Library 2.0 – really?

Trust is the Key to Web 2.0 by kid.mercury via flickr CC

Over the past year I have heard about the Arizona State University library’s (ASU) creative use of YouTube for their library minute initiative, but hadn’t had a look until today.  For the uninitiated, the library has put together about 30 short videos (they are literally a minute) on a range of topics – for instance, today I watched:

  • Using the Academic Search Premier database
  • Fun & games in the library
  • Meet your subject librarian
  • Top 5 resources for online students
  • Information about open access & why it is important to the library
All of these topics are presented by the same librarian and are a mash-up of live footage of the presenter, video footage, cartoons, photographs, animation and music.  They are very impressive – short and snappy, designed to be easy to watch and get a message across within the limited time a university student may be prepared to give to hearing about library services.  The current thinking in marketing academic library services is to meet the students where they are – and they are looking at YouTube (and Facebook, Foursquare & Twitter).
Now that I’m thinking about these issues from a learning perspective, I found this experience somewhat frustrating and raising more questions than it really answered. On the one hand, the ASU library minute videos and the other ‘library 2.0′ ways they have of communicating with their users and community certainly tick boxes.   Their facebook page in particular creates community, links back to the library website and/or blog and out to the YouTube channel and is a conversation, as library staff respond to comments left by (presumably?) students. In Groundswell, the authors stress throughout the entire book the importance of social media being a conversation.  The book is aimed at a commercial market, but there is much to learn in there for libraries.
On the other hand, while each of the five videos I looked at today have healthy statistics in terms of number of views (all over 1000, some over 3000 views) I can’t help wondering how many of those views might be other librarians from around the world checking out what ASU is doing in this area.  I’m sure the university itself has access to analytics that enable it to know where the ‘hits’ on the YouTube channel are coming from, but as an outsider, it’s hard to tell.
A quick and dirty search on both Google and in some scholarly databases failed to turn up much actual evidence that any of this library 2.0 marketing works. I found many blog posts that question the value of library 2.0, or its implementation, or whether the term itself is accurate. Most tellingly, over on Agnostic, maybe, Andy asked back in February 2010:
How much is Library 2.0 really driven by the user experience? I imagine the library-patron relationship less like a ‘horse and cart’ and more like a planet-moon relationship. (If information was the sun, patrons are the Earth and libraries are the Moon. We are roughly in sync with our patrons, sometimes ahead or behind, and sometimes in the way.) … [sometimes there is] little or no user feedback indicating such a tool or service was desired in the first place
In the case of the ASU videos, the university’s own evaluation of the library minute concept, presented as a poster at Educause 2010 reveals a large number of ‘other library’ users and the fact that 32% of undergraduate students at the university were aware of the videos. This would appear to confirm that the videos are meeting the needs of libraries and librarians but still leaves me wondering about the users. Do they even want to know this stuff?
I have blogged here before about the tendency of librarians (and I suspect, any given group of professionals) to talk amongst ourselves about our services, programs and ideas. Admittedly my ‘literature search’ was rough but I would really like to see some research into whether providing (great quality) videos, links and feedback on facebook has an impact on our users and their perception or use of the library services.
References
Ganster, L., & Schumacher, B. (2009). Expanding Beyond our Library Walls: Building an Active Online Community through Facebook. Journal of Web Librarianship, 3(2), 111-128. doi:10.1080/19322900902820929
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell : winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Harvard Business Press. Boston.
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One response

  1. […] particularly significant moment for me during this semester came when I realised that my post questioning the automatic assumption that social media must be good for our customers was being referred to from a link inside a course management system at Monash University. This link […]

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