Web 2.0

I have time for one last post before I get kicked out of here. I apologize for the long delay since my last post, but this last month was very crazy in getting ready for the MLA annual meeting. There was the presidential address to write, illustrate, and rehearse; the board meeting to run; the business meetings to run; the awards luncheon to host; and the Wednesday plenary session to emcee. With all of that plus my regular job, blogging was one of my last concerns.

I have been getting lots of compliments about the meeting. But really, about the only thing the president can take responsibility for is his or her speeches. If my speeches resonated with people, I think it was because what I said was what many people wanted to hear. As Scott points out, many people work very hard to put a meeting together. It just happened that this time, topics, technology, and our energy all came together for one helluva meeting. In case you couldn’t attend, MLA had 10 official bloggers reporting the meeting, so you can check out all of their postings in one convenient place. The meeting was well photographed. Here are my pictures, and you can also check out the MLA 2008 photo pool.

The big difference for me with this meeting was the prominence of our younger members. Intellectually, I know they’ve been at previous meetings, but at this meeting they were more visible — presenting papers, posters, and participating in panel discussions. I held a special reception in my suite for new MLA members who have already been on committees, task forces or juries — our future leaders. They seem eager for the challenge. The question is — how eager are our “seasoned” members ready to hand over the reins? Demographically, MLA has the potential for many members retiring in the next few years. We won’t have the luxury of letting our younger members learn the MLA ropes by watching on the sidelines for years, until they’ve “paid their dues.” They need, and want, to participate now. Both Mary Ryan and I worked hard to appoint new members to the available positions on committees, task forces, and juries. But as I pointed out in my presidential address, there aren’t that many positions available. We need to adapt our current governing tradition by opening up participation to more members. And a 30 member committee isn’t the way to do it.

MLA’s units — our sections, chapters, committees, task forces, and yes, even the board, need to start using Web 2.0 tools such as blogs to open up our governance. Allow more members to participate in our governance. Open the windows and doors, and allow our members to see both how and why decisions are made. Allow them to question and comment during the process. Allow them to gain in a few years the kind of MLA experience that took people of my generation 20 or more years to gain.

This isn’t heresy, this really isn’t that radical. It’s just different, and this new technology allows us to do it rather easily. Remember that “We have always done it that way” isn’t an answer, it’s an excuse. Boomers didn’t like that response in the 1960s, and we shouldn’t like it now. And as long as I’m talkin’ ’bout my generation, I can assure them that the kids are alright.

…until we meet again.

We have hundreds of MLA members taking the Web 2.0 101 CE course. Comments are very positive, and people are enjoying learning about these useful new tools. If you would like to know more about how Web 2.0 actually works, this video explains the machinery in the background that makes it all come together.

Mashable specializes in social networking news. A recent post covers 12 screencasting tools that one can use to create video tutorials. Most of us are probably familiar with Camtasia, which is relatively expensive, and currently works only on Windows. It’s also overkill for a lot of things we want to do. Take a look at the Mashable posting and see some other tools that are available. Many are free. I’m partial to Jing, which is free, works on Macs and Windows, and can also record audio. It takes seconds to record a video, then create a url that can be sent for viewing. The video is instantly uploaded (also free), and the url can be sent via e-mail, IM, or a blog. I can imagine this being very useful at the reference desk. Rather than trying to explain to someone on the phone on how to change a computer setting or use a feature of some software, just create a quick video and send the url. Static screenshots can also be done, and annotated as well.

Got any favorite tools you’d like to share?

As easy as most web 2.0 applications are to use, sometimes it’s the concept of a tool that’s hard to describe to somebody. “Why exactly would I use social bookmarking? Why aren’t my regular bookmarks good enough?” Fortunately, the geniuses at Common Craft work hard to explain these concepts in plain English. They are a consulting company based in Seattle, who make short videos in a format they call Paperworks. These short videos use simple, hand-drawn illustrations that are moved on and off the screen by hands, while the narrator explains things to you. They’re light, humorous, and they really make complex ideas easier to understand. Go check out their popular videos on blogs, RSS, wikis, social bookmarking, online photo sharing, and social networking. Their product is explanation.

In an earlier post I presented some findings from the survey done by the Task Force on Social Networking Software. They found that many librarians are having access to various social networking web sites and applications blocked by their IT departments. I asked for some success stories on getting these sites unblocked, but I didn’t receive any. I’m asking again for you to send me not only success stories, but failure stories as well.

I’m working on an article that I hope to get published in a magazine that’s read by organization leaders. In it, I want to include examples or techniques that made TPTB unblock sites. If I could include horror stories of necessary access that was denied, that will also help. Please share.

The Krafty Librarian had a posting the other day pleading for hospital IT departments not to block YouTube. It seems that a physician wanted a simple video of a beating heart, but the blockade of YouTube prevented any attempt to find one.

This appears to be a common fact of life for hospital librarians. The Social Networking Task Force did a survey this summer of MLA members’ use of and attitude towards Web 2.0 technologies. They got a good response of 495. An important part of the survey was to find out about certain web sites or applications being blocked at work. Here are the results of that part of the survey:

The data haven’t been broken down yet by type of library, but I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of the respondents indicating some form of network blockage work at a hospital. Hospital IT people have different concerns from academic IT people, which have led to their restrictions. If MLA wants to better connect our members using these new technologies, we need to convince IT people that not all Web 2.0 sites or applications are a frivolous waste of bandwidth or a security risk. In fact, this problem even goes beyond MLA activity, in that useful medical information is sometimes blocked, as the Krafty Librarian pointed out.

It’s sometimes difficult to talk with IT people. Like librarians, they have their own culture, values, and lingo that many of us don’t completely understand. But most IT people do understand each other. Which leads me to an idea. While many hospital librarians reported some form of blockage, there are probably some hospital librarians with little or no blockage. Can we get the enlightened IT people at these hospitals to explain to other IT people why they have not blocked these sites or applications? If you are a hospital librarian with little or no internet blockage problems, talk with your IT people. See if they might be willing to write a few paragraphs explaining their choices, and how the hospital is still standing nonetheless. We can put these rationales up on the Social Networking Task Force blog, where MLA members can download them and use them as potential talking points with their IT people. We might be able to change some minds. So who has unblocked internet access in their hospital? Speak up.

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