Thursday, July 5, 2007

Facebook’s Librarian App & Office 2007

Facebook's "Librarian" Application

I kinda like the new "Librarian" app over at Facebook. By recognizing which university a student is associated with, this tool can bring resources, tools, and help available. I think I like it mainly because there's the "Send a Message to Your Librarian" feature, which starts a new Facebook message to the institution's librarian (this does pose some problem – which one of us is "the" librarian? At the moment, it's our web guru / genius Ken Varnum – others have already suggested finding ways to allow this tool to have multiple librarians behind the "message a librarian" tool… not sure how you would go about doing that).

Why do I kinda like it?

I wasn't sure Facebook was a great place to do outreach. Getting an unsolicited message from a librarian might seem like an invasion of privacy, or at least an invasion of a social sphere, for students. For the same reason many wouldn't want their parents on Facebook, students probably don't want to "friend" a librarian either. When Donna Hayward and I polled students on librarians in Facebook, half said, "I use it all the time! It would be incredibly convenient" and the other half said, "That's creepy." A proactive, outreach mission in Facebook risks alienating students that are of a "that's creepy" opinion. However, by facilitating student-initiated communication, we may be able to reach more students using this tool. At worst, we'll get in touch with those that want us there and be ignored by those that don't.

The Librarian tool facilitates this communication. "Ask a Librarian" starts a Facebook message to the user designated as "the" librarian for the student's institution. It makes us appear available to receiving messages (because we opted-in to participating in the "Librarian" tool) and it requires students to initiate the conversation.

Why only kinda?

This still doesn't address anything I said in my last post: why would students add a "Librarian" application in the first place? Do they know what kinds of questions would be appropriate for the "Ask a Librarian" link? I don't think so. But I think that it provide a space to do so – the main "Librarian" page is horribly ugly right now, with link images surrounded by a big blue border. The icons are a little silly. I'd like to see us come up with some good information for that page besides links to our catalog, databases, and "Ask a Librarian." What could we put there that would let students know what we do?

Then, how do we get students to add the "Librarian" application? A flyer that asks, "Research paper due? Add the Librarian app for help!" That would probably be a good idea. But with any effort, no one approach is going to reach everyone we need to reach.

There doesn't appear to be a way to make custom "Librarian" pages. One of the tools my students like is the course-specific research and resource guides. If I could make something like this fit into Facebook, link to it from both the main "Librarian" app page and from my profile, I'd be ecstatic. As it stands now, I don't think you can do that.

Office 2007

I am a little geeked out about Office 2007. I like the new Office 2007 for a number of reasons, all having to do with Word 2007's new look, new organization and new features:

  • Bibliographic management built-in

    Haven't played around with it in full yet, and I doubt there's an 'import' feature, but the fact that citing sources and bibliography creation are built into this word processor makes me very excited. Many times, students don't know that they're plagiarizing. There's a lack of understanding about what needs to be cited, how to cite it, and how to synthesize information rather than regurgitating it. By including bibliography tools that ask the questions, "Who wrote that? Where'd you get it from?" (these are the blanks you fill out when adding a new reference), Word is encouraging proper citation. Way to go!

  • Styles more visible

    When I teach Word for dissertation, a large portion of the class is devoted to understanding and using Styles. Now, Styles is a prominent part of the new 'ribbon' navigation system. Instead of being buried behind menus and formatting palettes, there they are! So hard to avoid seeing! There's also several sets of predefined styles, giving people who don't know about modifying styles an opportunity to use them with a variety of looks and feels.

  • Integration with Blogger??

    So, I'm actually writing this post with Word 2007. In addition to starting a "New Blank Document…", I can also do a "New Blog Post…". This is the result of that feature. I like that I don't have to log in to Blogger, plus, I can see so much more of what I'm writing with this. Word also corrects my typos. Thanks!



Brad said...

Thank you for all the feedback on the app -- there's a lot of stuff in the works over the weekend -- so you may just get everything you're asking for.

Molly said...

Does the KNC have Office 2007 yet? If yes, can I come in to play with the new Word? It sounds almost too good to be true.

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