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Published April 1, 2012 | Multidisciplinary

A Library Serving Digital Natives

Janette Wygergangs was coordinator at the John Abbott College library and retired the week before this article appeared. Currently, she is on a sailboat crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

The Inspiration

We’ve gone from paper books to e-books, and the next step of creating access to information for students is through multimedia. It’s time for us to present visual materials to students in digital format anytime and anywhere.

The Start of the Story

Films on Demand (FOD) regularly made offers to the library to provide a bank of online videos. Last spring, the logic of this kind of service became apparent, and I asked for a quote. Prices run in the order of less than a dollar per student per year. In terms of library budgets, this isn’t that much for what you get. And yes, librarians can haggle!

Before the haggling on price began, however, another kind of struggle ensued. These services didn’t have bibliographic data. If you don’t index your materials in a library-like manner, users have no access. For example, if you want a video on the global warming and flooding in the Maldive Islands, but you don’t know the title, you can’t find it. If you have a bibliographic record that links the film to the subject headings of global warming and the Maldive Islands, you can find the record. We told both the National Film Board and FOD to come back to us when they had bibliographic data, and we’d do business. They developed bibliographic records that we could download.

The Service

This September, our first challenge was what to do with all of the bibliographic records that we had demanded. A decision was made to integrate the media, like e-books, directly into the catalogue, so it was one-stop shopping. This means that if you go to the catalogue, and you want a book on Sparta or a video or an e-book, you go to one place. Some colleges create a catalogue for videos and another catalogue for eBooks where you use the indexing from the package that you’re buying. This forces your students and faculty to consult three different catalogues to find materials; we wanted to provide one-stop shopping, so we went with one catalogue.

We load up all the bibliographic records into the catalogue on a monthly basis. Every month, we go to the vendors’ sites and import new records. Although this operation takes minutes, a qualified technician, or a librarian in our case, takes the time to ensure the records are imported into the catalogue correctly. And, we’re not uploading videos; we’re only uploading catalogue information about the videos and URLs to the videos.

The Access

Okay, you’ve researched videos on Sparta. You find an item in the bibliography and click on the listing. Inside the bibliographic record is – Click here to view video. You click and when you’re on the John Abbott Campus, you enter. At this time, when you’re home, you receive a message that you’re not authorized. That, however, is going to change because we bought an authentication service through our library supplier that will enable off campus access to the videos. That will probably be done in April-May, and we’ll be promoting it to students this fall.

The Pedagogy

Teachers can link videos from their course material in a very innovative way. After getting an account with FOD or the NFB’s Campus, you sign in and create a playlist of different segments in one folder which creates a URL to the playlist that can be incorporated into your teaching materials.

The Reactions

Some teachers have commented that the video streaming was too slow. This may happen if the teacher uses a wireless connection, there is a high demand being placed on the network at that particular time of day and the access point. We’ve realized that if a teacher uses a video regularly, however, we can buy the DVD which can be shown in the classroom, and you’re never going to have a streaming issue. If a student is absent, they can stream it from home online.

We’ve gotten raves from teachers at the media desk as well. Once they have created their own account, teachers have access to an amazing collection of academic videos of YouTube quality. We’re not looking at feature films here, but more like clips on Eisenhower’s speeches and the Suez Canal. Although the FOD collection is largely American in nature, it contains about 90,000 video segments from 8,000 videos. We subscribed to the National Film Board to provide Canadian content.

Our streaming video not only brings a new dimension to what we offer users but changes the nature of how we serve them. We’ve become a library serving digital natives.

How is your library adjusting to the realities of information technology?

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