Prezi for Libraries and Instruction

A few days ago I found out about a presentation tool called Prezi from my friend Becky who is doing some very cool things at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. She’s using Prezi as a tool to help with some of the dozens of research and information literacy classes that she teaches.

Unlike PowerPoint your ideas aren’t confined to a single slide. It’s visually appealing and uses movement and zooming to highlight points and convey ideas.  Prezi also just recently began offering a free educational license that allows students and teachers to create private prezis for free. This tool could be great for use in the classroom to talk about things like narrowing your topic, keywords, or the research process.

Seriously, if you’re someone who does library instruction or presentations, check out Becky’s presentation on Narrowing a Topic. There are a lot of possibilities for this tool. (UPDATED: Becky’s presentations are marked for REUSE so if people want to use her structure and just change the text they can!)

Is anyone else using this tool? Are you using it for instruction or for something else?


Nice Librarians Finish Last?

Pop a wheelie!!!

via Luke Mayes on flickr

Who normally gets the girl? The guy who helps senior citizens cross the street or the dude on the motorcycle? I surmise that the guy on the motorcycle gets more attention and likely wins in the short run, but the good egg is the one who has staying power and wins in the long run. This isn’t a dating column. This is a metaphor for our profession and ourselves.

Meredith Farkas recently wrote a response to Clay Shirky’s rant about women. She disagreed with Shirky’s assertion that “self aggrandizing” behavior is necessary to get ahead. Also my colleague Sarah Cohen also ruminated on this topic of self-promotion. She felt slightly uncomfortable sharing her success when she was nominated ACRL’s member of the week (which she deserves). I’ve also been thinking about this same topic. I recently got an article published in C&RL News (my first!) which I am really pumped about, but sometimes feel a little sheepish about when people mention it. I don’t really know how I should respond. I want to balance modesty with my excitement about being published.

As Individuals

In my opinion, the best course of action for us as individuals is to balance both the motorcycle dude with the good egg. Tweet your own blog post. Mention that you are the member of the week. You are doing great things. People aren’t going to find your stuff in this age of information overload, unless you promote yourself a little and are confident about what you’re doing. Most of the time, the reason I notice something is because it was promoted on Twitter (my Google Reader’s a mess). I don’t mind when people talk a little about themselves. That being said, don’t overdo it. It can get pretty annoying if you’re talking only about yourself or some project you’re working on.

Also, as Meredith pointed out, don’t lose sight of your values and what you’re trying to accomplish in the profession. If you’re simply trying to further your career you probably chose the wrong profession. Librarianship is about service and sharing. But if you’re looking at the big picture and what we’re trying to accomplish as a profession, you should share what others are doing too. There are a lot of cool things going on in our profession. One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Brogan, talks about promoting others a lot. He contends that you can build credibility through sharing cool things other people are accomplishing. As an individual, celebrate other peoples’ success and recognize the good they’re doing, but don’t forget that you’re making a difference too.

As a Profession

As a profession, I think we do need to rev our engines more and work on getting people to notice us. In this time of shrinking budgets we can’t afford to be meek. We need to continue to hone our PR and marketing skills. Get stories about the library in the local paper, create YouTube videos promoting the library, use social media to promote your awesome services, build relationships with faculty. If we don’t champion our own cause, who will? As a representative of your library, don’t be afraid to put on a leather jacket and be a little bad.

Thoughts? How do you feel about talking about yourself? Do you get annoyed by self-promoters? How are we doing as a profession in tooting our own horns?


What are Emerging Technologies?

I attended an Emerging Technologies interest group yesterday co-facilitated by my new friend Bohyun Kim. It gave people a chance to talk about things that they had been using or implementing such as open source solutions, ebook readers, Google Wave, and mobile technologies. But what interested me more were some of the bigger questions the interest group was asking, such as “what do we mean when we say ‘emerging technologies,’” and “what is the role of an Emerging Technologies librarian?”

Since “Emerging Technologies librarian” is my job title, I of course have an opinion about such things. To me the phrase “emerging technologies,” in the context of libraries does not necessarily refer to the very bleeding edge stuff. Examples of bleeding edge include things like augmented reality, location based services, or other technologies mentioned in the Horizon Report. It can also refer to things that have been around for a while, but are used in new and creative ways in libraries. An example of this is IM reference. IM was around for a while before libraries started using it to help their patrons. Emerging technologies in the context of libraries, can be any tool that is being used in a novel way to serve your users.

This brings me to the role of an Emerging Technologies librarian (ETL). First, it is simply a title. Many librarians are doing amazing things with technology, but you’d have no idea from their title. The words are not that important. But the actual role of an ETL involves innovation and service. An ETL stays abreast of trends in technology and implements new and existing tools in order to better serve their patrons.

The most important thing for ETLs or anyone to keep in mind when implementing technology are the users, who they are, and what their needs are. Bleeding edge stuff might not work for your users because they are still getting used to the “old” stuff. Mobile apps might be really cool and useful, but how many of your patrons actually own smart phones to run them? Maybe a lot…maybe not. Twitter was really hot last year, but if your patrons aren’t on it (ours are) what is the point? It’s good to come up with inventive ways to use technology to promote the library and deliver library services, but you also can’t force things. ETL’s and anyone interested in emerging technologies should be thoughtful in their implementation of technology, while constantly asking, “how does this benefit the library and our patrons?”

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation or present your thoughts at ALA Annual in DC.