The assignment was to make a webinar that was helpful for a underrepresented group in library service. I particularly like this assignment because we mostly dealt with how we could provide better library service for a ‘majority’ of patrons but often forgot about how we could improve the service for a ‘underrepresented’ group of patrons. In our group, Mary, Karen, and I chose to talk about how to provide equal library access to the blind/visually impaired. Traditionally, the blind and the visually impaired achieve information by reading braille books, but in digital age, they likely become one of groups that run into the trouble of information poverty. People find and get more and more information from digitized artifacts and Internet searching, but the blind/visually impaired are having a hard time coping with changing learning environments and most libraries don’t seem ready to serve them. We think there are many services libraries can develop and offer to them other than providing reading materials since libraries these days become a social hub for a variety of social activities of the community.
So we focused on three types of services; (1) information about physical and traditional reading service, (2) new technologies for accessing information, and (3) potential workshops and outreach services related to employment readiness program. We did some research and learned that various technologies have been developed for the visually impaired that can help them access information. Yet we found out that book clubs or employment readiness program for the blind/visually impaired were rare in libraries. We therefore decided to provide practical information on how a library can develop those activities.
Personally, the biggest challenge in webinar presentation is technological. In a face-to-face workshop, an instructor can observe the audience’s face expression and body language and then can make changes necessary based on audience response. In a Webinar, it is still possible that a presenter communicates with the audience by using a chat box, but it is quite difficult for a presenter to respond to the audience’s questions and provide a lecture at the same time. So we planned to have a moderator who aggregates the audience’s questions and verbally deliver them to a presenter whenever it is necessary. But things didn’t go as planned. After we started our webinar, laptops of two of presenters’ became out of order (one had some audio problem and the other crashed), and so moderators could not deliver questions to the presenter. We also found out that Elluminate randomly changed a font size and locations of images in our PowerPoint slides. As a result, our slides might have been looked ugly to the audience.
Regardless of these problems, our team members did our best. Moderators responded to as many questions from the audience as they could via a chat. We let the audience know the technical problems we were experiencing, and made out efforts to have our presentation flow smoothly without any interruption. As a result, we could complete our presentation on time. One of things we learned from this experience is that a laptop computer is not a reliable tool for a webinar. Another is that we reserved a room in Shapiro Library because we thought it had a stable wireless internet connection. But it turned out that the wireless internet was not as stable as we hoped. Thus, a webinar presentation should be done by using a desktop computer with a stable Internet service.
Personally I participated in four other webinar sessions: ‘Library service for ESL patrons’, ‘How to protect your patrons and yourself from copyright infringement’, ‘Young professionals: The Missing Link’, and ‘When Learning is difficult: Better Serving College Students with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Autism’. I really enjoyed all these webinar sessions and had a chance to think about how librarians could provide more diverse services to our patrons in creative ways. In my experience, I had some difficulty in following both a lecture and a chat box at the same time, in particular when contents of presentation did not sync with what was going on on a chat box. Interactive communication between the audience and a presenter is an advantage in a webinar, but I still prefer listening to an instructor’s presentation and then asking questions on subjects.