Videoconferencing for Libraries

Videoconferencing for Libraries

Posted on Friday November 13, 2009 at 03:00PM

 Videoconferencing for Libraries

Before coming to Alberta I had not heard anything about videoconferencing in libraries.  Soon, however, I began hearing about the RISE project which attempts to “link southern Alberta communities of all sizes in a library-based videoconference network.” 1 While on van run I saw a videoconference room in a couple of our libraries, and here at headquarters videoconferencing has a room to itself (while employees are doubled up in offices!).  So there must be something of value in this, right?
I got to find out for myself the value on two separate occasions within the past week.  Last Friday I represented NLLS at the APLEN Nodes Technology Infrastructure Committee in Edmonton.  We were addressing the Report of the MLA Committee on the Future of Public Library Service in Alberta.2   One of the eighteen recommendations reads:
Led by Alberta Public Library Services Branch and supported by The Alberta Library, plan, develop and implement videoconferencing services with other public organizations (Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, school boards and Service Alberta) to ensure libraries have access to these services without duplication of taxpayer investment.2
When the discussion opened I led with the question, “Why?” quickly followed by “What about small libraries and space issues?”  In the group were representatives from libraries that had benefited from the RISE project.  They were quick to expound on the benefits to both large and small libraries.  Apparently there are content providers available.  What that means is that small libraries that may not have time or resources for programming, can participate in programs put on by museums, educational institutions, government organizations, and other libraries, from all over!  Sounds great, but when I mentioned the physical size of some of our libraries, smiles froze and they reluctantly admitted that lack of space can be problematic.
My second exposure to the value of videoconferencing came when I attended a library board meeting to talk about the new format for Plans of Service – from almost 100 kilometres away!  I stayed at headquarters and did not have to drive home in the dark – beautiful!
Now I’m not advocating that everyone rush out and get videoconferencing units as they can be very costly and may not fit in with your library’s Plan of Service.  Smaller libraries may want to play around with Skype, an on-line videoconferencing download, just to see what it’s like.  Libraries that do have the units may be interested in learning more about content providers.  I’ve include some links for content providers, as well as funding agencies that may be able to provide grants for establishing videoconferencing in your library.  There are definite advantages and disadvantages to videoconferencing.  It may be worth your while to look into it.
Content providers:
Funding possibilities:

Author: Northern Lights Library System


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