CLA – VoiceThread

When I learned that my all day institute on doing more with less was canceled, I was a bit concerned.  What was I supposed to do alone in Sacramento for a whole day?  I wandered around downtown, toured the governor’s mansion, and then went to the convention center to pick up my badge.  I found the nearest Starbucks, and looked through CLA’s promotional materials.

Well… I noticed that the School Library Association (CSLA) was having a free concurrent session in the afternoon.  Since I didn’t have anything else to do, and they were allowing CLA people to attend, I thought I’d go to one.

I chose the session on VoiceThread (by Jane Lofton) because it sounded like something that we could use in the public library. You can sign up for it and play with it for free at  One thing to keep in mind is that the free account lets you comment on an unlimited number of VoiceThreads, but you can only create 3 threads of your own.

VoiceThread is an online technology that allows you to capture and hold an entire conversation on one page.  People can leave recorded voice comments, or text comments.  One person can respond to another’s comment, and so on.   And, as they’re leaving comments they can make (impermanent) doodles on your thread.  Your threads can be still pictures with your voice recorded over them, a Power Point presentation, or a video. It can be embedded into your blog, searchable by keyword, kept private or made public, and it’s a lot of fun.

That’s all well and good, but how would you use this in a library setting?

Advertise Upcoming Events: Think of it as a mini commercial for your library.  Have an upcoming performance? Put up the flyer and record your voice talking about the event.  Ask your viewers a question to encourage their responses.

Book Talks: We all have our favorite books, but what if we want to read something different?  Where do we go to learn about new books and old classics?  By recording a book talk, you can tell people all about it.  And, you don’t even have to record your face doing it (if you’re uncomfortable), just put up a picture of the book and talk!  This is also a great opportunity to get your community involved by asking them to record book talks of their own. Don’t forget – book talks are great for kids, teens and adults.

Start a Conversation: Is there an important event going on in your community?  Are you thinking of trying a new program but want to know if the community would really attend?  Ask a question, and your viewers will respond.

Online Book Club: I’d love to join a book club, but they always meet when I’m at work.  What’s a gal to do?  Join an online book club of course!  Have everyone read the same book, and then have your discussions on VoiceThread.  It might also be a great way to connect an entire community through a conversation about your One City-One Book program.

Orientations and How-Tos: We all encounter patrons who don’t know where to find our materials, or how to use our technology.  Why not record a library orientation/tour and show your patrons how to check  out, renew, and return materials?  Walk them through searching the catalog and databases for information.  It could be a great way for people to learn how to use their local library.

Advocacy: Show your stakeholders what you do for your community.  Tell them all about your library and why they should support you with their tax dollars and donations.  You’d be amazed what shameless self-promotion will do for you.  And remember – it’s not bragging if it’s true!

Staff Training: Produce 5-10 minute training vignettes for your staff.  It’s often very difficult to get away from your work for a day (or even a half day), but 5-10 minutes at a time is doable.  The comments they leave can be used to verify that they actually watched the training.

ESL and Reading Practice: Because your threads can be kept private, you can feel comfortable recording yourself practicing speaking in another language so that your instructor can listen and critique.  You can also do something very similar for Reading Literacy classes.

Portfolios: Traditionally portfolios inspire thoughts of art, but why not create a portfolio of historical library photos?  Or keep a record of past events?


So, that’s one of the things I learned about at CLA.  It looks like an interesting technology.  It seems like it might be a great way to reach out to the community and get them to respond.  What do you think?

What I learned while out sick

Even when I’m sick at home, I can’t just sit around doing nothing.  I can only watch so much daytime TV, and there are only so many words I can read on a page before I go cross-eyed… So, today I decided to look at SJSU SLIS’ videos of various presentations and lectures that have been done over the past two years.

One of the most recent videos was a lecture by Susan Hanks on California Tribal Libraries.  Although we don’t have a tribal library in the area that I know of, there were a few things she suggested that intrigued me.  The biggest idea that she spoke of was making sure that there were positive Native American stories in our libraries.  She discussed the problem of stereotypical Indian characters, and incorrect information found within children’s non-fiction books.  Ms. Hanks also explained why it’s necessary to display culturally sensitive Thanksgiving books in addition to the traditional Thanksgiving stories, specifically suggesting Giving Thanks by Chief Swamp.

Since I’ll have to use Second Life with the SLIS program sometime soon, I watched the presentation Second Life: 20 Lessons by Jeremy Kemp.  In this presentation, Mr. Kemp discussed the ways in which Second Life (SL) is different from typical online role playing games, and the things he has learned from this program.  He explained that SL is very community driven, and very “flat” in that there is no heirarchy and everyone speaks the same language.  While this is good, it doesn’t come without its problems.  In his words “Second Life is very beta” so you wouldn’t want to hold a live meeting in it.  But for what it does, it’s great.

Patty Wong of the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library presented on Community Outreach.  She discussed what her library has done to increase community involvement in their system. Ms Wong emphasized the importance of sincerity and genuine goodwill when creating relationships with the community. 

The SSJCPL recently underwent a complete overhaul, and created a dedicated unit for community outreach (they manipulated staff and resources).  Their unit focuses on literacy at all levels, mobile libraries, school visits, attending community events, partnerships, publicity and marketing.  Ms. Wong admitted that this is labor intensive and requires a lot of cultivation and negotiation, but she feels that this outreach unit has worked wonders.  They have gotten more books into more homes than they would have without community outreach.

The final presentation I watched was Young Adult Reading by Richie Partington.  This presentation was geared towards reading and school libraries for the Jr. High students, rather than High School students.  Having said that, Mr. Partington had some great tips that I thought translated well into public libraries.

Mr. Partington suggested a straight forward policy of allowing parents to deny the checkout of specific books for specific kids.  He said that the new circulation programs allow this, and that it will keep parents involved in what their kids are reading.  I don’t think something like this will work well on the scale of a public library, but it was intriguing.

He went on to say that it’s important for YA librarians to be knowledgable of what’s being taught in class so that they can make sure that they’re up to date on what’s new with books and make suggestions based on this knowledge.  Mr. Partington also explained the importance of teaching SLIS principles to the teachers first, and then to the students so that you can get the teachers’ help and backup when needed.  And of course, there’s the need to be tech savvy so that you don’t lose credibility when students ask you a question.

So that’s what I learned while I was sick.

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