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Assignment:

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.

Citations

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

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