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Friday, August 29, 2008

Thing 19 - Podcasts

The podcast I chose to listen to was Tech Training and Competencies for Libraries, presented by Sarah Houghton-Jan from San Jose Public Library, May 15, 2008. The podcast is long (90 minutes) but well worth the time. The importance of tech training and setting learning competencies regarding technology for library staff is discussed. Sarah then discusses how to set good competencies, how to plan effective training, how to measure staff performance, how to reward staff who complete the training, and what to do when staff fail to meet the competencices. Sarah kept mentioning about going to the next slide, but since it was a podcast, there were no visuals. This worried me at first, thinking I might miss something important. I'm a highly visual learner, and rely alot on slides, but the information was explained so well that I felt I got what I needed without the slides.

I found this podcast through the Educational Podcast Directory. I searched under "Information Skills" and then clicked on the OPAL link. I found several other potentially interesting podcasts, so decided to subscribe to the OPAL podcast RSS feed.

I tried searching other podcast directories, including podcast.com, podcastalley, and Yahoo Podcasts. I wasn't able to access podcast.net. I liked podcast.com for its easy browsing ability. When searching the term "library", it generated 759 hits. I found podcastalley to not be as good for browsing. You can browse by genre (broad subject areas) but not by subcategories. Also, the results page often fails to show the entire title if its a longer one. You have to click on the down arrow to get the summary for each result. Searching "library" yielded only 147 results. Yahoo Podcasts was the most difficult for me to use. Search is by keyword only and when I searched for "library", most of the results were under emusic.

Overall, the directory I found easiest to use was the Education Podcast Directory, with podcast.com coming in second. The Education Podcast Directory had an Information Skills category, making browsing for librarianship related blogs easy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thing 18 - You Tube & Other Online Videos

Of the web 2.0 tools I explored so far, online video is one of the most enjoyable. I had alot of fun viewing various videos on YouTube and once I started, it was hard to stop. I especially enjoyed the commercials from the 1970s and the Library Dominoes one, which uses books as dominoes. Clever! I was also glad to see the tour of the Darrel W. Krueger Library at Winona State University. I attended Winona State U as an undergraduate. Unfortunately, I graduated shortly before the Darrel W. Krueger library was built. I remember that the library at the time was not very high quality. A few years ago, when passing through Winona, I visited the University again and saw the new library, which was really nice.

One video I discovered through YouTube is Your Life Work: The Librarian. This is a video filmed at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) in 1946.

I chose this video because its fun to compare librarianship today with the past. The video shows that some things about librarianship don't change much, while some things are very different now than they were back then. For example, it is mentioned in the video that you need to enjoy working with all different kinds of people, which is definitely true today. Also, the sample reference transaction shown, where a young man is looking for a specific book but doesn't know the author or title. He does remember that its about television and its blue. Such instances occur all the time in libraries today. The video seems to emphasize the books aspect of libraries without mentioning very much about other resources the library provides. In the past, libraries probably were mostly about books. Today, we know that is not true. In addition to books, libraries provide videos, music CDs, computers, and programming. Of course technology such as videos, CDs, and computers did not exist back then. Another reason why I chose this video was so that one could see how things were done without technology like computers. For example, stamping book cards when checking out items. There was also a bit of humor in this video as well.

Another video I enjoyed was Common Misconceptions About the Eden Prairie Library.

I enjoyed this video for the humor and because it features a local library I'm familiar with.

For this thing, I also compared the features on various video sharing sites. YouTube has several features that I like. You can add videos to your favorites, rate videos, view video statistics (# of views, length, how long ago it was added, and average rating), create a quicklist of videos for later viewing, subscribe to channels in areas of interest. I also liked some of the search features in advanced search. You can sort videos by relevance or rating, limit by duration or date it was uploaded, and filter out videos that may have content not suitable for minors. One thing I did find frustrating was that when I tried to add a video to my favorites, it wanted me to verify my email address even though I was already logged in. It took me awhile to fix this problem. The picture quality was poor on some of the videos. Also, YouTube does not allow you to edit videos.

I also explored Google Video and Yahoo Videos. Google Video allows you to view the most blogged and the most shared videos. You can also limit your search to video duration, close captioned, or by domain. You can also filter out videos with adult content. I didn't see anything similar to "channels" or feature that allows you to favorite videos. Yahoo Videos has a browse by categories feature and has networks (similar to channels in YouTube). You can favorite videos. Overall, Yahoo Videos didn't appear to have as many features as YouTube and I found it more frustrating to use. To get the overall rating of the video, you must click on it. I didn't find any advanced search options, just basic keyword. Searching also seems to give less hits, probably because less people use it.

Some libraries ban video sharing sites such as YouTube due to the high bandwidth requirements. This is unfortunate because these sites potentially have many uses for libraries. Libraries can use sites such as YouTube to post video tours of the library, post videos of special programs, use it for instructional purposes, or even for humorous purposes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thing 17 - ELM Productivity Tools

I have been using the various databases provided by ELM regularly in my work but in Thing 17, I found some new ways to use them. These include setting up search alerts and webpages and making notes on a section of book in Net Library. These tools will help me be more effective and efficient in my work. It will be easier to keep current on research and keep track of what information is most useful.

These ELM productivity tools can also facilitate collaboration with colleagues. For example, NetLibrary can be used to post notes on a selected ebook, which can be shared with others. EBSCO and ProQuest allows one to create a webpage on a topic of interest. This webpage can be emailed to colleagues.

These tools also benefit patrons in several ways. NetLibrary allows patrons to search for and read e-books. This can be advantageous when a patron doesn't want to wait to get a bound copy of the book or doesn't want to pay money for a book. The webpage feature in EBSCO, can be used to create search guides on various topics. These search guides can be given to patrons. Patrons can also be encouraged to set up search alerts when using ELM databases, to make their research easier.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thing 16 - Student 2.0 Tools

I work in a public library but occasionally, I will get students who need assistance in writing a research paper. Tools such as the University of Minnesota Assignment Calculator and the Research Project Calculator can provide assistance to such students. These tools provide tips and web links for all parts of the research process from understanding the assignment to writing the final draft. You can enter the start date and the end date for an assignment and the subject area and a recommended timetable for the assignment will be generated. You can even receive email reminders for deadlines of the various parts of the assignment. The Research Project Calculator also provides tips for slide and video presentations in addition to essays.

I used to be a teacher and I wish I knew about these tools at the time. I think introducing students to these tools would have made me more effective as a teacher. Many of my students were overwhelmed with the idea of doing research and these tools clearly lay out the process step-by-step and give excellent suggestions. The Research Project Calculator also has a Teachers Guide, something I would have loved at the time I taught. The teachers guide mentions that teachers should play the role of an information literacy coach when assisting students with research.

Libraries can link the U of M Assignment Calculator and the Research Project Calculator to their webpages and show the links to students who seek assistance in research. Librarians themselves may find the websites personally useful if they are doing their own research and are publishing papers or giving presentations. The Teachers Guide on the Research Project Calculator website provides numerous handouts, many of which would could be used as library handouts. Examples include the student research planning guide, identifying a unique angle on your topic, interviewing tip sheet, boolean basics, improving your Google search, evaluating websites, and copyright and fair use.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thing 15 - Online Games and Libraries

For this thing, I explored both Puzzle Pirates and Second Life. I have to admit I found Puzzle Pirates a bit frustrating. I attempted to download the software so I could try out the games but I kept getting this error message that says they couldn't verify digital signature. I used the help menu to try and figure out what this meant but couldn't find it on there, so I gave up. Apparently, there are various roles in Puzzle Pirates such as bilging, carpentry, or sailing, but I couldn't find information on these individual roles either.

I had better luck with Second Life but found the interface rather overwhelming. To me it looked like it would take too much time to learn to make it worthwhile. So I didn't bother with setting up on account. I do know that libraries are increasingly using Second Life in various capacities. Kelly Czamecki, in her Teen Second Life Presentation lists reference, book discussions, art exhibits, displays, memorials, author visits, and trainings as examples. Its interesting to see how libraries are using this but to me it seems like these could all be accomplished more efficiently via other web 2.0 tools.

Also, various libraries are now providing workshops on teaching computer users how to use Second Life, particularly teens. Part of Second Life's appeal, I think, is that users can create various things and share them with other users, such as avatars.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thing 14 - Library Thing

I already had a Library Thing account, but revisted the site to explore more of its features and catalog additional books. Some of the neat features include viewing books on a virtual shelf (seeing the covers of the books in your library), finding out how many books you share with other users, list of authors who use Library Thing, the list of highest and lowest rated authors, lists of users with the most books cataloged and the most reviews, and the option of adding a Library Thing widget to you blog which I did. As of August 3, 2008, there are almost 30 million books cataloged on Library Thing!

I was pleased to find Library Thing groups for MLA and for librarians. There wasn't much happening (yet) with the MLA group but I joined anyway. I also joined the librarians group and bookmarked the page via my del.icio.us account, so I can go back and read the group's message board.

Right now, I primarily use Library Thing for my personal use- to track down favorite books I have read. In the future, I would like to apply this more to a library setting. For example, Library Thing can assist with Reader's Advisory. A patron can set up a Library Thing account, catalog some books and get a list of recommendations. Also, users can search Library Thing via tags, to find books pertaining to a certain area of interest. Smaller libraries can use Library Thing to catalog their entire book collection. Library Thing can also be used to share booklists with patrons. Books of a similar genre, can be tagged similarly. Or separate Library Thing Accounts could be developed for separate booklists. Library Thing could serve as an alternative to posting booklists on the library's website or printed versions of booklists.