Monday, September 28, 2009

Podcasts: News to You

Podcasts present another means of getting news and sharing news with your constituency. Libraries may use podcasts to provide open access to book talks, author interviews, or book reviews. Libraries may also check out equipment for in-house listening to the latest popular news podcasts. One of my favorite news podcasts is the Diane Rehm Show.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Library Channel on YouTube

A great little tutorial on Academic Search Premier.

Library RSS

Okay, so I finally learned something new about my local library system. I can now keep up with their job ads as well as with their new books. Hooray! Maybe I can start finding some of those new authors I was blogging about before since the Metropolitan Library System is not yet on LibraryThing. Ah well, I can't have it all can I?

Research Project Calculator

When I first read about this, I found it mildly insane that we need to provide students with a tool to help them organize and plan their research. However, isn't that what information literacy is all about? We need to teach users to find, evaluate, and effectively use information. If all of that is not done on an appropriate time schedule, then we have not yet succeeded. Both academic and public libraries can use this planning tool to assist users. Don't forget to advertise it though!

Ahoy Matey

The PuzzlePirate game was interesting as a puzzle game (I'm a puzzle fanatic!), but I didn't really see any interaction between the pirates. Perhaps I should have tried harder at this, but it didn't seem important to the goal of the game. How does this game relate to the library world? As well develop games for information literacy, perhaps we need to be as involved and detailed as the SecondLife and PuzzlePirate worlds. Users could definitely learn through gaming and it would be more interactive and fun. However, we are still stuck in the TILT model as well as the low budget privately developed game model. Perhaps the Instruction Section of ACRL could work together to get such a well funded game developed for the use of all instruction librarians.

LibraryThing in the Library

LibraryThing is an awesome networking and Readers' Advisory tool. If wikis aren't your Thing and those Readers' Advisory printouts just aren't getting any use, then maybe you should look at linking your library up to LibraryThing.

What do I read next? It's the age-old problem that avid readers have. It's why I've stopped buying books and only check them out from the library or borrow them from friends. It's just too expensive a habit to blow through a book in a day or two (even a week if I'm really slow). But once you've read every Stephen King or Debbie Macomber book available (or just gotten tired of the author), how do you know where to go next?

It's about Tags, Stupid! Set up a LibraryThing account for your library starting with some of your most popular authors/genres. Now start tagging! Add one or several descriptive tags for each book. Tags are much more capable than the controlled vocabulary of your OPAC, but just like a controlled vocabulary, tags are most useful when they are consistent. Read about how to tag several books at once with the same tag to ease your workload.

Check out your cloud. Once you've gotten a good number of books tagged, you'll want to look at your own tag cloud as well as the Tag Mirror. It lets you see how others in the community have tagged books in your collection. You might find some useful tags to add to your collection to help your readers better find what they are looking for.

Overall, LibraryThing is a fabulous site, especially for libraries that want to go 2.0 but are jealously guarding their OPAC from those dreaded tags that might mess up the controlled vocabulary. Create an account for your library and link to it from your homepage to get another step into the 2.0 world.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More Productivity or More Work?

It's hard to tell yet whether online productivity tools like sticky notes, file converters, and Backpack would be more beneficial than the standard method. I think that at first there would be a definite learning curve for all those involved. Any time you change the communication system, expect there to be resisters and hoopladites (those who adopt new 'hoopla' right away).

The best way to decide what an institution should use is to look at what they hope to get done. Don't just grab the first cool app and say, "Let's use this! It looks so cool!" These tools could be used by individuals, departments, individual library branches, or entire library systems. Take a look at the most commonly performed actions and then evaluate what online tool might assist with those actions. Follow the following tips to decide whether to jump in and use a productivity tool:

  • Make sure you're actually going to use it. If you aren't going to use a tool often enough to get comfortable with it, you probably aren't going to stick with it.
  • Try it out yourself first. If you can't figure it out, odds are the rest of the people in your department won't either.
  • Is it the best tool for the job? Make sure that another tool won't do the same job better and cheaper.
  • Is it compatible with software or tools that you already use? If you're already using GoogleCalendar for your library schedule, do you want to add a To Do list manager that is separate from Google?
  • Decide at what level to use the tool. Is this a tool that makes your life easier but is optional for others? Would it enhance communication in the department, branch or system?

Social Media

Using Social Media in the library is an interesting concept. One possible way to promote its use in the library is to place a large flatscreen near the library entrance that is connected to a Social Media site and set to refresh every so often or to rotate with other world, local, and library news headlines.

Reference workers should also review a couple sites throughout the day to know what is in the mainstream media as well as in the popular media. Well-informed reference workers will be the best resources to patrons.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Delicious Pages

The social bookmarking site Delicious has received a lot of hype in recent years. Although I have experimented with the site, I have found that it is just not very useful to me. I do not frequently use computers that are not my own so I have no real need to carry my bookmarks with me "wherever I go." I have found that adding Delicious to my browser toolbar clutters my screen and adds a minimal amount of functionality to the browser.

For a static list of websites that a group of people may want to consult, why not create a wiki? The amount of effort that goes into effectively adding a link to Delicious is more time than I want to spend. If I really like the website, I'll just add it in a folder on my bookmarks tab. The folders do all I need them to in terms of organization. I rarely share links to sites I find interesting with my friends - it goes along with not forwarding those chain emails I get. However, a library could choose to create Delicious tags based on their catalog or other terms. Yet, I still think that listing these sites by category or question in wiki format would be more helpful to users. Or, if the sites are mainly news related, perhaps the library homepage should have an editable space for relevant media stories.

Viva La Wiki

Wikis are an interesting method of keeping information in a central place while controlling who can change or comment on it. In the library context, wikis may be most useful for the staff's use or for listing online resources that are not in the catalog for popular reference questions.

The Albany County Public Library Wiki demonstrates the advantages that a wiki can bring to a staff. Staff schedules are posted there weekly, staff brainstorm activities during planning periods, and managers coordinate their duties and tasks there. Wikis present an alternative to using collaborative writing tools like those I mentioned in the previous post. For many of these tasks, it seems wikis are much better suited to the user's needs.

Using wikis to list reviews or suggested book lists may not be as suitable. LibraryThing would better accommodate the ability to review and link like materials together through tags. However, a wiki could be very helpful as an online Reference Desk Resource. The wiki could be accessible not only by library staff but by users as well. It could direct users to reliable online resources for information on the most popular reference questions (similar to FAQs). It could even be updated daily with a "question of the day." One reference librarian could be assigned each day to take a question that they helped a patron answer and add it to the Reference Wiki. New staff and users would both benefit from such an arrangement.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Collaborative Wrtiting Tools

I was introduced to GoogleDocs about a year ago. Zoho looks a little more user friendly from what I can tell as well as more aesthetically pleasing. In general, collaborative writing tools are a great idea for groups that frequently work together. They require less work than the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word to view and adopt changes to the original document. There is only one version of the document floating around at any one time and changes are made real-time.

Though the advantages are obvious for groups that are geographically dispersed, it is also beneficial to those working within the same building. Time in meetings usually spent hashing out the wording in a new policy or report could be minimized through collaborative writing tools. The group working on the project could be given a time frame in which to submit changes and suggestions to the document and then all the suggestions could be reviewed at a final meeting.

The use of GoogleDocs and Zoho could definitely promote free speech in the office place offering everyone an equal chance to have their say without having to stand in the spotlight. However, users will need to remember common courtesy to keep from flaming a coworker for a suggestion. Users need to use the same courtesy online as they would in person.

Friday, September 11, 2009

BigHugeLabs Photo Fun

I see lots of promotional uses for the tools that BigHugeLabs provides. These fun photo tools can be used in online newsletters, homepages, games and learning activities. Unique images for newsletters can be created with the Billboard tool. Your library could offer Wallpaper for pc's and cellphones that highlights library features or offerings.

For games and learning activities, the answer to a trivia question could be presented in the form of a puzzle made from a picture of the answer. The difficulty of the puzzle could be adjusted based on the level of the audience.

Users could also be invited to submit their favorite images for use in the library website. If there are separate youth and adult services, user entries could be showcased in their respective areas both online and in print on site. Printing out winning entries and showcasing them around the library could invite more user participation as well.

BigHugeLabs as well as other photo editing tools are great sites to keep in your toolbox as you are looking for ways to jazz up the routine.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2.0 Reference

It's about time for libraries to move into the 2.0 world for reference services. More people are communicating and spending time in the 2.0 world. Libraries that use Facebook or IM to answer reference questions will be best served if the staff are already using those services in their daily lives.

However, there comes a challenging point of whether staff will want to use the same account for private use as well as business. The issue of privacy in the social networking environment is touchy. Some people carry aliases to allow them more privacy and separation from their jobs and social lives. As librarians, who are concerned with patrons' privacy, we should also be concerned about our own privacy.

Should libraries use a generic account that displays no personal information about the employee responding to the reference inquiry? If so, how does that impact the sense of receiving personal service? As librarians continue to forge into the 2.0 environment, they will need to find the balance between the public role of the profession and online social privacy.

The Trading Game

So I've checked out the Trading Card accessory on Big Huge Labs. I decided to link it to my Facebook account rather than uploading a lot more photos to Flickr. I find that it's much easier to consolidate my social networking tools rather than have them spread throughout the web. Here you see the Infamous Bella of our household who spent a couple days in the wall between the kitchen and bathroom.

I could see using this Trading Card feature as a fun way to introduce Information Literacy to library patrons. The librarian could create a Trading Card of the Week and post it on the library homepage or blog.

School librarians could use this as an incentive to get students to look for new information on the school library site while engaging in learning about the library and information literacy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Spelling it Out

I letter N F is for... O R M a letter T I O KMcElman_090516_N2 letter L letter I T letter E letter R A letter C Lower-case Letter Y (New York, NY)
Information Literacy happens to be one of my passions. This was a creative way to say it using Flickr's 'Spell This' feature.

Home and school

Home and school
Originally uploaded by rwhite2009

Here's another look at my book collection. Home life and school are about it for me right now. I happen to have a child with Autism, so I keep my books on that interesting Spectrum on the same shelf as my school books. Sometimes it seems managing libraries is not all that different from managing life with children (especially one with autism)!

School books

School books
Originally uploaded by rwhite2009

I've added a photo of what I'm reading for my MLIS program this semester. It includes reference works, web design, and research methods. Just a bit of light reading!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Keeping up with RSS Feeds

I find that the biggest problem with keeping up with RSS feeds is that I tend to have so many that I want to look at that I get behind very quickly if I am not checking in frequently. I have really come to love the iGoogle feature that allows you to place your RSS feeds right on your homepage so that every time you open your browser, you can check the latest postings. It only shows the most recent few which also keeps me from feeling overwhelmed at how much has been published since I last checked.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Library 2.0 - What's the Buzz?

Yep, Library 2.0 continues to be a hot topic in the world of library and information studies. Is it really all that different from Web 2.0? No, I don't think so. It's just the application of social networking to the library world.

Some librarians are gung-ho for Library 2.0 applications like using blogs to keep users up to date, but others are reaching for the AACR2 to try and keep a controlled vocabulary in 'control' of the catalog instead of the user-defined tags that are popping up everywhere.

Applying social networking to the library environment is a great idea, but we still have yet to reach the point where a critical mass of users have adopted the tools and jumped into following library RSS feeds, blogs, and tagging in the catalog.

There are plenty of great things about applying Web 2.0 to the library, but let's be patient as the rules of engagement evolve...