Category Archives: Assignments

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! 🙂

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QR Codes (with CI and RI)

I spoke with a marketing intern yesterday, who has both a job and an internship creating digital media online and promoting it all with social media. We talked among other things, about video marketing and his social media preferences. He shared his thoughts on the usage of Google Analytical; as a former accounting professional with a love for anything mathematical, I found it to be a great conversation. But then he reached further when he shifted focus to include the consideration of both CI (consumer influence) and RI (return on investment) when using social media.
Then I asked about QR codes. We discussed some of the benefits, but that with an instant world the code had to work flawlessly when activated. We talked about the benefits in a large environment like museums, galleries and academic libraries to use QR codes like exhibits with station numbers: a QR code to be linked to audio providing new information such as a map and placing it all in context.
For our small, rural libraries with a single room – this would not be a necessity. For what other purpose could we use them? Since all public and school libraries in our region offer free Wi-Fi even devices such as iPods and iPads could access the Internet without needing cell phone service. This could be helpful as there are still many “dead zones.”
Having done promotional and marketing for years in a high school setting, the key with our students is to mix it up. Before spring break, I asked a random sampling of our students (about 10%). None said they were interested in having me place QR codes on books so that they could hear a booktalk or watch a book trailer. They either pick up the book and decide or not. They like when I talk to them about it; they prefer direct knowledge from my having read the book. So clearly, constant use of QR codes for Top 100 books would never really work. CI would be limited (non-existent) and the RI a waste of time, which is precious in a one-person library so as not to be wasted.
With the intern I offered my thoughts and ideas about more limited and random usage:

  • Special events – posters would be printed with QR codes and accessible throughout their communities and not just in the school (provides clues to the challenges or codes needed such as Amazing Race, Scavenger Hunt, etc)
  • Skype visit with an author – link a QR code to the author’s page, which usually offers so much.
  • Banned Book Week – I had already planned to cover books with striped paper (like prison garb) and use a bar code. Instead, I could include a QR code that would link to a special web page designed to share more about the when, where and why the book was banned. Still undecided if I should reveal the title or not (my students loved the Blind Date with a Book this past Valentine’s Day)
  • Blind Date with a Book (see banned book week, similar idea covered with heart wrapping paper and a QR code that provides a Dating Profile that might further inspire a reader to check out the book)

These types of QR code usage, combined with other varying marketing over the course of the school year appear to be worth the time to try. Only with a limited usage within the school, a few times a year – I can get administrative approval to loosen the “no cell phones in school” rule and make the library (during those weeks only!) a Phone Zone. That alone will build credibility and CI, more than any other effort I create. Wish me luck! (feel free to add to the ideas list…)

Social Media for Education

I think that the best I can do is explain where a little Facebook and some word press took me.  I became fascinated with the idea of crowd funding and universities.  One of my fellow students posted some links that were related, but they still weren’t a cohesive university.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind that an international distance education program that was free to the students could just do so much good in the world.  There is an open university in England, but it is extremely expensive to international students.  I think that in the US we have enough people to support a crowd funded university that is free to everyone.  The reason this is important is because of representation.  When we create research we are missing the perspective of people that do not have enough money to attend our university.  It is a point of equal representation.  Coursera is not cohesive enough, but it does show that cooperation can levied for free education.  We need something that grants degrees.  I think it is possible to do this here and I am going to spend the summer putting together a strategic plan for this dream.

How is this related to information science and social media?  You ask.  Well I am going to put up a wordpress web page so that anyone in the world can see it and contribute.  It is socail media collaboration.  The address to the wordpress site is http://www.freeeducationforall.com.  Its explaining two things how to give education for free on a small scale using the example of teaching English to orphans in India remotely and planning how we can do the same on a big scale in a university.  Helping the kids remotely proves the point and they are thrilled.  I met them on Facebook, in trying to get a more international perspective.  I wanted only to teach one, but I agreed to teach 4-5.  Our solutions are to use wordpress, google hangout, youtube, skype and snail mail delivered materials I make myself.  This is a utilization of social media technologies and human experiment.  What will come of giving some education for free?  How effective can we be at teaching independently?  How can you harness the internet to change people’s lives?  How do we use information technology to unify people?

I have explored things, met people and talked about a dream.  I think this university would make a better world.  Please come and speak for yourself.

Getting to know Dropbox

Using the statement “Before this class I never knew” is how I seem to start many of my blog posts but it is true. This class has introduced me to many new social media tools I have never heard of. I swear to you I didn’t live under a rock. However, I was born in 1964 so that puts me at the very tail end of the Baby Boomers so that may explain my lack of knowledge of many of these tools. Unlike some Boomers though, I am eager to learn as much as I can about this technology as not only does my job as a librarian depend on it but it fascinates me. Following is the latest tool I just learned about and I wanted to share it with you in case you too begin a lot of your sentences with “Before this class I never knew . . .”

In 2007, Dropbox had its humble beginnings in a Boston train station when one of its founders, MIT student Drew Houston, forgot his USB stick at home. Now Dropbox serves users in 200 countries.

Their About Page describes Dropbox as a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website. The Dropbox online tour describes it as follows “Dropbox works hard to make sure that all your files are the same no matter where you’re working from. This means that you can start working on a computer at school or the office and finish from your home computer. Never email yourself a file again!”

Dropbox also makes sharing very easy. You can invite your friends and family to any folder in your Dropbox. You can also send people links to specific files in your Dropbox. Dropbox keeps your files safe even if your computer crashes. You can also undo mistakes even undelete files.

I’m glad I was introduced to this tool as I will definitely be using it in the future. There’s been many times when I’ve had to stop work on a project because I was away from my PC and only had my laptop and didn’t have the files I needed. I just wish I had known about it sooner!

While trying to learn more about Dropbox I found an interesting article titled “10 Things You Didn’t Know Dropbox Could Do” by Matt Petronzio, which appeared on Mashable.com on October 26 2012. I hope these tips help you get more out of Dropbox. Following is the list:
1. “Favorite” Files for Offline Reading”
a. If you “favorite” images or text documents on your mobile device using the Dropbox app, you can access those files later, even if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular service.
2. Use Dropbox as Your Default Documents Folder
a. To conserve memory and time, you can save files directly to Dropbox from your computer programs. This requires simple commands in Terminal for Mac OS or a small settings change for Windows.
3. Email Files to Dropbox as Attachments
a. When you don’t have access to Dropbox, it comes in handy to have an alternate way to update files. If you create an account at SendToDropbox.com you can send files to a custom email address as attachments. The files will automatically appear in your Attachments folder in Dropbox.
4. Get More Storage – For Free
a. If you’re a free user of Dropbox, you can immediately access 2GB of space, but you can get more storage without having to pay for an upgrade. Dropbox offers 500MB for every friend that you refer to the service, 250MB for completing a “Getting Started” checklist, 125MB for connecting social media and several other options to earn more space.
5. Maintain Firefox Settings Across Multiple Computers
a. It’s difficult to maintain specific preferences or add-ons in Firefox when you use the browser on multiple computers. However, you can download Firefox Portable and store it in Dropbox. Since Firefox Portable can be used anywhere, your settings and add-ons will be synced.
6. Upload Files to Dropbox via URL
a. URL Droplet allows you to upload links straight to your Dropbox folders. All you need to do is take a link (this especially works well if the link leads to a PDF or similar document) and paste it into the URL Droplet form.
7. Download Torrents Remotely
a. Note: This Dropbox tip is intended for legal use only. If you’re away from your personal computer and you’d like to download bit torrent files, ready by the time you get home, Dropbox is a perfect tool. Just adjust the settings in your torrent program (uTorrent, BitTorrent, etc.) to automatically load your torrent in Dropbox.
8. Maintain Two Dropbox Accounts (Advanced)
a. This one can get tricky, so it’s intended for advanced users (using Mac OS). See article for directions.
9. Back up Your Website
a. You can easily back up your website and data on Dropbox which is useful if you’ve spent a lot of time and effort building your site or you’re concerned about your servers.
10. Host Web Pages
a. Want a website, but don’t want to pay for a domain? Want an online portfolio, but don’t know HTML? Dropbox can help. By using services like DropPages or Pancake.io, you can create a small and simple website with minimal effort.

Kathy

Blog On

In an era when new technologies come and go in the blink of an eye, it is interesting to consider the longevity of blogging. I am old enough to remember a time before blogs and one of my very first assignments as a freelance writer was to discuss weblogs as they were then self-consciously called. Why are blogs still around and are they still important? (And yes, the irony is that I am posting this on a blog…is that a clue to the answer?) This question seems to come up quite frequently and there are many articles that have also looked at the question of whether blogging is still relevant. Two examples from many are:

http://technobabble2dot0.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/is-a-blog-still-important-in-2011/

and  http://blogs.computerworld.com/educationtraining/20987/why-blogging-still-important

I have highlighted some of their findings, with comments of my own:

1) Blogging as a marketing tool is still extremely important and, according to the Technobabble article above, about 43 % of US companies used blogging for this purpose in 2011 compared to 16% of companies in 2007. That’s a significant increase in only four years. Undoubtedly, blogging is still crucial for branding, marketing, advertising and driving traffic to a company’s website. These elements are just as relevant for libraries, too.

2) Another factor that both articles point out is that blogging allows for long, in-depth posts, with insightful content. You just can’t achieve the same thing with Twitter. Also, writing blog posts takes time and there are several positive aspects to this. As an individual the writing allows you to become a better writer and showcase your abilities through the content of your posts. Another benefit to longer posts is that these allow companies to really describe or demonstrate something new such as a new product, design or even describing new a new management direction.

3) Blogs create and expand communities and subcommunities within a field. Because there are literally hundreds of blogs on anything you can imagine, some of which are extremely specialized, the body of knowledge for any one subject expands and, perhaps more importantly, connections are made between all those interested in the subject through links, comments and reblogging. From a library’s perspective, multiple blogs highlighting different aspects of the collection, events, programming etc., can be very effective in reaching a broad spectrum of patrons.

On a personal level, blogs continue to be important to me for receiving all kinds of content. The personal engagement combined with in-depth or niche content keeps me reading, and the opportunity to comment, link or expand knowledge really has not been replicated in other forms. I also feel that blogs are not generation specific and perhaps this is another key to their longevity.  There also doesn’t seem to be much competition in terms of format. Tumblr is probably the closest mimic but it’s a microblog and has different pros and cons. Overall, I believe blogs will continue to be important to both individuals and institutions and would hedge my bets that they’ll still be here when Facebook has long gone defunct.

MLIS and social media mashup

It’s that time of the year again: scholarship application time, that is. As I began to write down the requested work history for one of them, it asked to specify any library-related experience I had at each job. I hesitated before listing my previous social media position, but ended up writing down my duties anyway. This got me thinking of how relevant a MLIS degree is for working in social media.
1. Curating content
Working at a digital agency requires expertise at searching through the noise and finding relevant information for each client’s account. This means staying up to date with multiple data streams, picking through information overload and developing digital savvy; things we are taught during our LIS course of study. Not only is finding these valuable gems important, but learning how to organize and store them for timely release to the public is also essential (database creation and maintenance, anybody?). We are no longer the gatekeepers of information, but more like helpful road signs guiding a user in the right direction. We can personalize the content that our user is receiving, and users are thankful for this timesaver.
2. Analytics
We have to know how to find information about these users’ activity. There are all kinds of digital tools available to aid us, and choosing one is just as important as the choosing which information is deemed relevant. What useful information are these “likes,” comments, retweets and favorites telling us about the information needs of our users? These are the exciting things that we can put our analytic and research skills to work on.
3. Information visualization
Once we have these analytics, it’s important to present them in a manner that is easily interpretable to the client or funders, or whoever you might be trying to get your message across to. Pulling these random data points together and creating an aesthetically pleasing story is something that LIS students are great at, and may even be a course requirement (like the Info Viz class I’m currently taking).
4. Adapting to users’ habits
Everyone is online now. Using social media is simply adapting to users’ information-seeking patterns. Who better than to take advantage of this than information professionals? We are supposed to be on the cutting edge of every new way information can possibly be disseminated, and social media is no exception. To deny the need for expertise in this area is to live in denial. One need only rewatch the YouTube video we first watched in class to grasp the impact this is having on the way we store and seek information about just about anything.

When people hear I am studying to get my MLIS, they automatically assume that I am going to be a librarian in a traditional public or academic library. These are limitations of the past now. Our job titles and duties are evolving and I think it’s as exciting time as ever to be pursuing this line of study.

Personal Freedom and Professional Reputation

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about having controversial ideas and Facebook.  It is my primary interest in creating this blog post to get the opinions of the other students on this matter.  First, I would like to recognize the power that Facebook has for communicating ideas and creating communities of thought.  Recently, I have found myself in the position of having to argue for other people’s rights.  This has steeped me heavily in a debate over religion and politics.  I feel pressed to do the right thing and start harnessing the power of the internet to fight for what the rights of commonly marginalized people, however I feel that there might be serious professional consequences for supporting controversial ideas.  Is being politically active on the internet a good or bad idea?  A policy for a library institution should avoid too many political ideas because it needs to fair to everyone.  However, as an individual shouldn’t I be able to express my opinions and fight for rights beyond what is popular? The ability of an employer to research your private life and regulate your opinions is limiting my right to free speech.

I argue that we should have legislative laws that keep an employer from discrimination based on political ideas.  I believe that we need to protect free speech. This is of great importance on the internet.  I have a guarantee by the constitution to the right to assemble, the right to choose my own religion and to exercise free speech, but if an employer can research these things and begin discriminating are we not walking into violating these freedoms.  I would like to see what you think about these concepts and what you would do.  What moral compromises would you make to have a peaceable work place?

Personally, I feel that I have come to the conclusion that all battles are hard.  I just have to face that I may have professional consequences to stand up for the civil rights of someone else.  That means talking about religion and politics.