Thursday, October 1, 2009

Where else would I be?

Patron: "You're here everyday!"
Me: "That's because I work here."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Swine Flu 101

Woman: "There is a woman over there coughing." (Points to a woman coughing.)
Me: "What would you like me to do about that?"
Woman: "Tell her to stop! Tell her how to cough properly. It's the swine flu!!"
Me, inwardly sighing: "Thank you. Don't forget to wash your hands."

And off to order Purell.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2006 Reference Questions

I am cleaning up digital clutter at home and at work and came across this word document that I started in 2006. Not sure if I blogged this reference questions or not... but I am going to now!

October 24, 2006

  • What was the Dow Jones on last day of 1993 and 1994? The high, the low and the composite.
  • What was the price of oil in 1980?
  • I have to research funeral directors. What do you have to do to become a funeral director?

October 25, 2006
  • Who manufactures Allure shoes? What is their address?
  • I need information on river blindness (Onchocerciasis) and Guinea worm disease (Dracunculiasis).

November 27, 2006
  • I am looking for primary sources, like newspaper articles for this paper I am writing. My topic is Ancient Rome, about 100 B.C. I need information on daily life, arts, and important events.
  • I am looking for a painting my William Harnett, an American Painter. I think it is called “Still Life Old Violin”. I have done a Google search for the image, but I only found a cartoon version of it.
  • Stock prices for the American Israel Corporation for 6/6/83, 6/27/83, 7/26/83, 8/9/83, 9/16/83 as well as Electro Rent Corporation on 3/31/80, 12/30/80, 11/11/82, 11/15/83, 3/29/84.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Librarian's Reference Questions

Q: How many hot dogs were sold at Yankee Stadium last season (or most recent data)?
A: According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (NHDSC), 1.3 million hot dogs were projected to be consumed in 2004. Updated figures will be forthcoming. (This is a reference question/bet. Loser buys winner a hot dog* and beer at a baseball game.)

Q: When is the men's marathon being run at the Olympics?
A: The New York Times has this nifty Olympics tracker that allows you to search save the events you want to watch and follow. The men's marathon is on August 23 at 6:30pm. The American favorite, Ryan Hall has a great chance at medaling this year.

* Or treat of their choosing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

an opportunity for better signage?

A patron approached the reference desk said something to me in a language I couldn't quite discern. I wasn't sure if it was English, heavily accented or another language. I made the motion to "write it down?" Perhaps he could write it down or draw it.

He folded his hands together, placed it at his crotch, waved them around and said "pssshhhh".

"Oh, bathroom?" I said. And walked him over to the men's room.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My father with his father and grandfather.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Miss you. Love you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Wondering about using screencasting tutorials for basic things (email, double clicking) when customers have low level or no technology skills. How helpful will that be?
And become frustrated that we need to develop tutorials to show customers how to use our systems.
(wanted to note for awhile seeing loads of ppl use the library search box to get to yahoo)

Screencasting with Polly-Alida Farrington

How is screencasting different from webcasting? or podcasting? or videocasting? Oh MY!
Screencast: capture of what is happening on the screen. Software will capture mouse movements etc. Can add arrows, text, sounds, directions...
idea: dead end page-- a tutorial on how to use the catalog. do you need help searching?

Examples of screen captures and call out boxes (directions saying CLICK HERE!)
audio definitely enhances the experience. more interactive. (thinking tutorials in other languages- both in the callout boxes and audio)
seeing some examples-- having difficulties formating for various sized screens. needs to be able to fit various sized screens.

thinking about the use of these screencast for internal staff training. (downloading audio, internal staff blog)

ireadblogs: articulate will format powerpoint into slides online. can add audio.

olin library @ cornell: research minutes (90 seconds) holds the attn span. concise and well edited. hosted on youtube. gets the main point across. goofy. fun. (a good example) what are the essential factors about the lesson. one point per screencast.

screencast storytime: can be run at home. storyhour?

preparing for your screencast:

  • write down all that you want to share. cross out most of them.
  • what they NEED to know.
  • 2-3 min max
  • use staff members with a lovely voice
  • practice the click-thrus a few times
  • if using web resources, remember to clear the history to ensure all the links are fresh (and clean!)
  • ensure passwords are kept private

screencast planning guide:
plan out the steps. focus on one skill set.

Wink Demo:
capture options: screens per second, input driven (mouse or key press), manual capture (users presses a key when they want to record)
wink is free and can be wonky.

sign up for an email account. printing. downloading audio. accessing databases remotely. custom search in refusa. craigslist or ebay brief overview tutorial for upcoming classes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gas Map

The first time my blue eyes were cast upon the Census Atlas of the United States I knew I was in love. A friend of mine introduced me to information aesthetics, a great blog that highlights various data visualization projects and visual communication. Sure, I like this work because it is pretty and interesting to look at, and because sometimes the message is in the medium. Information can be more powerful when represented graphically.

Having just moved to NYC and sold my car, I feel a bit insular from gas prices. I ran past a gas station the other night and regular was $4.11. My car had a 14 gallon tank and I would be pushing it up $60 to fill my tank. Ouch. If I was still living in Stamford, I'd be taking the bus more.

So this map of US gas prices is very interesting. A few things struck me right away. New York and Connecticut (or THE Connecticut as I like to call it) are red, the highest, but New Jersey is green, the lowest. My friends commented they are moving to Arizona and Wyoming, but I am sure you have to drive more there to get around.

I also found this map easy to use. If you zoom in to the city level, the shading scale is replaced with thumbtacks of local gas stations and prices. Once you get to that level the user has the ability to change the fuel type. Clicking on the dollar amount brings up all the prices at that particular station as well as an address.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Getting to know the Internet

I teach a range of basic classes for my library: computer, internet and email. These are just high level overviews with a few goals by the end of each class. Learn how to double click. Learn how to search for something in Google. Set up and email address.

Today I had a full class for Internet Basics. We require that people take the Computer Basics class. I am always trying to tweak my instructional techniques, taking notes on the class before, looking up different analogies to use, creating new exercises. And sometimes, the classroom ecology takes all the prep work and throws it out the window.

One of the things I took away from this class was a need to understand more about literacy. All seven of my participants were foreign-born and English wasn't there first language. This is one of the things I like most about my library, and how the diverse community is represented in our services and collections. It felt like two competing literacies in the classroom. First, teaching technology skills, explaining about the internet. How to enter an address, how to search, how to click on links, but aside from the instruction, how to use the mouse and navigating around the screen. Coupled with English language literacy, people who are learning English at varying levels may not understand some of the words I use. One of my students in fact told me that, she was learning English and sometimes she didn't know what I was saying. I also enter the assumption that people have the ability to read as well.

Breaking down technology into smaller bite size pieces is very hard. How to describe something like double click or navigating Windows XP without using any computer jargon is hard work.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

innovation into practice

I attended the wonderful Computers in Libraries conference last week, and returned back to work full of ideas, plans of failure and ready to be creative. Helene Blowers and Tony Tallent (probably the best name ever) said, "Doing.New.Things. period. action." Now I'm back at work, reviewing and sharing my notes, attempting to keep that buzz going. I blogged this during their session:

failure is about innovation! you need to fail, and fail often. these are the experiences you will be learning from. failure is okay. be ready, accept it. BRING IT!!

Bring it. Bring it. I left that session feeling so jazzed, ready to get on the next Amtrak home, plan a new program or service, and watch it fail. Then learn from those mistakes and keep on improving.

But now, I find that momentum hard to carry. I am something of perfectionist and want everything to go off without a hitch, to be perfect and elegant. There are small things I want to have happen, but frustrated about not being in a position to do so, pushing but cautious of my boundaries. I've found myself afraid to fail. Back into the cycle of what ifs which generally delivers a stasis culture. Sometimes feeling lonely in the "let's try something new boat!". And just getting wrapped back up into the daily grind.

I have to remind myself that every time I teach a Computer Basics of Internet Basics class, I am failing just a little bit. I am always trying new strategies, perfecting my lesson plane, and teaching examples. I am always left humble to my students, who can throw me a curve ball any minute, and often do. I make mistakes in my classes, and at the end of the day, it is okay. I know what worked and what didn't work, and I get on with it. I make note of the strategies that work, and continue to fine tune the other points.

Being open and ready to fail is a mindset, that might take some work to get to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Staff Tech Training - CiL 2008

staff technology training: 5 steps to success
sarah-houghton-jan, digital futures manager

great resources, but we need to make sure everyone is on the same page:

why invest in staff tech training?
save money in the long run, strengthen staff skills and confidence, showing an institutional commitment to life long learning (helps in recruitment and hiring), increase staff retention rate, increase efficiency and productivity

staff tech training takes
time and money

will need to be customized for your library, as they are all different.

competencies based training cycle:
* planning and brainstorm
* creation
* assessing the staff (what they know, don’t know…)
* training (lengthiest, most time, most effort, needs attention)
reassessment (where are we now)

* and start the cycle over

step one: planning and brainstorm
what does your staff need to know how to do with tech to do their jobs well.
ex: send a fwd, there are a lot of steps to get to the point
what questions are the staff receiving at the ref desk?

benefits of using competencies:
equitable expectations for all staff (if you do this, this is what your suppose to know)
reveals training needs in a quick manner
creates accurate job descriptions
helps with performance evaluations
consistent customer service
helps staff adjust and handle change (training is on a continual basis, become more confident, and capable to deal with new things as they come down the pipes)

working with staff to brainstorm:
create the list with staff involvement (staff know what they need to know)
brainstorming parties rock (over lunch?)
reassure staff they don’t need to know everything now

make trainings fun- through fun sites, not very serious
(ppl might not know about all the cute cats out there)

step two: creation
* work with a task force
* representatives from unit and branches
* representative from different position classifications
* focus on staff input
* get mgmnt buy-in
* and don’t call it “competencies”

some categories for staff skills:
**terminology: a staff glossary (powerful tool)
hardware, office software,
**staying current

competencies best practices:
* keep it core
* keep it task based (open email, delete email)
* different positions – different competencies
* add to job descriptions and new hire checklist
* present list online (blog, wiki, webpage) with each item linked to a how-to
* new technology? look at the list again!

step 3: assessing the staff
* assess objectiviely or subjectively? with supervisor or self
* online service tools are the easiest
* give print option too, if needed
* the psychology of maybe (maybe means no, more likely to say maybe than no)

post assessment
* review individual and group results
* work with supervisors to create individual training needs list for each employee (could staff members develop their own training needs list? )
trust the project manager- they are right! they looked at the data!

step 4: training
training based on revealed needed
all the way from mousing to blogging
get a training budget (!)

why should I do this?
it looks hard. too difficult.
why? prizes: mp3 player! cute star wars mp3 drive.
all these end up with the staff who have been working towards a prize. can go a long way to motivate ppl

inspruiring training:
use real world examples
make the class fun- discussions, exercises
highlight tips and tricks

step 5: reassessment
annual or biannual reviews
rewards for success or consequences for failure
nurture hidden sparks

celebrate success!!
have cake! simple messages! library staff is awesome!

-- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- -

Annette gaskins and Maurice coleman
Harford county public library

varied populations: the amish to the bloods and crips

why a petting zoo:
surveyed staff, and they discovered staff was good on 1.0 technology and needed a forum to learn about 2.0 levels (wanted to know what they’re kids were doing)

first steps:
get organized and get help: a tech fair interest group
2 pg. proposal covering time and topics to be covered
get the buy-in and get ppl excited
use the tools to promote the fair that were part of the fair

wikis/open source – work tool
gaming – part of collection
streaming media – info source
im/mysace – reference
blogging – expert knowledge
mp3s/ipods – patron use (audiobooks)

first step-
realistic scheduling, couldn’t operate without affecting public service; throw $$-- get part time ppl on the desk, support support!

timing issues: Wednesdays as they open late.
one hour lecture, two hour lab for 36 ppl.
6ppl 6 stations 20 min each
and be aware of time. time to get to where the fair was help. time to get back to the branches, etc.

taking shape: finding ppl
two for the show
station masters, host and hostess (sheepdog or sherpa), get ppl moving, station staff, geek and facility support (making sure they work and making sure the Stuff gets to where it needs to go), and partnership with big box stores (provided technology, provided flat screen tvs)

take shape: finding people
early adopters, techie ppl, pages and teens, curious life long learners

space wise:
drawing ppl from all over the system

speed searching- tips and tricks for speeding up the search process

greg notess – search engine showdown
speed searching- tips and tricks for speeding up the search process
wednesday 9 april 2008

why speed searching?
isn’t the web fast enough? (not at the moment. wireless iz broken)
or are we not always fast enough (both!)

take time to:
find the best search query
choose the best data source
quickly find out the terminology, finding the best resource

keystroke economy:

  • 3, 2, 2, 1 search: first three characters of first word, then 2 of second word, 2 of third word, and 1 of the fourth word (Old School- as to save the computing process time)
  • find the unique term and use that for searching
  • web search relevancy optimized for unique words
spell checking:
  • long name, word phrase is unusual?
  • using google as spell check- for suggestions, auto-correction (our commercial databases don’t do a good job of correcting spelling, neither do our catalogs. the open web does a good job of this)
  • links to reference sources
  • suggest tools: slow your typing

greg goes to and starts typing. ask offers that neat page with some info, as well as suggested searches
type slower to increase your searching speed.

copy and paste:
  • can be as quick as a short query
  • can copy from many e-sources
  • using a bookmarklet can highlight a word and clicking on a bookmarklet and will search (cool!)
try the search here, if you need to check spelling
has content from dictio snaries, encyclopedia’s (print and wikipedia)
if you don’t know a word, click on it, and does a follow up search

picky picking
  • search terms matter!
    • common number of search words
    • query length
    • average query length
  • which gets best results?
    • does depend on search engine. average query length did the best
    • “education attainment or highest level of school” common phrase, learning the language used in that area.

trained his eye to the unique terms- source might have a misspelling, switch to another access point

database checking:
use multiple databases ‘cause it’s fun! you’re a librarian!
as well as lack of overlap between data sources

overlap in web search
not so comprehensive for
  • pages buried deep within sites
  • forum, social network pages

users have the impression that google has everything. though not always the case.

greg practices search switching: not necessary for quick look ups.
  • when and for what type of searches
  • not for the low value info need, when triangulation not needed
  • use when digging deeply
    • hard to find answer, person, etc

search switching: how?
federated search ought to be doing this- doesn’t always achieve this (think of databases that hold smaller databases)
federated search engines: ex: google will cut them off. if there is no $$, google will cut that IP off if the ads aren’t visible

search switching: internal
  • within one system, like google
  • some possibily intergrated
    • tabs, think videos, books, “more”, browser search box (like in firefox)
    • turboscout, intelways, zuula, flashearth (search location and switch btw the various providers of aerial photography)

search transfer bookmarklets

customize google:
can do some neat things: make the google book search images downloadable. an extension in firefox

(the book searching two step!!)
preview at amazon or google book, or authors website. look for an extract, a unique looking phrase to locate full text books online.

q: should we be linking to full text books online?
a: no clear answer… who are you linking to? do you actually have the book? why are you linking? should we be adding for books that are out of copyright too? will they always be staying there? what are the persistence and the maintenance needs? (no direct answer, but more questions)

q: is more not always better?
a: searching a broad database, not really the precision.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Libraries as Laboratories for Innovation – cil2008

Libraries as Laboratories for Innovation –

Matt Gullet:
creating a new environment, ambient classical jazz music. slides running content, cool videos, flickr, etc.

you are doing something right when some people complain, but some people say, YAY!

libraries as innovation centers. Matt used a lot of things for the first time at the public library. worked in communities and worked on creating new experiences for “the library” used film festivals, tech conference for youth. the library is more; it is a community center for innovation.


do you go to apple stores? do you like them?
benchmarking a similar facility—the apple store was the closest thing as to what they were trying to do.
Discovery Service Center: bars, stools to sit on. wanted to make eye level contact ppl when they come in. plasma screens run content. profiles customers: take their picture, ask about their favorite websites. trying to make the space more human. we are here to help, glad you are here. controlling the environment, but being friendly.

music: we are control of what’s going on here. esp in urban areas.

apple stores have ppl clustered around tables, are teach ppl. instruction in session stick.

game lab @ plcmc
unc charlotte does research at the library. invited them to visit the library.
looking for potential relationships.

create a digitally literate ppl through games and interactive media (I’ve been thinking about games as a tool for basic computer instruction)

learning lab: small classes, demilitarized zone, new/experimental software, studio for digital programming, scanners, media hubs. a space with an lcd projector.
space to build partnerships

studio i: blue screens, digital video cameras, music studio and sound booth in development. adults like this stuff too. story: guy who produces his public access show at the lib.

Greg Schwartz, Library Systems Manager, Louisville Free Public Library

story: master facilities plan, generated about 6-7 yrs ago. a design to remodel 17 locations and build a few more. ambitious and large.

library as cornerstone for lifelong learning through technology.
4 ppl were chosen, including greg. not to toot his own horn.

not quite where they want to be yet:
library ballot for taxes. budget went south, instead of thinking about technology on a broad scale, have been asked to think about content mgmt systems, workflows, how to do more with less.

a beta testing program: pairing patrons with emerging technologies. put an application on their website. give ppl things to play with (kindles, ipods) and then talk to them. how did they use it? what do they think? intersections with lib services. (so cool!) patron pool is very diverse.

looking to aggregate content of onlineUs and combine some of the locally produced content. expose patrons to opportunities to educate themselves.

greg mentioned this:

three things you need in place:
talent (you may already have it. you may be it. might not be utilized)
time and space: very hard to have higher level thinking when you have day to day things to handle. impossible to step away.
support from admin: $$, space to operate. the ability to get away (think out of the office). commitment- getting them to say yes, or maybe. the greatest barrier to any innovation effort.

computer training centers will change. we’ll still be teaching word. and we'll get tired of that. the need will still exist.

matt: one of the most important things to have staff who are into it. you might not be able to build a new space, or even have a room. but more around service philosophy.

The Library Sandbox: Testing Innovative Ideas

The Library Sandbox: Testing Innovative Ideas

Barbara Tierney, Science Reference Librarian, University of North Carolina

studies show there is no ideal floor plan for Ics, there are myriad possibilities for configuration

Substance trumps space. what does matter is various technologies, human expertise

info commons becoming an arena for social networking- combining the social and the academic.

info commons are all around: small lib arts college, comm. arts college, div school. changes in tech have resulted in changes in how libraries are evaluated.

if you could start over, what would you do differently?

(this presentation is not meeting up to the expectation of the program guide. sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
reading a paper you wrote? things she is saying are interesting, but very theoretical, could be greatly enhanced with some pictures of pretty Lcs and such. SHOW US what you mean. Give us feedback from users. tell us the stories.)

students are using myface. or myfaith. or something.

focus on user needs.
begin the commons with an eval program on face.

take away for MPOW – cell phone zones—maybe cute little phone booths.

movable walls.

okay. now she is showing us slides of pretty things, with lots of bullets.

innovation starts with “i”

innovation starts with “i”

helene blowers: we are taking about change, but how do we get it going?

how to move orgs forward.

Tony Tallent, Director of Youth & Outreach Services, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County (PLCMC)
helped open up imaginon, deal day: drop everything and learn (for staff—steal this idea!)

everyone is talking about it, talking about different things, talking about the ingredients of change. think about where you land, are you the jelly or the cellophane?

what innovation is NOT:
process improvement, suggestion boxes, best practices, thinking outside the box (officially retired)

innovation is the intersection of ideas, imagination and pivotal point of reality

it is: doing new things! creativity, action. DOING.
Doing.New.Things. period. action.

what do you want? what do you need?
efficiency innovation
evolutionary innovation
revolutionary innovation
(book title: seeds of innovation)

efficiency innovation

book bundles: an idea that came from a user, “you know… take some books, tie some yarn around them and I could grab a pack when I was on the go”
very low tech
evolutionary innovation
taco bell: open 24 hrs. now taking atm. bringing parts together to make a new product or service
revolutionary innovation
the ipod: changes how we interact and use music (and more!)
zoom shopping (have one in the library?)

Fresh practices: remixing ingredients.

4 components:

shout out to youth services!!!

I am an innovator:
I have ideas, I’ve done my homework, I’ll do the legwork, I am capable of more than my job description, I am a leader too, I take risks with you.

innovation is a partnership: btw idea person and organization

innovators as managers: give staff a framework, put resources behind expectations (! yes! how can staff innovate without proper resources to do so!), create growth opportunities, SUPPORT work, celebrate success, take risks with you.
no glory grabbing, boys and girls! push the success down and celebrate!!

what does innovation made to you and your organization? how to they converge?
improvement (i words!) !!
we all have our own definitions- how do we make them all come together.

the blender: take the things that you know, successes, failures; take the pieces to make something new. don’t make a wheel.

wild seeds!! wild blooms!

how you are able to convince your organization to move fwd and change?

Make it believable! Focus on the MVV
Mission, Vision, Values: tie those ideas to the MVVs.
how does this new idea fit into the framework of what our library is going: how does it tie to the things our lib is about. this is how the idea is going to meet the needs of what we do.

tell a story: how will one person be affected/changed by the idea.

create alliances: farm your ideas, you’ve got buy in from colleagues when things are ready to move forward

test drive your ideas: prototype, build something with it. hard to sell on “it is really cool” doing the legwork.

don’t ask for permission, ask for support. showing mgmt and org that you are willing to provide the legwork and support.

never SELL your ideas on paper! you can’t see vision on paper. sell it personally, ask for time at a mgmt meeting or a decision maker. sell it visually in someway. walk through the vision, and walk them through a story. your lovely document, 1.5 spaced is in the a huge old pile on a directors desk.

wild success does not look like business as usual. it is panic. wild success because ppl are MAD!! staff members don’t have direction, no scripted answers.
it is magic, it is happiness, it is off the hook.

Summer Reading is a huge program:
gave theatre vouchers instead of chocolate. and what happened: huge demand! had to add more shows.

failure is about innovation! you need to fail, and fail often. these are the experiences you will be learning from. failure is okay. be ready, accept it. BRING IT!!

7 habits of highly innovative ppl:
  1. persistence: legwork, alliances
  2. remove self-limiting inhibitions: be more than the job descript
  3. take risks, make mistakes: reward mistakes. (cliff jumper award)
  4. escape: get outside your environment, take it someplace else
  5. write things down: postits, notepads everywhere, write it down!!
  6. look for patterns and connections: things might appear to be polar opposites, but they are connected
  7. stay curious: so much of what libs are about

presentation wasn’t about these ideas, wasn’t about a product. but about change, how to get those ideas into practice. feeling okay about taking risks and making failures. as managers making an environment where idea change is okay.

q: what can you do to help ppl get into change:
a: hb, keep talking about it. keep making ppl comfortable with it. in order for an alvanche of change to occur, needs to be a lot of erosion. keep working at it. keep selling your ideas.