I'll probably not be posting much for the next two weeks; my wife just gave birth to a beautiful bouncing baby girl :-) See you after I catch up on my sleep!
Rebecca Hedreen, Distance Education Librarian at Southern Connecticut State University, has started a blog of Frequently Answered Questions for her students, and has a post about the new Library Lookup Bookmarklets that have been tweaked to search Worldcat through Google. The bookmarklet has been mentioned in several places this week, and Rebecca provides a few links in her post. On a related note, I was finally able to get the Library Lookup bookmarklet to work with our SIRSI catalogue, and will be prettying up my instruction page prior to releasing the bookmarklet to our collection development librarians.
I think I'll keep an eye on Rebecca's site - the blog format is a good one for FAQs.
Just read something that made me laugh out loud and wanted to share. You know all the famous mis-heard lyrics out there? You know, Man on the rug instead of Band on the Run, 'Scuse me while I kiss this guy...
I was reading a transcript someone had typed of a meeting I was in earlier this week. We were discussing metatags, and the person doing the typing wasn't familiar with our terminology (big surprise!). Anyhoo, when we were talking about possible metatag standards to follow, she typed in "Double Encore". The overall purpose of our meeting? Website redesign, in part because students don't understand the terms we use on our website. Some Friday afternoon Library humour for ya.
Just saw the ED-MEDIA Call For Participation hit my inbox, and having never been to Montreal I think I'll throw in a proposal with a colleague about a collaboration we did with a writing prof for our distance nursing students. Here are the presentation categories for the conference - lots of opportunities for different things.
Deadline for submission is December 20th - the conference is June 27-July 2, 2005. I see library opportunities most obviously in the New Roles of the Instructor & Learner topic area.
Well, this would certainly appear to be more of a regional draw, but there should be some application for distance librarians at this conference. Perhaps you want to present?
This part boils down to a warning not to just jump on the virtual reference bandwagon w/o giving some good hard thought to why you might want to do it. The reader is advised to look at the alternatives, including tried and true telephone and email. Right there under the heading of Alternatives to Virtual Reference is the Big Question of "how can I best serve my patrons wherever they happen to be?" Of course that's what we DE folks are always interested in, eh?
I wrote a couple notes in the margin as I was reading, including a big HA! next to the part where they're describing the limited success of Google Answers and state, "but an average fee of $15 - $20 hardly seems much of a barrier".
The other note was at the end of the same paragraph, where they're talking about marketing and ask, "...some serious questions about just how much people really need or want reference services online - no matter how well marketed - at least in the ways we have offered up until now" (emphasis mine). This caught my eye because next week a colleague and I are going to begin offering virtual reference hours for one of our distance programs (though while reading this article I wondered more than once if I'm crazy to try this), but we're doing it in a very targeted way. Instead of just having a link on the library's home page, we're inserting a link into several specific BlackBoard courses. I hope that this targeted service might be part of the missing link. Just a nod to my colleagues in Lethbridge, we'll be linking into vClass, as described in their presentation this past summer (yes, summer is long gone here; some might even debate if it was ever here this year).
One of the best suggestions in the article is to improve self service. Make your library website more informative, and easier to navigate. They ask the question, "what if we take the money and time spent developing and running chat services on improving our Web sites and information systems?" How much did your library pay for your virtual reference software? The U of C is in the midst of a web redesign process right now and I know we could sure use some more money to throw at it! They point out that "Web self-service is eminently scalable. It costs Google or Amazon about the same amount of money to handle 6 patrons a day as it does 600 million." Chat sure can't scale that way...
And then the bottom line is reiterated as stated in my second paragraph above. Definately a good read for anyone who's considering jumping on or off the virtual reference bandwagon.
Almost absolutely nothing to do with library support of distance students, but it is online, and it's at a distance from me, and I think it's a great idea, so I'm letting you know that NPR is having a week long online auction starting next week. NPR is one of the things I miss being here in Canada, though I catch it on the web as often as I can. If this can supplant those beg-a-thons, I'm all for it! (don't bid on the iPods, I want one of those )
Could Skype be used instead of a toll free number for your distance students? I've been hearing about Skype for many months now, and the NY Times just ran a story on in, and it struck me that this would be a good alternative if you couldn't offer your distance students a toll-free number. Or even if you could, but they were scattered around the globe. I'm sure there are toll free numbers that work from international locations, but I'll bet they get to be pricey. One of the first things I did when I took this position at the U of C was get a toll-free number for our Canadian students, but it won't work for our students who are overseas. Skype would though! It's a perfect match: Our DE students are tech-savvy (at least a little) or they wouldn't be doing a distance program. From all reports (and I admit I haven't yet initiated a call through Skype) setting it up and using it is a piece of cake.
Is anyone in DE Libraryland using Skype to support their students?