for a company I’ve worked for if I do so?  I also didn’t appreciate the suggestion that employees “Include a disclaimer on your personal blog and other social sites in which you state that your opinions are yours alone and not your employer’s” (Kroski, 2009, p. 2).  It just seems like too much of an invasion of an employee’s personal world by their employer.   

Kroski also recommends that one “Look to established policies for best practices and suggestions” (2009, p. 2).  That would be great advice, were there not so many policies out there to look to.  Kroski points to seven different policies for consideration at the end of her article (2009, p. 3), and I imagine there’s plenty more where that came from!

The concept of providing “employee training or orientation sessions regarding the use of the social Web” (Kroski, 2009, p.3) is interesting, and one that I had never considered.  I don’t know that training on the scale described by Swallow would be required in libraries just yet.  Who knows though, at the rate social media seems to be growing, it just might be necessary in the near future!

Kroski, E.  (2009). Should Your Library Have a Social Media Policy?  School Library Journal, (Issue 10).  Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6699104.html       

Swallow, E. (2011, January 18).  HOW TO: Build a Social Media Education Program for Your Company.  Mashable.  Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/01/18/social-media-training/     

I’d be interested to see whether Fichter’s chapter on Mashups scared the rest of the class, as much as it did me. Her story of Tom Owad and what he was able to do with mashups (Fichter, 2009, p.15) should be enough to make people think long and hard about what they make available online.

For those that are risk averse, I would think that the drawbacks greatly outweigh the benefits in the case of Mashups. To be completely honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with the final product in a lot of cases. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the amount of effort, creativity, and intelligence that these things take to put together – creating one no doubt takes more brain power than I have to work with (case in point – I was quick to choose the Google Map Maker option as my activity for class this week, instead of the MapBuilder option). Mashups do make things easier and can save users time – but I just don’t know that the amount of effort that gets put into creating them is necessarily justified by the end result. I shouldn’t be so quick to judge (especially since I didn’t even take the time to attempt making one myself), but in comparison to the other topics we’ve covered in this course so far, Mashups just didn’t really catch my interest.

The Google Map Maker activity was fairly straightforward, although it did take me a while to come up with something to add that wasn’t already present. I ended up outlining a baseball diamond near my parents’ house. As with the majority of Google applications, it was really simple to use. I didn’t know that it was possible for people to go in and add things to Google Maps, so in that sense, it was definitely a great learning experience. It was also nice to see that the things that users add have to be verified before they’re truly added to the Google Map. When I first started the activity I was a little nervous because it seemed a bit too close to the Wikipedia style of collaborative projects. The verification step of the process was a nice safeguard that paranoid people like me can truly appreciate.

Reference

Fichter, D. (2009). What Is a Mashup? In N.C. Engard (Ed.), Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data (p. 3-17). New Jersey: Information Today, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/books/books/Engard/Engard-Sample-Chapter.pdf

Aside from knowing about and referring to Wikipedia, I really had no clue what a wiki was until my first term reference course here at FIMS.  Even then, I was hesitant to use the class wiki because I was so unfamiliar with the concept.  One of the tasks for the course this week was to edit a Wikipedia page.  I was actually really surprised at how uncomfortable I was while completing this task – it made me really nervous to contribute to something that is so public.  As much as I, like Professor Neal, agreed with Lim’s statement that “educators and librarians need to provide better guidelines for using Wikipedia, rather than prohibiting Wikipedia use altogether” (Lim, 2009, p.2189), the ease of use of the Wikipedia site is downright frightening.   It really does prove to you that anyone with internet access and basic internet navigation skills can alter any Wikipedia entry they choose.  Scary.

Carol McGeehon gives a detailed outline of the manner in which her library system used a wiki.  The amount of material she described as being covered by the wiki was quite overwhelming.  It sounds a lot like the wiki is being used as sort of an intranet site for their library system.  I didn’t fully understand the “MyTiki” (McGeehon, 2010, p.10) feature she spoke of at the end of her piece, but I can see how it would be important to have some way to highlight the wiki information that is relevant to you.

Lim’s article took a look at university student Wikipedia use – a pretty relevant topic choice given today’s emphasis on Wikipedia’s credibility.  Even though I understand that Wikipedia is highly used, there are two points made by Lim in her article that surprised me:

1) “Wikipedia was used more frequently than library databases” (Lim, 2009, p.2199)

The fact that this point surprises me, might have more to do with the fact that I am in Library school, than anything else.  I think being in this program has biased me towards the use of published sources.

2) “one-third of the respondents tended to use Wikipedia for academic purposes” (Lim, 2009, p.2199)

This seems like an overwhelming number of students!  At this point in my academic career, I’m not likely to turn to something outside of the scholarly literature unless the instructor specifically tells me that I can.  In fact it felt a bit weird (and almost liberating) to be able to use sources outside of the standard library literature for Assignment 1.

References:

Lim, S.  (2009).  How and Why Do College Students Use Wikipedia?  Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(11), 2189-2202.  Retrieved from <http://web.ebscohost.com>.

McGeehon, C.  (2010).  A Wiki Way of Communication.  OLA Quarterly, 16(3), 7-10.  Retrieved from <http://data.memberclicks.com/site/ola/olaq_16no3.pdf>.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a big fan of RSS feeds, so I was happy to find out that they were one of the topics on the agenda for this week.  With most things on the web being updated so frequently, I find that RSS feeds help prevent me from becoming too overwhelmed.  Knowing that I only have to head to my Google Reader to find out what’s new, makes life that much simpler.  Library use of RSS feeds makes sense, especially given their role as “Information Gateways” (Singh, 2009, slide 97), as Singh points out.  Prior to being introduced to the concept of RSS feeds on a recent co-op term, I had no clue what an RSS feed was, and I had visited plenty of library websites that likely had them.  I imagine that a lot of patrons would need some sort of prompting to discover RSS feeds.  In that sense, libraries might need to make more of an effort to promote their feeds and their potential benefits to patrons.

Creating my own RSS feed on my blog for this course was a bit of a challenge because one of the steps was a little bit different than those depicted in the video provided by Professor Neal.  It still doesn’t look quite right (it’s in an odd position at the bottom), but it’s functional nonetheless.  I did not find subscribing to RSS feeds to be much of a challenge, although finding the RSS feed button on some sites was not nearly as easy as it should be.  I followed Farkas’s advice (Farkas, 2011) and created an RSS feed for a specific journal in OVID, and was surprised to find that it was just as simple as signing up for other RSS feeds!

Although I see how blogs would be useful in libraries, I take issue with blogs – if anyone can make one, it makes it hard to discern exactly which ones are worthy of being followed.  I thought it was interesting that Fitcher made the comment that “Brevity is important” (Fitcher, 2003, p.3) but failed to provide much in the way of guidance on that front.  Different audiences will have different preferences for the depth of information provided on blogs – what is brief enough for one person, might not be nearly brief enough for another.  How does a librarian blogger get it right?

References:

Farkas, M.  (2011, January 13).  Keeping Up, 2.0 Style.  Retrieved from <http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/columns/practice/keeping-20-style>.

Fitcher, D.  (2003).  Why and How to Use Blogs to Promote Your Library’s Services.  Marketing Library Serivces, 17(6), 1-5.  Retrieved from <http://www.infotoday.com/mls/nov03/fichter.shtml>.

Singh, S.  (2009, February 3).  RSS and Its Use in Libraries.  Retrieved from <http://www.slideshare.net/sukhi/rss-and-its-use-in-libraries>.