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While I can think of a lot of library uses for videos, Facebook, and Flickr, I don’t see as much potential use for podcasts.  Audio of author talks and other programs, teen-focused audio, and storytimes for children (another version of our Dial-a-Story) are about all I can come up with.  Keeping audio of programs would be useful for patrons who could not attend, and might be easier to do technically than videos (just set the recorder and go).

While videos have YouTube, and photos have Flickr, there is no major site for podcasts, just “many, many podcast directories and finding tools.”  So while we could certainly link any podcasts to a section of our Library and Facebook pages, there isn’t a central place for patrons and other people to find us.  Rather than browsing, people seem to search for or subscribe to specific podcasts (radio shows, etc.), and in my experience podcasts are less likely to spread virally, the way YouTube videos often do.  I know I’m more likely to watch a short video than I am to listen to a short podcast.  On the computer I want something related to look at while I listen.  Mobile device users may be more likely to use podcasts, and if so, we should focus on what those patrons might .

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YouTube can be a lot of fun, as Warren Buffett can attest.  His taste runs to Sinatra videos, but there’s something for everyone there.  And because YouTube is so widely used, it’s easy to link things together; Buffett says he often starts with Sinatra or something sent to him, and the next thing he knows, hours have gone by.

We should use this  linkability to our advantage.  YouTube allows patrons (and other viewers) to subscribe, comment, and easily link to us or share our work with others on other social networking sites (such as Facebook).  On our end, in addition to posting our own videos, we can link to “Favorite” videos–for example, general purpose instructional videos created by other libraries.  A YouTube channel is so easy to set up, during the time I’ve been polishing this post, John’s already created one!  Now we just need to put something there.

Many other libraries have already done this.  The New York Public Library’s channel has many videos of library programs, videos highlighting parts of their collection, and one that thanks their supporters after budget cuts were restored.  The tiny Matthews Library in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania likes to review materials, and has a great video showcasing the wide variety of illustrated versions of Alice in Wonderland, set to the song “White Rabbit.”

But my favorite library YouTube channel is the one from the Birmingham, Alabama public library.  Their channel has 195 videos, including library tours, database tutorials, and instructional videos on technical topics.  It’s a great resource for ideas.  Many of their video instructions are not library-specific, and could be linked on our YouTube channel for use by our patrons.

What I’d eventually like to do is create similar videos showcasing OUR library: behind-the-scenes tours (video versions akin to Sharon’s Book’s Journey Flickr set), Database of the Month promotions, and instructional help.

I already had my own YouTube channel, used for distributing videos (mostly of my children) to family and friends, so I made a first pass at a library video tour, filming from behind the book drop.  I made two versions, one plain (above), and one set to music in Animoto.  Some day I’d like to do a more “professional” version, using better equipment!

Only Connect

The Library now has over 100 Facebook friends!

The quick accumulation of friends shows, I think, that the community is interested and supportive of what we are doing.  We’re doing a great job of promoting what we do on our Facebook page, and hopefully introducing patrons to some new services and ideas.

But so far, it’s largely a one-way conversation, and the whole point of social media is to be, well–SOCIAL.  If we don’t encourage dialogue on our Facebook page, it’s just a variation on the Library website; useful, but not all it can be.

It can be scary to open things up to discussion–will people criticize us, will they hijack discussions?–but the reality might not be all we fear.  People are used to interactive sites now, with all their pros and cons, and good policies (like our blog policy), can be used to control things if necessary.  We won’t know unless we try.

Some things I’d like to see, on either our Facebook page or website:

  • Brief Librarian profiles, like the ones the Darien Library displays.  This could be optional, but for those who wish to share, it would be helpful for patrons to know some of our subject knowledge, reading tastes, and interests.  We would probably learn some things about our colleagues, too!
  • Including an online suggestion box, RESPONDING, and monitoring it.  As an example, the Ann Arbor District Library has a Contact Us form online, and comments are browsable by topic and/or type (e.g., complaint, compliment, suggestion, etc), and include any staff responses.   Just a bit of browsing uncovered many good suggestions for service enhancements and problem fixes, many of them very easy to implement.  Our in-house suggestion box is too limited, and won’t catch comments by people at home in their pajamas using our many online services and resources.
  • Enabling the “Discussion” tab in Facebook, and starting some discussions:  Favorite book, “Things I’d like to See in the Library, Library stories, etc.  And we can see what kind of discussions our patrons come up with! Again, we can always delete anything inappropriate.
  • Direct links to the catalog, Books for You, the Database of the Month, and other useful services.

The bottom line is that we need to convey not just that we want to help, but that we want to listen.

Wiki thoughts

Our Reference staff collects a lot of great information, but these don’t always have a logical place on our website, or can be hard to find there.  And there are time and technical constraints in posting new things to the website–as I know well, since I’m the bottleneck.

I’d like to use a departmental wiki to post all the great articles, database cheat sheets, technology help, subject-based information, and pathfinders/bibliographies we create and find.  If we get a library intranet at some point, we could also use a wiki for staff notes and updates.

The St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, Indiana has a nice subject wiki here:
http://www.libraryforlife.org/subjectguides/index.php/Main_Page

And the Grand Rapids (Michigan) library has a wiki here:
http://www.grpl.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

These were both done using MediaWiki (http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki), and I found them on the new Massachusetts Library System’s wiki about wikis!
http://masslibsystem.wikispaces.com/Wikis

I know John and Laurie have similar ideas.  My starting draft for some wiki thoughts can be found here:
http://newtonref.pbworks.com/

Let me know if you’d like to be able to edit it.

Summer Reading

If you have patrons looking for summer reading ideas, send them over to our Newton Reads blog.  A recent post links to a great collection of summer reading lists put together by another blogger.

And please send us YOUR reviews!

Photo by ishmael78 and republished here under a Creative Commons license.  Some rights reserved.

Auto-tweeting

Follow NewtonFreeLib on TwitterThe Library recently created a twitter feed.  What’s an auto-tweet?  It involves setting up “feeds” so that content is posted on twitter automatically.  At the moment, we are only using twitter for auto-tweeting: our Library blogs, BookLetters, and Flickr page are linked to twitter and any new content there automatically creates a tweet with a link.  We’ve “posted” 39 tweets this way so far (click on the blue button to see them).   But we haven’t posted any direct tweets yet.

I’d like to come up with some other ways to use twitter, and learn more about how people use it.  Any suggestions?

Twitter is searchable, so it is one more way to get messages about Library services out there.  Click here for more information about twitter.  To learn the twitter lingo, see some of these sites:

Twittords
Twittonary

Twittermania

Last week I helped a patron create an email account using Gmail.  In the process I was able to teach him a little bit about how email works, how to choose a username and password, the purpose of a “security question,” and how to deal with those annoying word verification boxes.  He said I had helped bring him into the 21st Century.

But we can’t usher patrons into the world of 21st Century technology if we aren’t comfortable there ourselves.  And it’s important that we not only understand the technology, but that we can communicate to patrons that we know it.  We need to get the word out that we’re not your grandmother’s library.  Social media can help us do this.

Meredith Farkas posted an interesting list of Skills for the 21st Century Librarian on her blog.  The post is a few years old, but still relevant.  Her first competency ties in well with our “7 Things” project: “Ability to embrace change.”