Sunday, November 25, 2007

Library Applications on Facebook Thing #17 1/2

I found the UIUC Library Search Assistant on Facebook and wanted to know how other libraries were using Facebook. However, I ran a search and found that most of the information was blocked because I didn't have an ID number that the University of Illinois recognized (big surprise). Relying on this sort of technology may be demanding more from our customers that we should. People assume that what they can get to through our webpage is freely accessible. I once had a very irate man tell me that he didn't understand why he had to pay for an article from the New York Times. He was accessing the article through the New York Times database, as opposed to one of our databases. I showed him how to use the databases we subscribe to through our webpage, but he told me that those databases were "for librarians." I tried to explain why the New York Times was now charging for articles that were over two weeks old but he clearly thought that being at the library meant that he should be able to get the article in a way that was easy and free for him. We're going to have to be cautious about advising people to use these other resources because they will have to know that not all websites are completely accessible to everyone.

Let's Collaborate or Oh, no! I forgot to bring a disk! Thing #18

My first thought is that these online applications would be great for those customers who have forgotten to bring a disk but don't want to print a document they're working on. If you can save it to these web based applications that would be a great asset to our customers. Then I wasted 10 minutes trying to upload a file to Google Docs before Google told me that the document was too big. This was annoying.

I then tried to upload something to ThinkFree from home. ThinkFree spent 15 minutes trying to upload something with Java (which would annoy our customers because it would waste their time on the machines) and then it opened up an empty document. When I tried to upload the same document from work (because the document is showing as in my ThinkFree account) I had to sign on, try to open the document, at which point another window opened and I had to sign on again, and then it couldn't open the document because it was a Microsoft Works document and not MS Word (though I swear I've got MS Word at home as part of MS Office Suite) Then we tried another document that was created with the same word processing program and it downloaded the Java program, then it told me to look at it with Power Edit, and then told me to "please sign in to open the document" ignoring the fact that I was already signed in. That's how I was able to get to the screen that let me choose which document to open. But ThinkFree insists I have to upgrade to ThinkFree Premium before I can edit anything, so this program will not be useful to our customers.

So these free applications would not be helpful to our customers (if they've got the bandwidth to use them properly at home, they've got the bandwidth to send themselves attachments via email and just pass documents back home that way, as opposed to needing a desk), and I'm not really sure they'd be of much help to us, either for the same reason. They're not opening up on my computer.

I could successfully upload and open MS Works Documents with Google Documents, but I wasn't able to share them with people who weren't using a Google, Gmail or Yahoo account. This would be useful as a means to send a document to yourself (when our customers forget to bring disks), but I still feel uncomfortable pushing one company over another (yes, Google Documents is a better service, but only if you're using their email accounts).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Facebook vs. usenet/newsgroups/bulletin boards Thing #17 1/2

Everything's moving to the Web nowadays, as though the World Wide Web (which is merely a way of formatting information using a Graphical User Interface that looks more user-friendly than the old way of putting things up with a DOS prompt) is this Big New thing. It's really not. When I was going to in college in the 1990s (class of 1994) we had these things called "Bulletin Boards" and one of my professors tried to utilize a Bulletin Board to generate more class discussion than we might have had for a a class that met once a week.

Now, I Facebook might be an alternative to doing book groups online, and if we're looking to do outreach that way, Facebook might be a good means of doing that. Facebook would also allow people to be members of book clubs in branches other than the one closest to them. This might be a really good thing in terms of engaging people in their 20s and 30s who would like to participate in book clubs but don't have the time or inclination to get to the physical library.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thing #17 Rethinking Wikis

Some years ago I found the site Bullets and Beer, devoted to Robert B. Parker, and his main character, Spenser. I loved this site; it listed all of the books, gave brief little synopses of the books, it was a wonderful site. I took everything on this site as fact; figured anyone who had put so much effort into creating must know what he (yes, I assumed anyone that much in love with the Spenser character must be a man) was talking about.

My first impression of Wikipedia was skeptical; who knew who was posting what, and for what reasons? However, that was before examining Wikipedia. I'm still a little suspicious; Wikipedia spends an awful lot of time citing different articles that also appear within Wikipedia, and that always makes me suspicious. I would prefer it if a source cites someone other than herself when proving her point, but of course, the different article in Wikipedia isn't the same source, it's just "published" (disseminated seems a more appropriate term) by the same resource. But the resources listed at the end of each Wikipedia entry are marvelous, and very imformative. If I just wanted to give people a place to start researching, I'm not sure I'd tell them to read the Wikipedia article, but I might suggest that they start looking at the sources Wikipedia lists.

I then went to the Wikipedia on Internet Filters, or "Content Control Software" as Wikipedia calls it. I didn't think I could add anything to the entry, but it did need some proper citations. I spent more than 15 minutes trying to figure out how I could edit the citations in the entry. Wikipedia's citation method is so basic that it's counterintuitive to those of use who learned citation standards in school (at least, that's my opinion).

Using Wikis to create communities Thing #16

I think we might be able to create communities of readers with Wikis this way; I have a book journal in which I record the books I've read, and I record in a book wiki that I've really enjoyed "No Pretty Pictures; a Child of War," by Anita Lobel. Someone else could then comment that they thought Lobel's book is a good companion to Anne Frank's Diary, being that Lobel survived the camps. In this way we could harness the collective knowledge of our librarians and use it to provide our customers with better service.

You know how bookstores frequently have a collection called "Employee picks?" Why couldn't we do something like that using a Wiki? The Princeton Library did, and I think it looks like a good idea.

Task #16 Wikis and completely different libraries

Wow! I'm reading about Best Practices Wikis, and somebody thinks it would be a great idea if they had a wiki community for people who wanted the newest book by Patterson, this way they could form an online community and pass the book amongst themselves.

I think the idea that there's a library somewhere with a community so small that a popular book could just be passed around without people getting upset that "Joe got it before I did, and I read so much faster than Joe," is just amusing. I'm sure those communities are out there, small towns where most of the people know each other, it's just that I've never worked in one.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

OCLC and Web 2.0. Thing #15

"In my library, we’ve seen a 55 percent drop in circulation rates over the past twelve years, making it harder and harder to justify the continued buildup of a large “just in case” print collection. As a Web 2.0 reality continues to emerge and develop, our patrons will expect access to everything – digital collections of journals, books, blogs, podcasts, etc. You think they can’t have everything? Think again. This may be our great opportunity."

How useful is the idea of listening to your users needs in a system such as mine? We serve over 1 million people, some of whom are very tech-savvy, many of whom think they're tech-savvy but aren't, and many of whom (still!) who barely know how to move a mouse. Why should we be ignoring our print collection because the cool people aren't using it? We've all had those awful days when the computer system goes down and we don't have access to it. This is when the "just in case" collection comes in handy. To say that it is impossible to teach everyone to use the print material, or to teach people to surf the Internet successfully, isn't helpful. We can't be everything to everyone, as much as we can try, and I don't think that the tools of Web 2.0 will help us bridge the digital divide.

Kindred spirit? Other people's commentary of Web 2.0 Thing #15

I want to thank Annoyed Librarian here, and particularly mention her opinions of Web 2.0. I was trying to say something very much like that, but I think she said it very well. (I'm just assuming she's a woman, sorry.)

Technocrati or the World Live Web? Thing #14

World Live Web? Oh, please. First there was ARPANET, created by the Department of Defense in order to create a communication network that had several means of distributing information from one computer to another. ARPANET was more likely to survive a Nuclear attack than our telephone system because there was no centralized source that would be destroyed. Then, in the 1990s we created the World Wide Web, a graphical user interface for displaying information. The World Wide Web was always static, because people could put up webpages at any time, and change them whenever they wanted.

I don't even know how Technocrati is tagging the blogs it's tagging. The Widgets are of no value to me. I don't care what everyone else is looking for right now, I only want to find what I'm looking for. Again, Show Me They Money! (with all due respect to Tom Cruise and Jerry Maguire.)

Stalk Other Users? Men on the Internet Thing #6

Habit number 5 of Several Habits of Wildly Successful Del.ici.ous Users suggests that we stalk other users. Reminding us that this may be a community for good, or maybe not. The use of the word stalk is probably not intended to be disturbing (another reminder that the person writing this piece probably isn't thinking of the women reading it) but it bothers me. Why couldn't we find another less intmidating word?

Show Me The Money!!! Or the dirty underside of social networking sites

How are these informal tagging sites profitable? Is the information gathered from my browsing habits going to be sold? To whom? I've basically told people that I'm letting them peek into

By encouraging our users to use these networking sites, are we just giving data away to marketers to be used? Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

OCLC has published a study, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World, that looks very pertinent to my concerns. of Bookmarks

Given that I can think of many times I've wished I had my computer with me so that I could show someone a site that I had bookmarked at home, but now I have to wait to go home to email it to them, I can see an advantage of these social bookmarking sites.

But using these bookmarks to help "“less tech-savvy librarians have an equal voice in the collection,” instead of having one or two librarians editing a static web page."? Don't you have to be rather tech-savvy to feel comfortable using the bookmarks to begin with?

I don't particularly like Internet Explorer, and I much prefer my Firefox browser at home. looks like it's intended to be used only with IE which I resent. What about people who are using older computers that don't work well with IE? What about people using linux to avoid the Microsoft issue altogether. Why is IE necessary?

Informal tagging Thing #13 A First Judgement

I like a formal vocabulary. I like having standarized search terms. I really like having an index where I can discover what search terms are being used. Therefore my automatic judgement of information tagging is that it's not terribly useful from a professional standpoint. I remember in graduate school when had "categories" so you could limit your search to already sifted areas of the web. I thought it was great when was using librarians to help "catalog" websites. Informal tagging violates all of this and doesn't necessarily help anyone find anything because we all use slightly different vocabularies; without creating any source where we can discover one another's tagging vocabularies (or what I might have called cataloging terms) the web becomes that more difficult to navigate.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hidden books!

I've read two really good books this year and I'm wondering if mentioning them here (it is The Book Blog, after all) will encourage anyone else to read them. OK, one of them hasn't come out in the States yet. I got an advanced readers' copy at Book Expo America of Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips and I really want to recommend it. The Greek Gods are alive and living in modern London; Athena is a dog-walker, and Apollo has a television show where he pretends to be a psychic. (Are Gods psychic? Or are they just Gods?)

It's not really fantasy; it falls into that middle area where I'd put Rankin's Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. It's due out in December and I want to encourage people to read it. I think it could be the 21st century Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, in terms of cult classics.

And The Word Was by Bruce Bauman is a powerful novel about the ability to continue living when faced with unimaginable loss. The book was very compelling and I would have stayed up all night reading it, if I hadn't had to go to work the next day. If you know you're going to be on a plane for 2 hours and want to be distracted, And The Word Was is the perfect book for you.