Still Thinking About Search – YouTube

Over the past several weeks and months I’ve written a number of posts about the world of search and tools teens use in order to locate information. I’ve talked about Twitter, new search sites like Searchme and TinEye, and social news sites like Social Median.’  What I hadn’t mentioned in the past, but need to now, is YouTube.

Just the other day there was an interesting post on ReadWriteWeb that included these two paragraphs:

ReadWriteWeb LogoImagine a whole generation of kids growing up and learning about the world through YouTube. In the first half of the 20th century, people grew up reading books and newspapers. Then there was a generation that grew up on movies and television. The last shift was to the Internet. And now web video is creating yet another generation.

Kids no longer learn about the world by reading text. Like the television generation, they are absorbing the world through their visual sense. But there is a big difference. Television was programmed and inflexible. YouTube is completely micro-chunked and on demand. Kids can search for what they need anytime. This is different, and powerful.

This is “different and powerful” and something we should definitely pay attention to as we work with teens and help them discover information for both academic and personal needs.’  Think about it, a teen comes to the library looking for information on a current event, a location, a favorite manga series, or a musical group.’  They could go to the databases, they could go to the library catalog, they could go to Google, but what if the first stop was YouTube?’  Might they find valid information that met their needs not just in terms of the information but also in terms of accessibility of that information?’  Would many teens understand the content more successfully if presented via video’  – and often in informal and entertaining video?

Of course, there are evaluation skills that need to be considered when using YouTube as a search tool, and not just as an entertainment tool. But, with all kinds of search tools – databases and library catalogs included – we can help teens understand those skills by giving them a chance to use the tools in a variety of searches and situations.

A colleague and I have recently been talking about information containers and how sometimes librarians get stuck on what is the “right” container for a teen to use to find and access information. Using YouTube as a search tool is a perfect example of not getting stuck on the information container. We need to give teens the opportunities to find containers that work best for them – podcasts, YouTube, Google, blogs, databases, Wikipedia, library catalogs, RSS feeds, etc. – in order to find high-quality information that meets their needs.

What if you said to the teens with whom you work, did you use YouTube to try and find that information? Would that open up opportunities for interesting conversations and interesting search results? Give it a try.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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  1. As a school librarian, the first thing that pops into my mind is how frequently YouTube is blocked across the board on district networks. (It’s not just YouTube, of course–it’s YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, gaming sites…) And I understand the arguments on both side of that issue, but it’s really frustrating for those of us who know we can find certain video content easily on YouTube.

    On the other hand, certain content isn’t there, and really shouldn’t be, so searching for it on YouTube can actually be frustrating and limiting. My worry is that starting on YouTube means students may ignore other great content sources (the Boston Public Library, for instance, offers online access to some great arts videos), the same way that, say, starting with Google means they’ll miss our databases entirely.

  2. Mk’s comments are fascinating and reflective of many librarians today. I have to commend my own librarian for pushing our school through this issue. Whether we are prepared or not, our society is shifting from the Need to Know to the Need to Find. Sure, there will always be content that a person needs to know. But, authoritative resources (Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, whole racks of non-fiction) can’t be reasonably expected to keep pace with advancing understanding or the rise of the read-write generation. Informational authority is an arrogance the adults of tomorrow won’t accept. The confident foundations of our understanding of the physical and social sciences crumble a little each day. The librarian that will survive this shift will change from a keeper of resources, managing depth and breadth, to a champion for multiliteracy. A good book recommendation can be had at the local Barnes and Noble or over coffee with a friend–the librarian of the future won’t be able to keep pace any better than now. Subscriptions to expensive directories or databases will decrease in importance–the librarian of the future will need to be able to help others access content that isn’t behind someone else’s locked door. Companies holding information ransom can’t keep their gates closed for long. The librarian of the future is Chief Sense Maker for the Information Age–teaching social networking, read-write responsibility, aggregating hoards of data, and finding meaning in what you read.

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