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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Living in the Cloud

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WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?

Cloud computing is one of those ubiquitous terms that gets thrown around a lot, but I don’t think I ever took the time to learn what it meant.  In fact, when I saw the topic for this week, I thought we would talk about creating word clouds (has anyone played with wordle?  It’s one of my favourite ways to procrastinate).  So when I finally understood what the cloud was when I was doing the readings for this week, I realized that I use the cloud every day, but I never realized it before.  I use the cloud to keep myself organized (Evernote), write papers and presentations with classmates (Google Docs and Prezi) and back-up my school-work (Dropbox).  I guess because I can’t see the cloud, I’m not aware that I’m using it.

But the cloud has become necessary, especially for people with multiple devices who want a convenient way to access their material.  And as Michael Stephens and Eric Schnell point out, that idea of conveniences leads to the most interesting aspects of cloud computing – personalization and localization.  Users want to be able to access information that relates to them and their activities, quickly, and the cloud allows them this opportunity.   Libraries could utilize this function to improve the access of information to our patrons.

LIBRARIES AND CLOUD COMPUTING

Advantages

A major advantage, mentioned by Marshall Breeding and Michael Stephens is the amount of money saved in buying the hardware necessary to hold this amount of material in the library.  This is especially true when using the cloud for library automation.  It does however mean that the library would need to invest more in broadband and speeding up the network.

Also, it allows for greater use of open access software, like Google Docs and Prezi, so that the library doesn’t need to keep buying Microsoft products or updating their licensing agreements.

Disadvantages

The primary disadvantage, and one which has been discussed several times during the course of this program is that of privacy.  Allowing companies access to this type of information is not ideal for libraries or our patrons.  This is a serious conversation that libraries should be having with patrons prior to investing in this software.  Another major problem, is that these servers are located in the United States.  To a Canadian library, this means that any information that is stored on these servers is accessible by the U.S. government.   This is something libraries should consider and discuss when looking at partnering with an American company.

Although the discussion of clouds in libraries is very new,  it will be interesting to see if libraries start implementing its use quickly.  And more importantly, libraries need to start examining the consequences of storing their information on the cloud and whether there are significant risks to doing so.

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Tagging and Social Bookmarking

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Tagging is such an interesting phenomena to me.  Mostly, because it allows something that the library has done for years (cataloguing) and makes it a collaborative experience.  I first started tagging 4 years ago when I joined Delicious.    On Delicious, I could keep track of websites that I liked, or articles I wanted to read.  I still use it a lot today, because as Professor Neal pointed out, you can access it from anywhere, and whether I’m at home or at school, I can quickly get the links that I need.  Delicious has changed a bit over the years, I like that they’ve added the ability to tag using a phrase or two words, instead of making one long word.  And similar to what Margaret Kipp pointed out, I have a lot of ‘toread’ and ‘fun’ tags in my library. And that’s what is so great about tagging; the ability to organize content according to a users’ unique needs.

Another great feature is being able to share my links with friends or colleagues.  I played with Connotea a bit last summer, and although it wasn’t my favourite, I was able to create lists of articles and share it with colleagues.  If you don’t have access to RefWorks, then Connotea is a great alternative.

This week I joined LibraryThing, which I should have done a long time ago.  I had a lot of fun creating my personal library and organizing the material with my tags.  I found it really interesting that the words that I used to tag a book were almost always in the tag cloud.  Some of the tags were too broad (ie. Fiction) or irrelevant to me (ie. Read2011), but overall the tags were the same.  This tells me that most people generally use the same words to organize their material.  As a result, I used the tags to browse for new material and I found some great books that I’m excited to read.

I recently noticed that some academic databases, like Proquest had added tags into their database.  I haven’t seen a lot of tagged articles so far, but I’ll be really interested to see if it catches on, and whether searching will improve with the addition of tags.   Similarly, library catalogues have included the ability to tag material.  I’m not sure if it’s a popular feature for users, but I do think it’s a great way to make the catalogue more interactive and accessible to users.

Overall, tagging adds a great new dimension to the library.  And it looks as though tagging will continue to be used in different ways in the future.  I hope libraries will continue to incorporate it as much as possible.

Tweet, tweet away part 2

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Last week I talked about joining Twitter, and I wish I had the premonition to wait until this week to evaluate it a bit more.  But now that I’ve had the chance to really settle into my Twitter account I can discuss my second week on Twitter.

There are certainly a lot of practical reasons to be on Twitter.  Prior to having an account I used to do real-time searches on Google (now I go to www.bing.com/social)  all the time if I was experiencing tech problems, or when there was the Blackberry blackout.  For example, last summer, I was working in Document Delivery and I was having a lot of problems getting articles from a specific database.  I did a real-time search and found other users, from other libraries, were having problems.  Not only was it comforting to know that it was a general problem, I knew that the company was made aware of the problem.  Similarly, I use Twitter for transit updates, depending on the city I’m in.

But you don’t need a Twitter account to keep up-to-date on these problems.  The primary reason I joined Twitter was because, I thought it would be a great way to start discussions with other librarians and libraries.  So far, I’ve found that Twitter is better served as a mean to connect people.  Twitter does do a good job of keeping me up-to-date on library news and keeping track of some of my favourite librarians and library programs.  So far, I’ve followed the three libraries that I visit the most often

London Public Library @londonlibrary

Toronto Public Library @torontolibrary

Winnipeg Public Library @wpglibrary

I do find that a lot of the tweets, from all three libraries, are, what David Allen Kelley calls ‘average library tweets’ – tweets about current events at the library.  Unfortunately, I’ve stopped paying much attention to these tweets.  I would like it if the libraries posted more interactive tweets.  For example, I really like Kelley’s ideas of tweeting twitpics of events and using twitter to interact with patrons. I think it’s clear that libraries do need to interact more on Twitter.

Of course, this is extremely time consuming.  I’m sure this is the primary reason why the tweets have been so formulaic.  As Ellen Hampton Filgo from Baylor University points out – the tweeting to students during class took 3 hours from her workweek.  Certainly, this could not be a service provided to every class.  There needs to be a middle, because if a library doesn’t use Twitter as more than displaying announcements, they won’t get the level of interaction that they’d like.

Where I see the most interaction on Twitter, is between librarians.  The librarians I follow are primarily the librarians I follow on Google Reader. These librarians include

Stephen Abram @sabram

Sarah Houghton @TheLiB (the black librarian)

Sue Polanka @spolanka

Idealistic Librarian @idealistlib

Meg Gerritsen Knodl @DotMeg (Social media/Community Manager for Hennepin Library)

So far, this is what I like most about Twitter.  By following other librarians I’ve been able to keep up to date on library issues I’m interested in, and have found links to articles that I’ve really enjoyed. Also, last weekend I followed Stephen Abrams and Sarah Houghton at the New York Public Library Conference.

Overall I think Twitter is a great tool for libraries and librarians and I’m really excited to keep exploring it.

Tweet, tweet away

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Social networking has certainly become the norm for keeping in contact.  When I first joined Facebook, I was away at University and it was a great way to keep in touch with friends and family back home.  When I left University, it became my only contact for keeping in touch with many of my friends in Nova Scotia.  Since I’ve moved around over the last few years, I really depend on Facebook to organize my contacts and to keep me aware of what’s going on in my friends’ lives.

But recently, I’ve found that I’m becoming more of an observer on Facebook than a participant.  I’ve never liked sharing personal details on Facebook and having conversations in front of other people, and so I’ve started using more of their messaging service than posting on walls.  And Facebook lets you decide the level at which you’d like to participate.  I also found Facebook to be incredibly time consuming.  It felt on some days, as though posting on Facebook was one more thing I had to do.

Because of my ‘observer’ status, over the last year, I’ve joined social networks that don’t require as much personal information.   I joined LinkedIn last summer in order to put my CV on the web and connect with past colleagues.  I also joined Pinterest this summer so that I could keep track of photos and designs that I really love.

All this to say, I never, in a million years thought I would join Twitter.  On Twitter, you can’t get away with ‘observer’ behaviour.  I think this is why it’s a great tool for libraries.  It forces participation between a library and its patrons.  Libraries can reach out to patrons by updating them on current events, but they can also respond to patron’s questions or comments.  And another benefit is the fact that it facilitates a community-wide discussion.  This way everyone on Twitter is in on the conversation, rather than a 1-on-1 discussion.

Since I joined Twitter on Friday I’ve become slightly obsessed.  So far, I love keeping up-to-date on current news and feeling like I’m part of the conversation.  I followed some of the talks at the New York Public Library conference over the weekend.   And it’s certainly not as time consuming as I thought it would be.  I check it a few times a day (usually as a study break) and got my up-to-date information fix.  And although I didn’t want to share personal details on my Twitter feed, it was really all I could think of at first.  I’m hoping that the more I get into it, the more the conversation will be about interesting articles and sharing opinions etc. For now, I’m still trying to learn how to find # (hashtags) and how to include people in the conversations.  But I’m really excited to keep discovering Twitter and tweeting away!