Posted by: Gregg | June 11, 2010

23ThingsKansas – Week 3: Belly up to the Webinar

(My puns are getting worse. I must be near the end.)

For this assignment, I “attended” a webinar entitled “Off the Shelf: Looking Beyond Libraries for Innovation and Inspiration” by Marshall Shore over at the Infopeople website. I was excited about the prospect of the webinar, but I was a bit frustrated by the execution. Not that I dislike the concept of webinars alltogether – I think they’re fabulous and have enormous potential – it’s just that the one I picked had a few problems that overwhelmed the enjoyment of the thing, which I’ll get to in a moment.

I attend a few of these during my graduate studies at Emporia State. The user would plug their headphones into the computer and the instructor would present an online lecture, usually accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation, which further illustrated the larger point. Webinars have enormous potential – properly made, they’re an interactive classroom lecture that can reach out to the farthest corners of the internet – as long as you have the technology to play the webinar, you’re solid. This doesn’t necessarily have to stop with academic lectures – companies and institutions can use them for orientation and, especially, training.

(Somewhat related to this, I helped a patron with this a few weeks ago – he was looking for resources that could help him with training for his Commercial Drivers License – our library didn’t have anything for him, and he had some difficulty with English, so I searched YouTube for him and found a series of instructional videos that helped him out. YouTube and Webinars aren’t exactly the same thing, but perhaps in the same ballpark. Anyway.)

So! Back to the webinar dude. The reason I didn’t like it was because the presenter was obviously outside on a cell phone while recording – you could hear the wooshing of wind, quiet snippets of conversation in the background, and even passing cars. Disctracting. A proper place for recording webinars is a quiet, controlled environment, free of distractions.

That goes for listening to webinars, too.

Posted by: Gregg | June 9, 2010

Week 13, 23ThingsKansas – Why Don’t You Slide

(Apologies for using a Goo Goo Dolls reference on the title post. Couldn’t resist.)

Creating a slideshow was fairly easy, and I loved the fact I could do it all online – I used the PowerPoint version from Google Docs to create the slideshow and then moved it over to Slideshare. The only thing I wanted to do but couldn’t was insert an mp3 under the slideshow – that I will do later, at home.

Posted by: Gregg | June 8, 2010

23 Things Kansas: Video Killed the Radio Star.

Trying to embed a YouTube post into wordpress. Since I’m into sucking up to authority figures, here’s a video on library advocacy created by Royce Kitts and Gail Santy. If all things go well, that is.

Posted by: Gregg | June 8, 2010

23 Things Kansas – Week 12: Screencasting.

Even though the deadline for the 23 Things Kansas experience has officially come and gone, there’s only a few more left for me to do, so this week will be my Shermanesque march to the sea.

I created a short screencast, which is like a YouTube video, but the camera captures what’s going on on my computer, with a voiceover. The screencast is ideal for computer-based tutorials, where the goal is to show a step-by-step process on how to do something. Since the experience is captured on video, the user can watch it again, pause, and rewind. This works amazingly well for the library – you can post short tutorials showing patrons how to use library services that might seem difficult or incomprehensible to the outsider. One of the things I’ve learned while working at the library is that teaching is a significant part of librarianship – it’s one thing to find information for patrons, but if you do a little bit of teaching to them along the way, it makes the patron much more satisfied and empowers them to use more library services. It’s a process of demystification, with a bit of that whole “give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime” maxim thrown in for good measure.

One of my long-term goals at my place of work is to help redesign one of our webpages, and I certainly plan to push for posting screencasts and tutorials. While there are several screencasting applications out there, I liked Screencast-O-Matic, an entirely web-based source that was quick and easy to use.

Feel free to not watch my first ever screencast – it goes on for far too long and my voice is horrible, but you gotta start somewhere:

Posted by: Gregg | May 28, 2010

23 Things: Them’s some good readin’.

One of the most surprisingly frequent comments I get while working the desk, doing reader’s advisory of any sort, goes along the lines of “is there any way you could tell me which books I’ve already read?” My place of work doesn’t keep accessible records of what people have checked out for privacy reasons (the only exception being if a patron accrued a fine on the book, and once they pay it off, the record itself will disappear after a while.) And while I usually have a good handle on what books I’ve read, it would be helpful to somehow categorize them, again for RA purposes: sci fi, thrillers, biographies, fiction written about ancient Greece, or books featuring sea monsters.

Enter Goodreads. I’ve been a fan of the site for some time, migrating over from Librarything once I stumbled across it. It’s an ideal way to categorize books, offering individual tagging options for unusual or fun tags. One of my favorite tags is “DNF”, for “did not finish”. Another is “pantheon”, for that group of books I would want with me if I ever get stranded on that mythical island.

What I like about it best, and what is a common personal thread reagarding internet applications like these, are two things: ease of use and a clean looking interface. I like applications that are fairly easy to figure out – if I need to sped time on a tutorial to use it, it’s probably not worth that time, and there’s probably something else out there I should be using. Secondly, I like a clean-looking page. I hate clutter, flashing ads, dancing fonts, floating hearts, anything along those lines. Cut the crap and give me what I want – one of my pet theories is that MySpace crashed and burned when it became popular to bling out your profile – everything became so ugly and cluttered so quickly, people left, searing for the cleaner, calmer lines of Facebook. Same there: Goodreads is a useful, clean website, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

Posted by: Gregg | May 25, 2010

23 Things – Let’s chat.

My first encounter was with IM was back in the dark, musty, ancient days of the mid 1990s, on my dad’s Prodigy account. (It may also have been an early version of AOL – I can’t quite remember.) I found the mere concept oddly intoxicating – I remember lurking in endless chat boards, watching people I didn’t know from hundreds of miles away have conversations with each other; the process was somehow full of magic and possibility – the ultimate in eavesdropping. I distinctly recall one day where I had looked at the clock and realized that I had been lurking for three straight hours – that crossed some internal line of mine and I quickly stopped doing it.

My next step was ICQ, which popped up in the late 90s, which for me was the revolution in chatting. I was able to have friend lists and was able to see whether or not they were online, so you didn’t have to subject yourself to the mercy of total strangers. Instead of a website you had to go and log onto, the ability to chat was on your taskbar and was quick, portable, and easy.

Now chat seems to be everywhere, all variety of applications. My library uses IM for reference questions, which, as a new employee, will quickly be a part of my job. We are big believers is using any means necessary to get connected to patrons – phone, email, chat, whatever it takes. Because it’s the library’s job to reach out and be where the patrons are, and if you can make it easy and convenient for them, then so much the better. IM is immediate, and immediate gratification is a goal to shoot for in the library world. Asking patrons to physically come in and talk to someone doesn’t work any more.

With all that said, I would like to make it clear to everyone that I don’t use emoticons or substitute ‘u’ for ‘you’. Call me old-fashioned.

Posted by: Gregg | May 25, 2010

23 Things – Cloud Computing

As you an see, I’m running a bit behind on these things, so the posts will come fast and furious.

Being a complete tool for Google, I’ve been familiar with Google Docs for quite some time. During my time at grad school, it was particularly useful for those of us who had to work in small group projects and lived hundreds of miles away from each other – Emporia State’s SLIM program was (is) a mostly online one, so I would routinely be dealing with folks from western Kansas, Nebraska, and even further beyond. We all had a central school website we would use to connect, of course, but if we were gearing up for presentations or any sort of collaborative project – well, pretty much everyone had a Google account, so it was an easy and convienent way to stay connected.

Post school and into the library world, one of the things I’ve taken an interest in is professional associations such as KLA. The idea of we small tribe of  librarians, in our communities scattered across the state, toiling away for the commonweal – staying connected is absolutely essential, since it’s too easy to stay in our holes and ignore the world around us. Cloud computing is a way to facilitate those connections, keeping people linked despite the obstacles of distance and time and budgetary restraints.

 Of course, none of this explains the indifference from the world to the appearance of Google Wave, but that’s for another week.

Posted by: Gregg | May 24, 2010

23 Things – Twitterati

One of the few problems I have with Twitter is that it’s usually labelled as a social networking tool. If social networking is its primary function, Twitter is fantastically lousy at it: you can’t leave comments on tweets, and replies to friends show up on the lists of other people’s feeds. It’s fairly impossible to have any sort of conversation with someone on Twitter. With a limit of one hundred and forty characters, including spaces, it excels only at quick hits – proclamations – declarative statements with perhaps room with a link for further information. If social networking implies having a conversation with other people, Twitter is the loud guy on the bus with a megaphone.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its uses.

For example, Twitter has really found its niche in the area of breaking news. News and media organizations have embraced Twitter, using it as a method of getting information out quickly. Icelandic volcano blocks air traffic over half a continent? Comic book movie breaks box offics records on opening week? Internationally known starlet gets busted for drugs at LAX? Twitter is flipping ideal for this sort of thing. A short statement, followed by a link for more info, as I said before, is ideal for breaking news.

Libraries can tap into this and use Twitter for this sort of purpose. If you’re looking to see what books people are reading over the weekend or if you want suggestions from the public on what programs they want – a conversation, in other words – use Facebook and its comments. But for getting the word out on library closings due to weather, or new author alerts, or a upcoming program you want your patrons to be aware of – you need the guy with a bullhorn.

Posted by: Gregg | May 24, 2010

23 Things Kansas – RSS Feeds

I’ve been an RSS feed nut since Hector was a pup, so this assignment was nothing new to me, however it was useful – I’ve been a Google Reader nut since day one, and haven’t looked back since. This gave me the opportunity to look outside my balliwhack and see how the other half lives, and to see if I’ve missed anything.

For example, according to my dates on my feeds, I haven’t logged into my Bloglines account since 2006 – I actually had to have them email my password to me. They’ve updated their look, but I still feel that I made the right choice switching over to Google. Bloglines is a little clunky to use (even after clearing out over ten thousand unread items from my account.) Searching for an adding feeds is easier than I remember, but still slow compared to Google – which is, and still remains, the king. Easy to us, easy to categorize, already linked with my browser and email – its all you could ask for.

Posted by: Gregg | May 21, 2010

23 Things Kansas: Week 2, Online Communities

This is actually a good time to go back and revisit social networking, since in the past few weeks you can’t throw a stick on the internet without hitting someone complaining about Facebook privacy issues. I’ve been a FB user for some time, and I’ve been surprised at how it’s grown just over the past four years – now it seems to be everywhere, trumping Friendster and MySpace and turning the once-pioneers into afterthoughts.

Facebook is popular because, of course, it works. You couldn’t ask for a cleaner, better-looking site (something the cluttered MySpace never quite got) and the concept of friending and joining groups is quick to pick up, making it accessible for those non tech-savvy.

Librarians and libraries have joined FB in droves, and it’s an ideal way to reach out to patrons, getting them aware of programs, giving out information and breaking news, and the like. It’s ubiquitiousness is the main reason why libraries can – and should – have a presence there; you have to go to where your patrons are.

Getting back to privacy, the library can even do a service to their followers on Facebook by giving patrons information on how to protect their privacy settings – reaching out to and helping them at the same time.

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