What is a discussion about social media in libraries if I haven’t talked about Facebook or Flickr or Pinterest or Google+ or Cowbird (which I just found out about a couple of days ago… and think might be something interesting for libraries to use to stimulate the creativity of younger users)… or anything that’s pretty much synonymous with the term? Incomplete, is what it is. So, I am going to take a look at what academic libraries are doing with the potential and possibilities offered by YouTube.
UWaterloo Library & YouTube
The Library Minute is the big name in YouTube academic library use, with a series of interesting and informative one-minute videos highlighting resources, spaces and services in the Arizona State University library system. The complete list of videos is accessible at the Library Channel – the library’s YouTube channel or as podcasts on the library website. But there is more available via the channel – news, announcements, even a complete lecture series. Some Canadian universities have a YouTube presence too – like McMaster, for example. The one I’m going to take a closer look at is the U of Waterloo.
Here is an example of a video from UWaterloo library.
Topics covered: There are in all about 23 videos relating to the UWaterloo library. The topics generally can be grouped as follows –
(1) Using library services – Topics such as ILL, using the ILS, course reserves, and connecting to the library from home would fall here
(2) Conducting rigorous research – There are videos about general issues like brainstorming a research topic, use of research guides and finding resources and how to conduct a basic search and refine it. Specific concerns like academic integrity are also addressed.
(3) Staff training – There are videos relating to standardized customer service, inclusiveness etc aimed specifically at library staff
Evaluation – The videos are concise (rarely over 2 minutes, except for the staff ones – which is fine, I guess.) They address topics specific enough to be useful, and general enough to appeal to a diverse student audience. The one big issue I have is that there is no separate UWaterloo Library channel. There are 2 issues with this (a) The library videos are lost in the 400+ videos uploaded by the university as a whole. So some usability concerns here. And (b) I can see that the number of subscribers to the UWaterloo channel is close to 650, but wouldn’t the library like to know how many people they reach out on a regular basis? Of course they can check the numbers of different videos (The number of times each of the videos has been viewed ranges from ~35 to 1200+, which tells us (and more importantly the librarians) pretty much nothing about how well this initiative is doing.
David Lee King makes a point in one of his posts about YouTube that struck me. The point was that social media is about engagement and participation, and if you aren’t getting that – what’s the point? But, you may ask, how do you do that with a video? The answer is through a call to action, giving users something specific to do next. Examples – asking the viewer to subscribe to your video channel and to like or favorite the video, giving the link to an older related video, and asking a question that the viewers can answer in the comments section. I don’t see much of this with the UWaterloo videos.
Lastly, as I mentioned in relation to LibGuides, its important to post new material regularly and not fizzle out unceremoniously. The other thing is to let students know what’s available online. One of the big reasons for getting a library on YouTube or Facebook or Twitter or (insert next big thing in social media) is to create greater awareness about what the library offers aka self-promotion, right? So promote the self-promotion, else who’s gonna know?