Monthly Archives: April 2013


I’ve learned a great deal in this course about the potential of social media tools to help advance the mission and goals of libraries and other LIS institutions; as the world rapidly advances towards an increasing use of online and mobile resources, we can’t forget that issues of access to technology and these resources can’t be overlooked. The so called digital divide and information literacy go hand in hand with access: patrons without the means or knowledge to use and interact with all the great tools we’ve discussed will undoubtedly suffer personally and professionally.

The traditional means still exist, but all the great content that libraries extend online will remain a click too far for those without internet access, those whom don’t have a computer at home, or those unfamiliar that such tools exist. Yet, libraries have a responsibility to such patrons and indeed some of the very tools discussed here can be and have been utilized to bridge these gaps. What first comes to mind are videos and screencasts, which have been used extensively by academic libraries (like our own King Library) and a small number of public libraries to help patrons understand how to do research, access databases, and could theoretically be used for an infinite number of applications. The rising use of smartphones and statistics that youth, and especially minorities use these devices to go online more so than others means that this is an area of possible focus. Economically disadvantaged groups and minorities are less likely than other groups to have access and the skills to use this access effectively. Libraries, be they public, school, or academic can step in to educate and ensure patrons can and know how to use the abundant offerings the web has to offer.



Snapchat is a photo sharing app with a difference: images self-destruct just seconds after viewing. The whole point is to safeguard privacy. Images are not saved in the cloud where they can come back to haunt the user when s/he least expects it.

Using the Snapchat app to photograph my bookcase

Using the Snapchat app to photograph my bookcase

The user interface is simple. You snap a photo, choose how long you would like it to last (3-10 seconds), select a recipient and tap the send button. When you receive a message, you simply press down on the notification line. You then have a very limited time in order to view the photo. I found it annoying that you have to press and hold, which means that you can’t view the whole photo because your finger is in the way.

Once the time is up, neither the sender nor the receiver can see the photo again. As Snapchat reminds users, however, the app cannot prevent recipients from taking a screen capture of the image that you send them. Thus, even though images are not stored anywhere on your phone or in the cloud, Snapchat is not a completely safe technology to use for sharing photos privately.

I first read about Snapchat a few months ago in Bloomberg Businessweek. The article draws particular attention to the issue of privacy in the digital age. One of the books it references is called Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. I immediately ordered it from my local library and read it with great interest. If you are at all interested in technology and privacy questions, I highly recommend it.

Snapchat’s effort in attempting to address the issue of Internet privacy is to be commended. While it might not have any direct application in libraries, I believe it does have indirect application in spurring us to think more deeply about reader privacy.

Wikipedia Editing to Improve Information/Media Literacy

Becoming an active WIkipedia editor presents numerous opportunities to improve research and writing skills, understanding of copyright and copyediting, enhance information and media literacies, among other collaboration, research, and technical skills.

For my LIBR 210 course I am required to present on instruction and information literacy trends and I chose to present on the trend of educators assigning students to write new Wikipedia  articles, add citations, and/or edit/translate existing Wikipedia articles.

As I have been doing research for this presentation I am overwhelmed in the exciting way by the amount of research and insights I am finding.

To begin with, the Wikipedia training module for educators is a starting point abundant with resources and ideas for an educator to use freely within their courses. The sample syllabi  found within this training module is full of various ideas for assignments, evaluation strategies, and reflections on the achievements students gain via this method of instruction.

Learning objectives listed in previously implemented course syllabi were “media and information literacy”, “writing skills development”, “critical thinking and research skills”, “collaboration”, “Wiki technical and communication skills”.

Some specific quotes from educators that have assigned Wikipedia writing/edits/citations to students that positively impacted and further motivated me towards this instructional methodology are as follows:

From a professor that assigned her students the task of translating English articles into Spanish Wikipedia articles.

“The best part of the project was seeing Wikipedia as motivational, with real communication and with assignments that have consequences outside the classroom.”

An environmental studies professor who assigned students to visit a location, photograph it and improve Wikipedia articles with the photographs reflected on the outcomes by saying

 “I am very glad that they realize the value of publishing their written work on Wikipedia — their schoolwork did not end up in the teacher’s drawer. Last but not least, the complete availability of the article on the Internet and its critical assessment by independent Wikipedians made the students learn to work with sources — a skill that will be useful for them during further studies.”

From a professor who assigned a 1,200- 2,000 word and 20 citation Wikipedia edit for a final course project 

” it empowered them, it transformed their research skills, it was rewarding
for them to do something that was for the greater good, and
most importantly, it made their writing better and kept them
academically honest.”

Along with these tutorials and testimonials I have discovered scholarly publications discussing this trend of using Wikipedia as an instructional tool by enabling students to become editors.  In particular the article What Open Access Research can do for Wikipedia written by WIllinsky impacted me with statements asserting that the credibility of Wikipedia articles increases when full text open access publications are cited in the article. Willinsky’s research notes that in many articles open access publications were available to be cited but had not yet been cited. This leaves vast opportunities for improvement of Wikipedia articles for editors who would spend the time finding and adding open access full text publications to article citations, for the purpose of better representing current states of knowledge within Wikipedia.

The quotes I showcased here really resound with me particularly with regard to being assigned writing tasks that will be contributed to the world, rather than left in an ignored file on my desktop or a professors computer file. I suppose my attraction to LIBR246 course and LIBR287 Hyperlinked Library had to do with the way that written insights posted on blog posts are similarly shared with a wider audience rather than shared only with professors. There seems to be a significant difference in writing quality produced between blog posts and Wikipedia articles though due to the article guidelines active Wikipedia editors enforce. I know I have to backtrack a lot with blogging to edit out stream of consciousness thinking because blogging seems so free from the types of guidelines enforced in an atmosphere like Wikipedia. I appreciate both blogs and Wikipedia, and I would appreciate a SLIS course where students were given the push to improve the writing, research, and literacy skills by being brave and actively editing Wikipedia, and in particular striving to find open access citations whenever possible. Outside of SLIS specifically, I am sure it is also obvious to see how many other educational environments this methodology has the potential to apply to. 

Relevant Research 

Reilly, Colleen. “Teaching Wikipedia as a mirrored technology” First Monday [Online], Volume 16 Number 1 (18 December 2010)

Sormunen, E. & Lehti&oum;, L. (2011). “Authoring Wikipedia articles as an information literacy assignment – copy-pasting or expressing new understanding in one’s own words?” Information Research16(4) paper 503. [Available at]

Willinsky, John. “What open access research can do for Wikipedia” First Monday [Online], Volume 12 Number 3 (5 March 2007)

Social reading and why ebook distributors like Overdrive have a ways to go

When I try to imagine the ideal partnership between libraries and social networkings sites, I tend to think of the concept of social reading.  I’ve rather enjoyed this particular feature while reading Kindle ebooks.  The Kindle ebook reader allows you to share quotes directly from the book through Facebook and Twitter.  I found this to be particularly useful during some of my previous courses at SJSU where my textbook turned out to be available as an ebook through Amazon.  This meant that I could essentially share thoughts about class readings with current classmates or other library professionals I followed on Twitter.  It opened up a whole new network of learning for me that went beyond the boundaries presented when using our content management systems, D2L.


Many libraries are currently trying to navigate the often complicated landscape of ebook lending.  The most popular ebook distributor these days is Overdrive.  Although Overdrive has tried to improve its appeal by partnering with Amazon to distribute Kindle ebooks in addition to their ePUB versions, the Overdrive ebook media console app leaves a lot to be desired in the way of social reading.  I realize there are DRM issues (ugh) and that theoretically you don’t own the book so why have the ability to highlight content when the ebook is only on your device temporarily, but couldn’t there still be some way for the reader to highlight content if only to share a short quote via Facebook and Twitter?

The future of reading will look so different from what it has been in the past or even what it looks like today.  In order to be able to offer a significantly richer reading experience, ebooks should be media rich and allow readers to share and highlight thoughts.  It can be frustrating as a librarian to know that this kind of technology exists but remains out of reach for our users because distributors and vendors have yet to catch-up.

every breath you take

I have a confession to make. One of my guilty pleasures is set in a dystopia where an omniscient artificial intelligence watches everyone, everywhere, and knows when they’re going to do bad things. This isn’t Minority Report or part of the Terminator franchise, although this AI is pretty close to how we imagine Skynet might have started out– it’s the TV show “Person of Interest”. And instead of finding the thought of 24/7 surveillance frightening, fans of PoI are just thrilled that the Machine recognizes an assistant admin (Reese) and will talk to him, because we really want Admin (Finch) to keep helping people…and we don’t want anything bad to happen to the Machine, either.
Talk about suspension of disbelief.
I don’t like CCTV cameras. I’m not convinced that they stop crime or solve crime, and I have a real problem with ubiquitous surveillance. There’s a kind of privacy that comes from being an anonymous person in a crowd, going about your daily business. But if everyplace you go has a CCTV camera, or your cell phone broadcasts your location, or you show up in a picture posted online and someone tags you in that picture– there goes your anonymity. I don’t like the possibility that I’m being tracked everywhere I go, that there’s footage of me on some CCTV camera feed somewhere. Digital storage space has become so prevalent and so cheap that it’s now quite feasible for that footage to be stored indefinitely– along with every trace of every single place I go and every single action I take online.
I’ve been mulling over this threat to privacy for a good long while. I really enjoy the internet, I absolutely love boingboing and wikipedia and  archive of our own. There are a lot of wonderful things out there. But it’s also a frontier, and it has some really scary implications. One of them is that the internet is a surveillance state. Don’t take my word for it; Bruce Schneier knows a lot more about the subject than I do and says it better:

Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we’re being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period…This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it’s efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell…Welcome to a world where Google knows exactly what sort of porn you all like, and more about your interests than your spouse does. Welcome to a world where your cell phone company knows exactly where you are all the time. Welcome to the end of private conversations, because increasingly your conversations are conducted by e-mail, text, or social networking sites.

Given the state of things, how long will it be before our current understanding of privacy is meaningless? Either the word will have some incredibly narrow meaning, or it will become one of those dead euphemisms (the ones that fool precisely nobody and are laughable in their obviousness, like “I need to powder my nose”), or our descendents will have to look the word up in the OED to find out what it used to mean.
The American Library Association says “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association” on its page about privacy and confidentiality. The first person ALA quotes is Louis Brandeis. The second person ALA quotes is Bruce Schneier:

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that—either now or in the uncertain future—patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

This is the dark side of social media. When people post to Facebook, when they Tweet, when they upload pictures to Tumblr– they’re sharing a lot more data than they know. That data isn’t ephemeral, anonymous, or untraceable. Some of us are careful, but many of us aren’t. All it takes is one mistake, and you’ve given someone two or three data points to collate and identify you with. Maybe there won’t be negative consequences– maybe you’ll just end up having to block some random guy on Google+– but maybe you’ll be in the same boat as David Patraeus, Chinese dissidents, and Syrian rebels.

Have you guys heard of Vine?

 Its a new social network where members create short 6 second videos to post and be viewed by followers.  Vine links to twitter, where users can then click the link to view the video.  I first heard of this in February (shortly after it came out) and I thought it was great!  There is so much opportunity for humor and creativity in the short, simple videos that users post.  It is a new app and as of now it is only accessible on iOS devices so the videos or “vines” are really only available to iphone users, though they can be viewed on a computer browser as well.  The “vines” themselves can only be made on mobile phones through the app and the users camera.  Since so many people now use their mobile devices as their main source of information, I like seeing a social network that is based directly on an app.  


After my fascination with this new social network wore off, I began thinking about ways that libraries may be able to join in on the trend.  I did a little googling and found that several libraries do currently use vine.   This post by Matt Anderson gives a little information about vine and mentions Adam Goldberg, who makes some pretty wonderful vines, I must say.  Also, it lists some libraries that use vine.  It may be easier to view some of these vines if you use an iOS device.  


I especially love the potential vine uses for libraries which are shown in this blog post.  These short tutorials may be just what a patron needs to see to make their use of library resources go more smoothly. Also, the fact that they can conveniently click on the link from within their twitter feed is getting right to what I think is the most important part of libraries using apps like vine: reaching potential users where they are!  While I don’t think vine is necessary for libraries, I do think it could be a helpful step in getting younger users to see libraries as interesting and relevant to their lives.  

Farewell, Google Reader

Was anybody as disappointed as I was when I found out Google will be discontinuing their RSS feed aggregator, Google Reader? I use this tool to fuse together all of my blogger interests in one place: librarianship, fashion, social media and home design. All of these things, that have little to do with one another, can be found in my blogroll. We’re talking at least a hundred subscriptions (I might have problems). How in the world am I going to keep up with them now?

I wasn’t alone in my outrage. I read several articles that other bloggers wrote upset with the termination of a tool that some readers use religiously. However, once I started to delve into other articles, the termination of Google Reader didn’t seem so insane, just extremely premature. There are arguments that RSS feeds are becoming obsolete and no longer useful. I also read arguments saying that RSS feeds are esoteric, or not common to the average technology user. However, an even bigger percentage of tech writers argue that RSS is on the decline, true, but it’s nowhere near being dead. This debate reminded me a lot of our email discussion topic.

So what does this mean for libraries? Well, it’s one less RSS tool that a library can use if they wanted to have their patrons subscribe to their blog, or provide a public RSS feed for patrons to access multiple relevant blogs. It’s also one of the easiest to use (in my opinion), which is frustrating because users will face a learning curve transitioning to another reader. Libraries can also lose a lot of their readers in the shuffle from one reader to another. Some just won’t bother to do it. If libraries are utilizing blogs they should probably have a blog post alerting their readers of the change, and options on alternatives. This is a perfect example of why information professionals need to be up-to-date with changes in the information sphere. Without being alert to this change, they could wonder why their blog analytics have changed all of a sudden.

This also means that libraries may need to search for other digital means to direct traffic to their blog. Cross-publicizing their blog via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or Pinterest would be extremely useful in retaining old readers and attracting new ones.

Between now and July 1, I’ll be searching for a suitable replacement for my beloved Google Reader. Suggestions are welcome! 🙂