Bibliosaurus Rex signing off!

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In this final post we’ll take a look at a fun method of social outreach that has been around for a while but is growing in popularity in the library world: the podcast. Think your library doesn’t have what it takes to create a series of its own? Well, you’re wrong! All you need is the right equipment, one (but preferably two or more) brave soles to be the voice of your broadcast, and a few tips on how to launch.

Podcasts are audio files of themed episodes that subscribers can stream or download, usually free of charge. One popular theme seen used by libraries today is obviously book discussions. Just read a great book or acquired something for your collection that you think your patrons should hear about? Your show can focus on a conversation about the text – important themes, symbolism, fan theories (if there are any), and more. Want to make things interesting? Invite guests to be interviewed on your “show” who may be authorities on the subject matter you wish to discuss. For instance, if you’re talking about the book Game of Thrones, perhaps you could have local professors on the show to discuss whatever issues you might choose to focus on: the treatment of women in Medieval times, language creation in works of literature, cartography in fantasy works, etc! Be as silly or as serious as you want in the interviews, but have fun with the banter and develop a good rapport with other members of the show and your guests! Listeners will hear it in your tone.

Still unsure of how to make it work? See what these libraries are doing!

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So, what do you need to get started? According to the creators of the “In the Stacks” podcast, here are the basics:

Quality podcasts have music to add interest. This may be in the introduction to make it catchy, or during book passages, which Radio Westeros does quite effectively. Scared by the thought of having to create your own audio files? Don’t be! Music can be found free (or cheaply on sites such as MelodyLoops.

Podcasts can be edited on Mac devices or using online hosting services such as blubrry – a site that the In the Stacks crew uses. The benefit of such a site is that it allows you to check downloads to see how many people are listening to your broadcasts – and we all know how important statistics are to measuring the estimated effectiveness of our social media reach! Once you have it edited the way you want it and uploaded, be sure to upload the feed to iTunes to maximize the reach of availability.

Of course, be sure to market your goings on in other social media platforms and on your library’s webpage, which will not only draw attention to your podcast, but also give you the opportunity to attach visuals to the topic being discussed and add more information that may not have been covered in the conversation or interview.

Now go out there and create some audio magic! This is Bibliosaurus Rex signing off, It’s been fun!

Druda, E., Kretz, C., Muhr, C. (2017). Who’s Afraid of Podcasting? One Public Library’s Leap Into the Realm of Media Production. Long Island Library Conference Presentation.

 

Can Ya Improve Your Posts With Canva?

If Netflix’s hit show Black Mirror has taught me anything, it’s that altmetrics are going to catch up to us in a big way. We may be struggling with how to calculate our social media usage statistics now and pondering what all these big data numbers mean for us and our libraries, but down the road, this will be futile. If the social satire has taught me anything, it’s that all people – librarians included – will eventually have our social ratings openly exposed for all to see. So let’s make our libraries social media rating ready!

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You’ve seen the show…wait…you haven’t? You mean you are not yet having nightmares about your everyday social technologies? Well, you must remedy this at once, I say! But for those who have, or even those who soon will, we will proceed to discuss ways in which you can enhance your social appearance using the simplest techniques. You think Lacie’s life is as blissful as that smiling cookie? That’s sweet of you. Why not give her a 5 star rating! She would do it for you and your library if you put as much care into making your posts as elegantly presented as she tried to do.

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But how, you might be wondering, can your library work on improving the quality of your posts? You’re short on time and your budget for social media is nonexistent. Allow me to introduce Canva. To those of you who are not yet familiar with Canva, it is a (mostly) free website that allows you to turn text and images into stunning, professional quality marketing material fit for any social site. Sure, there are advantages to having some images look raw and unedited when you want to add a human touch to your social media site, but for official events, sometimes professional is better, no? Canva and help you achieve that. Let’s take a look at what the site has to offer.

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As you can see, the homepage presents users with some of the most popular free formats for your social media needs. Information Specialists who frequently blog, populate their institution’s Facebook feed, or create presentations for meetings may find these options helpful, but we’re going to create our own design for an event to show how easily it can be done.

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Here you can see different options for adding flare to an event sign. Canva provides unique font options, free graphics (or images for purchase), shapes for adding pops of color, free layouts (not seen here), and more. Whereas staff might have previously only considered using Microsoft Word to make signs of graphics for social media posts, Canva offers a free solution for making eye catching images for your events announcements and other posts that might make followers take notice when scrolling through their feeds.

Got an image you wish to use in your design? Canva also allows you to upload images if you wish, which will allow you to use it as a background or extra image within your creation. You can add a frame or border or alter the shape of your image as well. Get creative and see what you can come up with to add a bit of artistic flare to your social media sites to stand out and try and get more engagement from your fans!

 

Why My Favorite Library Book of the Week is Facebook

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I’ve addressed the various ways in which libraries can embrace social media and use the tools to their advantage. Little did I know that someone perhaps much like me but with a higher salary elsewhere in the world was telling Facebook staff that they should embrace libraries and use them to their advantage. Therefor, let’s take a break from talking about how you can use various social media tools and give a shout out to the ways in which they are borrowing from our field to make their platforms that much more epic. At least Facebook.

On the heels of the big “fake news” fiasco that surfaced in the political arena, Facebook has developed a temporary feature that mimics an information specialist’s role by allowing users to analyze sources and weed out the fake news in their feed. This handy add-on may have been added as many users began shunning social media due to the inundation of untrustworthy news stories during and after the election, and as governments look to the site as a problematic source of misinformation that sways elections based on false truths.

So, what are some of the ways, you might be wondering, that Facebook says you can determine if your Uncle Jim is spreading rubbish news versus legitimate information? Let’s take a look.

  1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  2. Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
  3. Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  7. Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  8. Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
  9. Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

 

Take from Facebook’s Help Center https://www.facebook.com/help/188118808357379?_fb_noscript=1

Those these are simplified versions of criteria that librarians might suggest when analyzing the the credibility of sources, it is still admirable that Facebook is taking some action to prevent the spread of fake news on their site. While freedom of speech is definitely of value on social media, rampant deception is also a problem that no company wants their brand to be known for.

Unfortunately, these guidelines are tricky to find and not something that most users are likely to read all the way through. But not to worry, the company is still working to keep their users informed about ways to spot trustworthy sources. Theringer.com reports that The News Literacy Project is working on creating more engaging content and videos to educate users. This content should be more eye catching and will hopefully grab the attention of more users. It will be released in a few weeks.

I Rate Books (and Irate Books get 0 Stars!)

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One does not typically think of the library when the term e-commerce is used. After all, the wonderful thing about libraries – at least public libraries – is that they are free to members of their community! However, we information professionals know a thing or two about lending and borrowing, and we can certainly borrow a thing or two from our for-profit competitors to enhance our users’ experience by providing social commerce tools to improve engagement with our collections.

Consumers can get just about anything on Amazon.com, including print and digital books. Before purchase, would-be buyers can read reviews provided by others who have purchased the item. Researching goods is a wonderful way to help spread knowledge (as the rater/review writer) and make a more informed purchasing decision (as the consumer). However, this feature can benefit individuals who are not about to exchange funds for merchandise. Think of the process of looking for your next book to read in your public or academic library. How helpful would it be if you could see a brief synopsis and reviews from others who have read the book before you? Would not it be more beneficial to you to have the option of making a more informed decision even when you’re only paying with the time and energy to read a book as opposed to monetary funds? After all, time is money. Perhaps it might be helpful to patrons if libraries considered creating a new type of app – one that marries the catalog with the conveniences of social commerce that businesses have been successfully utilizing for years.

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I can easily imagine an app such as this sample I’ve created above that allows users to read and write reviews, rate a title, and hear what an expert librarian has to say about a book of possible interest. And the reviews don’t have to just be for the benefit patrons – surely library staff could make use of the ratings gathered when making future selecting (and de-selecting) determinations.

While we’re at it, let’s go one step further and make the library experience even more social. Let’s get some free marketing out of our patrons’ reading enjoyment. Some online stores allow consumers to post announcements through social media when they’ve purchased an item, and this could work for libraries too! Did you love that book you just finished? Tell your friends all about it and perhaps even more people will become aware of the hot titles found in the library’s collection. It’s like a virtual display case that staff don’t have to design or devote space to maintaining!

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While creating apps to provide essential library information for users on the go is important, there are other exciting ways that libraries can try to engage their patrons with their collections. These are just a few ways – as you can see by the other buttons on this imaginary app, there are others! Just because we do not charge for our services does not mean we shouldn’t work to adopt some of the strategies used in the commercial world that turn consumers on to products and services. It’s all about selling what you’ve got, even if only in a figurative sense.

And For Today’s Trick, We’re Going to Make Your Content…DISAPPEAR!

Today we’re going to look at a somewhat newer trend.

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No, sorry dabbing dinosaur, I mean dabasaur, a social media trend. We’re going to look at the popularity behind disappearing content. What began as a feature unique to Snapchat has now been adopted by Instagram, and you can bet you’ll soon see it elsewhere as well. Now, it may seem counterintuitive to pour time into creating something that will soon vanish, sometimes within 24 hours, but as any dinosaur can attest to, sometimes being gone forever gives something an added cool factor.

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So wait…I’m working hard on content that will be gone tomorrow? Yup, sorry!

So what is disappearing content and what makes it so popular? Snapchat is made up entirely of temporary content whereas Instagram uses images and animations to tell a “story”, as a sort of digital blog of what’s happening in your life at one moment in time. It may not have the same quality of permanent pictures that you choose to archive in your profile, but it’s rawness is what makes it special in its own way. Snapchat and Instagram even allow you to draw on your content and add stickers to give it a less refined look that serves more to entertain than to impress visually. It’s lack of permanency is also what gives it its exciting exclusive feel, which is why libraries and other businesses should care about its potential for interacting with their audience. People want to feel like they’re an exclusive member and they hate missing out on interesting things, so posting creative images or videos as disappearing content can encourage more frequent viewing habits from your followers and win more likes. They will want to check your page more frequently to see if there’s anything new going on.

So how could your library use this feature? You might do special sneak peaks into the best study spaces or some remarkable items in your collection, to start with. Got an event coming up? Perhaps you could interview people involved and provide a “behind the scene” look at what’s to come. Or, if you want to get more crazy, try offering sporadic contests with prizes in this disappearing content messages to produce some desired behavior from your followers: locate a certain branch and get the code from the librarian, find a piece of information on the website and email it to the address provided, etc. It really is a great opportunity to inject a bit of fun into your social media campaign.

The flip side of this is that you will be doing work that many will miss out on if they fail to see it on time. For this reason, it should by no means be your only means for conveying important information that you wish the most number of viewers to see! Choose carefully what content is supplementary. Think of bonus features on a DVD. It is not essential to using the library, but it might make for a much more enjoyable experience!

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Catches Dysentery

Games sometimes take on a life of their own and stray from their original intended purpose. Oregon Trail, one of the first computer games I recall playing, was not designed to be a social game, per se, but it sure did feel like it was when I played. I wasn’t in the game on my own. I was on an epic adventure with all my friends and loved ones who I’d decided to take along with me in that covered wagon – all of which, I’m sorry to say, came to unhappy ends due to my poor planning and less-than-sophisticated problem solving skills. Sorry, mom, it seems you have died of dysentery because I screwed up. My bad.

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But the game did have its merits. It was educational in the sense that it required you to apply strategy – to think ahead and use wise judgment when determining whether or not you could ford that river with all your friends and supplies, or if it might be wiser to do some house…er…wagon cleaning and ditch the redundancies  (supplies, not loved ones, of course). For this reason, although it was highly entertaining, it was also a useful educational tool.

Monopoly is an example of a game that was designed to be educational. It was created to teach players of the dangers of monopolies, but instead turned into an (arguably) entertaining game where players race to form monopolies to bankrupt their friends and loved ones. Capitalism! So the point was lost on this one. Originally, it was intended to be social and educational, whereas players quickly stripped it of his educational merit and destroyed their friends in gameplay to make sure they came out on top. Still, they did just come out with a cool new dinosaur game piece, so we’ll give them a break until t-rex loses his cool factor, which will be never.

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If nothing else, these examples show that games can be both entertaining and educational, although it’s not always easy to tell what will succeed once it’s in the hands of the public. Even now, companies still strive to find games that combine the perfect balance of entertainment, education, and social engagement.

Wins can come in unexpected places. Lewis Tachau’s TED talk about learning while playing online games proves that even a game that to many may seem like a purely pleasure seeking game involving tanks crushing other tanks can inspire young minds and motivate them to seek out knowledge about historical events. This may not have been what the designers had in mind when they launched World of Tanks, but it is a very happy outcome that came of combining interesting subject matter with social aspects such as teamwork and communication so that players could have fun with a topic and engage with it in a fun and creative way.

Many struggle with justifying launching gaming programs in libraries or in schools, but these examples show the potential that exists to create education opportunities by engaging young people in activities that promote social interaction, problem solving, compromise, teamwork, and creative thinking. Though games may not be the best way to acquire knowledge of a specific topic, they may be just the tool one needs to spark curiosity and motivated someone to learn more about the subject on their own. Games help with the development of essential social skills while introducing subject matter in a creative way, which may make young minds more receptive to learning about it. Though not all game design attempt will be successful (many wagons fail to make it all the way to Oregon!) we should all encourage the continuation of educational game development, game play in society, and supplying of said games in learning environments!

Far from the Madding Crowdsourcing Arena?

 

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Sometimes you just need the right tools. Reaching out to more people through crowdsourcing can improve the quality and effectiveness of your project!

Even if you aren’t a t-rex with hopelessly short arms, chances are you have other limitations that might prevent you from being able to create the kind of historical event project that it truly deserves to honor its significance. And how could you unless you were there? Chances are, if you’ve been tasked with creating a digital collection for something as important as a war, you might not have lived through it and are only curating materials and details as best you can to piece historical facts together as best you can. Some museums and historical societies have taken to crowdsourcing as a means of combining firsthand viewpoints, primary sources such as letters and diaries provided by survivors or loved ones, and even sound clips into projects to bring them alive and help viewers better bond with and relate to the events that they are sharing with the public.

war-diary-450x263Crowdsourcing has numerous advantages. As mentioned above, the personal stories and documents, such as letters and diaries, give a human touch and attach significance and realness to an event that people empathize and bond with. Information that impacts us on an emotional level is more enjoyable to learn and more difficult to forget. What’s more, institutions who allow the public to assist with such projects may find that it has the potential to “create a sense of pride and ownership in cultural and information institutions” (Ellis, 2014, p. 4) when people are allowed to contribute and be a part of something that’s meaningful to them.

It is also a way to gather a great amount of information in a shorter period of time. Crowdsourcing electronically is essentially calling to action anyone who has useful information who would like to volunteer, as opposed to one person or a small group going out on their own to research and collect facts from scratch. The project leader then compiles the information submissions and manages the feedback in whatever way best suits the project needs.

It is difficult for some to accept the validity of information gathered through this technique. For instance, “many librarians, archivists, and museum directors think of themselves as the gatekeepers of information” and “Inviting the public, both educated specialists sand unvetted users, to create metadata, content, to transcribe historical documents or, in any way substitute their own expertise for that of the information professional, may be viewed as threatening to the experts’ paradigm and certainly, at the very least, his livelihood” (Ellis, 2014, p. 5). Crowdsourcing is not appropriate for all subjects, but for projects where the focus is centered on a human experience, involving voices of those who know more about it than you can benefit the final product and increase loyalty in your institution because you’ve reached out to include others.

Organizations such as Zooniverse host citizen science research projects where everyday people can launch or participate in people-powered research. Think crowdsourcing might be a nice social experiment for your next digital project? Check out their site and see how you can benefit from using the voices and experiences of those outside of your company’s walls to add a human touch to your subject matter.

References

Ellis, S. (2014). A history of collaboration, a future in crowdsourcing: positive impacts of cooperation on British librarianship Libri, 64(1): 1-10. http://www.crowdconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/A-History-of-Collaboration-a-Future-in-Crowdsourcing-Positive-Impacts-of-Cooperation-on-British-Librarianship.pdf