Friday, August 31, 2007

Everybody Chat

Library Voice has an excellent post, and step-by-step directions, for setting up Pidgin to work with your Meebo Me Widget.

Like Chad at Library Voice says, this is a great combination if your library uses a Meebo Me widget on the library webpage, and also runs a separate software client (or clients) for IM reference. We're not doing IM ref yet, but I wanted to give it a try because while I love Meebo, and I especially love my Meebo Me widget, I have found that I a.) sometimes close the Meebo tab by accident and then forget to log back in, and b.) have a fussy internet connection that sometimes spazzes out and momentarily "interrupts" - which is just enough to disconnect my Meebo tab (and sometimes I have no idea this has happened).

So, I downloaded Pidgin, grabbed the plugin, followed the directions (easy), and voila! - I am now running Meebo through Pidgin, and I don't have to have the Meebo page open at all. Very cool.

The one thing I have noticed is that there is a very slight lag with the widget when you are viewing the blog; in other words, when you first visit Cool Librarian, the widget is likely to say that I am offline. But if I am online and running Pidgin, it WILL change my status to available if you give it about 10 seconds to catch up. When actually chatting with a widget user, I haven't noticed any lag at all.

This is actually the first time I have used Pidgin, and I like it. It operates with many IM platforms, is fully functional, open source, etc, - it's great. But, and this should come as no surprise, I think it's ugly (and, apparently, unskinable). There's a blog post about this, and if you are in the mood for some of the most obnoxious Linux fanboy yapping around, read the comments. I only mention this because, as I read the comments, I wondered if this is why some people think the "library 2.0 cult" members are so awful. Do we sound like this? Gawd, I hope not. In any event, I am completely unapologetic about the fact that I like my apps "pretty." But, I'll live - the Meebo and Pidgin combo gets a big "thumbs up" from me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Cart Before the Horse

There's been a lot of animated (heated?) discussion lately about library 2.0, technology, and patron services - mostly due to the recent posts of the Annoyed Librarian. Some of the discussion has deteriorated into flames being tossed about, and a lot of the discussion has been insightful, well-crafted, and thought provoking.

One of my favorite posts comes from Meredith Farkas, where she talks about tech lovers - herself included - putting the cart before the horse in terms of technology in (some) libraries:

I remember when I came to Norwich over two years ago, eager to implement blogs, wikis, etc. And a lot of the initial things I tried to implement failed. Why? Because I put the tool before the need, I didn’t consider the fact that my colleagues may not want to use these tools, and I didn’t really consider the maintenance burden these tools have.

This is a perspective I have wrestled with myself, and I find, and have to admit, that I have done the same thing.

I have been pretty unsuccessful at implementing very much in terms of 2.0 technology at my library (for various reasons, but most notably the fact that I only work part-time, and there's only so much I can do and take on as my sole responsibility), but one thing I did take on was the maintenance of the library's blogs. Our main blog was put together by our former director, and I then created a teen blog, and a teen book review blog. None were even remotely "successful" in terms of patron use.

My goal was simple: to post news, upcoming events, and new book lists for our adult and teen patrons in an easy-to-access place. I was told, point-blank and from the get-go, "No one is going to read the blog - why bother?" And, unfortunately, that assessment was correct. Once I realized that few of our patrons even knew what a blog was, never mind the concept of RSS, I tried to market them via flyers and my ever-popular bookmarks (which fly off the circ desk). Still, no one shows any interest in the blogs, and all have (from what I can tell) fewer than five subscribers - one of them being me.

My excitement in the technology, and my desire to help move my library "to the next level," clearly trumped the patrons' desire - or need, it seems - to read our blogs. Naturally, I have found this frustrating, especially since I still truly believe that if I could somehow effectively inform the patrons of the technology and how convenient it is to use, that I would certainly win over at least a few people. But, I simply am not afforded the time/opportunity to do that.

So, I persevere, partly because I'm stubborn and unwilling to concede "defeat," and partly because I still hope against hope that it will catch on. Although, I do think that if the blog feature were truly incorporated into the web page (ala Joomla, Drupal, Scriblio, WordPress, or even Blogger, for that matter), it would work; patrons do visit our web site, just not the blogs. But again, unless I decide to design a new site during my off-time and out of the goodness of my heart (read FREE), I don't see it happening anytime soon. And maybe that's ok.

Oh, well, I tried. I may have tried "wrong," but I tried.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Random Reference Tool - Zamzar

The other night while at the ref desk, one of my regular YA patrons ran into a little snag; he was meeting with his tutor, and he needed to print out a couple of essays. Problem was, he composed the essays using MS Works (which comes free with most Windows computers), and he couldn't open it on our computers, which run Word. Now, you should be able to convert the file using Word and its conversion setting, but for reasons unknown (security? converter not loaded/accessible?), this didn't work for us (and he didn't have time for me to screw around trying to figure it out).

After a quick search I found, and decided to try, Zamzar, an online file conversion tool. And although there's an "email step" that the service could well do without, the files were converted without too much fuss. Crisis averted.

Zamzar covers a wide variety of file formats, and since it's free and operates online and doesn't interfere with your hardward/software/security config, you might want to keep it in mind for patrons using your public access machines.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More Talk

For those that don't subscribe, there's a new post up over at Library Talk. Check it out, and please join in the conversation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's not dead!

A while back I wrote about my trials trying to install Ubuntu on my old, crappy lappy, and I reported that I had killed the machine. So, for the past few months I have been drooling over various and sundry new laptops, knowing full well that I cannot afford chalk, never mind a new laptop, on what I make.

So, last night I pulled out the hulking monster and fired it up. Last time I did this, the display was all eff'd up, I had no drivers, and it just shut down randomly. Last night, stupid thing booted up fine. I still had no drivers, and after screwing with it for A LONG TIME, I finally figured out what I was doing wrong (duh, those check marks don't mean the driver is installed, they mean that THAT driver SHOULD be installed), I used the disk my good buddy sent me (thanks, buddy!), and voila - it's running fine. It still won't load Ubuntu or Freespire, but, whatever, it works.

I still hope to be able to in stall Linux on it at some point, but in the meantime I am going to set it up with Open Source and free software. This is a step I have not yet taken with my desktop (mostly because it's my main machine, and I NEED it to do what I need it to do, and I'm terrified I'll break the damn thing). But, if things go the way I hope, I will probably spend the next rainy day loading Ubuntu or Freespire (Freespire is pretty cool) on the main computer and creating a double-boot configuration. Yeah, wish me luck with that!

Hey, anyone out there have a junky Dell Inspiron 1100 (no laughing! I'm poor!) that has bit the dust? Can I have the RAM out of it?

Now playing: Duran Duran - Come Undone
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Warning: Your librarian may be a freak.

Ahhh, summer. I love summer.

One of the things I love about summer is driving, windows down, sunroof open, music LOUD. And let's not forget the singing. And dancing while driving. Yeah, good times.

So, here I am on my way to work, windows down, music blaring, and traffic crawling (I work on the main route to the local beaches). I am listening to, of all things, the "Back in the Day Cafe" on the hip-hop station (I almost never listen to hip-hop/rap - except when I am driving for some reason), and "I Wanna Sex you Up" (do you even remember that song?) comes on. Now, mind you, this is not even a song I like, but it's hot and sunny and I am in the throes of summer joy, so I'm singing and dancing and grooving - and then I hear it: "Hi, Jessica!!"

I look to my left, and there are two of my favorite little YA people (ages 12 and 10) in the car next to me. Waving. Laughing. And their GRANDMOTHER (a little white-haired Q-Tip of a woman) is driving them. Grandma is laughing. Then I laugh.

I turn down the music and say, "Boy, this doesn't look very librarianish of me!" The girls giggle and tell me that they are on their way to the library, but not my library. "But we love you best!" they yell as Grandma roars off when the light turns green.

I turned my music back up and continued grooving on my way. Made my day, those kids did.