Open source media applications
Many academic libraries offer their students access to a media center in the library. A common misconception is that smaller libraries do not have the budget to offer such services to their patrons, but there are plenty of open source applications that can be used to populate a media center in any library.
When it comes to photo editing and creation, many libraries stick to using the clip art package that came with their word processing application because they think that is all that they can afford. In reality there are many powerful open source tools available to make your photos look more professional. The first and probably the best known of these tools is GIMP (http://gimp.org).
GIMP is a photo editing suite that has been compared to Adobe® Photoshop®. Photoshop® is meant for the professional artist, and can often be overkill for the average library. GIMP offers libraries an affordable alternative. According to the official GIMP website:
[GIMP] has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.
GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted. 1
In short, GIMP can be used for all of your graphic needs, and if a function is missing from GIMP you can browse through the registry of plugins available at http://registry.gimp.org/list_contentto extend the functionality of GIMP.
There is a learning curve for those who haven’t used a photo-editing package before, and even for those who might be used to another package (see Figure 7.1). GIMPshop (http://www.gimpshop.com) is available for those who learned on Photoshop®. It is a modified version of GIMP with menus and an interface like those used by Photoshop®.
If your library isn’t looking for a graphic editing application, then think about providing your patrons with access to GIMP from your public machines. We are always looking for ways to improve the services we offer our patrons, while staying within our budget; this is a way to provide your patrons with a previously unavailable service at no extra cost to the library.
Another way to offer better services at no extra cost is to use Scribus (http://www.scribus.net) to produce a library newsletter. Scribus is an open source desktop publishing application. It comes ready with everything you need to create professional looking documents.
In addition to newsletters, you can use Scribus for creating support manuals, flyers and promotional materials for your library. The extensive online documentation and active community make it easy to find help as you learn to use Scribus. Scribus makes creating a library newsletter as easy as drag and drop; see Figure 7.2.
Despite all of this support and power, libraries and many other organizations have yet to discover Scribus. A survey of 977 librarians found only one using Scribus, and she was only using the application at home. This does not mean that Scribus cannot be used in libraries; it just means that Scribus hasn’t been marketed in the library arena and has been overlooked.
Although Scribus remains relatively unknown to the larger publishing industry, a growing number of non-profit and commercial organizations are using it for publishing a variety of documents, including magazines, books and marketing material. EASTeight magazine uses Scribus for its monthly publication delivered to 15,000 homes in London. Full Circle, an electronic magazine for Ubuntu users (a Linux-based operating system), is published monthly as an interactive PDF to the web. An increasing list of other titles published using the software is available on the Scribus Public Wiki.2
Print products are not the only way to expand our library offerings; why not create a podcast? Libraries around the globe have started to offer free podcasts to their patrons to promote their collections, library events and the community. The New York Public Library has done an amazing job with podcasts at their library (see http://www.nypl.org/voices/audio-video), but you do not have to be a large library system to be able to produce your own library show.
Librarian and professor Michael Stephens introduces librarians to podcasting with Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net):
Audacity offers a no-cost audio recording solution that includes an intuitive interface and a small learning curve. Audio files recorded in Audacity can be saved as MP3, the standard podcast file format, or in other file formats as needed. MP3, which works on iPods and many other portable media players and CD players, is a file type that allows reasonable quality and a reasonable file size.3
Audacity is the tool of choice for many podcasters due to its powerful nature and the fact that it is free and open source. Using Audacity you can record, edit, splice and enhance your podcasts. This means you need only one tool to record and prepare your podcasts for publication. Audacity provides you with all of the tools necessary for creating podcasts; see Figure 7.3.
As a visual learner, I find video tutorials to be a great help when learning new software, or anything new for that matter. Providing your patrons with screencasts is a great way to help visual learners at your library with the various products that the library offers.
A screencast is simply a video recording of your computer screen, for example a tutorial for using the library website. You turn on your screencasting software and then navigate through the library site and narrate your movements. The screencasting software captures your movements and your voice and creates a video that you can then publish on the web.
CamStudio (http://camstudio.org) is an open source application that will help you create these screencasts on Windows, and recordmydesktop (http://recordmydesktop.sourceforge.net ) is the solution if you are on a Linux operating system. Both these applications are extremely easy to use. Simply start up the application, choose the region you want to record on your screen and click the record button (see figures 7.4 and 7.5). Once your videos are recorded you can preview them in the application’s viewer.
The Northeast Kansas Library System (NEKLS)4 makes great use of screenscasts (http://www.nexpresslibrary.org/category/tutorial/) as training agents for their member libraries. These videos go along with text documentation they have written in order to make it easy for all types of learners to get the most out of their open source integrated library system, Koha (http://koha-community.org).
Using the tools in this chapter you could set up a public media station within your library for little or no cost. Using an older or donated machine running Ubuntu, you can easily install all of the applications listed here (and more) and allow your patrons to start creating their very own movies, podcasts and newsletters.
2.Harper, Eliot. ‘Scribus: open source desktop publishing.’ Seybold Report: Analyzing Publishing Technologies 9, no. 1 (January 8, 2009): 7–14.
3.Stephens, Michael. ‘All About Podcasting.’ Library Media Connection 25, no. 5 (February 2007): 54–57.
4.Please note, that while NEKLS makes great use of screencasts, they do not use either of the tools mentioned in this chapter.