Chances are that if you’re looking for work in a library setting, you’re going to be asked about your experiences with new technologies and your thoughts on how those technologies can be successfully integrated into library services.
The following are just some of many software and Web applications available on the Internet that are a) easy to learn, b) free, c) highly relevant to libraries, and d) pretty fun to play with, all things told.
Starting with the obvious, Web 2.0 applications are in heavy use by lots of libraries that are looking for ways to connect with their patrons and provide their users with new and effective ways to conduct their research. Some of the most useful applications include:
RSS Feeds (e.g., Google Reader): Stay up to date on blogs, news and various other types of updates on the Internet by having notifications sent to a feed reader on topics of interest… and teach your patrons how to do the same.
Social Bookmarking (e.g., Delicious, CiteULike): This is a way to share Internet bookmarks. I took a class on social software and libraries where Delicious was particularly useful. Everyone in the class tagged their bookmarks about Web 2.0 with the course code (LIS9763) so we could all share sites relevant to the course. Added bonus is that this lets users access their bookmarks from anywhere, not just their personal computers. (CiteULike is solely for sharing scholarly references with others; it’s definitely a useful site to use and to show faculty and students.)
Twitter: A great way to promote things like library services and special events.You can even include a Twitter presence on a library’s homepage and use Twitter Feed to automatically make a “tweet” whenever you add something new to any blogs your library maintains.
Wikis (e.g., Wikimedia, PBworks, Wetpaint): These are particularly useful for collaborative projects that involve multiple authors and/or resource sharing. On a related note, I’d recommend learning the back end of Wikipedia since it’s a very helpful information literacy learning tool.
Software (free trials)
Most software products offer 15-30 day trials where you can test things out before purchasing them. Particularly since the ability to create content like online tutorials is a highly marketable skill right now, it’s very wise to spend some time learning as much as you can about these technologies.
Camtasia Studio: This is one of the most popular tools used to create online tutorials. It’s screen capturing software that is relatively easy to edit; if you’ve ever used Windows Movie Maker, it’s quite similar. I personally am not a huge fan of screen capture since it limits the possibilities for interactivity and experiential learning, BUT… it gets the point across. (There may also be copies of this floating around in the world of BitTorrents, but you didn’t hear that from me.)
Elluminate Live: If you’ve ever attended a webcast, chances are you’ve already used this software. Elluminate brings participants together from anywhere in the world to participate in a web conference that can include audio, video, chat, PowerPoint and the recording/playback of sessions.
Lectora: Create stylish, interactive online lessons/tutorials with relative ease. The trial is only 15 days and there is a bit of a learning curve, but thus far I am very impressed with the professional quality of this product.
LibGuides: Lots and lots of libraries are using this tool to create research help guides. I find some to be way too cluttered with information, but all in all, this program is very useful to anyone with some basic knowledge of proper information architecture/usability.
SoftChalk: I love SoftChalk! I wish there was more flexibility in modifying the HTML, but all in all, this product is pretty fantastic. You can create online tutorials with built in quizzes and widgets (for things like video clips) without any advanced knowledge of Web design. The best part is that you can keep whatever you create during the trial period, meaning you can create a tutorial, upload it to SoftChalk Connect, and add it to your portfolio, no strings attached… although, of course, you will suggest your institution purchase this product in return.
Survey Monkey: Want to know what your students know? What they learned after a session you taught? What patrons think about a new library service? Where staff want to hold a holiday party? This tool is great for all things online survey. And the best thing is, you can make a free account where you can create surveys of up to ten questions.
Open Source Software
In short, open source means free and enabled by community support. These products can sometimes be a bit clunky, but they’re also great for libraries (or by extension, patrons) looking for cost effective solutions that meet their computing needs. A few of my favorites include the following:
Content Management Systems (e.g., WordPress, Drupal, Joomla): While these options require a user to pay for server space, the systems themselves are free and utilized by lots of libraries (particularly Drupal in larger libraries and WordPress in smaller ones).
GIMP: This photo editing program does many of the same things as Adobe Photoshop. I personally like Photoshop better for its more advanced options, however, GIMP does the trick.
Linux: This family of operating systems are the gateway into an open source universe where everything is free and Windows is proven obsolete, sort of. Ubuntu is the most popular. Such systems may lead to some compatibility problems and users may have some trouble adjusting to a different interface, but… it’s also an extremely affordable option for libraries facing financial difficulty.
Moodle: This is the open source equivalent to course management systems like WebCT/Blackboard. I’m not very familiar with it, but I have heard great things and a number of libraries are currently converting over to this system, which speaks for itself.
Open Office: All the things you get from Microsoft Office Suite for $0. It doesn’t run as smoothly, but it does the job and the file types are all MS Office-compatible so you can share files with others.
Pidgin: This is a universal chat service that can be utilized effectively for online chat reference.
Zotero: This is a reference management system that can be added on to Firefox. I don’t particularly like the organization of groups that users can create and share with others, but it’s still a pretty good program, especially for those who do not have access to RefWorks.
- The EDUCAUSE Resource Centre: An extensive library of publications, presentations, blogs and podcasts on how technology and libraries intersect.
- Information Wants To Be Free: Meredith Farkas’ blog is a great place to learn about how new technologies and libraries intersect. Also check out her 2007 book, Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online.
- Social Software and Libraries (course sites for summer 2009, winter 2009, winter 2010): These are accessible course sites for a MLIS class offered at Western. Search through the readings and students’ insight to get a sense of trends concerning libraries and Web 2.0.