Thursday, December 27, 2007

We're #11!

The annual list of the United States' most literate cities is out and Cincinnati is 11th. It's unfortunate that we couldn't make LiveScience's prestigious top ten, but we'll take #11.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bloger's OpenID Beta Caused Some Problems With Commenting

Just a note to anyone who has tried to comment on this blog (or any other Blogger blog) in the past few weeks. I read on the December 13th post of Blogger Buzz that their new OpenID beta caused some difficulties for anyone who tried to comment without a Google ID. It looks like it's cleared up, now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Teams up With Library of Congress on Veterans Page

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has teamed up with the Library of Congress to interview veterans and to record facts, photos and videos about their experiences. PLCH is responsible for training of interviewers, arranging the interviews, recording them, and processing related artifacts. The library has posted some of their results here. After the processing is completed, duplicate records are sent to the Library of Congress where you can find selected recordings.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Blog

I've decided that I would like to post more personal musings than what I'm posting here. So I've started a new blog where I will post things that are more relevant to my everyday life. Otherwise, I will continue to post library reference stuff on this blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

That Wasn't So Bad!

Well, nobody showed up for the demonstration, but that's okay--another patron asked for an impromptu demonstration of advanced Google search techniques. It went well. I showed him a number of shortcuts that he didn't know were available, so, one program, one attendee. Perfect balance!

Afterwards, I prepared a notebook to keep the handouts so our staff could refer to them, too. Then I created a stealth blog, in order to keep a number of the documents readily available to anyone who may want to see them again. Finally, I created a display of the books and handouts that went with the program in a prominent location, with a sign that reminded the patrons about what they were missing. Next time, I hope to include photos.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Blogging Demonstration

The fact that I'm blogging during the demonstration is not necessarily a good thing--there is no audience. Tuesday nights are usually dead around here, but I'd hoped for one or two people. Hopefully things will be better when these demonstrations appear in February's program calendar.

Blog Demonstration Tonight

I'm preparing for one of our branch's technology demonstrations. Tonight, the focus will be blogs!

I'll start with a brief overview of what a blog is and then I'll show the audience some of the more popular blogs that I know of. We'll talk about some of the more distinctive characteristics of a blog as we look at the examples. I'll finish up by showing them how to create a blog and find a feed reader.

This is part of a continuing effort to familiarize our patrons with new technology that can enhance their library experience. We are also committed to providing basic computer instruction in group and one-on-one sessions.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gifted at Home Repair--NOT!

Well, I was able to get the motorized snake from Lowe's on Saturday morning. After forking over $45, I managed to get the monstrosity home, where my wife and I were able to wrestle it out of the van without impaling myself on the conveniently pre-attached blade. (My wife made a joke here about cut rate vasectomies--not funny.) Anyhow, I managed to get the thing going, relying on some helpful advice from Brian E., a friend of mine and apartment owner/handyman, and I got the drain "cleared" in only 3 hours!

I got cleaned up and made it to work (3 hours late), where we had an interesting day and a nice holiday luncheon/farewell party (one staff member is leaving)/baby shower (another staff member).

It was good to see former and current co-workers and I regaled one and all with tales of my "rooting" expertise.

Then it all came crashing down. Last night, after running the second laundry load of the day, I walked into the laundry room to see undulating waves of sewage covering the laundry room floor. I cut loose with a Gilbert Godfried-like cry of anguish, and a hearty Flintstonian fusillade of fake profanity (so cool) and calmly let my wife know that the previous day's time, effort, and money had been for naught.

Well, the long and short of it is, we have a plumber coming out today and we've decided to do whatever it takes to get the problem fixed, which is going to mean more money, more time, and potentially digging up the front yard.

Hey, maybe I can do it myself!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Not a High Tech Day

I had big high-tech plans for today: a few new blog posts, writing an online book review, adding some tutorial documentation to my online presence, doing some editing of our system's reference manual wiki.... Instead, it appears that I will be snaking out the main drain line of our house.

Normally (isn't that a funny word in this scenario?) we would borrow our friends electric drain snake, but that one's out of commission, so we decided to rent one. However, the local hardware store decided they weren't going to rent tools anymore--I found out at 6 this morning when I showed up, bleary-eyed, looking for their rental department. So, instead of Home Depot, I decided to try Lowe's tool rental department, but those slackers don't get going until 8 o'clock.

So here I sit, blogging about sewer lines with a cup of tea in my hand, waiting for Lowe's to open their doors so I can spend my morning snaking out a drain. Once I'm done with that, I get to go to work! I may be a little late.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Changing Approach to Computer Classes

Teaching computer classes at a small branch library can be quite a challenge. I know from daily interactions with our patrons, that the need is there; due to the demographics our neighborhood, many of our patrons are older and have little experience with the computer or the internet.

There are a few problems we face when it comes to giving instruction. In the first place, we have no meeting or computer room. This means that we have to give our lessons when we are closed, or else boot patrons off the computers when we're open.

Secondly, the computers are placed in such a way as to make the most of our outlet and phone line placement--that is, we have five computers clustered around a central point with dividers placed between the computers to give a bit of privacy. So when the lesson begins, not all of the students can see what is going on up front and I can't see what they are trying to do easily, either.

Third, when we do give a class, the students are at such varying levels of experience and knowledge, that it becomes difficult to keep the classes on target. When one student asks for some help in searching the web, another one asks me how to use the mouse.

Finally, I have a tendency to get sidetracked--I probably spend too much time showing the students cool features on Google, or explaining RSS feeds to students who are still learning how to control a mouse.

What I am doing now is dividing the subject matter up somewhat. I am still doing the basic computer classes, but I am offering tutorials to students who are having problems--or even if they have individual skills they would like to brush up on. And to keep myself from following interesting tangents in these basic classes, I am giving technology demonstrations once a week to anyone who will show up.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Libraries as Producers of Information

I was thinking this morning about ways that the library can reach out to the community and really become part of the information infrastructure—partnerships, packaging of local information, education, leveraging our organizational expertise—when, lo and behold, Michael Stephens provided a link in his blog this morning to the text of a speech given by Jon Udell at the Global Research Library summit in October.

In his speech, Jon talks about libraries remixing information and essentially becoming contributors and producers of information on the web. Jon also addresses the possibility of librarians lending their expertise to people who are trying to package and organize their own information on the web, and he gives a wonderful example of working with his local police force to organize and mine their local crime statistics—okay, he had to twist their arm a bit to get them to go along with it, but it looks like they were onboard at the end.

Anyway, much of what Jon had to say points to the need for libraries to be more assertive in bringing their resources to bear on local issues. We’ve been inviting people for years to come to our buildings, now we can bring our resources and talents to them. We should make ourselves necessary; it’s not enough to long for the public’s attention.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Google Acquires Jaiku

For anyone who has an interest in the short message communication pioneered by Twitter, Google has acquired Jaiku.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Microsoft and Adobe Enter the Web Office Fray

Just a heads-up to let everyone know that Microsoft and Adobe are entering the web office/applications fray.

Microsoft announced the imminent release of their Live Office Workspace. Pre-registration is open now.

Adobe announced the acquisition of Virtual Ubiquity's Buzzword, a flash based online word processor. You can try it here--if you have Flash version 9 (which we don't at my place of work).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Picasa Slideshow Issue resolved on this Site

The issue with Picasa's embedded slideshows has been resolved--on this blog, anyway.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Problems with Picasa's Embedded Slideshows

If you scroll down to earlier entries in my blog, you'll notice that the entry related to recarpeting has a sizable block of white space. This is where I had embedded a slideshow from Picasa and it hasn't been running for about three days now. I haven't seen anything on their group page apart from one similar complaint, but at this point there have been no responses. I'll check back in when I find out more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Google Presentations

Yesterday, Google added presentation software to their web based office suite. After an initial review, it seems that the focus of the software is web collaboration, as you can see in this short example. I'm not sure what happens if the presentation is left online with no moderation, though.

The format is very basic so far, with limited export options and no ability to integrate sound. The most surprising thing to me was that I didn't see any evidence of the ability to integrate the presentations with other Google products, namely Picasa. The ability to subscribe to RSS feeds of presentation changes is a definite plus, however

All in all, It's an interesting start and I am sure that they will add more features soon.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pushing for Respect

I read with interest Regina Powers' opinion piece--"A Plea for Respect"--in the August edition of American Libraries. Her plea is a common complaint among librarians today--"the public doesn't know what we do."

Usually, it is suggested that we either stay the course or we add more features for the public at our institutions--game nights, in house movies, "coffee and Danishes".... The problem with both lines of thinking is that we need the public's attention to make either work, and we just don't have it.

What we need to do is connect the information and resources that we have with the public at its point of need. We need to get out of our buildings physically and electronically and begin to push our resources the way other institutions do. We need to create partnerships with news media, local governments, public institutions, ISPs and others in order to connect the public with the information it needs at its point of need.

For example, our library has indexed the local newspaper for years. It carries the complete run on microfilm, as well. Periodically, when people have called the newspaper, looking for research on a dated topic, they have been referred to us, and we have been glad to provide that service.

Imagine, however, if our indexes were provided to the newspaper for use in their online edition and linked by keyword to current articles. An article about light rail would list links to citations concerning an older light rail study, or a series of articles about light rail, or previous council votes. An article about a political candidate would contain links to citations for previous articles concerning the candidate.

A local ISP could provide a start page with local news linked to article or book references.

Physically speaking, a librarian could actually be present with a laptop outside a city council meeting to provide instant access to relevant information concerning the meeting.

My point is this, we can't wait for people to discover how indispensable we are--we have to make ourselves indispensable. As long as we wait for people to come to our buildings and websites, our value will remain relatively hidden.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Branch Recarpeting

We have new carpet at our branch! It looks great, but getting it done was a challenge and the final stage was a bit of a rush:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Technology and Libraries

I have been thinking about the use that many libraries are making of new technologies with some degree of envy. Libraries are taking advantage of Web 2.0 technology, adding MySpace pages, publishing podcasts, creating RSS feeds and library blogs. Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have even instituted a Technology Scholars Program to allow staff to pursue technology projects to advance library goals and interests (thanks to Sarah Houghton-Jan, LibrarianInBlack, for the heads-up on this news)--a program I am extremely jealous of.

With the exception of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County's vast array of tech projects, it seems that many libraries put their technology emphasis on catalog updates and web pages which are visible to the public, but neglect to make changes which might increase staff productivity. This is especially important for larger, urban library systems, in my opinion, because there is a danger of bureaucratic deadness and inertia for these institutions.

When staff members are sending hand entered lists of discards to other branches and departments for potential exchange, this is a waste of staff time--this is something that should be handled automatically through a centralized list. When every branch is creating their own reference manuals or computer training materials, this is also a waste of time--this should be handled through a wiki. An institutional IM service would also be useful on a day to day basis.

Most of this would seem obvious to many of the more adventurous library systems out there, but inertia is difficult to overcome--especially when institutions are creating 5 year plans for technology which changes every 5 minutes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

New Google Features

For anyone who is interested in looking at topics in map or timeline form, try a couple of new features at Google by typing in'view:map' or 'view:timeline' at the end of your search terms:)

Examples:

http://www.google.com/views?hl=en&q=atom+bomb+view%3Amap

http://www.google.com/views?hl=en&q=atom+bomb+view:timeline&sa=N&ct=timeline

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spresent Web Presentations

In her Librarian in Black blog, Sarah Houghton-Jan reviews Spresent's web presentation application. I worked with it for a few minutes yesterday and found it to be extremely easy to use. If Google can come close to Spresent's ease of use and functionality with their upcomingaccomplished something. In about three minutes, I was able to produce and embed this silly presentation:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Google to Add Presentation Capability to Google Docs

Google just announced through their official Google Blog that they will be adding presentation software to Google Docs and Spreadsheets. This nearly completes their web based assault on Microsoft Office.