The Shifted Librarian -

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* Thursday, September 28, 2006

20060928 01 MLA2006 - Blogs and Feeds and the Government, Oh My!

Effective Use of Social Software to Promote, Describe, Discover, and Organize Government Information - Jodi Carlson, University of Minnesota, Duluth - Heather Tompkins, Carleton College - Amy West, University of Minnesota

Amy West:

social software: email, internet, IM, blogs, photo-sharing sites, RSS feeds/readers, social bookmarking, wikis, browser extensions, online software, podcasting

showed Flickr tag besttitleever of great government documents publications - Who Are the Zombie Masters and What Do They Want?

was skeptical about who would want to hear her talk about govdocs but is coming around to podcasting being a great idea for a target audience

professional development: keeping current Bloglines and Google Reader

sample of feeds she reads: lists from the government printing office
blog about free government information what people are asking FirstGov UN blog

figure out what you want to do and how and then find the tool that will do it

professional development: sharing expertise

put together links to publication catalogs for international organizations in

next speaker, Jodi Carlson – collaboration

using Yahoo Messenger because it’s free and it’s the only one that does conferencing (JL: I’m not sure this is right, but I have to find out what they mean by "conferencing") went to IM because VR software was too difficult and kept crashing use Trillian now because does gtalk and jabber (if you buy the pro version) highlighted Meebo

also mentioned Bloglines

next speaker: Heather Tompkins

believes blogs are most widespread form of social software

notes you can subscribe to colleagues’ bookmarks; she subscribes to some Furl accounts

showed Feed Reader

for upper-level students, interested in teaching them to use this for their research
helping them to subscribe to sites has found that many students use social software, but haven’t connected the dots to academic/research uses yet so can help them do this highlighting political blogs as a primary resource for political science blogs

two examples from Furl for course prep while she would prefer for classes, she would bookmark everything but it got out of control was constantly trying to reorganize them then she found Furl, where she can bookmark, categorize according to her own headings, clip excerpts, add comments, and more

highlighted Writely for group projects (talked about a group in a history class on campus using it)

is different from a wiki:
– wikis require an installation of software (JL: not technically true, but they corrected this later in the session)
– wikis require specialized markup

taking notes online and annotating sites:
Google Notebook and Scrapbook Firefox extension (unfortunately can’t share annotations with others yet)

showed one of her subject headings: “just because”

tips for finding and evaluating:
– monitor sites and blogs that frequently post information aobut new applications and tools
 –– ResearchBuzz, ResourceShelf, Search Engine Watch, Slashdot, lots of others
– ask other people what they are using
– work preferences
– computer use
– privacy
– physical environment
– preferences

recommend you ask patrons what they are using, just so you know, not necessarily so that you use everything
talk to your colleagues and find out what they are using

also mentions Google Page Creator and Google Spreadsheets
Gliffy (flowcharts)
Firefox/Thunderbird extensions (ColorZilla, feed readers, Thunderbird)

they tend to read their feeds at the desk – good time to do that

things that have come up in the last few days:
– had a student request statistics for U.S. aid to foreign nations for several years; used to get this from a publication they no longer carry, but there is a database of it on the web now from GPO. there is no acknowledgment of the db from GPO, though, so she needed a way to keep this link. put it into and then hopes to put these links on the departmental home page in the future
– department thought about moving from a paper calendar to online; looked at various online and software options, but went with Google Calendar because they could set up multiple ones at once and that they could customize it for each person but share links on each others’ calendars; have a link to the calendar on their home page so that students can see when they are available for help (made sure there are no details available publicly); another speaker mentioned PBwiki – that’s what they use for their calendar

don’t use something just to use it, don’t spend time on it if you don’t need it
that doesn’t mean don’t know what’s out there and don’t test things that might work for you
if something isn’t working for you, find something else

presentation is available at

JL: I liked how they used real-life examples. I'll have to steal some of them for my presentations :-p

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Article Bricks

I love Library Journal, and I have praised them in the past for opening up their articles for free on the web. If I was blogging more, I'd be linking to them more because they have some great content. You can tell they like publishing controversial editorials, too, with the current issue being an especially good example. Take a look at the following columns:

These days, I feel like a laptop without an internet connection (especially a high-speed one) is just a brick. An article without a way to engage in conversation about it is a similar brick.

It's too bad I couldn't share my thoughts about these articles on the pages themselves. Unfortunately, you have to know that if you want to comment on Sophie Brookover's thoughts, you need to go to her blog post about it at I guess there's just no way to share thoughts on John Berry's or Thomas Washington's columns unless you send a letter to the editor (print or electronic).

The problem is that this just doesn't work for me anymore. I actually had time this morning to write a quick comment of my initial response to each article. Instead of just typing in boxes on the LJ site, though, I've spent time writing this blog post, and LJ has lost my contribution to the discussions they were trying to promote by publishing these columns. I don't want to send a letter to one person so that it can be published later. I want to engage in a conversation with others right now who have strong reactions to these articles. I have no reason to come back to these pages to check on the discussions, because there aren't any. I wish there were.

This is one reason I encourage libraries to offer at least one blog (start with "what's new" at your library) and turn on the comments. You have patrons that feel this way about your website. Luckily, you can fix this pretty easily and for free.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment!

Update: LJ had this functionality in the works, and they've already added it to the three articles listed above. Thanks, Francine!

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* Wednesday, September 27, 2006

20060927 02 MLA2006 - Getting Clued in to Experience Management

- Lou Carbone

Disney was incredibly clued in in 1979 (as opposed to Howard Johnson's)

one organization comes to mind when we think of organizations so big that people will participate in the planning of an event and go there - Harley Davidson!
have Harley tattoos they love HD so much - that's when you know you are creating extraordinary value

would I go to your library as a resource for how I'm going to feel after the experience?

what pushes us into these experiences where we have a preference to go somewhere and we don't even know why we go there?

you might pass other grocery stores on the way to your favorite one - why? because of the experience

recent poster child for experience is Starbucks

attitudes are important and drive behaviors, but what drives attitudes are emotions
how does this organization make me feel?
embedded clues drive the emotions
being in tune with that is important
it's how we make people feel
the different between make and sell

what becomes fascinating is knowing how customers/people think
there's a book called "What Customers Think" that is a great book - a deeper dive into Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" topic

95% of what we process is in our unconscious
we might feel something when we walk into an environment, but 95% of what we are taking in get embedded into our unconscious mind

stimulii based on functional clues but also have humanic clues
clue-scanning - let's go on a clue hunt
used Fedex logo as an example (embedded arrow)
gets into the difference in signage (yay!)
"exit only please" versus "do not enter"
roles, not jobs - barista, not cashier
the toilet paper triangle - showed lots of fancy toilet paper triangles

sees libraries building experiential buildings and doesn't think we need to do that

physical aspects of the experience can come together if you know the roles
showed a profile of Roto Rooter guy

the important factor is that you cannot not have an experience - it's impossible to not have an experience
the question is how haphazard is that experience
how do the clues come together - how do they make your customers feel?
are they random and all over the place or do they come together to make them feel a certain way?
that is the huge challenge libraries face, but we can systematically design clues that can connect and engage people - employee experience, customer experience
all of them can be engineered if we can understand what emotion the customer desires having
then align the clues to create that

5 Disciplines that Choreograph that Experience:
1. how do I create the experience
2. audit to scan for those clues
3. how do I design the experience with specific clues
4. how do I implement them
5. how do I measure the success of what I'm accomplishing

learning - creating - doing
learning what our customers desire - unconscious thoughts and feelings
how do I understand the gap between what I'm creating and what they are getting

experience motif
as our industry changes daily, think about this motif of what customers will feel about themselves** in this experience
don't fall into the trap of thinking it's about how they feel about you
if you do, you'll never get to the nugget that unlocks how they will feel about themselves and in turn you
what are the three words you want them to use when describing you
how do you focus on building those three words

the opportunity is huge and we can transform libraries
it's not about the showpiece as much as what happens inside each individual as they leave and how they feel
because it's a world about sensing and feeling, not making and selling

his thoughts based on audience questions:
navigation is still a huge issue - feels disoriented in a library
had trouble figuring out just where to go
orientation is a big piece, especially in the context of the transformation of libraries from what people like him think they are to what the reality today
Starbucks has taken over our purview of being a place to just "go"
libraries transform peoples' lives with information - we fill people's information holes, which makes them feel good
doesn't think libraries should be about entertainment - it's a deep, psychological experience
Krispy Kreme didn't understand the principle of scarcity

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RSS Is for All Types of Libraries

I get questions about how special libraries could use RSS. Steve Matthews helps answer this by listing Top Ten Uses for RSS in Law Firms. Everyone should read this, though, as they're applicable beyond just law firms.

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2006092701 - Millennials, Gen Y, Echo Boomers, Net Gen...

Who are they? How do they learn best?
A Beginning Conversation
- Carole Cragg, Bethel University
- Lyndi Finifrock, Bethel University

did an interactive Powerpoint demo with response remotes in the audience (I love this)
my team won the quiz :-)

had three students on a student panel to talk about their experiences and information needs
showed a "60 Minutes" video on Echo Boomers
students agreed with the characteristics noted in the video overall, although they noted there are exceptions

first panelist - thinks it was right that they are about the "now"
second panelist - agreed internet buzz is big, can't really market to them, it's more trendsetters
third panelist - agreed they are impatient

first panelist - always has her cell phone and her iPod
checks email then Facebook, MySpace, then eBay or whatever
second panelist - likes waking up on her own timing
spends a lot of time on the internet throughout the day checking email or Facebook
third panelist (a guy) - is a techie and has lots of gadgets
checks email during class
we value relationships a lot more, so would answer the phone in class
called his PDA a "palm pilot" :-p
always on the internet at any given time in the day

had to explain what Facebook is at this point
third panelist used the terms "social networking" and "online community" to describe it :-)

first panelist hates working in groups because it allows more room for human error
second panelist thinks they work in groups because the previous generation thinks individualism didn't work and forces them to collaborate as a result

what is great about libraries? (disclaimer - all three panelists work in the library)
third panelist - quiet, but would like some background music because it's difficult for him to focus on it without some music - "it's just awkward"
best part, though, is how helpful they are
second panelist likes how much technology has advanced - the catalog, journal articles online; would like more comfortable chairs

do you use net resources more than library databases for research?
first panelist starts with wikipedia to get a handle on subject or find terms to use; professors don't accept it, though - they prefer book sources
second panelist agreed
third panelist cited google and google book - called google book a lifesaver for its search capabilities
- noted cited sources in wikipedia, uses though

audience questions:

do you use a public library? do you read for leisure?
first panelist is a journalism major, so loves reading; prefers school libraries because closer
other two didn't answer

what's up with Paris Hilton? the Lindsey Lohans, etc.
second panelist - a lot of us really hate her, thinks it's the younger kids; most of her peers think hilton just inherited fame; funny in a ridiculous way

would you come if we offer library workshops? what kind would attract you?
second panelist - we find out information on the internet, so we wouldn't come; for example, she learned how to knit on the internet; most wouldn't come to the library and sit through a 60 minute session
third panelist - there are Flash programs and movies that you can download to your laptop to learn; much more about convenience; I don't have to go the library to learn something, although if you give us candy, we will come

so you would use Flash tutorials online to learn how to use the library?
third panelist - oh, yeah; I would much rather do that; it's easier for me; I could do that from my dorm room

do you think you need to learn more about the library or do you think you can get by?
third panelist - we're very trial-and-error based; "I can guarantee you that if I don't figure something out the first time, I guarantee you I'll get it the third or fourth time"
second panelist -

would you be willing to ask those questions more over IM?
first panelist - don't like face-to-face interactions; might use IM; many use phone; easier to get your thoughts together in email, too
second panelist - they did a survey at her library and most said email over IM; email, chat, phone, person as preferred methods
third panelist - email is more on your time; on chat I'm wasting your time; I would use chat for that but I would prefer email; I might use IM

in email, do you want answer or to teach you how to do it?
all - we just want the answer


how civic and political-minded do you think you are? do you plan to vote in the upcoming election?
third panelist - we are very in tune with political aspects; doesn't have time or cable to watch "The Daily Show" or "Colbert Nation"
second panelist - senses despair in voting because nothing she votes for ever comes to fruition; this country is an oligarchy, so what good is it at this point
first panelist - finds that people older than her are a lot more liberal than she is; friends seem to be moderate; Facebook has political affiliations and there seem to be a lot of moderates

Defining Services for Undergraduates
- Jerilyn Veldof, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
- Melissa Prescott, St. Cloud State University

themes for redesign of services
- independent access
- awareness
- community/space
- curriculum connection

defined problem statements for each theme using:
1. Who, what, why questions
2. IWWMW technique ("In What Ways Might We" process)

top three votes from students were space, a single search engine for all library resources, and an information commons for one place to get all of your information, help, and services
80-99% votes for those three, so clear they needed to do these things

decided to implement:
1. student-centered space
2. information commons
3. marketing/advertising campaign

important to do:
4 - coffee shops
5 - information literacy help

(unfortunately I couldn't type fast enough to capture the other things)

came up with 3 levels of investment: gold (perfect world with necessary resources), maroon (a little watered down), and gray (more watered down)
used the "undergraduate virtual library" as an example
did this for all of the initiatives they had on the student survey

showed new home page and dissected what is on it, includes some social pieces
investing in cafes - hits the awareness and community themes

rethought their whole branding process; launching into a more specific survey now
on survey, email is by far the biggest way they find out what is going on on campus
campus posters/flyers

what messages would resonate with them?
- information is of high quality resonates with them
- librarians are helpful
- libraries are intellectually stimulating
- libraries are easy to use
- libraries are inviting

will start branding with these themes

showed Uthink as being part of community theme
showed university portal page for students, getting library into it

moderator closed by noting that one day he found his son handling 35 different IM conversations
165 text messages were waiting for him the next morning!

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Libraries Using MeeboMe

For a presentation I'm doing later today, I started a list of Libraries Using MeeboMe for Embedded Chat on their websites. It's over on the LibSuccess wiki in the Online Reference section. I only knew of four, so please add a link if you know of others.

I didn't start a similar list for libraries using Chatango for this purpose, because I don't know of any. Again, if you do, please add. Thanks!

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* Monday, September 25, 2006

Meredith Farkas' Wiki Presentation at ALA

Meredith is at ALA today!

wikis are not a one-size fits all solution
wikis are a lot like a content management system - lets lots of people collaborate on a website
no reason you have to know HTML to edit a wiki, although you can use HTML

easier to update subject guides because you can immediately modify them

started the ALA Annual wiki for the Chicago 2005 conference because she didn't know much about the conference or about Chicago
hundreds of people contributed

Intuit, IBM, car companies are all creating internal wikis but also to communicate with their customers
can build great, collaborative resources

all wikis start out as a single page
the way you add a new page is to create a hyperlink on the home page
can then start adding content

discussion pages for talking about issues related to the wiki
good place to note if you are going to delete something
some wiki software offers threaded comments - coming to mediawiki
history pages show every single version of each page

recent changes page is the one that shows all of the changes - watch this for spam

differences between wikis and blogs:
- when someone writes a blog post, they own that post; on a wiki, anyone can edit what you wrote
- in a blog, all posts are organized by reverse-chronological order; in a wiki can use any organizational scheme
- blog posts are permanent, even though they can be edited, don't normally edit them, though; wikis are constantly a work in progress
- blog posts are great for having a dialogue in the comments, but wikis really level the playing field

why wiki:
- easy to use
- web-based
- anyone can make changes
- findability
- many free and open-source wikis
- flexible and extensible

question about how to track changes like you can in Word
Meredith: can use the "recent changes" page to see exactly what was changed

why not wiki:
- too open (trust issues); if you absolutely don't want others to edit what you write; if you don't trust the people who will be editing it, then you don't want a wiki
- concerns about ownership of content
- disorganized; need to create a navigation structure before you take your wiki live; gives people structure for adding and finding content
- vandalism and spam; big problem, but manageable; uses the "Bad Behavior" plugin to control this (also works with some blog software); looks at the entity of the poster to block them

Examples of wikis:

Knowledge Management
- SUNY Stonybrook Health Science Library wiki
- University of Connecticut Library
- showed her staff "Public Services Wiki" at Norwich University

Professional knowledgebase
- Lib Success wiki
- Library Instruction wiki
- Qwiki: Quantum Physics wiki

Wikis for planning conferences
- HigherEd BlogCon
- Five Weeks to a Social Library
- BarCamp
- PodCon

Wikis as websites
- Antioch University Library
- USC Aiken Library
- Bull Run Library
- SJCPL's Subject Guides

wikis are good for pages that are updated frequently
PLA TechNotes?
- showed Matt Gullett's test on the LibSuccess wiki for anyone to edit

great for when you want to hear from users
- resource guides
- feedback spaces
- book reviews
- area guides

- ProductWiki
- Princeton PL's Book Lover's wiki
- Ohio University Libraries wiki
- wikiXbox360
- Wyoming Authors wiki

area guides becoming popular:
- DavisWiki

question about setting up navigation
Meredith showed Ohio U's BizWiki to show how you can create categories
can assign multiple categories to things

question: should wikis stay focused on a topic, as opposed to blogs?
Meredith: yes, a wiki has to be about "something" - need to have a specific focus

people can add topics as well as content

question about culture of wikis - letting users interact with specific articles but not change the article itself
Meredith: blog might be better for that, although you could use a wiki by protecting article but letting users talk about article on the "discussion" page

wikis that build community:
- Tax Almanac wiki (created by Intuit); has forums (giving away the code to add forums to mediawiki)
- Mandriva Club (integrated free forum software into the wiki)

lots of conference wikis, especially in the library world

- grassroots feel makes for a better-used wiki
- need dedicated wiki managers, but also need dedicated wiki contributors

can use Wikipedia's guidelines as a model
ALA could ask library students to monitor/police the wikis
better if non-ALA staff are the ones to remove inappropriate content

conference wiki elements
- listing of all programs
- tips
- calendar of events
- information about local area
- social elements
- attendee blogs (new extension for mediawiki that lets any registered user have a blog)
- conference tag
- forms
- chat (can embed in wiki pages)

could involve the presenters; could ask speakers questions
can also be used to list unconference-like events

attendee schedules and profiles in Internet Librarian 2006 wiki

during the conference
- announcements
- conference reports

after the conference
- feedback from attendees about conference
- feedback from attendees about wiki
- continued dialogue

question: can you post something twice, once protected and once open for modification? others could add their own versions?
Meredith: Wikipedia is doing this with some entries; could definitely let others link to their own versions they create

question about using wikis instead of ALA's Online Communities product
- could work in some instances not all because some groups (like publications committees) need to be private

question about accessibility of wikis
Meredith: not sure but mediawiki should be accessible because of Wikipedia

question about keeping wikis private
Meredith: definitely doable, both for authors and viewers

question about moving content from wikis members have already started to the ALA server
Meredith: can definitely do that, just have to be aware of different formatting syntaxes

how to develop and maintain a successful wiki

there is a WYSIWYG plugin for mediawiki
will just be built in for future releases
plugin for different permissions for user groups
- e.g., could use permissions feature for letting speakers upload files
Meredith: don't even need the extension for that; can just use user groups

skins make the wiki look pretty
can require email authentication before editing when requiring registration

seeding tips
- no one wants to add to an empty wiki
- people often don't know what to add
- add some content to the major categories before going live
- creating an organizational scheme will prevent orphan links and chaos

steal documentation from Wikipedia

content development
- do lots of marketing
- bloggers
- email lists and forums
- publications (an article in American Libraries?
- partner with groups related to your mission
- give the wiki a grassroots feel, make it welcoming
- make it feel like the members' wiki, not ALA managements' wiki (give a feeling of ownership)

- security (require registraton?)
- dealing with spam
- dealing with trolls/flamers (what is inappropriate versus what you don't like)
- find lots of dedicated helpers

Mary Ghikas explained the three rules for the New Orleans wiki based on legal advice
- no politics (which for ALA, has a specific meaning because of tax status)
- no organizing of boycotts and the like
- be nice

try to be as transparent as possible
make sure there is no red on the home page before announce your wiki

need a logo that is 135 x 135 jpg or gif for ALA wikis
shared CSS file but can embed inline HTML or CSS

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* Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ray of SJCPL Light

A lot has changed in two and a half years. In 2004, Michael Stephens, Bob, and I tried to contact Warner Brothers to get permission to post the St. Joseph County Public Library's staff in-service day video because it uses Madonna's song "Ray of Light" as its soundtrack. We never did get a response from them, and the idea fell by the wayside.

In 2006, however, online culture (culture in general, really) has changed with the advent of user-generated content sites like You Tube, and I am thrilled to note that today, Michael posted the video for everyone to see! Not only are we seeing a lot more mashups of this type of content, but now, acknowledging that the "genie is out of the bottle," Warner Brothers is officially licensing their content for use in user-generated video.

This also shows the power of Web 2.0 and how viral it is (libraries really need to figure out how to join in and become viral). I have a DVD copy of the video that I show to people when I can, usually a handful of them at most when we can gather in a room. In fact, right now John Chrastka has my copy because my laptop doesn't have a DVD decoder on it so I couldn't show it to him on my computer and he had to take it to his. Talk about sneakernet....

Now that the video is on YouTube, though, I can just point the whole world to it, and everyone can see it and be inspired by it. Every library in the world can see it now at no bandwidth cost to SJCPL, no physical media cost for more copies of the DVD, and no more limitation on simultaneous use. Plus, it's a great plug for Madonna's song.

What does this tell you about the future of online video in the context of libraries?

Two years in internet time is an eternity, but look at what a difference it makes.

Go watch the video - it's truly incredible! It totally rocks, and it does everything I talk about in my presentations - it humanizes the library, shows the vibrancy of it, shows off the staff and what it takes to keep things going, and more. Now this video does that out where the users are, out where everyone can see the power of it!

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* Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rational US News Article on MySpace

Good US News & World Report article on MySpaceI was hesitant to buy the latest issue of U.S. News & World Report because the cover story is about What Parents Need to Know about MySpace: Your Guide to a Kid’s World on the Internet, but in the end I figured it would be good fodder for a blog post about hyperbole in the media. My eyes started rolling on page 48 when I read, “To many parents, who may have gotten an eyeful of its sometimes titillating profiles and photos, MySpace seems like Lake Wobegon gone horribly wrong: a place where all the women are fast, the men are hard-drinking, and the children take an above-average interest in imitating them.”

However, the further I read, the more my eyebrows arched in surprise, impressed with both the content and the tone of the article. I highly recommend it, and I think every public library director should make sure her board members and staff read it. In fact, I’d love to see a collaboration between ALA , state library associations or libraries, or even just local libraries with U.S. News to distribute the article to parents through libraries. It only mentions the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) in passing, but it helps illustrate that parents can do far more than this legislation ever would and that online social networking is now a fact of life. It would be like banning email, which you’ll notice Congress isn’t debating, even though it’s a form of online social networking. Hmmmmm….

As Stephen Abram said at the South Carolina Public Library Technology Institute yesterday in response to a question about this legislation, we don’t teach our kids to drive by removing all of the roads.

“Parenting in this virtual world doesn’t require a whole new set of skills, though a little technological savvy sure doesn’t hurt. What it does require is a willingness to pay attention, ask a lot of questions, and set some rules and stick by them, even at the risk of making your kids mad at you-familiar parenting territory.

But too often, that’s not happening. Parents who would never allow their child to go to a party unless they knew that an adult would be present let their kids pilot themselves through the online world without any supervision whatsoever. A June survey of 267 pairs of teens and parents in the Los Angeles metropolitan area by a psychology professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills found that two thirds of parents had never talked with their teen about their MySpace use, and 38 percent of them had never seen their child’s MySpace profile. ‘Parents are chicken,’ says Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy lawyer and executive director of, a nonprofit aimed at keeping kids safe online that has trained 450 teenagers in online safety and sends them out to speak to schools and other groups. ‘They don’t understand the technology, so they’re reluctant to get involved.’

But this is not the time to give in to your inner technophobe. You may have never sent an instant message, uploaded a video, or written a blog, but you can help your kids develop the judgment to better protect their safety online and set standards that will help guide their behavior. This is especially important since legislation that recently passed the House of Representatives and is currently under consideration by the Senate would ban social-networking sites from schools and libraries, leaving parents as the only consistent adult arbiter of their children’s day-to-day social-networking behavior.”

The article goes on to make specific recommendations for talking to your kids about MySpace and similar sites, and it explains that how the term “friends” online is very different for kids than it is for adults. There’s even a great graphic that dissects a sample MySpace account and warns what to watch for. It’s interesting that the author listed a few specific, online applications, and I’d love to see public libraries pick up on that. This article could be the basis for a lecture (or better yet, a hands-on class) for parents to help them proactively help their children online. Why not let them play with instant messaging, uploading video, and writing blog posts on the library’s computers? Let’s partner with Wired Safety to train more kids in more communities and grow this resource. What better way to help educate and connect them to their kids’ online worlds, while also showing that parents don’t need to rely on government to raise their kids?

Since a form of the House's DOPA legislation may still come up in the Senate during the current session, it’s important librarians understand the impact of this type of legislation. ALA is working on a couple of things that I’ll point to soon, but if you haven’t been tracking this or have only heard the hype about the issue, please make sure you read this article (and its sidebars). ALA’s Washington Office has been great in educating me that the language of these bills is really more about banning “interactive web applications” from school and library computers, not just “social networking” sites or MySpace. It’s much broader than most people realize. You might not use – or even understand why someone else would use – MySpace, but everyone online uses interactive web applications. Remember, one of the legislators voting on your use of “interactive web applications” in a public library is the same person that thinks those applications would be delivered via internet tubes.

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* Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Blogging Directors

I asked Amanda Etches-Johnson to start a new page on her wonderful Blogging Libraries Wiki for listing blogs written by library directors/administrators specifically from an administrative view, and she quite nicely obliged. We give you... the Library Director page! I added the ones I know about, but I'm sure I'm missing some, so please help out. I organized the links by state (figuring non-U.S. libraries could self-organize by country), but maybe by library type would be more effective? What do you think?

Oh, and if your library is blogging in general and isn't listed on this site, please be sure to add your URL(s). When I give presentations that include blogging as a topic, I always point to this wiki and tell librarians to look for libraries of a similar size or geography and contact them for further information about how to get started.

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South Carolina Public Library Technology Institute 2.0

Stephen Abram is blowing away the room. Public television is recording today's South Carolina Public Library Technology Institute put on by the way cool South Carolina State Library for possible future podcasting. Flickr pictures are under the tag TechExpress2006, and Curtis Rogers has already youtubed Patti Butcher's opening address (Patti is the Director of the State Library). Wow, do these folks get it.

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Mashing Winners

I didn't have much chance to blog about it during the summer, but I was honored to be one of the judges for Talis' first annual Mashing up the Library Competition. I thought it was a great idea, and I was happy to see lots of submissions. Winners were announced the other day, and John Blyberg won first prize for his Go-Go-Google-Gadget, which put Ann Arbor District Library feeds into Google’s home page for those patrons who cared to add them. Here’s the description from the Talis page:

“The First prize of £1,000 was awarded to John Blyberg of Ann Arbor District Library in Ann Arbor, MI. His entry, Go-Go-Google-Gadget, shows how simply library information can be integrated into the personalised home page offered by Google, and is described by competition sponsor and member of the judging panel, Talis’ Paul Miller, as ‘an excellent example of taking information previously locked inside the library catalogue and making it available to patrons in other contexts where they may spend more time than they do in their catalogue.’ Available information includes new and the most popular material in the library, and patron-specific information on checked-out and requested items. ‘Superpatron’ Ed Vielmetti applauded the simplicity of this entry, remarking in a clear invitation for others to follow John’s lead that “the visible source code is very tiny and easily hackable.” Vanderbilt University’s Marshall Breeding concluded, ‘I like this entry’s spirit of opening up information in the library system and putting it under the control of the user.’

John’s entry epitomizes everything I’ve been talking about for the last four years – shifting library services to where the user is, getting our content out from behind the wall, and making it easy for patrons to put our services where they want. I hope enterprising libraries will follow John’s example, and I hope the ILS vendors will help those libraries that don’t have programmers on staff to do this.

I was also happy to see that the Second Life Library won second prize, as this is another great example of taking library services out where the users are, rather than forcing them to come to our sites, either physical or virtual. From one post wondering out loud what might be possible to the incredible job and plethora of services that Lori Bell, the Alliance Library System, and the hundreds of volunteers from around the world have built. It might be a virtual world, but it has taken a lot of human effort and especially vision. This is the kind of wonderful synergy and teamwork that can be harnessed when organizational culture fosters creativity and innovation.

Here’s what the Talis page says about the SLL entry:

“The Second prize of £500 was awarded to the Alliance Library System in East Peoria, IL, and their global partners in the Second Life Library. Their entry, the Alliance Second Life Library 2.0, was described by Talis’ Miller as ‘both a testament to international co-operation amongst libraries and a compelling demonstration of the ways in which traditional library functions can be extended into cyberspace, reaching new audiences in ways exciting and relevant to them as they live their lives.’

What’s really cool about their win is that the prize money will go into further development of Info Islands I and II, where the librarians are providing services. I’m still very excited about this whole project, and I plan to open my virtual ALA office on Info Island soon.  :-)

There were several other very interesting and creative entries, so be sure to take a look at all of them. Even better, the next competition is officially open already. Rather than just waiting ten months, Talis wants to encourage innovative mashups all year-round, so you can submit new entries at any time. Paul Miller notes, “We will periodically assemble a team of judges to select the best submissions since the last time entries were judged. In addition, we will seek to reward particularly innovative or compelling examples on an ad hoc basis, outside the normal cycle of judging.” The Talis Library 2.0 Gang will be talking about the competition in the September 13 podcast. Michael Stephens and I are in South Carolina to give a presentation for the State Library's Public Library Technology Institute, so unfortunately we won’t be able to sit in on it, but I look forward to listening to my fellow judges’ thoughts on the entries.

So get your motors running now. Next round, I want to see something no one has thought of yet, something that really puts libraries out there on the cutting edge and blows us all away. I have great faith in librarians to accomplish this.

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* Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Get Thee to Annual

John Chrastka, Membership Marketing Manager at ALA, has started MemberBlog for ALA members (duh).

"Members of the American Library Association are change-agents within their communities. From public to academic to school to research and special libraries, ALA members have an immediate, dynamic impact on the quality of life in a community; on successful student learning outcomes; on the sustainability of critical engagements with the past and the extending access to tools for charting a new future; and on the usefulness of work/life in every field of human endeavor. And this blog would like to show them off."

His latest post is a list of Travel Awards for Annual 2007, which is basically ways to help get your way paid to attend the big show.

And you want to attend the big show, because we have some very cool things planned. Things I can't talk about yet or I'd have to put a hit out on you.

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* Monday, September 11, 2006

Presentations Wiki Is Full

Just a quick note that all of my presentations archived on the old SLS and MLS websites are officially 404ing now and are gone.

Therefore, I've finished adding all of the ones I have to my Presentations Wiki, going back to 1998 as best I could. If you've linked to any of my presentations in the past, I'd really appreciate it if you'd update the URLs so that folks aren't dealing with dead links. I get at least one request a week for a past presentation, so any updates or pointers to help get people to the new URL would be great. Thanks!

Official link: Jenny Levine's presentations

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How Do We Measure Gaming?

I had the great pleasure of meeting and talking with John Kirriemuir in Holland last month at the Ticer Institute. He was there to present a session about Digital Games and Digital Libraries (Powerpoint file), although unfortunately I couldn't stay to attend it.

Others have picked up on his presentation, including The Rambling Librarian.

"Coherent, informative slides and surprisingly self-explanatory (for a powerpoint slide). Worth taking a look indeed. Of particular interest to me was Slide 43 onwards - 'Impact - 12 Areas where libraries and digital games collide....' "

In the comments on the post, Ivan also says, "In my view, what's stopping NLB from adopting Gaming in libraries is the lack of concrete measures (of the outcomes from implementing gaming)." I think that's pretty true for most libraries that are still on the fence about this, regardless of type (academic, public, school, or special).

So how are we going to mesaure actual gaming services in the library (not just collections or supporting materials)? Do we use the same outcomes we do for other groups that meet in the library? We use attendance figures for so much - programs, knitting group members that gather in the meeting room, kids and parents attending storytime, people who attend movies we show, and the like. Even in academic libraries it's still about the door count, the number of books checked out, the number of times a database is used, the number of times reserves are checked out, and the number of reference questions asked.

Or do we somehow try to measure participation, like we do for the summer reading program or the teen advisory committee? Is there a way to equate the literacy of the number of books a kid reads in the reading program versus the literacy a kid needs to advance playing a video game? We don't measure the actual literacy of the kids participating in the summer reading program, just the numbers. We just hope the readers are reading and learning. Does starting with Dance Dance Revolution show the obvious physical benefits of gaming, allowing us to move the discussion to the mental and learning benefits of gaming?

In the end, though, whatever numbers we use, they blow away whatever else we're doing for teens. And for twenty- and thirty-somethings, too. For those libraries that run family game nights, true or false: your attendance numbers for these events rival or better your storytime numbers?

What about comments and feedback from patrons, which has been overwhelmingly positive according to every library I've talked to that offers gaming. Is this a valid measure?

What do we use? For the directors out there, what would convince you to try it?

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* Thursday, September 7, 2006

Social NSLS Libraries

I was at the North Suburban Library System yesterday to give a presentation about social tools for libraries. Wow, did the time go by fast, but it was a great group of librarians. Thanks to all of the great participants for a lively session! The slides are now available as a PDF on my presentationas wiki.

After we finished, Sarah Long (NSLS Director) asked me to do a quick podcast, so we briefly chatted about social tools and my new job at ALA. Even though I am part of Talis' Library 2.0 Gang Podcast, my schedule just hasn't meshed with theirs yet, which I believe makes Sarah's podcast my first one (direct link to MP3 file)!

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* Wednesday, September 6, 2006

ALA Website Usability Survey

The ALA Website Usability Survey is now live. Anyone and everyone can fill it out, which I heartily encourage you to do. For all of us that have ever rolled our eyes and complained about the website, it's time to put our money where our mouth is and formally provide constructive criticism. The survey will be available for the next month.

Here's an excerpt from the email ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels sent to ALA members.

"We are currently conducting a usability assessment of our ALA website. This assessment is designed to take a very thorough look at the website, its problems and strengths, in order to guide ongoing improvements, development, and redesign.

The usability assessment includes interviews of major stakeholder groups, an online survey, hands-on usability testing, complaint and web log analyses, focus group discussions, and heuristic analysis (expert review of the site based on generally agreed-upon principles of usability). It began in July of 2006 and is expected to conclude late October 2006. UserWorks, a Maryland consulting firm, will conduct many of the assessment activities....

The survey is not intended to be a statistical assessment instrument, but is intended to allow users to express themselves on the topic of the website. The survey will be open to everyone who visits the website while it is up. Part of the purpose of the survey is to find out who our users are, so we will also ask some demographic questions such as membership in the association, library usage, etc. Response to these demographic questions will, of course, be voluntary.

The survey includes questions used the last time we did an online survey in order to provide like comparisons. There will be new questions as well, designed to determine user awareness of some of the newer features available on or through the website (blogs, wikis and RSS feeds, for example). The survey will also include questions borrowed from Digital Equipment Corporation's 'System Usability Scale' questionnaire, which has proven to be quite useful in assessing usability since its creation in 1986.

...Questions and comments about the survey or the usability assessment in general may be directed to Rob Carlson, Web Development Manager, at"

I want to emphasize that ALA staff were not allowed to modify the second half of questions in the survey in order to allow the results to be compared to national results done with the same questions. It's a standard and well-known usability test, even though several of us would have like to at least re-word a few of the questions.

Please fill out the survey and help ALA move forward with the website!

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* Monday, September 4, 2006

What Is a Virtual Librarian?

Jessamyn West has an interesting post about MassAnswers, the statewide virtual reference service for Massachussetts. It says a lot of the things that have occurred to me during the last three months, but I'd like to see more discussion about the answers piece.

During the last few months, I've used a virtual reference service three times. This is after my battles two years ago just to access one, log in, and connect to a librarian. At least now, I've been able to connect and ask my question. I was looking for specific statistics each time. The first time, I was too lazy to run the search myself. The second time, I was under the gun and needed a number. I did some research myself, but only came up with websites and wanted a more authoritative source to triangulate the answer I had found. The third time, I did some research but quickly gave up, thinking someone who does live reference could get to the answer faster. When asking each question, I made sure to note all of the sources I had already tried, in the hope that the librarian wouldn't have to duplicate any effort and would automatically try the next level of resources.

In each of the three instances, the librarian came back with a URL from the top five results of a Google search. Clearly. There wasn't even a pretense of anything else. If you can believe it, one of them even unkowingly sent me a link to a friend's blog that referenced a report that mentioned a potentially useful statistic. I thanked the first librarian, disconnected, and spent my time doing the research myself. But the second and third times, I really needed the librarian to find an authoritative answer, so I kept asking for more. In one case, I had to actually ask, "Don't you have databases you can search that are more authoritative that Google?" At which point, the librarian sent me a link to my home library's list of databases. Talk about not understanding the concept. In another case, I was given a URL to a list of reports and told one might have what I wanted. When I pointed out that none of the titles seemed relevant to my specific request, a further search of the web ensued.

Even worse, after a half hour of trying to answer my question, one of the librarians had to "hang up" and disconnect because the virtual reference software was causing their computer to freeze. The person offered to email an answer to my question the next day.

I kept asking myself why these virtual reference transactions were different than if I'd approached the physical desk in person. None of the questions I asked were as difficult as Jessamyn's, and I know each had a viable answer. None of the librarians did a reference interview, and only one of them asked at the end if what they had found answered my question. In person, they wouldn't have asked about my home library. I try to imagine walking up to a desk and being handed a URL or told to go back to my home library to search its databases, without so much as a divining question or a specific answer (or even the promise of one).

So like Jessamyn, I wonder what value we are providing to people when we promote these services but then just offer Googled results. As pointed out in the comments on her post, sometimes that is helpful to some users. But at what point should the virtual librarian begin to look somewhere other than Google for an answer? Why do we know when to do this in person but apparently not online? What is a virtual librarian and what value does she add?

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