The Beastie Boys Library Sabotage Mashup

While I generally don’t get too geared up for zany library funtimes (because I want people to take me seriously since I do serious work), this video is definitely worth watching.  It mashes up one of the greatest bands of the late 20th century with a little LIS:

Happy Monday!  Now everyone go listen to favourite Beastie Boys album on rdio


Google Reader Takes a Bow as Google Plus Takes the Stage: the death of critical reading on the Internet

The new Google Reader was released this week.  Its UI changes have streamlined its sharing functions in order to integrate it as easily as possible with Google Plus.  At first, I didn’t mind the changes, mostly because the clean white interface has kept distractions to a minimum on the Reader Interface.

But I’ve now changed my mind. I’m not sure I like the Google Reader changes. The new interface’s clean lines means that readability has stayed the same, if not improved, i.e., its look and feel seem to promote the act of reading over skimming. But the changes to its sharing function really is an issue. Sure, I can share things to G+, but clicking on the +1 button is akin to shouting into the din of the Internet.  I can share and share and share as much as I like, but I don’t know if people are sharing their own Google Reader items back into my G+ stream. Furthermore, I don’t know what kind of content they’re sharing anymore.  Are the shared items in my Google+ Stream coming from a valued Google Reader store?  Or are these items just clicks and pages found while surfing the net?  At best, the former Google Reader dialogue is now feigned (it’s now a monologue on G+), and the quality of those shared pages on G+ is indeterminable.  I’m now looking for options.

The changes we’ve seen to Google Reader has got me thinking again about the nature of reading, skimming, and sharing on the Internet. What made Google Reader so great (aside from the emphasis on reading, see above) was the assurance of quality that came with its shared items.  Shared Items on Google Reader were posts that came from blogs and websites that people believed were important enough to read regularly as opposed to mere posts and pages found while they or their friends surfed – and skimmed – the Internet.  People who used Google Reader had a better assurance that the content they found in their shared folder was carefully chosen, was fit for consumption, and required some of their time and attention in order to synthesize.

The fact that blog posts and shared items in Google Reader sat in a folder until the user actually read them shows the importance of the items’ content.  Google Reader’s interface – like all RSS interfaces – demanded the user actually read the content he or she saved to the system: content did not disappear until you at least saw that it arrived for you to read. This premise behind Google Reader, i.e., posts are to be saved for later reading, meant that its users selected content that was not merely ephemeral.  By its very nature, Google Reader asked the user to choose only the best content on the web and to store it in a separate space to read at a later time.  By and large, shared items on Google Reader had a quality assurance label stuck to them: these posts were determined to be distinct from the general “of the moment” nature of the web and therefore should be treated with care. Anything shared on Google Reader required special attention because some one said, “This content came from a valued source and ought to be read, and it is not going away until you at least see that I’ve shared it with you.”

Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, and so many other social sites do not do this.  Social networks promote connections above all else, so the content is almost always “of the moment” (that’s the second time I’ve said that).  Content on social sites is pinned to a moment in time, but the conversation always moves forward. If you log in to Facebook at 2pm, you only see the conversations happening at 2pm; you must look carefully for what your friends shared earlier in the day.  That shared content may have been valuable, but there is no easy way to flag that value on social networks since content is subordinated to relationships and connections as they exist the moment you are online.

I like Google Plus, I really do. But like other social media sites, Google Plus emphasizes shared connections and the constant stream of chatter that arrives on your screen.  Of course, we can stop that stream at any time, click on a link, and fully consume what has been offered to us, but a social site’s design promotes social conversations over thought and analysis. I still believe that the “Internet Age” is an age of skimming. We are living in a time where thorough, critical analysis has been subordinated to the conversation. I’d like to see a balance restored between the two. So long as we aren’t reading well – so long as we aren’t taking the time to think critically about what we visit and read online – we are preventing those conversations from reaching their full potential.

Internet 2.0! Now skim faster and shallower!

Internet 2.0! Now skim faster and shallower!

A Newspaper for Academic Librarians

You know it had to happen sooner or later, and here it is – my first foray into the editing realm.  I’ve created a newspaper called The Academic Librarian Review.  Check it out now.

The premise is simple. will scan Twitter for tweets that have links of interest to academic librarians.  I developed this by creating the following Twitter search string:

library OR libraries OR librarians academic OR college OR university OR universities OR post-secondary OR PSE -high -school -elementary -kids -children -teacher -public -ousted


The search string is simpler that it looks. will first consider only tweets that have these words in them:

  • library OR libraries OR librarians

It will then limit this query by holding onto tweets that contain any of the following terms:

  • academic OR college OR universities OR post-secondary OR PSE

And finally, it will definitely throw away all tweets that have any of the following words:

  • high OR school OR elementaty OR kids OR children OR public OR teacher OR public OR outsted OR


This hopefully filter tweets referring to high school, to public libraries, and to foursquare notices (because libraries are popular Foursquare locations).  Apologies if you’re offended that I’m discriminating against school librarians and public librarians.  I’m focusing this product on academic librarians since that’s my profession at the given moment.  Later this weekend, I may create a feed for public librarians, though, since I’m passionate about the social justice and community-building work that goes on in these important institutions.


At any rate, be sure to check out The Academic Librarian Review on  Maybe this venture will work, maybe it will be a bust.  We’ll know by next week, I’m sure.



PodCamp Halifax 2011 slides: Leveraging YouTube

This post is for the benefit of all the Halifax Podcamp 2011 attendees as well as for the rest of the Interweb – the slides from my presentation, Leveraging YouTube: informing and educating with screencasts.

[slideshare id=6677109&doc=podcamp-110123192506-phpapp01]

Click here for the link to the actual Slideshare page.  And click here for the link to the Scribd page, which offers the same content on a different platform.

On Monday or Tuesday, I’ll write up a few notes from the presentation.  There were a number of things I didn’t have the chance to hit on, including measuring use (and not letting the numbers get to you) as well as the strong user communities for the different types of software.  If there is one piece of advice to hand out though, it is to keep it simple, always.  Be brief, be on message, and state only one message at a time in all of your screencasts.  Your users will often be looking for information to solve a problem now, so give them what they’re looking for.

Screencasting software links:

Here are links to the Dal Libraries tutorials:

  • Our index – over 100 online learning objects.  Note: some are five or six years old now and show their age
  • Vimeo – I’ve uploaded a “best of” collection to Vimeo.

Finally, here are two of my older posts on screencasting, which have proved to be quite popular:



Post Script:  In case you’re looking for the actual Podcamp Halifax website, you can click here for:

Come to PodCamp Halifax 2011!

Do you want to know what you’re going to be doing on January 23, 2011?  It’s quite simple, really.  You’re going to attend Podcamp Halifax 2011.  And you’re going to have a blast.

Why are you going to have a blast?  It’s quite simple, really.  When you come to Podcamp, you’ll find like-minded social media fans, professionals, and purveyors, and they’re going to be from all walks of life.  This means it’s going to be as easy as pie to talk up one of your favourite subjects and find some different perspectives and new ideas.  And you’ll likely meet some new friends along the way.

What sort of sessions should you attend at PodCamp 2011?  It’s up to you, really.  You could sit in on a session on the ROI of social media or you could take part on a talk augmented reality as the new social network.  Or, even more fun, you could come to my session, called Making movies makes them S-M-R-T: Screencasting, education (and PR?). In this session I’m going to show how screencasting at Dalhousie Libraries has evolved from static online lectures to videos that introduce real-life librarians to users and then nurture relationships that will last through their time at university.

So come to Podcamp!  Sit in on some sessions, or give one of your own!  Space is still available, and it’s all free, thanks to some great local sponsors.

Screencasting in libraries: build a relationship and not a movie

This past month, my work producing and managing online learning materials collided head-on with the launch of our university’s new website. The Library’s website (which is the school’s largest site by page number and by usage, so they tell me) improved top to bottom: our home page now features a single-search bar that gives our users quick access to WorldCat, our databases, our course reserves, our traditional catalogue, and more. We encountered some very big hiccups, as any big web change will, but I think that most students will benefit from it.

One of my major tasks during the launch has been to update our tutorials. This has been a very slow process since there is only one of me to face off against over 100 tutorials (let alone dealing with my other duties in the normal work week). I wouldn’t say that I’m disappointed with my pace since I’m moving as fast as one can, but I am frustrated that more couldn’t be done in the short time we have. Instead of updating all the tutorials in one fell swoop, I have to prioritize which objects demand the most attention immediately while leaving others behind for later. I refer this work to my colleagues as triage: it’s messy, it doesn’t look good, and our emergencies and our fatalities are in full view of anyone passing by.

If one good thing has come out of this, though, it has been the development of new tutorials which showcase everything the new site can do. Some of the tutorials have been hit-and-miss, while others have been very successful in classrooms and in the general public. The new tutorials feel more like The Web in 2010, and they definitely put the old tutorials in their place – back in 2005 or so. Check out this collection as an example:

1. Dalhousie Libraries’ “Welcome to the Library” tutorial. It’s informative, but its colours are dark, and its message is very formal:

2. The new “Getting your Research Started with the Dal Libraries Website” tutorial (Oct 2010). This tutorial is fairly long at 3 1/2 minutes in length. However, it is instructional by design and is meant to be shown in a classroom setting, to be followed up by real-life surfing and examples offered by a real-life librarian:


3. The most recent tutorial, “Finding Databases with the Single Search Bar”. This tutorial is under 2 minutes in length and features a face (me!) so that the voice doesn’t become a ghost in the machine. Its tone is intentionally conversational:


The third tutorial is my favorite. This video achieves something we have been talking about quite a bit at Dal Libraries as of late – bringing the actual librarian into the tutorial. We have a large number of tutorials that do a great job encapsulating their message – they often have superb production value and credit must be offered to my predecessors. However, as good a job these tutorials do at capturing the lesson at hand, we’re not certain if the student hangs around from start to end to take in all that’s offered. And if they’re not sticking around, then there’s no point in keeping the tutorials on the Interweb. So right now we’re shortening the message’s length and we’re making the librarian a real living person and not just a voice speaking from the computer. Our argument is that if people will turn to our videos to fill an immediate information need, then we have an obligation to give them exactly what they’re looking for. And if the information need remains unmet at the end of the tutorial, then we must show that there truly are real, living people out there (through our virtual reference service or in-person) who can help them.

Does the third tutorial convey all of what I’m hoping it does? Likely not. But all the same, I’m pretty sure it does a better job than the other two tutorials at showing the user that librarians can be of service to them. And I think this is something other libraries should be doing, too. If, at the end of the day, I can create a short video that helps nurture a relationship between a librarian and a library user, then I’ll come away satisfied.

Some notes:

  1. All three videos were developed with different versions of Camtasia screen-capturing software
  2. We believe the jury is still out on the effectiveness of tutorials in 2010. Our stats show usage, but I’m constantly suspicious of Google Analytics (this is the topic of a future post). Neither do we have consensus regarding our focus groups and usability tests
  3. There is no significance to No. 32

The Zeds is now on Facebook! (We may have a logo, too.)

In honour of this week’s premiere of The Social Network, I decided to get with the times and create a Facebook fan page for the website.   I don’t really know if it will bring in more traffic, but it will definitely make it easier for some current users to know when a new post has been uploaded, i.e., I won’t spam your Facebook wall anymore; now it’s automated.  🙂

The Zeds. The answer is yes.

Through it all, I may have created a cheesy logo, too.  We’ll see what happens on that front, as well.


How To Use Social Media in Libraries

Brigham Young University‘s Harold B. Lee Library shows us this week how librarians can use social media to broadcast their message well beyond the library walls.   On July 15, 2010, they released their send-up to the Old Spice’s Smell Like A Man, Man, viral marketing campaign:


Did you know that 8 out of 5 dentists say that studying in the library is 6 bajillion times more effective than studying in the shower?  Study like a scholar, scholar.

Librarians will surely find this clip funny – how can’t we?  It’s about libraries and using them.  It promotes the use of libraries as an effective learning space on the campuses students go to learn for four years.  But I think the commercial (that’s what it is – it has serious promotional value) teaches us a lesson when it comes to using social media and innovative technology to promote what librarians do and what goes on in libraries.

BYU’s New Spice Man hits the ball out of the park by embedding two messages into his speech – that libraries are great study spaces, and that libraries have an inordinate number of resources for students to use.  In between torn shirts, flash-cut set changes, monster sandwiches and carts, students learn that the library’s got what they need when it comes to completing assignments

Even more important, I think, is the video’s popularity.  This Youtube clip was viewed more than 112,000 times in one day (see the original youtube page for info).  This is a direct result of its high production value.  Clearly, serious planning – and a fair number of resources – were employed to ensure this clip can effectively get the message out. The video’s statistics show us why librarians need marketing and PR skills: because if we can’t explain to our patrons (or whatever you want to call them) what we can do, then the resources won’t be used as often they could be.  Our inability to show people what can be done in libraries means missed opportunities.

I’m not suggesting that libraries ditch all communication models for this single approach.  That wouldn’t work because:

  1. Not all libraries has the financial resources to do what BYU has done, and
  2. The communications approach used in this video was likely chosen to fit the message and the medium.

The second point is the most important: this video’s message is sheer PR – come to the library.  And the message’s medium or vehicle – viral movement across the internet through Twitter, Facebook, etc – fits the cheeky satirical approach BYU has employed.  Good on them.

This is the sort of creativity we should all pay heed to, especially when we approach students by using communications channels outside of the typical academic setting.  Students don’t expect to hear from their library on Facebook or Twitter, so when they do, the message must be crafted to work with the texts and videos that cross on these platforms.  If we don’t do this, then there stands a good chance that the message will be willfully ignored or not even noticed, which means our work will be lost.

Here are two other videos that show what libraries are doing right with online video.  ASU’s Library Channel is seen as the pinnacle for Social Media PR in academic libraries because it quickly produces videos that provide helpful information, and it produces them in a manner that won’t bore the user (i.e., it uses this tech to answer mainly directional reference queries).   And the following A Plagiarism Carol, from the University of Bergen Library, shows us all what we dream of doing if we had the time, energy, and creativity that these people do.



What do you think libraries should be doing with social media, and how can they do it effectively?  Or, how mindful are we of the different types of content we need to deploy, as well as the tools we use to broadcast to our audience?

[Update: even The Chronicle has taken note of the video.]

Social Media and Informing Society

So the Internet is awash in green right now as thousands (dare we say millions?) show their support for.. . something.. in Iran.  Thanks to the development of micro-blogging networks like Twitter and tumblr, words from and about Iran continue to make their way from the middle east to the west.  And no matter how uninformed some of those words are and how uninformed we the audience may be on the subject, we’re still colouring our icons and pictures and avatars green to be part of this movement.

Not many people in the west fully understand what the movement is about, myself included.  But despite this ignorance, many people in the west are now showing off hues often reserved for St Patrick’s Day.  A close friend of mine just moments ago chided me for the doing the same, especially because this show of support doesn’t adequately reveal my knowledge (or ignorance) on the subject.  I admit it: I’m a fairly intelligent person,but I don’t know much about what’s going on in Tehran. Yet, I’m still showing green in my icons.  I do know that all Iranian presidential candidates had to be vetted by the Guardian Council and therefore even the moderates had to at least deign support for the theocracy’s state apparati – this should make us critically question the protests and the movement’s ends to a certain degree, let alone our green hues.  But on the other hand, if it were not for Twitter, and if it were not for the colour green, would so many people in the west have even thought twice about the recent Iranian election and crackdowns in Tehran?

I don’t like asking questions like that, because they sometimes presume that the lowest common denominator is the best way to appeal to the senses.  Twitter, for sure, is not a news agency by any sense of the imagination.  And a million people wearing a virtual green in June is hardly reason for anyone else to join in – this is not a popularity contest or a fad, especially when a toxic mix of politics, values, and faith has stirred into violence.   All the same, what we’re seeing with Twitter right now is an opportunity for people to start listening and talking about the 2009 Iranian elections.  Yes, if Mir-Hossein Mousavi had won the election, he would still have become Iran’s president under a theocratic Guardian Council.  But if some one on our friends lists has painted their profile picture green, then we have been afforded an opportunity to ask if they fully understand what is going on in the state if and they know who the colour green represents and what political system that colour green’s candidate operates in.  And then, we should ask ourselves the same questions.  This is, in short, a chance for an uninformed society to act and become informed.

Face it –  we in the west, especially anyone who grew up in after the late 80s, have only a vague idea of the history and current nature of Iranian politics and culture – both its religious and secular sides.  How many of us actually gave serious thought about what’s going down in Tehran before our friends starting showing green? The fact that all candidates had to at least deign support for the Guardian Council is important.  But what matters just as much for us in the west is that although we’ve realized we don’t know enough, we’ve also been given an opportunity to learn more.  Let’s run with it.

Social media, privacy, and self-censorship

I had a chance to attend the local Third Wednesday new media roundup here in Halifax this week. I unfortunately arrived late and also had to leave early (work called, and prior engagements beckoned), so I didn’t hear the entire debate about social media and the workplace, and I certainly couldn’t take part in it since the room was overflowing with guests. But I did catch a few quips and statements that I wished I could take part in:

1. Social Media as personal branding. I can only nod in agreement to this: even the newest, greenest twitterer will quickly realize that social media shines when the person comes out from behind the curtain. Promote yourself, and the organization you are a part of will soon be part of your conversations with other people.

2. The “Facebook Generation” and Privacy. Some people wondered aloud what the “Facebook Generation” is doing to themselves, or even worse, what “we’re” doing to them by allowing so much crude and otherwise private material to be discovered online. I was surprised to hear statements like this from a group of people who are deeply entwined in social media: it’s one thing to think about consequences, but it’s another to damn the reason why we’ve all congregated here. But I digress. What bothered me about this conversation was that there was little consideration of the fact that younger people – whether you want to call them “Generation Next” or not – have grown up in a world with a different sense of what should be private and what should not be. It won’t matter as much to this generation whether or not a tasteless photo of their youth is discovered when they’re running for political office. And just as hippies soon grew up and became the establishment, one day this generation will grew up and become the establishment, and their own social mores will affect the larger social fabric. In my mind, it is all akin to Bill Clinton‘s (second-)famous statement, “I didn’t inhale.”

3. Self-censorship. The conversation ended with a rousing debate about the ends to which people will “self-censor” online and whether this a good thing or not. This is a moot point, because we mediate our notions of our selves every day, whether or not we are online or not. Just as we will tell the same story differently to our grandmother and our best friend, and just as we’re a little more guarded with people we have just met than with our lifelong buddies, so do we mediate our person with our different online communities. The fact that I don’t say X online because I don’t know what Y particular “friend” may think of it is no different from the fact I hold back on saying Z at the office even though I may say it at the bar or at home. Of course I’m painting with broad strokes and generalizing to a certain degree on this one, but my point is that self-censorship and social media is not a new phenomena but an everyday part of our everyday lives. We are social animals, with or without our always-on connection to the internet.

(in spite of all those criticisms, I enjoyed my time and will definitely be back for next month’s talk – social media and political movements. This is something I can shake a few fists at and support..)