Archive for December, 2006

When Librarians Attack!

Just a quick link dump to a piece that just appeared on TheSpoof.com yesterday: “When Librarians Attack!” DVD Enjoys Brisk Sales

The premise of the spoof is that a new DVD that depicts librarians attacking patrons is a huge hit. I was not offended mostly because it is so obviously a spoof. In fact I appreciated how it opened with a statement recognizing that librarians are underpaid (but I do disagree with the “frustrated” description — I know very few librarians who would describe themselves as frustrated. Overworked yes, but not necessarily frustrated).

The best part of the spoof is the final paragraph:

Fish and game wardens say librarians are unlikely to attack unless provoked, although they may view late returns of books as a threat. “If your book is overdue you should approach librarians with caution, holding the volume out at arm’s length with your hands palm down to show that you are not an aggressor,” says Billy Ray Lyman of the Missouri Department of Wildlife. “And don’t show fear–librarians can sense when you don’t have the two cents a day fine, and they will go for the jugular.”

December 12, 2006 at 12:19 pm

Rethinking the Catalogs

For the general user, the library catalog can be a complete pain. They are not set up for general users, at least users who don’t know exactly what they are looking for. Today’s catalogs, although improved, still require a certain understanding of the cataloging system and a large amount of creativity in order to the full amount of information from them.

If you wanted to search the Socialism movement in Poland during the 1920′s, there are several search strategies to try. You could start with a title or keyword search and hope there is a specific book on the subject. If no results come up, then move to lesser specific terms and find books with either Socialism or Poland in the title, then go to the shelves and hope there is a section in the index on your desired subject.

My personal preference would be to browse the subject headings under Poland and see if Socialism is a subheading. If that doesn’t work, switch the terms and see what happens. If there still aren’t any results, then it’s time to start thinking of alternative subject terms that this research might be found under like “Political Parties,” “Communism,” or general Polish history done by decades.

It’s all good and fun for me, but how would our patron feel if they were looking for this and having to try all these different search strategies?

How can we wonder why our patrons turn to the Internet for their information?
It’s not even a matter of whether or not they trust what they read, it is a matter of convenience. There is far less hassle for them to type into terms and come up with results… usually in the first couple tries.

Whether librarians (guardians and keepers of information and bibliographic control) like it or not, our patrons are moving along without us; they have found another way. It is up to us to bring them back and make our catalogs easier to use. We need to find ways in which they can find the information they want in ways they are used to searching now; ways like relevancy results, tagging & folksonomy, recommended/alternative/similar reads options. Perhaps our catalog could even link to a couple trustworthy Internet sites. If you are feeling really daring, let your patrons have the option to add their own tags to a specific title (obviously, put an administration hold on submissions for approval).

There are libraries that have taken notice and made steps to improve the usability on the patron of their catalogs but many of us are still way behind. We can contain bibliographic control for our sake and use but we have to start looking at things from our patrons end. After all, what good is all this information and entertainment if they are unable to find it in the first place?

Blog is cross-posted here.

December 12, 2006 at 10:47 am

Patrick Jones, Mr. Inspiration AND Agents v. Gatekeepers

MPOW just had it’s 20th anniversary membership meeting at the lovely Seaview Marriott in Absecon, NJ. We were pleased to have YA author Patrick Jones on hand to deliver a morning program for SJRLC youth librarians AND a crazy brilliant afternoon keynote.

I’ve blogged about Patrick’s presentations over at SJRLC’s blog, and I invite you to check it out. Here, I’ll just add one “takeaway” that I forgot to mention in my other post: Patrick’s insight that, good as the YALSA Quick Picks list is, “The single most important list is the books that got stolen last year. Start your year by buying replacements. They have a track record!”

I’ll add one more thing. As I noted in a previous post, I’m currently enjoying Setting the Table , by Danny Meyer. I’d like to share a passage that I found myself thinking about during Patrick’s talk. Meyer writes,

In every business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with the customers (attendants at airport gates, receptionists at doctors’ offices, bank tellers, executive assistants). Those people can come across either as agents or as gatekeepers. An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. We’re looking for agents, and our staff members are responsible for monitoring their own performance: In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or a gatekeeper? In the world of hospitality, there’s rarely anything in between.

I love Meyer’s agent/gatekeeper concept. It’s a simple idea, but perhaps for that very reason it lends itself to practical use. I found myself easily using it today as a gut-check while answering the phone and responding to emails. Was I making things happen for others, or was I erecting barriers to keep people out. (In fact, I did have to tell someone that they couldn’t attend a program–but then I put on my agent hat and offered three alternative options.)

I guess Patrick got me thinking about this because maybe, just maybe, we tend to be a little more gatekeeperish with the teens. But whomever we’re serving — kid, teen, adult, genealogist — I like the idea of making things happen for... Anyway, that’s what gets me out of bed in morning!

December 6, 2006 at 7:36 pm 4 comments

Web 2.0 and Its Technologies for Collaborative Library Communication

First–I must apologize for being away from “the Garden” for so long, at least from the posting aspect, as I have been following it when I could. So many personal and professional wildfire this fine fall semester, some of my own doing–some definitely not–but I guess that’s life. Thanks to all who have checked in on me from time to time, by the way.

Well, before I went missing, I was talking about social networking sites and Web 2.0–I know…those phrases again, especially Web 2.0. It is called by many other names, too: “social, participatory Web,” “user-initiated Web,” even “live Web.” In my very recent short introductory article in MultiMedia & Internet at Schools magazine, sent off before I went missing and published a few weeks ago, I mentioned how Web 2.0 is so widely interpreted.

As I mention in my article, the “definitions are many, and this can be distracting. But if, instead, you look at all of this as a new opportunity, a possible way to better communicate, interact, share, create, and publish information online–to connect with those we are already serving and to those we wish to serve in the near future–then it gets exciting! Librarians and other educators everywhere are now using these Web 2.0 technologies in practical and worthwhile applications. Don’t you want to as well?”

I must say that I find it a bit humorous when I conduct or attend workshops or seminars on some of these technologies that some people start tearing them down before they have even seen what others are doing with them, much less even tried them. A lot of people did not like email when it first emerged either. In my article conclusion, I mention that “nobody is saying that you have to change everything you do, or jump into every technology or public relations idea that comes your way. However, we all know that we need to continue to reach out to our students and patrons and get them interested in what amazing things we can do for them.” I, then, one last time, ask the readers to “browse the listed references and recommended readings. Try setting up a library blog with Blogger, or start receiving library- or special topic-related RSS feeds via Bloglines. Build a subject-guide wiki with PBwiki, or start bookmarking, tagging, and sharing with del.icio.us.”

Stephen Abram just wrote a short post yesterday entitled “Bloglines” at his Stephen’s Lighthouse blog. He states that “Many are unaware of the role that RSS aggregators play in making it MUCH easier to keep track of your favourite blogs.” And he further encourages us in “library land” to not worry if “this seems common knowledge” because there are more “folks heading up these learning curves every day. Those who’ve trod the path before need to share the tricks and tips.” I agree wholeheartedly!

I truly do believe that if librarians and other educators would learn and play with some of these technologies and tools that they would get excited as well. It was from talking with and watching three people in particular in our Garden State work with these social Web tools that really got me interested, and I mention them in the article: Pete Bromberg, Janie Hermann, and Sophie Brookover. They are amazing librarians, making amazing connections for those they serve–these are my “local” librarians that I talk about in my seminars, and I am proud to know them and happy to have them challenge me to make better connections myself. I am glad that they continue to “trod the path” and so willingly share their “tricks and tips.”

Anyway, enjoy the article, and feel free to share it if you find it useful for someone thinking about entering into the Web 2.0 domain. The full text of the article is available via EBSCO Academic Search Premier (although many of the links need to be fixed here!) and other library databases, via the MultiMedia & Internet at Schools magazine site (with free registration), and weeks ago in a RedOrbit NEWS Technology blog!

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December 5, 2006 at 2:04 am 2 comments

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