When I started the 23 things project, I challenged myself to think about apps, sites, and software that I regularly use in new ways, especially how these can be used for information literacy instruction. While I did not report everything that I tried while completing this assignment, I did focus on those services that I explored with library vision. I did not want to rely on what I already knew about a program or service to complete the activities; I wanted to consider new ways to apply social media, software, and networks in an instructional and professional setting. I found some of the services more useful than others for ILI (social bookmarking, blogs, wikis, and custom searches to name a few), but I enjoyed the process of discovery and learning as I experimented with the various things listed on the SLA’s 23 things program.
When I first visited Videojug, it reminded me of a cross between YouTube and WikiHow. The site’s tagline, “Get Good at Life,” clearly defines the purpose of the website–to serve as a directory of how to videos on just about any subject or interest. Videos are produced by Videojug and its partners. The site also features a Q & A area similar to Yahoo! Answers; users can use this part of the site to post questions and receive advice. In addition, users are able to create pages to upload and distribute original content.
Videojug also hosts a YouTube channel featuring their how-to videos: http://www.youtube.com/VideoJug
I found the site both practical and entertaining. The wide range of video subjects make it a useful resource for users searching for a quick, easy-to-follow reference guide on just about any topic. Videos range from DIY projects to dating to education and everything in between. However, unlike YouTube, Videojug does not allow users to publish their own content, except on user pages. I find that I prefer the social aspect of YouTube’s user-generated content, despite the superior production quality of the videos available on Videojug.
Videos and ILI
Videos are a great way to provide users with asynchronous instruction, especially distance students who may not be able to join a real-time session, whether in person or online. Instruction sessions can be recorded and linked on a library’s website or YouTube channel, or uploaded on a site such as a Videojug page. Powerpoints can also be turned into videos by adding narration recorded with a program such as Audacity or Camtasia, thereby providing viewers with an audio-visual experience. Video tutorials can instruct users on activities such as how to use the library catalog to find resource, find articles on databases, use Refworks, locate and use ebooks on Netlibrary, or find videos on Films on Demand.
I visited Go2Web20.net to browse some of the latest Web 2.0 apps and websites. The site features hundreds of start-ups and well known social media websites that serve all manner of functions, from productivity to entertainment.
There are so many social media and app sites, it can be hard to keep track of them. Directories such as Go2Web20 make it easy to pick and choose apps and sites to try without needing to follow tech blogs and news.
Because this activity was about discovery, I decided to try a few of the applications featured on the site, rather than focus on a single one.
The following is an overview of the sites I explored.
FoodJournal is a photoblogging site for people who want to watch what they eat. The idea behind the site is that those concerned with their diets are more likely to be aware of what they eat if they photograph it. The social aspect is meant to encourage a sense of solidarity among dieters. While not especially useful for instruction, I supervise a large team of undergrad girls at the circulation desk, all of whom are on diets and permanently attached to their smart phones. I think they will love this site.
Greplin ‘s creators call it “the search bar for your life”. Given the amount of information that most people post to the web, Greplin really is a search engine for your online life. The site allows registered users to search for information on the social networks and media sites that they regularly use. For instance, the site can search your Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoogleDocs accounts (and many more), indexing your online content and making it easy to retrieve.
Ubidesk is a subscription-based collaboration site that allows users to work on team projects on a cloud-based server. For users who cannot install and maintain a program such as Microsoft’s Sharepoint, Ubidesk may provide a powerful alternative. However, Ubidesk is not the only program that meets this need; users will need to compare and find the site that best fits their need.
Keepio allows users to catalog their belongings, and provides the option for community members to trade and swap items. I was intrigued by the idea of keeping track of my belongings, it seems like a good way to have a record of your belongings for insurance purposes (or for the sake of curiosity).
Web 2.0 and ILI
While the individual sites that I explored proved to be more playful than productive, I did find the Go2Web20 directory useful. The growing popularity of social apps has led to the proliferation of sites such as the ones listed on Go2Web20. However, while not all sites succeed, a new one appears to pop up as soon as another disappears. This makes it difficult to keep track of the latest tech trend being used by web savvy patrons. Regularly browsing the sites listed on a Web 2.0 directory can make it easier for members of the library community to maintain a solid web presence and establish connections with patrons in an online environment. Meanwhile, productivity and collaboration sites can make the process of content publishing quick and efficient for instruction librarians.
Wikis are a great way to publish web content without the need for HTML knowledge. Most wiki programs are WYSIWYGs (what you see is what you get); just about any user familiar with basic word processing can create, edit, and publish content to the web on a wiki. The social media functions available on wikis also make them particularly useful for collaborative work and group publications.
Like many, the first wiki that I encountered was Wikipedia. As an instructor, I often heard debates on the validity and authority of content published on Wikipedia, a debate that I continue to witness among librarians and members of the library community. I find wikis such as Wikipedia, wikiHow, and others useful for quick reference and research, especially when the information sought is generally well-established and/or fact-based. Nevertheless, I do warn students at my library against relying on Wiki content for scholarly research, and recommend that these be used only as a starting point when developing a research question (to get an overview of the topic).
As a collaborative/social tool, wikis empower web users and encourage a community approach to learning and information sharing. Want to learn how to get wine stains out of a carpet? There’s a wiki article for that. Need a quick overview of China’s dynasties? There’s an article on that too. Overall, wikis simplify the process of locating and sharing information on a variety of topics. Of course, users still need to be aware that the open nature of wikis means anything can be published on a wiki-based site, including false information.
Wikis and ILI
There are plenty of uses for wikis in information literacy instruction. For instance, the 23 things program (SLA’s 23 things) that I am following is published on a wiki , allowing for greater interaction between members and site creators through the wiki’s comment interface. Other members of the library community use wikis developed by professional organizations/associations to interact with members of the community and share knowledge, ideas, and experiences.
Some of the library wikis that I found while learning about wikis in libraries include:
- Library Success – a best practices wiki
- LIS Wiki
- The Decatur High School Library wiki
- ALA’s Read Write Connect wiki
And many more, just try a search for “library wiki” on Google and you will receive thousands of hits.
Based on the library wikis that I browsed, I concluded that some of the best practices for wikis in ILI include the use of wikis to create resource directories, and to publish tutorials and other helpful how-to materials that can assist students and/or patrons when learning how to conduct research asynchronously.
Rollyo is one of the first gadgets listed on the 23 things program that I have not used in the past. The concept behind the program is similar to that behind a meta or federated search (searching multiple databases at a time), but the site allows users to create custom search engines that search across websites selected by the user in addition to those already available on the site. After reading about the site’s purpose, I created my own profile and started playing with custom search rolls. My first attempt did not go as planned because some of the URLs that I included in my selection required authentication (I was trying to test it with OPAC urls. I am sure other librarians have tried this as well.). However, my second attempt proved much more useful.
After considering some of my research interests, I decided to create a search roll based on Victorian reference resources (an area that I often explore). I included a selection of resources that I frequently use (mostly reference sites and other websites that I use for general Victorian research), as well as Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Google Books. I then tested it by conducting a search on George Eliot and another on corsets. I received thousands of hits from the sites in my custom roll, but I was able to refine my search by choosing to browse through results from each of the sites individually (a sidebar option appears on the results page that allows the user to view only those results derived from a particular website). Overall, I was pleased with the relevance of my search results and the variety of items retrieved.
Using Rollyo in ILI
I found the site useful, and the custom search roll option especially effective for a subject specialist who prefers to search a particular set of websites for quick reference. The custom search can provide an easy access point through which to search across these sites, increasing efficiency.
I do not recommend instructing students or patrons to create custom searchrolls, unless they are knowledgeable internet users, but I do think custom rolls can be created and linked as part of subject search guides on a library’s website in order to lead students to valid web sources that might meet their information needs.
Activity 6 – Using Twitter
I have noticed that there is a divide with regards to Twitter: those who use it (not all may love it, but they see some sort of value in the service) and those who fail to see a point to it. I often hear people say, “Why would I want to know what so-and-so is doing?”. The prevailing assumption among non-users often appears to be that Twitter is an over-hyped status update tool, but to believe so is to overlook the means of communication that the site provides.
Twitter is not a status update feed; it is a micro-blogging site. While much of the content on Twitter may be irrelevant to many (as with much of the web), the Library of Congress deemed it a potential avenue for future research into society and culture, acquiring the right to archive Twitter’s content in 2010 (Read more here). Twitter provides users with an outlet through which to communication on all manner of topics and tracks these topics through the use of hash tags to note trends based on tagged keywords.
Using Twitter for ILI
For librarians that want to stay connected with users, but do not have the time to publish meaningful content on a blog, micro-blogging may be the answer. Many libraries use Twitter to keep their patrons informed about events, closures, and other relevant news; but librarians can also keep track of current events and happenings to cite during instruction sessions. One way to do this is to use the Twitter trending menu, which lists the most used phrases and terms on Twitter (these are often tied to major national or international events, or to pop culture). Trends can also be searched. Knowing what patrons may be interested in is one way to connect with them and bring useful, relevant topics to the instruction session.
In addition, as with many social networking tools, Twitter provides an opportunity for professional development in ILI and ways to connect with fellow librarians interested in ILI and/or how to use social media in libraries.
I use Twitter as a feed and as a means to promote my own content. My tweets can be found here: @thingssheread
Activity 5 – Using Facebook and LinkedIn
It used to be that “networking” was a catchphrase for business types and motivational speakers. Every student organization meeting I ever attended during my undergrad years involved at least one mention of the term networking and how crucial it would be in our careers. Generally this meant going to meetings, workshops, seminars, etc. to hand out copies of resumes and/or business cards, and generally hob-nob with possible employers or “contacts”.
Social networking sites have changed all that. With sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Orkut, MySpace, Ning, and numerous others, it is fairly easy for anyone to establish an online presence and watch their network grow. Social media allows users to interact with individuals with similar interests and pursuits, possibly even making that crucial connection.
Using LinkedIn and Facebook for Information Literacy
Facebook can serve as a powerful medium through which to communicate with students/patrons and introduce them to materials and services available through the library, as well as a means through which to promote library events that provide information literacy instruction. I recently created a Facebook page for the library where I work; it is still in its inception, but I have taken to using the page to alert students about workshops, lectures, and other events that raise awareness of current issues. I plan on using the site to also present information on the various databases and resources that we offer, so that students are made aware of sources that they may overlook while visiting the library’s web page. The best part is that Facebook sends me regular updates on how many users have viewed posts made on the page, so I can learn more about the content that appeals to them and finds ways to use the site to learn about their needs (Facebook offers polling and commenting options that may work well for informal needs assessments, if enough followers are willing to participate).
Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn focuses on professional development rather than socialization. LinkedIn highlights personal and professional accomplishments, experience, and goals, and also provides apps through which to showcase projects and other items. While the site may be effective to connect with students and patrons through a group page, I find that the best use of LinkedIn with regards to Information Literacy Instruction is the ability to connect with members of professional organizations and others interested in ILI.
RSS feeds allow newsreaders, such as Google Reader, to aggregate entries from your favorite or most frequented blogs in a single, easy to access location. Most blogs and news sites have the option of easily subscribing to that site’s RSS feed, though many sites now make it easier than ever to subscribe to their feed through various social media services and apps.
I first started using a newsreader when the number of blogs that I frequented became too much for me to follow on a daily basis. Programs such as Outlook and Thunderbird, and services such as MSN and Yahoo, provide an option for users to subscribe to RSS feeds, but my favorite service remains Google Reader, a completely free application available through Google. I have probably mentioned this before, but I am a total Google devotee.
One of the things that I particularly enjoy about Google’s reader service is the ability to tag and categorize items and/or blogs. This makes it much easier for me to read what I am interested in at the moment. It makes it so easy to follow blogs that I often find myself subscribing to far too many, which may pose a problem when the blog writer posts with regular frequency. I recently had to review the number of sites to which I subscribe, unsubscribing from those that I could no longer keep up with, or which I prefer to read on a less regular basis. I currently have 19 subscriptions categorized, or “labeled” as, book blogs, author blogs, cooking, baking, libraries, Austenites, and misc. It is something of an addiction.
Newsreaders and Information Literacy
One of the main uses of RSS feeds and readers in information literacy is the opportunity for professional development that these services provide, especially when the user is interested in remaining abreast of trends and best practices in information literacy instruction.
They are also a great way to follow library and librarian blogs to gain insight into the way that others in the field are handling issues and challenges in their libraries, and interactions with patrons.
When I first considered library science as a career option, I turned to librarian blogs for insight into the real world of librarianship, the kind of information that you cannot find in textbooks. I started following bloggers such as Jessamyn West and Librarian in Black, as well as LIS News and others. This provided me with my first glimpse of the roles librarians play and prepared me for the options that would be available to me in the profession. My advice to students and friends who ask me what it means to be a librarian often involves telling them to follow a few library blogs to see if they are interested in the topics discussed. I think this works equally well for librarians interested in finding their own voice within the online library community and sharing their experience and desire to learn about information literacy.
I have long used Flickr to post images to my blogs. In addition to posting my own images (effectively backing up my photos), I often search and share images posted by others, often using these to provide visuals for blog posts, coursework, and work-related projects.
My personal Flickr photostream can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emperatrix/
Using Flickr for library instruction
Most web users are familiar with Flickr, whether they use it to showcase their own pictures, to view those of others, or have encountered images hosted on Flickr across the web. However, there is more to Flickr than storing and sharing images. Flickr provides a vast collection of member images licensed under Creative Commons licenses, as well as collections from some of the world’s greatest museums and institutions in the The Commons, many of which can be used for non-commercial purposes.The site also features options to tag images using folksonomy terms, as well as a geotag feature that helps users find images based on location. Instruction librarians can take advantage of these royalty-free images for use in instructional slide shows and tutorials in order to connect with visual learners.
In addition, librarians can make use of Flickr’s user-friendly interface to upload images of library collections, study areas, and labs, or to feature library faculty and staff so that patrons can visualize the variety of resources and services available to them. For instance, a multi-story library that divides the collection by floor can create a visual “map” of the collection by uploading images of each floor with a detailed description of the items located in each area, as well as basic information on how to locate materials by call number. Photos of reference areas and help desks can also help patrons see where they can go for assistance.
Library publications, such as how-to guides and pathfinders can also be posted on Flickr (if saved in an appropriate image format). These items can be linked on the library’s instruction page or homepage, making them available to users, and organized in sets on the library’s Flickr account.
However, it is important to remember that cooperation between the library’s webpage manager and the instruction librarian will be necessary if these visual aids are to be made accessible to patrons. Consideration of how to showcase and/or link images on the library’s homepage will need to be taken into account so that the images serve an effective instructional role.
Activity 2 – Social Bookmarking
I an am avid user of social bookmarking programs. Social bookmarking programs allow users to save links to web content for future reference without being tied to a particular computer or browser, while also encouraging users to index information using folksonomy tags, essentially classifying web pages according to user-derived keywords. There are plenty of options available for users interested in bookmarking and tagging web content, but the two that I prefer to use are Delicious and Google Bookmarks.
I generally use Google Bookmarks for personal bookmarks, as this service is linked to my Chrome browser (which automatically saves my bookmarks through my Google Apps account). However, a few semesters ago, I began to use Delicious to bookmark sites related to LIS, coursework, and technology. This greatly reduced my need to sift through countless bookmarks, while the tag display and notes options allowed me to quickly access pertinent links when referring previously accessed information. I find this to be a very efficient option for students and individuals who frequently conduct online research, as well as those who use multiple computers throughout the day and want to have access to their bookmarks.
My personal Delicious account and bookmarks can be found here: http://www.delicious.com/emperatrix
Using social bookmarking for information literacy instruction
Social bookmarking tools provide a great opportunity for librarians, subject specialists, and instructors to identify and promote websites that have been reviewed for currency, relevance, and scholarship. Pertinent web pages can be identified and organized according to subject-based tags derived from course syllabi and assignments (words that will be familiar to students and, therefore, facilitate access to information), so that students and instructors will have a database of valid web sources for use in class.