Monday, July 30, 2007

She has some questions for you!

I'm sure you've noticed that I am not the most consistent blogger. Summer is my favorite time of year, so I'm less inclined to spent all of my time in front of the computer. I went on a short vacation to Block Island. It's been hot, so I've been outside a lot. I've been reading like crazy. Lots of playing and lying about. And, oh, that job-hunting thing.

I am playing catch-up with my different blogs, my email, and etc. In the meantime, Meredith has some questions she's like to ask you - go take her survey!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Feed Me

Seems there are all kinds of gadgets and widgets you can use if you'd like to add feed content to your blog or site. I haven't added any feed to my sidebar - yet; I'm trying to decide what type of content to highlight.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Feevy, which I have been using on my library's two teen blogs and our main blog. I think is a great tool for just this sort of set-up, and I thought that perhaps it would be nice if readers of the main (read: adult) blog could see at a glance what was going on in the teen blogs (without me having to constantly cross-post). Of course, no reads any of our blogs, but I do like to keep myself busy. Feevy's a good choice if you want something with a little (pre-determined) style in your sidebar.

Jessamyn re-styled her blog, and gave us the heads up on Feed2JS (Feed to JavaScript) which she is using for her reading list and the latest Ask MeFi questions. Seems simple enough, you can host it on their server, one of several mirror sites, or your own server, and you can style it as you like. And, I just noticed that the code was created by Alan Levine, the guy who created the Multipost Bookmarklet Tool that I just blogged about. Cool.

If you are looking to place some news on your site, but don't feel like cobbling together the sources for yourself, then you might want to take a look at Moreover. I first saw Moreover at this site; it was also the first time I saw a live feed in action on a site. Moreover is a company that offers news solutions for websites, blogs, and publishers (like the NYT), but it also offers some free (ad supported) services for non-profit blogs. With Moreover you can choose the type of news content you want and generate a simple feed. Or, if you want to easily display it on your blog, Moreover works with FeedDirect's Webfeed Wizard. If you are a newsie, you might like this arrangement.

And, for the ADD among us, there's SplashCast. SplashCast positions itself as adding an "online TV channel" to your blog, and it focuses on "media" content (rather than just plain text, I guess). You can use rss feeds from places like Flickr and YouTube, you can create and add your own video/pics/audio - seems like there is plenty you can do with this. I think this service would be well-suited to teen library blogs, and regular library blogs that had lots of audio-visual content to broadcast. Right now, I'm finding the service slow (which could be because it's gaining in popularity), and the site a tad overwhelming; you might have to cruise around quite a bit before you really get a handle on what you can do, and how you can do it. But if you can figure it out, I'll bet you could do some very cool stuff with it.

And, naturally, there are the widgets that come with the major blogging platforms. If you are looking for seamless styling, using one of the widgets designed specifically for your blog tool may be the fastest and easiest way to go.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


We have a policy at our library that a patron cannot check out a book (or anything else) without their card - no exceptions, ever. No, we will not look up your card. No ,we will not do it just this one time. NO! The circ people adhere to this policy like it's the Holy Grail. Naturally, I have an opinion on this policy, and even suggestions about how it could be handled a tad differently (and perhaps maybe with a smile - but that's just me), but I do not work circ, and my opinion means nada.

OK, so, as you can imagine, patrons are constantly upset about this policy, and many have asked that we use cards that attach to their keys, like the ones you routinely get at the supermarket for your discounts and such. Most places give you three cards - two keychain type, and one credit card type. People want these keychain cards.

Our consortium recently adopted a new name (thank God), and with this new name comes new cards. I asked one of the staff people (SP) tonight if we were getting keychain cards:

Me - "Are we going to get keychain cards in addition to regular cards?"
SP - "No."
Me - "Because I have had several patrons ask for those...."
SP - "No. Those are gross. I don't want to handle people's keys."
Me - "Well, yeah, but, patrons seem to really want them."
SP - "We're not getting them."

Allllllriiighty then. Business as usual.

First, let me state that I am a germ-o-phobe of the highest order, and the "yuck" factor is not lost on me. But, um, folks, we handle books all day. Books that have had God-knows-what done with/to them. Books that have been in the hands of many many many people, in the course of one day alone. So, uh, the yuck factor is a non-argument, as far as I'm concerned.

What drives me crazy is that this kind of thinking is standard operating procedure around here. What the patrons want is rarely given much weight - it's always what's easiest for staff - and worse yet - what is easiest for one or two particular staff members. I did not hear that anyone had any input into this decision to not get kaychain cards. I can bet that none of the professional staff had any input. And in fact, I can bet that this decision was made by one person (maybe two). I'll eat crow if I'm wrong on this, but I bet I'm not.

Stuff like this drives me crazy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I just got shushed! By a patron! While I was helping someone at the public access computers! She actually went, "ssshhhhhhh...." She was supremely annoyed that I was helping the person sitting next to her. I think I glared at her.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Oral History, Anyone?

You have got to check out Voice Thread! Talk about a great way to create an oral history, a travel log, a family-oriented audioblog -- you name it. I'm just sitting here thinking about how teachers and librarians could use this with teens as a way to connect them with their family history, and talk about a nifty tool for some intergenerational programming. I also think this could be a good tool for those who would like to try an alternative to traditional screen casting.

Be sure to check out What is Voice Thread, anyway?, and the basic tutorial, here.

Here are some threads you might find interesting:

Classroom 2.0
My Facebook Experimentation
Vassar Island in Second Life
Online Teaching and Learning

OK, I MUST stop now (why do I think I'm going to blow a good chunk of the day playing with this?). Have fun!

Sunday, July 08, 2007


The NYT article on "hipster" librarians certainly has lots of people talking. Some enjoyed the article, and others, not so much.

I read the article and thought it was typical; I agreed with some of it, and found some of it vaguely annoying. I wondered why, when you Google "cool" "+librarian" and my blog comes up at the top of the list, no one ever interviews me about what it means to be a cool librarian.

Seriously, though, the article did get me thinking about the fact that I have "branded" - for lack of a better word - myself as the Cool Librarian, and I wonder if people think I'm a jerk - or worse yet - "pathetic" - for doing so.

So, for those of you who have wondered about that, the explanation is quite simple - and sadly, rather boring: it's the handle I chose for myself when I became an obsessed geocacher (arguably one of the most "uncool" hobbies around). I was in the middle of grad school at the time (2003), and I was just dying to start my career as a librarian, and to be known as a librarian. And a cool one, at that.

I decided to become a librarian after working as the director of a non-profit adult literacy program, and my office just happened to be housed at a local library. And here's the "funny" part - the librarians at this particular library were all substantially older than me, couldn't clear a paper jam to save themselves ("Jessica, the printer thing is broken again!"), and had cardigans in every color - and I thought they were the coolest people around.

"Miss Mary," the children's librarian, would go home after work each night to a single cigarette and a glass of wine in her hot tub. "Linda" loved to dish the dirt on everyone, but was genuinely sweet to our several severely mentally-ill and often patience-trying patrons. "Charlotte," who didn't have an MLS but had worked in the library for years, could (and would) catalog my ass if asked to. And at 83, "Mildred" was nearly stone deaf, but came in to work with a smile on her face each and every day. These women weren't hip, wouldn't know tech if it bit them on the head, and were the reason I called URI and said, "I'd like some information on your MLIS program, please." Damn cool, all of them.

Yes I have tattoos. Yes I have a nose ring. Yes I'm a bit of a techie. And yes, I think that those things give me an aura of coolness - to some people. But I was all that (and a bag of chips) long before I became a librarian.

I feel like a COOL LIBRARIAN when a patron pays me a compliment on my job performance (or, hell, my shirt); when I track down that elusive bit of info; when I make a teen laugh - and not just at me; when I say, "YES! I think I can do that for you" when I'm not really sure that I know what "that" might entail; and when I speak my mind, no matter how unpopular my position, because I want my library to rock.

That's my story - and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tech Competencies and the Growing Divide

WARNING! This post will not have any answers, just simply bring up more questions. I'm good like that.

As I am continually bitching about the frightening lack of tech skills not only in my own library, but in the entire state, I read with great interest the "Minimum Competencies" list posted at Library Revolution, and the "Basic Competencies of a 2.0 Librarian" over at David Lee King. I am relieved to say that I only missed one competency on each list - I wasn't sure of "obtain an IP address" as that could mean a couple different things (and even then I still wasn't sure I could do it unprompted, so I looked it up, practiced, and now it's in my skill box), and on David's list, I am completely void of "basic console gaming skills."

The first thing that struck me about the lists is how different they are in terms of skill-level. Yes, I get that David's list is geared towards "2.0 librarians" and Emily's list is more of a general basic computer skills list, but, still. Actually, I think that the fact that they are so different is very telling; obviously, as a profession, we have people who don't have even the most basic of computers skills (while I think our professional staff has mastered Emily's list, I doubt that many of our support staff has), and we have people who have been online for years.

If we want to meet in the middle, and perhaps be even broader than either of the above lists, we have the 20 Technology Skills Every Librarian Should Have (plus Jenny's additions) list that Jenny Levine posted nearly two years ago. I think this list still holds up well, is librarian-specific, covers a broad range of skills, and is reasonable.

But, no matter what list you like, or create for your own staff (because as we all know, different libraries have different needs), the big question is, "How do we get non-tech staff to understand - and care - that these skills are needed in order to perform our jobs well?" Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for this - but I think it is the most frustrating aspect of the job for anyone with tech skills who works in an essentially non-tech library.

Is mandatory professional development/re-certification the answer? I don't know how it works in other states, but here you get your MLS/MLIS, and, um, that's it. There's no recertification process, and, in many cases, some libraries don't push prof development due to a lack of funds (I was unable to attend ALA this year because the library couldn't afford to send me, and on my $225 a week pay, I couldn't afford to send myself). And some libraries don't push development because of the sheer unwillingness of some staff members to learn anything that they think is "useless," "unnecessary," or simply "beyond them." So, what we end up with is professional librarians who got their degrees not only before "web 2.0" and "library 2.0," but before computers were commonplace, who haven't either wanted to, or had had the opportunity to "keep up."

Yes, I am purposely painting with broad strokes here, but this is exactly where things get sticky - if not downright hostile. I don't believe I am exaggerating when I say that there is now an entire legion of "traditional" librarians who are odds with the "new breed" librarians, and vice-versa. Non-tech librarians don't want to hear us tech librarians go on and on about things they have no interest in - and worse yet, things they feel are irrelevant to their jobs as librarians - and we tech librarians get unbelievably frustrated when our libraries ban things like MySpace (like my library does, and let me tell you, I get sick to death of policing the terminals because any kid who wants to get on MySpace knows exactly how to jump our filters), and are told that we need to keep our mouths shut because we haven't yet earned our chops.

Personally, I think there's a serious lack of communication between the two "sides." Though I have never, ever, heard (or read) any of my techie librarian friends say the traditional library arts (print reference, reader's advisory, subject headings, etc) are "useless" or "unnecessary," I've heard (and read) several non-tech librarians say they we don't value these things; I think that's an incorrect assumption. However, I think as tech librarians, we do need to be careful with our tone, and realistic with our expectations. If a person has had little experience with computers or the internet, it is safe to assume that it will take a while for that person to get up to speed. What comes easily to us after years of noodling around online may take a whole lot longer for a tech newbie to master - and we techies need to keep that in mind.

Which brings me to my last point/observation: this divide is not a "top-down" problem in most cases, and I believe that that reality only adds to the hostility/frustration cycle we currently have going on. What we have is new (and this often translates into "young") librarians coming into jobs with (oftentimes) a more well-rounded skill set than some of the veterans. It's rarely a good thing when a boss or superior discovers that their subordinate is better-equipped for the current demands of their jobs. It stinks to feel like the new kid on the block could displace you, and it also stinks to feel like people dislike you because you "know too much."

So what's the answer? Hell, I don't know. Personally, I think we need better communication between the two camps, we need to push professional development (of all kinds) if not outright recertification, we need to rid ourselves (all of us) of the chips on our shoulders, we need to understand that we can learn from each other, and we need patience.

Because the bottom line is this: today's patrons want and need services of a traditional, and a technological, nature. And the sooner that everyone gets on board with both aspects of the job, the better it will be for our patrons, our libraries, and our careers.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bookmarking Part II

Wow, according to comments and email, there are many more "folders" fans than I would have guessed! So, I spent a little time going through the lists I created, and looking at some new sites, to see if there was anything out there that wasn't simply a re-hash of something else already out there (which is how it goes in 2.0 land).

So, for you folders folks, I highly recommend Netvouz. Netvouz lets you create folders, people! It also tags, has a decent social set-up, and clean interface that is similar but a touch nicer to look at than delicious (if you care). You can import your bookmarks from any service that lets you export them to a file, which is nice. One word of caution: if you are exporting from a service that does NOT have folders, you will either have to create and move links into folders after you import them (a pain if you have a lot of links), OR you can create the folders first, them import your links in groups (easier in my opinion). In any event, you'll have to noodle around with the service a bit to get the hang of creating folders and such, but if its folders you want, folders it's got. Runner-up: Backflip. Yep, Backflip is still around. Kinda old school in the looks department, makes you jump through a few hoops at sign-up, does NOT support tagging (really), and the social aspect is clunky at best - but if you just want to store your "favorites" in folders, on the web, you might want to check it out.

I checked out a couple of other bookmarking apps, but didn't see anything too new or exciting - though I will add Raw Sugar to the list on the Social Software page, because I forgot to include it the first time around, and it is a pretty popular tool. Yahoo has jumped on the bandwagon with its MyWeb - nothing new here (yet - it's still in BETA), but a good addition for those who use Yahoo as their online base of operations.

I also checked out Tumblr after reading Kaijsa's comment. Tumblr is actually closer to Linkwalla than it is to the other social links sites, as it creates a links "blog" rather than just a list. Tumblr's floral icon is reminiscent of Magnolia (hmmmm), and it's easy to use. Probably not for everyone, but like Linkwalla, I think the concept is interesting.

Lastly, Linkwalla's creator, Ben Brophy, turned me on to a nifty little tool that allows you to post to several services with a single click - nice. I'm not sure that the service is actively supported at this point, but if your bookmark sites are on the list, it's a great tool to have in the box.