Competency H: demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.
Communication and information technologies include any platform that facilitates conversation and the sharing of information. Some platforms, such as Tumblr and Storify, only allow one-way sharing and commentary, while others are more participatory in nature, like Facebook or Twitter, which allows direct interaction. Online learning management systems, such as Moodle, which is free and open-source, are also useful for offering online classes, broadening the library’s services. Kindles and iPads, particularly through library lending programs, are also useful for sharing information in ways that better suit patrons’ current needs. In the same vein, creating Apple and Android apps for mobile devices help people access the library’s website more easily.
These are only examples, as there are many, many more possible technologies that libraries could use. All of these technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, which should be considered before using.
Technology’s biggest cost to libraries is the staff time. It takes time to setting up programs and services and procure funding. It takes time to set up computers or other technologies, and to wipe them clean and reset them if they circulate. It takes time to maintain social media accounts, and to promote library services. Unfortunately, it’s altogether too easy for libraries to store expensive technology, such as circulating iPads, out of reach, and purposefully not market the service for fear of it becoming “too popular.” It’s quite easy to sign up for social media services, or purchase software or applications, only for it to languish because of a lack of institutional focus or dearth of employees who understand how to use the software. Choosing a few of the best technologies specifically to suit library’s needs, working to get staff buy-in, training staff, and marketing the services all help to ensure that the library can engage with users more meaningfully.
There are many communication and information technologies to choose from, so only a few will be addressed here as examples, describing their use for libraries. YouTube or Vimeo are one type of information platform that does not require frequent updates, since it is principally for sharing instructional videos, library commercials, or videos from library events. It is a more efficient way of sharing videos because of their ease in embedding in blog posts, websites, and Facebook. While Facebook theoretically has a way to upload and share videos, it is difficult to upload or view.
Goodreads and similar competitors provide a sort of social atmosphere that excels at highlighting books in library collections along with their ratings and reviews. It is very similar to a subject bibliography as librarians can, in their reviews, explain why certain books are especially good for reading and sharing. Goodreads also helps with reader advisory by providing a free platform for searching books based on tags, themes, and reviews.
Much has been discussed about libraries’ use of Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. These are higher maintenance platforms, requiring regular posting of relevant material and a responsive page manager to answer questions, resolve problems, and delete or ban spammers or abusive commenters. While these avenues of communication are more time-intensive, they are also fantastic ways of marketing and of providing transparency into library operations.
Technology lending programs, particularly with Kindles and iPads, can be time-consuming to reset the devices after they are returned in order to prepare it for check-out again. It is also expensive to set up a program, depending on how many devices the library wants to purchase. However, Kindles are popular for people who are traveling due to the number of books that can be stored in a small device, and iPads are incredibly versatile, suiting the needs of nearly anyone want to check them out, making them an appealing program for patrons.
While I had used computers primarily for research and accessing news and educational sites, it was not until I signed up for Facebook in 2006, before I started college, that I first became aware of the power of the Internet for communication and for sharing information in a social way. Since then, I’ve explored a variety of platforms ranging from the serious to the more fun. I try to play around with new technology to see how they work, how useful they are, and whether it will catch on.
Some of these, like Twitter and Pinterest have taken off because of the relative ease of posting short thoughts. Twitter, especially, is excellent for carrying on short conversations with people in passing, and for spreading information quickly through retweets. Its text-based platform works well with many mobile phones, and its (in)famous 140-character limit allows for texting updates. The simple setup of Twitter makes it well-suited for libraries when helping spread information. However, the ease in tweeting can easily overwhelm a person with too much information in an constantly-updating stream. I’ve found it takes dedication and the use of third party platforms, such as TweetDeck, to better manage the flow of information. Facebook, in contrast to Twitter, has more privacy settings and is geared more for sharing things with a limited audience. These two reasons are why I have primarily used Facebook as a means of communication for the past few years as opposed to other forms of social media.
Blogging is perhaps the most suited for longer, more thoughtful posts, allowing more of a story to develop. Instead of posting multimedia in separate posts, it, along with hyperlinks, can be included within the text of a post. The format of blogs allows for easy RSS feeds, pushing posts to peoples’ RSS readers. The setup of blogs also allows for more meaningful and more nested commenting than Facebook, where the commenting is linear and can appear out of context on a popular post. I was able to use my blogging experience with WordPress toward preparing the framework for the e-Portfolio.
I’ve also played around with various technologies at work in order to find ways to improve aspects of my work at various libraries. I’ve explored Blackboard in order to better create, maintain, and manage student worker quizzes as a way to make sure they understood and remember their job training. Wikis are incredibly useful because I was able to update information as it changed, instead of submitting a request and waiting for a central person to update a website. LibCal, a program that manages meeting rooms, makes it easier for patrons to see whether a room is available, and book it for themselves instead of waiting on me or another staff member to reply to their email.
I created a LibGuide about internet memetics (or memes) that provided links, searching tips, and and basic background information about the rise of memes on the Internet. It was designed for undergraduate students at the University of Chicago who wish to study social sciences.
Storify provides an integrated way of gathering various pieces from a variety of social media sources, in order to present a story in aggregate. To play around with this information sharing platform, I created a story about libraries in the aftermath of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. It illustrates just how critical libraries are for communities.
I was able to play around with Prezi by presenting a book report on the “Consent of the Networked” by Rebecca MacKinnon. It provides a more visual framework for presentations than the more linear format of PowerPoint. I captured the presentation using a free screen capture software integrated into my Macbook Pro, uploaded it to YouTube, and created a caption file within YouTube in order to make it accessible for all. This was a very technically complicated project, requiring the use of several technologies in order to present one streamlined product.
I wrote a preliminary paper provides the framework of a proposal for developing Facebook and Google+ pages for a Chicago community college’s library. It looks at the benefits of having a social media page for the library, the resources needed to create and maintain the page, and the cost of staff time to manage it.
Communication and information technologies, including any platform that facilitates conversation and the sharing of information, are very useful tools for libraries. These technology platforms have their advantages and disadvantages which libraries must consider before signing up for the services because, while the vast majority of these services are free to use, the major cost to libraries is the staff time for setting up and maintaining accounts. Choosing a few of the best platforms for the library’s needs ensures that the library can engage with users more meaningfully.
Last updated on November 18, 2012