This has actually been my favorite week of assignments for this class so far this semester. No, that’s not because there were no assigned readings. If anything, the four books Kyle discussed in the lecture have burdened my life because I now have 4 more books to try and read because they sound very thought provoking.  Somewhere down the line maybe I’ll read all the stuff I hope to read…as long as I don’t read their bibliographies. One book leads to another and to another…

I like doing this critical theory stuff, postmodern stuff, or whatever label you put on it. Critically analyzing the field is where I find myself at home. Having lost my faith and previous identity, my mom to breast cancer, and then my marriage, all within a few years time, the LIS world may actually be more of a refuge for me than a career. In many aspects, it is all I have left at this moment in time. And it is a world in which you are encouraged to read, think, discuss, and when you do that go back and do it some more. I like thinking big picture about whom we are and why we do what we do as it helps me do some of the same for myself.

So these thinkers have given me some things to think about and the way they have expressed these thoughts are unique ones I’ve never thunked before.

Sherry Turkle:

Some of her thoughts include:

The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.” I thought about this when I “unfriended” (a great word and idea someone should write a dissertation on) someone on Facebook who had over 1,000 friends. I’m sure he’ll never miss me. We go back to our college years and were one time colleagues in the religious world. How do you have a 1,000 “friends”? Social networking easily becomes a fraud or status symbol. Ironically, in the ministry we were encouraged to have such behavior because we the emphasis wasn’t on depth but gimmick. Bring people in, keep them entertained, and get them to be members and contributors. That’s how you build community, so the thought was. Mega church pastors from the Midwest were always the examples: “He preaches to 5,000 each week. What’s the matter with you?” So we were given the “add water and stir” instructions for how to do that in our church. It was soon apparent I would never be able to do this because I was not a cult leader who would draw people by my charisma and entertainment value. I wanted to ask questions and make people question and think. You don’t gain many “friends” that way, but the few you do are greatly enriching.

I think she is on to something. True friendship requires commitment and trust, and surely you can’t do that with 1,000, or even 300 people. But it seems maybe everyone is so alone because in society we are Bowling alone (to cite another book title I’ve never gotten to) that we have to have so many “friends” online to convince ourselves we are connected, or have “followers” so we feel someone is listening when we don’t have anyone in real life who actually will.

Social networking can be just the opposite. We can have fuller relationships we physically couldn’t have in real life, and more contacts than ever before. The strong relationships we have can be stronger because no matter how far apart we can still connect. But I wonder if this is the exception rather than the rule.

* “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved.”

We are so used to the instant and the loud we don’t even feel comfortable in the alone, quiet, and reflective. Yet, it is hard to appreciate relationships and connections without realizing the opposite, and being alone makes us appreciate company. But our devices attempt to “solve this problem” and give us constant, continual noise, dribble, and nonsense.

Well, connection if you look at it positively.

But unless used properly, we can become a slave to our devices and feel we cannot live without a constant tweet or text.

* “We are using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self.”

This is pretty true. When we don’t have a sense of who we are, we let machines do it for us. About a year I dabbled into the world of online dating. The biggest struggle for me was in writing my profile so I didn’t sound like a stiff, although I most likely am one, and trying to sound real without really being real. I was depending on a machine with all of its algorithms (how exactly does someone who is a 30% “match” get recommended to me anyway?), swarming with other people playing the same game. Friends have told stories of others they know playing this game, never taking it seriously, but doing it for something to make them feel good. I probably spent more time playing with filters and seeing what resulted, fascinated by how the whole thing works. I have a disabled account now. Not good at playing games. But yet, here we are as living examples of letting machines support our fragile sense of self.

People often feel that no one is listening, really listening to them and who they are. So, Facebook and Twitter create automatic listeners to make us feel there is someone who cares.

*”Human relationships are rich and they’re messy, and they’re demanding, and we clean them up with technology.”

How true. Take the pic down, delete the posting. If only real life were that easy to manipulate. Why can’t I just create a different screen name for the rest of my life? Maybe I can go through life making anonymous comments. That’s much easier than taking responsibility, having commitment, or investing in someone or something.

Then there were the thoughts from Keen:

I found myself agreeing with what he was saying. Then I realized he is part of the problem because he is using YouTube and participating in the same “Cult of the amateur” society we all do. I know he would say he is giving content rather than dog’s farting, but it is the same freebie audience that is getting information and entertainment for free that he is attracting on YouTube.

One of my realizations in moving from the right wing of my birth to a more center, then to the far left, and now whatever I am, is that there are obnoxious fundamentalists on both sides who simply state their opinion as the unfettered truth. Keen is one of these. I instead lean towards the Robert Frost quote: “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” We all have opinions and biases, but to present those in a superior way, is in Kyle’s words from the lecture when he said Keen is a jerk. I agree. If he wanted to, Keen could have demanded this video be available for a fee so pitiful folks such as ourselves won’t be stealing something.

Keen does raise good points, though. Imagine Cronkite saying “Let’s read some of the tweets that have come in about the moon landing…”

CNN has been broadsided reporting such things as “fact” and realizing it is some misguided fool. But these things happened in the old days too, despite Keen referring to the great institutions and establishments of old as guarding against such things. They were full of crap too, but you would never know it unless you were on the inside, and you didn’t have the luxury of it forever living on YouTube.


Today everybody is a doctor on the web, and Yahoo answers will help you diagnose your sickness. But who’s going to trust a government healthcare site that wreaks havoc on users, or what a politician says, or a company that makes its profit by destroying the environment? People are skeptical of the “grand institutions” he describes. While the great stuff does get “lost in the ocean of garbage,” we have access to great things we would not have before.

In a church history class in college, one of the few things I remember the professor saying was “Cream rises to the top, but so does scum.” He was referring to “cults” or erroneous teachings according to the established doctrine. I’m not even going there. But the key I remember was that because of so much other “stuff” out there, it helped re-define what it was they did believe. They hear a false teaching and say “That’s not right…but how do I respond?” Kyle said this well in that hearing these criticisms helps us in better articulating what we are presenting, and also helps us re-evaluate what we are teaching.

I think of an interview I heard on NPR this week with the author of the blog “Hyperbole and a half.” This was a great interview with a lady who shares her struggles through drawings, including describing her bouts with depression. Having had those same thoughts and feelings as her in a struggle with depression I’ve had, I found this interview and blog comforting. This is an “amateur” not a professional like Keen expects. The Idea Box is another example. But because of the free democracy of the web, this message can be sent out for free.


Being from Maine originally, I know how people take pride in saying “You can’t get there from here” to tourists in an attempt to get them frustrated so they won’t come back.  Pretty funny too, since those tourism dollars are about the only thing keeping the state open.

I feel like that tourist, however, when it comes to the mobile device world. I’m one of the few humans left with only a flip phone. I pay $30 a month for 1500 minutes, of which I used 70 last month. I don’t consider myself alien to computers: in both libraries I work in, people depend on me to setup, fix, or explain computers. People ask me about apps on devices, ebook readers, and other web questions, and even if I haven’t used their device before, I can usually figure it out. So people equate me with technology.

Except I don’t do much of it outside of work.

I don’t really have any reason to text or call someone. The doctor’s office calls to remind me of appointments. My phone reminds me my $30 is almost expired. I am on Facebook, but see little reason to use it. Many of my “friends” are former students who don’t really keep in touch, nor would I expect them too. I’ll post about something during a Red Sox game or share an article, but not much else. I am on Twitter…didn’t use it for  year and no one messaged asking if I was still alive. I have Skype, which I only use now when I need to contact my ex-wife. I don’t get why anyone would use Foursquare and tell people where they are or what they’re doing. I just don’t see the fascination.  I do have an iPod Touch of which the battery runs down fast and many places don’t have free wifi so it isn’t that helpful.

There are times I wished I had a smartphone, but those times are few and far between. Did I really need to check email in the waiting room since I checked it when I got home and there was nothing anyway? I must be doing something tragically wrong in life because everyone else uses these things. I even went to the mall kiosk to ask them what I should get for a smartphone. He asked me what I do now, and I told him about very few minutes on my phone, few texts, no games, etc. and he said I didn’t need one. He may have been a lousy salesman, but I guess he was honest.

My friend Jack, who was nearing 80 at the time and now deceased, used to meet me for coffee at Starbucks. We would talk all things liberal politics and social issues, philosophy, theology, sociology, psychology…and smartphones. Jack always wanted to figure out if he needed one because everyone else did. He would drive to the stores just to ask the workers what their opinion was. They all told him he didn’t need one, but he wasn’t satisfied. He did the same with a Mac Book or other computer I’ve since forgotten. He found that after months of asking questions and reading reviews from everywhere, he would go and buy stuff…I remember computers, an iPod Touch (he seriously grilled me on), etc. But then he would never use them because once he realized what they did, he saw little use.

I wonder if I’m becoming the same way. In my case, it is career driven in that I need to know the latest stuff so I can help people with theirs. But what is wrong with me in that these things have no value for me personally? I’ve created accounts on Goodreads, Ning, wikispaces, Flickr, Picasa, Tumblr, Ebay, Scrbd, Feedly, and I don’t know how many others, and have rarely used them. Then there was meetup, which became a big disappointment. Unlike Jack, I don’t spend money for these things,  but do spend time on things I think will benefit my life, but find I never use them. Don’t even remember most of the passwords.

Perhaps I am just a curmudgeon after all. Perhaps it is because I really don’t have anyone to share anything with anymore. But there are those on the opposite extreme with 700 “friends” on Facebook whose lives are shallow and need the confirmation of people clicking “like” about their posts and all that stuff that makes me gag. Maybe they really do know all 700 of them, and could sit down like Jack and I and say exactly what you think and feel about anything. But I doubt it.

Perhaps this social age is shallow, as people realize they really don’t have true friendships or relationships anymore and this facade makes them feel good. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe social relationships are that much better now because of different avenues of connection, and connections which were never possible before this era.

I don’t know. I just know I find little connection with all of this. I can tinker with things and get others connected, but I find very little for myself to connect to. I guess I somehow need to become mobile and relevant and have reasons to text and post because you can no longer separate career from personal life. So I guess I’ll stop and ask directions and hope someone points me in the right direction.

I must be somewhere between a curmudgeon and technolust. My cell phone story is probably my technolust- thinking I need one because everyone has one, and to understand the LIS world I need one too. That could be true, but when you don’t use what you have because it really doesn’t impact your life, then I guess you are a curmudgeon.

I like Michael’s discussion of “learning everywhere”


and a couple of things stood out. In the comments section of “learning everywhere” he said this in response to a commenter saying she was an introvert:

My other comment is something that has been on my mind a lot. Introverts may find less opportunity for individual work in current and future libraries. I want my graduates to be versed in interpersonal communication, collaboration of all kinds and teaching (from groups to individuals). I’m believe the jobs that include solitary work cut off from the public will dwindle.

I work with people all the time in teaching and assisting in the library and classroom, so I wouldn’t consider myself Grizzly Adams living alone in the wilderness. But having recently read a very accurate, in my opinion, Huffington Post article on 23 signs you are an introvert (and realizing all but 2-3 don’t apply to me), I am confused in how I fit into this constantly connected “learning everywhere” society. One statement from the article stands out particularly in regards to our class/career:

Networking (read: small-talk with the end goal of advancing your career) can feel particularly disingenuous for introverts, who crave authenticity in their interactions.

The solution, the article states in the next paragraph is that introverts need to “network in small, intimate groups rather than at large mixers.” I am not opposed to networking, but it does, as the article says, feel phony. It would be like me texting someone completely out of the blue right now. Why would I? What would I say? What would someone say if they texted me? I have very few with whom I do and even then it takes me by surprise. I’m not sure what to do about all of this.

I know a PLN is based on your own uniqueness and I should work more at building one. It just feels foreign to me to be “connected” to hundreds of people I really don’t know. But the same feeling happens in “real” life as well. It amazes me how just recently a friend was asking me where my wife was…nearly a year and a half after the divorce. This person has seen me several times a month at gatherings, and even spoken to me several times, always seeing me alone. She may as well be a screename of someone I have never met for as well as she really knows me. Maybe I should have texted everybody and used up my minutes.

Can I grow into this, or will I always be the red shoes in a closet of white ones (#3 on the HuffPost article), trying to fit in to something alien to who I am? In any event, I have a long way to go in learning and applying these ideas of the mobile, the creation creators, and the new literacies we need to embrace.

We fake it for a very simple reason. We don’t really care about people. If we cared about them, we wouldn’t offer them preconceived ideas. We wouldn’t treat them like abstract users. And if we cared about people, we wouldn’t fake anything. So yes, you do actually have to care for the people who use the stuff you make. Really, you should choose to love them.

Dean Schuster

That quote sums up much of our society. I am glad Shuster admits he hates using the label “user” and acknowledges we are talking about human beings after all.  No matter what career or subject you are talking about, what business you run or whatever, there is always the tendency to treat people as inanimate objects and subjects to study. In my religious career it was “adherents” and we were always talking about Barna research and Pew Institute studies. In education we use buzzwords and recycle old concepts with a new shiny book for $75. And now that I work in libraries it is scratching off numbers of reference questions every time someone asks where the bathroom is. I know the business world sees us all as trends and they pump their advertising dollars into what they know we watch, eat, buy, and go to on vacation.

Schuster says we have to un-learn what we have already learned. We think we’re so smart because we can code, cite Dewey numbers, or how to save to a USB. Our patrons often know less than we do and we seem to enjoy that. But, as with previous discussions in this class, we are becoming more transparent so that everyone can see how little we know…but maybe they’ll see how much we care.

The beginner has endless possibilities, while the expert, one or two, he says. The more locked in stone we become, the fewer good we are to society. Instead of the big picture of discovering what our patrons need, we focus on what gimmick will bring them in the door. So gimmicks drive the programs instead of finding out what patrons would want. And the gimmicks don’t work so we have to go to conferences with speakers who come up with radical ideas like “people talk on telephones. Your library should have a telephone. They use computers, we should have some.” But it doesn’t take a genius to get into the minds of library patrons. They are like us. If there’s a long line at the gas pump, unless we are desperate we drive off looking for something more convenient. If a store has no parking, how long do we drive around looking? How many times will we go to a restaurant with lousy service? How often do we use a website which is not responding or we can’t find an easy way to navigate?

We can’t empathize with users, but we can with people. And we know what people expect from us. They aren’t statistics, users, trends, or opinions, but real people with real needs who seek out the community the library provides.

We should see them at least as almost human.

Wanting privacy is not about needing something to hide. It’s about wanting to maintain control. Often, privacy isn’t about hiding; it’s about creating space to open up. If you remember that privacy is about maintaining a sense of control, you can understand why Privacy is Not Dead. There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn’t mean wanting to lose control.

-Dana Boyd “Making sense of privacy and publicity.”

I liked the article by Boyd and especially the video chat of Michael and Kyle.  I find a lot of connections between transparency and authenticity. Michael said one of the barriers to transparency is fear. Boyd says privacy is about control. I find both are true.

Secrets are held because people want to hold some type of power over another, or fear what may happen if those secrets are revealed.  Some hide because of those secrets, many times out of shame or guilt. That doesn’t mean we all post our Social Security numbers on the web. But I have seen situations where people lie on a resume because they are embarrassed about their age, previous employer, etc.  When we become transparent we give up power and control and become on equal footing with the other.

If we sit down in a coffee shop and I share my life with you, you now know me better than you did before. Many people wouldn’t risk that encounter. Maybe you now know my childhood and struggles I have had in my life, and will forever see me in a different way than you did before. Whatever power I may have had by this secret (and it may just be my perception) is now over and I could be considered vulnerable. No wonder people joke about so-and-so going out for drinks with friends and by the end of the night in a drunken stupor tells things they wouldn’t have. We want power and control over relationships…only giving out information as we see fit.

I remember reading the book Freakonomics, a great read. I remember one section where the KKK are compared to real estate brokers. Huh? How can such a comparison be made? But the comparison was made because both (very different) organizations have been altered by the influx of information available. The KKK thrived on secrecy, and those white hoods kept a mystery active about who they were. Once information became available and the KKK were exposed for the scum they are, people no longer have the same fear. They are no longer a secret organization because now their secrets have been revealed. A much less extreme example is real estate agents. When you went to buy a house 30 years ago, you depended on knowledge only the real estate agent had. But now, you can do your own research and find similar information. You don’t have to accept the agent’s words as truth. The mystery of home buying is gone.

In both cases, transparency has changed the rules. Knowledge, which should create freedom, is usually abused and becomes a source of power. Knowledge becomes power in the hands of the few. Think about the Middle Ages where only men were able to make decisions, or even to read. The church controlled people’s lives and enforced rules and regulations, and people who had no access to literacy or education were subjected to them. Martin Luther and the Reformation of course changed much of that, and the emphasis of “the language of the people” put people in charge of their own believing, living, writing, learning, etc. Now knowledge was used to create equality, or at least it gives everyone a shot at bettering themselves and their world.

A former principal of ours used to have our free newspaper copies in the library confiscated at various times. If there was a story on there of a student arrest, an accident, or some other event he felt was not appropriate for students to read, he would pull them thinking they would not find out the information. Since there has been such negative press about the school during his tenure, teachers would try and grab these papers. This newspaper has an awful website which often doesn’t even have stories from the newspaper on it. Since there was so little communication, we would have to read these articles to find out what was going on in our own school. Since those papers were sometimes confiscated or we would run out because of the popularity, I would often scan off the article and email it to teachers who wanted it, using a phony title for the document because we didn’t trust who was watching and who wasn’t. You can’t make this bleep up. I decided I was going to allow information to get out no matter what. It was the newspaper for crying out loud.

People often remark at how unique I am in terms of transparency and honesty. My counselor says it is because many people are intimidated by someone being upfront and honest because they are fearful of being such. Many people don’t feel so comfortable at sharing who they are and where they are from. I used to be like that. I grew up in a dysfunctional home with a father who didn’t want anything to do with me. We lived in the biggest eyesore in town. When I would get rides from friends because we often didn’t have a car, I would have them drop me off down the street and would walk home. I didn’t want them to see my house because I was ashamed. It took many years to get over these feelings of low self-worth, anger, and utter frustration. Today, I use these stories to connect with other people, particularly high school students who come into the library and tell me how tough their lives are. They recognize transparency when they see it, and I don’t claim any skill or expertise other than talking honestly and listening to what they have to say.

I find the only way to be authentic is to be transparent. I find I can laugh at my flubs. Last summer when my wife got a divorce, I noticed how people acted so hesitantly around me, probably afraid to say something hurtful. I don’t find hurt in discussing, but rather comfort. And in the midst of this sharing with people, many of them opened up to me about either a divorce they went through which I never knew about or a similar situation within their family. It almost seemed as if it was a relief to them to have someone to tell their stories to.  It also seems as if the sense of having to control that part of their lives gave way to the relief of having someone to share with.

I am supposed to be talking about libraries and transparency, and I feel this all relates. We have to be honest, keep away from the guardian mentality, trade secrets and jargon, and focus more on seeing the patrons as human beings and not chicken scratches. Some of the things mentioned are helpful: get input from the town before a major project. Get feedback from the patrons as much as possible. And patrons remember the librarian who finds the time to talk with them about their lives. Despite the tweets and status updates, it’s hard to really find someone to talk to.

Reputation Defender offers a service whereby you can delete the less-than-flattering online tracks and fingerprints you leave along the web. And no doubt, students need to be taught how to be smart and safe online. But life is a journey and these journeys are full of plenty offline tracks we wish we hadn’t made. Like building a collection, we realize some things need to be weeded out and new things are needed to be brought in so we have a fresh new perspective on things. The tracks are still there but we can be transparent enough so that they just become another part of the story.


Our digital users inspire, create, and build rich online communities that, sometimes, are solely online or blend seamlessly with their physical life.  On local and global levels, they develop affinity groups in online spaces to share what they know and build on what they don’t.  These are already existing groups, and the question must be asked: what can we do to engage and support our users in these online communities?

As a community guide, you know that there are virtual communities already in existence that your users are a part of.  Address the following areas in a narrative, reflective style to work through how you might engage a particular community.  

I. Who are those YouTubers and what do they want?

We are an addicted bunch, that’s for sure. We are addicted to watching videos. No matter what your interest, you can find a video on YouTube. Whether you are into the latest reality show clip from last night, or look up old stuff from the 80’s like I do, someone somewhere has probably uploaded it on Youtube. Where else can you find stuff someone probably taped on a VCR 30 years ago and has now uploaded to YouTube?  I can remember where I was when I watched this NBA on CBS opening in 1985, hoping the Celtics could fight their way back.  Where else can you find stuff like this?

“Me at the zoo” was the very first YouTube video uploaded, which was by one of its founders in 2005. That video is still around, has been watched millions of times, and is now joined by millions of others. These guys working in an apartment over a pizzeria changed forever the way we watch and share videos. They eventually made a fortune by selling YouTube to Google, and we can see how important this acquisition was as YouTube videos show up in Google search results.

This has become a powerful socially networked community which spills into all the others. See a funny video? Share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, email, your blog, or other network of your choice. YouTube has easy-to-use codes and links so you can embed its videos  right into other platforms. It is hard to think of life before YouTube, as while there were other ways to upload videos on the web, it was much more cumbersome and less community oriented. Thinking back to the pre-Web days, you had to have the VCR running, hoping to catch what you wanted, then bring it with you to your friends how. I don’t know how we survived in those barbaric days.

Now, the video community revolves around YouTube and its millions of users who not only share videos, but also create and upload. Many video editing options automatically have a function of sharing on YouTube. This is truly where people go for videos, and their purpose is simple: to get you on the tube!

Seth Godin (TED, 2009) describes it as the desire for a tribe. In this case, YouTube is a tribe: a tribe of people who create and share videos of their lives and world. People seek to belong to a tribe, which does many of the following:

I call it the idea of tribes. What tribes are, is a very simple concept that goes back 50,000 years. It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it’s something that people have wanted forever. Lots of people are used to having a spiritual tribe, or a church tribe, having a work tribe, having a community tribe. But now, thanks to the internet, thanks to the explosion of mass media, thanks to a lot of other things that are bubbling through our society around the world, tribes are everywhere.

How do people actually interact on YouTube? They not only create, upload,  or watch videos, but also share and comment on them. I can find users who reminisce on 80’s basketball like I can. Users can create their own “channels” and encourage other users to “subscribe” to them. When you subscribe, your YouTube homepage will give you that feed. So on my YouTube, I see a new video from the Baseball Hall of Fame and the SJSU King Library. I am given a suggested list of other channels I may be interested in subscribing to. For favorite videos I may have, I can create a playlist around a certain theme, sort of an iPod of videos. So channels, playlists, and adding videos to your favorites are ways that the videos are organized.

Like all social networking sites, there are times when user comments get off track, become nasty, or downright offensive to humanity. Probably good that there isn’t any physical gathering of YouTube users. The usernames are liked to Google Plus profiles, or can be only the YouTube account. In any event, you can link your YouTube account and information to just about any other network, especially all of Google’s services.

This is a place users “hang out,” and a place the library needs to be. Havens and Storey (2013) say:

The greatest areas for growth and success for libraries in the networked world occurred when libraries took their materials, services and expertise further away from the center of traditional library contexts.The most profound opportunities for service seemed to occur when libraries placed their resources within the networks and environments already being used and valued by their communities.

Libraries still have great resources and materials, but need to go where people are so they can experience these. YouTube is one such place, and videos we create can engage the user, in this case a college student.

II. When Youtubers get together and watch stuff

YouTube channels come in all different types of styles. If you need help finding one, YouTube will recommend some based on your interests, or you can even browse a total list.  A search for “academic libraries” brings up less than stellar results. You can find the Texas Tech Library, which isn’t a very active site. There are a few “how to find” videos with little interaction.

Another example is Arizona State. Their channel has higher views, but still little interaction with replies or comments. This raises a question about what does constitute an “interactive” YouTube channel. There is no point comparing a college library page to that of a celebrity or TV network.

A search for “college libraries” brings up more relevant results.  Many of the libraries represented, however, are more one-way conversations of the library displaying something and do not have much opportunity for interaction.

In the same way Facebook can be used for interaction, so can a Youtube channel. But YouTube posts can be a lot longer lasting. A tutorial video can be watched for years, while a Facebook post is more a temporary news item.  A college library can add content that will be a benefit to students for years, and is often more thought out and better produced. Facebook posts are not meant to be enduring.

What can a college library add to a YouTuber’s life? We can well assume that college students have Google and YouTube accounts. They are already out there. Now, we just need to connect to them. Answering “What do they need?” can not only bring up many answers, it also can help us focus on what a college student needs from the library and what we need to present how we can meet those needs. Perhaps a virtual tour, regular videos of new books, how to find databases, and screencasts give weight to the library’s image.

In the same manner as telling students “Find us on Facebook” because they are already on Facebook, you can just as easily say “All of our videos are on YouTube. Subscribe to our channel.” The library can also add other college videos to its channel, like special lectures, interviews, etc.

However, the majority of what I think college students need library YouTube videos for are basic tutorials on how to find and do things. These videos can easily be incorporated into bibliographic instruction classes, orientation classes for new students, and other opportunities the librarian has to meet classes. It could be as easy as “I know you probably won’t remember everything I’ve told you today, so you can refer to our YouTube channel for short videos displaying what I’ve shown you.”

Thanks to the Social Storytellers blog we have some good tips on maintaining a good YouTube channel feed. Instead of trying to draw users to your site, you need to find them on their sites.  Since your YouTube page will not only show what you uploaded but also what you have liked or commented on, being active on other YouTube videos is a must. A library can also connect its Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts with the YouTube account, and share these posts in other places.

Another good tip includes keeping a regular schedule of posts to build consistency for your followers. Posting every week keeps content fresh, but posting to frequently, like several times in a day, confuses the order. The best way is to spread out the activity and do different activities (like a video on another site, for instance).  You can build the following of your feed by being active on the feeds of others.

All of these tips can help focus the channel in being something usable to students and interesting for others in the library world to follow. Students need quick tutorials on how to do particular tasks and find out what is going on in the library. Screencasts on using databases and finding other resources on the library website are a must.

The community we are attempting to engage, however, is not simply YouTube channel surfers. So our focus has to be in creatively presenting library services. I will attempt to summarize this in the following section.

III. Planning for a library channel

I found several excellent examples of college libraries using YouTube channels to dispense instruction and news. Since I am, and plan to stay, in the New England area, I looked at UMaine, URI, and UConn. However, none of these examples satisfied my quest for finding a real dynamic library YouTube channel. I guess I’ll just have to make one and everyone can copy mine. But what would such a thing even look like? Many of these sites have followers and quality regular content, but how do we engage them?

So before talking about a plan on how to make a great college library YouTube channel, we need to explore what would be a unique adaptation of this which would stand out from the rest. Having a channel and updating it with regular content is enough of a task for a librarian (considering regular library work plus all the other social networks the library might have a presence on), but I wish to explore something new. I want something better than the University of Alabama or Mississippi, which may have months or years in-between posts.

Maybe these ideas would work in a real setting, maybe not. But this is the place to dream.

Arizona State’s library, mentioned earlier, has one of the best features on their channel: a “Library Minute.” These short videos have a librarian explaining a basic service in a short minute. These could be added into a great collection of “How to’s.” I think it’s great that their entire channel is called “Library Channel.” These “Library Minutes” are a way of connecting with users on a personal basis, as the librarian becomes a familiar face.

I envision creating a “Library Bob’s Ponderings” segment to connect the YouTube Channel with my blog. This would be a regular feature, and my blog may become more of a video podcast blog than a written one, or a combination. Although I don’t use it as well as I should (and ironically my advanced reference class I am taking concurrently just had an article assigned about using it), I can also incorporate my Goodreads account for book reviews. I would put all of this into a “LIBRARYBOBL” brand that would also include my Facebook and Twitter. I have not yet used either of these to their full potential, but hope to in time. The same is true of my Skype account (username librarybob), but I would have to put more thought into this on how it would be accessed in a work-related way.

These videos will be of me giving 2-3 minute talks about what is happening in the library that week. I can envision highlighting some of the new books we have (“And to see the entire list, check out our webpage…”), an event happening, or whatever. In some cases, I can see a quick minute video: “I know it’s finals week and you don’t have much time, so I quickly wanted to say the library will be open til 2am all week. I will be here from ___ to ___, so if I or another staff member can help you, stop in. Good luck on your finals.”

We in the library world do not have to reinvent the wheel. Just the attempt at engagement puts us out there, and a YouTube icon on the library website alone would attract students to it. This is much more effective than a list of hyperlinks, such as what Harvard has under “research and support” with a “video tutorials” link. More confusing is the YouTube icon at the top of the page which takes you to the general Harvard page. I think we should be clearer in our displays and promotion. Case in point: University of Wisconsin-Madison has some great videos but I cannot find a link to their channel anywhere on their homepage.

Visibility is crucial, as this is how social media is effective. So my plan would be not only regular “LibraryBob” features, but would also hope other staff would be involved, even if they only have screencasts to add. Screencasts are important for showing a step-by-step process for using databases, citing sources, the OPAC, or any other feature showing students how to access resources. Even before you get students in the library, a YouTube video could give a virtual tour or a welcome from the library director.

Havens & Storey (2013) say we must have a “willingness to engage with users in the places that library users already frequent,” have  “the ability to adopt community goals within library contexts,” and have “an entrepreneurial spirit, eager to experiment with many nontraditional tools in order to connect with users in new ways.” That means users who watch crazy cat videos on YouTube are our potential customers because the library has a presence in the same network.

The college library YouTube channel could also adopt a similar program as Storycorps, an organization devoted to collecting audio podcasts with family members or friends recounting moments from their lives. I hear these inspirational broadcasts on National Public Radio each Friday morning. These recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. I think a college library can use YouTube is similar ways. Perhaps when alumni gather, members of a particular graduation year could be interviewed, talking about how the college influenced their lives and the memories they have. Some could even be parents with current students.

This type of program would benefit the college as a whole, and who better than the library to present this? This could be an inspirational addition, and the library staff could even have limited involvement. No doubt there would be alumni who would love to volunteer and facilitate discussions with other alumni as they recall the college of their era. By this, the library would also be building bridges with alumni, an entirely different demographic with many possible connections.

In summary, my plan would be to have regular videos uploaded to a YouTube channel, from “LibraryBob” informal chats to more formal database tutorials. We would subscribe to the YouTube channels of other college libraries and comment on their videos. We would encourage students and others to ask questions or post comments in response to the videos, whatever the content may be. All videos would be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Special guest lectures, college events, and new program ideas like interviews with alumni are all possible video uploads. The library could become a new digital archive for the college.

IV. Concluding thoughts

YouTube is a great tool for a college library, or any library, to engage its students and/or patrons. The visual of a student watching a library video on their phone at 3am while finishing a paper is actually a comforting thought. The library can be where they are at any given moment with content which can help with research needs.

Now I’ve got to go back and see who I can find is watching sports stuff from the 80’s.


Fitzpatrick, L. (2010). Brief history of YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1990787,00.html. [Last Accessed 9/30/13].

Havens, A., & Storey, T. (2013). From community to technology…and back again: Part 2, The networked library. NextSpace. Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/publications/nextspace/articles/issue21/fromcommunitytotechnologyandbackagainpart2.en.html

Lyngaas, T. (2013). Best practices. [ONLINE] Available at: http://socialstorytellers.aboutfacemedia.com/12255/maintaining-your-youtube-channel-feed-engaging-your-community. [Last Accessed October 3, 2013].

TED. (2009, May 11). Seth Godin: The tribes we lead. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQGYr9bnktw

This short video is a cool presentation of some of the things we are talking about in this course.

Playing out the string

Baseball has always been my favorite sport, and this time of year, especially since the Red Sox are on top again, is always my favorite time of the year. Of course I also love fall foliage, darker days (I know, I think there has to be vampires in my heritage), the cooler weather, and football. But baseball reigns supreme.

You see some interesting games this time of the year because only rarely do two teams competing for a playoff spot play each other (the exception this year is Reds & Pirates), and often you have playoff hungry teams playing the teams “playing out the string.” These are the teams who have nothing to play for except pride in not giving up, or the ability to look at younger players who give them hope for the future. But some of these games can be bleak, and some teams year after year can have little to ever play for.

In reading, “What’s holding us back?” I realize that many libraries are just “playing out the string” and trying to find think about something hopeful in the future even if they don’t have “anything to play for” now. That may sound bleaker than we want to admit because we can often be busy in library work and give ourselves the illusion of going in the right direction. More chicken scratches on the reference question list today sure feels good, but does it mean much?

Then I read Michael’s words “We can teach our students about these new things, but if they enter a workplace culture that doesn’t support transformation, their skills will go to waste.” As I think about space use I again think about the small public library I work at part-time. In this town started in the 1700’s, they never had a public library until 1988. For almost 20 years it was housed in a storage room next to the post office. Most of the books were kept in a barn because there was no room. Then around 2005 a group of die-hards decided to push to get a new library. The town would not fund it, but land was donated to them. Mostly it was private donations that supported the new library. I lived in the town at that point and think I may have given some money. I remember someone in town telling me they would be better off if they just got a double-wide trailer.

But they do have a facility today, and about $100k total budget. All staff are part-time and the library is open 27 hours a week. We have 5 public computers which I troubleshoot now and then, and 2 children’s computers I can’t even figure out what to do with. We are down two staff members and I have been the only one able to fill in the two nights a week we are open. We would have to close early otherwise.

The real kicker is there is an unfinished basement which has no wheelchair access. I suppose when you have such a limited amount of money, those things get left. They actually planned a full basement but ran out of funds. We have a small workroom which is used for public groups once in a while, but it is cramped so not  lot can happen there. I did Saturday storytime for a while and grew frustrated when most weeks no children would come. Then I realized that’s the way it has always been. I’ve had fun with those I have connected with, and fortunately parents have good things to say about me to others, so even though so few come, people come in saying they’ve heard so much about me. Weird.

I have tried asking questions on the library Facebook page, but get no replies. We did a survey on what patrons prefer for hours and got little sense of any trends. The limited space means there isn’t much you can do with teens or kids, although we have done activities with the few who come.

And then the unfinished basement, a $5,000 book budget, few staff, and a building not in the downtown seem to contribute to a town which mainly doesn’t care about a library. It almost becomes where “playing out the string” is put in positive terms where we could turn and say “Well, at least we HAVE a library.”

I think about all of these things in regards to what “holds us back.” There are benefits. Even though the building is small and has a bad location, it is a nice facility. We do have a few patrons who would do anything to help. It is a pleasant place to work and I like the people and talking with them, and the kids. But we are held back from being a real user-driven library, and asking the town for 1 more hour to be open a week or an extra $1,000 for something (which takes a lot of our time in proposing and discussing) just won’t get us very far. However, this is a typical northern New England town. The tannery factory, long an eyesore in the center of town, is now even worse as it is closed and weeds growing up all around it. The old catholic church in town is now empty as the congregation was too old to keep it up, and it now sits in disrepair. So the library is only one part of a bigger picture.

There is a future-looking committee in town gathering data and input on many things, including the old tannery spot. They hope within 10 years it will be torn down, but nobody is sure of the environmental damage that will be uncovered. But this is a forward-looking committee, and one discussion is a walking path from downtown to the library. What’s interesting is this Maine town is just across the bridge from New Hampshire, and since New Hampshire is tax free, everyone shops in New Hampshire. So I’m curious what town revitalization would look like.

But at least this is a “Pinkian” attempt in using the right-brain to be creative and discuss what the future can be.

It’s much more fun than playing out the string year after year.

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