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!