or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Reference Question of the Week – 2/5/12

   February 11th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Non-Fiction DVDs Have Moved signI freely admit to being entertained by immature things, but the sheer unexpectedness of this discovery will hopefully make everyone laugh.

A few weeks ago, my library decided to revamp our DVD collection: the "fiction" DVDs were split into separate sections for Feature Films and for TV Series, and all the non-fiction DVDs were interfiled, by Dewey, with the non-fiction books.

This has elicited mixed reactions from patrons, as they adjust to looking for documentaries and exercise videos in a new place. However, interfiling with the non-fiction books also sort of put me in charge of them - or rather, since Reference is now the closest desk to them, we're the ones who get asked why we don't have DVDs on particular topics.

So something new for me in the last week or so has been to fill some of the holes in our non-fiction DVD collection by finding DVDs to purchase on the specific subjects patrons had asked for. That's what I was doing this week - looking for videos on massage therapy, prenatal yoga, travel (we definitely do not have enough travel DVDs) - when I stumbled across something odd.

I was searching on Amazon, and had found a few good prenatal yoga DVDs. Great. So I started looking for DVDs on massage therapy, but wasn't having as much luck. I broadened my search to just massage, and was mildly surprised (although I suppose I shouldn't have been) to see all manner of "sensual massage" DVDs. Interesting, but not what I was looking for.

Amazon's default sorting method is by Relevance, so I thought if I tried something else - Average Customer Review or Most Popular - I'd find DVDs that our patrons might be interested in. The Average Customer Review sorting was productive. Then I switched to sort by Most Popular, and that's when I learned the most popular massage video on Amazon is:

Pure Nude Yoga - Zen Garden Goddess

And a little further down on the list was:

Pure Nude Yoga - Worship the Sun

One of the greatest things about being a librarian is that you learn something new every day. I had no idea nude yoga existed, nor that it was available as an on-demand video download from Amazon, nor nor that it would be Amazon's most popular "massage" video.

Although I'm sure this would also be popular with my patrons, this did not make the selection cut for the library.

More on Interfiling DVDs and Books
Incidentally, for those interested, we made this change to our DVD collection to try to make it easier for people browsing for movies to watch. All of the television series and anime DVDs got a TV Series sticker, and are now on different shelves, separate from the feature films. We have a lot of TV shows, so this greatly reduces the number of DVDs someone has to look through just to find a good movie to watch that evening.

The comments I've heard so far regarding the non-fiction DVDs (aside from the fact that people had memorized where their favorites were) is that it's now more difficult for someone who wants to browse documentaries. As a result, we may pull all the documentary DVDs - the ones you can watch for entertainment or edutainment - and create a "Documentaries" section by the Feature Films and TV Series DVDs. On the other hand, the people looking for exercise or travel DVDs have really liked having all the related books in the same place, so those will probably stay. This will take some fine-tuning, but eventually I'm sure we can reach the happy medium.



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Libraries in Videos

   July 22nd, 2010 Brian Herzog

Librarians go GaGa videoLast week, Huffington Post featured a library-related video round-up entitled Librarians Go Gaga: 9 Of The Funniest Library Videos Ever.

Some of them I'd never seen before, but all of them were enjoyable to watch. However, the Library Girl song wasn't there, and they also left out David Lee King and Michael Porter's Library 101 project. I guess that one isn't meant to be funny ha-ha, but I was making a funny face in it.

However, my favorite video of this type, which is more Web 2.0 than library, is Are You Blogging This?, which David made in 2006:

I still occasionally find that song going through my head, even when I haven't watched it in awhile. Since libraries have been declared the Next Big Thing (via), we'll probably see ourselves in much more media - after all, we are pretty hip.



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YouTube Shortcuts

   May 18th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Fast Forward buttonI am by no means a YouTuber, so the tips I just figured out might be common knowledge, but I thought I'd share anyway.

Do you ever want to link right to a specific spot in a YouTube video? Say a video is five minutes long, but the part you want to highlight starts at 3:14 - I knew there must be a way to start the video right at 3:14 so people didn't have to sit through the beginning portion.

After a bit of web searching, I found two ways to do this - one for a link, and one for an embedded video. And to give my examples some context, here's our situation: You have a video of ten book reviews, and the review you wanted to link to (for Neil Gaiman's Interworld) starts 1 minute and 11 second into the video.

Link to Video
To create a link to start at a specific spot in a video, just add #t=0m0s to the end of the regular link url. Then, change the 0's to the minute and second you want to link to.

Embed a Video
Starting a video embedded in your webpage at a specific spot is a little more work.

  1. Grab the embed code from the video's YouTube page and paste it into your webpage where you want the video to appear. The code will look something like this:

    <object width="640" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="385"></embed></object>

  2. Put &start=71 at the end of both URLs shown in the code:

    <object width="640" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&start=71"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&start=71" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="385"></embed></object>

  3. Update 2/2012: YouTube also uses <IFRAME> to embed videos. In this case, the code will look like this:

    <iframe width="550" height="330" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yyy8gYkU2TY#start=227" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

  4. Notes:
    • You have to translate the start time into just seconds - so 1 minute and 11 seconds becomes 71 seconds
    • A lot can happen in 1 second, so the content you want might actually start in between 1:11 and 1:12 - I don't think you can fine-tune any more than seconds. Another hiccup could be the way video files are encoded, so the start point might not always be exactly split-second precise every time
  5. Enjoy:

The next logical step for this example is to also set a stop time. YouTube doesn't seem to have a native way to do that, but both Splicd.com and Apture.com's Builder provide this feature. Neat.



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StoryTubes 2009

   January 27th, 2009 Brian Herzog

storytubes videoLast year I learned about a video-based book review contest for students called StoryTubes. It's happening again this year, and the deadline for submissions is fast approaching.

I think this is a great idea for any librarian or teacher with creative kids and a video camera. All the details are available on their website, but basically a kid makes a video reviewing a book they've read, the video is uploaded to teachertube.com or YouTube.com, and then submissions are judged and the winner announced. But more importantly, kids are involved with creating something that is their own.

And this idea goes along with my "Information in Context" push, in that any video created can be embedded back into the library's website to showcase the kids and their reading - and hopefully encourage more kids to read and review books. If you are able, make a video and enter the contest. Or, at least keep tabs on the entries - last year's were quite entertaining.



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Library Investigation

   July 16th, 2008 Brian Herzog

WHDH-7 logoOne of the local television stations in Boston, WHDH 7, just aired an investigative story into libraries:

Theaters and video stores usually require an age of 17 or older to see or rent an R-Rated release, unless there is parental permission. But something altogether different is going on in some local libraries. 7News' Jonathan Hall investigates.

Read the transcript, or watch the video.

This is similar to the situation we had here a little while ago (except without the undercover investigators), which prompted us to put label ratings on VHS and DVDs when possible. And it looks like the Boston Public Library, "in line with American Library Association guidelines," is on the same page as us.

Libraries do not raise children, we provide access to information. Parents raise children, and we do what we can to support that need - while at the same time supporting the informational and educational needs of everyone else in the community.

I found this news report interesting, but a bit sensationalized. I'm sure as long as there are parents and children (and news outlets in need of ratings), issues like this will never die.



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Reference Question of the Week – 6/15/08

   June 21st, 2008 Brian Herzog

YouTube logoThis is a reference question I've been holding onto for awhile, hoping I'd have an answer to share. I don't, so now I'm hoping someone else might.

A patron came to the desk asking for help with YouTube. He's one of our regulars, and has a bit of a compulsive personality. He's also a big fan of The Doors: he's working on a book, buys whatever merchandise he can from eBay, and watches any related video on YouTube - or rather, tries to.

One day, he came to the desk and said:

When I search for "the doors" on YouTube, there are over 79,000 videos. However, It only shows the first 50 pages of search results, which is only the first 500 videos. How can I watch the rest?

I had never clicked this far into any search returns in my life. So I tried it out, and sure enough, he was right. I played a bit, but couldn't find any way to get past this barrier to the rest of the videos.

I searched their Help Center with no success, and so sent in the question via their Contact Form. I also searched the general internet, but couldn't find anything relating to this issue.

This was on April 25th, 2008. So far, I haven't heard anything back from YouTube or Google. I resubmitted the question a couple weeks later, but again, no response.

I've played with this search limit again recently, and it looks like now YouTube cuts off the returned videos in the 540's, which is on page 28. The pagination shows out to page 31, and implies there is more, but when you click beyond page 28 the pagination and video numbering starts over at 1.

I can understand the technical limitations and the necessity of an upper cap on returned search matches. But with no explanation or message that there is a limit, and this confusing/resetting pagination, this patron feels YouTube is teasing him personally, and cheating him out of these other 78,500+ videos.

Does anyone have an answer I can pass on to the patron? Thanks.



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