Future of Libraries Conference: Services Without Sites: When Fingertips-to-Fingertips Augments Face-to-Face
The second panel I moderated is probably the coolest I’ve ever been a part of (no offense to the other panels I’ve been on, which have always been great…but this one was awesome).
It began with my presentation, Fingertips2Fingertips which you can view in PDF here. It is a pretty generic presentation about digital services that mirror the traditional services we have always provided in libraries. **no, this is not what made it the coolest**
After I spoke, Debbie Faires and Jeremy Kemp from the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science discussed Second Life as a space for libraries to exist in. SJSU SLIS has a Second Life Campus, which makes me drool and want to go back for that PhD. Debbie noted that libraries are about community, and that is why Second Life is a wonderful place for community. She gave us a list of a number of the libraries with a presence in Second Life, an impressive list indeed! The idea of a library in Second Life is different than our traditional idea of a library. The Second Life Library used to be a white marble building with walls. They recently opened it up so you can now fly through the library, no walls required. Debbie also noted that Second Life is a great place for prototyping. A LIS professor had students prototyping furniture, then asking for feedback on that furniture within the environment of Second Life. The libraries in Second Life provide reference, collections, exhibits, and programs. There are actual books on the shelves in the Second Life library. There are also reference services – an actual reference desk is in the greeting area of Information Island. (Tee hee! They’re calling it Reference and not Information! Yay!) Debbie noted that at Information Island gets 5000 visitors per week, and 200 reference questions per week. The Health Library offers a sound booth where avatars can listen to podcasts about health resources. How fabulous! Some questions are about Second Life, others are general information questions, and the rest are questions about the Second Life Library’s resources. We got to see screen shots and videos of various features in the different Information Island libraries. One example was immersion environments: the Globe Theater model and the Sistine Chapel model, where you can study everything in the building, as well as information ideas that people have attached through digital text, audio, or video content in those environments. At the end of the presentation, a video from KQED (NPR affiliate in San Francisco) provided a good, and fun, general overview of Second Life’s services, and functionality.
Char Booth from the Ohio University Libraries, our next presenter, was AWESOME. She presented via Skype, from Ohio, and was connected during the first two panels, so she could hear what the other speakers were saying. We then brought her image and audio up, as well as a presentation that she shared with us, live, through Yugma. Her presentation focused on the ability of recent virtual reference options to be synchronous, which is what our users want. She talked about the powers of Skype to provide this synchronous video and audio (VOIP). Also VOIP is being integrated into IM platforms as well. She talked about the idea of disruptive technologies–one that outmodes a previously accepted mode. She discussed a how there is a constant stream of referrals in her physical library from floor to floor and desk to desk. They created a virtual video kiosk, up on the stacks floor, where people could approach and ask questions via video. They finally relooccate dthe kiosk down to the 4th floor entrance. It is all Skype based. Simple computer interfaace – showing a librarian’s face already up on the screen. The kiosk also included speakers. They started using Windows Live Messenger. It had video and voice and dropped calls all the time and wasn’t customizable. That’s when they switched to Skype. at that point there were very few dropped calls. Skype video is really crisp and clear, it’s a free download, it offers chat, audio, SMS, video, and calling Skype accounts or landline calls. All Skype to Skype calls are free. Call and chat history can be kept in transcripts, if desired. 200 million people are using Skype, and at any given moment 8 or 9 million people are logged in. The options and preferences allow you to adapt it to the user. It is all compatible with Macs and PCs. They’ve had people come up waving their arms to the kiosk, which is fun to watch. Everyone in the office has a Webcam set up. Every hour someone from the staff calls in to the kiosk box number. They tally the number of transactions by hand. She called herself "the librarian in the box" :) Skype establishes prsence data – they can see if you are there or away. You can personalize the message. You can send a URL to someone during a video call. They are also considering offering a fancy kiosk and offering the service in other buildings, like the studnet center. She notes that there is definitely a "what is that" factor – people wondering if the talking head in the kiosk is real. Once convincing them that you are real, the questions go very well. Staff have to get used to being looked at on camera. The way to think about it is thinking abbout it as simply another service desk, another reference desk. You want the camera to be head-on, big picture, and eye contact is currently impossible, since you can’t look at the camera if you’re looking at the scren. This has an impact on the quality of the reference interview you can have. Patron reactions are mixed, but promising. people using Skype expect that the service will be available and aren’t surprised that the library is offering reference via Skype. There have been technical issues, and when that happens and people don’t know what to do, they won’t want to use the service again. Having staff ready to troubleshoot technical issues is essential. Think about your audience. Do they want an external call-in service or do you want to set up a dedicated service point only? You need to think about what equipment you’ll buy too — a webcam, computer, headphones, microphone, a full on koosk for the users station?
I want to do this. Now!