Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Yes! We are important

The American Association of School Libraries (AASL) blog posted a link earlier today to an article titled Are Librarians Totally Obsolete? or 33 Reasons Why Libraries and Librarians are Still Extremely Important. I am not familiar with the web site in question, Degree Tutor, but do appreciate the arguments presented. Among the valid reasons discussed are:
  • #4: The internet complements libraries, but it doesn’t replace them.
  • #9: Libraries aren’t just books.
  • #18: Eliminating libraries would cut short an important process of cultural evolution.
  • #20: Wisdom of crowds is untrustworthy, because of the tipping point.
  • #28: Libraries are stable while the web is transient
The article concludes:

"Society is not ready to abandon the library, and it probably won’t ever be. Libraries can adapt to social and technological changes, but they can’t be replaced. While libraries are distinct from the internet, librarians are the most suited professionals to guide scholars and citizens toward a better understanding of how to find valuable information online. Indeed, a lot of information is online. But a lot is still on paper. Instead of regarding libraries as obsolete, state and federal governments should increase funding for improved staffing and technology. Rather than lope blindly through the digital age, guided only by the corporate interests of web economics, society should foster a culture of guides and guideposts. Today, more than ever, libraries and librarians are extremely important for the preservation and improvement of our culture."

Interesting food for thought right before lunch.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Procrastinators beware

Have you been putting off your ALA Poster Session Proposal? I have been mulling over a couple of different ideas secure in the belief I probably had until later this week to submit. After all, last year I submitted on Super Bowl Sunday and that was early February. This morning I double checked my dates and tomorrow, January 31st, is the deadline for the 2007 ALA Annual Poster Sessions, to be held in Washington, DC, June 23, 24, and 25th.

Online submission information is available:

If you have not seen anything at previous conferences that interested you, what better reason to submit an idea of your own? I was lucky enough to present at New Orleans last year and decided nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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So long, farewell ....

Scott Gilbertson over at Monkey Bites has posted a fond farewell to Microsoft Office's increasingly annoying "help" tool, clippy entitled: In Memoriam, Clippy. It appears clippy is no more in the newest version of Office.

First spotted in Office 97, something I was reminded of last week when typing a letter on my Dad's computer and was interrupted with an inquiry from Clippy asking if I wanted help, the assistant was a help tool. Later versions of help allowed users to choose their own Clippy interface, remember the dog and Einstein? Personally, I spent more time getting rid of Clippy and his pals than I did utilizing the tool.

Though I do not remember seeing Clippy in Office XP or even Word 2003, see also Microsoft Tool Clippy Gets "Pink Slip" (CNet, 1/11/01), it seems Vista is indeed the last hurrah. As Gilbertson profoundly said: "Clippy is dead. Long live Clippy."

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ALAO Newsletter

ALAO's December Newsletter (volume 24, number 4) is available on the ALAO website. This issue includes an article "wrap up" of the 2006 annual conference by president Ann Watson, as well as photo's and highlights from interest groups and attendees. For anyone interested in running for office, past president Susan Scott provides details concerning open ALAO board positions of Board Member-At-Large, Treasurer, Vice-President-President Elect and Public Relations/Outreach Coordinator. See also:

Consider running for office, this is a great professional library organization!

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blog & web stats junkie

I love web statistics! Seeing how patrons are actually using your web page, as opposed to how you think they are using it, is an eye-opening experience. When I built the first IRC web page during the 2000-2001 academic year, we did not have a web statistics package available. I searched, found, and used a freebie service to gather and track page hits; the page soon outgrew the software and I discontinued the practice. A short time later, AU began using AU Web Stats, an AWStats program, for server statistics. With this program I am able to see how the library web site ranks against every other site on the AU server. With some help from the program’s filter, it is possible to narrow the statistics to library only, IRC only, and even within certain organizational sub-folders within those pages.

When I began working on the IRC re-design last October, I used the statistics to help determine what pages to eliminate and what handouts should be updated. Among other things, the web stats concisely illustrated a recurring problem. Beyond the fact that the site uses frames (gasp) and the navigation page was getting more hits than the actual starting page, frames keep the page from being properly validated (WC3). Once the IRC page is complete, evaluating and updating the main library web page will begin. The page continues to be functional, but is seriously out of date and should conform to AU branding standards (color, etc). Using the Web Stats, I will be able to compare web page use from the beginning of the term, demonstrating how students are being taught to use the page, and the end of the term, a clear indication of how they are actually using the page. Sharing this information will exemplify what pages are not used, or poorly used, and will prove invaluable when determining criteria for removing excess fodder from the web.

I use StatsCounter on each of the IRC blogs, a newly instituted course blog, my personal blog, and Library Cloud. Getting the statistics is quick and easy, maybe too easy. This is where I admit I am a bit addicted to looking at the program. Right before lunch each day, I log in and check the clicks, and continue to be amazed at the breadth of the web as blog hits are counted from around the world. I generally take a quick glimpse at where the hits have come from, but one of the more interesting statistical summaries provided is “recent keyword activity.” With this option, I am able to see what search term, or “query,” is being used and what page viewers landed on as a result of that query. Library Cloud is a small blog with a few steady readers and a general stream of people who find us through academic library resources. It is with some curiosity that I look at the key words when I note a big jump in hits; Ms. Dewey was a popular post, as was Rebecca’s recent entry on Libraries in the news.

Within the last two days we have had over 30 hits on Library Cloud. Not a big deal for many academic library blogs, but in interesting development for this one. I checked the keyword activity and found each of those 30 query’s in some way, shape, or form, had something to do with the Cambridge Who’s Who among professional women. Very interesting. Guess a new round of invitations/letters went out recently. While I grapple with my addiction to web stats, I can console myself with the knowledge that I am learning.

Tags: Web statistics, Blog statistics, Using web statistics, Statscounter, Academic library blogs

Friday, January 19, 2007

Finally, a new widget posting

It's been some time since I have mentioned my love of blog widgets ( see Widgets, Beautiful Widgets, Widgets, Widgets, Widgets, and The Sidebar). Why? Quite honestly, things were getting a bit out of hand and I am sure Rebecca cringed at any mention of adding one more sidebar item to our blog. Today I am making an exception, I found a blog post by Robert Lackie at Library Garden. He linked to a New York Times technology article titled Some Bling for Your Blog. The article provides a short definition of widgets, details how they may be divided into basic categories, and discusses how some bloggers are using widgets.

"Ed Anuff, a co-founder of, divides widgets into three categories. 'One is self-expression widgets, like photo galleries, games or YouTube videos that you like,' he said. The second category includes widgets that generate revenue for a blogger, like a box that displays auctions from a particular eBay category, or a blogger’s favorite DVDs from The third category, Mr. Anuff said, encompasses 'site-enhancement widgets, like discussion forums, news feeds or a guest book, which provide better utility for your Web site."

"Widgetbox is a site begun in September that collects widgets, spotlighting the newest and most popular ones; it offers more than 500 widgets." (Kirsner,, 1/18/07)

A technology article, Some Bling does not detail how these may be used by library bloggers specifically, but I have found widget additions such as LibraryThing, WorldCat Beta, and the AU library catalog are great features on my library blogs. For example, with a LibraryThing widget on the IRC web page, I am able to highlight books reviewed on the blog. Having a small AU catalog widget on the IRC book blog allows a patron to search the catalog directly from the blog. Both of these widgets make the blogs more user-friendly.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The cheese stands alone

In the last several days, various library bloggers have been posting about their plans to attend ALA's Midwinter Conference meeting (festivities) in Seattle January 19 - 24. Unfortunately, a trip to Seattle is not in my immediate future and I admit to some professional jealousy at being left behind. Last year I attended my first midwinter meeting in San Antonio last January and enjoyed the experience. As a newly appointed member of an Ad-Hoc EBSS committee I was able to meet and learn from my peers.

This year is professional development rich for academic librarians; there is an ACRL conference offering as well as ALA Midwinter and Annual (and a whole plethora of others). How do you decide what conference to attend? Not being able to take advantage of the midwinter meetings made my choice simple. If I am thrifty, I should be able to attend ACRL and ALA Annual. Additionally, both of those conferences are relatively close in proximity to my current residence in Ohio, making the travel costs less exorbitant. Though, with that said, I am sure there are many happy west coast librarians eager for midwinter in Seattle and bemoaning a cross country trip to Baltimore or Washington, DC.

Either way, safe trip to all who are traveling. And, if you are looking for something to read on the plane, Walt Crawford has posted Cites on a Plane on his blog for your enjoyment.

Tags: ALA Midwinter, ALA Seattle, Conferences, Academic librarians

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Let's ChaCha

TechCrunch had an interesting post yesterday regarding a new search engine called ChaCha. This search engine works like a regular search engine and also provides and option to search with a guide. Yes, someone to chat with you while you search the Internet. A check of the search engine’s press page shows I am a bit late on the mark with this post as they debuted in September, but the premise is interesting.

Live help with searching is something libraries attempt via chat and instant messaging. OhioLINK's Chat with a Librarian service is a prime example of this endeavor. I have some experience using the OhioLINK Chat with a Librarian software and while it has improved significantly since its original debut, the software remains somewhat cumbersome. However, Chat with a Librarian does present opportunities during chat to push specific pages and a type of assisted search. It also offers something commercial search engines do not, an experienced librarian (without an agenda) to provide research assistance. I decided to try out ChaCha and see what type of results I could get.

I performed a ChaCha search, aka searching without a guide, for "library information science." After four tries, it timed out on the first three times, I got four pages of results. The first six were clearly marked sponsored, and four within the twenty first page returns were sponsored. Moving to the second page provided less sponsored links and slightly better information. Unfortunately, this indicates to me the quality of the returns is not particularly comprehensive as the results favor sponsors over searchers. The search screen provides a box of related search terms on the right that included links to library science schools, librarianship, library science graduate programs, Journal of Academic Librarianship, Library of Congress, library science degree, library science careers, and library professional journals. I would have linked to these terms, but ChaCha specifies you are only to link to their main page and not subsequent results Rounding out the page, displayed above the related searches, were quick links (ala Google) to Web, News, Images, Video, and Audio results for my initial Library Information Science Search.

I decided to try the same search using Search With Guide. It hooked up pretty quickly and I asked KarenB for information regarding schools that offer library and information science degrees. KarenB asked me if I wanted info information for schools in the US or the UK. I replied US and was transferred “to another guide who can help you search even better!” My second guide was Deboraha and I told her I had been transferred and was looking for library information science schools in the US. Five minutes later and I still do not have a response from Deboraha. In fact, she has not provided any information to me beyond her original canned message welcoming me to ChaCha and saying hello. After waiting a total of ten minutes, I cancelled the search and started again. I had an opportunity to rate Deboraha and her guided search; it was bad.

My second guide was TiaK. I was greeted with the same canned message, not a bad idea and one that OhioLINK Chat uses as well. I mentioned she was my third guide she asked about the first two. I gave a short synopsis and TiaK assured me she would find results more quickly. She did; it took her about three minutes to locate two results, one from the University of Illinois and the other from University of South Florida. When it took a bit longer, a bit of dead air space, I asked if she could target schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio. With this extra information, TiaK found ALA’s LIS Directory. The whole session took about seven minutes and without question TiaK got a better rating than Deboraha.

Naturally I became a bit curious about the guides and meandered through ChaCha’s site:

  • ChaCha’s privacy policy states:
"We value Guides greatly and they are essential to ChaCha, but they are not our employees. Guides are independent contractors, and we are not legally responsible for their actions."
  • ChaCha’s About Us page provides reasons for searching with a guide indicating:
    "By searching with a Guide your query is sent to a real person who is skilled at finding information on the internet and knowledgeable on the subject at hand so that you get the few exact results you want, not the millions of results you don't. ChaCha only provides quality, human approved results."
  • Also detailed within About Us is information regarding why users should trust their particular guide:

    "The primary reason is that we pay them and their pay is directly related to their performance. At the end of every session, you can select between one and five stars to rate their performance. While we expect you to be honest when rating a Guide, ChaCha can also detect any needlessly malicious ratings."

    "Another reason is that everybody knows a lot about something - ChaCha is able to connect you with the somebody who knows the something you want to know. Not only can they point you in the right direction, we've often found that communicating with a Guide can expand your general knowledge on the subject or even turn you on to new or different information that's even more relevant to what you're searching for."
Interested in becoming a guide? The posted qualifications are not all that stringent; in fact only seven criteria which include age (over 18), citizenship, spelling and English fluency, high speed internet, and ability to search the Internet are listed. Fortunately, Campus Technology reports there are further requirements of tests and questionnaires and a CNet article indicates there are different levels of guides "apprentice, pro, master, and elite" who will "earn reputations based on user ratings and how the system rates their performance" (CNet, 9/3/06) as the service progresses.

Overall I like the idea, but found the general search engine lacking. The guided search screen is user-friendly (wonder if they will market to libraries?), but the guides a bit frustrating. I would like to know more about who is doing the search and how they determine if the quality of results. I definitely do not like the sponsored links presented above others, but know that is how search engines make money.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Libraries in the News

Wow this has been quite a week as the mainstream media has definitely been shining its spotlight on libraries and librarians. For librarianship as a profession the coverage has been favorable as the Wall Street Journal talked about our changing role which compliments the recognition given last month by the U.S. News & World Report naming it one of the 25 best careers of 2007.

Unfortunately, the news hasn't been so kind to all. The New York Times first reported on Tuesday about the Maplewood Memorial Library in New Jersey which has decided to close between 2:45-5pm due to crowds of Middle and High School students who hang out there after school until their parents pick them up after work. Apparently there have been multiple problems over the years with some misbehaving teens and the library feels that this is their only option at this time. The paper posted a follow-up piece today about the situation which indicates that the government in Maplewood seems to be trying to come up with alternative solutions.

Fairfax County Public Library has also sent the media into a tizzy with their new weeding program. It was reported on Tuesday in an article in the Washington Post and then lambasted in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. Both pieces are quick to emphasize the elimination of "classics" for newer books. Due to the coverage, the library has posted a response on their website to help explain their position. I particularly recommend reading the responses to the Wall Street Journal piece as they represent the opinions of many members of the public. The issue of weeding has always been controversial when the public is involved, but it is also not without debate within the library profession. One response to this item worth reading (whether or not you agree) is at the Annoyed Librarian.

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Confessions of a post label convert

I had no blogging plans today. I normally do not have that much to say. But I spent some time doing backup on the IRC blog, posted a DVD, and noticed the labels ...

Used mostly as an informational tool for collection development purchases, the IRC blog replaced not only my IRC "what's new" web page, but also numerous email notifications to faculty regarding said purchases (specific requests still get email). Furthermore, it saves me countless hours by not having to compile and post end of term book lists. But I digress. This morning I added a DVD, used the labels for this post option, and checked out the blog. Pleased, I went back and added labels to the most recent 50 posts. I viewed my efforts, clicked on the post links, and am now quite enamored with the post labels. My organizational librarian soul is hooked.

Why use these labels instead of Technorati or other tags? Because the IRC blog is basically an in-house tool, I do not particularly care if anyone outside of the AU community views it and nixed that tag option. I am not trying to increase readership from the blogosphere as it is not that kind of blog. If they find it (and people have done so), great. What I am interested in is making the blog more effective for my users/patrons. Since the post labels link within the blog, any post tagged "juvenile books" will link to all subsequent posts tagged the same. Each item within an individual post is displayed with its call number and linked to the catalog. The blog sidebar has a catalog search widget to facilitate locating other like titles or just searching from the blog. Now, the 50 most recent blog entries themselves are linked.

No, I'm not saying I will go back and tag all 370 posts remaining ...

(I just finished spell checking and it's pretty cool, highlighting the suspicious words and providing options on mouse-over.)

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Looking good

The ACRLog has a new look for the New Near. Along with the new look are a few new features I particularly like are an events calendar for ACRL items and a link for story ideas, the ACRL Tip Page. It will be interesting to see how these changes help the blog to evolve. I'm not so sure I like the recent comments section, but as long as people take responsibility for what they are commenting it should be interesting. The ACRLog blog team is listening to its readers.

Today is day two of the "new" Blogger (it is not Blogger Beta any longer!) and I have yet to use many of the highly touted enhanced features. The drag and drop option template customization requires an upgrade to the existing template.

"We've introduced a new tool for customizing the appearance of your blog. Before you can use this tool, you'll need to upgrade your template. By upgrading, you will lose many of the changes you previously made to your template. However, we will save a copy of your current template so that you can access it later. " (How can I use new layout features, 1/3/07)

Yikes, lose changes made to the template? When the Blogger gods highlight this particular notification in red it gives me pause. I am curious to see how these features work, but plan to practice upgrading one of my lesser used blogs first. Plus, Library Cloud is a team blog and template changes will not be made until Rebecca and I have a chance to make that particular

In addition to the post label options discovered yesterday, among the several changes I noticed are the dashboard layout, photo upload, and ease of publishing. As of now, I am not overly thrilled with the new Blogger dashboard. It is nice to be able to choose post, setting, and view blog from the initial screen, but it is a bit cumbersome. Something interesting I noticed when adding my dashboard screen shot to this post is the new terms of service option you must agree to before blogger will upload any photo. One more thing on the definite plus side is how much quicker publishing is with new Blogger.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"It's a puzzlement"

Yes, a quote from The King and I. It is one of my mother’s favorite musicals, a statement I always found intriguing, and an oddly appropriate title for this particular blog post conundrum. I did little professional reading, or writing for that matter, over the holiday break. However, I did find time to peruse (read scan and put aside for later reading) my December issue of American Libraries and found an opinion column by David Isaacson, “Don’t Just Read – Read Good Books,” that I agree with on one level and am oddly insulted by on another.

I agree with his argument that as librarians we should be promoting “good books” and have an obligation to provide books for our patrons that are not only award winning, but also critically acclaimed. Point of fact, this morning I selected several titles from Choice Reviews utilizing allocated librarian choice book funds and ordered several recommendations and/or requests from education professors. Both of these support collection development policy, purchasing quality publications supporting the education curriculum at AU. I have the latest edition of Booklist and School Library Journal precariously perched atop my “to do” pile waiting for juvenile collection development, a cart full of previously selected Teacher’s Choice and Children’s Choice award books requested by a children’s literature professor, and am awaiting selections on the Young Adult’s Choice titles from another children’s literature professor. All of these actions loosely ascribe to Isaacson’s opinion:

“We should want our patrons to read good books, and then better ones, and then, once curiosity is aroused, the best ones they can find. And although this sounds not only old-fashioned but “judgmental,” I think librarians ought to have the courage to say that some books aren’t worth reading at all and don’t belong even in the most “balanced” collections.” (AL, 12/06, p.43)

Yes! I want students to have and use a balanced juvenile and LC “L” collection. They need to see good books, great books, and banned books. They need to understand that just because the book is part of our collection; it does not mean an automatic stamp of approval for classroom use. It is the student, the preservice teacher, who makes a final decision when using books for lessons or recreational read-aloud in their classroom. Isaacson goes on to discuss what he terms “intellectual discrimination.” As an academic librarian, I agree in principle with his comments. AU library has a small recreational reading collection funded by our Friends of the Library organization and director has moved away from purchasing the typical recreational genre when adding to this collection. However, as a former public librarian and avid reader of the “other literature” discussed, I beg to disagree when this is applied to public libraries. Judge for yourself:

“But I question the argument that libraries should go out of their way to acquire romance novels, thrillers, and other literature whose primary purpose is escape and titillation. Why should we compete with bookstores for this market?” (AL, 12/06, p. 43)

Public library collections are for the public and funded by public tax dollars. If a patron wants the newest Nora Roberts or John Grisham title, he or she has the right to expect that their library has a copy. Yes, the librarian has an obligation to select critically acclaimed titles and readers have the right to expect good literature. I simply do not believe we have the right to look down upon those readers who want romance, thrillers, mysteries, graphic novels, and science fiction. Sure the local book store carries those titles in hard back and soft. But not every patron has the funds to purchase them for their personal library. That is why we have public libraries, to facilitate reading and readers of all books. Not just the books librarians think they should read.

Yes, my opinion on this matter could be termed biased. I am an avid recreational reader and very much enjoy the genres of romance (Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Jennifer Crusie, and Linda Howard), mystery and suspense (Jonathan Kellerman, Robert Parker, Janet Evanovich, and Lisa Scottoline), fantasy (J.K. Rowling), and historical fiction (John Jakes). As a reader I do not particularly appreciate being told these titles are not library worthy because they are beneath me in an intellectual literature sense. I also consider myself a discriminating reader who enjoys both literature and recreational reading. Now? Picture me stepping down from my soap box, but satisfied with the opinion expressed.

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Addendum, What's with the labels? I switched over my AU blogs to the "new blogger" this afternoon and did not realize this one would go as well (apologies to Rebecca). As a result, there are now label options for each post that appear to work similarly to the Technorati tags Rebecca and I have already been using. I have been satisfied with the Technorati tags, but am willing to try the Blogger tags. I'm not sure how they work or where they will appear until I look at some of the "new" opportunites this version presents.

INFOhio flyers from OhioLINK

Once again OhioLINK (Ohio Library and Information Network) and INFOhio (The Information Network for Ohio Schools) are providing fliers to education librarians for distribution to their education faculty and student population. The fliers, Think INFOhio, detail "information to inform education faculty and students about the tools available to preservice teachers" and include many of the resources available to K-12 educators. Candi Clevenger, OhioLINK, and Cythia DuChane, INFOhio's Project Coordinator, provided additional links in the letter accompanying the fliers.
I have already placed my fliers in the handout rack outside of the IRC and encourage other education librarians to do the same. The resources available to teachers through INFOhio are exceptional.

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