Friday, February 4, 2011

The World At Our Fingertips

By now it should come as no surprise that I love libraries. Every chance I get, I'm either promoting libraries, going to a library (and not just for work) or reading about libraries. If there were a library choir, I'd be in it. Programs such as summer reading clubs, teen advisory groups and adult book discussions are great ways in which to reach out to the community. This year's SRP (Summer Reading Program) theme is "One World, One Story" for children. The teens theme is "You are Here" and Adult's theme is "Novel Destinations" All very clever angles on the same idea. However, I'm going to shake things up a bit and add my own spin. Why not use this opportunity to point out that at the library everyone has "the World at their fingertips."

Our world is becoming smaller every day due to digitizing information, social networks and technical capabilities that seemed science fiction just a few years ago. The tired argument that the Internet has replaced the library is a myth that can be put to rest by seizing this opportunity to invite patrons to explore the world at their fingertips. These ideas not meant just for the wee ones but for the big kid in everyone. Just imagine, it's a Saturday afternoon, children and their families have come in for a program where the guest speaker is Justin Sumpter, author of Vampirates Series. How could the library afford the air fare? Did the Friend's group do an awesome job at fundraising? Nope. This was all made possible by the wonders of Skype, a voice over the internet service. Skype has also become popular for its ability to provide video conferencing that is fits in every library's budget. It is free if both parties sign up for the service. The technology is there, free and fun. Why shouldn't libraries take advantage of this opportunity to have a global author visit. (Hint to Justin Somper, please consider this an open invitation to "visit" my library) In addition to Skype, another tool at the library's disposal is YouTube. Any library around the world can use this site to film their programs or give a virtual tour of the library. Once the video is posted on YouTube. the world can "visit" the library.

On the same track Facebook has opened the doors for friends far and wide to get together. There should be no reason why U.S. libraries can not become friends with their counterparts across the pond. Think of the possibilities of becoming Facebook friends with London's public library. Librarians could share what programs are scheduled for the day their library and even invite their patrons to say "hello" to readers at your library. Sort of like a "virtual" pen pal. Perhaps they could even give suggestions of good books, or music CD. Who knows, this could lead to world wide advocacy for libraries. (A geeky librarian's dream come true to be sure)

What can we say about Twitter? There are possibilities here, but perhaps not as dramatic or easy as the other two tools. Twitter is challenging because it forces the writer to be witty and concise in 140 characters or less. Is this not a contest waiting to happen? With a little luck and a little work, invite libraries from US to China and everywhere in between to show their support of their libraries in 140 characters or less. Would patrons get excited about this? I don't know, but it is worth it to toss out ideas to see if it has wings.

As librarians, we truly have the world at our fingertips. News from around the world can be viewed almost instantaneously. Communication tools have become affordable, adaptable, and available everywhere around the world. Allowing the task of reaching out easier than before. Showcasing these social media tools in the library reminds patrons that the information they need is no further than their library. Even if the librarian has to "go all the way to China" to get the information desired.
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