Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's been one of those weeks.

Now, here's a library campaign I can get behind!

Every manner of disordered, disruptive, annoying, and just plain crazy was in the library this week. Which really doesn't make it any different than any other week, but this week I had stuff I had to actually get done. And it's difficult to get anything done when you have to constantly address pandemonium at the computers. The computers which seem to be falling apart, all-of-a-sudden and at a rapid rate (these are WAY beyond their natural 3-4 year usefulness). But! No worries, because "we have six new computers coming!" which will actually hit the floor sometime near summer of 2008....

Yeah, it was one of those weeks.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Newsflash - (Free) Museum Day!

I just heard about this-

Saturday (September 29) is Museum Day!

Museum Day is a nationwide event taking place on Saturday, September 29, 2007 where participating museums and cultural institutions across the country offer free admission to Smithsonian readers and visitors, allowing for one day only, the free-admission policy of Smithsonian's Washington, D.C.-based facilities to be emulated across the country.

I checked out Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and both states have some great offerings (including the MFA and Isabella Stewart Gardner).

OK, so, yeah, you have to fill out a form which is meant to build Smithsonian Magazine's mailing list, but I'm still all for it. This is a great opportunity for people who cannot usually afford museum trips (taking a family of four to a museum can run into a lot of money some places), as well as a good reason to visit one of the smaller centers you may have missed in your travels. I plan on putting up a poster in the library about this, and I think Mom and I will go either to the New Bedford Whaling Museum (I grew up going to that museum) or the RISD Museum of Art.

Me with my Grandma and little brother on the Lagoda. 1974-ish.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now, onto something really important!

If I hadn't become a librarian, I would have gone to culinary school and become a pastry chef. I may still do that, but in the meantime, I'm tossing together a food/baking blog.

Not that this has anything to do with library life, but while looking at the bevy of food blogs out there, I have noticed that the majority of the ones I have seen use either the Minima template (Blogger) or one of the popular spare, white background templates on WordPress. I found this funny because, before even looking around, I was leaning towards the same idea.

So, I just wonder why this is. Is there some design sensibility shared by those who love to bake? Is it a matter of copycatting? Did someone send out a memo to food bloggers saying, "If you want to be cool, you need a white background?" I read blogs in many categories, but I don't think I have seen anything like this. Interesting. Thoughts?

Now playing: Guster - Center Of Attention
via FoxyTunes

Flap Flap Flap

This was not a topic that I had planned to devote TWO posts to (I usually can't get it together enough to get one post up about the "controversial" issues), but because, and only because, I've had comments and email asking just "what my problem is" about The Mudflap, I'll sum up thusly:

I think the "ideas" behind the campaign were good. And, in terms of the campaign being effective (when was the last time a library campaign, of all things, got this much press?), the campaign is great.

I think it was risky (not necessarily bad). I think it's controversial (not necessarily bad). I think lots of people like it, some people don't, and Wyoming Libraries had to weigh that before proceeding (um, right?).

They picked a "hot button" image - and maybe they really didn't know that (hard to imagine), but they did. Maybe they had hoped that all the uppity feminists had shaved their armpits, put their bras back on, and called it a day....

Personally, I'm still hairy, my bra's still on fire in a trash can out back, and I think this image wasn't used tongue-in-cheek-enough and is better suited to beer commercials. But, as in all things, your mileage may vary.

Friday, September 21, 2007


In spite of the fact that we constantly hear bout the evils of PowerPoint, and slide show presentations in general, there's a whole raft of online presentation tools you can play with. Some allow you to actually create presentations in your browser, and others simply make it possible for you to store, share, and embed your presentations. Here are some that I have actually used or played with:

Slideshare is the YouTube of the presentation world. It allows you to upload ppt, pps, odp (open office) and pdf files, present them on the site, share them, allow downloads, and embed shows in webpages and blogs. I used slideshare here, and I think it's especially useful if you want to embed a presentation in your web page, AND you want random people to see your stuff. I have already had a few requests to use the shows from other people looking to put on geocaching presentations. No creation capability as yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if that is eventually incorporated. Definitely a social tool.

ZohoShow has creation and editing capabilities that Slideshare does not. However, Zoho isn't nearly as easy to navigate, and the social aspect isn't anywhere near as useful as Slideshare. If you take the time to look around and figure things out, need the editing and creation tools, and are not concerned about the social aspect, then give this a try. Quality of uploaded programs is actually a bit better than Slideshare. They also have other tools, much in the same vein as Google Docs.

Preezo is a cleaner, more straightforward version of ZohoShow. However, no upload function. But you can create, email, share, and embed. No social interface. For straight creation, I like this better than Zoho.

Thumbstacks is one of the earlier players in online slide creation, and operates on a very spare platform. In fact, it's so spare, there's barely any documentation at all. None of the frills of the aforementioned, but it does work. Share slides via a link - no embedding. Minimalists will love it.

Naturally, Google Docs has joined the fray as well. Again, very similar to Preezo; not a lot new going on here. But, I can definitely see the benefit to using this tool if you already use the other Google Docs tools, and I do like the idea of having a complete suite online. If library patrons caught on to this, there'd be less need to outfit each computer with MS Office.

Now, if you know code, have server space, and do a lot of presentations, you might like the system that Jessamyn uses. I have also gone this route, and I love the finished product. If you have zero html/css experience, and don't particularly want any, this probably isn't the way to go. But if you do, once you've done one, doing others is a snap. Also makes it easy to store your presentations on your server and present presentations in link-list format on your web page. Nifty "print" version option as well.

OK, go put something together, and come back and show the class.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mud Flap, Anyone?

I first read about the "Mudflap" campaign over at Meredith's site. To be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Obviously, I'm a person who likes to push the envelope, and is usually trying to think outside the box when it comes to library services; and if you know me personally at all, you know that the LAST thing I am is a prude. But, I am also a "feminist," and I just wasn't 100% on board with this. And, that made me feel like a prude, and worse yet, a prude without a sense of humor. My thoughts arent, "OMG! That's horrible!" but more along the lines of, "Yeeeaaah, I don't know about that."

Tonight, while reading one of the personal blogs I frequent, I ran into the "flap" again. SJ doesn't currently work as a librarian, but she does have an MLS, and keeps up with the goings on in library land. She had a pretty strong response to the campaign, and came up with a "rebuttal" design.

According to LISNews, some of the listservs are all aflutter over it.

I can't wait to see what happens next. If anything.

Friday, September 14, 2007

If it's FREE, it's for me!

Free Stuff Alert!

I like free. I just registered for this kit (not sure what the "restrictions" are, but it doesn't hurt to register). We are getting more immigrants in the area lately, and I think some new civics/citizenship resources are definitely in order.

If you are in a public linbrary, check it out.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Computers, Money, and Angst

Right after reading Geeky Artist's post on the interesting way Yahoo News (? not sure about that) chose to headline the article about internet demand and libraries, I came across the same article headlined a different way:

Despite demand, libraries won't add PCs
Internet demand outpacing libraries' capacity, study finds

Makes quite a difference, no?

Anyway, I read the article which I think paints a pretty accurate picture of what's going on in many public libraries right now. However, I was struck by this nugget:

"The St. Mary's system is likely to leave one full-time position unfilled to free up $40,000 to buy 20 computers, Reif said. That means a 50 percent cut in staff available for outreach programs serving youths."

Aside from the computers vs. "serving youths," (um, could we possibly at least partially accomplish both objectives?) tone, I was prompted to do the math - $2,000 per computer. Now, I have no idea if that figure includes the cost of all the software loaded, additional wiring, additional bandwidth, and what-have-you, but, let's just for sake of argument, say that that is the cost of the box, monitor, keyboard, and mouse (I am assuming printing is networked), and software. Two grand. Per computer.

Sure, people spend that on computers all the time. Gamers. Programmers. People who think they really need all that "extra" crap on big-ticket boxes. Fine. But, apparently, that library can't afford that - so, let's troubleshoot.

I don't care what box you get - a computer has an average useful life of 3-5 years - RAM, processing speed, and storage be damned. Three-hundred dollar computer? 3-5 years. Mucho expensive computer? 3-5 years. Every computer I have ever owned has bought the farm at 4 years.

So, how about a CHEAP box? And by cheap, I mean I bought my Dell from the scratch and dent pile for 248 bucks. Yes. 248. With a keyboard and mouse. Granted, that was a steal, but you get my point. It has more than enough RAM and storage for a public access machine. The sale monitor (which I love), brought the total to under $400.

Software prices got you down? Think VISTA is the work of the devil? Well how about that pesky Open Source you've heard so much about? Ubuntu - FREE! Freespire - FREE! RedHat Fedora - FREE! Open Office - FREE! Firefox (Slimbrowser, Opera, others, I'm sure) - FREE! So far, this computer has all the functionality of the ones we use at my library - for much less money.

What about security? Check out AVG and AVAST's non-profit prices. Centurion Guard too much? How about Fortress? Linux system? Check this list. And again, maybe Centurion Guard is a must for your library - and that's OK - but check your options. (And here's where librarians with some of those silly 2.0 skills would come in handy.)

Now, those 20 machines - are they in addition to, or replacements for, the old computers? If they are additions, that's great, but do you really need 20? Would 10 or 15 still make a difference and save you money? And don't forget to recycle! Who says that EVERY computer in the joint needs to be completely pimped out? Would a few of those older boxes make good word processing machines without internet connectivity? What about a couple of computers just for kids games? Or express internet-only kiosks? Need a "new" monitior? Does it have to be a flat panel (for the sticky fingers of the little ones on that kids' games computer you just set up)? Check Freecycle - people giving that stuff away!

Naturally, every library has different needs, and I'm sure there are expenses that I haven't taken into proper consideration. But you see what I'm getting at here. If you are a poor person, a poor library, or a poor non-profit, you've got to be a little creative.

Tell you what - hire me for 30 grand, and I'll do your YA outreach for you AND get your 20 new machines up and running for less than that other 10 thou. Word.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thanks, that's what I wanted to say.

Rory Litwin over at Library Juice says pretty much what I wanted to say about the "Standardized Chapel Library Project." I think it's very easy for the "average" person to dismiss the rights of prisoners - until you have someone close to you remanded to jail, or end up there yourself. In any event, it's not that I mean to downplay issues of security - certainly such concerns are valid on some levels - but I think we need to be damn careful how we go about limiting a person's reading selection (and especially religious reading selection).

In other news, I have been hard at work on my Family Geocaching Clinic program. I think I am done with the slide show, and now I am tossing together a webpage as kind of a catch-all place for geocaching information. That way, anyone who didn't attend the program but wanted to can get the gist of what went on (as well as anyone else who is interested). I have spent about triple the amount of time I needed to on this whole thing; I just keep telling myself that perhaps someone, somewhere, will find it interesting and useful. Plus, it keeps me out of jail, where I might not be able to read my favorite religious literature.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Prisons Purge Religious Books

MY Times article Prisons Purging Books on Faith From Libraries

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries. The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups.

I am busy trying to get a presentation together, so I don't have time to rant about this at the moment. Do read the article - it raises some great questions.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Riddle Me This

So, is anyone planning to be on the "answer sites" on September 10 to provide answers as a librarian?

In general, I think it's a cool idea. I think it has the potential to spread "awareness" (for lack of a better word) about libraries, librarians, and what we do. And, I also think it has the potential to become obnoxious - though I have been looking at a number of the answer boards and the answers provided by librarians, and so far I like what I am seeing - friendly answers, nice tone, and SIMPLE, taglines.

Jessamyn has a good post about this topic, especially in relation to Ask MetaFilter, one of the best answer boards out there (and I FINALLY signed up for an account).

I think I will probably participate on some level, even if it's not an all-day thing for me. Now, I just have to decide on the site; Ask MetaFilter seems well-covered, so I will probably end up on Yahoo Answers, which (IMHO) is a site that gets a lot of random crap on it. Or maybe I will haunt Yedda, a site that I think has more potential than Yahoo Answers. Guess I'll decide tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Lost Me at Hello

Facebook and your WebPac

Um, I have pretty much no idea what this says (I am so not a programmer), but, if I'm reading this right, it has something to do with putting your OPAC in Facebook - (right?). At any rate, perhaps someone out there reading this will understand it, and put the info to use. If you get this working on your Facebook page, do let me know!