Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Article note: On student opinions of academic libraries using Facebook and MySpace for Outreach

Citation for the article:

Connell, Ruth Sara, "Academic Libraries, Facebook and MySpace, and Student Outreach: a Survey of Student Opinion." portal: Libraries and the Academy 9.1 (2009): 25-36.

Read via Project Muse. 

Right away, this article is starting to show a bit of age. Facebook (FB), in particular, has changed so fast since this article was published that some parts of the article are not as applicable. That is the problem overall in LIS literature trying to cover online social networking: by the time the article is written and published, a year or two have gone by, and that is a long time in the online world. However, that aside, there are some things worth considering in this article.

The article reports on a small study of first-year students done at Valparaiso University. They were asked "how they felt about libraries having a presence on social network sites and using that medium to contact students" (25). In the literature review, Connell discusses some approaches that other libraries have done from active solicitation of students to become friends of their FB profile to simply promoting the profile and letting students find it. Personally, I am not too keen on the idea of active solicitation. Yes, online social networks do have a lot of potential for libraries, and I think we need to go where our users are when it comes to service. However, being to aggressive seems like borderline spam to me. We do what Connell mentions that Penn State does, that is, "they recommend mentioning one's Facebook account in library instruction sessions and reference interviews and then letting students find that account" (28). I also mention it when we do outreach events. I usually ask students if they have an FB profile, and if they do, tell them the library has a page and ask them to consider checking it out.

Already in the literature review, the article is already showing some age. FB has pretty much moved organizations to create pages (here is ours, for instance), and it pretty much has closed down groups. And while the article does mention librarians having their own profiles, this distinction seems to get a little lost in the discussion. In addition, FB has done a few changes to their privacy options, sparking some controversy in the process. Additionally, a good number of the articles that Connell considers in her literature review were written when FB was a closed garden limited to college students. This is no longer the case as FB has expanded to become a very open ecosystem, with all the good and bad such implies. At any rate, the important question that the article raises is whether students are accepting of these uses. We have heard a lot in the library literature about libraries using online social media (I have looked at some examples from the literature here, here, and over here), but how do the students feel about it? This is what Connell is trying to answer. Let's look at the method and findings then:


  • The sample is of 366 students out of 721 enrolled in what the school calls the Valpo Core (a sequence of classes all incoming students take) and first-year honor students.
  • The study found a good degree of acceptance. According to Connell, "some participants, (63 or 17.2 percent) were very open to the idea and said that they would be proactive and invite the library to be their friend if they knew about the account" (31). In addition, the majority said they would not seek out the library, but they would accept if the library friended them (31). 
  • The acceptance is dependent on the quality of the interaction. If the library offers useful information and updates, it is more likely to be accepted by the students. 
  • A conclusion: "What was apparent from these results was that a one-size-fits-all model does not work when it comes to using social network sites for library outreach" (33). I would say that this boils down to getting to know your students and community. I would add that if you develop rapport with the students in person, they are more likely to check out and add your FB page to their favorites. 
  • Connell urges librarians to create profiles for outreach; well, she uses the terms marketing and publicity (34), but I would like to think there is more than just marketing and publicity. I like to use our library profile for reference, for providing useful information, and once in a while to provide something interesting. The idea of librarians on FB and other online social spaces by now is a given. I think it is very rare to have librarians totally react against the idea. Some may choose not to participate, and that is ok, but I  think, at least based on my reading and observations, that the idea of us being in those spaces is accepted. Whether some take it too far is another question. And as side note, I do have a personal profile on FB, which I use a bit for professional use (I have student and faculty friends for instance, so I do some outreach that way), but it is also for personal use. As a result, I do avail myself of distinct privacy settings as necessary; also, my personal use is something I do reflect upon every so often. This is especially significant given that nowadays current and potential employers can use your profile against you if they find something they dislike (regardless of whether it is relevant to the profession, the workplace, or to put it  plainly, whether or not it is their business). So I walk a fine line of balance. 
  • Another conclusion from the article: "Students made it clear in their responses that they do not want their time wasted" (34). 

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    On using a feed reader, or no, not everything is on Twitter

    By now, the news that Bloglines, the RSS reader service, is shutting down on October 1st is old news. I started using Bloglines practically as soon as I discovered it. I keep track of a lot of feeds, both professionally and personally, and Bloglines at the time was a lifesaver. I reluctantly moved to Google Reader when Bloglines began to prove unreliable (down times, freezes, other technical issues). I also tried Newsgator, but they also shut down their web-based feed reader. However, Bloglines was the first place where I could arrange my feeds into folders as well as save clippings. So it does bring some fond memories, and its shutdown is bad news since I dislike the idea that Google pretty much has the monopoly on this field; a desktop feed reader for me is out of the question. For one, I am not allowed to install anything on my work computer without permission (that is a whole rant there about being treated like a child by IT. And no, I am not interested in any IT geek trying to defend that position on the basis of "security" or some other nonsense. All that policy really does is make my work more difficult, but I digress). Two, I move too much, and I read my feeds in various locations. So web-based is preferred.  I have been trying out a few alternatives, but none of them have proven up to the task just yet. Writing about some of those alternatives may be a topic for another time.

    However, what irked me a bit was the opinion of some people that feed readers are dead and that tools like Twitter are the way to go. Twitter, while it may be a wonderful tool for some people, certainly is not one that meets my needs. Much like Liz B over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, I ask too:

    "What am I supposed to do to keep up on blog reading, because I’m sure not going back to the olden days of going to each individual blog every day to see what, if anything, got posted. I love Twitter, but it’s all real time so unless I’m on when someone posts their feed to Twitter (a practice, by the way, some people don’t like), I’ve missed it. Facebook has similar time/timing issues." 

    I am not checking my feeds 24-7, but I do check them often. The fact that I can check them when I get to them is the convenient part. That I can arrange things in folders by topics is also helpful. A tool like Twitter does not offer that level of filtering and control. Plus, to be honest, if I have to just trust my friends to post stuff that is relevant to me, all I will get are kitty pictures, Glenn Beck stuff, and other oddities. Please don't tell me I have to get better friends. Please don't tell me I have to just know who to follow on Twitter. Even if I did create a Twitter list, it would still lack the power and granularity my feeds arrangements have. And then there is the fact I can save clips from the feeds. This is not the same as posting to Delicious for instance, which I use for something else anyhow.

    At the end of the day, what bothered me is the pretentious tone some people took in saying that feeds are dead, and if you can't get it all on Twitter (or some similar site), then you are reaching obsolescence.  By the way, just visit some of the other links I provide to go read what those people wrote. I will actually suggest that if all you do is get your news from Twitter, you are not doing nearly enough to keep up.

    Finally, this blog post over at Inside Higher Ed also asks about using feeds and readers. Made me think, and the comments may be worth looking over too just as the comments Liz B got are worth a look as well. I just hope Google does not suddenly decide to shut down their reader in some moment of revelation. More incentive to see what else is out there.

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    On things found inside old books

    There was a small article in The Guardian talking about marginalia and the fact that it will likely be lost in e-books. It is not just marginalia, those small and sometimes quirky bits of writing that readers leave behind in books. If you are famous, your marginalia in a book could make that book a lot more valuable. In my case, if wrote in my books margins, they would probably discard the book because it would actually lower the value. At any rate, I don't like writing in books overall. I had to do it in college for a couple of literature classes (the professor would literally tell us mark this or that and make this or that note on the margin). I tend to prefer making any reading notes in my personal journal.

    Anyhow, the article also mentions objects you may find in books years later left behind by a reader; it could be a bus ticket, a restaurant receipt, so on. The one item I thought about was a receipt from the Club de Lectores de Puerto Rico (PR Readers' Club, kind of a local version of the Book of the Month Club). The CLPR folded years ago, but what is interesting to me is that it was a handwritten receipt. This was long before personal computers were more than somebody's imagination figment. The receipt currently resides in my mother's tattered copy of Cien aƱos de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) that I know possess. I can imagine her looking over some catalog that came in the mail, making her selection, filling out the form and sending it out. Then, some guys in some warehouse would receive the order, go find the books, fill out the receipt order form, and send it with the book to my mother. She likely used the receipt as her bookmark. I usually use a "proper" bookmark when I read books (I only use scraps of paper or other things when a bookmark is not handy), but the receipt has stayed there. It's just another small connection to her and the past much as reading a book that belonged to her connects me to her and what she read. And it reminds me of a simpler time perhaps.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    12 Books in 12 Months Challenge, Better late than never edition

    I saw this challenge over at Mark Lindner's place, and I figured why not give it a try. However, I did miss the initial deadline of September 1st to post the list, thus the title of this post. Part of the reason for missing it was that I have a big TBR pile, so picking out just 12 was a bit hard. Two, August and September are a busy time at my library, so I did not have much time to ponder this. So, finally, as I am relaxing on a Sunday, I decided to look over my shelves and decide on my choices. I tried to go for some things I have been wanting to read, but for one reason or another have been left to sit on the shelf. I tend to read a lot by serendipity, which is part of why I usually have three to five books going at any given time. So, here we go.

    First, the rules as posted at Habitually Probing Generalist:


    • Pick 12 titles from your To Read Pile.  These should be titles you currently own in whatever format you prefer.
    • Acquisition of other formats or translations is permitted.  So, if you have a paperback but want to read on your Kindle, you can get a Kindle copy.  If you have a library copy but want to buy your own, that’s kosher.  Heck, if you own a copy and want to check another out from the library, I’m not gonna stop you.
    • Post your list in your public space of choice by September 1, 2010.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your list.
    • Read all 12 titles between now and September 5, 2011.  Might as well tack on an extra long weekend at the end for cramming.
    • When you finish a title on your list, post about it in your public space of choice.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your review.
    • Once a month, I’ll post a round-up of the reviews posted from that month so that we all know what everyone else has read.
    OK, so as I mentioned, I broke the first rule, but I hope to catch up.  Here then is my list of books for this challenge. The list is in no particular order:

    • Armando Choy, Gustavo Chui, and Moisés Sío Wong,
    • José Saramago, Ensayo sobre la ceguera. The story by the Nobel Prize in Literature winner about an epidemic of blindness. I have been wanting to read Saramago for the longest time, and I think this will finally be the year. I am hoping the experience will be a very good one. Much as when I read Coehlo, I prefer to read translations from Portuguese in Spanish. 
    • a love triangle between a man, his second wife, and his young son, Alfonso." Sure, that may be the case, but this is Vargas Llosa, so we know the story goes a lot deeper than a mere love triangle as we learn about the notebooks where Don Rigoberto is creating his treatise on love and sensuality. Vargas Llosa is one of my favorite Latin American writers, so I am looking forward to finally reading this one. 
    • Kurt Busiek, et.al., Conan, Volume 4: The Hall of the Dead and Other Stories. I read a lot of graphic novels and manga, so I have to have at least one book in this category.Dark Horse has done very good work with this revival series of the original works that also adds new stories to the Conan tales.
    • Joe Haldeman, The Forever War. I read this, but I feel it is time to reread it, so I hope to do it within the next 12 months.
    • Frank Herbert, Dune. This is another that I just have an urge to reread. I have not bothered with the sequels he wrote, and I have less interest in the sequels others have written after Frank Herbert's work. But this is a classic, so it deserves to be revisited. 
    • Anthony Boucher, The Compleat Boucher: the Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher. NESFA Press put out some excellent works. I enjoyed their collection of C.M. Kornbluth's works, His Share of Glory.  Kornbluth is also coauthor with Frederik Pohl of another favorite of mine, The Space Merchants. I figure I cannot go wrong with the Boucher collection.
    • Graham McNeill, The Ultramarines Omnibus. This is part of the Warhammer 40,000 series. Adding it as a bit of escapism and fluff. WH40K has become one of my favorite pleasures. 
    • Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, The Surrogates. This is the basis of the recent film. I noticed the WorldCat record has the wrong cover in it. Someone needs to do better cataloging there.
    • Dava Sobel, The Planets.
    • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World and Other Stories.
    • Maureen Stanton, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-market America.
    I could have made this list heavier on science fiction, but I tried to add other things I have been meaning to read but keep putting off until later. Not sure I may get to any of them this month, but I should be able to pick one up next month for sure.


    Update note (7/15/11): I switched out the Ung book for the Stanton book in the original list.  I explained a bit of why in my blog post for Book 7. I am keeping the text I originally wrote for the Ung book, which I still do intend to read at some point in the future: