Saturday, July 5, 2008

We've Only Just Begun: Assessing My Library's "23 Things Web 2.0" Exploration Project

I can honestly say that I enjoyed my library's staff development project, "23 Things: to Explore New Technologies, Enhance Individual Skills & Encourage Creative Responses to Community Needs". For nine weeks we blogged, flickr-ed, wiki-ed and played around with Web 2.0 (and Library 2.0) tools and technologies. While I was familiar with most of these concepts, I appreciated having a chance to learn more about the world of Web 2.0 and to get more "hands-on" experience within a structured learning environment. If our administration offered another discovery program like this, I would definitely like the chance to participate.

I love to learn! If it was up to me (and I had unlimited funding), I'd be a perpetual university student. With all the formal schooling I've had (I have two bachelors' degrees and a master's), I should have had a PhD by now. Someday I will get that degree, but for now, I've been taking every advantage my employer has offered to enchance my professional skills: computer classes, supervisory and leadership classes, workshops, etc. Each year, our library even dedicates a whole day for training the entire staff. However, this year we tried something new: we were encouraged to participate in this self-study training program.

I think my favorite exercise was creating this blog. As a writer and journalist, I obviously like to write. And I also like graphic design, so the layout and design aspect of the blog was fun to do. As was our exploration of Flickr and photosharing. Although I had a Flickr account prior to doing this project, I didn't use it much. But now I think I will use it some more. I just returned from an Alaska cruise; therefore, I can upload my vacation photos to my account in order to share them with my friends and family without having to print out all 200+ photos. Maybe I'll even post some of my travel journal on my blog, along with my favorite photographs. I definitely want to continue blogging and keep this blog updated.

Finally, I would like to thank the Web 2.0 Exploration Project Team for all the hard work they put into making this a fun and educational project.


Listening on Overdrive

Okay. First things first. I have an iPod Nano. I mostly download music. But last year I downloaded an audio book: "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman. Confession: I've never listened to an audio book, not on cassette, CD, or digital medium.

Having thoroughly enjoyed reading Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, of which "The Golden Compass" was the first book, I thought I'd begin my foray into the audiobook world with a title in which I was familiar. Since my library didn't have the audio version of this book at that time (neither on tape, CD, nor through our digital audio collection service, Overdrive), I decided to buy the audio from iTunes. (By the way, we now have the book on audio CD).

When the librarians all attended a training workshop for Overdrive, I found out why "The Golden Compass" wasn't available through that service: there is hardly any children's or young adult titles in the collection. Oh. And you can't use iPods with Overdrive. (Apple Inc. hasn't contracted with them as of this writing). So, as a library patron, why would I want to use this service?

Apparently, a lot of our patrons are enjoying Overdrive. We get a lot of questions about it at the reference desk. Our patrons get to listen to best sellers and popular nonfiction titles for free. While I'm still not big on audiobooks (I've yet to finish listening to "The Golden Compass"), I can appreciate the fact that many "readers" enjoy listening to a good book (and not have to pay upwards of $25 for an audiobook like I did). So I'll give Overdrive another try for my personal edification -- and because it's one of the last assignments for our library's Web 2.0 exploration projects.

Explore. Explore. Explore. Browse. Browse. Browse. Oh what to "read"? Oh wait. Cool. I just found Stephenie Myer's first novel for adults, "The Host". Sounds good to me. Stephenie Meyer is the "hot" young adult author of the best-selling "Twilight" series.

Now I'll listen to an excerpt...

Okay. When I go home I'll download the Overdrive software (easy, because I have a Mac and high-speed internet access) and "check it out" for the 14-day loan period. I do have an MP3 player my friend gave me, so I can listen to it on that device. Thus, I'll give this audiobook stuff another try.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pod People: Communicating with Podcasts

As a fan of science fiction books, movies, and tv shows, you are exposed to new ideas and technologies and fantastical worlds. The creators of these works tend to be some of the first people to incorporate the latest ideas of our own world. So it was not surprising that Ronald D. Moore, the co-creator of the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica" series on the Sci-Fi Channel, chose to use Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, widgets, and podcasts to enhance the viewing experience of the show's fan base.

Librarians also seem to be willing to experiment with new ideas and technologies. As we've seen with other Web 2.0 tools, podcasting also has useful applications to the library world. Podcasting, like blogging (and like the Internet in general), can have democratizing effects in the public sphere. Unlike traditional mass media -- in the case of podcasting, commercial radio broadcasting would be the comparison -- Web 2.0 tools can be utilized by almost anyone. For example, you don't need a broadcasting license to transmit a podcast. Then why not take advantage of this free medium?

One of the most innovative ways public libraries are using podcasts is for services to teens. Teens are already "plugged in" to their I-Pods and MP3 players, so for those libraries wishing to market their services and programs for young adults, podcasting would be a great communication tool. The Seattle Public Library offers a teens podcast produced and "recorded for teens by teens." Young adult patrons simply subscribe to the podcast via a link to iTunes or RSS on the teen center page of the library's web site to enjoy book reviews, radio theater, and learn about upcoming programs and events at the library.

I think it would be fun for my library to produce a podcast for our teens, too.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

YouTube Can Be a Star!

Who knew it was so easy to get your 15 minutes of fame? With YouTube and other video hosting sites, anyone can be a star. As part of our library's Web 2.o exploration project, we had to take a look around YouTube to see what it's all about and then blog about our experience.

Since I'm already familiar with YouTube, I'll talk about how it can be used as a marketing tool for our library. My Adult Programming Committee and the Community Relations staff came up with the idea of using YouTube to market our 2008 Adult and Children's Summer Reading Program: Whole Wide World @ My Library. We thought a YouTube video could be used as a way to advertise the program. Instead of paying costly television advertising fees, the free video hosting site was a unique way of getting our Public Service Announcement out in the community. A script was written by the Community Relations Manager and the video was directed by our graphic designer.

2008 Summer Reading Program Video