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Wednesday 17 October 2007

Skyping for Library Week

Generally New Zealand's Library Week is very focused on public libraries but earlier this year I was asked to come up with some ideas for what we could do in our university library. I brainstormed with a couple of colleagues and somehow came up with the idea of getting together a network of uni libraries from all over the country to have videolinks set up between each pair, throughout the whole week.

A couple of months later, it's actually happened. I'm now typing this from our front desk with a good view of both my own branch and one of the other branches on campus, and we also have been and will be connected with other cities. 11 libraries are involved from 6 universities - for an example of the timetable seeour timetable - probably a temporary link.

How it works:

We're using Skype because it's free, easy to use, and I was familiar with it. :-) Each library has a computer station with webcam set up in a public area - here we're also projecting ours onto a large screen so it's very visible. The connection is set up to be permanently open for four hours per library, morning or afternoon - so students can see into the library and talk with whoever might be passing, or make a date with their friends to talk over the connection.

People were a bit shy of it to start with but they're getting more enthusiastic about it, particularly when the opportunity of talking to friends in other cities is pointed out. I've heard several students planning to text their friends - and people have passed on stories of students arriving at preplanned times to meet friends. Librarians have been using it too: one person phoned a colleague to come and talk over the connection about something, and I used it myself to talk a colleague through a laptop issue (she held the laptop screen up to the webcam so I could see what was going on).

Libraries being what they are I've been writing this post in bits and pieces over several hours so I'll stop here and post, but I'll come back later in the week and write more about the experience - glitches, success stories, ideas for future usage. For now I'll just say that it's been really great to see it up and running and getting so much interest from our students.