Wednesday, October 31, 2007


OK, this may only appeal to the srsly dorky (I did indeed read the Canterbury Tales in the Middle English), but I about spit my coffee all over my monitor. Do chekke out the rest of the pictures at Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Desk Set

Some time ago, I copied Michael Casey and talked a bit about Desktop on Demand. Since then, I've been playing around quite a bit with a similar application - Goowy. Goowy and DoD both operate as a home-away-from-home desktop environment, but there are a few differences.

Goowy does not run its own browser (rather it just runs in yours), does not provide anonymous IP addresses, and it doesn't come with a word processor. But what it does do is work. Goowy is easy to get started with, it's quick, and it does what it says it's going to do. It provides email integration, IM integration (with Yahoo, Gtalk, and other Goowy users), calendar, contacts (importable and exportable), favorites, an Mp3 player, and my favorite part, online file saving/sharing. The file saving is powered by - but the funny part is that it's actually easier to use through Goowy, and you get a free 1Gb vs. having to pay for 5 Gb when going directly through's site.

I admit that I have my "online life" pretty well set-up from both home and work and don't have too much call to use Goowy, but since I do work from home occasionally, I use the online file saving feature to make life easier.

However, I would love to offer a class on Goowy to patrons. Many of our patrons use the computers at more than one library, and I think Goowy would be a boon to some of these people. Also, I have found that the IM feature works on our computers - and even Meebo doesn't work on our computers, since we have chat clients blocked. Gasp! Am I suggesting a work-around to our system? Yes, yes I am. While I hope that someday we will unblock at least Meebo, in the meantime Goowy would provide a chat/IM option that doesn't interfere with our network and doesn't require a download.

A patron could also check all of their email accounts from the same place (we don't offer a tabbed browser), and even play their own music without having to have their iPod (or whatever) with them, as the music files are stored - and played from - the patron's online files. There's even a "minis" feature, which uses a number of widgets and sets up very much like iGoogle or Pageflakes. All from one window.

Desktop on Demand may have been one of the first to this particular party, but I have found Goowy to be infinitely more usable - especially on a public computer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NELA, again.

If you are interested in the two sessions I blogged, you can find them here, and here. I attended two other sessions and took notes, but they were also blogged by other people here, and here. To be honest, I had nothing new to add, and in the case of Brian's post, his notes were much better than mine. Blogging a conference was more difficult - or maybe more time-consuming is the right term - than I thought it would be. If I do it again, I will probably attempt to take notes on the computer rather than by hand.

Overall, I thought the sessions I attended were informative, interesting, and generally well-done. People seem to know their stuff and have a genuine affinity for presenting it. Presenting is a lot of work.

I was, however, surprised at the number of presenters that did not offer handouts, and did not have some way to access their presentations online for later review. A listener has a lot of information to absorb in a short amount of time, and I think it's a really good idea to either have handouts available hitting the high points, or to make the presentation available online. That way people can go back to things they may have missed. Even if the slides are simply pictures, it may be helpful - or entertaining - to see them again.

In fact, at the end of one presentation, someone asked if the PowerPoint was available online - and the answer was, "um, no." It was clear that the presenter didn't know this was an option - or perhaps didn't know how to go about getting it online - and it was also clear that the technical difficulties during the program (not the presenter's fault) lent to people wanting to be able to access the program at a later date. I commented that if the presenters were interested in posting their slides online - pretty much whenever they had a spare minute - they could do so at slideshare, tag them NELA, and we could find them. Everyone in the room looked at me like I was a freak, and not a librarian trying to be helpful and get people what they wanted, which was access to this presentation - but - sigh - whatever.

And speaking of tech problems, that was another issues that reared its head on Monday - the wifi at the conference center SUCKED, and pretty much didn't work at all Monday morning. This left a few presenters up a creek that they didn't expect to have to paddle (no, the rooms were not equipped with hard-lined access [?]). Should a presenter have a reasonable expectation that the technology that is supposed to be provided will actually work? Of course. And they have every right to be pissed if it doesn't. But, if you have a presentation that relies heavily on being connected to the internet, I think it's a good idea to have a Plan B for instances such as this. Yeah, that's a pain, and means extra work, but you may thank yourself later if you end up having to rely on that back-up presentation you put together using handouts or screen caps.

So, if you are presenting, think handouts, think online access for attendees (and, those not fortunate enough to be able to attend your talk!), and think Plan B for possible tech issues. If you are not familiar with posting your presentations online, you might find this post useful.

I came away with some cool information, and a raging desire to have Library Thing integrated with our catalog (ha!).

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I'll be blogging some of the goings on at NELA over the next couple of days. If you are going, look for me!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Continually Surprised

When I was a kid, long before I considered becoming a librarian, I always associated librarians with (school) teachers in my head. They seemed to have so much in common: books, a love of reading, the desire to help you learn stuff, and so on. So I am always surprised when I find the teachers in my area to be completely disinterested in the public library and what we may be able to do to help them, and vice versa.

One of the biggest frustrations I encounter when helping middle and high school students with projects and papers is the fact that their teachers seem to have very little idea of what their local library has to offer - and, more importantly sometimes - what we don't. My library has a good print reference collection for a smaller library, and we have a good serials database, but we certainly don't have everything. We can access the local university collections, but most students (or their parents) don't know that, and also don't realize that that takes time in terms of getting the books in hand. So when I get the bulk of a class in looking for the same or similar materials, and everything's either out already or we simply don't have it, many kids leave empty-handed. And I hate that.

Since this is nothing new, I have over the years printed up a few guides for teachers concerning our collection and what we offer, a special note on "primary source material" (which is harder to come by on the fly), an offer to make up special handouts, bookmarks, and displays, and the fact that if a class is working on one subject, a heads up will allow me to secure some additional materials from other sources. I send these out every year, and from what I can tell, they are completely ignored (not once has a teacher called me to request services or ask questions).

Add to that the trend of middle-school teachers requiring that the students use ONLY book sources, and, well, I get a lot of migraines. While I understand that teachers do not want their students writing their papers completely from what could be inaccurate websites, it doesn't seem like there's any instruction on what "good" websites might be for a given topic - they're just banned from using websites. And, worse still, there is often no mention of online databases - and because they are accessed via the computer, many students are afraid , or not allowed, to use them even though they are sometimes the best research option for a chosen topic. I have the distinct impression that a good number of these teachers do not know what a database is, or how it works. And again, if anyone bothered to ask me to do a show-and-tell at the library, then everyone would know the basics.

And then there are the summer reading lists - the horrible, unchanging, summer reading lists. After looking at the same sad-ass reading lists for two years, I compiled a HUGE package of "the best" and various award-winners lists from a variety of sources, and sent them out. Nada. Same lists again, and in some cases, the schools gave up entirely. This year, I updated, expanded, and recompiled, posted the list to the blog, linked each title to Amazon, provided other helpful links, and then emailed the department heads. Not so much as a "Gee, thanks, that's helpful."

Finally, I asked a high school teacher why no one seemed interested in the library. His response was, "We don't have time read stuff like that. We're inundated with junk constantly. We're too busy trying to teach to the state standards." Alllllriiighty then.

I suppose this just falls under "you can lead a horse to water..." and all that, but man is it frustrating.