Check out the slick promotional video Michael Porter (aka Libraryman) created with Animoto. In his blog today, he advocates that we do the same to get value from a Chumby and promote our libraries. Absolutely! And how cool would it be if we can manage something even half as good as this. Bravo, Michael!
[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]
We’ve already looked at Flickr, a photo sharing site. Now we’ll try YouTube, a video sharing site. Anyone with a digital camera can record and upload whatever they want to share with friends (or the world). Some clips are short — just a few seconds. Others are 20 minutes or longer. Some YouTube videos attempt to demonstrate or dramatize something; others convey no meaning at all. Some people post daily diary-like ramblings recorded into their laptop-mounted video camera; others use scripts, choreography, and sophisticated video editing. Some are professionally made; most are amateur. And yes, some are pirated and unauthorized. It’s a broad mix and it’s all there for the viewing.
Choose a random video and there’s a good chance you won’t like it. That’s okay. Few people care for many of the shows on television, too. YouTube’s strength, however, is the variety. It’s like TV with unlimited channels. You can find comedy, drama, documentaries, music, family activities, parties, people making fools of themselves, and practically anything else you can imagine.
A social site like YouTube also democratizes film making. People no longer simply search for and watch videos that interest them; they can create and distribute what interests them, too. If something is good, it gets talked about and more people watch. An imaginative clip becomes famous for a while, or it gets mimicked or answered by others. It can become part of pop culture. Celebrities, catch phrases, and memes are increasingly coming from amateur video.
Meaning for libraries
Here are four ideas to consider.
- Entertainment. Some of our patrons just want to be entertained. Libraries try to meet that need by providing CDs and DVDs. Before that it was LPs, 16mm, and VHS. Digital online video — even amateur video — is just another in a long run of entertainment formats. Some established media producers (CBS, for example) provide video on YouTube, but some YouTube fans find that the latest amateur clips — even simple glimpses of everyday life like a dwarf bunny or a laughing baby — are often just as entertaining as the fare available on TV.
- Pop culture. OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” song (danced on treadmills), was viewed 25 million times. Chris Crocker’s recent “Leave Britney Alone” video led to a long list of remakes and spoofs. The fictional vlogger (i.e., video blogger) Lonelygirl15 morphed into an online serial drama. Pop journalists like The Resident may attract large and dedicated followings. Clips and creators like these are becoming part of the culture. They might flare up among young adults and (increasingly) get picked up by mainstream news sources. If your patrons want to see the latest popular clip in full, access to YouTube will meet their needs. Does your library workstations permit basic streaming video and audio (with adjustable volume headphones)?
- Resource. Looking for a famous news clip? Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech, the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Zapruder’s film of the Kennedy assassination are all there. YouTube might even help you quickly find famous scenes from movies, music performances, and comedy bits.
- Marketing & Training. Some libraries have begun vlogging and advertising to the public (example: Allen County Public Library). Libraries could also include video clips within their training plans. Need to demonstrate a new concept or process? Create a video of your own!
Learn more by participating
Set aside some time this week to explore YouTube. Don’t try to do all this at one sitting. A few minutes here and there over the course of the week might be best.
- Watch a few (or all) of the clips linked to above.
- Browse some of the videos suggested on the YouTube home page.
- Search any topic that interests you and see what comes up.
- Do you have access to a video camera? Create an account and make a quick video clip yourself. Start with something short (30 seconds or less) and upload it just for practice. If it’s good, send the link to friends or family. If not, delete, and (probably) no one will know.
Have fun! It’s your web now.
Last week I responded to a video that Michael Wesch and his cultural anthropology students recently posted on YouTube. I also mentioned another video without much comment because I hadn’t quite digested it yet. Now that I have, I’d argue that it is more significant than the first.
Without spoken words, Information R/evolution examines the remarkable transformation that our whole notion of information is undergoing within today’s digital technology. Information is the foundation of libraries. A library is a place to access and interpret information. Always was. The perception of a library as a warehouse of books is — like it or not — false. It’s just that information was once stored almost exclusively in books. That’s not true any more. Information is now delivered in many ways, with digital formats growing exponentially. Libraries are adapting by providing digital online resources and portable devices.
But as we move to more digital formats, libraries must also be aware of even more dramatic changes taking place in the way information is organized. Three-dimensional objects (i.e., books) get cataloged and placed on a shelf in a specific place. Pure digital information, however, is fluid and finds itself at home anywhere. There’s no single specific place for it. There’s no shelf. And there is a declining reliance on a single rigid authority to decide “where” its homes might be. Future categorization will be a flexible collaborative activity.
This strikes at our basic concept of information. Libraries are in the information business; we should be prepared for this shift. Clay Shirky (“Ontology is Overrated”) and David Weinberger (“Everything is Miscellaneous”) — both of whom are mentioned in the video — told us about this trend in recent years. The power of organizing information with tags on social websites has made the trend obvious.
Dr. Wesch’s fast-paced video is about giving up the shelf. That is an extremely difficult concept for those of us whose brains were wired pre-Internet. But the fact is, our brains are naturally wired this way. Mentally, we put our thoughts not in one place but in multiple places. We carry ideas in our heads not on a shelf but connected to other ideas … and experiences … and hunches. It’s the nature of information to be miscellaneous, connected in countless ways, and always subject to review.
Watch the video. Whether the idea excites or frightens you, digital information doesn’t need a shelf.
Libraries must become more participatory with their communities. Stored information is not enough. Interaction is crucial. That will be a recurring theme for me here, I’m sure. The societal trends are overwhelming.
In Chronicles of Bean today, Cindi referred to a short video by Michael Wesch* of Kansas State University that gives some interesting numbers from a college student’s world today. The data is radically different from what young people faced just 5 or 10 years ago.
The video segment that screamed loudest to me was the young woman who held a sign saying that she will read 8 books this year … but 2,300 web pages and 1,281 Facebook profiles.
My question: Do we want our library to provide her just the 8 books, or do we want to transform the meaning of a library into something she can interact with?
* Cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch, by the way, created another thought-provoking and visually interesting video last spring: Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us. His recent Information R/evolution is an excellent video, too.