Emerging Technology Plan

Plan for a University Library Podcast

Bird Library at Syracuse University is typical of a large research university, with holdings of over 4 million items and an annual budget of more than $9 million. The Library serves a University community of over 20,000 students and over 1500 faculty. Bird is typical in another way, in that it serves its existing clientele very well, and tries to stay abreast of digital advances, but there is room for improvement in the area of patron engagement. Rather than developing additional services, this proposal focuses on a method for enhancing engagement, especially with community members who may not yet have accessed the Library.

Goals/Objectives

Instituting a podcast from the Library provides several simultaneous and concrete benefits:

  • engages university scholars and other community members
  • creates a new avenue for communication with Library users and potential users
  • raises the profile of the Library
  • increases the credibility of the Library by highlighting the Library’s use of current technology

An important purpose of the podcast is to communicate from the Library to the community, but an even more important purpose is to engage the community in creating it. Once the logistical and technical aspects are addressed, students and scholars within the University community will have a substantial role as the subjects of the podcasts. While the Library’s people and collections can be sources for interesting casts, mining the community for their stories and experiences will be a vital aspect of the project.

Community to Engage

All users and potential users of the Syracuse University Library System

Action Brief Statement

Convince the Library Director that by supporting a weekly Library podcast, we will engage University scholars and other community members, which will raise the profile and the credibility of the Library because it will reach users in a different way and will highlight the Library’s utilization of current technology.

Evidence and Resources

Podcasts are a popular and inexpensive method of raising the profile of the Library and connecting with users through a different modality. They also create the opportunity to highlight special and unique features of the Library and the University community.

Some of the benefits of podcasting, such as quick and low-cost communication, ability to personalize information, and potential to deepen relationships are noted by Learning Times.

LifeHacker offers a clear step-by-step guide for creating your first podcast.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy

The primary mission of the project is to communicate with and engage the University community.

The first step would be to form a Technology Committee or New Technology Subcommittee with interested staff and student workers/interns, and with appropriate IT support staff. The Committee would research the experiences of other universities and libraries to design the scope and the operation of the podcasting project.

In addition, the library would want to solicit advice from other organizations within the University which have experience with podcasting, including the law school  and the athletics department.

A key function in the initial stages is to compile suggestions, “best practices,” and especially what pitfalls to avoid.

The Committee would need to decide how often to present the broadcasts (once a week is the proposed frequency), and the scope of the topics (would certain topics or guests be considered too controversial, at least initially?)

The Committee would need to seek counsel from the University legal department and from whatever office oversees the University’s social media policy.

The Committee needs to design a mechanism for soliciting suggestions for topics and guests to be included in podcasts from the larger University community, perhaps by establishing a Community Advisory Committee. The Technology Committee and the Advisory Committee would have to determine guidelines for community participation.

Funding Considerations

The most important partner in this enterprise would be the broadcasting program at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. They have produced their own podcasts already, including for their annual Audio Summit. They would be able to provide both guidance and equipment to professionalize the effort.

It would also be worthwhile to investigate some grant money, to help defray costs, assist with upgrades as the program develops and evolves, market the project, and to pay student interns or fellows.

Action Steps & Timeline

Once the Library Director has approved the project, a Planning Committee must be created, which should include the Outreach Librarian, the Digital Services Librarian, and at least one member of the IT staff. Other members would be included if they showed an interest and appropriate level of commitment.

  • Researching podcasting by other organizations and meeting with current podcasters would take 2-3 months.
  • Assembling the equipment, learning the Audacity software, and choosing a site to host the podcast (SoundCloud is a good free option, which also offers upgrades, for later) could happen simultaneously, but would probably add another month to the planning process.
  • During this time, hold contests to determine the podcast name and logo.
  • It is recommended to complete at least 3 podcasts prior to launching, so planning and preparing those would be another 2 months. At the same time, the Launch Party must be planned, and marketing needs to be done.

The podcast could be reasonably expected to launch about 6 months after the project is approved.

Staffing

Ideally, student interns can be engaged to do a bulk of the work on this project, with oversight and assistance from Library and IT staff. The initial set-up might require a contract with knowledgeable outside personnel, but that would be a one-time expense, and might not be necessary if there is sufficient commitment from existing staff and students.

One of the frequently mentioned keys to successfully podcasting is consistency. The people involved must be willing to commit to the project, and to devote the time necessary, especially after the project has launched. Getting the right people, with the necessary level of enthusiasm, will be a major key to the project’s success.

Training

Again, student interns should be engaged to learn and apply this technology. The initial training would be designed by a Technology Committee, with appropriate IT support and interested staff members. Audacity is a free online software, easy to install and learn, that could be employed initially. If the project is successful, the Committee could consider upgrades, which might require additional training.

Promotion & Marketing

This new program can be promoted through the Library’s existing social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and the planning and set-up can be documented on Instagram.

The project should also be promoted through standard marketing methods, such as the Library’s website and monthly bulletin, on bulletin boards in the Library and other campus buildings, and through alumni newsletters and other information methods employed by the University.

Buffer listed a number of excellent marketing ideas drawn from their own experience:

  • Have student contests to choose the podcast name and design the podcast logo.
  • Plan a Launch Party and maybe smaller events on the following 2 or 3 weeks, so that the podcasts get a lot of fanfare and also stay on the community’s radar.
  • Encourage listeners to rate the show on the library’s website and have a drawing for a prize each week for reviewers, such a mug or tshirt with the podcast’s logo. If there is no budget for prizes, have the weekly winner be a guest on the following week’s podcast, introducing the show or making announcements.
  • If possible, start a companion YouTube channel – videotape the podcasts as you are recording them, and upload the videos to YouTube at the same time as the podcast for cross marketing and additional exposure.

Evaluation

The Library should use their website and social media to solicit feedback about the podcasts, as well as having feedback stations within the library and other campus buildings, such as the student center.

Those involved should be open to the project evolving and changing, based on the response. Which topics evoke a strong reaction? Which topics lead to greater engagement? What methods best incorporate the community into the project?

The Global University

I have been making my way through the many interesting articles in the Academic Library Adventure, and I hadn’t paid excessive attention to the Global Universities one, until I attended a forum this week for students to provide feedback to the search committee for the next VP of Research at Syracuse University.

We covered a lot of vital topics in the forum, including the pressing need to facilitate collaboration and reduce the tendency for researchers to work inside their silos.

Then, toward the end of our time together, one of the search committee members mentioned that they wanted to ensure that the chosen candidate had the appropriate focus on connecting Syracuse researchers with those at universities throughout the US and the world.

I felt like the proverbial light bulb went off in my head. That is such a vital part of the mission of any university, and it is something that the university library must incorporate into it’s mission as well.

Kinney and Li note several ways that libraries can contribute to building those bridges, including providing remote access to their scholars working abroad and providing thoughtfully designed direct services to international students at their universities.

They also note that US universities lead the world in establishing branch campuses in  other countries, with at least 75 accredited, degree-granting campuses abroad, run by over 50 American educational institutions. Forward-thinking schools ensure that their branch campuses are supported by well-trained and culturally sensitive library staff, as well as employing the latest technology tools making sure that they have been carefully tested to be functional for foreign learning environments.

How exciting to be responsible for supporting these scholars and these programs – opening your own mind while you open the world to audacious learners.

What Kind of World Are We Building?

In her hard hitting essay What World Are We Building, danah boyd notes that technology is “almost always empowering to the privileged at the expense of the those who are not” [p.4]. She provides several stunning examples, including the way that search algorithms learn and reflect the racist tendencies of their users.

I would have been suicidal by the time I finished reading, if the next article in the module list had not been about the healing power of the library, with a moving account of how the Ferguson, Missouri Library served it community well during a difficult time and was rewarded with generous donations of books and money. And the next article was a truly inspiring account of how a library in Ghana used texting to connect midwives with pregnant women, and simultaneously develop a stronger community relationship between the library and the women.

I think danah is correct, but at the same time, it’s clear from other examples that technology can serve our more altruistic tendencies as well. It’s important to be aware of both, to actively guard against the one, and embrace and celebrate the other.

Hyperlinked Communities

As I was reading “The Rise of Personal Networks” by Andy Havens in Next Space, I was really struck by his descriptions of each member of the “Gang of Four” and the evolution of their functionality – both because I have witnessed those changes and because I have directly benefited from them.

For example, Andy notes that Facebook increased it’s usefulness by providing it’s apps for other sites to use, the “most important” being the sign-on service, allowing users to authenticate themselves with their Facebook identity. I have used this extensively and I love it, because it reduces the number of passwords I need to remember, and it speeds up my connection to related sites: I link to Goodreads, where I catalog the books I have read and want to read, and I link to MeetUp, the site that hosts my book club.

 

I immediately saw how the facility that I experienced should be leveraged by libraries to increase their
value to users, both by informing them of this type of feature, but also by creating similar connectedness that would make related features more convenient to use.

For example, I would love to be able to look up a book on the library website and then add it immediately and directly to my Goodreads list, by having both the connection between the sites and the ability to login to one from my identity at the other.

 

Syracuse University, where I attend, offers a form of this connectedness between MySlice, where we sign up for classes, Blackboard where our course syllabi reside, and the campus bookstore, to which you can navigate from either, to purchase books and other materials for classes.

The possibilities seem almost endless, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw any number of them in the near future.

Book Report: Enchantment

Slideshow (3 1/2 minutes) prepared from Guy Kawasaki’s book, Enchantment, focusing on the value of “push technology” and “pull technology” as it relates to libraries. There is no narration for the slideshow yet, I’m working on that. There is also a link below to download the ppt to review at your leisure and actually watch the embedded videos, which are adorable.

 

ENCHANTMENT

The Long Tail

One of the big challenges of being in “library school” is trying to justify entering a profession that so many people view as obsolete (or on the cusp of obsolesce) – even my own Darling Son asked me why I would want to become a librarian when libraries are on the way out. Sigh.

After I read about The Long Tail in Library 2.0 (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007), I used the concept to explain the purpose of libraries to my Dear Husband. He is a restaurant manager, and very much understands retail. So using their example of
Amazon (borrowed from Chris Anderson), that 80% of sales come from the “non-hits,” I described how the library has to provide ACCESS to many more resources than can be housed in the library building. I actually had to present the idea a couple of times before he really got it, but it was so satisfying when I saw the light bulb go on. I’m hoping this very useful concept will serve the same illuminating purpose in future conversations.

The Hyperlinked Library – A Promise Not Kept (Yet)

I don’t want to be grumpy, but I feel a little grumpy.

 

 

I love the readings about participatory libraries, which promote important ideals like user focus – people are hyperlinks (Stephens), delighting our users (Denning), and connection focus – functioning as a connector (UTS Library), “the internet’s super power is connection without permission” (New Clues). Every class I’ve had emphasizes these values, but though this conversation is at least a decade old, it doesn’t seem to be reaching the intended audience. Maybe that’s unfair, but my limited experience indicates there’s a long way to go to steer this ship (US libraries) in this new direction.

 

My first library job was at a public branch that pretty much epitomized everything Library 2.0 is
trying to change, and the 3 “wrong answers” to the library’s future (Denning), such as using technology to computerize existing services. The staff jealously protected their domains, and while they didn’t seem unaware of the changes occurring, they didn’t exactly embrace them either.

 

 

 

My next job was at an academic library that provided traditional services well, but was still firmly situated in Library 1.0 – the staff were very siloed and there was little effort to engage users (or front line staff either). The director had great ideas, but was quite resigned about getting them implemented.

 

It makes me nervous, facing the job market when I have internalized a flatter and more dynamic model that may be hard to find IRL.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog theme change

I loved the cute animals in the original theme that I chose, but as I navigated through the my classmates’ blogs, I realized that I did not like the layout I had chosen. I went back to find something more suitable, and though it’s lower on the adorable scale, it’s more practical. These are the dilemmas of modern life!

INTRODUCING ME

I currently live in Syracuse, NY, and I’m attending the iSchool at Syracuse University, going part-time. I grew up in Flagstaff, AZ, attended graduate school (the first time) at Rutgers in New Jersey, and then lived for many years in Philadelphia, PA (where my kids were born) before moving to upstate NY. I’m working as a student assistant in the Learning Commons at the SU library part-time, as well as doing a bunch of other stuff, too much to detail here.

I’m married with 2 teenage children, 2 dogs, a cat, and a guinea pig (although the guinea pig belongs to my daughter). Here are the dogs – Roxy and Rocco (I had nothing to do with those names):

 

And the kitty, Rosie:

Here are the kids: Caleb and Alana, at a local restaurant, in a rare moment of congeniality.

I worked for many years as a research manager, but whenever an organization has budget issues, the first thing they cut is the research staff. The 4th time I got downsized, I couldn’t face another job search, and I did what everyone in my situation does, I went back to school. I had been thinking about academic libraries for awhile. I had talked with a couple of people who had gone back to school to be academic librarians. The time seemed right.

Of course libraries are changing FAST and it is clear to me that showing up with my psychology degree (PhD) in hand is not going to be enough to get a great job (though EVERYONE says it will). This course (The Hyperlinked Library) is the one that scares me the most and the one that I know is the most important for my development. Here is my dream job: Scholarly Communications Librarian. I’m working on being qualified for it (I’m not there yet).

I run a monthly book club and I’m the president of the Board of a local teen education program (long story!) I love to read, of course, and I’m obsessed with politics and movies.