Welcome to the Library, Sorry you can’t eat cookies here

One of the things that I find most difficult about being a librarian is when I have to tell a student not to eat in the library.  Of all the things that a newly minted librarian might find challenging, this would not seem to be one you should find at the top of the list.  However, I have fond memories of my own student days when I would find a quiet corner of the library (my home away from home) to eat my own prohibited snacks.  So I have a difficult time now with finding eating in the library to be particularly heinous.

Familiarity with a place makes it easier to break certain rules within that place, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it suggests a level of comfort and trust in that place.  And as rules aren’t necessarily laws, today I find myself wavering in the enforcement of the food rules at my library workplace.

Reluctantly I trudge off to tell another student that they can’t drop crumbs into the keyboard…

So what do I do now?

The purpose of this blog was for a class requirement and as I am thinking that the real purpose of creating said blog was so that we would continue on with them……so I suppose I shall.

Determining how to continue on is another thing.  With one semester left until graduation I suppose I could use this as a journal showing the steps towards that end.   As this is a library blog I suppose I should work on finding what sort of continuing theme I am going to pursue.

But perhaps I don’t need to worry about a theme, or themes, at this point.  I will concentrate on blogging and let the theme eventually develop itself.

The Library Minute: Who says it can’t be fun

ASU Libraries video series “The Library Minute” is an example of how to create effective instructional and informational library videos.  Mentioned in a previous post, The Library Minute is one of many tools that the ASU library uses to provide information for their patrons.

One example of what ASU does so well is in the video, Library Minute: RefWorks.   The video is just under a minute, as many of their videos are, which is not that much of an investment of time.  Shorter videos may be more appealing particularly for students who have limited time and must balance school with their personal lives, and watching a library video may be low on their priority list.

The 58 second video on RefWorks begins with a very brief introduction that describes the citation software.  The video continues on with the benefits of using RefWorks for easily organizing citations, and for using whichever style format you need.  The video then shows the ASU Library RefWorks page and shows where on the page that the student can find more information on how to use the software.  The video also takes time in the short amount allotted to interject humor which makes the overall video viewing more enjoyable.

The only criticism of the video might be that the librarian presenting the video is a bit stilted in her dialogue but that actually helps to add to the charm of the video.

The main thing that works so well for The Library Minute is that the videos presents what could be dry information in a fun way.  This may not seem to be an important factor until you consider that it may make the person viewing the video more likely to look at more of the videos that the library produces.

It’s not really that new anymore now, is it?

Online communities can be found everywhere on the internet from news sources like the Huffington Post and Salon, to retailers like Amazon and Newegg, to dating sites like eHarmony and Match.  It would seem that if you are interested in something you are bound to find a website full of people with similar interests.

What makes these community sites successful is simple: people participate in them regularly. Without participants in an online community there is no community.

Many libraries make forays into the world of online community and create blogs in an attempt to foster relationships with their patrons.  They also go a step further by creating Facebook and Twitter profiles.  Libraries would seem to have more concerns relating to online communities however, than in simply creating them.  Some librarians are concerned with privacy issues concerning not only their patrons but themselves.

In the article Facebook for Libraries, David Lee King implores librarians to take advantage of Facebook as it is a good way to connect with their community, the majority of who are on Facebook already.  While the article was interesting it was the comments that told the real story as many of the commenters expressed concern over privacy for not only librarians but for library patrons.  It was interesting how there was so little enthusiasm for implementing something that is basically free except for the amount of time it takes to maintain such a service.

Hilary Davis goes more into these privacy issues in her article Reconsidering Facebook and finds that the benefits outweigh the difficulties of managing Facebook.

Twitter on the other hand seems to have a more enthusiastic following.  Typing “libraries and Twitter” into the search bar finds articles like How Libraries can Leverage Twitter and The Most “Influential” Libraries on Twitter.  These articles spend less time trying to persuade libraries to use Twitter and more time extolling the virtues of the social software.

With all of these articles encouraging the use of such resources it seems a bit discouraging that the message is still not out there, and if librarians are hesitant in embracing social networking websites it makes the success of such endeavors uncertain.

What was the Question?

User generated content, in the form of question and answer websites in this case, is only as good as the content being provided.  Obvious perhaps, except when one considers how difficult it can be sometimes to tell the difference between good information and bad information.

A quick look at the main page of two big question and answer websites Answers/WikiAnswers  and Yahoo!Answers actually made me question the seriousness of either website; at least from a scholarly standpoint.   Yahoo!Answers had recent questions that ranged from wanting to know how to cite something in MLA style to wanting to know if a particular movie was available in Blue Ray format.  WikiAnswers was similar with questions ranging from who Jennifer Lopez’s parents are to the conversion of temperature scales.

Many of the questions I saw on either website seemed silly, and the answers in many cases appeared to be more opinion than fact.

Looking a bit further into news on question and answer websites found a February 2011 article on the technology page on the New York Times website.  The top websites were reported as being WikiAnswers and Yahoo!Answers.  The article went on to discuss a series of other new websites which include:  Hipster, Quora, Stack Exchange, Twitter, and VYou.

Curious about Quora as there were a few articles about it I tried to take a look at it but was unable to view it as viewing required an account.  An article on Mashable about Quora linked to a video that explains and demonstrates the features of the question and answer website.  From this distant view Quora had an interesting format which enables you to ask experts a question, although it seems like there are quite a few steps that you must go through to post a question.

Another article on Mashable talked about a website called Formspring which allows you to subscribe to particular people whose questions appear in your inbox, and their conversations will show up in your feed.  You can in turn send out questions for your friends to answer.  Formspring has various celebrities you can subscribe to on the website who have been verified to be celebrities.  Like Quora this website was also unable to be viewed unless subscribed to and this time I decided to take a look.  This look required me to sign in either via Facebook or Twitter and to create a screen name.

(One a side note I find it interesting and a little disturbing how both Facebook and Twitter seem to be tying a lot of different websites together.  I wonder if this is a trend that will continue and flourish.  I am not sure I want Facebook to track my movements on websites other than Facebook.)

At this time the only friend I have on the website is Formspring itself because I cannot figure out how to search the community.

Looking beyond the easily found websites, an advanced Google search found that some universities offer question and answer resources as well.

Go Ask Alice! is Columbia University’s Health Q&A Internet Service.  A similar sounding website is Just Ask Antoine! with questions and answers relating to chemistry.  If you are curious about astronomy then Ask An Astronomer at Cornell University’s website.  Sex, Etc. is a development of Answer, a website by Rutgers University.

Whether you hate them or like them, given the proliferation of websites that are available, it would appear that the question and answer format websites are here to stay.