Monday, March 19, 2012

Cloudy technology and videos

Last week I read an interesting article in USA Today (Digital cloud devours our books, CDs, DVDs, photos by Marco R. della Cava, 3/15/2012) about some of the cultural effects of cloud technology on our daily lives. In the article, della Cava reports that

“Last year, music downloads surpassed CD sales for the first time; e-books went from novelties to a billion-dollar market in a flash; and streaming is becoming the preferred way to take in films and TV shows.”

della Cava wrote about personal entertainment practices. He says that people are buying fewer “things” that take up space in their homes. (Could this mean that I might end up with room in my garage for... I don't know, a car?)

But people are not necessarily buying fewer books -- in fact, because digital takes up much less space than physical form, people could be buying more. eBook users don't even have to fill up their readers (i.e., Kindles) with digital content either. They can store and access their virtual bookshelves through their cloud accounts thereby keeping their mobile device free of encumbrances.

When it comes to music, people are opting for digital downloads which are becoming more legitimate and value added and now video streaming is to the point where even renting a DVD is too much of a hassle, let alone buying them to keep somewhere. But more to the point of my musing this Monday, what are the implications for our Darling Library? (Besides the fact that we probably don't have to worry about investing in compact shelving any time soon?)

When I started working at Hope almost 18 years ago then Dean Gary Tiffin took me to show off the new TV/VCR combos that had recently been installed in almost every classroom! He was very proud of them -- even though, the library was still delivering 16mm films to classrooms and set up projectors as needed for several years after that.

Films and videos have been an effective pedagogical tool for as long as film has existed. The technology has evolved along with educational strategies for achieving certain kinds of learning outcomes. Oh, sure, we can all recall an example when we watched (or showed) a movie in a class that was “not going to be on the test,” but the educational value of film cannot be denied – particularly in certain disciplines.

Today, the Darling Library has about 625 video titles (some titles have multiple volumes) shelved in the Videos section on the 1st Floor – 575 VHS and 50 DVDs. At one time we were considering replacing all of our VHS tapes with DVD but at an estimated $20,000, the cost was prohibitive. Nevertheless, little by little, we started replacing VHS tapes with DVDs as the need arose (i.e., lost or broken tapes). Now, it seems unnecessary.

Not because film is losing its appeal or because the faculty prefer to use VHS, blue-ray, or any other physical medium. But because streaming video is becoming the format of choice. It can be used in the classroom (with a reliable network connection and adequate bandwidth) or online. They only need a link. (In online courses, students share the burden of the network.)

When we first moved the videos from the Main stacks to the Video shelves, we knew it would only be a matter of time before we ran out of space. That was reason enough for us to want to replace VHS tapes with sleeker DVD cases.

But, instead of replacing them, it looks like we should consider holding out for another option.

The library receives weekly offers to subscribe to educational video streaming services. But do we really want to forgo ownership of these materials?

So far, these services provide “the big deal” – a lot of impressive content but not enough of what our faculty want to use. The benefits, pricing models, and copyright issues associated with them are complicated at best. So we are not ready to throw out our old tapes just yet.

Determining whether the Darling Library will prefer to own, rent, borrow, or subscribe to video content in the future will depend on faculty usability (What kind of technology lends itself to the task?), campus technology infrastructure (server space and/or cloud storage, bandwidth), and pricing models that are still emerging.

Once again, library leadership requires some foretelling of the future!

1 comment:

Robin Hartman said...

By the way, we actually have the projector in this photo in the library! I just can't bring myself to get rid of it!