Thursday, October 11, 2007


well folks, i'm taking the next few weeks off from blogging on account of an inordinate amount of studying i need to do in preparation for my comprehensive exams!

i leave you with this article from Time Magazine circa 1965:

"On the other hand, scientists dream that one day a scholar will be able to quiz a regional computer by telephone from his office; whereupon the answer, perhaps from a paper by a foreign colleague, will bounce off an orbiting communications satellite first into a simultaneous translator and then on to the scholar's TV screen."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Identity 2.0

My god they can slap "2.0" onto the back of anything these days huh? Aren't we at 3.0 yet?! Apparently not. But this is a list of 10 Future Web trends oh, and here's 10 MORE which presumably may eventually become 3.0's in their own right. And, as always, libraries should take note!

The Semantic Web concept has been bandied about since 2001 and still makes it to the top of the list. It is a vision developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who ACTUALLY invented the World Wide Web:

How does/could it work exactly? I highly recommend this article as the best step by step introduction to the concept. If you know even just a tiny bit about HTML this article will walk you easily through the progression to a Semantic Web.

Now, another related concept in the top trends is Identity 2.0:

...the anticipated revolution of identity verification on the internet using emerging user-centric technologies such as the OpenID standard or Microsoft Windows CardSpace. Identity 2.0 stems from the Web 2.0 theory of the world wide web transition. Its emphasis is a simple and open method of identity transactions similar to those in the physical world, such as driver's license. Identity 2.0 Wikipedia

This is a completely entertaining introduction to the concept. You will definitely giggle and nod:

PREVIEW: Later on in the week I'll cover how these technologies can ultimately enhance library services....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One laptop per child

THIS. this is fantastic.

MIT Media lab has done it, they've created a laptop that has the potential to bridge the digital divide and guess what is a huge part of that equation.....OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE! freedom. sharing. love it. check this thing OUT!

“Everything in the machine is open to the hacker, so people can poke at it, change it and make it their own,” said Mr. Bender, a computer researcher. “Part of what we’re doing here is broadening the community of users, broadening the base of ideas and contributions, and that will be tremendously valuable.” (from the New York Times, Buy a Laptop for a Child, Get a Laptop)

And now they're offering a Give 1 to Get 1 program starting November 12 ending November 26...One will go to a child in a developing nation, and the other one will be shipped to you by Christmas and the whole thing is a tax-deductible charitable contribution.

if I wasn't so broke at the moment....sigh.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

which book?

don't know which book to read next?

my boyfriend, a writer, will recoil in horror at this site for its assault on the sophistication of the novel by breaking it down by simple descriptors like 'sad'...and 'happy'....and i fully expect an angry diatribe at any moment...

but hey, i'm a sucker for things that request my input! and i suspect you are too....:


the only WEE problem for us yanks is that it pulls from a catalog of popular british titles and connects you to your local library in BRITAIN, which in my case is oh, say, 3676.653 miles away.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Yea know, when I was little and played sports I always remember my dad hollering from the sidelines: "VISUALIZE!!!" heh. He firmly believed that if I could just create a clear picture in my mind of myself hitting that ball I could wack it out of the park. God bless him. heh.

The idea of visualization is still a running theme in my life but its application has taken on a different slant. Some technophiles have taken up my father's VISUALIZE battle cry in order to answer the question:

How does one get a more clear view of all of the information connected throughout the internet?

Visualization engines. Try plugging in, say, "John Frum" and see what you get!

Also on this point, some clever fellows have come up with an algorithm to visualize the "Power Struggle" on wikipedia. They're able to display all of the articles within wikipedia while highlighting the most revised (and thus, perhaps, contested) entries.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quick Accessibility tips for Windows and Mac

A large part of dealing with the public in the library setting is being prepared to make information accessible to everyone at any time....

A tall order indeed!

But have no fear, here are a few quick tips that I just picked up from my Information Literacy course:

Windows XP has three little accessibility features right there under their accessories that can help out in a pinch. Go to Start/All Programs/Accessories/Accessibility and you'll find a:

  • Magnifier (enhances hard to read fonts simply by mouse-over)
  • Narrator (reads onscreen text, not exactly THAT good but an option for a patron in need)
  • On-screen keyboard (very neat, test this out! it allows you to use your mouse to click on the letters of a virtual keyboard. helps when a patron may have limited mobility)

Apple also has some pretty extensive accessibility features available under /Applications/System Preferences/Universal Access.

Among the cooler features available through Apple:

There is certainly far better (and more expensive) technology out there that makes information more easily accessible to all users in this digital age, but knowing these little tricks can be useful on the fly (and the cheap)!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Steampunk! A little somethin' for the traditionalists...

In our field, there still tends to be a perceived divide between those who yearn for the more traditional tactile times of ye ol' librarianship (think: mahogany shelves filled with antique books lit moodily by brass and copper lamps) and those who loooooove the powerful and fast tech side of things.

Well, luckily, there are some punks out there trying to marry those two concepts...and it's called steampunk!

My buddy Kathleen sent me this fantastic article about it.

Check out the steampunk monitor and keyboard.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ms. Dewey

HA! this is great. one of the faculty at CUA, Joan Lussky, sent this on to me. Try it out!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Extreme Internet Searching

In class last night I picked up a few quick searching tricks for using the following engines:

Plug these little puppies into your search box and you can perform very quick and effective advanced search of the internet:

* intitle:term searches for keywords anywhere in a title (ex: intitle:brady quinn browns)
* allintitle:term searches for pages that have all words in the title (ex: allintitle:three little birds)
* inurl:term searches for keywords in url only, useful for searching government websites. (ex:
* site:term limits search to one particular website (ex:
* filetype:term limits search to specific file types, useful if you're looking for, say, a powerpoint example on a topic. (ex: information literacy filetype:ppt)

Of course these major search engines all have advanced searching capabilities which walk you through these but this is much faster once you get the hang of it!


Last night in my Internet Searching and Web Design class I learned that back in the real heyday of the internet in the 1990's, spammers figured out a few tricks to get their webpages up to the top of the ranking.

Wikipedia has a great overview of Spamdexing, tricks spammers have tried to manipulate web search engines.

One in particular involved loading their pages with certain keywords because the frequency of an occurrence of a word in a page would grant that site relevancy.

Luckily search engines are more sophisticated now but what cracks me up is that spammers would put all these words in their pages but then hide them by coloring the text the same as the background. So back in the day when you searched for info on say "autos" and got a XXX site that's 'cause they secretly typed out 'autos autos autos autos' all over their webpage! heh. (which frankly you might not have even noticed even if the text WAS visible on an XXX site....)

Anyway, now engines are a lot smarter and can do things like search for color on color as well as check for too MUCH frequency of a word.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Information literacy is by far one of the most important elements of public librarianship and can take many forms such as teaching basic computing skills (how to use Word for instance), helping senior citizens navigate the Medicare Program website, or creating research guides for using the library.

Moodle is a "course management system designed to help educators who want to create quality online courses. The software is used all over the world by universities, schools, companies and independent teachers. Moodle is open source and completely free to use."

Perfect for the public library, no? Sadly a look through their directory comes up empty for public libraries in the US. BUT I found a pretty good example (login as a guest) put out by the 21st Century Fluency Project, which taught a course on moodle "Powersearching in a Web 2.0 World" which is essentially a perfect information literacy topic for a library to cover.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Baby steps to ebook reading....

E-paper is a whole new deal and it will blow your mind. It is nothing like a traditional computer screen that generates the light and screen flickering that strains our eyes. (My eyes just dried out thinking about it...) Instead, it is a flexible plastic that reflects light much like a piece of paper does. In fact, you can even write (AND erase) on it.

So we're working towards a solution for ebook readers in terms of comfort.

eReaders with the new ePaper display:
Cybook Gen3
Sony Reader
iRex Iliad

but there's still a wee problem:

NetLibrary and Overdrive (the main providers of ebooks to libraries) both wrote back to me and confirmed that at this time, they don't know of any eReaders that are compatible with their ebooks. Sigh.

This is because no one knows how to share. Each new eREADER with this fabulous technology makes it so that you have to download software that forces you to purchase books from their stores (sony uses Connect) and each PROVIDER is unwilling to remove the DRM requirements that would allow people to download their content to these eReaders.

Another problem? These eReaders are EXPENSIVE! So even if the ebooks were compatible with these flashy new devices, your average public library patron wouldn't be interested because they can't afford the nice viewing experience.

Sadly, there's a long way to go but I have a lot of faith in the trickle down theory....

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Plastic Electronics....

In library studies we spend a lot of time thinking about how we will be expected to deliver information in the future. This means that we have to start thinking NOW about how best to structure our digital info for delivery via, say, contact lenses. Heh.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Steve Museum: A Social Tagging Experiment

I'm in this ridiculously great course at Catholic University, Art & Museum Librarianship whereby for a week straight we visit fascinating art museums and other cultural institutions all around Washington D.C.:

The National Gallery of Art

The Smithsonian Libraries
The National Archives of American Art
The American Folklife Center
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
University of Maryland Art & Architecture Library
University of Maryland Performing Arts Library
National Museum of the American Indian
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Library and Monticello

Anyway somewhere along the way I picked up this neat website, Steve Museum an experiment in social tagging. Anyone can participate in this ongoing research project that will help develop new ways to catalog and describe works of art through social tagging. Just sign up and flip through images of art and start describing!

"See art you haven't seen before. Look in a new way. Describe works of art in your own words. Exchange your ideas with the community of art lovers. Lead others to artworks they wouldn't normally see. Create a personal relationship to works. Let museums know what you see. The more you tag, the richer the experience for all."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Not so Hakuna Matata: Library Internet Access in Africa

So, I was clicking through the ever so interesting ASIS&T conference presentations and came upon this little number on the emergence of internet cafe usage in Johannesburg, South Africa. The hypothesis: internet cafe's are actually used most regularly by locals (as opposed to backpackers) and are typically their primary means of access to the internet.

It got me wondering about what sort of internet access the library systems throughout South Africa (or hey, why not all of Sub Saharan Africa) have and why so many folks are flocking to pay for internet usage at cafe's instead?

Well, in the city of Johannesburg, turns out the library requires an annual membership fee of R30 a year ($4US). With internet cafe rates ranging from R5 ($0.67) to R30 an hour, it should still be far more advantageous to join the library, no? I don't get it. What's the draw for the cafe's? How is the library not able to tap into this network of eager users? Perhaps it's a capacity issue? Money? Both? I don't know. Johannesburg is no backwater...what gives?

Then you've got the oh-so-glam city of Cape Town which was awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation Learning Award for their Smart Cape Access program. This program has essentially provided free public internet access at all public libraries throughout the city. Heck they've even put the internet on trucks for those hard to reach places!

And somewhere in between you've got the city of Bulawayo Public Library out in Zimbabwe which opened up its OWN cyber cafe. They charge for usage like any other internet cafe but at a much cheaper and more competitive rate and use the fees to sustain their internet access.

I think I might have to go over there and check things out for myself. Although, I can barely handle the heat here in DC right now....

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Facetag and twentysomethings...

I'm starting to read this book that my boyfriend's grandmom got him called Twentysomething essays by Twentysomething writers. The essays were chosen as part of a Random House contest and in the note from the editors, they relate the complexity of trying to group and organize the thousands of entries they received because in the end each essay could, in one way or another, fit into each of their preconceived categories.

"The problem was that such “everything-ness” seemed to spoil any claims of twentysomething solidarity. Our generation has often been accused of political apathy, of lacking the unity of ideology and purpose that the Boomers—our parents—were so famous for. According to popular opinion, we are all supposed to be deeply polarized by the Red/Blue divide. But, in reality, the spectrum is much wider and more colorful. We are not apathetic; we’ve simply learned to make more subtle distinctions."

It's these subtle distinctions that make the finding, collocating and evaluation of information, especially on the web, extremely difficult.

FaceTag is a prototype for a new tool that combines the benefits of folksonomic tagging with faceted classification. Folksonomy tagging is the process whereby users label items with their own keywords such as the labels I use below each post on this blog, or on YouTube and Flickr. Some of the issues with tagging is that it can be inexact or overly personalized, for instance I may label this post as "fun" but you might find it to be "awful".

Faceted classification on the other hand analyzes items by distinct characteristics which can then be divided into subclasses. FaceTags facets are Resource Types, Language, Activities/Subjects, Usage, People, Date. As tags become connected to these characteristics, browsing and searching becomes richer.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Drupal & Joomla: A cure for lousy library website design!

Fed up with frequent encounters with unnecessarily lousy websites, my friends Kristin and Marina and I started experimenting with ideas for providing good free web design help to smaller underfunded libraries. At the time we thought, hey, why not just provide free pre-designed library templates for download! The problems with this of course is that one would need to know some html and, because it doesn't solve the bigger issue of archiving content and integrating the catalog into the front end, it'd only be putting lipstick on a pig. But we were on the right track....

Drupal and Joomla, free open source content management systems, THAT'S what we were looking for! Unlike building a simple set of webpages from Dreamweaver or FrontPage, a content management system has a database structure behind it and allows you to create, store and organize all of your information. This data is then queried, uploaded into an html document and displayed as a webpage according to your template style. It allows you to set your design style and makes it extremely easy for others to go in and edit the content without needing to know any programming or html. Content management systems can run into the tens of thousands of dollars but Drupal and Joomla are free....

Drupal Examples:
There is a great overview, Building Public Library Websites with Drupal on the Library and Technology Association Blog. The Ann Arbor District Library is a perfect example of a Drupal based library website.

Joomla Examples:
For examples of Joomla based library websites check out the uber informational Joomla in Libraries site. Or, if you have a little more time, there's the Open Source Solutions for Public Libraries presentation by the Tyngsborough Public Library which includes a section on their use of Joomla.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gadgets and other new fandangled technology

I attended the SLA Conference in Denver over the weekend...that is, I went through the website and tracked down all the sessions that were posted online and read them! Through the beauty of time-shifting I was able to compile this list of some of the new gadgets and technology mentioned at the conference. Some of these things have absolutely nothing to do with Library and Information Technology (see George Foreman USB i-Grill) but they're just too fun not to share....

  • Microsoft Surface: Basically a 30-inch digital table top surface with a screen that responds to touch and gestures and allows for “surface computing”. It used to exist only in 80's sci-fi movies. Now it's REAL.
  • Golan i.Tech Virtual Keyboard: Uses laser & wireless technology to project a full-size virtual keyboard onto any flat surface which then feeds into your PDA.
  • Clocky the alarm clock that runs away: It's an alarm clock that is built to “run away and hide” when you press snooze, which triggers it to start moving and eventually fall off the nightstand and keep going.
  • Cellular Book: An Italian company has developed this portable device, smaller than a cell phone, which has a thin flexible polymer display that can be unscrolled up to 5 inches. It holds ebooks, email, podcasts, music, rss feeds, etc. Will be released in Italy first and then to rest of the world.
  • George Foreman USB i-Grill: Grill meat in your office! Just plug it into the USB port of your computer, the USB port is its only power source, and through a web-based interface enter in your food item and it will be automatically grilled to perfection.
  • Eye-Fi: This is a device being tested that lets you wirelessly download your pictures from a digital camera directly to your PC. It has 1GB of memory! No more hassling with plugs and cards and lots of directions and the like. My mom in particular will appreciate this one...
  • Panasonic 103-inch Plasma TV: This is just a ginormous tv that costs $63K.
  • USB Missile Launcher: They call this "the latest weapon in office warfare technology". I like.
  • Hitachi Walkman-style Brain Scanner: Sign me up.

For more, check out Barbara Fullerton, Brian Neale and Holly Pinto's June 25th presentation 60 Gadgets in 60 Minutes.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Don't copy that floppy! DRM fun... hilarious. I've been listening to some podcasts of presentations from the recent Special Libraries Association conference in Denver. I have a peculiar obsession with all things Digital Rights Management and also a peculiar interest in public service announcements. Lucky for me, Ed Keating, Software & Information Industry Association, brought this little gem to light in the Facets of Digital Rights Management session.

From 1992: Don't Copy That Floppy!

Also on the subject of copyright, (as an extension of DRM issues), Ed mentioned this very interesting copyright lawsuit being brought by some high-school students against a company that provides their school with anti-plagiarism services. This service, Turnitin, runs papers through a large database of student papers and journal articles to check for plagiarism. This means that student papers are being collected and archived on a large scale in databases without permission and for the company's profit. These clever students officially registered their papers with the copyright office (although, copyright registeration is no longer a requirement for protection so this is sort of unnecessary) and are now suing Turnitin thousands of dollars for violating their copyrights.

Friday, July 27, 2007

When you need a discussion board in a pinch....

Well, work on the fake storytelling website for my media class continues....and as I went back over my assignment objectives last night I realized that I had proposed to add a discussion board of some sort! Egads!

Luckily some trusty technophiles have developed free services JUST for this sort of last minute need...the shoutbox (aka chatterbox)! Ok, I admit, a shoutbox is not quite a discussion board where messages are kept in a hierarchy and replies are posted within that structure. Instead it is more like a simple open space to chat where users can post little messages and thoughts in a more linear fashion. OK, it's instant messaging.

Anyway, sifting through various shoutbox offerings on the web I settled with Shoutmix, a clever free service that allows you to add a little message box right into your website or blog.

The set up walks you through a few designs, lets you change the language and colors, and generates the html or, if y'like, flash code, that you cut and paste right into your website. The creator then has an account on the shoutmix site which allows them to moderate (ie, delete messages where necessary and set access). It also allows you to set how long messages are kept (such as, the most recent 10 and the others will be deleted).

What I love about this tool in terms of a library site is that:
  1. It can be set to not collect nor store email addresses, IP addresses, or any other identifying information. As protectors of privacy this is extremely important.
  2. It's also extremely easy for users, they just type in a name (or alias...) enter a message and click 'talk now'! There are no downloads and, unless you require a login and password, no one has to sign up for anything.
  3. There are no pop up ads or other advertisements.
  4. The free version comes with a profanity filter just in case and a spam blocker. And if you're truly concerned, the premium version offers more robust features such as the ability to make it a members only message board, etc.
I know, this idea strikes terror in the hearts of many who fear the abuse of such an open feature. Would it make you feel better if I showed you an example of it on a REAL library website? Check out how the wee Hominy Public Library in Oklahoma has put it to use. It's a shortcut for sure, on the way to establishing a more rich discussion forum, but it can work in a pinch!

Monday, July 23, 2007


Ok, so perhaps it's blaspheming but I just can't get into the MySpace thing. AHHHH. I know, how can the technolywood librarian say this?! Such social networking is the cornerstone of what we nuevo technolibrarians are doing here! To which I say I am FOR social networking but I am still sort of skeeved by MySpace. Maybe I just hang with a rough crowd online I'm not sure. But my point is, for those who are ALSO a tad skeeved by MySpace there is another way! It's the ning way!

I started to discuss ning in my last post but got a little side-tracked by the uber-exciting walkie-talkie widget. Ning is a lovely peaceful little place on the web where you can create a social network all your own. Libraries have discovered this one and for good reason. When you create a ning you are creating a place where patrons can gather, create their own personal pages, post their own pictures and videos, create their own groups and start discussions all safely and happily under the Public Library banner you've created.

However, I'm seeing a trend here and that is an invite only craze, wherein these library sites are requiring potential users to request an invitation in order to become a member of their network...I suppose this serves to keep the riff-raff out, who, I can only imagine, must be trolling the internet in droves making trouble for library websites. But I say share and share alike when it comes to creative discourse in the library world! Especially since the creator has the ability to monitor posts and delete those that do not follow the rules of decency. While I understand the fear that the intrusion of skeeve can instill, I always like to err on the side of openness over exclusiveness.

So, for an example of how a ning can work, I'll point you to the one in which I am a newly minted member, Library 2.0. I signed up, uploaded my picture, and became a member of this network with my own little page to modify as I like. I can choose a theme and add blog posts and invite other friends to view what I've got going on. What I REALLY love is that when I comment while on other pages in the network or in discussion forums, my comments are sorted nicely back on my personal page along with any replies so that I can keep up with my online communications. Techcrunch has a nice review of the service here with lots of nice screenshots.

I expect to see many more libraries using this service in the future but I hope to see them a little more opened up...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Walkie Talkie over the Internet w/YackPack Widget!

Today's post was going to be all about these fun things called ning's...

["Ning is the only online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network for free in seconds."]

....but, like a little baby distracted by shiny things, I got SO excited about this new widget that I encountered while perusing library ning's that ning's will just have to wait!......

YackPack is a new widget that allows you to walkie talkie over the internet! I discovered it when I stumbled upon Library 2.0's ning. There is no software required, no installation of anything, no registration. All a person has to do is click on the button and depending on how it's set up you can either record and send a message OR talk live with the LiveVoice feature.

This is a nice little video that'll tell you ALL about it. Love it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The DVD Conundrum

Cuya-HOGA! Not a new cartoon cheer, a library! The Cuyahoga County Public Library continues to amaze me with their thoughtful and well developed library both online and off. I could go on for pages, I mean, they partner with local area businesses and organizations, like the Cleveland Browns, and occasionally offer online contests for free tickets to events, how great is that?! Just take a gander and you'll see what I mean. You'll have a crush too.

But what I really wanted to highlight is their new trial service My Library DV . How to supply the masses with access to a wider selection of DVD's while limiting damage and replacement costs has been on the agenda since libraries acquired these shiny little discs. The service allows Windows users to download videos right to their computer, up to 10 depending on hard drive size, and they can keep them for 7 days. This may be the answer but we'll have to wait and see, as most libraries are in a 6-month trial period with this.

The issue of course is how many folks out there are comfortably watching dvd's on their computer. I personally am, but I'm already cut out of the service because I have a MAC. That's why I still have my trusty Netflix subscription.

Which brings me to those hip librarians at the Brooklyn Public Library who, as reported by the New York Post back in March, are in negotiations with Netflix to create a platform for their users to access Netflix's gigantic collection for free.

I don't think I really need to go into how cool that would be.

But a few libraries are already doing it without formally setting up an agreement with Netflix. Ah, I love a subversive library! The wee Exeter Library in Rhode Island** and the equally wee Vernon Free Library in Vermont have subscriptions to Netflix so, if a patron wants a video not available in their collection, the library will order it on their behalf. The small size of these communities allows this to work. Chalk one up for rural libraries!

**At the time of this posting that link had gone dead. Perhaps Netflix is on to them :-)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Twitter Madness

So the Wall Street Journal had an article in today's paper regarding networks using twitter as a marketing tool for their shows. (I'd link to it but WSJ makes you get a subscription to view articles the morning after and I won't subject you to the rejection.)

If you've perhaps heard of twitter but have no idea what it actually is, watch David Free's short infovideo on the VERY fun BIGWIG SOCIAL SOFTWARE SHOWCASE wiki and he'll show you everything you need to do to get started. He calls it "a microblogging service where you can tell the world what you're doing at 140 characters or less", like this sentence length.

[yes, i spent a good five minutes counting that sentence out to exactly 140 characters...all for you.]

Or, put another way, it's sending a quick instant message out to all your 'friends' en masse. It came out in late 2006 and has been ever so slowly gaining steam in the library world as a way of getting library event announcements out to the 'yoots' and for taking reference questions. And while those are both interesting and nice uses of it as a tool, that's just not fun enough for me and, like the WSJ article discussed, you always run the risk of alienating users when using a social tool as a marketing device.

I think we've gotta be a little more fun & creative with this twitter stuff instead of hiijacking it and making it into just another IM device or another way to get a library rss feed out. The thing that makes it fun in the first place is that its supposed to be a stream of consciousness sort of outlet for the short random thoughts, commentary and experiences had throughout a day. Just look at the way pretty boy John Edwards uses it.....

So how about, at least for the teen demographic who are actually using it at the moment, handing it over to your teenage volunteers and library pages and letting them run wild with it. (I can hear shrieks all around!) Seriously though, a nice experiment might be to get your young page to send a few twitter notices throughout the day about what's going on at the library. Presumably a teen who chooses to work at a library really LIKES the library and presumably that teen would like to make everyone else think it's pretty cool so let them strike up that twitter madness in their own teen language.

The key is to use it as an open dialogue with the public, not just as a blanket news/marketing spam. Instead of just mindlessly and automatically throwing out announcements (which might be just fine eventually for a certain group of users) give the feed a persona and be fun and funny.
Ok fine, so you're afraid to have your teens run wild and you still want to market your goods...consider throwing out little bites from the reference desk like a funny world record that you found in your copy of the guinness book of world records and include a link to that books record in the catalog. Or maybe 'just found out the bible is the most shoplifted book ever! ha!' that sort of thing. The library is a place FULL of weird information that can be discovered. and that's fun.

Friday, July 13, 2007 Fundraising Widget for Libraries

I was reading my newest edition of Details Magazine and as always found one teeny little article of interest amongst the absurd.

[sidebar: yes I realize I'm one of maybe 10 subscribers to this magazine, as evidenced by one Julia Alexander, Brooklyn, NY who ALWAYS writes letters to the editor and always gets them published.]

Anyhow the article was entitled Angel Investing and discussed the trend of "angel" organizations on the internet bringing together a wide range of investors interested in taking a risk on a small business. Google was the recipient of one of these angel investments and that seemed to work out pretty well for everyone involved.

This got me thinking about how the internet can factor into investment in libraries, and specifically, how it can help my vision of an information commons in every public library... is a platform that brings together a multitude of social cause groups in one space on the internet, making them easily searchable, and connecting like-minded people across the world to a specific cause. The platform recently added a new 'fundraising' widget that is essentially a nice clean 'donate here' button.

Example Widget:

Donate at

The BEST thing is that this little donate widget can be added to Myspace pages, Facebook pages, individual websites, really, anywhere on the web! The possibilities are endless as these widgets are set free and non-profits hone their skills for marketing it. Even better, to establish an account costs nothing (instead a small service fee is taken out of all donations received) so for those tiny little branches out there they can now reach a bigger audience outside of their small insular community at no cost.

I haven't seen any libraries really use this space to its potential yet although some attempts seem to have been made and either forgotten or are still in progress. Or perhaps they haven't tagged their entries appropriately so that they can be found :-) Still, it's a fundraising avenue that should certainly be explored to its fullest because funding libraries IS a social cause just like any other.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Information Commons for the Public

The Information Commons (IC) concept has been implemented mainly in the academic area for some years now. In general, an IC is a space that brings people together for informal collaborative social learning with access to technology aides.

In its physical manifestation it takes the shape of a shared space with modular furniture, high-speed computers, wireless access, group study areas, workstations and various new technology toys to play with. In its virtual manifestation it may be a library wiki where people can exchange ideas online as well as access electronic documents, etc. North Carolina State University's Learning Commons is a good example of both.

This concept isn't exactly new but surprisingly though, the literature on the subject has been devoted entirely to the university setting. I am hard-pressed to find any literature on how the public library might create an IC.

If the public library is to evolve it will need to give serious thought to implementing this concept. I understand funding restraints for new technologies, but the concept goes well beyond simply purchasing high-speed internet access, some technology gadgets and a few tables and chairs. The IC is a mind-set. And this mind-set is free but in many cases, directly opposing traditional public library rules.

The IC is intended to be a comfortable open place for people to gather, perhaps have lunch, enjoy their coffee, while exchanging information and relating to each other in a regular in-door voice. It is a place to have fun and learn while trying out new technology such as the wii. (Right now the ALA and Syracuse University are researching "the public good" served by libraries that offer gaming programs (more on that in another posting!). I suspect as gaming in the library starts to take hold, IC in the public library will too... )

To illustrate, while interviewing a local library manager recently, I was horrified as she stalked over to a group of teens reading quietly at a table and barked for one student to "sit right" in his chair! not the Information Commons way. All people, including young people, should have a fun open place to gather and share in information indulgence and exchange without intimidation. This is not to say there shouldn't be guidelines (as opposed to rules) but even I was terrified of this librarian and I certainly didn't want to go back. This is also not to say that many public libraries haven't sough to implement the IC concept, it is only to say that many still have a long way to go.

Monday, July 9, 2007

"Hipper Crowd of Shushers"

The New York Times Sunday Edition had a nice little article about the new emerging library crowd in the Fashion & Styles section. "Today's librarians?", it asks, "Think high-tech party people".

Yes...yes that sounds about right...

I found the part about trying to guess the names of cocktails (based on book titles) by their dewey decimal no. TOTALLY geeky but shamelessly amusing and probably a good study technique I should try....

Friday, July 6, 2007

Adventures in Podcasting

Who knew it was so easy?! The other day I decided to make myself an official member of the podcasting culture. It's all the rage you know and libraries across the country are offering up all sorts of podcasts like the Denver Public Library and well, the New York Public Library has an impressive array as you can imagine.

I figured I would start by adding an extra little element to a faux website on storytelling that I'm working on for class. (Incidentally I make a lot of faux website's for school...) Anyway, the aim was to create a few podcasts of my witty and engaging stories and post them to the faux website.

In the end I encountered two problems: 1) LISTENING to myself. I'm tempted to add a disclaimer to all recordings: 'Warning, midwestern accent may be harmful to your ears' 2) Getting over the stage fright of speaking into a microphone. It's not exactly the same as sharing stories in the bar with friends...and beers.

This means though that the technical part of all this was EASY! So here were the steps I took after a bit of internet research:

1) Went to Best Buy and bought the cheapest PC desktop microphone in stock ($12).
2) Plugged the microphone into my computer.
3) Downloaded Audacity, the free audio editor, yet another free open source software.
4) Downloaded the Lame Mp3 Encoder.
5) Found something to say. (I was going to share a quick story about my adventures in Miniaturk but didn't have enough time to get over the microphone intimidation. Instead, I read a cheeky poem by Ann Bradstreet, The Author to her Book.)
6) Opened up Audacity, pressed record and read into the microphone.
7) Pressed stop.
8) Clicked File/Save Project As...
9) Clicked File/Export to Mp3
10) Posted the audio link to my webpage

Now, you can just post the link as a regular old hyperlink to your webpage, but I highly recommend adding a nice little player instead so that users don't have to download the files, they can play them automatically. For this, much thanks to Ms. McAdams is due for providing the cut & paste code and really easy tutorial for the Mp3 audio player on the site.

The next step, I figure, is to play around with adding music to the background of the vocals. This may be slightly trickier but I found this great site that has fun free background music (that is, free for non-commercial use).

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 and the Library happy together

This is great. I first discovered that universities in the UK are using a script so that anyone on the university system, searching on their Firefox browser, will see a link indicating the status of the book they are searching for at the university library. They will be told whether or not its available, if it's available in electronic format, on loan, etc., and users can link right into the catalog from Amazon to reserve it.

Turns out its on this side of the pond too and a number of public libraries have put this into action. In fact our very own Loudon County Public Library System offers this download for its patrons, as well as the DC Public Library and the Mongtomery County System. (my own university library however hasn't done this...sigh)

How does it work? Well, luckily I have a super genius brother and he puts it this way:

"Greasemonkey is a plug-in for Firefox that lets you overlay additional content over an existing web page, usually using JavaScript. It's like scribbling on a page of newspaper."

This article with screen shots elaborates further on it: "A simple Talis script detects ISBNs on a page at Amazon and uses this to query a shared database of library holdings. Greasemonkey is then used to write information on libraries holding the book back onto the Amazon page (note the '@libraries' box, not normally evident in Amazon results)". has a large collection of these library lookup scripts and in theory, creating a customized script for your own library can be as easy as modifying one such as Carrick Mundell's for the Seattle Public Library to reflect your own catalog details.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Image Classification Fun!

Recently the Wall Street Journal (my new favorite paper) featured an article Computer Scientists Pull a Tom SawyerTo Finish Grunt Work (June 27, 2007; Page B1). The gist was that computer scientists have come up with a new way to tackle the massive task of classifying images in large databases by making a game of it. Anyone who has tried to find an image using yahoo image search or google image search or any other large database of images, will have an idea of just how important this classification work is!

In this game, two random users will be shown one image and are asked to type in words to describe it. When their words match they "win" and the word is chosen as a descriptor on the assumption that there is at least a level of congruency. Of course this leads to a lowest common denominator situation and the classification will tend to remain relatively basic.

Labeling images is not a process so easily resolved by games but the idea is extremely interesting. Dr. Choi, a professor of mine, illustrates the complexity of the matter by referencing the classic 'is it an old lady or a young woman' picture.

Complicating matters further is cultural context. A study was done* whereby a three panel cartoon drawing was shown to young British and South African children. The first panel shows a young child wearing a ball cap, standing under a sun, holding a watering can over a flower. The second panel shows the child, under the sun, with his hat off and liquid droplets coming off his head. The final panel shows the child sitting down, under the sun, shirt off, pouring the watering can over his own head.

The British children understood the panels to be related and to be telling a story depicting a child watering a plant, the sun making him hot, and by pouring the water over his head, cooling himself off. The young South African children on the other hand were not inclined to view the pictures as related and took each one as a separate entity. They also did not understand the liquids to be water or sweat and thought it was perhaps blood and overall the entire scene made little sense to them. Interestingly, even in my own class there was debate over the last panel, some thought he was pouring the water over his head to cool off, others thought he got the idea that he wanted to grow like the flower.

So you see....classifying images...not so easy.

*Levie, W. Howard. Research on Pictures: A guide to the literature. In The Psychology of Illustration, edited by Dale M. Willows and Harvey A. Houghton, 1987, p.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Book Trailer

Book trailers, says my fresh new copy of Book Forum, are really taking off this year. Check out Ian McEwan’s sexy/glam little number for his new book On Chesil Beach. SURE i feel a bit skeeved by an old man reading aloud 'nipple' but still it's flashy. and darn it i, and my fellow generation 'whatever's', are suckers for flashy...

Seems to me, as these things proliferate, library websites can easily take advantage of these free and dynamic and, again, free, book marketing tools by, at the very least, linking to the trailers through recommended reading announcements.

Better yet, libraries can create a fun web place for homemade videos. This boy put a charming little trailer together for a school project on his favorite book. While the sound quality isn't very good, it's cute, he used The Cure (Robert Smith is timeless), and he clearly read the book, evaluated its points, and is expressing what he learned to others.

Libraries can reap major benefits by encouraging kids to use their mighty techy skills to advertise their favorite books.

Where it begins....

Recently the world of librarianship was all a twitter about the ALA premiere of "The Hollywood Librarian", the first feature film dedicated to librarianship. Unfortunately, in the interest of full-disclosure here, I and my other librarian pals ended up missing the premiere. This was due, in large part, to my erroneously thinking that meeting for happy hour would be a good pre-movie event. Turns out that for a group of poor twenty-somethings, the ALA convention simply cannot compete with friday night beer specials. I fully expect my ALA membership to be revoked any minute.

In any case it turns out that we will not be able to see the movie now unless a local library decides to show the film for a fee. This of course defies many rules of logic, the most obvious being that the public library is here to serve those who don't have the pocket change to, say, support propaganda films about librarians. It would seem this marketing plan hasn't matured beyond the sort I devised as a child whereby I charged admission to family members to watch me being cute. My brother, incidentally, never bought it (even though I did a killer rendition of the Bangles' walk like an egyptian) and frankly neither will library patrons.

For a well-rounded commentary please see Norman Oder's review for the Library Journal,
The Hollywood Librarian: Nice Idea, Jumbled Execution, Dubious Marketing Plan .

In it he mentions a comment by
Karen Schneider who suggested that "a great librarian movie" would include "Jessamyn West installing Ubuntu."

And in that sentence this blog was born. I was delighted, amused, and informed by that video of a librarian who easily overcame the wee problem of having been donated computers (yay!) with no operating systems (BOO!)! It dawned on me that we all have a lot to share on the matter of new technology and its creative implementation in our libraries.

My thirst for exchanging ideas on this topic has no bounds and frankly I'm running out of time in class to raise my hand. SO I will continue to search for signs of clever implementation and uses of new technologies in our libraries and post them here. I also invite, nay urge, anyone who has their own story to share to write me!