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!