Friday, July 31, 2009

Digital News: My Reflections

My housesitting gig is finished (gosh I'll miss that cat) so it's time to reflect on my digital news test drive.
I read the digital edition of the Edmonton Journal everyday. It was a bit cumbersome because I had to balance my breakfast on my lap and take breaks from eating when I needed to 'turn the page' or zoom in on an article. I found that it would take me just as long to read less, as it involved moving the mouse around, clicking on new pages, and zooming in on articles, but I ended up reading less actual content than I normally would with the print edition. I only would read an article if I really wanted to read it, as it was a bit of a hassle to open the zoomed in content, then close it, then turn the page, all while trying to hold my cereal bowl with one hand, and use the spoon with the other. Plus spilling milk on my laptop is a lot worse than spilling all over newsprint.
Also, one of my favourite parts of the journal is the comics. (A friend has informed me that this makes me more of a geek and hurts my "potential-desirability", but I love the comics and if some stupid boy judges me for that then he's not worth my time.) Anyways, they comics aren't scanned very well so they are very hard and grainy to read, even on 2x zoom.
(By the way, what's going on with the Crankshaft strip? How did he end up in a wheelchair and now he's not? I'm confused.)
Would I read the digital edition on a regular basis? No, it was a bit awkward and time consuming. Would I read the digital edition if I didn't/couldn't have access to a paper copy of the the newspaper for short periods of time? Yes, it was a good stop-gap measure and I wouldn't hesitate to use the service again.
However, I love my print journal, and am glad to have it back. If I (ever) move out on my own (please God one day help me make this happen) I will fork out the $312 for an annual subscription. Support your local newspaper today so they will be around for the future!!
I also went two weeks without tv. Like I said, it's summer and there was nothing on to watch so it wasn't a hardship. I went to a Top Model finale party at a friends', and went home once to watch the CBC curling pilot 'Throwing Stones' (Hmm, it was not super fantastic, I can see why it hasn't been picked up. It relied too much on goofy Canadian stereotypes and was thus a bit unrealistic. Plus it didn't have any good looking male curlers...). Other than that, I watched TSN's curling video archive (made it all the way through the Brier and halfway through men's worlds...) and Mythbusters on my laptop. I kept the curling playing most of the time I was home because I like the audio company, but didn't miss tv at all. However, now that I'm home I've rediscovered my local newscast, daily M*A*S*H episodes on the History channel and trash on Tyra.
Same as I couldn't live without my daily newspaper habit, I couldn't live without tv. I would miss my shows. And it's an Olympic year!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Simpsons Go Curling

Have you heard the news?
Apparently, the Simpsons are going to join Principal Skinner and his mom in a mixed doubles competition, which will highlight my favourite sport just prior the the Vancouver Winter Olympics (even though mixed doubles isn't an olympic event). Lisa will also try to collect Olympic pins.
Here's what Randy Ferby had to say about it:
"I'm sure they're going to somehow make a mockery of it like they do every other thing, but I think you need to take it with a grain of salt," Ferbey said. "It brings attention to our sport and I think it's wonderful. The more curling on TV, whether it's in an animated form or real form, the better."
For the record, I hate the Simpsons. I will watch this episode though. No doubt not only curlers, but Canadians also will be portrayed unfavourably to the vast American audience. Is all publicity really good publicity?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Web 2.0: Multimedia Sharing Sites/Mash ups: The Sky's The Limit!

Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

Is the content on your website boring? Does it lack visual appeal and 'wow' factor? I've got just the thing for you...

What is a mashup?
A mashup is an online application that uses content from more than one source, medium or format, to create a new service or product. This is usually done through Application Program Interfaces (API's) and RSS and require open data, open services, and user input. Many mashups result in rich multimedia products that can be shared across networks and embedded in blogs or websites. Basically, multimedia sharing combines photos, video, images and/or music to create a new creative product.

Multimedia sharing and mashups are effective tools that could be used by educators and librarians to develop "multiple information literacies" as they are cost effective, engaging and intuitive learning technologies (McPherson, 2008). Competing with the rich content of the world wide web and the attention spans of users is a difficult task. Multimedia sharing and mashups will appeal to numerous users and may also "assist auditory and visual learners to easily communicate and express themselves" (McPherson, 2008).
Merrill (2006) describe the different types of mashups as mapping, video and photo combinations, searching and shopping tools, news aggregation. There are infinite possibilities for mashing up various types of media to produce new content that could be useful for libraries. Thankfully, the internet also provides various ways to share this multimedia content. Mash ups can be embedded in blogs and webpages, or added to homepages like iGoogle. There are just one more information tool that a library can offer its users.

Miller (2007) remarks that combining library data with other sources will add value to the library information, but also to the other sources used to combine the content. By making use of these new technologies, libraries can better serve their community and contribute to the knowledge base of the web.

Useful Tools For Libraries

Animoto is a tool that quickly creates MTV-style videos from photos and music. Videos can be downloaded in variety of formats and may be exported directly to YouTube. It can be used to create projects which normally could be represented as a collage, as it the gathers of multiple pieces to create a new product (Valenza, 2008). It can be used for free to create 30 second videos, but requires subscription for longer films and access to premium tools.

Thus its use for educators is immense, as it could be used to introduce instructional themes, units and concepts, showcase ideas and projects, or frame concepts with a musical element to grab attention and create excitement (Brisco, 2008). McPherson (2008) notes it is an easy and intuitive tool that "enables visual, aural, and textual learners to quickly create and communicate complex new and powerful stories and messages of a multimodal nature." It has the ability to engage users over a long period of time, and has the added benefit of reducing the user's need or reluctance to be an accomplished photographer or musician because it provides access to Creative Commons resources. There is an Animoto for Education section which provides resources for using this program successfully with students. See the delicious animoto tag for more resources and examples.

Animoto could be used by libraries to create videos for the:
Voice Thread provides a forum for collaborative discussion surrounding an image. Different users can contribute in a number or audio and textual ways to create an ongoing dialogue. Similar to Animoto, this tool has immense educational use. It is innovative and different, which would grab the attention of potential user and create excitement for collaboration. An education themed resourc, VoiceThread 4 Education Wiki, provides a wealth of examples of how this tool is being used in schools. See the delicious voicethread tag for more resources and examples.

VoiceThread could be used by libraries to produce:

Other multimedia sharingideas or tools:
My Exploration
I decided to use Animoto to create a short video. I looked at the SlideShare powerpoint presentation for Creating a Simple Library Video with Animoto, which was very helpful as it walked me through the entire process. It was easy to sign up and then the sleek interface took me through the process to create a short video. It told me how many photos to add, and I chose to use my own but could have used copyright free images provided. It took a LONG time to upload those photos though! I added an intitial 'slide' with text at beginning, and used 'Tips for this section' for help as I worked my way through. I added music from their Creative Commons collection since I have no self created music. It was hard to find relevant music from the limited options, but I found something that would be alright. I was able to have some say in song timing and speed, and then saved my video.

This also took a LONG time.

It was annoying that I was never able to preview my before the final save. Once completed, I could go back and edit or tweek my video, but had to redo entire process, minus the photo uploading, which was annoying and took a long time. This is a negative feature of the program. In the end though, I was easily able to acquire the code to embed my video, and exporting to YouTube only took a few clicks.
Here is my video, and you can also view it here (the animoto site allowed me to add a short explanation about my local community video, though this cannot be embedded in blogs).

In summary, Animoto turned out to be a relatively easy and intuitive to use. I was quite pleased with my end product, and can think of many uses a library or school could put this technology to. I also think that if a library used it a lot, the $30 per year subscription cost for unlimited videos would be a viable option.

Issues to Consider
As will most other web 2.0 technologies, using multimedia sharing sites and mashup presents issues of intellectual property rights, copyright and fair use (Schnell, 2007). Merrill (2006) discussed the "tradeoff between the protection of intellectual property and consumer privacy versus fair-use and the free flow of information." As multimedia sharing and mashups are relatively new technologies, often developers as well as content providers are not aware of the licensing restrictions, or the consequences of their creation's misuse by others. Animoto does provide easy access to Creative Commons audio and photographic images, which can be very helpful when creating projects. Librarians need to decide whether or not to license the content they produce, and how to communicate the terms of the license to their users and the online community in general (Schnell, 2007). Librarians also need inform patrons who may be using such tools about copyright considerations so that they too may respect intellectual property and fair use issues.

Others issues include data security, especially when data is useful for the online community in general. Also, as with regular photo and video sharing, McPherson (2008) suggests that users must be informed about the need to be careful about what they post for security issues, especially when the users are children or young people. Finally, Cho (2007) notes that sometimes multimedia content may be filtered or blocked by a library's parent institution, and thus librarians may have no control over the data used, or may have difficulties displaying such content on their websites.

Even though there are copyright issues, multimedia sharing and mashups are rich tools that have many uses in libraries. Using these tool will provide users with exciting and useful content. Have you noticed a similar tool being used by your library?

Brisco, S. (2008). ANIMOTO. School Library Journal, 54(7), 64-64.
Cho, Allan. (2007). An introduction to mashups for health librarians. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association. 28: 19-22.
Fichter, Darlene. (2008). Mashups and libraries: Resources, articles and links. University of Saskatchewan
McPherson, K. (2008). mashing literacy. Teacher Librarian, 35(5), 73-75.
Merrill, Duane. (2006). Mashups: The new breed of web apps. IBM
Miller, Paul. (2007). What happens when we mash the library? Ariadne Issue 50
Schnell, Eric. (2007) "Mashups and web services." In Nancy Courtney (Ed.), Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's User, (pp.63-74). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Valenza, Joyce. (2008). Announcing: Animoto for education. School Library Journal
Useful Links:

Comic-Con Conundrum

Nerd World has posted a 'best-of' comic-con list. This one idea caught my attention:
"Most painful irony: By winning, nerd culture has lost. When I was a kid the fact that comics and games and fantasy and whatever were awesome was a secret, and people gave me a hard time about it. Now suddenly everyone's all, hey, no, this stuff is great, Iron Man,woo! Which means instead of being our little secret, now it's all about big corporations selling nerd culture to as many Joe Douchebags as it can pack into the multiplex. And where am I in that transaction? I don't want to be anywhere near it."
The Unshelved guys posted something similar:"On the other hand Comic Con is changing, and is a little less about comics every year. It's hard to compete for people's attention with movie and TV stars. And speaking of movies and TV, to see Joss Whedon speak I would have needed to take the entire day off to wait in line, something I couldn't really afford to do since we need to sell stuff nonstop just to break even at this very expensive show."
This is quite significant because mostly everyone raves about how cool comic-con is. I'm not sure I think the acceptance and wide spread popularity of geek-culture is necessarily a bad thing, but I would hate for it to be 'over played' like a bad pop song. 'Nerd' being cool isn't bad thing, but 'nerd' being common kind of defeats the purpose of a subculture.
Would I ever go to comic-con? It would be cool. The Mythbusters are often there, as are Firefly alumni. Plus I'm currently a big fan of The Guild and Dr. Horrible and so on, so I guess it would be cool to see their panels. Plus there's tons of free stuff at the convention.
But in actuality, I would probably never get to see a panel I wanted to or grab any free stuff I actually wanted because the line ups are killer and everything time block is over scheduled and the ballrooms are small, etc. No, in actuality, I would probably have a panic attack.
This year I enjoyed following @britl (she also went to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World) because she tweeted a lot of pictures.
And I especially enjoyed following the twitter trend #adamincognito. Adam Savage from Mythbusters dressed up and challenged people on twitter to find him. It went on for like a day and a half and was generally awesomely exciting to follow. If you want to know what he dressed up as, you'll have to follow along the condensed version...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Clash of the Librarians

Quick, someone read this and tell me if he's a librarian or a museum curator?
Clash Guitarist Mick Jones Has Become A Guerilla-Librarian...
Is there a difference?
(Shame on me, I'm in library school, I should know the difference...)
Thanks to Headtale for the link.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Web 2.0: Wikis: Knowledge Is Only A Click Away

Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

Come on, admit it - you've used Wikipedia as a resource for your school assignments, even though your professors told you not to. Feeling guilty yet? Keep reading...

What are 'wikis'?
Wikipedia defines a wiki as "a website that uses wiki software, allowing the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages, using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor, within the browser." Wikis have become popular tools for a wide variety of users, mostly due to their collaborative nature. The strength of a wiki is determined by the quantity and quality of user participation and involvement (Boeninger 2007).

Wikis have numerous positive attributes. They can be accessed anywhere, as they reside on the world wide web as opposed to certain computers. As they are easily organized in categories, they provide a completely searchable knowledge base. Most importantly, they allow for group collaboration that transcends geographic location. Anyone can easily add or edit content, and everyone can access the history of the changes made as well as the historical versions of the pages. Boeninger (2007) notes there is no need for advanced html coding skills. Photos can be added, and an extensive system of cross linking is usually employed. The appeal of wikis resides in the fact they have simple interfaces, and allow for immediate changes which thus makes the information present very current.

The world's most popular free online reference tool, Wikipedia was created in 2001. It currently contains almost 3 million articles in English, and is available in 266 other languages, including Wikipedia in Simple English. The Wikipedia Statistics page indicates the English site gets over 7 million hits per hour! It is easily searchable and is more often than not a front page search hit in Google.

To create a wiki, programs or software is required. There are numerous products available, some are free and some are not. Of course Wikipedia also has a page devoted to a list of wiki software. Software may be self-hosted, which gives the user group greater control and customization capabilities, but also requires some technical knowledge to set up and maintain. Self-hosted wikis also require user input to fix problems and require server storage. The other type of wikis available are known as wiki farms. These are online services that offer users less control, but are easier to maintain and do not require hosting.

Satterfield (2006) describes three types of wikis:
  1. public wikis - all content and editing privileges are open to all (eg Wikipedia)
  2. private wikis - all content and editing privileges are only open to a certain user community (eg. internal communication wikis which operate as intranets)
  3. protected wikis - all content can viewed by everyone, but only certain users have editing privileges (eg. a library's subject guide wiki)
Regardless of the type or service, there is no denying wikis are useful tool that employ the web 2.0 staple element of community participation.

My Experiences
I created and collaborated on numerous wiki pages as part of a project for two MLIS class assignments last fall. While I agree with Boeninger (2007) that no advanced html coding skills are necessary, there certainly is a steep learning curve when it comes to wiki mark up language. I had to print out and use a guide produced by the professor in order to format headings, links and other differences in presentation. I suppose if one works with a program for a certain amount of time, one learns the language, but I found it very challenging to remember the mark up language at the time. Another problem I had with the group wiki project was maintaining formatting consistency between my content and the content from my group members. Creating the content is one thing, formating it correctly to match with other contributions is another.

In total, my group put in over 50 hours of work on over two dozen pages about Interlibrary Loan technology, which was then combined with other group' content to create a fully linked and integrated library technology wiki (it is a private wiki though, and cannot be linked here). Here is a screen shot of a 1500 word article I created, formatted and cross linked for our project:

Thus while I did find wikis easy to use, I also found it necessary to learn about formating and mark up. As such, I think blogs are easier to contribute to as they require less mark up. However, I do not deny wikis are a powerful collaborative tool. I also do not deny that despite its downfalls, Wikipedia is a powerful resource and I thought it might be time for me to try contributing to it.

Taking a cue from my class wiki experience, the first thing I did before contributing to Wikipedia was carefully read the page about how to edit a page, which gave an excellent explanation of wiki markup, and the edit toolbar legend page which described the functions of the toolbar icons. Though a lot of this was too complicated and would end up being rather unnecessary for my minor edit, it gave me a good background to editing etiquette as well as the steps necessary to contribute to the knowledge base.
I then wasted a ton of time looking for a Wikipedia page that might need a simple edit, as even though I knew a bit more about the mark up, I did not want to take on a major content edit for my first Wikipedia experience. As is often the case with Wikipedia, I got lost in trails of cross links. After combing through pages on my local area, library stuff, and pages relating to my hobbies, I finally found a page that had a picture description without a picture. I clicked the 'edit this page' tab, and immediately noticed a prompt box which encouraged me to read the rules for editing biographies of living people, as well as a box asking me to log in so my IP could be concealed. The boxes also said tests could be done in the 'sandbox' test page. I thought this was an interesting idea, and spent some time playing in the sandbox, editing the wiki markup.

I eventually returned to my edit page, and noticed the area with the mistake right away, even though the edit box is cluttered with markup code. I also noticed that the picture had been tagged as missing, so I did not hesitate to delete the description that was meant to go along with it. I made sure to write a description for my edit, previewed it, and then saved it, as per the etiquette instruction I read previously on Wikipedia. The new page now makes more sense and you cannot even tell a picture was meant to be in a certain space (which I have also narrowed since taking these screenshots). I checked the history page to see my edit, and was honestly pretty proud of my accomplishment. Though it was only a minor edit, I finally contributed to the monster resource that is Wikipedia.

It was quite a simple process actually. I can see the appeal of contributing to the Wikipedia community. It gives one a sense of importance and I would not hesitate to sign up and edit more pages in the future. I like researching topics that interest me, and I am compulsive about spelling, grammar and accuracy, so I can see myself using my librarian skills to help out the Wikipedia knowledge base in the future.

Uses in Libraries
Wikis can be used by libraries as content and knowledge management tools for:
I have viewed the building wiki on the intranet of one of the libraries I work for. Reading it was essential, as it gave me the knowledge necessary to impart on patrons later at the service desk. Once changes were made to the facility, it was easily updated, and in this way all staff members were kept informed. Thus there are numerous ways libraries could take advantage of this collaborative technology.

Issues and Implementation
One issue with wikis is content copyright. If numerous people contribute, who actually owns the content? It is easy to find other websites that have simple copy and pasted wikipedia content onto their own site for their own purposes. Wikipedia operates with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License for all text. This means users may share or adapt the text only if attribution is given or if the new text remains under the same license. As per usual with all online content, if a library wishes to create a public wiki, copyright licensing must be considered.

Wikipedia is under constant scrutiny due to its public nature and open editing capabilities. Critics cite spamming and malicious editing as problems, since users may twist the content to their own purposes. Since Wikipedia is used heavily by students for researching, libraries need to teach patrons information literacy skills so that patrons can evaluate its content and use other sources to verify the information presented within its articles.

Pressley & McCallum (2008) suggest librarians should be involved as content providers and editors on Wikipedia to create and maintain a more scholarly environment. Librarians may participate individually on a personal level, or in defined and visible editing groups. However, Pressley & McCallum (2008) also stress a librarians must follow Wikipedia's rules and provide tips for how to do so effectively. An example of librarians participating as a defined group within Wikipedia is the University of Washington Libraries Digital Initiative. They actually saw their own library website statistics jump once their presence and content was made known to the Wikipedia community (Lally & Dunford, 2007). This type of model could also reach new or reluctant library users and extend the library's special collections beyond the local library community.

Since wikis are just one tool of many that facilitate online collaboration and information sharing (Fichter, 2006), libraries need to evaluate their proposed use carefully. Boeninger (2007) stresses librarians must determine if a wiki is needed by a community before spending the time and effort to create them. As with all web 2.0 technology, including certain programs within your library should only be done if your community wants, needs and would benefit from its implementation.

If a wiki is deemed necessary, Glogowski, & Steiner (2008) suggest numerous necessary steps to take. First, all of the software options should be analyzed and compared against community needs before a wiki program is chosen. Once a service is choses, staff training sessions are needed to increase proficiency and comfort with the particular service. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, right from the inception the wiki should have a set of guidelines and regarding naming conventions, appropriate content, format and organization. Using a template, or even just agreeing on such rules would have made my class wiki project run more smoothly. Crawford (2009) adds that if a wiki is to be effective, library staff must maintain and update it regularly so that it may be an effective tool as opposed to a web 2.0 novelty.

I think wikis are a wonderful and infinitely useful web 2.0 technology. They are relatively easy to create (once you learn the mark up language!) and can greatly benefit a user population. I would not hesitate to contribute to or establish a wiki for my library.

What do you think? Would you be willing to learn wiki markup language? Is it worth the effort?

Boeninger, Chad F. (2007) "The wonderful world of wikis: Applications for librarie." In Nancy Courtney (Ed.), Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's User, (pp.25-33). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Clark, C., & Mason, E. (2008). A Wiki Way of Working. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 13(1), 113-132.
Crawford, Walton. (2009). Shiny toys or useful tools. Cites & Insights 9(3), 1-9.
Fichter, Darlene. (2006). Using wikis to support online collaboration in libraries. Information Outlook 10(1), 30-31.
Glogowski, J., & Steiner, S. (2008). The Life of a Wiki: How Georgia State University Library's Wiki Enhances Content Currency and Employee Collaboration. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 13(1), 87-98.
Lally, Ann M., & Dunford, Carolyn E. (2007). Using wikipedia to extend digital collections. D-Lib Magazine 13(5/6)
Pressley, L. & McCallum, C. (2008). Putting the library in Wikipedia. Online. 32(5).
Satterfield, B. (2006). Exploring the world of wikis: Collaborative web sites organize information, encourage participation. Tech Soup
Useful Links:

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Etown Food Festival

I actually went to A Taste of Edmonton for the first time ever last night. And it wasn't terrible.

Basically, A Taste of Edmonton is one of Etown's summertime festivals where tons of restaurants set up booths on the square and sell sample portions, plus of course there's music and vendors and alcohol (I assume, not my thing, remember). I've never been that bothered by this annual festival since I'm not a foodie and I'm a thrifty el cheapo. I happened to be working at the court house was going to hang out with a coworker afterwards so we figured we'd stop by for a quick after work dinner.

I'll admit right now the only reason I wanted to go to A Taste of Edmonton was because Sharon at Only Here For The Food mentioned the sweet potato fries and I l-o-v-e sweet potato fries. I paid my $6 for 6 tickets, and got my mini plate of fries for 3. It was yummy. My friend got some good veggie tempura for 4 tix and we both had coconut ice cream with chocolate sauce for 3 tix. That was also yummy.
So my impressions: A Taste of Edmonton was not what I expected. For some reason I thought the food would be different from what you would normally find around. How hard is it to find spring rolls, meat on a stick and perogies around town. Seriously. Is that all the restaurants in this city sell? The food list didn't seem that impressive. While what we ate was really good and quite reasonable for what we paid, the same can't be said for some other dishes. Just looking around at other people's place made me wonder what they were thinking spending 5 tix for greasy meat something or other. And really, how hard is it to make penne at home? Perhaps I'm missing the point of the festival. Perhaps I'm far too cheap and far too practical.

The other thing that annoyed me was the layout of the event. We've got this huge square downtown, yet all the vendors are lined up back-2-back down a side street. There was no room to walk straight down the street between all the people milling about and all the food lines. Why do these booths not line the square?? Seriously, move the music to the edge and put the beer tent and vendors on the side street. The festival is about food, and the food should be showcased front and centre. It just seemed to be a counter productive layout.

They also should fix the environmental policy. Ok, so the plates were paper and I think they were using an environmentally friendly waste company, but the cutlery was still plastic. There must be another way to solve that. Perhaps the folk fest model of $1 plate and cutlery deposit isn't the way to go, but good grief, what a waste of forks.

Would I go again? Maybe, but I wouldn't make a special effort.

Last night I also met my friend's sister's kitten. She has a stubby tail and wags it like a dog - it's so cute! And I held her gecko too. It was sticky. We also went to snoop around my friend's house which is being built. She's been watching the progress closely, and it's been really exciting for her as she's a first time homebuyer. Walking through building guts was kinda fun and 'dangerous', thus thrilling.
All in all it was a good day. Actually, I didn't do any homework so it was a fantastic day!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Web 2.0: Virtual Libraries: The Library Has Left the Building

Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

"In the library of the future, they say, librarians will take on new roles, space will be reconfigured to reflect new and broader purposes, and the ongoing digital revolution will birth a new kind of public institution that is no longer bound by bricks and mortar." (Dremann, 2009)

The future is now...

What are virtual libraries?
Essentially, virtual libraries "are organized collections of digital information" (Gunn, 2002). Virtual libraries may be defined as a collection of digitized primary sources (Project Naming), a portal for subscription database access (Energy Science and Technology Virtual Library) and/or a group of websites (Librarian's Internet Index) that extend resources beyond the libraries walls (Schrock, 2002). A virtual library may also be called a "library without walls," "electronic library," or "digital library", as they change our concept of time and space within the online realm (Saunders, 1999).

Virtual libraries are constructed with particular users in mind, and include content to support their users' particular needs (Gunn, 2002). Content may include text, images, audio and video. They allow librarians and other information providers to filter good information to their users (eg. Alabama Virtual Library), thus bypassing the many discreditable websites Google might display. This aspect is especially good for students and young people who have not yet learned searching, website evaluation or information literacy skills.

Examples of Virtual Libraries:
Academic: Academic Info

My Quick Search Using a Virtual Library
I have never really used a formal virtual library, thus I chose to do a bit of searching on the Virtual Reference Library. Like many people, I am a Google searcher, and automatically started searching by keyword within the search box, which did have a prominent space on the VRL homepage. However, unlike Google, I found this frustrating as no matter what I searched, no results were returned. I then had to rethink my search, and go through the subject directory. I think clicking through a subject directory is a good way to browse, but a lousy way to try to find a specific answer to a specific question. I could not even find a category for my query, and thus had to abandon a particular train of thought. Once I got over this specific search, and just browsed through the directory, I did find a lot of useful information for a variety of topics. Each link is given a short abstract and a language determiner, which would be helpful to certain users. All the links I tried were live, and the information contained in them did seem to be of a high quality. I also found the VRL Quick Link section to be quite helpful, as it led to authoritative information for a variety of common topics such as weather, but also provided links to dictionaries, maps and other reference tools.

I found that using VRL took more time than a specific Google search, and thus this virtual library did not work for me. Perhaps someone who is not proficient at using a search engine would appreciate this resource. And of course not all virtual libraries are structured the same way. I can also see how children's virtual libraries would be very useful to learning, and would be a good way for young people to develop researching skills, while being exposed to high quality information. The International Children's Digital Library is a brilliant children's resource. The book searching interface is very visual, even allowing children to search books by the colour of the cover! I also thought the Springfield Township High School Virtual Library was very effective. It contained tons of information that would be useful to students and teachers, and was very visually pleasing to look at. So while virtual libraries may not always work for the way I search or use the internet, I do believe the can be very useful resources for other types of users with different needs.

Best Practice Examples
The following are best practice examples of virtual libraries which are operated for particular purposes to meet the needs of particular users.

Providing Access to Nomadic Patrons
The US Navy Medical Department Virtual Navy Hospital was created to the US Navy and Marine Corp, members of which often lead nomadic lifestyles as they spend time at home, at sea and in the field (D'Alessandro et al. 2007). The main goal of the Virtual Navy Hospital is to provide digital health sciences reference information for naval primary care providers where and when they need it to help take better care of patients. The library also promotes health information to sailors and marines so they can make appropriate choices in order to live healthier lives. As these types or users do not have a consistent location, providing digital information which they can access at their point of need was seen as an essential tool. Access to the internet is often intermittent, and thus the interface is very simple, as it requires little time to load and can be easily accessed even if computer software is not up to date. Users could be assured that no matter where they were, resources were available in an easily accessed and organized collection of high quality information that was specialized for their particular need. Unfortunately, funding was cut in 2006 and this virtual library is not often updated. However, it does provide a good example of how a virtual library can provide specialized information to patrons who may move around or not have a determined location.

Bridging the Digital Divide: Global Information Sharing
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Virtual Library is a powerful example of how virtual libraries can bridge not only geographical limitations, but the digital divide as well. Alvare et al (2007) note that improving access to and sharing information and knowledge with developing countries is an international responsibility, and a necessary element for aid and worldwide progress. CGIAR has created a virtual library containing global agricultural research information, and provides researchers with access to up to date, high calibre research. As these researchers often come from and are located in developing countries, this access will help them keep up with the rapidly changing digital environment, and will prevent them from falling behind the developed nations. Because researchers might not have access to academic institutions, the virtual library allows the organization to share information with users in a common readable format, independent of time or geography, which in turn allows the researcher to better influence their local area. The CGIAR database has seen widespread use, mostly from users in developing countries (Alvare et al., 2007). Though it is often not possible to provide everything in full text format, users can choose to search open access materials only. The simple searching interface includes many other sourcing options as well. The homepage is visual and contains useful information about the library, as well as links to other libraries where materials might be available. It is an excellent example of a virtual library that has a global reach, and shows how virtual libraries can be used to bridge the digital divide between the developed and developing countries around the world.

Virtual Pathfinders
Schrock (2002) translates the idea of a virtual library into virtual pathfinders like Website Evaluation Schrock Guide. These virtual pathfinders link teachers and students to local and other information in an online format, to be access at the library, school, or at home. Content includes moderated links to resources on particular topics, lists of books available in the collection, or links to patron created content. These pathfinders may pertain to particular topics (perhaps curriculum), and are joined together by a portal and thus become a virtual reference library. This format, especially when used within a school setting, encourages sharing and collaboration between student and teacher, as well as across boundary lines because information may be shared within a district, state or nationally to support similar educational outcomes (Schrock, 2002). Thus these virtual pathfinders not only provide online access to quality resources, but are also efficient and prevent wasted time taken to 'reinventing the wheel'. With regards to school use of virtual libraries, Saunders (1999) also mentions the problem of filtering content, a sensitive issue regarding children and their use of the internet.

Providing Access to Users With Disabilities
Human rights laws dictate that everyone has the right to access to information and knowledge. Tank et al. (2007) discusses the possible implementation of a global virtual library of talking books, as spearheaded by the DAISY Consortium. Talking books differ from audio books as talking books allow patrons to skip ahead or back sections or chapters, to speed up or slow down audio, and to bookmark where they left off for next time. Patrons usually require a DAISY reader to read specially formatted talking books. However, now talking books are being converted from analog to digital format, which opens up the possibility of online access. The DAISY consortium is trying to establish a digital talking book library service to give all countries and all people with hearing impairments access to content thus transcending geographic, linguistic and cultural boundaries by using technology to it's maximum potential. Tank et al., 2007 cites the example of the Danish National Library for the Blind Virtual Library, where patrons can not only access talking books online, but also interact via virtual bulletin boards. This desired global library creates issues of copyright, especially in the case of global trade politics and open access licensing, but would be immensely useful for global patrons with special needs.

Implications for Libraries
Virtual libraries can be costly. To access one, a user needs the necessary technology, good internet access, and knowledge of how to navigate online. This may contribute to the digital divide by widening the knowledge gap between those who have online access and those who do not. Alvare et al. (2007) cites the issue of open access versus copyright content, and the necessity to have full text capabilities. Providing a link to information is useless if that information turns out to be unavailable.

They also alter our definition of community. Diaz & Fields (2007) note that people learn and take in information by interacting with others, regardless of if they are in a building, or online in a virtual space. Librarians need to support this interaction in virtual spaces, and continue to create community, even though they may not have direct interactions with patrons. Creating a community space on the sometimes faceless world wide web is a difficult task for information providers. Dremann (2009) maintains that if libraries are digital, they still need a human element: they still need someone to sit on a virtual reference desk, someone to put individual touches on a website, and someone to organize the activities of the community, whether they be online or actually in a public space.

The DAISY example also highlights the necessity of having a barrier-free, accessible library website. Sometimes using adaptive technology or adjusting browser settings may promote accessibility, but accessibility must also be considered when designing the HTML code and structural mark up of a website (Casey, 1999). Ideally, anything that is represented in visual or audio format, whether it be photographs, illustrations, page dividers, image maps, videos, or sound clips needs to have alternative text within its HTML markup, and descriptive tags for hyperlinks (Casey, 1999). A text virtual library is also not always accessible, and thus audio and video content should be included to appeal to patrons with other types of needs. As technology progresses, and the use of mobile devices grows, websites may also need to be designed for mobile programs and with mobile based interfaces for easy reading on cell phones. Thus virtual libraries can be incredibly time consuming, and require some specialized knowledge to put together.
D'Alessandro et al. (2007) offer some suggestions for the implementation of virtual libraries. First, a needs assessment should be performed in order to determine if indeed a user community needs a virtual library, and if so what do they need included. As mentioned above, virtual libraries must incorporate principles of user centered web design and use simple web technology to ensure all can access the content, regardless of type of internet access or special need. Also, a virtual library needs people behind the scenes to interact with patrons and information in order to make access and content more effective.

Finally, librarians must solicit and act on patron feedback regarding the service.
Though virtual libraries do require effort to create and maintain, as evident from the examples above, they can be quality resources which support different user groups who may not have access to traditional library resources. Thus they are powerful learning tools that should be embraced by librarians.

I still do not 'really' know what virtual libraries are. Do they have to be tied to a library? If not, does that mean links lists are classified as virtual libraries? What about archives or news or sports? Is YouTube a virtual library? iTunes? What about the University of Alberta's subject guides? Are digitized collections virtual libraries? Can databases be called virtual libraries?

Tenuous definitions aside, I do believe it is important for libraries and librarians to be involved in collecting and organizing digital content for patrons. Whether this takes the form of subject guides, link list or full blown virtual libraries, we need to serve our diverse patrons, patrons who come from different background, live in different places, and have different needs. In this way, we can not only serve our specific community, but also the global community in general. I believe the real function of the world wide web is to bring people and information from around the world together, and virtual libraries do accomplish this.

Alvaré, L. M., Shelton, P., Ramos, M. M., Ferreyra, C., & Walczak, N. (2007). Enhancing access to global agricultural research information: The CGIAR virtual library project. Quarterly Bulletin of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists, 52(3), 83-90.
Casey, C. (1999, March). Accessibility in the virtual library: Creating equal opportunity Web sites. Information Technology & Libraries, 18(1), 22.
D'Alessandro, M. P., D'Alessandro, D. M., Bakalar, C. R. S., Ashley, L. D. E., & Hendrix, M. J. C. (2005). The virtual naval hospital: The digital library as knowledge management tool for nomadic patrons. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 93(1), 16-20.
Diaz, Karen, & Fields, Anne M. (2007). "Digital storytelling, libraries and community." In Nancy Courtney (Ed.), Library 2.0 and beyond: Innovative technologies and tomorrow's user, (pp.129-139). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Dremann, Sue. (2009). The 'library of the future' begins to emerge. Palo Alto News .
Gunn, Holly. (2002). Virtual libraries support student learning. .
Saunders, L. (1999, Spring). The human element in the virtual library. Library Trends, 47(4), 771.
Schrock, K. (2002). The "new" virtual library the virtual pathfinder. Book Report, 21(2), 8.
Tank, E., & Frederiksen, C. (2007). The DAISY standard: Entering the global virtual library. Library Trends, 55(4), 932-949.
Westbrook, B. D. (2002). Prospecting virtual collections. Journal of Archival Organization, 1(1), 73-80.

Curling At The Corn Maze

I am a big fan of the Edmonton Corn Maze. Last year we got caught in a storm and it was awesome.
This year is going to be extra fantastic because this is what the corn maze will look like:
Who can resist a trip through Kevin Martin's head?! It was meant to be, the corn maze and me, ha ha. I think I'll have to go multiple times this year.
There's 137 days until the ROTR, by the way. I get to pick up my volunteer jacket Sept. 2. I'm very excited.
You can follow the corn maze's growth on twitter. It should open in August.
So who wants to join me?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google Reader Has Been Invaded!

It has finally happened.
Someone has spammed my Google Reader account!
I was going through my feeds today and came across one from a blog I do not subscribe to. How? That is just wrong! Is nowhere safe?
I feel violated.
Oh, wait...this isn't new. And upon further investigation, it appears that Google Reader's new friend sharing system was the culprit. After much frustration, I finally figured out how to hide friend's shared feed. I don't like Google's new venture in social computing. If I wanted to read what my friends where reading I would add those subscriptions to my feeds. I already get shared links through email and facebook, I honestly don't want anymore. I read what I want to read in Google Reader. Stuff I don't want to read but am forced to should happen only at school.
No offense but I am unfollowing everyone on Google Reader.
Cranky comment finished.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Storm Links

Ok, so after being caught up in it, I apparently am now fascinated by the Storm of the Summer. Here are a few more links from the Edmonton Journal about its effect and the aftermath:
They cancelled last night's rock concert at Capital Ex too (bad news for Hinder fans). There was a blurb in the journal today that explained that because their power was cut and they couldn't publish Sunday's journal until late that night, they received over a million page views to their online content. Wow.
CTV also has a great photo gallery here.
And finally, Mastermaq has the #yeg tag/twitter summary here.
Ok, that's all my storm links. Back to random blogging about unimportant things.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Web 2.0: Podcasting: Are You Listening?

Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

Disclaimer: Don't bother listening to the embedded podcast. I only attached it to fulfill class requirements, and it's boring as heck. Plus it'll expire in 30 days, so the link may actually be dead when you read this. Actually, skip this post entirely. Podcasting is dead. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Imagine the ability to download desired content and save it for later. No, it's not BitTorrent. It's not a PVR - it's podcasting!

What is Podcasting?
Podcasts are digital audio files that are broadcast online and available for download to portable media devices. Podcasting began around the year 2000, once the software and hardware combination was created to allow for the automatic downloading of audio files (usually in MP3 format).

The advantage to podcasts is that they give listeners control over when they hear a recording. Gordon-Murnane (2005) calls them "time shifting radio." "TiVo for the radio," "media on the go," "targeted radio," and "personalized radio". They are easy to make and require relatively little specialized equipment. Usually podcasts are free to listen to or download, and come in a wide variety of content and formats. Listeners can subscribe to podcasts through podcatchers (ie. iTunes) or often they come in blog format, and can then be followed via RSS capabilities. Podcasts can be downloaded from the web and listened to at the user's convenience either on a computer or a device like an iPod. Basically, they provide portable education and entertainment.

There are disadvantages to podcasts though. They require bandwidth to download, and provide little to no two way interaction between the listen and the podcaster. While they may appeal to audio learners, they are useless for people with hearing impairments. Also evident are difficulties with cataloguing, classifying, indexing and retrieval.

My Experiences With Podcasting
Personally, I do not like listening to podcasts. After over six years of post secondary education, I have developed an aversion to being 'talked-at'. I do not find this form of information presentation to be at all engaging. To acquire information, I would rather watch television or online videos, or better yet, talk to a real person. I find real life interaction and video viewing much more engaging and interesting to take part in. Podcasts require concentrated attention, thus I can not do other things while I listen to them. When I listen to podcasts, I only stare at the blank computer screen, which is boring and too flat. I also do not take advantage of the mobility benefit of podcasts, as I find them too distracting to listen too while I drive. If I am out for a walk then I would rather listen to nature, and if I have a public transportation commute I would rather read or chat to a companion. Maybe I am a product of the MTV generation and have a short attention span?

That being said, I faithfully subscribe and listen to one podcast about a topic I find interesting. The information in this podcast is only available through this medium, as in there is no way to access the same content online or on mainstream television. I enjoy the content of this podcast, and that has kept me loyal. I have never listened to a podcast for professional purposes. Life is busy, and I consistently choose to make time for other forms of professional development such as reading blogs, watching online videos or attending brown bag workshops.

I have created a podcast though, for a MLIS class assignment last fall. It was very easy to record the podcast. I used the free audio program Audacity to record and make edits to my recording. I used numerous Audacity tutorials, and, once I got the hang of the program's interface, the entire process was as simple as clicking a button and saying my content. As I have found with many web 2.0 tools, once you figure out the interface, the rest is smooth sailing!

For this assignment, I wanted to learn how to embed my podcast into my blog. I watched a Slideshare presentation about How To Embed a Podcast in Blogger. This seemed to indicate embedding my podcast would be very easy. I also viewed a YouTube video titled Creating a Podcast with Blogger, and read the Blogger official Help page about embedding podcasts. However, the latter two resources seemed to be meant for regular podcasters because they involved changing the Blogger settings to include 'enclosure links', and as I only intend to embed my podcast this one time, I decided to follow the slideshare presentation. Armed with this new knowledge, I set about completing the described steps.

The slideshare presentation recommended signing up for an account on Internet Archive. I have visited this website before to view concert and other video footage, and also to use the wayback machine to view old blog caches. I was unaware they hosted uploaded photo, audio and video content (although the space provided is limited). After I signed up for my 'library card', I simply had to click the upload button from my homepage. After inputing a title, description, and metadata tags, I was prompted to choose a Creative Commons license. I chose the 'Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada license. This means my content cannot be used for commercial purposes or modified. I have never used a Creative Commons license before, so it was interesting to go through this process. Fortunately, the Internet Archive made this process very easy by providing adequate information in the Creative Commons form I had to fill out. As my podcast was already converted to MP3 format, all I had to do next was upload it. I also chose to upload it as a test item, meaning it will expire in 30 days. I am only embedding this podcast as part of assignment requirements, and do not wish for it to stay on the web after this class is over, as that was not its original intention.

It took a long time to upload, which had me very worried, but it uploaded alright in the end. I visited my podcast's page, which is actually pretty neat. You can listen to the podcast from here, and all my metadata information is also available for viewing. I followed the slideshare's instructions for how to embed my podcast, but it basically is the same as the process on YouTube: I simply copied the embed tag and pasted it into the Edit Html tab of this post. Here it is:

"Review of the University of Lethbridge's Institutional Repository"

Very sleek, eh?! This process was so easy though. I would not hesitate to use the Internet Archive to host other materials I produce. The only draw back is you cannot download this podcast from my blog. However, if you visit my podcast's page, you can download it from there. If I was to make podcasting a regular occurrence on my blog, I would likely set up the enclosure links mention by the other two resources above. For my current purposes though, this process worked very well.

Library Uses
Podcasts are being used by libraries for many different contexts, including to:
There are of course issues related to library podcasts. Gordon-Murnane (2005) discusses the copyright concerns relating to podcasting, including intellectual property issues. Using music in podcasts is of great concern, and must be done properly by obtaining the appropriate permissions. Kretz (2007) suggests libraries must get signed permission from speakers at events, authors at readings, and for any music used in the podcasts. I found the Creative Commons process easy to go through, and think libraries should consider this process as well in order to protect their content.

Also of concern is the difficulty podcasts present in terms of classification and indexing. Though podcasts are increasingly being catalogued using tags or other metadata, and there are many podcast directories, it is still difficult to find appropriate podcasts. Podcasts are not indexed in academic subscription databases either. Much like the trouble with tagging I discussed in my social bookmarking post, I did find it hard to attach metadata to my podcast without specific vocabulary guidelines. This presents many issues for librarians. As we are charged with helping patrons find appropriate material, how can we effectively direct patrons to useful podcasts? This is an issue I never did find an answer to.

Is Podcasting A Dead Technology?
I personally believe the podcast 'fad' is fading out.

Pew Internet: Podcasting Downloading 2008 reports that 19% of internet users have downloaded a podcast, which is up 7% from 2006. However, "podcasting has yet to become a fixture in the everyday lives of internet uses, as very few internet users download podcasts on a typical day." Pew Internet indicates podcasts are currently popular in niche markets only.

Podcasting was supposed to revolutionize university and college classrooms. One would assume archiving lectures on the library website, and making these available for students to listen to would be a well used service, but that is not the case. Concerns have been raised that making lectures available encourages non-attendance and does not generate quality academic discussion (Deal, 2007). Professors worry podcasts cause students to rely on audio more than textbooks or discussion with fellow classmates (Deal, 2007). The general consensus is that podcasts should only be used to supplement learning in case of an unavoidable absence, or to fill holes in notes and review for exams (Cann, 2007; Deal, 2007; Guertin et al., 2007).

The issue is while students do see the value of making podcasts available, the majority of students do not use them as a resource (Cann, 2007; Guertin et al., 2007). Students feel they do not have enough time to listen or re-listen to lectures, nor do they feel the need to, and also note technical issues as being a hinderance (Cann, 2007; Guertin et al., 2007). Students are more keen and likely to view videos of lectures, as they are more familiar with video technology thanks to YouTube (Cann, 2007). Viewable content also does not take up bandwidth, and as students can now get online access through their laptops and mobile phones, they tend to use iPods of other mobile devices for music and entertainment only (Cann, 2007).

Thus, should a library waste time, effort, and money to produce and archive podcasts if they are not going to be used? It would be interesting to see statistics from the libraries mentioned in the 'Library Uses' section in order to determine if their podcasts are indeed being used. Perhaps I am being cynical, but many of the 'Library Uses' mentioned above could also be accomplished by video or photo sharing, both web 2.0 tools which seem to be more popular and better recognized, as compared to podcasting, and just as easy to do.

Does anyone else agree that podcasting is fading away and being replaced by other mediums of online expression?

Podcasting came out of the whole blogging phenomenon (Kretz, 2007), and in turn spurred the development of video sharing. What could possible come next??

Cann, Alan J. (2007). Podcasting is Dead: Long Live Video!. Bioscience Education Journal v.10 <>
Deal, A. (2007) Teaching with Technology White Paper: Podcasting. Educause CONNECT <>.
Gordon-Murnane, L. (2005, June). Saying I Do to Podcasting. Searcher, 13(6), 44-51.
Guertin, L., Bodek, M.J., Zappe, S.E. and Kim, H. (2007) Questioning the Student Use of and Desire for Lecture Podcasts. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 3(2): 133–141. <>.
Kretz, Chris. (2007) "Podcasting in Libraries." In Nancy Courtney (Ed.), Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's User, (pp.35-48). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Useful Links:

#yeg Summer Storm Wrap Up

I no longer doubt the effectiveness and the usefulness of twitter. Not after last night's storm. The #yeg tag (our airport code) went all the way to 6th on the trending list of the most talked about subjects in the world! I've never used social media in this way before, but getting a minute by minute account of what was going on was amazing. The whole thing was scary, but amazing.
Mastermaq has a great blog post here summing up the #yeg Twitter Storm, including other links and some pictures.
If you missed all the chaos of last night's storm, here are a few links to keep you busy: By the way, if there are trees down on your property, it's your job to clean up the damage and debris. Call an arborist if you need, but only call Epcor if power lines are involved. Apparently all the golf courses are closed for clean up.
Fire & Rescue went to over 200 calls last night. Stay safe people!