Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Online Law School Video Repository: The Flash Way

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Online Law School Video Repository: The Flash Way

Article excerpt

About 3 years ago, a law professor at Rutgers University School of Law, where I work as digital services librarian, asked me if law faculty members could record the audio and video of class lectures and share them in an open or protected online website for the public or for students to view or listen to at any time. I spent months researching commercial products, and I found they were well beyond my budget. I had to come up with my own repository system, so I did just that. Two years later, after hundreds of recordings by almost all faculty members in the law school, the system is a success. Now used daily, students, faculty, and the law library employees all love it.

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A Brief Review of A/V Services in Libraries

Starting in the 1960s, libraries began offering audio and videotapes to serve patrons' media needs. Almost all the recordings were made by commercial studios using analog equipment. Tapes were the containers for both audio and video content, requiring patrons to find reel-to-reel and VHS tape players. As they typically did not have this expensive and specialized equipment, patrons needed to stop by the library to view any recordings.

In the 1990s, some schools installed analog recording systems in classrooms to record activities or lectures on VHS tapes. Although common items in the library circulation department, patrons rarely used these recordings due to the inconvenience of having to stop by the library.

In the late 1990s, the internet changed everything. Libraries were excited at the prospect of hosting audio/visual content on their own websites. Following commercial website models, libraries used a variety of digital formats, including Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, and QuickTime. However, at that time, most patrons used dial-up connections. To compensate for the slow speed of dial-up, low-quality audio/video recordings were used to decrease download time. Libraries typically obtained content from the libraries' own collection of tapes, requiring conversion from analog to digital format.

In 2006, as Adobe Flash and Web 2.0 matured, internet users preferred these platforms to stream audio/video content. Demand exploded with sites such as YouTube. As these sites evolved, so did recording technology. Fliplike devices were invented to meet the demands demands of people who wanted to have a simple-to-use video recorder to post self-created clips on video content or social network websites.

Since 2006, it has become more and more clear that Adobe's Flash technology would be the leading candidate for online media format. Now, as an increasing number of companies have started to use it as the choice of their online media format, Adobe claims that the Flash content reaches more than 99% of all internet users.

Adobe Flash is compatible with popular audio/video formats such as MP3 and MPEG. It also has its own video format, FLV. The FLV's file size and quality are comparable with other popular video formats on the market. Similar to many other media formats, Flash audio/video content can be downloaded to the client side using progressive downloading or streaming. However, Adobe Flash is compatible with more operating systems than its rivals, making it a real cross-platform media format.

The Rutgers University Law Library's Case

As with many other libraries in the U.S., the Rutgers University Law Library-Newark (RULLN) offers VHS tapes and CDs to its patrons. In 2006, some faculty members asked if their lectures could be posted online with protection so that only authorized users of the university's NetID system could view the contents. Since students used both Windows and Mac operating systems, any system would need to be compatible with both. The law library tracked its websites' activities using Google Analytics, which showed that about 99% of the visitors had Adobe Flash installed on their machines, regardless of the operating system. …

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