January 31, 2008

The value of conversations and community online

Susan Oliver over at the hcplc=lib2.0 blog just posted about a new York Times article about Tutor.com. This article was very positive about the writer's daughters' experiences using this tutoring service. To a private individual, this service costs $29.99 for 50 minutes. Our library and many other systems provide the Tutor.com service to our patrons for free. Unfortunately, the article did not mention that many libraries provide this service for free.

I immediately looked at the end of the article to see if there was a place to add a comment. This would have been a great opportunity to market libraries and their services. However, I found myself frustrated - there was no commenting available. I think that many people are getting used to blogs and to newspaper websites (like the Tampa Tribune) where one can comment on the articles and see what other community members think about a particular topic. This gives a voice to every person and I think that it is very empowering. I believe that there will be more pressure over time for news agencies to provide a commenting feature. I think that online discussion is a major part of web 2.0.

January 25, 2008

Ask a Librarian Video Contest Finalists

I just received a Facebook update about the Ask a Librarian Director's Chair Youtube competition for Florida high school students. The students create a 30 second public service video promoting the "Ask a Librarian" chat service. The videos of the top five videos are here. You can vote for your favorite video starting January 27th on this page. The winner will receive a video camera, second place is a Nintendo Wii, and third place is a Zen V Plus Digital Audio Player Jukebox.

New cultural and technological trends talk by Stephen Abrams

The Furtive Librarian blog has a great summary post of a recent talk at the New York City chapter of the Special Libraries Association by Stephen Abram about future trends and how libraries need to change to match these trends. Mr. Abrams stressed the importance of librarians promoting what we do and communicating our value to the public. He talked about how we can use personal stories to highlight how librarians can help people.

By the way, Stephen Abram is one of the keynote speakers for the Florida chapter of the Special Libraries Association Conference in St. Petersburg (February 27-29, 2008).

January 23, 2008

Instant Messaging and "Ask a Librarian" exercises

I have a Meebo account and have participated in some of the group chat rooms there. I do not have any contacts in Meebo, though, so I have not used it for chatting with friends. I have used IM within the "Second Life" virtual world to contact friends. I have also used the IM feature of Skype (the free voice over the internet program). Since I did my degree online, I have a lot of experience using the chat rooms from the "Blackboard" online course software.

For the exercise this week, I used my Gmail account which has a chat ability. I chatted with John R. and it worked well. If I was at home, I could have used the Google Talk program and had it on in the background, so I would not have to keep the Gmail program open. It was fun to chat, but I still prefer phone and email for most tasks. I think that this may be because I do not know many people who use IM a lot.

I tried the "Ask a Librarian" chat. The preliminary screen asks for your email address. This is not a required field, but it takes a moment to figure that out. I am afraid that this may turn off some of the patrons who are using this service - since they may not want to give their email because of privacy issues. I first chatted with a public librarian in Jacksonville. He had some technical difficulties and transferred me to another librarian. The second librarian was from the Florida Gulf Coast University and she answered my question. I did not ask a question that required cobrowsing, so I am not sure if I had set my software up properly for that (for example, pop-ups must be enabled). Except for the technical problems, the question was answered quickly. It was pleasant chatting with the librarians.

January 16, 2008

Great book about library 2.0

Andrew posted about using library 1.0 (i.e. books) to learn about library 2.0. My favorite book about Library 2.0 is "Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online" by Meredith Farkas. She does a great job of introducing the concepts and describing how to add library 2.0 features to your library. She is careful to emphasize that each library needs to evaluate which library 2.0 tools will work well for their particular patrons and staff.

January 5, 2008

Instant Messaging (IM) for Libraries

David Lee King recently posted about a great IM idea. His library added a Meebo widget to the "unsuccessful keyword search results" page of their online catalog. That way, frustrated patrons can get immediate help to find what they are looking for. This is providing help at the "point of need". Of course, this only works during hours that the library is open! Also, it would be important for someone to be available at the desk to answer the IMs continuously. This is because people do not want to wait a long time for someone to answer their IM.

Another benefit of IM is that it is specific to that library, so patrons can ask questions about that library's programs and materials. "Ask a Librarian" services, on the other hand, are staffed by people throughout a state or region, and so they do not have such specific information about particular library systems.

Avatar pictures

As Andrew posted in his blog, one of the fun things that you can do on the internet is to create avatar pictures. You can choose to create a character that looks similar to a Harry Potter character, a Simpsons character, or a create your own customized cartoon figure. People can use these as their profile pictures for their blog, for theirTwitter account, or for their profile pictures on social networking sites like Ning.com. On library 2.0, some people use avatar pictures, pictures of their pets, favorite pictures, or artistic photos if they want to keep their identity private. However, many people on Library 2.0 Ning do use real pictures of themselves.
Here are some avatar cartoons that I have made:

Yahoo! AvatarsStephanie S. showed me a nice site called Meez, that seems even better than the Yahoo avatars application. It even allows you to animate your avatar. Here is a picture of avatar from there:

Meez 3D avatar avatars gamesAs you can see, I am a fan of Golden Retrievers.