Thing 18: Communicating through photographs

If a story is not about the hearer he [or she] will not listen . . . A great lasting story is about everyone or it will  not last.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden.

For the library sector, communicating through photographs is essentially advocacy. And storytelling. Or am I wrong? And isn’t it so, that each person sees an image in line with his/her background of information, cultural experience and personal understanding? So where one photo will be harmless to some, to others it can be huge controversy or insulting.

Therefore, I would imagine that for a library’s account to be successful on Instagram or  Flickr etc.,  knowledge and sensitivity must be the starting point…know your community, their values, culture, lifestyle, struggles, and so forth, to ensure that no individual or group is made to feel inferior, insulted, intimidated, excluded, etc.

As a volunteer within libraries I’m unable to comment on how effective photography is as a means of impacting users and visits to the library. But as a user of social media and a library/museum/history/info enthusiast, I know how avidly I pursue various accounts, based on what they share.  Flickr is used effectively by libraries to show-case vintage photos, photos of their community activities, to document the history of their area, and more.  Instagram is a wonderful way to highlight displays in libraries and museums, to draw attention to new resources, to notify of, and share, activities within the library  and to be innovative in communication with a bid to draw the local community to the facility and all it has to offer (the recent #liblympics  from @noosalibraryservice was a brilliant example of an advocacy campaign on Instagram).

On a personal level I have used a Flickr account since 2011, and Instagram since December 2014.  I follow libraries and librarians, museums and other interesting (story-telling) accounts.  On Instagram I post photos of my volunteering efforts in libraries and interesting things I encounter along the way. I use Flickr as a cloud storage facility (on a private setting) for my personal photographs, since they offer 1 Terabyte free of charge, but I have made a few public in an album.

Here are some links to a few accounts that I follow, and which I really enjoy:

On Instagram:

Queensland University of Technology

Prince William Public Library, Virginia USA.

The National Portrait Gallery

The New York Public Library

ig-pic-nypl-picture

A happy snap from the New York Public Library’s Instagram account.

The British Library

The Noosa Library Service

Brisbane Libraries

The State Library Queensland

Elissa Malespina (librarian)

Not libraries, but powerful communication through photographs…

@primecollective

@johnstanmeyer

On Flickr:

State Library Queensland

The Library of Congress

The New York Public Library

The National Archives

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Antique Books (Group)

Sylvia Duckworth, educator.

australia-from-nasa

Australia sideways from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

Until next time, when we take a look at the legal side of things – copyright!

Thanks for stopping by. 😀

Featured image:
Storytelling by Daniele Rossi on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Thing 16: Collaboration tools

Six years ago I was one of three people (two coordinators and the HoD) responsible for drafting weekly class tests for each module on English language training, across different levels.  For uniformity purposes collaboration was vital.  They contained speaking activities, listening activities, reading extracts, images, clip-art, and questions of varying format. However, collaboration was a nightmare. First, our time was taken up with different tasks in the normal day-to-day running of the ESL department. Second, when we could, we would work on our local PCs, back up on the flash drives, and then go into the local network’s shared drive to back up again and create a master copy. If one worked at home, the documents would be copied from a flash drive to the work PC, overwriting a previous copy, and then again placed on the shared drive, overwriting the master copy. When we all worked on these tests over the weekend, there we would be, on the first day of the week, trying to retrieve and edit the same master documents, but in turn, as only one person could access a particular master copy at a time. 

Confusion

Confusion by Stuart Miles courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Needless to say, the entire process was a mental battle, trying to establish which was the latest and final edit! In the end each task often ended up with multiple copies, and all three of us at a loss as to which was the actual copy to use. Not only would we have to ensure that the copy on the shared drive is the correct one, but all our local backups needed overwriting, as well as the documents of the flash drives. We realised that our collaboration was a shambles!  As far as drafting final tests were concerned, it was all best left to one person, we decided.  The downside was that that person was sent multiple emails (leading to new stress)  Cool_sign with questions and suggestions for additions, and telephonic debates on the side.  The whole process was stressful and was repeated weekly.  Somehow we managed to get the tests issued on time every week, but only after many private hours spent by one person, at the weekend.

PC Frustration

Has the above story rung a bell, or revived old unpleasant memories? Made you confused and exhausted? Good! Because it drives home my point on just how wonderful it is to have Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, OneNote and all the other programmes that allow effortless collaboration.  Microsoft’s SkyDrive (now OneDrive) was available from about 2008, but cloud computing was a mystery to most of us, and those who were not techie-minded were adamant – they were not going that route.  Witchcraft

Even our IT department was suspicious of the cloud, and consistently avoided any queries.

Dropbox was around soon after, but again, not widely used.  Google Drive was only created in 2012, long after I left the ELT department. Had we have had those programmes and their current features, oh, our lives would have been made so much easier.

collaboration

Collaboration by Urs Steiner on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

So averse was I to creating backups of backups of backups, that as soon as I began my course in 2010, I immediately turned to SkyDrive and Amazon Drive. When Google Drive arrived, it quickly became the popular choice.  Today, documents can be created within these drives, shared, commented on, and collaborated on.  google docsNo constant backing up and transporting of flash drives. It is safe…in the cloud. 😀  (Indeed, the onus is on the creator of the document to keep a back-up of his/her documents on site, but at least the documents and files on the cloud are not on a device that may drop, become damaged, corrupted, be mislaid, or anything else.)  Truly wonderful. And now I can just about hear all those questions and comments regarding security and the cloud?!  Haha, well after 6 years of using it privately, I would never, ever, NOT EVER, look back!

Bullseye

 

Win target by Stuart Miles courtesy of freedigitalpotos.net

 

Earlier this year, as an intern in the school library,  I was tasked with designing reading badges.  These were digital images created with an online badge maker.  To share them with the librarian would have resulted in countless emails containing rather large image files.  Instead, I stored them on Google Drive, and shared each grade’s folder with her, automatically sharing the documents within. All she needed to do was to click on the link, open the folder, edit and/or save the file on her computer for printing.  No pain. No flash drives. No back and forth emailing. The folders were downloaded onto her PC, organised according to grades,   all ready to go.

Today, in the library where I volunteer, no-one seems to be using  collaboration tools.  It may be that their needs are different, but I have on multiple occasions wished I could give someone access to a document or form that I have created for the library, instead of having to email it as an attachment.

My favourite  is Microsoft’s OneNote, which I use to take notes for both professional and private use, and create documents with to share with friends or family. It is user friendly, has multiple features, available on all devices, also allowing collaboration between different users.  The writer of Rudai 23 Thing 16  has provided a super explanation of Google Drive and Doodle as collaboration tools. (I have made my entry into Thing 16’s  Google Drive document, by the way. )

Cloud computing. heart Cloud collaboration. heart My personal thanks to the founders  and developers of these software.

Thing 17 will be a reflective practice blog entry. Until then…cheers. 😀

Images: 
Featured image: collaboration by Laura Billings on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Gifs from giphy.com; clipart from wpclipart.com.

Image of Google docs by Steven Combs on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Rudai 23, Thing 15: Advocacy for libraries

A

Image from Gary Green, Josh Filhol and Andrew Walsh of

The Library A to Z: the Kickstarter Project. (CC BY 4.0)

“A is for access, advice, answers, archives, art…astronomy, audio books, author events.”  The library A to Z.

A is also for advocacy.  That vital activity that is shared by all who love libraries. In fact, if you’re reading this and you’re an admirer of all things library, did you know that you can affect the opinion of everyone you meet to support, visit or become involved in their local library, if you constantly, yes constantly, advocate for libraries. In my opinion, the responsibility for advocacy begins with each person working in a library, in every task they perform for their users. It’s not merely a task for the select few.

The onus also lies on each user to advocate, and not to leave it to others. Leaders, stakeholders and decision makers can destroy or secure a library’s future, but their opinions can be swayed by voices FOR libraries.

“We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.”   Neil Gaiman, author of The View from the Cheap Seats.

What is library advocacy? It is aptly defined on the website of the ‘Turning the Page‘ organisation, who offer training materials on library advocacy:

“The actions individuals or organizations undertake to influence decision-making at the local, regional, state, national, and international level that help create a desired funding or policy change in support of public libraries.”

Is it ignorance or pure misinformation that cause many to say “Why study for librarianship?” or “Libraries are dying. It’s all on the internet now, we don’t need libraries any longer, much less librarians.” How many times in the last 5 years didn’t I hear this when people heard the subject of my studies. Eventually I stopped going red with fury, and began to feel elated *rubs hands together with glee* for another chance to ‘educate’ someone. 😉

Fortunately in some countries there is heavy investment in state-of-the-art libraries of the future. In the UK, though, there is clearly something wrong.  If it is true that library use is declining in that country, then surely libraries are not offering what their communities want?  The knee-jerk reaction of the previous government was to close many. A crying shame!

So let’s get advocating to avoid the pitfall that the UK finds itself in – one where some are under the impression that it’s too costly an expense for a service no longer needed – sadly developing a blindness for the potential future of libraries.  Here’s hoping the new Prime Minister will amend that quickly.

The writer of Rudai23 Thing 15 provides many links to different advocacy campaigns. One I really enjoyed was for The Library A to Z, as I envisioned using their materials in the museum library. The resources on offer from The Library Campaign are noteworthy. As is this poster designed by Sarah McIntyre, available for protests and campaigns…

super_librarian_poster

Advocacy can take on different forms and use different methods.  Social media is a ready-made platform for advocacy.  Here are some great Instagram library accounts to follow for ideas: The New York Public Library, Gympie Regional Libraries in Australia, and the Prince William Public Libraries in Virginia, USA.  Twitter is also a wonderful forum for advocacy inspiration. Public Libraries 2020 (EU), Bredebieb (Netherlands) and Ian Anstice (UK) are just a few accounts for ideas. Then there’s those super librarians mentioned in an earlier blog post, who regularly tweet ideas and activities.

Recently I was part of a discussion on how to increase user stats in the museum library where I volunteer. We decided we would like to suggest placing fun signs that point to the library wing and have the info desk hand out brochures enticing people to visit the library after their museum visit. The museum has also just begun to plan a scavenger hunt that incorporates the library, and the library manager has collaborated with the museum to offer library tours on demand.  Using the idea from Thing 14 on Augmented Reality (AR), I had also thought of creating some iPad excitement with AR for children visiting the children’s corner.  I used the Aurasma app and the letters from ‘Libraries A to Z’, to make up an example of  an advocacy campaign.  Since I am not able to insert an MP4 video into this blog (would need to upgrade), here is a still from the ‘C is for children who come to meet the library dinosaur’.  (The dino rears up on hindquarters and roars.  I was totally thrilled at the action.)

screen grab of video

This could be taken one step further: the museum has a camel mascot in its children’s booklets, named Jamila.  A great AR image would be a video of a camel across a still of the library, purportedly showing Jamila browsing and telling children how fun it is to visit. 😀

Camels
Hey guys! We’re almost at the library.

Camels by Shinya Ichinohe on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The advocacy resulting from these ideas could only benefit the library’s use, as people would be encouraged to tell others. Library staff could Tweet, Snapchat and post on Facebook. Local news magazines/newspapers could be invited to periodically cover activities.

Until next time, when we discuss collaboration tools.  Thanks again, for stopping by. 🙂

Thing 10 – Live streaming is interesting but not always pretty…

Periscope

PERISCOPE  by Ognjen Odobasic on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The idea of broadcasting live is probably intimidating to most.  Then there are those special types, who are confident and know just how, what and when …and then you get those who throw caution to the wind and decide … what the heck…I’m going to give this a bash.  smiley_026   Yesterday I fell into the latter category, I’m afraid, to meet my commitment to Rudai23, Thing 10.

At first I was only going to watch a live event and write about it.  But then I decided first-hand experience is probably best.  Since it is summer in Doha and many are on long leave, there’s not much happening in the library world to live broadcast.  So I decided to record a tour of the Museum of Islamic Art’s library, where I volunteer.  It was an experience I shan’t forget.

I chose Twitter’s Periscope app because I felt that having the video disappear after 24 hours is probably not a bad idea…for me. 😀  But I understand how some people, wanting a longer effect from their effort, would rather go for Facebook Live, where the video is then placed on the person’s (or page’s) timeline. I had thought of what to say beforehand, so that I could concentrate on my camera skills, to ensure I don’t make the potential viewers quite dizzy in the head. When it came to being ready to press the ‘go live’ button…I found to my horror that it had already gone live a few seconds ago.  I must have inadvertently pressed the button while trying to type the video’s title in the strong wind, because I was outdoors for a courtyard-view of the city.  That totally threw me, and I lost the thread of my ‘script’…I did the tour, ended it, only to view it and find that I had, after all, made everyone dizzy.

 see no evil

{I knew I’d get to use that little guy somewhere this week… 🙂  }

Given the option to delete, I never thought twice and got rid of the offending piece; I decided it was a practice run… let’s do the real thing. *laughs out loud*  The 2nd time was slightly better, but the near 40 degrees / 80% humidity outside made me thoroughly hot and bothered (not a good move, but wanted to show the awesome view), while the stress of the actual task made me breathless.  :p  While recording, concentrating on filming and using the right words simultaneously helped me to forget that this was ‘live’. Only once it came to the end and I had to wrap up, did I again get that “OMG! This is live” sensation, and although I’d practised an opening and a closing, the words escaped me and, well, yes…you get what you get.  LOL.

One it was posted ‘out there’, I noticed that there were live viewers and even a few comments. 😀

It was quite thrilling in the end, and I can imagine that if it is a skill one could hone, it could really be fun to use in a library situation, to engage more with the community.

It’s a great way of reaching out to users to promote a special service or event happening in the library.  Different librarians could share the task of promoting the same event to make it even more interesting. The library’s Instagram or Twitter account could advertise the live broadcast beforehand.  Also, it must be useful to be able to share live events with folk who cannot attend. The importance would then be to alert everyone of the intention to broadcast, beforehand, so that they can make plans to fit the viewing into their schedule.  It is obvious why marketers would use this method of reaching potential customers. I’ve since discovered that the Periscope subscriber can decide to choose (in the settings) whether to delete in 24 hours or not, so that is an option.

An article comparing Periscope, Facebook live and YouTube Mobile Live was helpful with planning.  Facebook live was in the news a lot just recently with a tragic incident in the USA being broadcast live. There has been a lot of debate on the pros and cons following that incident. Mediashift investigates its uses, and touches on some of the controversy in its article Facebook Live Grew Up Quickly. Here’s How Broadcasters Are Jumping In. Facebook also recently increased the time period of live streaming to four hours. This article explains.

I’d love to know your thoughts on live broadcasting.  🙂  As always, thanks for stopping by.

Next, moving on to Thing 11…another reflection post.  Woohoo! I’m progressing.

Running track

Image by PhotoKanok on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

Gif smiley image from GifAnimations.com

Thing 8: Content curation

(c) S Brandt
The Curating Tree | S Brandt

Thing 8 requires us to work through one or more of a few popular web curation tools. Librarians are natural curators.  We love to organise things.  In the image above, the kiddies corner of the museum library hosts this ‘book review tree’, where the children’s book reviews are placed on display.  It’s easy to curate tangible things.  We do it all the time. Socks in their own drawer, books on a shelf, bank documents in a folder, garden tools in a shed, table cutlery all in one place.

So what do we do with the info we gather from the internet? How do we store the interesting articles, funny cat videos, beautiful images, the jokes, the stories that we encounter as we surf, read or research on the web? Enter web curation tools.

A few years ago I subscribed to Scoop.it, but consistently forgot to “scoop”.  :p (I recently deactivated that account, since I just don’t get to it at all.)  A  while later I enrolled on a webinar titled ‘Using Pinterest to be a better teacher‘ presented by Shannon Holden, via Newteacherhelp.com.  Having heard of Pinterest and how its users were waxing lyrical about what they found there, I was inquisitive when I saw that it could be called a teaching tool.  I subscribed, watched the webinar and was sold on the idea. Pinning, re-pinning and searching for content, friends or like-minded professionals is easy; content display is visually attractive and wow, do you get ideas from Pinterest!

File 2016-07-12, 6 44 02 PM

 

An image of my Pinterest profile page on iPad. With only 311 pins, I am in no way a serious pinner.  I have seen some accounts that run into the thousands of pins. 😀

 

I recall going into the school library one day, where I was an intern.  The librarian had called in sick and had left no instructions.  It was the first day of the week, and the display boards needed a theme…my first thought was “to Pinterest!”.  Sure enough, after searching ‘middle school library displays’, I was presented with a host of ideas and found one that the library assistant and I could put together in the 30 minutes before the first library lesson. File 2016-07-12, 6 43 22 PM

 

Here is an image of that display idea via Pinterest.                                (c) S Brandt

 

Of course, unless you don’t mind it, the downside with these sites is the amount of time (that elusive commodity once again) that one can potentially spend in browsing through curated content.  On Pinterest I can simply know that for the next hour I’ll be out of this current zone and visiting in the cyber world. Actually, for this desert-expat it’s really fun to visit other travel hotspots, gardens, homes, kitchens, bookshops, closets, fashion stores, art galleries…the list is endless.

One particular successful user on Pinterest is Jeff Bullas, a social media marketing blogger, strategist and speaker.  Regarding librarianship, a whole world opened up for me, of fun displays, interesting books, reading lists, library challenges, activities, worksheets, innovative spaces, makerspace ideas, and fantastically techie, awesome, librarians.

It is a reality that web-links become broken (that is, the web pages are deleted or moved).  So, although one curates, some links won’t be there when you re-visit them.  That said, the value one gets out of curating and sharing with others is truly rewarding.

Here are some cool pinterest logo tips and ideas.

 

content curation

Free image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Another one of my favorite curation tools is Storify.  A Twitterchat, for example, that has been ‘storified’ is great, because while the chat is on there is little time to read each tweet or to visit links that others might share.  The Storify makes it so much more enjoyable and it’s also accessible later on.  In thing 8’s write up, the author Christine Jordan, gives a useful step-by-step explanation on how to Storify.  Do take a look.

Here is a Storify of an #auslibchat Twitterchat, that I took part in last week, via ALIA NGAC.

Having signed up for a free Storify account, I went ahead and used it to curate some of my own tweets pertaining to my volunteering effort at the museum library.  I keep a daily record on Twitter of what I do at the museum, using the hashtag #MIALibrary.  Here is my Storify…(click on the link below the image to access the Storify).

 

Libraries can use content curation in many ways…

  • curate content to place into a library blog;
  • curate about your library’s history and development (don’t forget to MARKET THE CURATION) to engage your users;
  • curate a twitter feed, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, etc. about displays, book reviews, book lists, clubs/services offered in the library, etc.
  • news…curate for librarians’ current awareness, to keep them up to date with new tech, new databases, professional advice, new games, etc.

And finally, libraries need to market their services, their resources, their hub.  Without knowledge of their community and their environment they could not offer a valid service.  Web content curation can help to keep the library’s stakeholders and decision makers informed of what is happening and why it’s vital to meet their users’ needs. This article from Social Media Today, provides tips to content curation for marketing purposes.

This link provides ideas for more curation tools. Let me know (below) which is your favourite.

Till ‘Thing 9’ and the topic of video recording technology.  Thanks again for stopping by.

Image credit:  Pinterest logo by Family Creative via Flickr on Creative Commons licence (BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

 

 

 

 

Rudaí 23 – Thing 7: Podcasts

Podcasting

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

What is a Podcast? Think iPod and Broadcast….you get Podcast. These are MP3  recording files that can be streamed or downloaded via the internet. Each mobile phone has a recording device, and most have a built-in app for listening to podcasts, such as the Podcasts app which is default on all iPhones. There is Stitcher, for Desktop, Apple and Android systems, and software like Audacity and Soundcloud to record with.

Why are Podcasts important? According to Williams & Sawyer (2013), who wrote the book Using Information Technology, podcasts are an expression of personalised media. Today there is virtually a podcast on any topic.

A few days before I read through the Rudaí 23 Thing 7 write-up about Podcasting, I spent some time thinking about what I would do with a podcast. The idea of making one for librarians came to mind. So I was thrilled to discover the link in Thing 7’s write-up, to Steve Thomas’ Circulating Ideas podcast for librarians. 😀  What a treasure trove! Food for librarians. Here is a link to his interview with public librarians attending the PLA 2016 Conference in Denver, Colorado. Bonus: at the end of this particular episode, Steve gives a talk on the ‘how to’ of Podcasting. Thanks Steve!

Dolphin-03

I took my time about getting to Thing 7. I had decided to challenge myself and record a Podcast. But with the challenge came procrastination. Well, besides the fact that it is Eid and the entire family is at home (making it rather difficult to get any serious writing done), I don’t relish the sound of my own voice. And it’s the Tour-de-France! And Wimbledon! Aaaah, choices, time, priorities…. I know that I am going to record, re-record, RE-record…etc., so I’m trying to find the moment when it’s going to (sort of) go smoothly. 😉

Anonymous_a_man_singing

How can libraries incorporate podcasts? I’d love to hear suggestions from librarians who read this, or from anyone with great ideas. One use I thought of, was to record stories from folk in the community, and to post them on a page affiliated to the library website. These could be stories of survival, historic times, how tos (from experts), mothering, business tips, etc. Whatever the community has to offer, really. Thing 7’s writer, Emmet Keoghan, provides a link to a site that is an example of this. Personally, I’m sad that I did not think of recording my parents when they spoke of days gone by in the town where I grew up, or of their young days. These are stories that belong to the community really; conversations that we should foster. In current times we are connected by various devices and apps, but we are often disconnected from each other. Libraries can bring a whole community together, building a sense of belonging.

“To be a librarian is not to be neutral, or passive, or waiting for a question. It is to be a radical positive change agent within your community.”

R. David Lankes

In libraries they can be used for book reviews, author interviews, guides to using sources, and I’m sure much more. Here is a site with ideas for podcasting aimed at teachers, but since librarians can be seen as teachers/facilitators, we can use and adapt these suggestions too.

Podcasts are great for commuting. Plug in the headset and engage your mind while you drive, ride the bus or train. Here is a site I found for 6 Career-boosting Podcasts To Listen To, or how about 51 Smart Podcasts That Will Make Your Commute Way Better. My all-time favourite list that I discovered while doing an online course is the College InfoGeek’s 21 Educational Podcasts that’ll make you smarter.   Ooooh, and this…

13 Podcasts...

Remember to subscribe to your favourite podcast by way of the RSS feed.

RSS
RSS feed

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Jin Tan on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Overdrive, the popular provider for e-books and audio books to public libraries and schools have a podcast blog, Professional Book Nerds, where they discuss new books, interview authors and do book recommendations.

I also found myself wondering about the legal side of things and discovered an article from creative commons.org, the Podcast Legal Guide.

And so, to my (8 minute) contribution folks. (Umm, please forgive the hiccups during the reading. 🙂 )  I read an excerpt from one of my favourite authors (on librarianship) – R David Lankes‘ book for librarians and their communities, called…

Expect More by David Lankes

              Image from Goodreads.com

It was hard to choose which excerpt to read from.  I chose a section about ‘walled gardens’ (he uses a classic example – Facebook) from Chapter 5, and then a piece about librarians from Chapter 7. 🙂 Thank you David, for permission to read.

I actually found a great App for the iPhone, called OPINION.  Super easy to download and use.  It also allows simple editing of a recording.  I uploaded my recording really fast to my Dropbox account, and from there I uploaded it to my Soundcloud account. Voila!

Hoping you’re inspired to search out some podcasts, or to get PODCASTING!

My thanks for stopping by. 🙂 Have a great day.

Clipart of person recording from http://publicdomainvectors.org/en/public-domain/
Dolphin clapping gif from gifanimations.com (public domain)

Reference sources

Lankes, R. David. 2012. Expect more: demanding better libraries for today's complex world. https://rilandpub.wordpress.com/

Williams, BK & Sawyer, SC. 2013. Using information technology: a practical introduction to computers & communications. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thing 4: Pssst! It’s that ‘G’ word…

Google logo for blogs

Google logo for blogs, by SEO on Flickr, under a creative commons (BY-SA 2.0) licence.

 

As librarians we’re into communication and collaboration, the topic of Thing 4.  Google is the focus of this topic, but in my opinion, as educators and librarians, we are obliged to know the benefits of the commonly used communication/collaboration applications out there.   In this way we will be able to speak about them with authority, and assist others when the need arises, to make a choice or to set up their accounts.

From personal experience, making use of different services, if possible, makes for more efficient working environments.  Cloud computing has been a favourite of mine over the past 5 years, as it has kept me sane. Seriously.

4502026170_4bf31f04e6_z

Flickr photo Descending Clouds, by Gary Hayes, under creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence. 

I understand that there are people asking valid privacy questions regarding the ‘cloud’, but after spending years backing up stuff, first on floppy disks, then on CDs, then external hard drives and memory sticks, and backups of backups, it’s such a relief to pop a doc into a folder on your desktop and to know that it’s taken care of – probably for good. It’ll be there whenever and where-ever needed! (Unless of course, a disaster strikes at the location of the storage warehouse, but hey, it’s their job to make backups, right?) :p  Yes, I know, I know…it’s right and proper to still keep a backup yourself. 🙂

Not having to remember what to back up, or having to lug those devices around and, most of all, not having to guard them so that they don’t get damaged, is such a bonus. When my hard drive went on my laptop a few years ago, I lost a couple of unimportant documents and a few of our latest photos, but nothing serious.  My habit of placing everything in a cloud drive paid off.  When the new drive was installed, it was merely a case of carry on as before, after installing the desktop folders which sync automatically.

I use cloud services from Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Flickr. Oh and iCloud, since I’m an avid Apple fan.  Because of my love-hate relationship with Google, I purposely avoided Gmail and Google Drive, until a few months ago when I began as an intern librarian at an international school. School-wide they used Google Education Apps – everyone communicated and collaborated (with parents too) using Google tools.  I saw the benefits first hand and realised that vast amounts of time and paper were saved while increasing cooperation and efficiency.  At the time I proposed to learn more about Google’s capabilities, but it didn’t happen then.  After 4 months at the school I sought out an internship at a different library.  What I did do though was to follow a few very talented and skilled people on Twitter, who are Google certified teachers, to be able to learn from them. Here are two: Alice Keeler and Catlin Tucker.

So, if it sounds like I’m selling something…I am – the Cloud! Not necessarily only Google.  Although Thing 4 focuses on the Google ecosystem (as I’ve heard it referred to) and make no mistake, it is impressive, personally I favour MS Office and its related apps. Here’s a shout-out to  OneNote logoMS OneNote…a note-taking, collaborative app that I have used for years (sadly not to its fullest potential); I use it all the time, across all my devices with great success.  I’ve heard it said that Google’s equivalent, Google Keep, is not quite up to the same standard.

Flickr photo shared by Microbiologybytes, under creative commons (BY-SA 2.0) licence.

Consequently, when I looked at Thing 4, my initial reaction was “Oh no, why the emphasis on Google!”

Oh no

Flickr photo, ‘Oh no’, by Courtney McGough, under creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence.  


However, I explored and worked through the tasks.  Reclaiming my Gmail account, setting up two-step authentication, checking the privacy settings, and setting up a profile took the greater part of 2 hours since it was all new to me.  But admittedly, once that’s done the hard part is over. I am really impressed with the functionality of Gmail. 🙂 It is a great email app.  Exploring the tools took another hour, after which I chose a few that I would use regularly, to link to my account:

  • Google translate: living in a country where Arabic is the first language, I often have to translate something, and this works really well for me. We’ve been expats for so long, I sometimes need Google translate to find words in my other mother tongue, Afrikaans. (I grew up speaking English to my mom and Afrikaans most often to my dad and other relatives.)
  • Google calendar: is really efficient, and just recently became even more so with this feature.
  • Google maps: saves my life regularly on the roads here in Doha, with infrastructure development taking place on an ongoing basis. Now that I have set up my Google account I can personalize the map app.
  • G+: a social app, similar to Facebook. Google-plus-iconSince I’ve only just set up my profile, I can’t comment on it, but it is nice to know of another manner in which like-minded professionals can connect and communicate around similar interests. I’m not on Facebook because I choose not to be at the present time, due to time constraints, but G+ appears to be more focused towards interests. I chose to follow an animal lovers group and a Smartphone Photography group for now. Will aim to search for Rudai23, and a couple of library accounts soon. A G+ account is also needed to be able to communicate using…
  • Google Hangouts: Hangouts_IconGoogle’s chat function, either via messenger or video.  I’ve seen it used in a conference setting and it worked well.  Yesterday, I tried a hangout with my daughter in Australia.  After initial PC sound battles, it was quite effective.  Google hangouts allows up to 10 people simultaneously on video chats and many more on messenger.
  • Google Drive: offers an impressive 15 GB cloud storage to subscribers.  It is shared across Drive, Gmail and Google Photos, a mobile feature that some like and others are sceptical of. According to Rudaí23 writer, Stephanie Ronan, Google Photos organises, categorises and even animates some images. Not sure I’ll be testing this photo app, though, as I’m happy with Flickr.

This last week I experienced the joy of using the cloud. I had a large volume of library signs and a Powerpoint presentation to deliver to the library where I volunteer.  I had designed these documents at home. Instead of emailing them, I was able to download them from my cloud storage, onto the desktop at work.  Here I could edit them, resize them for printing, and collaborate with fellow librarians on their design.  This method minimizes the correspondence by email.  We all know that emailing large attachments can be problematic, so downloading from the cloud is truly the way to go.  Sharing a link to the document by email or messenger is also a way to share, and this is used especially when you are not personally going to be at the point of download.

As an example, here is a link to the reading badges on my Google drive, for Grade 5s, that I created using online SaaS, for a school’s reading ‘Across the Genres’ programme.  (If you’re a teacher and you’d like to use these, they can be downloaded with my compliments. 🙂 )

That’s my take on thing 4’s communication and collaboration tools.

Till next time, and thanks for reading this far. 😀