Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thing 7 - Web 2. 0 Communication Tools

E-mail is a really efficient tool for library use. It was one of the first tools that my library cooperative in Michigan provided for us. Getting some of the more technologically timid library staff to use it was another matter. However, once they began using it they became devotees. And as it became more commonly used among the general population, it became a good way to let people know about their reserves and overdues. Since the NCLC region area is so great, e-mail is an effective, inexpensive way to keep in touch with member librarians to keep them informed if they take the time to read it.

I use my Eudora program as a big part of the interlibrary loan process. Most libraries requesting materials use the web forms on the NCLC web page to submit their requests. Those requests go to the ILL mail address which is checked on my computer. When I get the requests, I file them in mailboxes by type of library. I can sort them in many ways once they are filed: by name, date, etc. Once taken care of they get moved to a completed mailbox.

I have to laugh when I read articles like this about managing e-mail. Everything suggested in the article as not to do usually is something I need to do in order to do my job. A big part of the job is answering questions and solving problems for member librarians. E-mail is the most convenient way for most of them to get a question to me. They want a prompt answer so I need to check it regularly. Monitoring listservs is also important and often has timely information that needs to be passed along. It only becomes a distraction if you let it.

IM: I've had an AIM account for a long time, but seldom use it. Not many of my friends use IM nor have I found many work associates who use it. I can see the possibilities for reference use in a library, but most small rural libraries have inadequate staff to be able to use it. Another problem would be learning the short cut language for IM or texting. It's like "valley girl" speak and something we'd have to learn and use a lot to remember. I noticed that my gmail account has a chat capability, but haven't yet used it. I will try that out.

I'm not going to be among those who text message. I am not crazy about telephones and make conversations short and to the point. My husband and I share a cell phone which I very seldom carry. When I am out of the office or not at home, I chose not to be tied to a telephone. Nothing is so important that it cannot wait until I get back to work or home. Onstar is my telephone solution for trouble when I am traveling. I don't need an electronic tether. When at the cabin I'm there to get away from the world. Why would I want to bring it with me?

Web conferencing: The multitype directors have been using OPAL for a while now. It is not without its problems but getting there early to work out any connectivity issues works for the most part. Not as satisfying as face to face meetings, but beats having to drive hours for a meeting that lasts less time than the drive takes.

Webinars are also great in that you can attend without having to travel and take a whole day off of work just to go to a workshop. The Minitex webinars have been very helpful. I participated in an ILL workshop this way and was able to ask any questions I had and have them answered the same as if I were there in person. This is great in Minnesota when from November to March we have a lot of "iffy" traveling weather. That Minitex archives them is great too. I've been able to view some when I couldn't fit the program into my schedule as well as direct library staff to them for use.

Meebo sounds like a good idea, but again, it's IM which I don't use much. Webjunction is loaded with all kinds of good stuff. It's really worth exploring if ever there is the free time. I do use it as a resource when I'm looking for particular information they might have. I've found lesson plans for computer applications in libraries put there by staff at the Hibbing Public Library among other things.

I've been receiving the Google Librarian newsletter and using their resources, but it seems to be a sometime thing for Google. They haven't had new stuff since last summer that is specific to librarians. On the other hand, most of what Google has been doing is of interest to library people. Reader, chat, gmail, Scholar..the list just goes on and on. Most of their apps are quite intuitive and easy to try. This is not the case with some other software and application developers.