Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I haven't done this custom search engine thing yet. I wanted to know more about how you could use this for reference since the class was supposed to be about new ways to do reference in the 21st century. I think this could have great applications for searching government documents in certain areas. You can also put the Google gadget on your iGoogle page, and perhaps find the code to put the search box on a subject guide Web site or in Moodle (our course management system).
Speaking of search boxes, I went out for wings with two friends last night. Lynette had read part of my blog that discussed widgets and wanted to know what a "widget" was. The definition of a GUI widget is in Wikipedia. They had to add "GUI" to it because "widget" apparently means many different things in the context of economics, beer, TV, comics, and law. Even within computing, it has different meanings. I know previously this and "gadget" (which even in the context I'm interested in can be used interchangeably) have also meant the same as "thingy," as in "oh, he sells some type of widget or other." I guess looking at the other meanings for this word, it is understandable why it is so hard to explain to people. It's all the more complicated when you are upto your wrists in Cajun chicken wing sauce rather than in front of a computer where you can pull up iGoogle and show a wide variety of widgets/gadgets.
We may be inviting one of the CiL speakers to come do a presentation to a local library organization on Web 2.0 technologies. One of the organizers was particularly interested in a speaker who talked about mashups at CiL. I did not attend this as something that seemed more relevant at the time was competing for that time slot. I am excited since I don't know the first thing about mashups and see that as probably the hardest Web 2.0 technology. I haven't been able to figure it out by reading about it on the Web or even by looking at examples. This won't be until October, but still. I also should get my chance to present a poster session as well.
Monday, April 28, 2008
I have successfully created a brief Flash quiz that tracks how many questions a person has right and what their name is. You can find my quiz here. You may want to know the answers to the quiz... the first answer is "Snowden," there are 5 librarians and 4 floors to the library. They're silly questions, but that wasn't the point.
I will still need to figure out how to do other types of question input, but I am so proud of the work I accomplished this morning!
If it works out, I could link to all kinds of things and be a good librarian role model instead of linking to Wikipedia.
If anyone else is interested, you can find their application form here.
This is a wonderful way to start a new week, esp. the first week of summer for us and a particularly dreary Monday morning when I am stressed out about many huge life changes and minor frustrations with myself and office politics.
I am planning on spending a good part of the morning reading this, esp. since there is a heavy focus on marketing and I think that is the key thing our library could work on. We've got great people, great services, an impressive colletion, good faculty-relations, innovative ideas, a top-notch instruction program, yet struggle to get students involved.
I don't understand how our students aren't overwhelmed by the amount of information available to them. I have all but given up fiction and am reading stuff like Beginning Flash Game Programming for Dummies and Home Buying for Dummies. I'm overwhelmed by trying to learn basic programming as quickly as possible for my professional activities, and gather all necessary information to get married and buy a house this summer. I feel sometimes like my brain will explode. I guess most people don't bother with seeking out information for buying a house and making informed decisions. That probably is why the housing market is currently in so much trouble.
I digress. Thank you Sprylibrarian for linking to me so that I could find you!
Friday, April 25, 2008
I'm also slowly working my way through Beginning Flash Game Programming for Dummies. I'm not all that bad with basic flash (see my tutorials), but have been really limited as to how much interactivity is involved. The previous books I used that discussed the programming aspects were way over my head.
I presented my CiL 2008 to the staff this morning. I had to stop myself a few times to explain what a widget was, what RSS was, what Web 2.0 meant... I'm sure I forgot to explain a few things, and I regret not being able to get other people as excited as I am about what I learned, or how cool it was to see the librarian blog celebrities.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Two things that go beyond my college's walls include my Reference Portal featuring Reference Universe and our redesign of our classic OPAC. Reference Universe chose our library to be the first four-year college profile for their Web site because of my Reference Portal, which strove to combine print and electronic resources, which is what their product tries to do. I haven't heard that they have officially published this profile yet, so I can't link to it. But she was very impressed with the page I had created. The reason I am proud of the redesign of our classic OPAC is that TLC, the vendor we get our OPAC from, decided to base the next version of their standard OPAC on my design. When I saw them at Midwinter she looked at my name and institution and said "oh, you're the one who did the design!" And that was something I had done (with some help from a coworker) after two months of professional experience.
This year has been a big year of transition for me. I have started my annual reflection for the past year, though I keep stopping. As far as successes, my reputation with faculty is great, I taught almost 70 classes this year, my Harry Potter Night back in October was an enormous success, and I believe my efforts to improve traffic to the reference desk paid off better than I could have hoped for (unfortunately we weren't keeping the right kind of stats to prove that). I restructured the library's Web site and moved it into the new college format, instituted Meebo IM reference, had positive feedback on my roll as discussion leader for our college's Scholar's Program, am a valued member of at least one campus committee, and created several signs that seemed to have greatly improved students' ability to navigate the library. I have also worked with two evaluation projects that have provided a lot of useful data and hope to work with a statistics professor this summer to get more information out of that data.
I'm now finding that as I attend this online class and think about attending local workshops on Web 2.0, I know more than the instructors. The five-part online class I am currently taking this month is turning out to be a waste of time. I even jumped in at one point because he was telling everyone the wrong information about Reference Universe. I feel bad that my library paid $160 for this class when I know I could have taught it much better.
In comparison with people like Meredith Farkas, my knowledge might not be all that impressive. But I don't think that's what's normal. The other librarians at my library are not all that into any of these technology things. Some of these make your life so much easier and have a lot of potential to enhance reference and instruction. Knowing how these things work and how students use them is critical to our effectiveness and relevance.
I think after such a long post, I am a librarian who is truly passionate about what I do. I don't want to be a "celebrity" in the library profession, but I want to help others. I have a hard time seeing the niche that needs filled because I'm having a hard time figuring out what others don't know. I would love to create resources to help librarians who did not have training in the things I know to transition to a tech-minded librarian. Then they can contribute their ideas and creativity so I can use their ideas where I am and be inspired to yet new things.
Okay. I'd better get off my soapbox now. I'm not normally a self-promoter. I think I need to learn to be one because I think it would make people more interested in the things I could show them. There are so many great things out there that have endless possibilities with just a dash of creativity and patience.
For those who aren't familiar with Shelfari, it's a social networking site for bibliophiles. I believe there are a number of these, Library Thing being a popular one I don't know much about. You can post books you have read, are reading, want to read, give each one "tag" keywords, tag your favorites, rate and review each one, set up groups, make friends, look for people with similar tastes and contact them. It's a lot of fun, though I know all four of my "friends" in real life, so I'm not using the site to its fullest capabilities.
The addition of the date feature may seem very trivial, but it's one I have wanted since I got hooked on this site!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
- Adding interactive aspects to the Web site as my skills allow.
- Explore library use of widgets and Web 2.0 technology tools for marketing, instruction, and customer service. This includes investigating the use of widgets in Moodle for instructional purposes.
- Implement or experiment with other things learned from CiL2008.
- Weeding a section of the reference collection including the Atlases.
- Revisiting customer service and reference. I did this last summer, looking for ways of attracting more students to the reference desk. I think we were successful. I want to see if there are any new ideas.
- Try to get Xenu to work, or some other tool for checking external links on the library Web site.
- Update the brochure we provide student teacher supervisors.
- Come up with a plan on implementing LibQUAL+ in the spring.
- Contact one of the statistics professors to see if he can help us interpret our annual library satisfaction survey. Perhaps look into turning this into an article about what to do while waiting for LibQUAL (this was my director's suggestion).
- Stay on top of what IT is doing with student and faculty portals to get a library portal page implemented as soon as possible.
- Consider an article on Web 2.0.
- Plan collaboration with the Writing Center. The head of the Writing Center is on a 9-month contract, but if we can brainstorm something before she leaves, I can do some preparation over the summer.
Professors and students are amazed that we have stuff to do when there isn't anyone else on campus. I think this will keep me very busy for the four months of uninterrupted quiet. Now that I've posted what my summer plans are here, next time someone acts surprised, I'll just send them this link!
Problem: We have been having issues with saving ARTstor images in Internet Explorer 7. It was saving the file in an unrecognizable format, but worked fine using Firefox. I finally wrote to their technical support yesterday and have to say I was very impressed with how quickly they responded.
Answer: you either cannot change the file name or you need to add .jpg to the end of the new file name so that the computer recognizes it as a JPEG. Of course I don't find this entirely reasonable, but at least we can be helpful to students who ask now.
Problem: The question the student asked about was how to print just the thumbnails of a group of images instead of printing out 12 separate full-sized images.
Answer: If the images are in a group, you can go up to View in the toolbar and select Image group print preview, then select how much text information you want to appear with it. The tools in ARTstor don't play well with pop-up blockers, so you will likely have to hold the Ctrl key down while you click on this, and you may have to do this several times before a new window will open up with the images lined up down one side and text on the other. You can then use the Print option under File if your toolbar appears, or Ctrl+P if it doesn't appear (the Ctrl+P command does not work in ARTstor until you get to this page).
The student had left her stuff at a computer to go ask someone else for help, so I went into the back to figure it out, and came out a few minutes later to give her more information and she was gone. I hate letting students think that's the best I could do, but I did not tell her to hold on and I would try to figure it out. So this time it is my fault.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Again, I don't want to discuss my political views here since I can't hold my own in an argument. However, I just have to say something that irks me to no end. All politicians over-simplify very complicated issues, and the audience eats it up. First of all, everyone started cheering about jobs not going overseas because he would change the politics of Washington. Well, how many of them shop at Wal-Mart because of the cheap prices? How many of them would be willing to pay a few dollars more to shop at a locally-owned store or farmers' markets? American labor costs more than Chinese, Mexican, or Cambodian labor; keeping jobs here means having less material stuff. Speak not just with your vote but with your wallet as well.
Same goes for environmental issues. Solar and wind power have serious problems in providing the amount of energy needed and not causing other environmental problems. From my limited understanding, geothermal and nuclear energy are the only two solutions that have real potential. But how many people know much about these?
I don't think I live these things very well, but hope to someday.
So I said I wasn't going to get political and I just did. I have also previously kept this blog related to my profession, but I think this is related. This is what we strive to promote as information professionals... for times in the real world, outside academia, where society needs to make an educated choice. The choice of the next president in such difficult times (though which times haven't been difficult?) has crucial implications to the future of our country and the world. I hope that when Americans vote, that they have read newspapers, watched debates, done their best to understand what each candidate really stands for, and then critically evaluate each one. I hope they pick the one that their research leads them to believe will do the best job. We cannot vote for a candidate just because they are a woman, just because they are a republican, just because of their race, just because they are a war veteran, or just because we want to bring back those more prosperous moments we had in the 90's. The world is a complicated place, I hope we will all do our research and then come to an informed decision.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I've now spent nearly two hours of my time at the desk this evening backing up my computer. Another librarian's computer crashed last week and she has yet to get it back. It was a disaster since the loaner didn't have the software she needed and the fates were against her in all other ways as well. I will learn from others' mistakes and back up my necessary documents... oh, I think my last CD just poped out.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I have been assuming (something I am often too quick to do) that the print encyclopedia will be the same as the online one. Perhaps it is not.
I think this case will have huge implications for other authors. The outcome is much bigger than even J.K. Rowling herself. I still think her claims are ridiculous, but perhaps the publishers have changed the lexicon to be something us bloggers are yet unfamiliar with.
An author from the Times of London wrote a brilliant brief editorial on how Rowling's words belong to the people now, the same way so many other words we use have come from past authors. At first I thought the copyright symbols scattered throughout the two paragraphs were a mistake since they didn't make any sense, but realized towards the end that the author was giving credit to so many words that were coined by others and now are general use. These words include besotted, zany, cyberspace, pig-headed, chortle, quark, and many others from a variety of famous and niche-famous authors of the past. Just like these other words, Harry Potter, muggle, horcruxes, and other words from the Harry Potter empire now belong to the people. This author feels J.K. Rowling is incredibly foolish to try to stop that.
An interesting new angle on this topic, and cleverly demonstrated!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
He went into the details of managing a wiki, but not so much on how or why. I'm sure this could have some great applications in the library instruction classroom, but I'm not yet sure how. I also hate how un-graphical wikis are.
I was the only person in the class who had played with Second Life other than the instructor, and my opinions were the same as his.
I'm trying to figure out the difference between technically-aware librarians and technically clueless. I feel like so few librarians are taking any interest in social softwares, rss feeds, widgets, or Web development. Is this perception valid? Of those who are not technologically aware, would most of them be interested in what I would have to say at a presentation? I've discovered so many great things in the past semester and I would love to share it, but I know there are plenty of others who know more than I do.
Harry Potter fans may eventually buy the Harry Potter Lexicon, but will line up at bookstores breathlessly awaiting midnight when her encyclopedia comes out.
Oops, am I allowed to say the phrase "Harry Potter" on my blog, or am I going to get sued for copyright violations as well?
Sunday, April 13, 2008
I'm not a big fan of the IM format. It doesn't get much use and I'm not sure what I could have done differently in this situation. Despite all of the talk about IM, I don't believe it will grow in the future.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I'm doing exactly what I want here. We have limited resources and our salary leaves much to be desired, but we don't have the bureaucracy. I wanted to do more Web work, and got to take over the Web site. I have the respect of the college Web designer and the head of IT and they are very helpful when I need something. I was given time to learn how to use Flash and create tutorials. I will be taking time this summer to learn some basic programming. I get to do a lot of creative work and get support for any program ideas I have. How many big state schools would let us take over the library for a Harry Potter Night? It was an incredibly successful outreach event, and so much fun to put together! We have a wonderful sense of community and I do things with professors from all different disciplines. I also have a lot of opportunities to spend time with the students, and recognize many of the students that come to the library. I hate administrative work, but have to do very little of it that I don't enjoy. I definitely don't need to write reports that no one reads.
I have this abstract vision of making our Web site have more interactive, educational aspects to it. I'm not quite sure how to do this, but I'm finding bits and pieces of cool stuff that could be used for this. This will take some studying on my part to implement, and I won't have much other than moral support and feedback from other librarians. However, I am passionate about it so I know it will get done well.
I can't imagine being anywhere else right now. It's such a challenging time with technology, but also so exciting. I'm starting to move my position to be the technology leader among the librarians here (though I won't touch ILL!). We're usually ahead of the curve when it comes to new technologies, but I want to do more than just what comes already packaged from vendors. There is so much out there that is free and cheap, and it's just a question of how you put it to use.
Friday, April 11, 2008
- Widgets – This word was used all over the place. A widget is a box on a Web site that brings in functionality from a separate page. The quick search box to our catalog on the Snowden Web site is an example of a widget. Penn State created a page specifically for novice searchers that was simply a series of search box widgets. Many places are also providing links so students can add these library search boxes to their iGoogle, facebook, or MySpace pages. Other libraries use slideshow, countdown, and IM widgets.
- Virtual Reference – This continues to be a big topic of discussion. The focus of virtual reference continues to revolve around IM chat reference, but it doesn’t sound like very many people have been overly successful. Meebo seems to be the most popular free IM tool.
- YouTube videos – Libraries are creating clever videos and the presentations make the technical aspect seem not so intimidating. Most presenters suggested getting patrons involved since our humor is different than theirs. The goal is to make the video “go viral,” meaning that students will think it’s clever and send it to their friends.
- Web 2.0 tools in catalog – There were a number of presentations on catalogs, though I only attended one. The general gist is that most catalogs are ugly and not user-friendly. We should have catalogs that allow for tagging, reviews, book lists, and IM chat, traditional reference, and links to ILL at all dead-ends.
- Creative Web 2.0 marketing – The biggest trend is to have a program or “contest” that invites the local community to submit pictures or podcasts to the library. A number of public libraries have asked for pictures of what teenagers do for fun in the library, podcasts of what people like about the library, pictures of people reading their favorite book or a particular popular book, or a day in the life of the local library. The idea is that patrons will show their picture to friends and family when it’s on the Web site. Libraries are posting community blogs and turning traditional suggestion boxes into an online message board. Some libraries are also offering personalized READ E-Cards patrons can send to their friends.
- Gaming – Video games seem to be huge in the public libraries. I didn’t hear anything about adding video games in academic libraries except for an occasional special program.
- Telling stories – This is a big theme. Tell your story about the library, and get patrons to tell their stories. People like stories and they’re good for marketing.
- Have people take pictures with their Harry Potter books as a pre-HP-Night activity
- Look into creating videos with students’ help
- See how difficult it would be to create personalized READ e-cards
- Plan marketing programs that involve people submitting pictures to us
- Use tips to clean up the Web site
- Perhaps create a “novice searcher” page under English Subject Links specifically for English 106
- Look into adding widget links to Web site that people can add to facebook, MySpace, iGoogle
- See if Anonymouse really works for testing off-campus database access
- Look into creating database-driven Subject Links pages
- Look into creating virtual reading rooms and virtual summer reading programs
- Create Google Blog Alert for “Snowden Library” to see what users are saying about us
- Look for more information about faculty and Web 2.0
- Allow students to ban books as a Banned Book Week activity (but not reserve materials)
- Look into uses for del.icio.us at the reference desk
Who knew when I accepted a job at little Lycoming College that we would have celebrities visiting us left and right? Today, Sean Astin (of Goonies, Rudy, and Lord of the Rings) is on campus. Like Bill Clinton, he is also campaigning for Hillary. I'm not sure how many of the students really care about his politics, more are probably like me and just want to see the celebrity.
I got a good look and went back to work, too much to do...
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I'm still trying to recover from being gone for three work days at this time of year. I've run out of space on my to-do board and almost everything is in red.
For those of my readers who weren't there, keep an eye on my blog and I will summarize some of the stuff that stood out to me the most as I have a moment to sit down and look at my notes.
Of course it was also great to meet some friends from grad school and make a few new ones... as well as see some of the celebrities of the library blogosphere.
Friday, April 4, 2008
I am wondering if a disproportionate amount of bloggers are going to CiL. It seems like every blog I read discusses going or even presenting at CiL, but I know it is a small conference. A former library school classmate just wrote on my Facebook wall today saying she is going. Thank goodness for Facebook and the means it provides of sending brief messages like this one! I am looking forward to this conference much more than I have looked forward to ALA, even if I won't get to see my dear internship supervisor or any of my close grad school friends.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
We recently completed our fourth annual library satisfaction survey among students. This survey reaches over 25% of the student body each year. I explain all of this because the library being too noisy seems to be a growing trend here. It has been mentioned in the past, but with equal numbers of students saying it is too quiet. Yet this year no one said it was too quiet and a number of students said it was too noisy.
A recent issue of the Library Issues newsletter discussed this trend which probably affects public libraries as well as academic ones and this just goes to show it's not just us having this problem. We've worked so hard to make the library a desirable place for students to be, yet those efforts have been condusive to noise, and now students don't want that. The Library Issues newsletter suggested building physical walls to create noisy and quiet areas. Maybe other libraries have money for that, we definitely don't.
To make matters worse, in our library the first and second floors are open to each other (including the art gallery), and the third and fourth floors are open to each other. We would like to keep the third and fourth floors quiet, but they're hard to monitor when everything is on the lower floors and we have a small staff.
But first and foremost would be to make the darn administration find someplace else for the art gallery to go!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
This certainly describes me this morning. My fiance goes nuts because I always have my nose in a book.
I'd be much more sympathetic if he didn't wander off in the middle of dinner to watch every single Seinfeld re-run.
I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak last night. All three of the people I get book recommendations from labeled this book as "life changing" and a "must read." Well, it is.
This is an unusual book with Death as the narrator. The style takes a few pages to get used to, every few pages he inserts a note in bold text, something that is incredibly insightful... inhumanly insightful into the characters or the time period. There are also some picture stories the Jew gives the main character that touch the reader beyond words.
So much was happening in Nazi Germany, and the average German was so ignorant of the whole picture. The main characters in this book are just trying to get by, just trying to love, just trying to live. This is a powerful book that everyone should read!