Thursday, November 30, 2006

Library as a place: discussing extended hours

It is that time again. While a chorus from "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" may be inappropriate, the fact remains as of tomorrow there is one week of school before finals begin. Several things factor into this time of year being more about the library as a place, be it a meeting place or a quiet space, than any other time of year.

The IRC serves a dual function in AU Library. We are not only a floor of the library chock full of resources for education majors, we also facilitate a lab class taken by every education major. During fall semester the number of students taking this class ranges from150 - 250. In the spring it is significantly less, but each student will step foot in the library and IRC at least twice during the term. The portfolio due date is the last day of classes, December 8th. Traffic in the resource center is amazing and through the years an interesting trend has emerged during the week prior to finals. Our "regulars," those who often call the IRC home, make themselves scarce in the evenings. They stop in, say hi, tell us they will return on Monday, and leave the physical space to the newbies finishing portfolios. The IRC space is effectively turned over to a class.

During finals week, they come back! In addition to the regular crowd, new students begin to discover the IRC as a place. The IRC population consists of students using the space for papers, group projects, and studying. It is somewhere they are comfortable working. We have worked several years bringing this concept of space to fruition and there is a definite feeling of accomplishment walking around the second floor when tables and computers both are full.

Last year the library director experimented with significantly longer library operating hours. LibQual survey results and a follow-up student focus group vocalized their desire for longer library hours. They did not necessarily want specific library services, they did, however, want the library open as a study space. They needed some space on campus that would enable them to get out of dorm rooms and 24 hour computer labs. The library responded with extended hours. Sunday through Thursday, from November 27th to Wednesday, December 13th, AU Library is open 7:45 am to 2 am. After the regular closing time of 11 pm, students are able to use the library as a space. Restrictions include the following; circulation and reference services are not available after 11 pm, extended hours do not include the Instructional Resource Center (IRC), and printing is not available on the second floor after 11 pm. Restrictions aside, from 11 pm to 2 am, the library is a place. Maybe the place.

The ultimate success of this project depends on advertising (student newspaper, library web site, library blogs, library signs, and email), word of mouth (Did you know the library was open late?), and student satisfaction (students began inquiring when the extended hours would begin before Thanksgiving break). Let's hear it for the library as a place!

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Shameless self promotion

Today I had a nice present in my mailbox, a plain brown padded envelope that contained a copy, actually several copies, of my recently published peer reviewed journal article. This is my first and I am somewhat giddy, maybe even disproportionately so, about seeing it in print. The article, "Marketing Electronic Reserves to the Faculty," was published in the Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserves (Vol. 16, No. 4, 2006).

The whole peer review process was a learning experience for me. I saw the call for article submissions via the EBSS list serv in May and submitted a proposal. The proposal was vetted and I was then invited to write and submit an article for review with a deadline of late August. I was lucky to work with Trevor Dawes, Princeton University Library, who was the guest editor for this journal issue. Trevor was extremely patient (thanks again, Trevor) with my numerous questions regarding copyright, submission protocol, and deadlines. He was also quick to keep all of us on task by sending gentle reminders as the article due date drew near. In mid December 2005, I received the welcome news my article "was accepted for publication in Volume 16, Number 4 (2006) of The Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve. "

In mid August, I heard again from Trevor and Leslie Morris concerning permission to use library web page screen shot images within the article as final preparations were being made for publication. Haworth Information Press publishes JILLDDER and they determine the publication schedule as opposed to the journal. I had no idea the 2006 date would actually be a year from the acceptance date. Luckily, we were continually updated by the editors as the process continued. Email notification of publication arrived today, along with the package in my mailbox.

This was a great first time publishing adventure for me. Everyone from the editor to the publisher kept the author in the forefront (I retain the copyrights for my article). Haworth Press sent me two copies of the journal and ten professionally bound individual copies of my article (it's very cool). Naturally, flush with joy from my first publication, I want to write again.

Update: 12/12/06

A second brown envelope awaited me yesterday afternoon when I checked for mail. Inside was my copy of Marketing and Managing Electronic Reserves, a new book from Haworth Press. I had forgotten the special edition of JILLDDER was simultaneously published by Haworth Press in book format. Included were promotional materials and the opportunity to purchase additional copies, one of which will be added to the Ashland University library faculty publication collection, of the title.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Blogging about comments

Hot off of the e-journal press is the latest issue of Cites & Insights (Vol.6, No. 14, December 2006) from Walt Crawford. I always find something of interest when reading C & I, even more so when space is devoted to library technology and blogging. One of the topics discussed in this issue’s Net Media Perspective column is blog commenting, or lack there of. Rebecca and I agreed we wanted blog comments enabled when ironing out details before launching Library Cloud. A step beyond comments was the question of how to determine if anyone was reading our blog. The blogsphere is huge so we did not want to fall into the trap of thinking only people we know read our blog, nor did we want to rely singly on comments and blogger page views. I admit to bulldozing when it came to adding the counter as a means of gathering statistics, but it has been eye-opening to see what posts are being read most often (Ms. Dewey is the most popular) and from where people are reading. Without those particular statistics we would have little to judge statistically as blog comments have been sparse. Not particularly concerned, I was nonetheless glad to see Library Cloud is average when it comes to comments:

“Most library blogs don’t get very many comments and a few blogs tend to have mostly comments that agree with the posts.” (Crawford, C & I, December 2006,

“For this year’s study of liblogs, the media comments per post was only 0.42. Most blogs had less than half a comment per post but more than a dozen averaged at least three comments per post.” (Crawford, C & I, December 2006, p.4)

I began thinking about my own habits regarding blog reading and commenting and took a quick survey. Here is what I found; as of today I have 39 blog feeds in my Bloglines account. Those thirty-nine blogs fall easily into five categories: library related (6), technology (8), Ashland University & Library Cloud (4), professional development (10), and just for fun (11). I have commented on ten of the thirty-nine blogs somewhat regularly and each of those ten fall into the just for fun and professional development categories of blogs. One step further, I can honestly say I post frequently, at least every two or three posts, on four of those ten blogs. Therefore, out of the original thirty-nine blogs, I comment on approximately 10% of the list. So, what does this mean?

If any of those other bloggers are relying on my comments to judge their blog usage, very few of them are going to be satisfied with my participation. This begs the question; where do I post comments, and why? Here are the four blogs I comment most frequently on (alphabetically):

The why portion is pretty easy to answer. These blogs are fun, invite comment, and have many other interesting people commenting as well. I have learned about writing and publishing, both recreational and children's, from these four blogs. I have alss on occassion posted to the more professional entities of the Chronicle's Wired blog, Weblog-ed, and Walt Crawford's blog, all for the same reasons.

This blog is still in its infancy and comments will come and go as we grow. But curiosity compels me to ask, what makes a blog reader decide to comment? Is it agreeing with a post? Is it disagreeing with a post? What do you think?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Wonder #5: The Internet

I am a fan of Good Morning America, often watching in the morning before work. They are counting down the 7 New Wonders and today was New Wonder # 5: The Internet. Assigned to this particular wonder was Elizabeth Vargas who reported virtually from inside the Internet, a visual representation from The Opte Project is pictured to the left, and live. There was no surprise that a substantial part of the report focused on social networking sites. Not only My Space and FaceBook, but also places where adults are creating virtual communities complete with identities, employment, the sale of real estate, and options to make money from the venture. It was interesting to me seeing a stay-at-home mother of two talk about the hours a day she spends in a virtual community (I've forgotten the name).

Yesterday we had a full staff meeting to discuss the library's academic review scheduled for tomorrow. One of the questions put forth by the library director was, "Where will the library be in 25 years?" Will we be building virtual libraries in virtual communities for virtual patrons?

Update, later that same day...

In case you were wondering why I did not name or provide a link to the social community discussed, I could not remember the name. So in true librarian fashion I spent the last fifteen minutes searching out the site with the information I could remember and found it; Second Life: Your World Your Imagination. A few quick statistics on this site include:

  • Total membership of 1,409,200
  • Logged in the last 60 days 567,011
  • Online now 14, 687 (varies)
  • U.S. money spent in the last 24 hours, $689, 910

Are we looking at those virtual libraries being built, staffed by virtual librarians, utilizing virtual books, and paying fines with virtual/real dollars ($689,910 of them)?

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Friday, November 10, 2006

A different blog, an odd glitch

Welcome to the ALAO conference report blog intermission. I do have two sessions and possibly the pre-conference workshop I would like to discuss, but a CMCIG blog template glitch has put my musings on hold.

Yesterday afternoon Greg Martin, Cedarville University, CMCIG chair, contacted me about some of the sidebar information on the IRC blog and the CMCIG blog because we are all learning blogs together. During the course of looking at the CMCIG template, he noticed all of the sidebar links were gone. The existing blog had all of the pertinent information, but the template did not reflect it. Our main concern was if anyone posted to the blog about the conference, saving and publishing would "update" the good blog with the bad template. Why the worry? Any time you choose a new blogger template, it overwrites the existing template and effectively erases sidebar information. Just to be on the safe side, I did a quick view page source and saved the file.

Today, I tested our theory and was unfortunately proved correct. As you can see on the most recent post, CMCIG blog glitch, we currently have only the generic preset links and a completely different template. It's not pretty.

Because luck was with us and Greg noticed the oddity, the links are saved and just need to be re-established on the template. Right now we are deciding if it's time to switch over to Blogger Beta, maybe fool with the template css and set it to reflect the colors on the new ALAO web page, or just rebuild and be done with it. Additionally, the blog is a bit stagnant and I'm hoping we can set up a quick statscounter to see if it is being read even though posting and comments are sparse.

I brought my conference notes home from work this afternoon and will try to finish my reflections this weekend so as not to drag out the process too much longer. In the mean time, wish me luck with the CMCIG blog repairs.

Update: 11/13/06

The CMCIG blog is back to normal, the template has been reset and all of the sidebar links re-established. After discussing a few additional options with Greg, I added StatCounter and a few Feedburner "chicklets" for site feeds. We hope this will help with the IG's blog readership. If not, the counter will give us a basis for comparison should the time come to disband the project. By the time spring workshops begin for IG's, we will have a good six months of statistics to review.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rebecca's ALAO Conference Report: Part Two

I know I said I'd post this yesterday, but I just didn't get to it until today. So here's the rest of my report; this time I will briefly report on the sessions I attended. I recommend that you take a look at the presentations on the ALAO website.

1st session: Instant Messaging Reference for Academic Libraries
Presented by Chad F. Boeninger and Wanda Weinberg from Ohio University

As a reference librarian who is planning for IM service in the near future, I found this session very helpful. They walked us through the rationale of using IM as a reference tool and how they surveyed their users to see if they would utilize IM for reference questions as well as to see what service they used. The services that your patrons use is important because it can determine which services you want to set up an account with and which client you use. They quickly covered multi-protocol clients, including their reasoning for choosing Trillian. I was very pleased to hear them mention Meebo which is a very popular web-based multi-protocol client (and just came out of beta). They also discussed staff adoption/education and the importance of not making it voluntary. They included their reference statistics as well as survey results for evaluating the service and their future plans for video reference. I found this presentation very helpful even though I've read a lot about IM reference because it showed the entire process: planning, training, implementing, and evaluating.

2nd session: Coffee Shops, Computer Geeks, and Courseware Gurus : Sharing our space with non-library service providers
Presented by Jeffrey A. Franks and Lori J. Fielding from The University of Akron

This session traced the evolution over the years of the Bierce Library from just a library to include many other related & non-related departments of the university. I enjoyed the fact that they were careful to highlight both the positive outcomes and challenges of each evolution, but I wish they had spent a little more time talking about collaboration and how the evolution of the building also, in a way, has followed the way technology and its impact on libraries and evolved. It was good to see that different department can coexist within a library building.

3rd session: Lean, Mean Library Web Site Machine
Presented by Chris Sheetz, Susan Paul, & Ann Marie Smeraldi from Lorain County Community College

I liked this session for much the same reason that I liked the first one. In this case they were implementing a redesign of their website. This presentation took us through their process step-by-step including usability testing to identify problems, subsequent changes, more usability testing, full redesign, and evaluation. I really liked the way they described their methods of having the students use the smartboard setup so that they could observe without hovering directly over the person's shoulders. I'm glad they spent a good deal of time on their methodology because I think figuring out how to perform the usability testing can be the most difficult part.

4th session: Time to Clean out the Pantry
Presented by Laura Kinner, Lucy Duhon, & Alice Crosetto from the University of Toledo

I really enjoyed this session although it was overcrowded into a very hot & very small room. It was very matter-of-fact about the weeding process which is an integral part of collection development. They talked about why libraries weed and figuring out the criteria and guidlines to follow when weeding. Since I was bad and didn't take a collection development class in library school, I found a lot of this talk helpful. The new RCL (Resources for College Libraries) was mentioned during this session which I highly recommend taking a look at if you're interested in this subject. I was very glad to see that they included the benefits to weeding (Yes, Virginia, there are benefits!) as well as a bibliography for further exploration of some of the topics.

Overall, even with the bad wireless and occasional temperature issues, I enjoyed ALAO. The people were great, the food was excellent, and the conversation was thought-provoking. I'm glad that I am a member of ALAO and I am very much looking forward to next year.

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ALAO Conference: Keynote Speaker

Rebecca posted an excellent summation of the keynote address by Dr. J. Richard Madaus in Rebecca's ALAO Conference Report: Part One, so I am not going to reinvent the wheel in that respect. I will offer a few personal reflections regarding the keynote address. After reading the information about Dr. Madaus on the conference web site, I considered not attending the opening session; as someone who appreciates and uses OhioLINK, but does not work in technical services area of the library, I was not sure how much this address would interest me. Why? My inference concerning the keynote was that it would be mostly tech services oriented. I am very glad my need for chatting with colleagues and the promise of fresh fruit and pastry overcame my initial keynote resistance. I would have sincerely regretted missing this presentation. It would have been, as they say, "my bad."

Dr. Madaus was an engaging speaker who discussed not only emerging technology and trends, but also how they would and should affect academic libraries, librarians, and their patrons. Not being aware of, caring, or using some of the technology our patrons currently utilize may easily be the most important downfall in academic libraries today. I can not begin to count the number of times in one day I am asked questions about computers, computer software, and general technology elements beyond the library catalog, databases, and even simple Internet searches. Technology is definitely woven into the very fabric of our everyday life and as Rebecca deflty quoted Dr. Madaus, "It's not about the technology; it's about people and the way they live."

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How to Sabotage Your Career

November is a month when I look at my calendar, see an odd yet blissfully uneventful week ahead, and thank my lucky stars. This week began in that fashion, but no sooner did the words take form then a phone call and personal visit changed the landscape of my scheduled obligations. Altered in a good way, but changed none the less. Both commitments are important to me, one a search committee (the personal visit) and the other an accreditation committee (the phone call). I'm flattered, honored, and enjoy being a part of both processes, but both require some deft juggling of responsibility. Talk to any academic librarian this deep into a semester and you will learn this is all part and parcel with a career in librarianship.

So, why am I blogging about this topic instead of the promised ALAO conference session information? My bloglines account gathered an interesting article this afternoon posted on Insider Higher Ed, by Rob Weir titled "How to Sabotage Your Career." It ties in neatly with afore mentioned outside library interests and pays homage to the importance of fulfilling responsibilities.

After aptly describing several instances of career sabotage, one of which I lived through in graduate school (I will never forget the partner who withdrew from class one week before a collaborative assignment was due without fulfilling his obligations to the team), Wier closes with the following:

"But make no mistake: There is an informal and unpublished blacklist, one that emerges from conversations and in professional networking. I have sat with conference planners poring over proposals and heard them say, “She sent a proposal two years ago and never showed up.” I have watched senior colleagues glance at vitas, paper proposals, article submissions, applications, and grant requests, arch their eyebrows, and utter a single fatal word: “No.” I recall a Fulbright project rejected with the words, “not if God Himself commanded it.” If you find yourself running into dead-ends where there should be open doors, you should take stock and contemplate who you’ve dissed and what piles of garbage you’ve left for others to clean up." (Rob Weir, 11/7/06)

It reminds me of a piece of advice I got from my first boss when working retail; Be nice to everyone who comes in the store because you just never know. Common sense and common courtesy go a long way.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

New ALAO web page!

Tomorrow is another day and I will focus on blog posts about the keynote address and sessions I attended. Before finishing today I want to mention, as Rebecca did, the new ALAO web site. Anyone attending the conference got a quick sneak peak at the work in progress. The view in the conference luncheon area did not due justice to the design.

An updated ALAO web site has been in the works for close to two years. Karen Plummer and Frank Bove, ALAO co-webmasters from the University of Akron, have worked wonders with not only the design, but the many elements behind the web site. Within the last three years, ALAO has switched web servers at least three times. The new server will allow ALAO to host a constantly growing web site, newly established ALAO News Blog, the ALAO Newsletter, Interest Group pages, list servs, and membership information. The work these two have done is nothing short of amazing.

Comments on the new design are welcome, and additional information regarding the time table set forth for the new design are available on the new designs temporary home @ you have not done so already, check out the ALAO News Blog and register. Any current ALAO member may contribute posts to the blog, but you must register first.

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I concur, it was awful

Yes, the wireless connectivity at Quaker Square was abysmal; though to be fair disappointing may be more accurate. After attending the pre-conference workshop, I gleefully dragged my laptop to my room. With a bit of time to kill between the end of one event and the beginning of another, I planned to shop (smile) and then blog the workshop. In my room, it clearly stated there was a wireless fee of $9.95. Reluctant to pay for what I could probably get for free during the conference, I knew session ballrooms were equipped for wireless, I decided against blogging that evening.

The next morning it became clear the fee had to be paid by each conference attendee in order for laptops to be used throughout the day. I know ALAO paid to use the facility and the price included wireless access for the presenters. I also know that two other hotels considered for the conference did not have any wireless access at all, or were "hoping" to be able to offer it to future conferences, so the fact that Quaker Square had wireless was a selling point to the committee. I believed, perhaps naively, that if the facility presented itself as having wireless, and presenters could use the wireless in a wireless capable facility/room, we would all be able to use the connection. I was disappointed that was not the case.

I realize to conference hotels this is a way to make money. Be that as it may, I was not prepared to add more money on to my conference bill. It was not that important to me. I quickly put my laptop in the car knowing I could blog today instead and not have to lug it around with me as I moved between sessions. ALAO continues to plan conferences, in fact next year a full two day event will be presented. Wireless for attendees may become as important as access for presenters. It is something to consider when choosing venues.

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ALAO Conference: The Place

As previously mentioned, after being part of the 2005 program committee that selected Quaker Square as a conference site, I was looking forward to seeing how it stacked up against previous conference venue. Though this location was pricier than the other three we toured in the Akron area, my notes from the visit in February of 2005 indicate we thought it would be interesting from a historical perspective, was centralized in the Akron area so anyone attending may want to come early and stay over, and it was an easy find from major interstates.

The hotel is a historical landmark with each of the rooms situated in one of the Quaker Oats silos. It seemed most of the rooms had a balcony overlooking either the lobby or outside the hotel. My room was a double on the fourth floor and had a balcony overlooking one of the busy Akron streets (no, street noise was not a problem). It was charming and I remained enthralled until the heat came on in the room. One other conference attendee likened the noise to a space shuttle taking off. I was considering more along the lines an airplane ... I turned the thermostat down and bundled up in the great comforters.

Conference sessions, vendors, poster sessions, and Interest Group tables took place in the hotel. The Keynote address, breakfast, and lunch took place across the street the secondary hall, Quaker Station. It was a very short walk and the bulk of the crossing area was protected from the weather. Luckily it was a nice day, so we did not freeze or need to worry about dodging rain or snow (it was an initial concern since it was November after all). I enjoyed the break between venues, it was nice to get up and stretch a bit after sitting. Though assured the hall would hold 400, that large a number was different in reality than in theory and we were a bit squished while eating.

Before I forget, yes, the food was good, especially the breakfast buffet. Lunch was a bit hurried, but the buffet line moved quickly because salad and dessert (pie) were already placed at the table. The committee had flex time planned into the day that allowed attendees to visit poster sessions, vendors, and wander through the shops located at Quaker Station. There were additional restaurants on site, but I won't discuss my restaurant adventure the evening before except to say it was very affordable!

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Program committee, once removed

I have been battling my laptop most of the morning (it's winning) and since Internet connection is a working element, posting about the 32nd Annual ALAO Conference is something I am able to accomplish. Before detailing my reflections regarding the conference, I feel compelled to shed some light on the entire conference planning process. As you read, keep in mind I am a program committee member, once removed, and it may shade some of my post commentary. I was part of the planning committee for the 30th Annual Conference held at the Sinclair Center, ALAO at 30: Positioning Our Libraries, Positioning Ourselves, and the planning committee for the 31st Annual Conference held at the Fawcett Center, Setting the Stage: New Roles in the Library.

Volunteering to take part in ALAO conference planning is fun, rewarding and exhausting. It is a two year commitment, set up as such so each year there are several members with experience going forward into the next committee. Generally speaking, this means attending monthly meetings for a year, some short and sweet, some long and drawn out. How long? Ask any conference planning committee member about their experiences at the May meeting when selection and scheduling of programs and poster sessions takes place. There is plenty of chocolate, patience, and laughter required.

After volunteering to be part of the 2004 committee, and being a complete novice to the process, I learned the 2003 conference planning was already in full swing. The only decision not made by the 2004 committee was the location of the conference. It had been selected by the previous committee. Each year, the first duty charged to a new planning committee is that of choosing the location for the following year. It seems odd to do this a year out, but to get the date we want, it is necessary to plan a year in advance. The program committee is led by the vice president / president elect, so when the program comes to fruition it is the president leading the conference proceedings, and includes appointed members and volunteers.

The conference is a final product of a years worth of blood, sweat, and tears. Nothing ever goes off without a hitch, but often conference attendees are oblivious (I certainly was) when disasters happen and are dealt with immediately. Oddly enough, in retrospect the actual day of the conference is often anti-climactic. And still, it is not quite over. This year's conference committee has one final meeting, a debriefing where they will go over every comment on the evaluation, pass along the recommendations to the next committee, and suffer a bit of withdrawal that the madness has ended.

Bravo! I commend the 2006 planning committee on a job well done. It was a large crowd, I heard counts of 400+ in attendance making it the largest in recent memory, and I know they are breathing a collective sigh of relief. I will be interested in hearing Ann's report and planning committee reflections at the ALAO board meeting next week.

See you at the 33rd Annual Conference, October 25-26, next year in Columbus.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rebecca’s ALAO Conference Report: Part One

I’m sure Diane is busily writing her own conference report as I speak and I look forward to reading her take on some of things at the conference. As far as I remember, we were only in one session together, so I’m interested in hearing about some of the sessions that I didn’t attend. So here’s my take on the 32nd annual ALAO Conference.

Business Meeting
Since it was my first conference and I just joined ALAO about a month ago, I was actually interested in hearing the things from the business meeting. I found it refreshing that the Vice-President/President-Elect Doug Morrison asked for suggestions for speakers for next year’s conference and was glad to hear that it will be a two-day event in Columbus.

President Ann Watson said that the website was being redesigned and introduced the webmaster to show off the new design. If you want to see what it looks like you can see it here, just keep in mind that this new site design is still in development; you should still use the ALAO website for your information needs, the new design will take over that address in due time. I’ve looked at the new design, and I have to say that I look forward to its implementation as soon as it’s ready; it’s a great improvement.

Keynote Speaker
Since this was my first conference, it was also my first keynote address at a conference. I think future keynote speakers have a lot to live up to. Dr. J. Richard Madaus, the Executive Director of the College Center for Library Automation in Florida, had the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end. I was no exception. Anyone who begins a speech with a quote from Albus Dumbledore has my undivided attention no matter what he’s talking about, but the subject matter was just as impressive as the speaker. While I can’t possibly summarize an entire hour’s speech in a paragraph or two, I’ll try and give you the basic highlights and you can view his presentation if and when it is up on the ALAO website.

Dr. Madaus said there are 3 main areas of information: print, proprietary electronic, & the free web. But how much time and money are spent on the free web? He spent a lot of time making the point that although the free web makes up easily the largest way people seek information, we are not adequately addressing it as an area where we can play a role. This is also true when it comes to “gizmos.” Many undergrads today utilize their cell phones and PDAs to view documents and search the web, but how compatible are our web pages with those items? Our patrons use tagging, blogging, wikis, podcasts, & RSS, but how much are we using it? Although he didn’t ask it, his speech raised in my mind the question: How compatible are librarians and libraries with the patrons we are trying to serve? The answer I came up with is: not very compatible at all at this point.

The best point that I felt Dr. Madaus made is this (I think I got it as a direct quote), “It’s not about technology; it’s about people and the way they live.” He’s right. So often, we as librarians make excuses for being behind and blame technology for a lack of use in more “traditional” library services. The gutsiest thing that Dr. Madaus asked, in response to the inevitable money question with technology is “what can you stop doing?” We need to have a stop list of more “traditional” things that are not reaching our patrons so that we can start services that will reach them. There is a critical need to move past a place-bound librarianship. He made the observation that getting our patrons to our website is often as hard as getting them into the building because the website is just another place. New strategies are needed, and new global perspectives are required in order to keep up with changes in technology and the way people seek information.

This was a phenomenal speech and was definitely an eye-opener to many people in the room who hadn’t heard of many of the developments that are going on. He really emphasized the fact that many changes needed to be made yesterday and we’re already behind on changes that need to be made for tomorrow.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this report on Tuesday, November 7th.

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ALAO Conference & the fruitless endeavor for wireless

The ALAO (Academic Library Association of Ohio) Conference was held yesterday at the Crowne Plaza Quaker Square in Akron. I lugged a laptop around with me all day in the hopes that I would be able to write a post (or a series of posts) directly from the conference. Alas, this was impossible due to the horrible wireless connectivity there. At first I was getting no where with several networks being available but none working. Then, during my first session, I was able to get the page to come up on my browser where I needed to put in a code to access other pages. I hadn’t been given a code and was told by the nice lady next to me who was happily enjoying her wireless that it cost her $9.95. Between sessions I asked at the registration desk about wireless access because I wanted to blog the conference. It was disconcerting that at first they had no idea what I was talking about, but they figured it out pretty quickly and someone gave me what she said was the last code she had, but warned me that most others were having problems connecting. I felt pretty lucky to have obtained a code and tried again to get that page to load so that I could input my new code and get access, but for the entire rest of the day I was not able to get it to reload. The wireless would say I was connected, then it would have trouble with acquiring a network address, and I just kept getting my homepage not loading with no redirect to the page that I needed. Since there didn’t appear to be a place to go with my problems, and others seemed to have given up on the wireless dream, I finally resigned myself to carrying around a pointless heavy bag for the rest of the day.

I sincerely hope that in the future ALAO will take a few of the following recommended steps for future conferences: 1) make sure that free wireless will be available to all conference attendees without code, or have a code for everyone included in their registration packets; 2) make sure that free wireless access is available in all of the rooms of the conference hotel (I heard a lot of people broke down and paid for it, or made due without it); 3) test out the wireless ahead of time and/or talk to other groups who’ve had conferences there to see if there are any problems when many people are trying to access it at once; and 4)have a desk near the registration desk and/or near the poster sessions for people who are having problems with the facilities provided including the wireless service. I know the fourth suggestion may be a stretch, but considering all of the complaints regarding room temperature and wireless problems it may be helpful to have a “help desk” like place. These things will be more important in future conferences which will be 2-day events.

I found these problems with wireless more than bit ironic following the excellent keynote address by Dr. J. Richard Madaus who spoke powerfully about people accessing information constantly and instantly and that it wasn’t about technology, but about people and the way they live. I will make a separate post summarizing my further thoughts on the keynote address, presentations, etc. very soon, but I thought that this subject deserved its own post.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7

As most of you by now know, the world was blessed with big updates of the 2 most used browsers not long ago. Microsoft was first by introducing the much awaited Internet Explorer 7. Mozilla followed rapidly with Firefox 2. Before I get to my thoughts I feel it is only fair to share what my browser preferences are so that you can know where this review is coming from. I switched from Netscape to IE sometime during 1998 and had pretty consistently used IE up until I took this job a year ago. I had heard of Firefox and been told how much better it was, but as a creature of habit I just kept doing what was working. FF was hard to adjust to at first, but I made the switch and after that only used IE when forced to by a poorly designed website or because a patron was using it. Now we'll start with IE first because it came out first.

Internet Explorer 7
I heard it had come out and downloaded it for 3 reasons: 1) I had heard it was out and much different than 6; 2) It was a boring Friday afternoon and I didn't want to start a project that I'd have to leave til Monday; & 3) It will be pushed as an automatic security update for Windows in the near future and I know that it will come on the worst day possible and make my computer horrible to deal with until I install/restart. I decided to go ahead and get it over with.

I fully expected to be unimpressed and bored and state right here that IE 7 was just a bad imitation of FF. While it does incorporate a lot of the features that FF has been famous for (i.e. tabbed browsing, adding search engines to the toolbar, etc.) it doesn't come off as a cheap imitation. It's just a better IE with stuff that browsers should come with these days.

  • I like the little stub of a tab that opens a new tab in the tab area, this will be very user friendly for users who are new to tabs or who haven't figured out that double-clicking in the area next to a tab in FF creates a new tab. (I didn't know that until I was told.)
  • I like the way that the favorites are now organized and making Feeds and History a part of this area.
  • When you go to add a new search engine, right there on the page there's a friendly little box for creating your own in about 2 seconds. I know that you can do this in Firefox as well, but it is not nearly as simple or straight-forward.
  • Printing! This is so much improved, I would say they are superior to Firefox in this regard. The print preview is a wonder to behold! The default is "Shrink to fit," the margins are easy to move and shown right on the page, and the headers go on and off with a click of a button. But by far my favorite is the print preview being on the right-click menu. It has always been a pet peeve of mine to go to one of those "print-friendly" pages where you loose the toolbar and being unable to get a preview so inevitably the text is cut off. I know you can get an extension for this in FF, but it should really incorporated into the browser without me having to add it. Good job Microsoft!
  • On my computer the display for IE 7 is a bit muddy, I'm not sure why, it could be my settings.
  • My toolbars were more than a little temperamental to move around to get it to look like I wanted.
  • I wanted to take advantage of the cool print features by printing an article for someone from MSNBC and wouldn't you know it the browser didn't like the page. What I find amusing is that it was an MSNBC page (for those of you who aren't laughing, the MS in MSNBC stands for Microsoft). See the screenshot below.

Mozilla Firefox 2.0
I downloaded it as soon as it was out of beta. I hadn't read many reviews of the betas so I really wasn't sure what to expect.

  • Spell check! I didn't utilize this until I started writing this blog post and thought I didn't really need it, but it has quickly become my favorite new feature.
  • Close tab button on the tab instead of one in the tab bar. This way you don't have to go to the tab to close it. I'm still getting used to this though and it's useful, but I'm not sure I like it.
  • Working with all of my current extensions (except which it easily offered to upgrade for me).
  • Not an update. You can't get this by checking for updates, you have to hear about it and then download it.
  • Not adding in new print features including the print preview on the right click menu. I know, I know an extension can do this, but I shouldn't have to rely on extensions all the time. I hope this may be added in a future update.
  • Not making it simple and easy to find way to create your own search engine.
Final Verdict
I give the most improved award to IE 7, it is far better than its predecessor (which wouldn't be hard). IE7 has some nice features for those of us who like to print things once in a while (which librarians need to do). I was a tad disappointed that Firefox 2 wasn't better, I guess my expectations were too high. I was most disappointed that Microsoft thought of a few things that Mozilla didn't. Overall, however, Firefox is still the superior browser and considering the fact that it is updated far more often and can be customized with so many extensions (now add-ons) I will still use it more often. I am a creature of habit and IE would have had to blow FF out of the water to get me to switch. I will probably use IE for printing, though, if I'm having problems getting something to print in FF.

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Overheard in the Library ....

Today's cartoon strip from Overdue Media is a continuation of their recent theme starring an enterprising young man transcribing everything he overhears in the library and placing it on his blog, "Overheard in the Library." From innocent chatter to cell phone calls, nothing escapes mention. Head over to Unshelved Media for a giggle.

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Library Journal: Ref Logs Now

Several days ago I was browsing back issues of Library Journal. As one of seven librarians on "the list" for our hard copy version, I am frequently reading more than one back issue at a time. To move it along to the next librarian, I tag and copy articles I want to read later. Yes, it means I have a back log of articles to read at any given time, but I categorize the piles. And though book marking the article from Library Journal Online would do the same thing, too many book marks create technology file folder stacks and I am quicker to weed and delete book marks than throw away hard copy.

The October 1 issue had an article, Ref Logs Now, by Emily Barton at Michigan State University, caught my attention. In it, Barton uses a web log format to detail how MSU reference librarians began using a WordPress blog to supplement, and possibly replace, their current email and reference log book resources. After “tweaking” the software, training staff members, and creating specific policies, their blog was ready for a test run. Neither Barton nor her partner in the endeavor head of reference Arlene Weismantel sugar coat the collaboration. Responses from staff, dated June 8th and June 9th in the article, provide insights to the process:

June 8, 2006: “Some were more than happy to try something new and required little more than a brief demonstration before becoming regular bloggers. Others were less than enthusiastic and were reluctant to invest much time in what they felt was a potentially short-lived technology.” (Barton, Ref Logs Now, 10/1/06)

June 9, 2006: "It didn't surprise me that some got annoyed about signing into the blog to post reference information. The primary reason to implement the blog was that it could be a better searchable archive than our email distribution list." (Weismantel, Ref Logs Now, 10/1/06)

Not long after these posts, several additional blogs were added to the MSU libraries repertoire with success. At the end of June, Barton notes, "we're past the hurdle of demonstrating the value of internal blogging." I would say so because they report individual librarians are now creating their own blogs to communicate with patrons.

Two particular things about this article resonated with me; that a first year librarian suggested the blog, and that the head of reference supported the idea. I am not sure that as a new employee I would have had the courage to make this suggestion. I hope that I would have, but am not sure and obviously in retrospect that would have been my mistake. I was impressed with the quick acceptance by the head of reference concerning reference blogs potential. Having been a part of at least one failed blog attempt (see the AU Library E-Reserves Blog), acceptance by all members of the team is critical to the success. Had the initial reference blog idea not been supported, the outcome may have been less spectacular; a successful blog begats another blog! One leads seamlessly into another.

Note: The concept of academic blogs was discussed at some length at a workshop I attended this summer, Blogging goes to College. The blog created to supplement it, Blogging Goes to College: Brainstorming Weblog Use in Higher Education, is still available for archival purposes and there are some interesting ideas presented therein.

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