The Shifted Librarian -

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* Sunday, July 24, 2005

All Quiet Signal

So things will be even quieter than normal here for the next month or so. Between traveling, vacation, and life, there will be few to no posts for a while. Enjoy the time away.  

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* Friday, July 22, 2005

PDAs or Tablet PCs for Wireless Reference Work?

I have a medium-sized, public library that already has a wireless network installed and is looking to purchase either PDAs or Tablet PCs for use within the building to assist patrons. Not for the patrons themselves, but for the staff to use out in the stacks, etc.

Has your library been doing this long enough to provide feedback? I know the PDAs would be easier to carry around, but they'll also be harder to read, especially for web-based resources. What would you do differently with 20/20 hindsight? I've given them the link to Megan Fox's site, but they're also looking for current hardware recommendations, other best practices, and advice from the trenches. TIA!

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* Thursday, July 21, 2005

20 Technology Skills Every Librarian Should Have

Last month, T.H.E. Journal posted an interesting article titled 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have and briefly defined each.

  1. Word Processing Skills
  2. Spreadsheets Skills
  3. Database Skills
  4. Electronic Presentation Skills
  5. Web Navigation Skills
  6. Web Site Design Skills
  7. E-Mail Management Skills
  8. Digital Cameras
  9. Computer Network Knowledge Applicable to your School System
  10. File Management & Windows Explorer Skills
  11. Downloading Software From the Web (Knowledge including eBooks)
  12. Installing Computer Software onto a Computer System
  13. WebCT or Blackboard Teaching Skills
  14. Videoconferencing skills
  15. Computer-Related Storage Devices (Knowledge: disks, CDs, USB drives, zip disks, DVDs, etc.)
  16. Scanner Knowledge
  17. Knowledge of PDAs
  18. Deep Web Knowledge
  19. Educational Copyright Knowledge
  20. Computer Security Knowledge

It's a pretty good list, and it becomes useful for us if we substitute the word "librarian" for "educator" throughout, even for items like #13 about WebCT and Blackboard because you have to understand the distance learning you'll be supporting more and more in the future (speaking from a public librarian perspective).

Of course, for librarians I would make it a top 25 list and add blogs, RSS, IM, wikis, and audio ebooks right from the beginning.

I'd like to see MLS do a series of workshops, either online or f2f, that would help librarians learn all 25 skills. We could even do annual updates.

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My Alma Mater Is Blogging!

Steven notes that the University of Illinios, Urbana-Champaign libraries are blogging now – w00t! I gave a presentation about blogging and RSS there earlier this year, so I’m especially pleased to see this. I’m drowning in nostalgia because I was a graduate assistant in the Education and Social Sciences Library, where my focus was on The School Collection

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One Book, Five Landscapes, Six Partners, Endless Possibilities, and Two States?

One Book, Five Landscapes, Six Partners, Endless Possibilities

You may well be familiar with the community-reading concept pioneered in Seattle by Nancy Pearl. But have you ever thought of applying this engaging concept to Ohio's library community? What if staff in all kinds of libraries ¾ academic, public, school, and special ¾ read the same book? This year six Ohio library leadership partners encourage you to read the Environmental Scan and to join with professional colleagues in a statewide professional reading program of ongoing discussion and education. Beginning in May, continuing through the summer, and culminating at Ohio Library Council's annual conference in October, you have the opportunity to read a book that stretches the way you think and at the same time connect with colleagues around the state.” [OCLC, via It’s All Good]

This is a very intriguing concept, and I see lots of applications of the concept. It would be pretty cool to have librarians reading this type of literature simultaneously and then coming together to discuss, brainstorm, and implement. So many applications – at MLS, I think we could use this within our Zephyr Innovation Program (which I still need to write up here, I know), across the System in general, or even just in Illinois in general? Of course, it’s too late to add anything for this year’s Illinois Library Association conference, but….

I’m especially intrigued by the following excerpt from the OBFLSPEP description linked above:

Attend the 2005 OLC Annual Conference in Columbus---especially on Thursday, October 6, 2005 when an entire conference track will be devoted to sessions, presenters, and discussion sponsored by the leadership partners and related to this reading project. Additionally, there'll be updated information on new trends that have emerged since the book's introduction in 2003 . Preliminary information about the conference is available on the OLC Web site. Complete details of the conference agenda will be available in August 2005.”

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* Friday, July 15, 2005

ProQuest to Offer RSS Feeds

A post on the LITA Blog noting open registration for their Forum on September 29–October 2 reminded me that I haven’t posted that I’ll be attending this event for the first time. W00t!

The main reason I am going this time is because I’ll be co-presenting a session about databases and RSS with John Law from ProQuest. Back in September, I posted about going to the Illinois Library Association conference and giving every database and ILS vendor a handout about RSS. The only two companies to follow up with me after the conference were Innovative and ProQuest. John and Kent Kanipe called me and we talked at length about what they could do with RSS, and they “got it” right away. They’ve been working on it ever since, and you can see the first baby step at http://www.il.proquest.com/proquest/rss/.

The examples are great for illustrating how libraries can make use of such feeds. The only feeds they have running right now are on the Curriculum Match Factor page. It’s a static page of some pre-built, keyword feeds designed for a specific curriculum (in this case, a business one). It’s mostly a proof-of-concept, but again, I think it helps illustrate how this type of service will benefit any type of library.

The good news, and the reason I’m co-presenting with John at the LITA Forum, is that they are working on dynamic keyword feeds, as well. While they probably won’t be ready before the Forum, they’re scheduled for Q4, so I’m pretty excited. This is exactly the kind of thing I want from our vendors, so loud applause for ProQuest!

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AADL Site Follow-up

This is so awesome that it deserves its own post! Eli Neiburger from the Ann Arbor District Library caught last night's post about their site and has this to add:

"A few things I wouldn't want you to miss... our materials blogs at http://aadl.org/catalog/blogs, the new home of the axis blog at http://axis.aadl.org/, and the fact that we offer RSS of checkouts and holds, which local blogger (and member of our tech advisory board) Ed Vielmetti has already used to add a live 'my requests' sidebar to his blog at http://vielmetti.typepad.com/.

The new site is powered by the amazing, vibrant, open-source CMS drupal http://drupal.org/, and we made a custom drupal module that accesses our new III catalog based on drupal authentication, so all our users, in the process of signing up for their new catalog access, got themselves the ability to comment on threads and log in with a username and password. =)

We just launched last Wednesday, so the content cycle is still getting warmed up, but the goal is to have posts from staff members from every department, (not just the 'public service' ones), and to eventually hand-pick frequent commenters to promote to contributors as well. We passed 5000 registered users last night."

Wow, double wow, and triple wow! I also had briefly caught a glimpse of a wiki thing going on, but hadn't had time to investigate it.

You can bet I'll be showing this to Dean and the SWAN folks, along with begging Eli for the scripts that are generating the RSS feeds, as well as the custom Drupal module! The bolded text above is for my emphasis, because I'm going to propose that we offer Drupal hosting for our member libraries (we already host Movable Type blogs for free for any MLS member library) so that SWAN libraries could duplicate this!

And make sure you visit Ed Vielmetti's blog to see the display of the RSS feed of his queue on the right-hand side of this blog. At first it's a tad difficult to spot, but it's under "del.icio.us links" and it shows all of the titles, plus what number he is in the queue (or if it's awaiting pickup), the pickup location, and the date the hold will be canceled. Earlier this year, I wrote that patrons would indeed add this kind of display to their sites if we just let them, so there's your proof. I'm off to get screenshots of this for my presentations, too!

I also want to point you to the trackbacks at the bottom of last night's post, because so far others are agreeing with the adjective "perfect" as a description of AADL's site. I especially like how Richard Wallis from Talis' Panlibus blog worded his praise.

"The cross between a traditional library web site, a library blog, and the catalogue interface, produces a whole experience which is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. It's clean simple visual style, coupled with the natural [personal] style of content which naturally emanates from blogging to their customers (as against broadcasting at them), delivers an interface which I think that the citizens of Ann Arbor, Michigan should be delighted to be part of. Using the blog commenting facilities, which their customers certainly are, gives the impression that the library is not only providing a service to, but is also part of the, community.

Just scanning the site gives you the feeling that there are humans behind it."

An ILS vendor other than AADL's praising their web site for its authenticity and functionality? Yeah, blogging totally rocks!

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* Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Perfect Library Blog Example

The Librarian in Black points to the Ann Arbor District Library’s redesigned web site, which includes the addition of blogs (including a Director’s Blog!) and RSS feeds. It looks like posts from all of the blogs appear on the home page, with a link back to the rest of that subject’s blog. Looking at the site right now, there are six posts on the home page. Amazingly, five of those posts have patron comments attached to them, and not just a couple of comments either. The count is 17, 6, 18 58, and 19! How many paper comments have your patrons left so far this month? Compare.

The AADL blogs do it all right. The posts are written in the first person and in a conversational tone, with the author’s first name to help stress the people in the library. The staff isn’t afraid to note problems with the new catalog, the web site, or anything else. Full transparency – nice. You can feel the level of trust building online. They respond to every comment that needs it, whether it’s a criticism, question, or suggestion. And some of the comments are fantastic. Users are even helping debug the new catalog. Here’s a sampling:

  • Patron: “I agree with the previous comment about getting email notices of system difficulties. I depend on email notices to remind me when my books are due. Since I have not heard anything from the library for a time I thought all my books were current. Yesterday when I put in a request for book I was unpleasantly surprised to find to one of my books was overdue. It was only for one day but the fines would have mounted if I hadn't put in that new request for a book.”

    Staff response: “Thanks for your comments. If you had items go overdue because you were expecting advance notices, please mention it the next time you visit a library branch, and we can waive those fines for you. We are still hoping to get this service restored this week.

    On a technical note, broadcasting messages like this to our patrons can cause as many problems as it solves; last time we did so, we were flagged as spammers by U of M (because so many patrons have U of M addresses) and we could not send any email to U of M addresses for over a week. I didn't want our warning of email notice unavailability to subsequently prevent a large percentage of our patrons from receiving the messages once they started up again.”

  • Patron: “Although I live in the neighborhood and this new Northeast branch library will be within convenient walking distance for me, I am troubled by the environmental degradation its construction at Huron Parkway and Traverwood will cause. Large numbers of trees will have to be removed and hills flattened out at this site. Much impervious surface in terms of parking lots and buildings will be put in. All these changes will negatively effect the natural area and small ponds bordering this location. That is a real shame.

    I really don't know what is wrong with the present location of the branch library at the shopping plaza. I think you should have looked to expand there first before destroying land with new buildings and asphalt.”

    Staff response: “I am a member of the Library Board and live on Broadway, close to both the current branch and the proposed new one at Huron Parkway and Traverwood. I was also concerned about harm to the environment. However, it turns out that many, if not most, of the trees on this site are ashes, and are dead or dying because of the emerald ash borer. They will have to be removed anyway. We will be replacing the "landmark" trees with new ones. We hope to minimize the impervious surface, and are going to try for a design that actually results in the *enhancement* of this site.”

  • Patron: “All the requests I made during the transition period were lost! I have put new requests on a few items since, but that put me very far down the wait list, so I am very disgruntled about this! Is there no longer a chance of retrieval of any of those records, or do I need to request each all over again (making me number 1,389,567th on the list!)”

    Staff response: “I will contact you via email about this; we show 9 requests on your account dating as far back as March. We'll get it worked out.”

  • Patron: “Great job. I am really happy that you've added the blog feature -- very cutting edge! It's essential to build a community around the library to insulate it from the inevitable financial ups and downs. As far as I'm concerned, the library is the crown jewel of Ann Arbor's downtown.

    What's happening with the plans to improve the drop-off situation in front of the library? I thought there was going to be a carve-out from the parking lot.”

    Staff response: “…thank you for the feedback on our use of blogs. The plans to improve the drop off situation on Fifth Avenue Downtown are still in discussion stage with the DDA and City. We are encouraged by the interest in downtown zoning and development. Please plan to attend any of the number of sessions being held July-September titled A2Downtown Development Strategy. The first interactive Public Design workshop is to be held July 28 from 6-9 PM at Courthouse Square in the ballroom on the second floor.”

  • Patron: “Wow! The website looks great! And finally, more detail about my requests and holds! Oooh, and RSS, too ... how sexy is that. Well, I see several blogs listed on the site now ... I hope everyone feels encouraged to participate.”

  • Patron: “I added the library RSS feeds to the right-hand side of my Ann Arbor portal page at http://www.wfzimmerman.com/index.php?topic=AnnArbor.”

So let’s recap - what do we see happening here? Community. Transparency. Trust. The human beings in the library (something that’s usually missing from library web sites). Voice. A much more dynamic web site. Their information is appearing on other web sites automatically via the RSS feeds.

Me? I get a new case study and a bunch of new slides for my presentations.

For AADL, “it’s all good.”  

Follow-up with even more info.

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The DRM Job

That’s the biblical Job, not job. Really long time readers will remember my digital travails from 2002, and now it seems my fate is to face a similar situation with DRM (Digital Rights Management). I’ve written about how I can’t watch MovieLink movies on my newish laptop and how Rhapsody is throwing error messages about not being able to “authorize the track to play.” As a quick update, I still can’t watch movies, and the last I heard from the Microsoft technician, my laptop has some kind of memory issue that won’t allow his diagnostic programs to run to give him the information he needs to continue troubleshooting the problem. He pointed me to a few Microsoft Knowledgebase articles that might help me solve the memory problems I’ve never experienced personally and didn’t know I had.

For the moment, the whole thing has become more work than I’m willing to devote to trying to watch a friggin’ movie. I’ll just keep renting DVDs and recording cable movies onto my ReplayTV and then downloading them to my laptop. Chalk another one up for DRM. They’ve managed the rights so well that I can’t duplicate the movie, even if that means I can’t watch it either.

Then last week, I realized it was summer. Know how I realized it was summer? The kids were home and we ended up fighting daily over Rhapsody. Typical conversation:

[Jenny, at work, gets disconnected from Rhapsody when another user logs on; Jenny calls home]
Jenny: Kailee, are you on Rhapsody?
Kailee: No, this time it’s Brent.
Jenny: Okay, please put Brent on the phone.
[Waits]
Jenny: Brent, I’m the one at work, so I get to listen to Rhapsody.
Brent: I just wanted to listen to some Green Day.
Jenny: I understand that, but I’m listening right now. You can listen when I get home.
Brent: Come on, I just want to listen for a little while.
Jenny: I paid for it, so I’m listening to it.
Brent: You’re such a meanie.
Jenny: Yes, but I’m the meanie that’s paying for the service.
Brent: You’re still a meanie.
[Curtain]

After we kept disconnecting each other over and over, I finally just changed the password, which locked them out. I feel bad for them, though, so I decided to give Yahoo Music a try, especially since I’m sure the kids will be getting real MP3 players soon and this would let them take music with them. So Friday morning, I signed up for an account, downloaded the Yahoo Music Engine, and tried to install it on their computer.

Now, I’ve installed a lot of Windows software in my day, so I feel pretty confident in my ability to double-click on an installation file. However, when I try to install YME, I get three screens into the installer (oh the joy of accepting the license agreement over and over) before I get an error message that says, “The file c:\downloads\ could not be opened.” That happens to be the folder where the file is located, so I find it odd that the installer can’t find the folder it’s located in, let alone the file. I’ve tried rebooting the computer. I’ve tried redownloading the file. I’ve tried lighting a candle and chanting. Nothing seems to get the installer to, you know, install. The computer meets all of the system requirements and then some. So either I’m just not destined to live the happy, DRMed life the entertainment industry waxes on about, or our house is built on an ancient technology burial ground. While I readily admit there is a lot of dead technology in the basement, I’m leaning towards the former.

I tried re-downloading the file for a sixth time and putting it in a different location. Now when I run the file, I get a new error message saying, “The file c:\documents and settings\HP Authorized Custom\Desktop\ could not be opened.” This sounds suspiciously like the error messages I was getting on my laptop, about how the DRM files couldn’t find themselves in order to manage the digital rights. So I did what any poor, confused soul would do in my place – I looked for tech support help on the Yahoo Music site. None to be found for my particular problem, because this is yet another one of those things that only happens to me. So I ended up sending them a message detailing my issue.

Two days later, I received a reply that explained how to log in and download the installation file. No acknowledgment what-so-ever that the installation file was the problem. So I sent a reply, asking for help with the issue I had actually asked about. It’s already been 24 hours with no reply (yes, I know I’m getting impatient) so I don’t think I’ll have another chance to ask a question and get a response before my 7–day trial expires. You know which 7–day trial that is, right? The one where I don’t get to access the content for the 7 days!

So the kids and I have gone back to our old deal that I get Rhapsody during the day, and they get it at night until I get this issue resolved or give up on it (which I expect will be sometime tonight). We’ll see how long it lasts this time. I’m not optimistic. In the meantime, I await my day in front of Congress to tell my tale of DRM woe when the entertainment industry next tries to ram through broadcast flag-like legislation.

Oh, and I checked with Rhapsody. Unfortunately (and short-sightedly), they don’t offer family plans or even a discount for a second account. For shame.

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Everybody's Getting into the MLS Home Page!

Check this out - on the MLS home page right now, items are displaying that were posted by six different authors, three of whom never added new content to the old SLS site because we used to hand-code HTML and FTP the pages. If you look at the first page of "older" posts, you pick up two more such authors. All because we've moved to a blogish content management system that anyone on staff can use to update the site. Our home page is more dynamic than ever, and we're able to toss a wider net of information across our site.

Our Executive Director, Alice Calabrese, is even getting into the swing of things and posting new items! (Go Alice!)

I heart blogging! :-)

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* Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Missing Link

Penny Sympson was kind enough to send the link to Amazon's Call Me service I noted the other day. It is still just as cool as I said it was. Thanks, Penny! :-)

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Easy Viewer

Intel Joins in Venture to Send Films Via Web

“Chip maker Intel Corp. and an entertainment firm co-founded by actor Morgan Freeman said Wednesday that they had formed a digital entertainment company aimed at delivering first-run movies to consumers via the Internet.

The partnership, called ClickStar Inc., will enable users to download films legally from the Web for a fee, before they are released on DVD and possibly while they are still in theaters. [L.A. Times]

I’m going to have to contact these folks and ask if they’re willing to work with libraries. I mean, don’t you think Easy Reader would want to work with libraries?!

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SLJ Blurb on MLS Gaming

We got a nice blurb in School Library Journal about the gaming grant we submitted last month. It's much appreciated but for the record, I'm not a board member of YALSA. I hope it's still legal for me to advocate libraries offer gaming for young adults. ;-)

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* Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Removing Yourself from the Online Conversation

Last month, I wrote about the positive shift I’ve seen at OCLC and how they’re looking outwards in order to become part of the bigger online world. I’ve been hesitant to post about an opposite case, in part out of hope the company would change its mind, but since Beatrice mentions it, here goes.

I am greatly disappointed in Library Journal. I had heard they were taking one big step forward by implementing blogs and RSS feeds in a redesigned web site, but unfortunately it turns out they’re taking two even bigger steps backwards. I can [not happily] live with the fact that you have to endure popup ads when you visit their site, but in a move so confounding my jaw is still on the floor, they’ve moved their current and archived articles behind a paywall. So a lot of the really great, progressive articles, from the last year in particular, are now gone from the web. The oh-so-timely-and-conversation-starting Meet the Gamers article? Goodbye. Michael’s and Aaron’s IM article? Sayonara. Michael’s article discussing tech planning and techno-lust? Lights out. Stephen Abram’s Born with the Chip article? Won’t see you later, alligator.

So what exactly were the folks at Reed thinking when they made this decision? Obviously they’re hoping to sell more magazine subscriptions, but at what cost? They might gain a few circulation statistics, but here’s what they’re losing in return. Of the big three “commercial,” general, library journal publishers, LJ was the only one that put its content out there for free. The overwhelming majority of Information Today’s and ALA’s magazine content is closed off, which left the entire playing field to LJ. And what a field it was! They got all the link love and blog buzz from the online world. All of it, because we could link to their articles and discuss them. Beyond that, the whole world could read their articles and point to them and discuss them. Just check out this search for proof.

And now all of that love and buzz is gone, along with any future pagerank from Google et. al. Flipped off like a light switch. Because, let’s face it – every librarian on earth either has a print subscription to LJ or access to a database that indexes it, not to mention interlibrary loan and photocopy services. Heck, Beatrice even notes the citation in her post, knowing full well that any librarian worth any salt can get a copy of it. However, at my office, I’m not even on the route list for LJ, so while we do have a subscription, the only time I read it is when someone points me to the online version. I could probably dig out the information to log in to the web site in the future, but why bother when I can’t share it with anybody else anyway? Basically, LJ keeps my organization’s subscription but loses me as a reader.

So who is this really going to affect? Not librarians overall. All they’ve succeeded in doing is putting a nuisance barrier that’s just a big enough nuisance in the way of the people who can already read it. This just means non-librarians can’t access all of this great content and us bloggers won’t be linking to them anymore. I hope that whoever made this decision starts watching their referrer logs to see just how much traffic drops off as a result.

Even worse, they recently implemented the Tech Blog with some great contributors. It’s out there for everyone to read, not just subscribers, but when I first heard about the project, I had assumed that the bloggers would be able to point to and discuss new articles from the magazine. I thought LJ was also going to try to corner the “conversation” market of online libraryland with comments, trackbacks, and lively discussion. Now, what would be the point? There’s no circle of discussion to start.

I think it’s unfortunate that at a time when our profession is striving to make headway with the open access movement (and when some of us are pushing libraries to join the larger online conversation), one of our most forward-looking professional journals chooses to close the door on content. I’m sure they’ll continue to publish interesting and valuable content - I just won’t know about it, which in turn means I won’t be able to blog about it. To some degree, it’s my loss. To a larger degree, LJ just lost everything it had built up over the past several years, making their’s the bigger loss. I really hope they reconsider this decision, for both our sakes.

Disclaimer: I’ve written several “Product Pipeline” columns for Library Journal, and I was named a 2003 Mover & Shaker (luckily, that link still works). I really like LJ and I think they do great work; I’m just sorely disappointed in this decision, which I think is short-sighted.


I wrote this post over the weekend, and I am most happy to report that LJ is indeed changing this horrible situation. I decided to still go ahead and publish the full post for those companies/organizations that might be contemplating such a move, because I think it would be a bad one. You want to participate in the online conversation, not remove yourself from it. (That goes for libraries, too, but that’s a separate post for another day….)

Word has it that the paywall will be coming down in the next two or three weeks, so now I can also publicly applaud LJ for recognizing the problem so quickly and taking steps to resolve it. Like ALA’s decision to redo their site after the last disastrous fiasco, this says good things about the willingness of those involved to admit a mistake and rectify it. Maybe LJ is going to corner that market after all…. 

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News from the "It's about Damn Time Department"

The hills are alive with the posts of Stephen Abram!

"Welcome to Stephen's Lighthouse where I'll muse about things library and librarianesque.

The lighthouse theme is based on what lighthouses do - shine a light on the waters and/or sound a horn to help ships navigate the course. They don't always stop the ships from crashing onto the rocks but they help most of the time."

Highly recommended reading (RSS feed here). Why? Because Stephen will be using his blog to explore "the really big picture" in that [excellent] way that only Stephen can.

"I like to consider the big picture - the really big picture. These technolgies are not just about serving up our reference services virtually. They're about putting the librarian back into the virtual space! Think about it. We are rapidly moving to the time (if some libraries are not already there) where the vast majority of our interactions with our users will be virtual - website hits, patron driven ILL, remote database searching and on and on. Loads of this happens with very little (or no) interaction with the humans in the library - librarians, information professionals and library workers - that improve the service. While our virtual services deliver information quickly, they don't improve the quality of the question which has been reference librarians' stock in trade for more than a century. If we want to improve, remain and stay relevant, we have to discover the virtual reference modalities that work. That requires a lot of experiemnentation, sharing and cooperation. It's an exciting field right now as technology moves into the user space more and more."
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* Monday, July 11, 2005

The Big Day

In anticipation of "The Big Day" (or "The Big Night" for some folks), you can watch Flickr to see how folks are getting ready. This weekend's photos should be especially fun.

Of course, some libraries already have it. :-)

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Get a Free Second Life while Supplies Last!

Actually, you can get a free basic membership in the online game Second Life if you sign up through July 13, because the game is celebrating its second anniversary. It does require a download and a broadband connection, but it runs on Windows or Mac machines. Also, you have to be age 18 or older to join.

"...you will need to enter a credit card to register, but it won't be billed during the free trial unless you select a membership option OTHER than 'Basic.' " [Game On: Games in Libraries]

I wrote about this game in my notes from the Games, Learning, and Society Conference when I heard developer Cory Ondrejka talk about Second Life and User Creation. Fascinating stuff, and you can view it first-hand with the free account.

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* Sunday, July 10, 2005

Call Me

Last month, my brother gave me the heads up on the new Danger Mouse DVD, which I, of course, had to then have. So I ordered it from Amazon and waited for it to arrive. And waited. And waited. And waited. After a couple of weeks, I decided to contact Amazon about it, so I started digging through the “where’s my stuff” screens to find a phone number to call. Eventually, I got to a screen that had a button on the right-hand side that said “telephone help” or something like that. I clicked on that button and a small window popped up. It asked for my phone number and for when I wanted them to call me. I gave them my number and chose the “right now” option.

Sure enough, my phone immediately started ringing! I was put into their automated voice tree and was able to get to a human being to resolve the problem. It was very slick, and I’m curious how they run this. Of course, now I can’t find that screen to take a screenshot or point you to it, but it was very easy and efficient. It’s just the kind of thing I’d love to see from a library, both on its on web site and embedded in others’ sites (local government pages, school pages, etc.).

So I guess next time you order from Amazon, look for that button somewhere in the “where’s my account” or “contact us” pages before your order arrives. It’s pretty damn cool.

Oh, and Amazon did eventually send out a replacement package for the lost one, so I can indeed confirm that Danger Mouse is the greatest, he’s fantastic, and wherever there is danger he’ll be there. 

Update

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ELF Gets All the Good Press

Brian sent me a link to a Eric Zorn’s blog on the Chicago Tribune site for a link roundup. The very first item mentioned is Library ELF.

The Library Elf is a free service that allows you to ‘manage your library loans and holds (and) avoid overdues with email alerts.’ Participating local public libraries include those in Arlington Heights, Aurora, Chicago, Homer Township, Mount Prospect, Riverside, Roselle,Waukegan and Wheaton.”

I’ll reiterate that I love the ELF and use it myself, but how pathetic do our catalogs/services have to be that a company in Canada is continuing to get press for a service we should be providing? I know a lot of libraries are already doing this, but look at that list in Zorn’s post. One of those listed is the Riverside Public Library, a member of my System’s consortial catalog (SWAN), which is also listed on the ELF site because I added it myself as a patron last year. It is sad beyond belief that Riverside and other SWAN libraries have to resort to promoting the ELF for email alerts because there are some SWAN members that don’t want to deal with email bounces. And it’s just plain sad that they have to resort to promoting the ELF for RSS feeds because it has taken Innovative so long to add them (still waiting for the release….).

This is basic customer service 101 that we’re failing, so I’ll once again beg SWAN libraries to add this functionality, and I’ll keep waiting for RSS feeds, and ELF will keep getting good press.

On a completely off-topic tangent, I also followed Zorn’s link for the Nickel-and-Dime Scandal in Ohio. I really loved the use of Google for sarcasm:

“The BWC also lost $215 million (!) in a high-risk hedge fund and recently the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the BWC continued to allow another fund manager, Alan Brian Bond, to manage $50 million for eighteen months after the New York money manager had been indicted in a high-publicity kickback scheme. This prompted Democratic State Senator Marc Dann to craft a bill requiring BWC administrators to Google the investment managers once a month to make sure they haven't been indicted.” [The Nation]

Which just goes to show that it’s not true that everybody uses Google….

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* Friday, July 8, 2005

Cool Flickr Drawings

John Goes to the Library

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* Thursday, July 7, 2005

Miscellaneous Roundup

  • I’ve started a GamingInLibraries Flickr group. It’s totally public so anyone, say someone like you, can join. I’ve gotten a couple of calls from various press outlets over the last couple of months regarding the gaming summit, one of which wanted a picture for the article. I referred them to my pictures on Flickr, but it would be cool to have all kinds of different pictures of gaming in libraries not just for this purpose, but also to show the energy you see at these events. You can also include pictures of librarians gaming, as I did by starting the pool with pictures from our summit.
  • Today Beth Gallaway started a new blog called Game On: Games in Libraries. I’m sure this will be a great resource, so the Atom feed is here. Beth can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the intent is for this to be a collaborative site so give her a ping if you want to contribute.
  • On the LibGaming list, Beth asked what subscribers are playing right now. I listed a few games but mostly noted ones I’m not playing due to the fear that I’ll lose whole months of my life in the blink of an eye. Christopher, The Curmudgeony Librarian, schooled me that there is a formal term for this – catassing. A new term to add for buzzword bingo, and a great new addition to my vocabulary.
  • Will Cox pointed me to LuLu, the CafePress of physical media. And you thought it was easy to self-publish before….
  • Greene County Public Library highlights a couple of pretty cool things on their home page. First, they’re running a monthly trivia contest that encourages patrons to use the library’s subscription databases to answer the question, and second, they are partnering with community groups to sponsor the first annual “Greene County S-P-E-L-L-S” spelling bee for adults, with all proceeds to go to their Library Foundation. It’s a great idea, and just think what kind of documentary could come out of this! 
  • If I wasn’t already going to the ImprovOlympics 25th Anniversary Reunion Show scheduled for the same night, I’d definitely go to Video Games Live on August 27. If anyone in the Chicago area goes, please let us know if it’s as cool as it sounds!
  • Both The Boston Globe and The Chicago Sun-Times recently hyped RSS. That’s not really a trumpet to herald anymore, as 2005 has already become “the year of RSS,” but it’s only slightly ironic that the link to the Globe’s feed is in the smallest type possible at the very bottom of the page (they don’t even bother to capitalize “RSS”), while The Sun-Times doesn’t offer a single feed. The Sun-Times writer even says, “Thank God for RSS” in his article. Just don’t ask God for a Sun-Times RSS feed, I guess. (And yes I know there is a NewsIsFree feed for the CST, but I doubt the CST knows this.)
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Best Library Practices Wiki

Michael points to Meredith's latest valuable addition to online libraryland, Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. Back in May, Michael and I talked with someone from ALA about the need for something like this, so it's great to see Meredith forging ahead with this. I think the potential for this resource is huge, so I'm going to try to add some content over the next couple of weeks, including (of course) a section on audio ebooks. ;)

I'm also going to highlight this site to the MLS management team, because we've been discussing the need for technology education for trustees. We hold quarterly "tech summits" (that anyone can come to) in order to highlight new trends and technologies, but trustees rarely attend (although, I'm happy to say we had a very enthusiastic one at the gaming summit!). So we're percolating the idea of doing something similar specifically for trustees but holding them regionally at member libraries. The topics would be very basic themes (what is IM, what is MP3, etc.), but it would give them a foundation for discussing the topics with their directors and staffs.

It would be great if we could pool some knowledge, tips, and even materials via this wiki. As I said in a previous post, wikis are what you make them, so I hope we make this one valuable. Oh, and don't forget to check out Meredith's own best practices for wikis, which I've added to the best practices wiki, because you can just do that with wikis. ;)

Thanks for "just doing it," Meredith!

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* Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Introducing the Spoken Alexandria Project + Podcast

“The Spoken Alexandria Project launches today at http://www.spokenalex.org/ with free MP3, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis audiobooks, all without DRM constraints and all licensed with Creative Commons Licenses, so users, libraries, and projects may share them without permission. For interested parties, uncompressed audio files and an MP3 podcast are also available….

From the beginning, Telltale Weekly was designed to be the fundraising wing of a larger audiobook project: an online library of spoken word recordings which anyone else--including parallel (‘competing?’) libraries and projects--could share freely, just as sites like Project Gutenberg distributes its texts. The majority of Telltale Weekly recordings sold (all the ‘Funding a Free Audiobook Library’ pieces) would, after five years, be made available for free at this library, thus continuously stocking (and, more importantly) funding its growth.

Today, sixteen months and 100 spoken word releases after Telltale Weekly first hit the internet, The Spoken Alexandria Project launches. Perhaps a
suitable tagline would be ‘The Free Audiobook Library which Telltale Weekly is funding,’ but we'll go with ‘Creative Commons Audiobooks’ for now.

Read more at: http://www.awstudios.net/board/viewtopic.php?t=48

Emphasis above is mine in order to point out that even if your library can’t afford the subscription fees for the big, commercial audio ebook vendors, you can still circulate audio ebooks….

And how easy is it now to just subscribe to the podcast to get new releases?!  

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Wiki-ing on the Backs of Others

John Hubbard appears to have started LISWiki as a gathering spot for the library community. I experimented with a wiki on TSL last year, but it ended up being spammed to death (literally). I’ve been meaning to try again in order to start tracking some of the “shifted” things libraries are doing, in particular audio ebooks. I know there are libraries that think they can’t do this-techie-thing or that-techie-thing because of their size and/or budget, when the truth is that there are other libraries of their size and/or with their budget that are doing these things. So I’ve wanted to try the wiki thing again in order to help libraries find others like themselves to help each other or share ideas, best practices, etc.

Rather than try to manage something like this on my own again, I’ve added an Audio ebooks section to the LISWiki and quickly threw up a couple of examples. If your library is circulating Audible, OverDrive, or netLibrary/Recorded Books titles, please add your information on that page. My hope is that small public libraries or medium-sized academic libraries will be able to find each other this way to pool information to enhance or even start new services. Wikis are what you make them, so let’s make this one valuable.

Thanks for setting this up, John!

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Video Games Roundup

  • Some folks figured out the ideal mmorpg (massive multiplayer online role playing game) for girls; see them listed at Youth Horse Sim Games. Yeah, it’s a stereotype, but Kailee sure loves them, and I love the disclaimer that “All Sim Games on this page must be designed and maintained by YOUTH.” There’s some content generation, rather than just one-way consumption, for you.

  • Multiple readers sent me the link to The Video Game Librarian article on Gaming Target and its subsequent follow-up, Six Months Later. Circulating titles is only one small slice of my gaming for libraries pie, but they’re good reads, and I agree that circulating one of the main formats for YA content is a valid library service.

  • Letting kids (and adults!) play games in the library is also a slice of the gaming pie, so naturally I think public, academic, and in certain contexts even school libraries, should follow the lead of the Neosho/Newton County Library in Missouri!

    Library Filling a ‘Niche’

    “Murphy practices his bargaining power on the computers at the Neosho/Newton County Library. The library staff has opened the computer lab to teens to play the game three times a week because of increased interest in games and the influx of young adults using the computers.

    Jerry Parker, systems administrator, said the library has made many changes over the years to fit the growing needs of its patrons. Additionally, since library patrons are allowed only two, one-hour sessions each day, the increased demand was tying up terminal space during peak periods.

    Parker said that when he learned that the games, such as RuneScape, that the teens played involved going on adventures rather than violence, it made him see things differently. And as they wait for a free computer, they might pick up a book too, Parker said.

    He said he also learned that other libraries were offering similar opportunities for youths.

    ‘We're filling a niche, especially with school out,’ Parker said. ‘A library is about access to knowledge. It used to be a book is a book is a book, but today we have computers and DVDs.’

    For Murphy, playing the games may be his motivation for walking the 30 minutes each way to the library - he has three brothers at home fighting for use of the computer - but it's not his only purpose in making the trek. He said he also checks out about 10 items each visit, from books and audiotapes to digital video discs….

    ‘I like to read, but I don't like it enough to walk to the library for no other reason than to get a book,’ he said. ‘Sometimes you forget you're at a library.’ ” [The Joplin Globe, via All About Runescape]

  • The Bloomington Public Library is continuing to lead the way in Illinois by hosting a program about gaming and libraries!

    Thinking Inside the Box: Games, Teens and Libraries - Bloomington Public Library
    “Are video games and their related programs the next hot trend? Bloomington Public Library has a good track record in this area and is keen to share their experience. Join Matt Gullett, Lori Bell and Diane Colletti as they explore the issue and potential partnerships.”
    Date: 7/15/2005
    Time: 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM

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* Friday, July 1, 2005

ALA2005 Was Hot!

Yay – the ALA2005 tag on Flickr was hot last week! I knew we could do it…!

Screenshot of ALA2005 tag on the hot tags page

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GLS Webcasts

The webcasts from the Games, Learning, and Society Conference are up, with the slides shown alongside the video of the presenters speaking. Nicely done (I want this set up at MLS!). Now you can watch my notes come alive and see why I was so excited about the content. 

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Finding Stephen: He's at MLS!

Oops - didn't realize I hadn't posted my notes from Stephen Abrams' presentation at MLS last month. Unfortunately, they really don't reflect the full range of what he discussed because I got caught up listening to him. I've just uploaded his presentation as a PDF over on the MLS web site, too.

Addendum: I also forgot to mention that the podcast didn't work. We ran out of time to try and set up something more professional, but in the end Stephen wore a microphone attached to my Archos MP3 player and unfortunately it experienced a hard drive error at some point, so we lost the audio. I do believe it was a full moon that night....

Finding OZ: Discovering a Bright Future for Libraries!

This is the first year book circulation has gone down since we first started collecting data in 1919
— could this be that we’ve finally cut book budgets too much?

Light is a good metaphor for what we’re trying to do
Kids we’re getting ready for will have grown up with a beam of light on a chip with unlimited storage

Showed the Googlezon EPIC video; then showed how parts of it are already happening

Highlighted Sharon Terry’s story: http://arl.cni.org/sparc/meetings/ala05mw

Talked about search engine optimization and getting libraries to the top using code and technology (blogs, etc.)

Google now has a vice president of library markets – they’re targeting us!

will use Google Wallet to do micropayments for articles in Google Scholar; at $.50 an article, users won’t go to the library for the free version

need to position ourselves correctly if we’re going to compete with Google Scholar

aimed at 15–19–year olds because they haven’t decided yet
— have more money to spend, haven’t decided their buying patterns yet, have a higher chance of being richer when they grow up

Google Print already has 250,000 books with an imprint date of ten years or less – how does that compare to your library?

public libraries don’t show up in Google Local because we don’t buy ads; you can manually add yourself, though, so do it!

“Is Google that 5 inch wave?…” (that became a tsunami) – we can see this and we need to change our services and adapt in order to stay relevant

“librarians love to study things to death, but we forget that our objective is not death”

if you count up all of the budgets of public libraries in the U.S., we’re bigger than Google – we’re just using it poorly
— need more collaboration, sharing, consortia

people learn by reading AND discussing
— one book, one city; learning

need to engage our communities with information

we’re not in the information delivery business – think of bank tellers who were in the business of delivering dollars
— if we view ourselves this way, all we do is delivery articles, books, etc.; same thing will happen to us

losing “viewing their eyes” in the virtual world (can't see facial expressions)
— have to figure out how to deliver experience/interaction online
— where community is the goal

libraries can be “bricks, clicks, and tricks”
— where you are, where you’re going, and where you want to go

talks about “circles of trust!” (yay!)

only 20% of users are text-based learners, which is what librarians are

if you know libraries are social institutions, these social networking sites (especially the ones that use folksonomies) become very important to us and the way we build our web sites
— the digital divide is not about hardware; it’s about software and building things

(note: several people said “wow” out loud during the session)

“intuitive is something you learn” – have to excise “intuitive” from our language

have to think about the density of information and how we present it

Google answers as many questions in one day as every library everywhere answers in four years
— lesson: we don’t scale well
— but we have communities and we can push out good information to them

we’re good at the “how” and “why” questions

so what do we do? we reinvent the librarian

says 1/3–1/2 of all reference questions coming into TFML are via IM — Aaron, is that right?!

“it’s almost unethical now to not have an IM service” because of the people it serves (physically handicapped, learners, etc.)

have to push librarians back into the virtual space

we have wonderful people to help people inside the building, but we don’t on the web site where 90% of our use is happening

know your market; Normative Data Project — http://www.librarynormativedata.info/

the market has moved on us, so data from 3 years ago or longer is useless; the NDP is constantly gathering data
— can track what’s going on in our communities the way Wal-Mart tracks what’s going on its stores
— will start doing this for the college and academic level next year

highlighted the University of Toronto’s “smart card” with a chip and how it helps with ADA issues
— if you’re blind, it sets the reader to the speed and voice you prefer
— if you’re deaf, it adds closed-captioning to the videos you watch

idea: if you have a library card, you’re allowed to come in and podcast whatever you want
— kids don’t want to write their report; they want to read it to you

mentioned portable storage and carrying around apps and data with you
http://www.tinyapps.org/

Five user spaces: learning, research, entertainment, workplace, and NEIGHBORHOOD

“libraries are the light at the beginning of the tunnel” (because that’s where you want the light to be)

it’s an exploration space, not a collection space

Stephen has collected thousands of stories about what people really want to feel in the library; he’s putting them in a database using the software that predicted 9/11 in order to find out what people want us to give them
— personas

interesting idea to have patrons purchase their books through the library; we catalog it and pay the OCLC fee, etc. when the patron is done with it, they bring the book to the library and we add it to the collection => a user-driven collection

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