By Meredith Farkas | January 25, 2006
This may be the longest I’ve gone without writing in my blog since I started it. Sorry ’bout that. All the craziness that went on in the comments section of my blog regarding Library 2.0 really made me want to take a break. I didn’t have the mental energy to defend myself or explain myself anymore. When I wrote Let’s Just Make Libraries Better, OK? I was trying to say, “hey, whether you’re a fan of Library 2.0 or not, let’s just remember our common interest in innovation and in improving libraries and forget about all this bickering.” But looking at the comments, I guess that really didn’t come through, though there were certainly echoes of what I wrote in what the Michaels wrote on the ALA TechSource Blog. I was happy to see that the rhetoric was being toned down on all sides and talking about Library 2.0 being a movement to serve all library populations. I had really wanted to comment on Stephen Abrams’ blog post entitled Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0 Part Two, because he painted such a ridiculous and one-dimensional picture of those who have criticized or questioned Library 2.0. He made it sound as if criticisms of Library 2.0 only involved criticisms of the name and criticisms of the fact that people have always been doing Library 2.0 stuff (though I never even heard anyone say that, just that the ideas bundled into Library 2.0 were not new). If he really believes that, then he obviously didn’t bother to read much in the commentary in the blogosphere before writing his post. But this comment frustrated me the most “maybe listening to the change resistance wrapped up as commentary is just pointng to the work we need to do to evolve.” The people who criticized Library 2.0 are many of the same people who have been promoting innovative ideas in libraries for years and who are BIG fans of technology. I know this was not aimed personally at me, but could anyone really acuse me of being resistant to change? Trust me, that most librarians who are resistant to innovation are not writing blogs, reading blogs, and have never heard the term Library 2.0.
But I digress. I really didn’t want to go there. From here on in, I’m staying out of the Library 2.0 fray, which will be easy since talk about it seems to have quieted on both sides. I’ve been working a lot on the book lately. Last weekend, I wrote 6,000 words in one day! I didn’t know I was capable of writing that much. I’m the type of person who needs absolute quiet and long periods of uninterupted time to write. I’m not one of those “three pages per day” kind of people who can actually focus their brain enough to write a bit, stop, and pick up the thread again the next day. I guess it’s good that I can keep up writing for 14 hours in a single day, but I wish I could just come home from work and be able to focus on my writing. I really have to be in the right mental place to write well, and that means doing it on the weekends. Thank goodness I have my husband around to feed me while I’m writing or I’d probably starve to death.
I just finished a chapter on podcasting and it gave me the opportunity to listen to A LOT of podcasts. There were some library podcasts I was really impressed with and some that I honestly wondered if anyone was going to want to listen to (other than someone writing about podcasting in libraries). The best podcasts were ones that were short and sweet. I liked the cute little Audio To Go podcasts at WPI. They take between 1 and 3 minutes to introduce a database or useful Web site — what is it, how to use it, and how it can be used by students. What I thought was really smart is that they offered to enter people into a raffle if they could do a specific search and send the results to the librarians. GENIUS! If you can get them to actually use the resource, they may actually see how it could be useful to them. Paradoxically, I also liked the podcasts at Dowling College, which ran a good deal longer (about 10 to 23 minutes). There were a few really cool elements to their podcasts, which any podcaster should learn:
- They had show notes that showed where in the podcast you could find each feature. This allows users to skip ahead to the parts they are most interested in.
- The podcast wasn’t just one person talking. They had different podcasters for different features, and the main podcaster was like an anchor.
- Interviews made the podcasts more interesting.
- They did features on things students might actually be interested in, like local history, computer security, and other non-library stuff. They got people from outside of the library to do features, which made it much more relevant. While they still talked about library news, they did a good job of creating other engaging features to keep people listening.
There were some podcasts that I thought were pretty bad. Ones where a single person’s voice droned on for over 20 minutes. Unless you have an exciting voice that was made for radio, people are going to get bored of listening to one person for that long. Some library podcasts played entire songs on their show. When people are listening to a podcast to learn about library services or news, they will not want to suffer through an entire song. Music can be used to provide separation between features in a podcast and its great to use as background music while the podcaster is talking. Actually, I find that I can pay more attention to podcasts when there is background music to keep me interested. I still stand by what I wrote last year that patrons are not going to want to listen to a podcast that is just about library news, and I think libraries need to put a whole bunch of interesting non-library stuff into their podcasts if they want people to listen to the news (like what Dowling College did). Library news is usually the sort of stuff people skim of the Web site, looking for the stuff that interests them. Unfortunately, you can’t really skim a podcast.
The use of podcasting in education has really exploded, and that’s probably the place where I find podcasting most exciting. Podcasting lectures has really caught on, which is great for students who were like me and whose mind would wander during an hour long lecture. The ability to listen to a lecture again and again will really help students to learn the material. Also, if professors record their lectures in advance and have the students listen to them outside of class, it can free up class time for more interactive exercises. Brilliant! What has really excited me in the use of podcasting in education has been seeing students become content creators. This is going on in every level, from kindergarden to graduate school. The Room 208 Podcasts from the 3rd and 4th graders in Wells, Maine are the best podcasts I’ve listened to. I mean, they’re almost radio quality in their organization and creativity. What a terrific use of the medium! It kind of makes me miss working with children and teens, because I’d love to start a podcasting club for young people at a library. It’s a great way to empower young people and encourage their creativity. If you’re at all interested in young people creating podcasts, definitely listen to the Room 208 podcasts.
I know this was kind of a rambly post, but that’s where my head is right now.