Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Keyboard Functions to Learn & Use

During my Tech Talk presentation last week a request was made for some basic computer training. I can't think of anything more basic than simple keyboard functions that work as shortcuts for many word processing tasks. So, here is a short list of keyboard function to learn and use:

Pressing Ctrl plus I will italicize any highlighted area.

Pressing Ctrl plus C will copy any highlighted area.

Pressing Ctrl plus V will paste the last text copied.

Pressing Ctrl plus B will bold any highlighted area.

Pressing Ctrl plus U will underline any highlighted area.

Pressing Ctrl plus + will enlarge all images on the screen. Ctrl plus - will shrink it.

Use the tab key to move to the next box when filling in a form.

Press Ctrl plus PrtScn, then paste into a word document (or another document) to copy of picture of the screen.

Double clicking on a word will highlight the whole word. Triple clicking will highlight the line. (Clicking four times doesn't do anything, sorry.) But Ctrl plus A will highlight a whole page.

Press Ctrl plus F to get a "find" box. This is a search box; type in the word you are looking for and each instance of that word will be highlighted. Use the next button to progress through the document.

There are more, but this is enough for now. I have more NELA blogging to do....

Monday, October 20, 2008

NELA Conference 2008

I just got back from the NELA Conference in Manchester, NH (beautiful time of year to make that drive!) where I blogged for the Library as Commons session. Check out the entire NELA Conf. blog when you get a chance, it's proving to be quite informative.

These conferences are always great places to hear new ideas and meet interesting people. I had lunch with a woman from LIS in Providence, RI. We were bemoaning budget cuts, the inevitability of cutting services, etc., when we got side-tracked and started talking about inter-library loan and World Cat. If I understood her correctly patrons in RI can request a book directly from World Cat and it will be sent to their homes, postage required, of course. I started brainstorming about a way that this service could be offered to all patrons, free of charge. I haven't done any research on this yet, this is all just rumbling around in my head, but wouldn't it be great if libraries could, individually, pay a postage subscription to World Cat and any patron with a library card from that library could get books delivered to their homes for no charge? This would be a great service for shut-ins.

After my day at NELA I have a new wish list for the DFL:

A television in the periodical reading room tuned to MSNBC (or whatever news station), with the volume off, naturally.

Patron-set due dates for materials that they will be using for research or for materials they are planning on taking out of town. This would save some time for the circulation staff with renewals and be excellent customer service. There would have to be exceptions - no new release books or DVDs, no items with holds, or items used for current school projects. But I think it has merit and is worth looking into.

Interactive displays with hand-outs, looped presentations on computers, anything that would make them more exciting than just a table full of books. The displays should also change more frequently. Karen does a nice job with displays in the fiction department and we need to start doing more of it upstairs in the non-fiction section.

I'm looking forward to more NELA tomorrow - wikis and more!

Friday, October 17, 2008

After another too long break from blogging, I'm determined to get back into the habit of regular posting. I taught a class last night which was basically a tour through the library's website. It went very well, response was positive, and I feel like the people who attended left with a deeper understanding of the services offered remotely. The general impression I got was that this type of class should be offered more than once a year and I plan on making that suggestion to the director. Having some hands-on time with computers during the class would also be a good idea. (See ladies, those evaluation sheets are helpful!)

During the class I talked about some of my favorite websites and promised to post them here. Two good beginner social networking sites are Facebook and Flickr. For a "portable" list of favorites use Delicious. The woman who wanted to find people should look at Anywho or People Search. My favorite search engine is Dogpile.

I know I spend entirely too much time in front of my computer and my level of excitement over technology will not be matched by most people. At least an hour of my day is devoted to finding new and useful sites to share with the staff and patrons at DFL. That is my job. What I do hope however, is that I can make your life just a little bit easier, or add a little fun to your day, by sharing the information I have. So to my "students" I say explore, play, don't be afraid to follow links, and remember that you won't break anything. Please take advantage of our Book-A-Librarian program and don't ever be afraid to ask us questions, that is why we're here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Can summer really be over?

It's been a while... this blog has joined ranks with many other things I neglected over the summer in the name of fun, family, and just plain life. Although I never intended this blog to be anything other than a professional/academic outlet, I'm going to break my rule and do some personal musing.

For anyone who knows me you already know this summer has been a busy one. Here are the high points:

A week ago I picked up my oldest boy, 15, from two weeks away at camp. Fifteen year old boys are strange, I know that, but he came back to me a stranger. It's amazing what pulling a young teenager out of his normal existence and putting him in a group of 119 other kids will do. He came back with a foul mouth (not that he hasn't heard/said everything already, it just seems dirtier now), a sarcastic nature, hair on his legs (okay, he left with that too, but again, it seems dirtier now), what seems like a few inches in height, and just a general feeling of not being mine anymore. I know the experience was good for him, and it was good for me to have a bit of a break with one less child in the house, but it is taking us a while to get back to the status quo.

My other two kids had a good time with their brother out of the house, their bond grew deeper which was nice to watch. The oldest and youngest now share something that the middle child wasn't a part of - not something that usually happens.

Work was extraordinarily busy this summer. Lots of new tech stuff going on, and I'll get to that in my next post. In the midst of enjoying the summer reading program, hot summer reads and overall elevated levels of circulation, the entire staff was saddened by the loss of fellow colleague, friend, and mentor Judy Sime. Judy was a lovely person, full of grace and dignity while she fought her battle with cancer. In so many ways she has been an inspiration to me, as well, I am sure, to many. She will be greatly missed.

My little family has added two new kittens to the mix, putting me dangerously close to becoming the crazy cat lady I have nightmares about. I think I'm just one pair of sensible shoes away from the abyss! But if Franks and Beans (gotta love it when kids name pets, right?) are my downfall then so be it, I've never seen two more adorable kittens. Unfortunately Franks is suffering from either a very bad cold or a fatal kitty virus, one that there is no test, and no cure for. We are doing everything we can to keep her going - sitting for hours with her in a steamy bathroom, lots of meds, and of course lots of love. She's a fighter and we're hoping for the best. If you're interested, pictures can be seen here.

My girlfriends and I have instituted First Fridays as a way to stay connected. Everyone seems to be going in so many different directions it's been hard to get together, but now we have a plan to meet the first Friday of each month for food, wine and great conversation.

And I think one of the best things that happened this summer is, through Facebook, I've reconnected with one of my best friends from high school. She's living in California now but comes back to the East Coast a few times a year. We have plans to get together in October to celebrate our 45th birthdays in Manhattan. Rest assured, there will not be a post about that!

That just about does it. What's next? Possibly another class, although I'm still trying to figure that out. There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon at work. My kids start school on Tuesday, which doesn't seem possible, but I guess then things will get back to what we call normal.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

ILS599 Final Project

The final project for ILS599 is to devise a Web 2.0 plan for a library. The Duxbury Free Library is currently in the process of upgrading its services to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies that our patrons could benefit from most. As reference librarian and “accidental techist”, I have been responsible for identifying needs and planning the implementation for these new services. The plan presented here is an actual representation of what is currently happening at the DFL.

Duxbury, Massachusetts is a town that expects a lot from local services. For the most part, members of this community are affluent, college educated, professional, liberal, and forward-thinking. They take an active part in community development and planning. Library usage is high. The children in this community are active in sports and artistic endeavors and perform well in school. The library is located on the public school campus, which also has playing fields, an indoor swimming and diving pool, and a recreation center. Historically our patrons are on the cutting edge of technology; they have the expendable income to purchase the latest gadgets. Our goal is to raise the technology level of the library to meet our patron’s need and desires by adding IM Reference service and two Flickr accounts.

IM Reference is an instant messaging service that will allow patrons real time internet access to the reference staff. A widget, or tool, will be put on the DFL webpage and patrons simply type their question in the text box, hit enter, and the message will show up on the screen at the reference desk at the library. Communication will continue in this way, with the librarian answering back from an instant messaging account set up for this purpose.

Flickr is a photo sharing application that puts pictures that the library chooses on the internet. Pictures, taken with a digital camera and downloaded onto a computer, are then uploaded into the Flickr account. After they are organized and labeled they are able to be viewed by the public from a link on the DFL webpage.

The duties of the full time reference librarian include the research and implementation of new technology for the library. Any staff time spent on these endeavors is therefore “free” of additional charge to the library.

Reference statistics prove that our patrons are using the electronic databases frequently with an average of 10,000 searches a year; in person visits average over 30,000 a year. Although the DFL already has a large user-ship for its current reference services, the addition of IM reference will open the door for a new form of communication. Many patrons are already using IM daily; the DFL hopes to capture this audience in addition to our walk-in, phone, and email patrons.

Personal Meebo accounts have already been set up by the director and the reference librarian. Over the next few weeks each of the seven regular reference staff members will be instructed to set up their own account in order to practice instant messaging in house. An open discussion will be held at the July reference meeting to review best practices and troubleshoot any problems. After the staff becomes familiar with the process “dummy” reference questions will be directed to a Meebo account set up at the reference desk. This way the staff will gain practice answering questions of a varied nature.

A week before the start of the school year, a Meebo widget will be put on the library’s webpage. The reference staff member on desk duty will handle the IM questions; no additional staffing will be required.

After the initial launch a PR campaign including buttons and bookmarks will begin. The library owns a button maker and bookmarks can be printed in house. Cost will be minimal. Flyers will go out to the schools on a staggered basis so as not to get too much IM activity at once. The goal is to build users gradually, giving the staff time to get used to this new service.

(Timeline for Meebo)


In order to increase patron interest in the DFL’s online presence two Flickr accounts are being set up – one for adults, one for children. The adult account will include sets titled “Programming”, “Staff”, and “Building”. The children’s account will have sets titled “Programs”, “Displays”, and “Summer”. There is no charge for the Flickr accounts, the library already owns a digital camera, and the reference librarian will be responsible for maintaining the accounts, so there will be no cost to the library for this application.

(Timeline for Flickr)


The Duxbury Free Library is very excited to be enhancing its services to patrons with Web 2.0 technology. For the second year the DFL will offer a free “Tech Talk” series to the public. This series will include four 1 ½ hour long presentations on the fourth Thursday of the month, starting in October and running until February, with the exception of December. The tentative line-up includes “What’s New at the DFL” by the reference librarian, “Gadget Petting Zoo” by local retailers, “Digital Photography” (presenter has not yet been booked), and “Social Networking for Grown-ups” by Jessamyn West.

Our hope is to continue this series annually as long as there is public interest in technology. The staff is dedicated to offering the best service possible, keeping ourselves abreast of the current trends, and anticipating the needs of our patrons. This series, combined with the addition of the above mention web 2.0 applications, puts us closer to the leading edge of technology.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Now what? Redux

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called "Now What?". My life since then has been almost all web 2.0 all the time. Work, school, free time – it has all been spent either learning about web 2.0 applications, trying to figure out how to use them most efficiently, and of course, keeping up with my Scrabulous games!

So, what do I feel about this "stuff" now?Flickr is still one of my favorite web 2.0 applications. I've spent the past few weeks playing around with an account for the library. This afternoon I sat with one of the children's librarians and showed her how to set up an account for their department too. I think, after we link from the library's webpage to the Flickr accounts, our pictures will be seen and enjoyed by more people. I know the pictures I've posted on my personal account have been looked at over and over again. I only have one complaint about Flickr : I'm a librarian, and I've already admitted to being a little fussy about things…I'd like to see deeper levels of organization available.

I'm coming around a little to Facebook, but still have a hard time seeing it used in any practical way in my current position. I know a lot of libraries have a presence on Facebook, but it doesn't feel like a good fit for the DFL right now. Our YA librarian is using it and just the other day was experiencing a great surge of interest from “her kids” after tagging some photos she uploaded on her page. As a personal social networking tool, I'm still a little bit on the fence. One of the things I find most fascinating about it is that even though I see my Facebook "friends" from work almost every day, and I'm involved in a Scrabulous game with almost all of them, we hardly ever mention our Facebook "relationships". I'm also still hoping for more meaningful professional connections, more network and a little less social. With that in mind, I'd love for my classmates to add me as a friend to their Facebook accounts so we can keep in touch while we continue down this path of higher education! I’d be especially interested in hearing how you apply the concepts we’ve been discussing in this class to your jobs.

One thing I am very excited about is IM Reference at the DFL. I just got the official go-ahead from the director to get the ball rolling on this project. (For my SCSU mates, there will me more detail in my Final Project on this at the end of the week.) We're going to go slowly with the staff and plan on doing the launch with the public for the start of the school year in September. I like IM; I wish I used it more. Today at lunch I was talking with a member of the circulation staff and she expressed an interest in using it in-house as well, so maybe there's some hope of adding another form of communication for the staff here.

I have no experience with Twitter but have been keeping an eye on it. I found a great example of a library using it as an event push and can finally see where we might be able to add this to our growing arsenal of technology. Nothing solid in the works yet, but I will definitely keep watching Twitter developments.

So, do I still feel like a Wallflower 2.0? Not exactly. But all of this immersion into web 2.0 applications, admittedly doubly concentrated because of this class, has made me wonder if I'm leaving real people and real relationships behind. I think a balance is what's needed, personally and professionally. Half of my day is spent at the reference desk assisting patrons. I love this part of my job just as much as I love playing with the tech stuff. I think if my entire day had to be spent on either of those, ie, all public service or all technology, I would not be a happy librarian. After this class is over I'm going to try to make sure at least half of my social interactions are done in person, or at least without a keyboard.

Friday, June 20, 2008

IM in the library

It's finally Friday and I'm heading to the cape for some restorative camping. But before I go I have some SCSU housekeeping to take care of…

My class has been talking about blogs, wikis, IM, basically all the things that I'm completely immersed in at my job. It's been fun and, of course, educational. We're talking a lot about how these and other web 2.0 applications work, and how and why libraries should use them, but I'd still like to hear some testimonials, if you will, from librarians who are currently using these tools in their libraries. I know here in Duxbury the reference wiki I set up has been a tremendous success. It met our expectations and even had a few bonuses that we were not expecting. I've started to archive previous months reference questions, mainly because I'm a little funny that way (I won't use the "A" word), and also because even though we didn't keep the paper version of the reference questions list I feel like at some point I'll be able to turn this electronic version into another kind of tool for us.

Back to the class…one of our assignments for this week was to get some experience using IM. We used the Meebo IM aggregater, one of the more popular IM tools. I already had a Meebo account set up (dmbgarvin, in case you want to add me to your friends list), thanks to a workshop I attended at SEMLS a few months ago. Lately I've been trying to get a few other staff members on board with the concept in preparation for our launch of IM Reference, hopefully by the start of the schools year.

For anyone who doesn't know what Meebo is, it's basically a single IM account that you set up one time with any and all IM screen names you have. It will allow you to talk with anyone else with a Meebo account, even if you are an AIM person and your friend is a Yahoo person. Great tool, really; it pulls the IM community together and enlarges the circle of communication.

So, the class was supposed to "check in" via IM with Rebecca, the distance education librarian at SCSU and one of the instructors for the class. Then, she wanted us to join the ILL599 chat room she set up on Meebo specifically for the class. I popped in three or four times and every time I was the only one there. Which wasn't really surprising to me, it's a fairly small class and there were no designated hours. I have group chatted before and find it to be a little hard to follow.

Where do I see IM in libraries…..reference definitely, circulation maybe, YA librarians probably, although it could be distracting. IM chat rooms, not really. What I don't like about the rooms are the questions and comments that hang without being answered, or conversation threads that are overlapping numerous other conversation threads. I'm way too linear for that! I think if a bunch of people (I'm thinking young people here) are just "hanging out" it can be fun, but if it's a tool to share information I'd rather see a one on one situation. The name is very fitting – Chat Room – it's a great place to chat, but not to have any kind of serious or meaningful interaction.

So those are my thoughts of the day on instant messaging. Have a wonderful weekend everyone, I'm off to pitch a tent, roll out my sleeping bag, and catch up on some reading!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Common sense tech ideas

Yesterday I spent six hours at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI for NELA’s program on IT in the library. It was billed as a training session for IT trainers. Gary McCone and Grace Sines from the National Agricultural Library were the presenters. The session was loaded with information, too much to recap in one blogging session so I’ll stick to my two favorite ideas. First, have a list of core competencies for the entire staff. Second, have a staff IT wiki. Actually their idea is to have a Tech Talk page on their intranet, but my library does not have an intranet, so I thought a wiki would work just as well, maybe even better because of the collaboration possible with wikis.

Having core competencies just makes good sense. Each department could come up with a list of what computer skills are necessary to perform the job well and to be able to troubleshoot minor computer issues. Things like changing the printer and scanner ink cartridges, knowing that re-booting is frequently the answer to a problem, and resetting the wireless modem could be taught to the employees in the departments that have to deal with these issues. Gary and Grace suggested some kind of incentive to get staff to get excited about learning these skills. Rewards for completing the training could include small prizes or a staff party. Obviously some libraries will have a more difficult time than others getting staff to want to learn these skills. I’m lucky to work in a library without much technophobia. For the most part, the staff is, if not proficient, at least willing to learn.

The second idea is very exciting to me and I wonder why it isn’t more widely used. Setting up a staff wiki for tech tips would be easy to do and would be an excellent resource. When a computer issue comes up the problem and solution could be recorded on the wiki. Tech tips could also be periodically posted, or the wiki could even be used as a manual of sorts. Employees could add comments or questions to the wiki. Through the use of tagging, it could be searchable. It seems like it would be a good first resource for computer problems, especially for those times when the IT contact people are unavailable.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Library 2.0 - are we there yet?

An interesting question was posted on the discussion board for my class this week….where does your library stand between 1.0 and 2.0? It is a worthy question for everyone.

Here is what the DFL currently offers in terms of technology: wireless internet for public access, a docking station for laptops, online databases and catalog that are remotely accessible, a wiki for the reference department, on-line readers advisory service with a link to the catalog, external drive for floppy discs, semi-regular classes for email training, Book A Librarian program for one on one computer instruction, e-mail reference service, and possibly a few other things I’m forgetting.

This is what is in the planning stages: Flickr accounts for the adult, YA & children’s departments, IM reference, and revamping the webpage to make it more dynamic.

And then my wish list: digitizing the vertical file and archives and linking them to our webpage, a library Facebook account, text reference, and adding a scanner for public use (we get a lot of requests).

I’ve always thought our library was on the progressive side. We are fortunate to have a director that is forward thinking and willing to take chances. But even though we are offering quite a bit of the newer technology to our patrons I still feel like we could be doing more. At the MLA conference last month I sat in on Marshall Keys’ talk. He ended with an example of a library that is as 2.0 as any library can get. What struck me as odd and sad was that the audience laughed. I think there is still a general view that this “stuff” is trendy and will go away. This is the wall we have to get past. We can play catch up and answer our patrons’ requests, or we can be a step ahead of them and put ourselves in the position of teaching the latest and greatest innovations. Isn’t that where we should be?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

BookLetters and Library 2.0

Life is playing its evil little tricks on me…my body somehow knows my brain is back in school and it woke me up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 (on a Saturday morning!) to force me to be productive. So here I am, after a half hour long search for an open Dunkin’ Donuts, making the best of this quiet time.
Thinking back over the past few weeks at work and wondering what I could write about, two things have me really excited, and they kind of go hand in hand. Every year we run a program called “Hot Summer Reads”. I’m sure you are all familiar with this type of series. Every year the staff picks about fifteen new titles to add to the previous year’s selections. This is always very popular; being a seaside community our patrons have plenty of opportunities for beach reading. But they’re not all fluff books, in fact, some are a little on the avant garde side. I look at it as a personal challenge and try to stretch my boundaries a little each year. The display went up yesterday and I noticed quite a few patrons pulling the books off the shelves. I’m clearly not the only one who looks forward to this.
So what does this have to do with technology? A few weeks ago the director bought an online subscription to BookLetters. If you’re not familiar with this service and you work in a library that emphasizes readers advisory you should check it out. I’ll try not to sound like an advertisement here, but this is a loaded application. One of the best features is the availability of newsletters. Basically, you enter the ISBN numbers of the books you want to highlight and canned reviews are then displayed in newsletter form. You can also add your own reviews and link the selections to your catalog. Each newsletter can be set up as either an RSS feed or an email push.
The definition of Web 2.0 is hard for some people to grasp. I think it is best described as interactive and reciprocal. When you turn on your computer personalized information comes to you. Every morning when I load my Morning Coffee (which I don’t have to drive around for no matter what time of day or night it is!), I get everything I want – weather at my favorite camping locations, news feeds, my Facebook updates, new book alerts, new postings on my favorite blogs, etc. All of this information is pushed out to me now. And how does this relate to Library 2.0? We can now push our news and services out to our patrons.
Yesterday the Hot Summer Reads were set up on a display and a BookLetters newsletter was posted with descriptions of each new book added to this summer’s list. It is now possible for our patrons to open their email, see the newsletter, read the reviews, and choose their books, place holds - suspending some to ensure a continuous stream of books for the whole summer, all from their computers. What’s easier than that?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Timing, as they say, is everything…

A strange confluence of events has found me in a graduate class at SCSU called Web 2.0, (as opposed to the class I initially registered for - a kind of long and very boring story). It's all about blogs, wikis, RSS, etc., and how they can be used in library settings. It really is perfect timing for me…I'm so immersed right now in getting my library "2.0'ed" and I'll be able to swap information back and forth between my job and my class, and hopefully be of some benefit to both institutions. The final assignment for the class will mesh perfectly with some real-life ideas the director of my library and I are trying to get up and running before next school year.

So, if you are one of my classmates, please read through the previous posts for my background and why I have a blog already. I also look forward to reading yours, and for all of us to share information. I think this is the kind of experience I was hoping for (see last post) and I am anxious to see it in action.

If you are one of my few loyal followers please bear with the school postings for the next five weeks. Who knows, some of the information may be helpful to you too; after all, we’re all learning new things all the time, and sharing what little knowledge I have is the point of this blog. And please feel free to add your comments as well, maybe you can teach all of us something!

Back to the assignment: I've been following library blogs for a while now.
Stephen’s Lighthouse was the first one I got turned on to. I haven’t paid much attention to that in a while, but I have RSS feeds set up for my current favorites, which include LibrarianInBlack and

I find to be the most compelling and informative. Jessamyn West is the author of the blog. She is a library consultant based in Vermont and she frequently poses interesting ethical questions along with silly, goofy observations and current library news. In January I attended a workshop she presented in Massachusetts and became totally intrigued with the whole web 2.0/library 2.0/social networking craze that I immediately went home and set up a Flickr account. Since then I’ve added more social networking elements to my life, most of which I think we’ll be discussing in the weeks to come. Jessamyn travels frequently to give workshops and talks and freely posts about her experiences. I find her voice very casual and refreshing. She is also open to questions from people like you and me, and encourages everyone to be her “friend”. I highly recommend visiting her blog to learn more about web 2.0 and to see how well all of the tools of social networking can enhance our lives personally and as librarians.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Now what?

Something has been bothering me for a while now....

I've got a Flickr account, a Facebook page, a Meebo account, a account...I text with my cell-phone, still use my email, am writing a blog, take graduate classes on-line...I am clearly socially networked. So, now what?

There have definitely been advantages to all of this. I don't have to send pictures out to my family and friends anymore; they have all been given the Flickr address and instructions to hook it up to an RSS feed. By now they know to look on the site for photo updates.

Facebook was fun to set up, but after a few games of Scrabulous (I am starting to suspect this is the high point of Facebook) and looking up some interesting librarian groups to join, what do I do with it? Seems to me it's just one more thing I have to check on every day - I don't want to miss saying thank you to a new piece of flair or a gift from a friend! Maybe I've joined the wrong groups, but I was hoping for rousing, thought-provoking conversation, networking across the world, a consortium of ideas. And, even though I'm now a little more involved in the lives of some people I only knew casually, I'm not feeling like it's worth all the hype.

Social networking is leaving me feeling a little anti-social and creepy if you want to know the truth. Am I not being friendly enough? Do I have to introduce myself to people? How do I do that without feeling desperate or like a stalker?

I was hoping by putting so much of myself out there people would find me, or we would find ourselves in the same place, and networking relationships would happen. I feel a little like I've spent a lot of time getting dressed but there's no one at the party. I was expecting more interaction and more sharing to come slightly more effortlessly. (Maybe I should start a new group on Facebook for people who feel like Wallflowers 2.0!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thought-provoking MLA Conference

The MLA conference was held last week at Sea Crest in Falmouth, MA. I had the pleasure of sitting in on two exceptionally thought-provoking talks - Aaron Schmidt sharing his knowledge about IM reference and Marshall Keys' talk on keeping the library competitive. As usual after attending any kind of workshop or seminar, I walked away with many, many ideas and a feeling that getting and staying competitive is not all that difficult or expensive.

Here are a few things that keep running through my mind:

When most people think of IM they think of teens. But, isn't it probable that in 10 years, when these teens are adults, they will still be using the types of communication they are using now? So, if we miss the boat on getting IM in our libraries now, and we miss opportunities to connect with teens now, we are running the chance of losing the future adults they will become.

IM reference is not frivolous. In a few years not having IM reference will be like not having a telephone at the reference desk. Can you imagine not being able to call the library with a question?

Marshall Keys talked about "radical trust" and the sharing of information. Think about where people are fulfilling their information needs - Wikipedia, Google searches, etc. We need to be part of this circle of trust. Therefore we need to get our library in the face of everyone seeking information.

It's not enough anymore to have a dynamic webpage. We need to have interactive, participatory websites where our patrons have access to more than information - they need to have access to us.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Google Docs - a great tool for patrons

If you're not familiar with Google Docs now would be a good time to check it out. In terms of patron use, it can be invaluable.

Essentially, with a Google account, which is free and can be set up in seconds, anyone can get access to word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software. All documents can be saved on the internet through Google's file hosting service and can be re-accessed from any computer with an internet connection. As with all things Google, the website is very user friendly.

We sometimes get patrons who want to save their work, but for one reason or another have nothing to save it to (yes, we have CDs, floppys and thumb drives for sale, but...some people don't want to buy anything, or don't like having to remember to bring disks with them - or to take them home!). In these situations Google Docs is extemely helpful. A patron can come in on a Monday, create and save a document, upload it to the internet, leave the library without having to remember a disk of any kind, then come back on Tuesday and access the document again for editing, printing, etc. Great for students working on papers - they can work on a document while doing research at the library, then access it again from home later in the day. The one caveat is file size; there are limitations but I haven't found this to be problematic.

There are other websites that offer these services, but I have found that most people are very comfortable with anything "Google". Even though I've had nightmares about Google taking over all aspects of my life, I have to admit this is one of my favorite go-to tools. Try it out, share your knowledge with your patrons, and they will think you are brilliant!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Morning Coffee

In my house there's been an ongoing discussion about the differences between Mozilla Foxfire and Internet Explorer. My teenagers like Foxfire better, I've always prefered IE. My children have never been able to give me a good enough reason to switch and I've always chalked it up to generational differences, but the other day I stumbled on a Foxfire add-on that made me a believer. It's called Morning Coffee and I highly recommend it to anyone who uses various websites throughout their day. This will allow you to open an array of websites with just one click of an icon. They will display in tabs on the browser page, Windows Vista style, and you simply toggle back and forth to whatever page you want.

Here's how to set it up:

If you don't already have it, download Mozilla Foxfire from the internet (this is free). If you are using Mozilla make sure you have the latest version. Next, go to and add Morning Coffee to Foxfire. After re-starting Foxfire you will see a coffee mug icon at the top of the page. Now, open up any website that you use frequently throughout your day, then click the down arrow beside the coffee icon and add the website to your Morning Coffee. It will give you options of frequency; pick the one that suits your needs. Do this for each website you want to have readily available. Now, click on the mug and all of your websites will be listed on tabs and you are ready to go.

I use this at work and have loaded my library's website, our reference wiki, my Meebo account, Dogpile search engine, and the weather. At home I have Dogpile, the weather, my bank account, and my kid's school website. Just like your real cup of coffee in the morning, this gets you started off right.

By the way, don't forget to add this blog!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Who is the accidental techist?

I am the accidental techist.

Let me explain...I was hired into my current postition as Reference Librarian due, in part, to my willingness to experiment with technology. Please understand, I have no background in technology, no natural aptitude for it, and like many of you I am sure, a printer malfunciton can find me under my desk near tears. But for some reason the director had faith in me, something I have been trying for six months now not to lose. Recently I have been going to various technology centered workshops and have noticed that there are many, many librarians out there like me. We survive by a combination of faking it, sheer luck, and believing in ourselves.

If you are an IT person then this blog is not for you. Unless you need some entertainment. In that case follow along, but try not to fall out of your chair laughing. If you care to help, please do so. However, my goal is for all of the non-techie librarians out there to come together in this place to share success stories, commiserate, help each other, amuse each other, and support each other. Let's share our knowledge and our ideas. In our own language. I promise not to use any words that will make your head spin or your eyes cross. And you can trust me, because I don't know those words!

Am I the best person to administer this blog? Probably not. But going along with my naive willingness to experiment with technology that got me to this place, and what I see as a need for someone to step up and throw themselves out there at risk of embarrassment, here I am.