Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thing #7 - Web 2.0 Communication

Although I was fairly familiar with the tools listed on this thing, it was good to stop and think about them from a library perspective. I love email as both a personal and business tool. It's so easy to send a quick message or question to someone while you are thinking about it and gives the receiver the ability to respond at their leisure. I have several patrons who contact me regularly with questions in this manner and most of my day to day communication with staff at the regional level takes this form.

Personally, I prefer instant messaging as a business communication tool. Our library does not offer an IM reference service, but I think it could be a great addition for a place with enough staff to support it. I've generally had very positive experiences with online IM help desks from a user standpoint. However, IM is not a tool that I choose to use to communicate casually with friends; I would rather pick up the phone than log on to the computer when at home. The few times I've chatted online with strangers in a casual environment I've felt it to be a surreal experience and didn't have any interest in getting to know those strangers better when it was over.

Text messaging was the one item I hadn't tried before. (I don't own a cell phone). However, the daughter of one of my friends gave me a tutorial lesson in this technology. The most intimidating part of using this service is all the acronyms; however, the webinar I viewed gave a helpful site for translating the terms (go to; the best part of this site is that it will not only start from the chat or text lingo, but also translates from "regular" english to txt. The best application I can see for this tool in a public library is not reference but notification of patrons that they have books ready to be picked up.

Web conferencing is a tool that I have mixed feelings about. I guess I could sum it up best by saying that it works okay, but there has to be a better way to accomplish the same thing. It definitely makes it easier for lots of diverse people to attend a training or informational session without travel, allows sessions to be saved and viewed later, and usually does a fair job of getting across the information (generally this success is more on the part of the presenter than the format). On the down side, if people are listening by phone, there is often a lot of background noise and sometimes lag time on the Internet makes a verbal/visual mismatch which can be frustrating. I did look at both the offerings on OPAL and Minitex and chose to watch a saved Minitex session - "R U Ready - Setting Up and Running IM Reference". If anyone out there is interested in the basics of IM Reference, it was definitely a good starting point. I thought it well worth the time simply to get the transl8it site mentioned above.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thing #6 - Online Image Generators - thoughts

I've always loved working with graphic design, so this "thing" was lots of fun for me. I think that the tools listed on the Big Huge Labs site could be used in many, many ways in libraries. Anytime that a library hands out a preprinted piece of paper (bookmarks with hours, lists of themed titles, handouts for programs, etc), there is an opportunity to add visual interest. And these tools can give you professional looking results in a very short time. Making posters or other visual aids for your library takes almost no time with premade templates available. And, if you have enough computers available, you could do lots of crafting programming that ranges from kids looking to make cool art projects to adults that love to craft and scrapbook.

Thing # 6 - Online Image Generator - part 3, Motivational Posters

Yet another tool that was fun and easy to use. I can see lots of library applications in this one -- both to liven up the library visually with images of local people and places and also as a fun way to get kids involved in putting their messages/wisdom out in the world.

Thing #6 - Online Image Generators - part 2, "Warholizer"

This was a fun tool to turn your photos into art a la Andy Warhol. I've included the starting photo to give you an idea of how much detail was retained. The first photo that I tried had a busy background and didn't work nearly as well.

Thing #6 - Online Image Generators - part 1, the trading card

This was my attempt at a prototype for a literary-based trading card set. The vacation photo I had of the stage at Shakespeare's Globe made a lovely visual for the quote. I could see myself spending lots of time with this just for fun; it was highly addictive.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thing #5 - Flickr mashups

Wow, what a fun way to waste time. If you look below this post, you will find the two mashups I added to my blog. The first is a mini version of the Fastr game. The software randomly supplies a public photo from Flickr, and you get to guess the "tag" or keyword that describes it. The second is spelling with Flickr -- books seemed to be a very appropriate word that was short enough to fit all in one line on the screen.

I tried all of the different mashups listed in the Webmonkey article. The only one I had trouble using was Flickrball. (I may have been too impatient to wait for everything to load properly). I found it was much more difficult to keep track of pictures (as opposed to numbers) while doing a Sudoku puzzle but much more fun to be able to change the photos while solving without losing your place. Retrievr reminded me of why I hate playing Pictionary ... obviously my drawing skills are not stellar because the photos pulled up matched my intents only in the color I chose. The most interesting to me was Tagnautica. Some of the keywords with the largest nodes were not words that I would have associated with my original keyword; for example, "cats" linked to "canon". How are the 100 "matches" selected? I loved the visual progression of using the site though; it reminded me of stringing beads on a necklace.

I can see lots of applications for graphic design in library use ... especially with the tools listed at the Big Huge Labs link. With staff time and enough available computers, I can see middle school/teen programming opportunities too. I imagine many of that age group can use these sorts of tools without even thinking twice, but do all of them have the opportunity/resources to try them on their own.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thing #4 - Flickr

Ahhhh ... now I know a place to start for all of those confused grandparents who come in and say "But my daughter put the pictures of my grandson's birthday on the web, don't you know where they are?" I found Flickr very easy to use; I haven't used a web-based photo service before. Posting directly from Flickr to the blog went quite smoothly. I can see that libraries could use its resources to organize photos taken at events (or brought in by patrons) and then make them available to the public.

I don't know that I would use Flickr for personal photos. If I did, I almost certainly would mark them private. I wondered while watching the video if this sort of web tool has put some stock photographers out of business or if it helps them find new markets. I have a sister who is trying to start out as a professional photographer and that makes me wonder about the copyright implications of a site like this.

space guy

space guy
Originally uploaded by smartcookie23
Remember the space theme for summer reading a few years back ... Well, we had a very off-the-wall summer aide that year. He was willing to try to do just about anything. This is a shot of a costume he made for our "Alien Tea Party" out of tin foil, green face paint, and a fake plant. He was a big hit at the party -- he communicated with a little sound effects key chain he held in his hand the whole time during the party -- but when he first came in the door, he did a dance and sang a rhyming song (made up on the spot). The kids were fascinated.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thing #3 - RSS

This is not a new technology to me, and something that I find fairly useful in saving time. I have to admit that I get a little frustrated with new sites that I find that I can't add to my feed. Of course, the downside is that it's easy to overload yourself with lots and lots of feeds and then waste time looking at stuff that you wouldn't have taken the time to look at individually just cause it's already there and you've got it up on the screen and what's another 2 minutes or 5 or ....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thing #2 - Web 2.0

Here are some questions and my answers (in no particular order) that I had reactions to on this topic...

What do I want to get out of 23 things? Definitely a structured chance to try some new things just so I know how they work. I have experimented with a few of the things on the list already (mostly at the behest of younger relatives), but I know I wouldn't take the time to just play around with them as part of my busy day simply to see how they work. It would be great to have some background with some of them before I NEED to use them.

Is Web 2.0 bringing a revolutionary change in the way libraries function or simply an adaptation to new technology? After reading/viewing the links on the 23 Things site, I'm inclined to side with those who say the latter (at least from the public library standpoint). Public libraries have for many years responded to patrons using technology as appropriate. And, though this may brand me as a Luddite, "new" isn't always more efficient; there have been many times when I've challenged another staff member to accurately answer a ready reference type question with the Internet while I use a book. If you know which book, the print almost always wins ... few ready reference questions can be answered without going through several computer screens or your bookmarks. The challenge is not just keeping up with new technology, it's knowing which technology is appropriate to a particular patron or situation.

How much emphasis should libraries put on new technology? It depends on the situation. One of the articles mentioned that circulation was declining steadily at that library; I can see where they want to find new ways to connect with patrons. I'm in a different situation; our circulation is steadily increasing ... both books and media. Do I want to reach more people? Yes. Can I afford (both tax dollars and staff time) to push beyond the current core user group? I don't know. I do know that I don't want to put the library into a situation where we are extending new services at the cost of sustaining the old ones that are still very popular. There are many, many people who simply want to use their library as a source for the latest reading material. The phrase "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" comes to mind. Public libraries are just that -- public -- most of our operating revenue comes from tax money. I think individual libraries need to make decisions on how much technology will be used by their patron base rather than simply what's new.

What does moving toward Library 2.0 mean? Definitely more resource sharing among libraries, especially different types of libraries. I think that as a library community, we need to look at efficiencies as well as the technologies to keep costs down.

Thing #1 - Setting up a blog

On the technical side, I was surprised at how easy it is to set up a blog ... although maybe it should have been self-evident considering how many blogs are out there nowadays. The most time consuming part was definitely making the Yahoo avatar. I suppose that could have gone more swiftly, but I was having fun "trying on" all of the different looks. After successfully adding the first element, all of the others went swiftly. The only ripple I had was in adding sitemeter and that was just because I couldn't see it on the blog I had already pulled up on another browser. Refreshing the screen fixed that problem just fine.

On the philosophical side, I can see why this appeals to young people. They can create their image of themselves complete with idealized portrait, lists of favorite things, personal philosophy and put it out for the world to see. I don't think it's chance that all of the avatar face/body choices look like they are about 16. What I find myself asking is does anyone read these blogs? Or, more specifically, why read a stranger's blog? I'm doing this blog as part of a continuing education experience, so I expect that my readers will be others participating in the program and perhaps a few friends. How does a random blog get readers who don't know the author regularly following their posts? Perhaps those readers have more time than I do to browse a stranger's thoughts.

Practically, I would recommend to anyone setting up a blog to establish a list of site identities and passwords in a safe place. I already had a yahoo account personally (though not an avatar), but different sites we've used even in "thing one" have different requirements for ID and passwords .