A complete dunking

November 29, 2007

Susan and I taught another Social Web Literacy class this morning. We’ve been doing this for a year now (that’s about two dozen times) and it’s becoming common for several students to come to class with a MySpace or Facebook or some other social networking site already in their name. It wasn’t like that when we started.

Some staff have had personal pages since college; some created theirs because family members convinced them to join this, that, or the other thing; others saw coworkers returning from one of our previous classes simply having waaaay too much fun with their homework.* Whatever the reason, it’s wonderful to see library staff already wading into the social web waters on their own and then coming to class for a complete dunking. We hope it continues. We’re aiming for a social web savvy staff.

*Class homework includes developing the site (Flickr, LibraryThing, Geni, Dogster, or a blog) they created in class for two weeks. Each student is expected to add more content, experiment with tools, explore, and socialize.

“Speak up” is the new “Shhh…”

November 27, 2007

Interact. Change stereotypes.

Learn More: Delicious

November 26, 2007

[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]

If you’re like most Internet users, you have favorite web sites. You probably tuck a few away in your favorites or bookmarks folder so you can retrieve them with a couple of mouse clicks. But favorites and bookmarks belong to the browser you’re using. Change browsers or change machines and you lose your access. Suppose you find something good for reference while surfing the net at home. What if you’re at work when you discover a great site you’d like to have at home? I’ve known librarians who emailed themselves or saved URLs to a disk which they carried around. That’s old technology!

Social bookmarking solves the browser problem and adds a beneficial collaborative tool to the mix. If you’re a Delicious user, you can bookmark sites to a web account (which makes them retrievable from anywhere) and you can browse the bookmarks saved by others (letting you benefit from their discoveries).

Meaning for libraries

The most obvious library application for Delicious is at the reference desk. Each librarian has his/her favorite online sources and either marks them in the local browser or relies on Google to find them. But suppose each librarian added URLs to a personal Delicious account and then networked with other librarians for a truly collaborative collection of bookmarks. Not only would the librarian make his/her own list available on whichever machine is in use, but everyone in the network could benefit from websites on the consumer specialist’s list or the genealogist’s list or the music librarian’s list.

But don’t stop at the reference desk. Other library staff use and share websites, too; introduce them to social bookmarking. And don’t forget the patrons. If you have a list of sites to share, enter them into a separate library account and refer to it on your library website or in conversations: “Oh, and don’t forget our Delicious site. It has many more great recipe links.”

Learn more by participating

This should be an easy project this week. Set aside 15 minutes on the first day to get started. You could do just Steps 1 & 2, or quickly run through all the steps in that time. No matter what you do on Day One, however, return to your Delicious page at least three other days this week. Get it into your routine. Add more favorites, add more tags, and browse. You won’t regret it.

  1. Open an account. Just go to Delicious and sign up. Use whatever name or alias you’d like.
  2. Save a few of your favorite websites. After clicking “post”, all you will need is the URL (which you can copy and paste), the website name, and a few tags. There’s a description box for optional notes and comments, too.
    * Need help getting started? Why not add a few social web sites we’ve already talked about in this series? Flickr and YouTube, for instance.
    * Tags are like keywords. Let’s take Flickr as an example. Good tags might include: photography photos images sharing socialsites socialweb web2.0. Use words that might come to mind the next time you want to retrieve the site. Delicious will offer tag suggestions based on other users’ tags, but use whatever YOU want. [By the way: we’ll delve further into tags in an upcoming lesson.]
  3. Give your tags a test drive. As you enter your websites, you’ll see your list of tags grow on the right side of the screen. You’re bound to see on tag listed for two or more sites after a while. Click that tag and watch Delicious quickly retrieve just the relevant sites.
  4. Visit other people’s website lists. Delicious tells you how may other users already bookmarked your site. Click that number to see the list of users. Click their names to see their lists.
    * If you and another user share one site in common, he/she might know about other sites you’d enjoy. Browse the list and click “save this” for any sites you’d care to copy into your stash of sites.
    * You could subscribe to someone’s RSS feed, too. [RSS? We’ll cover that concept in a later post.]
  5. Network with others at your library. If anyone else in your workplace already has a Delicious account, add them to your network. You might even encourage everyone in your workplace to sign up, add websites, and create a collaborative network of bookmarks. You will all benefit from each other’s finds.

Would a demo help? There’s a fun 3 1/2 minute video (Social Bookmarking in Plain English) that the folks at the Common Craft Show created.

Ha! Bookmark THAT site, too. Or THIS site. Why not? It’s your web now.

Clean Technology

November 21, 2007

John Blyberg started this meme with his MacBook in a Maytag shot. When Pollyalida responded, it made me realize that I had a laptop, an iPod, and a cell phone that needed a little rinse, too. The camera? Oh yeah. Let me toss that in now before the detergent cycle starts up.


The Amazon Kindle

November 19, 2007

From this week’s Newsweek:

“Music and video have been digital for a long time, and short-form reading has been digitized, beginning with the early Web. But long-form reading really hasn’t.” Yet. This week [Jeff] Bezos is releasing the Amazon Kindle, an electronic device that he hopes will leapfrog over previous attempts at e-readers and become the turning point in a transformation toward Book 2.0.

Just another ebook? Judging from the look and description of this gadget, the Kindle probably has a huge advantage over previous e-books.

  • it’s somewhere between the size of a paperback and cloth-bound book
  • uses an easy-on-the-eyes “e ink”
  • has built-in wifi enabling it to download new material by itself
  • has a starting inventory of 91,000 available titles and 11 major newspapers (all sold separately)
  • and is backed by Jeff Bezos and online giant Amazon.com

It’s almost like an iPod for books. I’m hoping our library will buy one ($399) for our technology “petting zoo”. Over time, we’ll see how well it works and whether it becomes a new standard in the industry. One can only imagine where this new device will lead.

Learn More: Happy Thanksgiving

November 19, 2007

Starting a new “Learn More” topic on the Tuesday of a very short work week might not be worthwhile, so we’re taking a brief hiatus. To get you into the spirit of holiday cooking, though, here’s a YouTube video you might enjoy: an amateur British cooking show where things don’t go as planned (but the Crash Test Kitchen couple was kind enough to share with the world, nonetheless).

Sponge Blob Square Pan.

Have a happy Thanksgiving — take pictures and post them to that Flickr account you started two weeks ago! — and we’ll have a new social web topic for you next week.

The Major-General sings Library 2.0

November 18, 2007

To the tune of “The Major-General’s Song”
With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan… and you… 🙂

I advocate creation of a social network library,
Dispense with thoughts a-plenty in my blog much like a diary,
And show how common MySpace is, it dominates the territ’ry
‘Cuz people like to share their lives; it’s really quite extraordin’ry.

I upload pix of our events on a communal Flickr page,
And make it easy to YouTube; that latest clip is all the rage.
Encourage interaction for our young and old of any age,
Makes working here as fun as anything they do at Cam-ba-ridge.

I recommend Delicious, Facebook, wikis, Ning, and R-S-S,
Use tag clouds, gaming, apps and widgets, and I twitter to excess.
It matters that our patrons are involved with our transparency.
I advocate creation of a social network library.

Community building

November 16, 2007

Chrystie Hill:   “in-person community building and online community building share the same principles and practice.”

I totally agree, Chrystie!  A library should encourage and nurture its connections in both places.  In fact, our in-person and online communities can reinforce and strengthen each other.

Author pages in WorldCat

November 15, 2007

Just saw an email newsletter from OCLC announcing “identities” in WorldCat. These act as author pages, summarizing facts about anyone listed in the OCLC database. I just gave a few a whirl and I’m impressed.

I brought up a title (Anne of Green Gables), clicked the Details tab:

Then I was able to access L M Montgomery’s “identity” page and see all sorts of author info. My favorite feature is the publication timeline which shows the frequency with which materials by (or about) an author have been published over the years. The bars in the graph are clickable, by the way.

There are also lists of the author’s titles sorted by number of owning libraries, languages in which the titles were published, a subject-heading tag cloud representative of the author’s works, and a few other displays. All good stuff. OCLC didn’t invent this idea, but including identities (author pages) in their catalog is a welcome development.

Have a look: L M Montgomery, William Shakespeare, Louis Armstrong, Harrison Ford

Best wishes, Susan

November 13, 2007

Today I say goodbye to my work partner of two years. Susan takes the helm of one of our library branches tomorrow and begins a new adventure. She graciously agreed to come back as co-instructor for our Social Web Literacy class from time to time, but her focus is rightly supervising her new staff and facility now.

When I hired Susan as the Assistant Trainer, she showed that rare mix of thoroughly understanding computers and a genuine ability to connect with people. Now, after twenty five months, I’m convinced that’s an understatement. I don’t think there’s much she couldn’t handle. She’s that good. And I’ll miss her.

To Susan — and her new adventure down the road…

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.

(From one of her favorite books, Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.)

Learn More: YouTube

November 12, 2007

[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]

We’ve already looked at Flickr, a photo sharing site. Now we’ll try YouTube, a video sharing site. Anyone with a digital camera can record and upload whatever they want to share with friends (or the world). Some clips are short — just a few seconds. Others are 20 minutes or longer. Some YouTube videos attempt to demonstrate or dramatize something; others convey no meaning at all. Some people post daily diary-like ramblings recorded into their laptop-mounted video camera; others use scripts, choreography, and sophisticated video editing. Some are professionally made; most are amateur. And yes, some are pirated and unauthorized. It’s a broad mix and it’s all there for the viewing.

Choose a random video and there’s a good chance you won’t like it. That’s okay. Few people care for many of the shows on television, too. YouTube’s strength, however, is the variety. It’s like TV with unlimited channels. You can find comedy, drama, documentaries, music, family activities, parties, people making fools of themselves, and practically anything else you can imagine.

A social site like YouTube also democratizes film making. People no longer simply search for and watch videos that interest them; they can create and distribute what interests them, too. If something is good, it gets talked about and more people watch. An imaginative clip becomes famous for a while, or it gets mimicked or answered by others. It can become part of pop culture. Celebrities, catch phrases, and memes are increasingly coming from amateur video.

Meaning for libraries

Here are four ideas to consider.

  • Entertainment. Some of our patrons just want to be entertained. Libraries try to meet that need by providing CDs and DVDs. Before that it was LPs, 16mm, and VHS. Digital online video — even amateur video — is just another in a long run of entertainment formats. Some established media producers (CBS, for example) provide video on YouTube, but some YouTube fans find that the latest amateur clips — even simple glimpses of everyday life like a dwarf bunny or a laughing baby — are often just as entertaining as the fare available on TV.
  • Pop culture. OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” song (danced on treadmills), was viewed 25 million times. Chris Crocker’s recent “Leave Britney Alone” video led to a long list of remakes and spoofs. The fictional vlogger (i.e., video blogger) Lonelygirl15 morphed into an online serial drama. Pop journalists like The Resident may attract large and dedicated followings. Clips and creators like these are becoming part of the culture. They might flare up among young adults and (increasingly) get picked up by mainstream news sources. If your patrons want to see the latest popular clip in full, access to YouTube will meet their needs. Does your library workstations permit basic streaming video and audio (with adjustable volume headphones)?
  • Resource. Looking for a famous news clip? Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech, the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Zapruder’s film of the Kennedy assassination are all there. YouTube might even help you quickly find famous scenes from movies, music performances, and comedy bits.
  • Marketing & Training. Some libraries have begun vlogging and advertising to the public (example: Allen County Public Library). Libraries could also include video clips within their training plans. Need to demonstrate a new concept or process? Create a video of your own!

Learn more by participating

Set aside some time this week to explore YouTube. Don’t try to do all this at one sitting. A few minutes here and there over the course of the week might be best.

  • Watch a few (or all) of the clips linked to above.
  • Browse some of the videos suggested on the YouTube home page.
  • Search any topic that interests you and see what comes up.
  • Do you have access to a video camera? Create an account and make a quick video clip yourself. Start with something short (30 seconds or less) and upload it just for practice. If it’s good, send the link to friends or family. If not, delete, and (probably) no one will know.

Have fun! It’s your web now.

Superman and Clark Kent deny each other

November 9, 2007

Funny stuff this morning. Within minutes of each other, Meredith Farkas and the Annoyed Librarian posted practically identical blogs denying that they were the same person. I suppose we’ll just have to trust her them on this.

An intranet chock full of web 2.0

November 7, 2007

Time for a little show and tell. 🙂

Pierce County Library has had a vibrant StaffWeb for nine years and it has become integral in system communications and information. But nine years of patching and upgrading took a toll. The website and its software platform started showing its age. Last year we were moving full steam ahead in our Social Web Literacy classes when we finally got the permission and budget for a complete overhaul. Talk about great timing!

We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build web 2.0 tools into the new intranet.

Our project committee discussed how social networking tools could enhance efficiency and communication. Staff would also get daily practice using these tools in the course of their work. It was a win-win.

The new StaffWeb debuted a few weeks ago. Here’s some of the fun new features:

Tags and tag clouds
One of the first things you see on the new home page is a tag cloud. Every page of the StaffWeb can be tagged by staff using their own words. They can then follow up on their tags, use tags from the aggregated tag clouds, or run a tag search.

Success story: We have a travel expense reimbursement claim form that, despite past efforts, people have at least a dozen different names for. Now everyone can call it what they will and still find it.

Tabs for adding widgets

The tag cloud sits on a tab, but it’s only one of six customizable tabs waiting to be put to use. Staff can add widgets to the tabs on their home page.

We currently have 32 widgets to choose from, including feeds from Flickr, iTunes, and email. If staff need a quick connection to the bookmarks they’ve stashed in their del.icio.us account, they can reach them using a widget on their home page. Common work tools like Google documents and Remember the Milk, and feeds from blog, weather, and traffic websites make this a well-rounded collection. We may add to the 32 flavors of widgets as everyone begins to use them and seek out more.

Blogs and RSS
Then there are the blogs. Each department and branch can have their own blog now. A few have already started. We envisioned the blogs as a “here’s the latest news” clipboard for people who work in those locations, but it might morph. Supervisors can add quick notes and routine updates for regular staff. Substitutes can tap in and read them from other work sites … or home.

Every blog has an RSS feed so a “need-to-know” staff member can subscribe to whichever he/she chooses.

Staff wiki
Dozens of staff are already adding content to the regular StaffWeb pages, but the system collaboration will increase yet again once we unveil a staff wiki later this month. We honestly don’t know where the wiki will lead us (that’s a wiki’s nature!), but we suspect reference staff will share tricks at pulling gems out of the catalog, circulation staff will elaborate on workflow practices, and IT will tell us how best to unjam the printers. But don’t count on it to be that well-defined! Who is to say that reference people can’t enlighten us on printer jams or circ staff don’t know the best way to limit action DVD searches by language? We’ll see how it works out. It could be messy, but worthwhile.

Other neat stuff and the future
Since many of the tools are customizable, we’ve created a personal log in. Once signed into the StaffWeb from work or home, staff can see their tags and widgets, comment on the blogs, and (when a new payroll installation is complete) call up their own HR information.

We’re just settling into this vast playground of web 2.0 tools. Once staff become old pros at their use, they’ll have no problem relating to patrons navigating the same tools on the social web.

We already have public blogs and a wiki, but don’t you think we’ll want to move more of these cool tools over to the public side, too?

Learn More: Flickr

November 5, 2007

[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]

Last week we had some fun but kept to ourselves. This week we’ll venture into a true social networking site and start mixing it up.

At Flickr, people can upload photos, label them, and share with others. Using tags and sets, Flickr members can organize their photos and retrieve any specific picture quickly and easily anywhere the Internet is available. Sounds productive, right? It is. But let’s not overlook the social networking magic!

Let’s say your family or friends live far away. Rather than email pictures to everyone, why not simply post them? Once your family knows your Flickr address, they can check in at any time and see what you’re up to. Post vacation photos, pictures of your craft project, the new puppy, and the last birthday party. You can add descriptions beneath any photo and your friends can leave comments when they visit the page.

If your friends join Flickr, you can browse and comment on their photos, too. Carry on a daily or weekly conversation using pictures for ice-breakers. But you’re not limited to existing friends and family. You can browse the world’s photos. Interested in dogs? Search “Yorkshire terrier” and choose from more than 14,000 pictures (like the one shown here). Pick favorites. Comment. Find other photographers who share your interests.

Meaning for libraries

Oh, my! Where do I start? The list of library possibilities using a photo-sharing site like Flickr could run pretty long. Here’s a few to consider.

  • Patrons might want to upload photos from a CD, a flash or USB drive, email, or digital camera cable. Will your library’s workstations let them do that? Do you make photo editing software available?
  • Many libraries have their own Flickr accounts. Some post photos of facilities, people, and public events (think marketing!). You could take pictures during an event and encourage attendees to visit your Flickr page and comment. Get some interaction going!
  • Pictures uploaded and organized on Flickr can be mashed into a library’s website or blog.
  • Some libraries display their collections using Flickr. Maybe you have historic community photos you’d like to make available. There’s ample description space to give details for each picture.
  • Brainstorm fun projects. Let kids or teens submit photos. Get them involved.
  • Libraries and librarians interact with each other on Flickr. It’s a great way to share ideas.

Learn more by participating

Set aside 15-20 minutes and try to do steps 1 and 2 in one sitting. On another day, try steps 3 and 4. Return on a third and fourth day for step 5 (and maybe a little more of steps 2, 3, and 4!).

  1. Open a Flickr account. It’s free for the first 200 photos you upload, but you should get a sense of the Flickr community long before that. (Hint: Be sure you write down your login name and password so you can get back in later.)
  2. Upload a few digital photos.
    * Add titles and captions. Be as vague or as specific as you’d like. Just let your personality come through.
    * Add tags. Type in words that give the photo meaning to you. Examples: beach vacation baby sand castle ocean. Tags will help you retrieve photos later.
    * Set permissions. You can decide who sees each photo. There are settings for you, family, friends, and anyone. Most people choose “anyone” most of the time (it’s a sharing site, after all), but make some family shots a bit more private.
  3. Browse. Enter a word or a place in the search box and browse any photos that come up. Then try another word. You might also explore the best of the best: interesting Flickr photos from the last seven days.
  4. Make friends. Connect with other Flickr people whose photos you like, or invite family and friends to open accounts and connect with them. (Hint: give them your Flickr page address.) You’ll find the “add as a contact” option on other members’ profile pages. You’ll be asked whether they are friends, family, or just contacts. That determines which pictures of yours they’ll see.
  5. Interact. View your contacts’ photos and comment on them. They might comment on yours, too. The ongoing dialogue you might foster is one of the wonders of social networking.

Have fun! It’s your web now.

The expanding, accessible library

November 3, 2007

Earlier this week, the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress turned 110 years old. I’ve been in awe of the L of C’s collection since I was a kid, but I’ve only had the chance to visit the Library twice — most recently during the ALA conference a few months ago.

The numbers. Always the numbers! Jefferson sold the Library about 6,000 of his own books as seed after the Capitol was burned. The collection reached 1 million volumes shortly after the turn of the 20th century. It now holds 30 million books and adds about 10,000 more each day.

Although these were impressive numbers, they were only numbers to me. As a kid, I knew the Library of Congress was a resource but it wasn’t my resource. It was of Congress, after all. As large as its holdings were, I couldn’t walk in, stroll the aisles, and pull astronomy books off the shelves to look at. I could do that in my little neighborhood library, though. My library was a resource because it was accessible. I knew Congress had a much bigger library, but I could only see its numbers.

Now, twenty years into the library world, I look at things a bit differently. I appreciate the Library of Congress even more as a resource for the ages. The collection is still unsurpassed in the book world and its preservation efforts are indispensable.

On the other hand, I still appreciate my other resources more. And for the same reason! I still can’t walk into the Library of Congress and pull books off the shelves. Even with a guide leading a group of visiting librarians this summer, we were limited in our movements. The guide himself had to get permission from someone else just to enter a reading room. Meanwhile, I can still enter my local library and use it. After all these years, it’s still got the L of C beat on accessibility.

I can also use countless online sources that are growing far more rapidly and much larger than the Thomas Jefferson Building’s holdings. 10,000 books per day? 10,000 libraries are included in OCLC’s WorldCat. Six million results come up in a Google search for “astronomy”. Over 60,000 blog posts are added daily on WordPress alone. A moment ago I checked Flickr and noted that users uploaded 3,533 photos in the last minute. Imagine the wealth of information tucked away in our reference databases.

I’m not saying all of these numbers (or the materials they represent) are equally relevant, but they illustrate how much our intellectual and cultural resources have expanded. And thanks to digital technology, expansive metadata, and collaborative software, the information is becoming ever more accessible at the same time it’s growing in volume and depth.

How many resources do you have at your fingertips for the boy asking about astronomy today?