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This post was inspired by NPR’s Why the Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries. Full disclosure: I used to work for an NPR/PBS affiliate.

Flickr user: simiant

Whenever I find great articles about libraries/librarians or in support of libraries, I tend to get pretty pumped. In the case of this NPR article, I’m not so sure. The cupcakes article went viral last week – I think I had it Tweeted @ me a dozen or so times, posted to my Facebook wall a handful of times, re-posted by librarian friends on their walls, etc. – and I’m already sick of this. This article led a number of my friends and I to discuss whether libraries being a fad was a good or bad thing. Our consensus? It’s not great.

I’ll fully admit that the trendiness of libraries and books is part of why blogs like the one you’re reading have a following. We’re “hip”. Young librarians + the Internet = massive information sharing. We get it.

In the short-term, libraries-as-a-fad could be a great thing. We’re more likely to have mentions in national media, shedding light on our dire funding situations. People might become more educated about how we work and why we exist. In the long-term, however, I’m nervous. It’s no news to regular readers of this blog that my library is up for a millage renewal next week, and if it doesn’t pass, our entire 13-branch system will close on January 3. That’s over 250 library jobs gone. That means that there will only be one, small public library in my county that I’ll have to pay a non-resident fee to use. To be frank, it would be really sh*tty.

The NPR article reads:

There seems to be a preposterous level of goodwill. Quite honestly, I feel like you can go on YouTube and act like a complete goof (in the best way), and if it’s for libraries, people have that same rush of warmth that they used to get about people who had sextuplets, before … well, you know. Before.

Are they saying we’re the next Jon & Kate Plus 8? Really? Maybe not, but libraries are about significantly more than our YouTube videos. The Plus 8 crew has dealt with a huge backlash against them once their saccharine facade cracked in 2009. Does that mean libraries have a few years of goodwill remaining before everyone is sick of our videos? Or us? Before our fall from happy family grace spells the end of libraries? For us there’s no “Twist of Kate” spinoff in development. Pardon the drama, but for us, losing that “preposterous level of goodwill” could spell curtains.

I would love to hear what readers have to say on this subject. Especially fellow librarians.

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This month, my Blog of the Month is davidleeking.com. In two recent blog posts, King explores: Foursquare and Libraries – Anything There? and Foursquare and Libraries – Definitely Something There!

For those of you not in the know (which is a vast majority of people at this point), Foursquare is one of the big websites under the location-based social networking umbrella. Location-based social networking is a stalker’s dream. Using mobile email, text message or smartphone GPS, location-based social networking allows users to share their location, find friends in their vicinity, and share reviews, tips or recommendations on an establishment they are visiting.

As a location-based social networking user, I have to say, it’s pretty fun. I get to compete with my fiance to check in at more places than he does. At the same time, I worry that advertising my location to the world could be dangerous. That gut reaction to the concept of location-based social networking is what kept me off of this family of social sites for a long time.

But here I am. A fully-addicted Foursquare user. What finally made me bite the bullet was finding my place of work on Foursquare, and as the social media specialist, I was obliged to hop on board.

Now I’m the Mayor of 7 places on Foursquare. Mayorships are earned by checking in more than anyone else at a given location. Becoming the Mayor of a location allows you to edit the location’s Foursquare listing, including correcting the spelling/capitalization of the location’s name and adding its appropriate Twitter account.

Hold On! Is it safe???

The short answer: yes. You’re listed by your first name and last initial. Sharing your Twitter and Facebook accounts with Foursquare users is optional, and sending your Foursquare check-ins to Twitter or your friends is optional. Pings are another option you can enable or disable for a given Foursquare friend. In my case, the only time I Tweet anything I do on Foursquare is when I become the Mayor of a location. The only pings I have turned on are my fiance’s, i.e. I get a text when he checks in somewhere that lets me know where he is. Sorry, other 4sq friends, I don’t care that you’re at the liquor store for the third night in a row.

foursquare image A brief run-down of what you need to know about leveraging Foursquare for your library or non-profit:

As with any social network, get on early, even if the network could fizzle in a year. Establishing a presence for your social network early (I hesitate to use the phrase “stake out,” but that’s kind of what you need to do here) can be important. Foursquare is a perfect example. If you don’t add your library/organization to Foursquare, someone else will. And they’ll probably add it wrong. Or forget to include your Twitter handle. Or get your address wrong, or worse, YOUR ORGANIZATION’S NAME. I speak from experience.

Become a “SuperUser.” On Foursquare, super users have  the ability to edit listings. Also, in the process of becoming a super user, it’s likely you’ll become the mayor of your place of work, which gives you the power to edit (read: correct) the listing. Wikipedia’s description of superusers. I’m willing to argue that being a superuser is more valuable to your organization than being the Mayor of its location(s). Having correct information about your organization and having a link to your organization’s Twitter accounts should be a priority with Foursquare. Think about it: having a direct link from your Foursquare listing that patrons can access right on their phone. They add you because you’re on Foursquare. Through that, they find your blog. And so it goes. 🙂

Add Tips & To-dos. This indicates to your patrons that you care that they’re on Foursquare and know what’s up with the latest social media trends. For-profit businesses use Foursquare to advertise specials for people who check in at their establishment on certain days. For-profit businesses in big Foursquare towns have also been known to offer free coffee or an appetizer for their latest Mayor. As a non-profit, don’t worry about the incentives unless you’ve got some old swag laying around to get rid of. Focus instead on using Foursquare to highlight the services you offer.

Related Blogs Worth the Read:

Just for Fun banner

My third favorite television show growing up in the 1990s was Wishbone. For those of you unaware of this spectacular gem of a show, please consult its Wikipedia page and your local PBS affiliate for more information and to watch an episode or two. I promise that if you love reading, this show will at least make you smile.

At any rate, the episode entitled One Thousand and One Tails was on WKAR in East Lansing, MI when I went to my gym this afternoon. Lucky for me, the episode was beginning right as I got on to the elliptical machine (as if anyone cares what my workout routine entales). Here’s a synopsis of the episode, from KQED:

David has an adventure with bandits on the information superhighway while Wishbone tries to save Emily from the power of greed. Meanwhile, Wishbone, as Ali Baba, has an adventure with forty thieves, and Scheherazade saves her life through the power of stories in “The Thousand and One Arabian Nights.”

I HAD hoped to embed a series of videos produced by the Wishbone team in this post, but alas, finding anything but the show intro and a variety of bad (surprise, surprise) content tagged with “wishbone” on YouTube was impossible. Instead of a bunch of cute videos about visiting your local library and how fun going to the library with one’s family is, I’ve got this video of a barking Jack Russell.

And since this post is “just for fun,” here are some adorable pictures of my two dogs, one of which is part Jack Russell Terrier. Soccer, the dog best known for portraying the most literary pooch of all time, was a Jack Russell.

Libraries in the Mainstream Banner

One of the Fox network’s biggest hits of the year, Glee, is a very charming musical parody of the stereotypical high school universe in a ho-hum Ohio town. Lucky for me, an addmitted “Gleek” (no matter how much I despize that marketing term), Season 1, Episode 4 (“Preggers”) features a brief mention of libraries. High school football star, Finn Hudson says the following during a deep, personal conversation with his Glee Club coach/Spanish teacher:

“I got this at the school library. Did you know you can borrow books from there? All of ’em. Except for the encyclopedias.”

glee

Why this quote matters

Though written and delivered somewhat tongue-in cheek, this remark would make my childhood librarian roll over in her grave. I fully understand that some young people may not realize that encyclopedias are for library use only. They may never have touched a printed encyclopedia in their lives. However, not knowing that libraries exist to circulate books free of cost is alarming. Within the diegesis of the show, Finn is a high school upperclassman, which would land him at about 16 years old, born in 1993 or so. Looking back at my high school years, which weren’t that long ago (2001-2005), a large part of my high school language arts education involved learning to write proper research papers and, specifically to use both electronic databases as well as traditional encyclopedias. At this point in my academic career, I am very grateful that my school had the resources, both in the form of the databases/encyclopedias as well as teachers and librarians, to equip me with these skills. While I fully acknowledge that many schools and even libraries can no longer afford to provide all print and electronic reference sources to their patrons, I’m absolutely floored that someone soon to graduate from high school wouldn’t know the purpose of a library.

Again, I totally get that this is a show, specifically a high school [musical] parody show, but the joke does come loaded with some interesting implications.

For other quotes unrelated to libraries, check out the Glee Quotes page at the Glee Wiki, and the Glee IMDB listing.

Library Links Banner

Rather than briefly outlining how to install CamStudio on a PC, the post sought to convince readers that thought must be put into the construction of educational video content for it to be effective. The highlights were 6 principles of multimedia learning, including a set of very relevant hyperlinks to other online articles on the subject of multimedia learning theory. They also rationalize taking the time to prepare videos ahead of time, rather than simply sitting down and pressing record on one’s screencast software. The final really valuable bit of information included is a list of recommended software for creating one’s own instructional videos at low or no cost. Most definitely worth the read.