If a Library is bookless, what's in it?

NPR did a great broadcast yesterday asking the question If a Library is bookless, what's in it? and among the program participants was our own Director, Charles Brown. Charles' contribution to the conversation was about building community spaces and partnerships with other organizations that add value to the community. The example ImaginOn.

What's great about ImaginOn is not only the partnership and with the Children's Theatre of Charlotte and the fabulous facility itself, but what really excites me about the facility is all the neat things that it offers for teens. Studio I, a multimedia studio for video and animation production, has got to be one of the coolest spaces any library has ever developed for teens and this lab is always popping with creativity. If you're ever in Charlotte, I would you encourage you to take a look. But if the distance is too great, you can catch a glimpse of some of the projects teens (& preteens) have created in Studio I below.

Studio I Videos:
Invasion (features the inside of ImaginOn)
Little Man Big Adventure
A planet called Veggie Burger

More info on ImaginOn & Studio I

BTW if you're interested in the full NPR broadcast (which was very interesting and covered a lot more ground then just building vibrant spaces) you can listen to it here.

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PLCMC Sudoku

Just when you thought Sudoku couldn't be any more addicting ...

PLCMC Flickr Sudoku

PS: Most of these images come from PLCMC's gaming nights (also found on the PLCMC's Gaming Zone Blog)

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Out with the old...

I know this blog is suppose to be about new technologies, but sometimes before you can move forward with adding new technology and services within your library you have deal with logistics of getting rid of the old. Such is the case with our system this year. With a PC replacement project covering nearly 400 units in the next few months, figuring out what to do with the old stuff (think big bulky monitors) is actually a much bigger issue then bringing in & setting up the new.

So...this past Saturday I assisted in our library’s second public used equipment sale which was held at Mint Hill. Like the 1st sale that we had two weeks ago at West Blvd, I was amazed at just how fast and efficient the sale went. When we opened the doors at 9 am and handed out numbers we had approx. 40 people for the sale (and therefore set a limit of one unit/adult) and by 9:35 am the last of the 37 units was sold! Although I haven’t done the exact math yet (we sold 32 units at WB in 33 minutes), it’s easy to see that it’s approximately 1 unit/minute. What was the secret to our success – I would guess that it’s a combination of a well organized sale, great branch staff participation (Thanks Neily & staff)and an awesome IT department that efficiently wiped the units cleaned (to DOD standards) and set up the whole sale.

You can view the rest of the few photos that I was able to capture (in between working the door) on Flickr

To sum it up, it was a great sale!! And, although we only raised just under $900 (the bulk of the units were 6+ yr-old P2s --Yes, I know it's sad that we still had some of these -- priced at fair market, which isn't much) it surely outweighed having to pay a liquidator $30/unit to cart them off for disposal! :)

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My Space

MSN printed an online article recently that shared a startling statistic...

"Just over 2 years old, My Space now has 2 1/2 times the traffic of Google."

To me reading the figure was a wake-up call that we (as libraries) need to take notice that among the younger set, Information is no longer the king of the Internet, social-networking IS!!

As I did my exploring on MySpace this past weekend, my "parent-side" emerged like a lion. Fortunately for me (and my momma-lion instinct) my girls are still too young to have "spaces" of their own, but I realize that this future is not too far off. So, after absorbing the initial shock of just how much personal information kids (and adults- yes, they use it too!) are putting out there, I calmed down a bit and began to approach the site from my information-seeking "Library-side."

From a social networking perspective, My Space is fascinating and clearly demonstrates that the today's youth have completely adopted the Internet as their third, second first (?) space or comfort zone. And although I may not share this same comfort zone level, I think libraries can't just ignore this change. What's inherent to this generation is comfort zone that although we may not quite be ready for, we need to at least be open to. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that we automatically go out and start creating personal public profile spaces for our patrons on the web, nor do we use the thier ILS information to let them hook up with other patrons who circulation history points to common reading interests. But what I am saying is that this trend shouldn't be ignored by libaries, but rathered studied. After all these current My Space users are our future.

Along these same lines, Stephen Abram (yup, I know --this my second reference to SA this week) had a great post this past week about My Space as well and he makes a great point, "(Libraries) spend too much time focusing on Google and its ilk as a competitor or model" With stats like the one posted above, perhaps it's not Google we need to worry about driving traffic away from library resources, it's My Space instead. **stepping off my soapbox now**

BTW: If you haven't taken a look at My Space yet, do so... but just one word of caution, leave your parent-hat at the door. :)

PS: For a good short overview of the history of MySpace and what is it, see Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace

What are your thoughts on MySpace? Is it different if you have your "library hat" on?

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Today's word is PLAY

Yesterday, I didn't attend the SirsiDynix Institute Webinar on The 2.0 Meme – Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0, along with a several other staff members - but it wasn't because I/we didn't want to (or try). Sometimes, despite all your best efforts the Internet just doesn't want to cooperate. So was the case yesterday morning and thus... after attempting to fill in the silences of choppy audio, those of us around the table decided to have our own Meme 2.0 conversation instead.

Personally, I love conversations like this ... the give and take of ideas and opinions, the ponderings of how we as libraries can position ourselves better for the future and the thoughts about the innovative ways that libraries can take advantage of these new internet tools now.

Lately I find that whenever I'm talking to fellow members about Web 2.0/Library 2.0 ideas, I always seem to spend much more time explaining the concepts and tools (blogs, RSS, wikis, tagging, etc) then I do generating and gathering ideas about ways that our library can benefit -- and I guess that's par for the course. For before you can think of ways to use these new tools, you must understand them.

I guess that's why the TechTalk series that I'm kicking off for staff this afternoon is so important to me. If staff are more knowledgeable about these tools, then they can not only become bigger contributors to the Library's virtual community presence, their knowledge will benefit the Library's patrons as well. Isn't that what Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 are all about - the collaboration and the sharing of knowledge!

Anyway, Stephen Abram had a great post related to this as well yesterday titled: Playing and Learning: Making a Sandbox for Librarians . Read it! and then go out and PLAY!

BTW: If you're interested the archive of the Meme 2.0 webinar, it should be available as streaming media here soon.

And thanks Susan, Vanessa, James, Chuck & William for sharing such great ideas and insight. I wish we could have archived our conversation as well. :)


Rocking the Information Literacy Cradle

As the debate over the usefulness of wikis as legitimate information resources continues, it's easy to see how educators (and librarians) can be caught in the middle. Here's an astounding figure I gathered from a recent eSchoolNews article titled Wikis test students' research skills.
"According to the web traffic rankings site, Wikipedia ranks second in popularity among all reference sites, trailing only Yahoo"

Read the full article for yourself here.

Although the debate over Wikipedia is not over yet, you can easily see how collaborative content tools are rocking the information literacy cradle.

What are your thoughts on Wikipedia? Do you love it or hate it? How do you recommend students use these tools?


You won't find this on American Idol

Circulating on library blog sites everywhere ... it's Lloyd the Library Llama singing the Blogga Song. (headphones or speakers needed)

No folks, you won't find this singing sensation on American Idol. But he can be found over at the Laughing Librarian. :)

PS: I promise my next post will be a little more informative serious! However, if you follow Lloyd's lyrics carefully, you will discover some very excellent librarian blogs. :)


"Can I pay for my library fines with my cell phone?"

Does this question sound ridiculous? We'll if the folks behind TextPayMe have any foresight, then the question is actually not too far off. The service, just announced as a Beta release (BTW: they're currently giving new users $5 to sign-up) allows users to "send and receive money with your phone via text messaging."

It will be interesting to see how fast this new service takes off. And, as cell phones get slimmer and slimmer to nearly the size of credit cards, I would venture a guess that these will soon be one and the same.

Anyway, it's always interesting to note that while we're still waiting for our ILS vendor to offer online payment of fines and fees (BTW: we're actually not waiting any more, but have rather have begun building our own interface between our catalog and VeriSign) the rest of the world is poised and ready for a new form of currency transfer.

Hmmm. I wonder if it will be as popular as PayPal? Which BTW, brings me to a question... How many of you have ever had a library user ask to pay for their fines & fees with PayPal? I'm just curious :)


The State of Blogosphere

I found an interesting read today over at David Sifry's, the founder of Technorti, blog about the state of Blogosphere. According to Technorati statistics, current trends show that growth rate of blogs is doubling every 5.5 months and that at its current size (Technorati currently tracks 27.5 million blogs) it is 60 times larger than it was just three years ago.

Think these numbers are astounding? Well here are some other quick facts about the growth of blogs...

- every day 75,000 new blogs are born
- 50% of new bloggers are still blogging after three months
- 50,000 new posts are added every hour.

The full update can be found in two parts. The second report is equally as interesting as the first and shows that the most linked (and blogged about sites) are mostly to main stream media.

Part 1: State of Blogosphere: Growth

Part 2: State of Blogosphere: Beyond Search

On a related note, this past week Technorati added an Authority meter feature that allows you to filter your blog search results based upon the popularity (determined by the number of sites linked to the blog) of the blog. It's an interesting way to find opinions and blogs that have the widest influence.

Image couresty of Technorati.


Podcasting & Libraries

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, the "word of the year" for 2005 was .... (drum roll please) ... yup, you might have guessed it .... "podcast"

Podcasts have become one of the hotest methods to delivering information and music this past year. Using mp3 files, podcasts contain audiocasts that are uploaded and listened to on iPods, PCs and/or mp3 players (and other portal devices).

Are you wondering how libraries may be jumping on this bandwagon? Here are few examples:
  • Lansing Public Library (IL) - This small library offers 4 different programming podcasts (for youth, teen, adult & technology) as well as one for Science Fair strategies and computer instruction. See the list here. FAQ page about podcasts here.
  • Thomas Ford Memorial Library (IL) - Witha new twist on an old concept, this library system nows offers podcasts via Click-a-Story
  • - offers podcasts with YA authors.

And what about iTunes, iPods & Libraries you ask? Well,here's just one example of how libraries are experimenting with this...

Libraries turning to iPods & iTunes
(PlayList Magazine, Feb 13, 2006)

Can you think of any opportunities our Library could pursue in this area? What could we podcast that our users might want?


Lookout ...

In honor of Valentine's Day tomorrow, I thought I'd share this interesting article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about a new approach to dating ... Lib-dating

Belgian librarians use love to get readers

Sounds interesting doesn't it?


What I learned last night while sitting behind the one-way mirror

Yesterday several staff members from our library (including myself) were lucky enough to be observers of a focus group study aimed at providing insight into our customer preferences as they relate to our website. The participants in each of four mini sessions were guided through three exercises.
1) to identity Library services and functions that were their "must haves", "nice to haves" and "I really don't care about" items for our website.
2) to provide input on new services and functionality that we might consider adding to our site with our upcoming redesign.
3) to compare two preliminary design options and identity each strengths and weaknesses.

The results for me were both confirming and in a few cases surprising. Here's what I learned while sitting for five hours behind a one-way mirror ...

High Value:
  • Our customers highly value customization features. When visiting our homepage, they want to be able to customized it down to their favorite branch level and are not really interested system-wide initiatives. They want to be able to see only programs that are of interest to them, have the website remember their library card #, and have content on the page that fits their specific interest level.
  • Email and customized alerts: Users want greater ability to receive customized email newsletters and alerts. They like to have information pushed to them (but not with too much frequency) want to control what information they get. Newsletters preferences include having it customized to the branch level and also interest area (example: Children's programs vs. computer training classes). Along the same lines, RSS feeds (among the few that knew what they were) were of high value too.
  • Easy access to My Account was more important to them then to anything else - even searching the catalog.
  • Additional items that they wanted to have easy home page access to included calendar of program & events, hours & locations (especially branches with Sunday hours) and almost anything book related - book club info, reading recommendations (there was a mixed value to this item, but for the most part if they were provided, they wanted them customized to their interest level), homework resources.
  • The ability to chat with a library and get an answer to their question was also high on the list.
Low Value:
  • Online resources & information databases - Outside of homework assistance, few participants found any personal value with the online subscription databases that we provide.
  • How to do? assistance with instructional tutorials (even with streaming video) was of little interest. Most participants didn't have the patience to watch a video or see any value with this. However, they did like the idea of live chatting with a librarian to get "how to" help.
  • Previews or book chapters - not of interest.
  • Links to other websites - Although the response was mixed to this, for the most part the majority of participants said they would not look to the Library first to find other websites that would be of value to them. Although they did like having a librarian validate (for homework purposes mainly) sites that they could trust as good information resources.
Confirmations & Realizations:
  • With the exception of homework assistance, the library (in the public's mind) is out of the information business. For adults, our strongest draw is in the leisure and recreational arena. They like to check-out popular books, DVDs videos and find a great value in having easy access to these items. For the library's future, we need to take advantage of this more and begin offering more services that fit into customers entertainment needs. Adding Gaming tournaments and coffee bars, etc. is right up this alley, but we need to do more ... For example in the PC training area - do less computer training classes on how to use word and build resumes, etc. and develop and add more computer classes aimed at leisure pursuits - How to create a simple digital scrapbook or How to create photo special effects, etc. I'm sure you can think of more ...
  • We need to market our services better. When services like getting help from a tutor (, Ask a Librarian, online resources and email notification were brought up, it was primarily in the vein as items they'd like to have and seemed completely unaware that the Library already offered these services. As a library we seem to be able to market programs and events much easier than services, but last night I clearly heard that we've failed poorly in letting our users know that we have so much more to offer.
  • BraryDog is by far the most successful local online service we have ever launched. In three of the four groups, BraryDog ( or the "Dog Tutor" as one participant called it) was specifically identify as a service that users found valuable for homework assistance. We need to capitalize more on this rodent character to help solidify the library's image as a homework resource.
  • We need to promote volunteer opportunities more. Two of the four groups brought this item up without any prompting as something they would expect to find on our website and wanted more info on.
Design Preference:
With the exception of Group #2 (and one individual in group #3), the majority of the participants preferred a simplified, less cluttered design B. (see examples). However Group #2 definitely like design A better. They liked not having to click to a second level to get to their branch and other information and especially like the programs listing on the main page. All groups like or wanted modifications to the design that included customized features, easy My Account/Catalog access, images of people rather than buildings and clean cut distinctions between different parts of the design.

Of course there were lots of other little observations that were unique to a particular group or participant, but the items above were the biggest generalizations for me. (I'm sure other staff who also observed may have more or different thoughts).

BTW: The only blaring comment of the evening came from a singular participate who seem to come to the focus group session loaded with both barrels smoking (she opened her introduction by saying she has a list of "grievances to share") ...
"I would never think to ask someone in the library for that, I'd ask someone more knowledgeable instead." (Ouch! yes, the bullet hit hard).

But the good news is that comment was isolated to just one person and that every other participant sang praises of our library and our staff :) --- the only caveat to the evening was that as a whole they seemed to miss that the library has so much more to offer them than just books. But then again, that's really not anything new. :)


Tech Talks: The journey starts

In two weeks, I'll be jump starting a new set of workshops at the Library to help introduce staff to new technologies and how they are being used in libraries. Many of the early workshops will focus on Web 2.0 concepts and apps that have redefined the Internet over the last few years and the way users access and share information. Social software tools are now so prevalanet today that they are now being interwoven into traditional mainstream media. Just last week I took notice that the Washington Post is now referencing blogs posts based upon Technorati tags (If your not familar with Technorati yet - you need to be 'cause it's the google of blogs and social tagging).

Anyway, as I embark on this training journey this year, I'm excited not only by the opportunity to share these new social software and technology tools with fellow staff members, but also by the prospect of learning more myself from other knowledgable staff. Topics that will be covered in the series include: Blogging (this was obvious wasn't it), podcasting, gaming, wikis, downloadable audio, IM, tagging & folksonomies etc. and the list goes on. I'm please with the line up topics so far, but am always looking for others. So if you have a suggestion, just let me know. With the rapid pace of Web 2.0 development, there's always something new to explore. :)

BTW: If you're intersested in web 2.0/social software apps and tools, here's a great starter list :)


PLCMC Redesign Prototypes

Later this week, I'll be participating in an exciting venture - a focus group study with users to help guide the redesign of our library site. It's hard to believe that the current design of the site is nearly five years old -- in web years, that would be about 120 years, I'm just guessing :) Anyway, the site has served us well over the years, but a definite facelift is indeed in order. Web design has changed so much over the past few years, that's it's hard to keep up with trends. The bottom line is that no matter how good or flashy the design is, its got to met user expectations and for that I'm grateful that we're doing an outside focus group.

Anyway, if you haven't seen the design concepts yet, you can view them below. Note the designs are merely large images at this point with absolutely no subsistence behind them. Take a look and let us know your thoughts... which one do you prefer? What do you like about the design? What do you dislike? And what may we be missing that would really make our homepage more useful to user?

Design prototype A

Design Prototype B

Come on, give me your thoughts - I know you have some!


The Audio Visual Library of 2015

With more and more libraries dropping VHS offerings from their collections in favor of DVDs and the advent of podcasting and on-demand audio (such as downloadable audio) on the increase, you may be wondering what the Audio Visual Department may look like in the future. Michael Stephens, on ALA TechSource contemplates this future in a recent post titled Crystal Visions of the Audio Visual Department 2015 and in reading article, the ideas don't seem all that far off.
" So, what's the "Crystal Vision?" The Audio Visual Department of 2015 may be two spaces: 1) a vibrant space for digital creation and mashing up all of our content and room to gather and pursue our hearts' interests and 2) a space with a bunch of servers that serve out library-licensed content to library users, wherever they happen to be."

Read the full discussion here.

What thoughts come to your mind?