Posts Tagged ‘libraries’

h1

Games

April 13, 2011

“Six or seven years ago people didn’t use search engines. Just three or four years ago, people didn’t use blogs or podcasts. The world is changing very dramatically very quickly, but videogames might give us a hint of what’s to come” (Kurzweil, 2008).

Last week I saw the documentary Transcendant Man about the ideas of future theorist Ray Kurzweil. While he’s easy to dismiss as a bit of a nut, his ideas are definitely provocative. His principle theory is that computer technology is going to advance to a point where every aspect of human life will be profoundly affected by computers. A lot of his theories discuss artificial intelligence and virtual realities – and the impact they will have on human life. Instead of carrying around smart phones, he believes we will have nanocomputers inside us which will connect us to information, much like the internet does, and which will be able to modify our bodies and our experiences. I’m probably not doing a very good job describing his ideas. But I can see how these ideas relate to gaming technology… Undoubtedly the competition to create more and more realistic virtual game worlds is helping to push forward the development of computer technology.

Kurzweil’s ideas have been fresh in my mind while I’ve been looking at the week’s lesson. I have to say that I am pretty shocked by the realism of some of the virtual worlds in video games today – the violent ones anyway. And it worries me to imagine the effects of playing these violent games for long periods of time. I know that some people talk about the benefits of gaming – hand/eye coordination? – but I have to say I have doubts about the value of gaming. Video games do seem to be preparing people to accept increasingly artificial environments, but I wonder – are they actually good for us?

A friend of mine recently told me about a book called Last Child in the Woods. In the book, author Richard Louv links the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression to the lack of exposure to nature in today’s wired lifestyle. His ideas are based on a growing body of research indicating that exposure to natural environments is essential for healthy childhood development, and emotional and physical well-being in both adults and children. While I haven’t actually read the book yet, what I do know about Louv’s ideas rings true to me. In my own experience, I can say that I feel much more relaxed and healthy after going for a walk in the woods than I do after sitting in front of a monitor for a few hours.

So I’m thinking that maybe libraries should do something to support healthy childhood development. It’s quite likely that public libraries are going to lend games and develop online gaming programs – we all know how popular video games are. But recognizing that children are already spending too much sedentary time inside in front of screens, I think we should encourage them to get outside. If libraries provide video games, perhaps they should also develop some outdoor projects or programs – maybe a community garden or a summer outdoor reading space. Wouldn’t that be great?

Anyway, this week I tried an online game. I would have tried Second Life, but my computer is on its last legs so it wasn’t really an option… Instead, I went with a new Facebook game, America 2049. The game was created by Breakthrough, a human rights organization – it is supposed to raise awareness about human rights issues and social change using popular culture and social media. I was surprised at the sophistication of the game (it’s probably not sophisticated at all, but I don’t play video games so I’m not a good judge). The game is set in the future (2049!), and my character was a spy who was supposed to track down a Ugandan terrorist. I really wasn’t sure what to do; I gathered a few clues and actually broke a (very easy) code, and then I ran out of fuel. While I was waiting for my character to refuel, I checked out the Agent Exchange, where players can communicate with each other. Honestly, I just played because we were asked to try out a game for class; I couldn’t wait to be done. The game seemed to require a significant time commitment, and I just wasn’t up for it. Perhaps the game really will be a “transformative” educational experience for some; I have to say that it was not for me.

Advertisements
h1

podcasting and mobile technology

April 5, 2011

Podcast is up… take a listen here.

I didn’t actually talk about podcasts in my podcast, but I’d like to mention that I found a site, Library Spot, that links to a number of library-related podcasts. The podcasts are organized into categories; some are from public and academic libraries and are aimed at patrons, but a lot are for library professionals – including book talks, presentations from library conferences, library technology news, training, etc.

I have to say I love podcasts – we listen to a lot of podcasts in our house – but I have never subscribed to any before this week. And I have never listened to them on a mobile device… so I don’t actually associate them with mobile technology. I was happy to find my podcast surprisingly easy to record and upload!

h1

Social Media Policy

February 21, 2011

“(W)ith the opening of avenues that support freedom of expression comes much responsibility” (Haskell, 2007).

So far in this course, I have already been pondering the implications of opening up the library’s online presence (website and OPAC) to social interaction. I imagined the potential headaches that could arise from the constant policing of the library’s website for inappropriate comments or posts by patrons. I was happy to see this week’s readings exploring my concern. Haskell’s example suggested to me that social media policy should, in fact, be an extension of existing library policies – including “code of conduct” policy that patrons must follow in the physical space of the library (no insults, racial slurs, threats, etc.) and aspects of collection policy (no libelous statements, plagiarized material, or private information provided without consent). As well, the blog Librarians Matter presented a compelling reason for formalizing policy relating to patron use of the library’s social media: “we included a section on moderation as we wanted staff to be able to show the guidelines if anyone wanted to know why particular material was on any of the library’s online sites.” It is always useful to have a formalized set of regulations to turn to when making difficult decisions or when explaining these decisions to others.

What I had not really considered until this week was the need for policy to regulate the use of social media by library staff. Clearly, not all librarians are knowledgeable about social media – we may not understand privacy settings, or even the implications of posting opinions on our profiles outside of work. Most of the policies I came across seem straightforward. The blog Tame the Web: Libraries, Technology, and People offers a list of sensible guidelines for employees to follow: don’t publish confidential information, respect copyright, respect your audience, use disclaimers, don’t let social media interfere with your job, etc. In particular, Kroski’s example of a corporate executive’s Twitter faux pas did a good job illustrating why an organization might want to adopt an “acceptable use” policy. Training programs for librarians – young and old – may be the best way to implement social media effectively in the library while avoiding unfortunate Facebook or Twitter mishaps. No one wants to get dooced!

h1

Mashups

February 13, 2011

Before this week the only mashups I knew of were music mashups (Double rainbow all the way!). To be honest, I never would have thought that a map tagged with pushpins was a mashup. And I’m still not sure that I would recognize most mashups for what they are when I see them… For instance, when I look up ebooks on the Hamilton Public Library website, I am greeted with a page of scrollable book covers organized by genres (suspense, mystery, romance, sci-fi). Is this a mashup? I don’t know how the page was created. To me, the fact that I don’t even know when I’m looking at a mashup makes it the most mysterious form of social software we’ve looked at so far.

That being said, this week’s lesson and readings opened my eyes to the potential for blending data from different sources to create novel services or applications. Engard suggests some interesting ways that libraries have found to enhance their websites and catalogues using mashups. For instance, the map mashup created by McMaster University Library to show the location and time period of aerial photos seems like a particularly practical tool for researchers. While mashups like these are useful, they seem to me to require a higher level of technical expertise to envision and implement than the other types of social software we have been studying. Engard describes mashup developers in her book: “The creators are people with ‘spark’. They can see how two or more things can be combined to make something new, richer, or better.” Put me in the kitchen, and I’m a mashup expert, but on the computer I have a long way to go!

My map is done; to be uploaded soon… hopefully.

h1

Wikis

February 4, 2011

In one of this week’s readings, Meredith Farkas discusses the use of wikis to make library websites more participatory; she suggests using wikis to create subject guides, community bulletin boards, and catalogue records which the public can add to or annotate. I think I’ve expressed in earlier posts that I really appreciate these types of interactive functions on library websites. However, I also wonder if opening up a library’s website for public input might create some serious problems. We’ve probably all had class discussions about privacy and censorship issues – it seems to me that applying Web 2.0 functions to library websites and OPACs might reopen both these cans of worms. How do we monitor user comments on an interactive OPAC? Do we censor comments and tags that we find offensive or inappropriate? (And how do we determine what is inappropriate?) Maybe this isn’t a problem most of the time, but surely it happens occasionally… And what about the quality of information – do we “weed” links added to subject guides that we feel offer poor quality information? It seems the moderation of a big library website and OPAC could require a huge amount of time (and money), and may require making a lot of difficult decisions. And with regard to privacy, should we be asking our patrons to share so much information about what they are reading? Librarians have been strong advocates for privacy; does this represent a change we should be concerned about?

I know there are a lot of benefits that can come from the use of Web 2.0 functions by libraries. Is there a simple answer to these questions that I’m missing?

h1

information overload

February 3, 2011

When it comes to Facebook, I am pretty cautious about joining groups and “liking” things; I know that if I casually “like” too many things I will be inundated with mail and updates about them. I have to say, I am now applying the same cautionary principle to my brand new RSS feed. While I thought that using RSS feeds would help me manage the information I connect to, I have been quickly overwhelmed by updates (I have 32 unread items from Mashable! right now…ugh). And I only subscribe to three things! While I’m sure there are benefits to using RSS feeds, the same old problem persists – too much information and too little time.

Which brings me to blogging…. I agree with Schwartz that blogs can be great tools for sharing library and community information, announcing new acquisitions, and for library advocacy. I’ve been checking out how the Toronto Public Library is using social software. It seems to me that their use of social software, including blogs, can provide a good example for other libraries. Yesterday, there were five posts to their blog. They announced the completion of renovations at a branch location, recommendations for CDs and books for the month of February, details about summer employment, and a Canada Reads event at the Reference Library. If I lived in Toronto, I might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for TPL’s blog to keep up-to-date. They also have blogs embedded in their catalogue – when I searched for “vegetarian cookbooks” on the OPAC, the first result was a link to TPL’s “Health and Wellness” blog which featured new vegetarian cookbooks and links to external resources. These blogs contain purposeful information, and represent useful applications of the medium. On the other hand, blogging principally for the purpose of professional development, or because there is an expectation that every library should have a blog, seems like a bad idea to me. Blogs need to have something to say; they need to be worth reading. Otherwise, they are just clogging up our RSS feeds.

Check out this blog from the librarians at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.The blog was started in 2007, and has been used to successfully promote access to health information outside of the university community – to health professionals and the public. It is updated regularly and is a great resource for health information.

Of course, there are many aspects to social media. Some we may like more than others… Check out this blog, which offers a little constructive criticism for the folks at TPL…

h1

entering the biblioblogosphere…

January 20, 2011

My Kobo arrived in the mail this week (…I bought a refurbished one from Future Shop at half the price of a new one), and I successfully borrowed my first ebook from the Hamilton Public Library! Even for me, this process was not too difficult to figure out. I had to install Adobe Digital Editions on my computer and use this program to transfer the downloaded book to the Kobo.

The book I borrowed is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. There was a waiting list to borrow one of the print copies in HPL’s collection. I was happy to avoid the wait for the book, and amazed that I could have a digital copy in my hands within minutes. HPL has branch locations spread over a huge distance – from Freelton (halfway to Guelph) to Stoney Creek on the other side of Hamilton. If a copy of a book I want is on the shelf in Stoney Creek, I can spend ½ an hour driving (one way!) to pick it up, or wait a week for it to be transferred to Dundas. So I guess I am starting to see the convenience and appeal of the ebook format.

Up until this point, I have used HPL’s website and OPAC to search for books and make requests, and occasionally to update my account. Mostly, however, I go to my local branch to browse, ask questions, take out books and pick up holds. It is possible, however, that my relationship with the library is about to change. If I can get the material I want electronically, I don’t need to inconvenience myself with a trip to the library. As more and more people start using ebooks, I’m guessing they won’t be making as many trips to the library as well. At this point, I can really see that a well-functioning, interactive library website and OPAC (that is, Library 2.0 functionality) will be hugely important to any library. If people are interacting with the library remotely, they need to be able to communicate (like asking questions and having them answered). If they are looking for something, they should be able to find it easily.

Maness, writing in 2006, discussed how websites like Amazon.com were much more dynamic and interactive than the average public library OPAC. Only last year (2010!), Hamilton Public Library updated its website and OPAC to make them more interactive. I must admit, I really like the changes. Searching the OPAC is now, actually, a lot like searching Amazon. There are pictures of the book covers, comments, tags and ratings. The website includes subject guides to online resources, like a “food and cooking” subject guide which links to various online cooking magazine, sites, organizations, maps, etc. I imagine Library 2.0 functions will only grow in importance, in part as libraries try to keep up with emerging technological trends (like social networking), and as they continue to try to provide the services that they are intended to provide (like access to information) in ways which are useful to their patrons. It seems to me that it will be an ongoing challenge to keep increasingly complex websites and OPACs updated and functioning in the Library 2.0 world.