The virtues of re-purposing

8 Feb

An anecdote:

Recently, a colleague stopped by my office to pick my brain on a matter technological. She’s an expert in photo digitization and photo archiving, and is working with someone in NYC on a project involving such images. But the geographical distance between the collaborators was proving problematic, and she wondered if I knew of any applications that might help address the issue.

Initially, I drew a blank; or rather, nothing that sprung immediately to my mind seemed to fit her situation. In my experience, Google Docs doesn’t handle images well enough to make the sort of communication she described efficient or elegant. She’d used the Cornell dropbox to transfer images, but the project she was working on required images and their associated captions to be re-organized, edited, and collated in a way that Dropbox was too ponderous to address. Google Wave was a possibility — if nothing else, it handles images better than Docs — but again, the back-and-forth flow of information she was describing seemed too multi-dimensional for Wave to facilitate.

“What I’d want,” she said, gesturing at the table in my office, “would be something like this. Someplace we could lay pictures out with their captions, and re-arrange them as needed. An online worktable.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t know of such a program, though I was sure they were out there. Until, suddenly, I did.

“Have you seen Prezi?”

She hadn’t, so I showed it to her. I explained that it was an application designed for making interesting presentations, but that the workspace you use to create that presentation seemed to provide the features she was looking for: images could be uploaded, text could be uploaded, the two could be associated (a new feature since I last used the application!) and then moved and re-configured as needed. The “virtual worktable” was theoretically infinite, and as long as multiple people had access to the account it could easily be used for collaboration. She said she’d give it a try, and from what she’s told me since it seems to be working very well.

Lest this post be seen as nothing but self-aggrandizement — though, honestly, I felt damnably good after I came up with that — the experience got me thinking on technological re-purposing. It’s something that I think tends to happen without a great deal of attention or discussion. As librarians, we see needs, find something that works, and then move on.

So, a question:

What experiences have you had with re-purposing an application or program in your library, and how well did it work out?

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One Response to “The virtues of re-purposing”

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  1. Information Space » Blog Archive » And I Owe It All to Amanda - February 10, 2010

    […] to some library user and now it’s old news. At least it’s old news for those who read The Nascent Librarian or have an RSS feed to SyracuseLIS. Which may or may not be you. So, guess what? I’m going to […]

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