Create your own Search Engine

This evening while perusing through the recent Web 2.0 Award winners, I ran across a category that I hadn’t heard of before – Trusted Searching Tools. And since Rollyo was first on the list, I thought I’d try it out…

1st reaction -- Wayyyyyyyy Cool! The site allows you to enter up to 25 trusted websites and create a one-search tool for just those sites.

2nd reaction – think of the usefulness of this for libraries!!! With tools like this, librarians can create customized search engines for just the authority sites they like!! I can see a search engine for trusted business sites, homework resources, health sites etc. The applications are numerous and best yet – it trumps Google!

In playing around, I 'rolled' my own search tool for several sites that are part of PLCMC’s library’s family of websites (we have 15 separate domains in all). Take a look and try it out yourself here (or use the little search box below)

Hint: try a broad search term like "history" or "homework" to see results on the first page from multiple sites.

OK. You've tried it. Now share with me your 1st & 2nd reaction thoughts... What do you think?

UPDATE: Check out these search rolls created by Rollyo users:

PS: And don't forget to spend some time exploring and playing with some of the winners (and honorable mentions too!) There's a lot of neat stuff floating around out there... and a lot of it can be extremely useful too!

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Blogs as branch communication tools

While at CIL last week, I had the pleasure of lunching with Michael Casey and Chris Hall both from the Gwinnett County Public Library system. And, although our lunch was mediocre Indian cuisine -- you can blame me for the suggestion -- the conversation more than made up for it.

Anyway, during our conversation Michael mentioned his use of a blog as an open staff communication tool (all members of his staff can both author and respond to posts) for his branch -- which really intrgigued me. What a great idea and application of Library 2.0 principles :) Anyway as a follow-up, he posted more about it this week... so go on over and take a READ.

PS: Just a plug for PLCMC staff... be sure to sign-up for the upcoming Tech Talks on Weblogs - Fresh Content, Fresh Context on the Intranet to get your feet wet.

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More on Library Terms ...

As a follow-up to my earlier post on Library Terms Users Understand, I received this excellent commentary from a member of our PR & Communications department (which was just too good to only leave buried in the comments). As a ten year veteran of PLCMC (Wow- has it really been that long already?), Sarah's comments and insights really highlight the often unknowingly confusing and cryptic messages that we constantly send our users. I mean seriously ... even my eyes glossed over when I read the phrase "full text of all monographs and serials."

"I couldn't agree more. In the Communications department we see this all the time. Replacing library jargon and abbreviations that are meaningless to our "patrons" is a major part of the editing process. (We even consider the word "patron" to be library jargon because it can also mean "one who gives money to an organization." To avoid confusion, we try to replace this word with phrases like "library users" or "cardholders" during the editing process.)

Using plain language can be a battle. Some library staff are so steeped in the jargon that they really don't believe that a library user might be unnecessarily confused by abbreviations like "Join the WBL Book Club" or "go to the CKO desk".

Two real-life examples:

1.) I recently received an e-mail notification telling me that my item could be picked up at Main Library, followed by this cryptic phrase: "Cornelius (NCO Closed)". As a staff person, I knew this three-word message meant that the e-mail was being sent by Cornelius branch because the library from which I originally obtained my library card ("NCO," more commonly know as "North County Regional") was closed for roof repairs. But what user would have been able to decipher this?

2.) I recently lost a battle over the signage for our new self-sufficiency service, launching in 16 new locations. I suggested that the sign say "Pick up holds here" (or even "Pick up reserved items here"), but I was overruled by the librarian who wanted it to say "Patron Holds Pickup". This librarian obviously felt most comfortable with the phrase "Patrons Holds," so her perspective won out. (Librarians - 2, "Patrons" - 0.)

Many readers can also be put off by technically-accurate, but confusing phrases like one that appeared in a recent research tool description: "Search the bibliographic citations and full text of all monographs and serials." (I was tempted to add "Now with extra whitening power!" to the end of this description, simply because I knew that very few library users would have continued reading beyond the word "monograph."

If we're ultimately serving as information facilitators, we have to make sure we're not speaking to our customers in a foreign language."

Thanks Sarah. And, I for one am most grateful that PLCMC has an awesome Communications Department that constantly looks at the messages we're sending out to the public from the users point of view. With user friendly publications like CIO , it shows.

BTW: I would have voted for "Pick up holds here" too! :)

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Unofficial Self Check-Out Survey

Thanks to the excellent work of fellow staff member Julie Cross, I now have good stats to point to for our Library's budget request to expand self check-out services. Julie surveyed other public library systems of similar size (total of 43 from the Urban Library Council) and gathered these results:

  • 81% (38 library systems) are currently offering self check services in some form.
  • Of the 38 offering it, only 6 libraries have it at every branch location (Columbus Metro Library, OH; Gwinnett County Public Library, GA; Nashville Public Library, TN; San Jose Public Library, CA; Seattle Public Library, WA; Tucson-Pima Public Library, AZ).
  • Of the eight not offering it, 4 were currently considering it.
  • 49% (17 of t35) of libraries that offer it have self-checkout in over half of their branch locations.
  • 71% (25 of 35) of the libraries that offer it have self-checkout in more than a quarter of their branch locations.
  • 57% (20 of 35) have it have been offering self-checkout in some capacity since the 1990s.
  • 43% (15 of 35) mentioned plans to expand self-checkout services, even as early as this year.

BTW: If you're curious PLCMC currently offers Express Check (our installation of TechLogic's solution also offers the ability to pay for fines & rental fees with credit/debit) at two locations. Our hope is to secure funding that will allow us to expand it to all twenty-four locations next year. ** Fingers Crossed **

And here's even short video created by our awesome Web Services team. :) (Sorry, it doesn't show the credit/debit swipper which is flush with the desk and just off to the right of the barcode scanner)

PS: Thanks Julie, You're a GEM !!!

PPS: Yup! I just had to play around a bit with YouTube to see how easy it is... and posting this little video gave me the opportunity I needed. :)

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Time (March 27th Issue)

They say that by the time it reaches main stream media, it's old news. But still it's worth a read.

The Multitasking Generation
Time 3/27/2006, Vol. 167 Issue 13

Fulltext available online through PLCMC's OneSearch in Ebsco's MasterFile Premiere & Academic Search Elite, Infotrac's General Reference Center Gold and/or Electric Library.

The article includes a great list of tips for parents that can easily be applied to anyone who works in libraries (especially with teens). Here's three that stood out to me:
DO see for yourself what it's all about. Get on IM. Download an MP3 music file. Play a video game. Create a MySpace account. Let your kids be your guide, but talk to them about how to use these technologies safely and wisely.

DON'T be a disapproving elder. Every older generation believes the younger generation is on the road to perdition. Your kids need your curiosity and involvement, not pious, uninformed pronouncements.

DO look for the good. Search for what's positive and innovative in the ways in which your children are using and adapting to the new technology. Try to imagine how it could be used to enhance relationships and learning.

Sounds like good advice to me. :)

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CIL: On Millennials and the Bowiechick

It seems appropriate that this morning's speaker for the opening session today was Lee Rainie from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Lee spoke on the millennial generation and the eight realities that define them as group.

List: Millennials…

1) are a distinct age group, according to many measures of generational behavior and attitude.
2) are immersed in a world of technology and gadgets. Nearly half of them have broadband access at home.
3) are technology is mobile. They share information in ways that allow them to act quickly.
4) are Internet immersed. The Internet plays a special role in their world. 33% of online teens share their own creations (artwork, photos, stories, videos) online.
5) are multi-taskers and approach research as a self-directed process.
6) are often unaware of and indifferent to the consequences of their use of technology as in copyright & privacy.
7) will face an even faster rapidly changing environment as a result of this technology world.
8) prefer to approach learning and research tasks differently and place great value self-directed discovery, peer feedback and group knowledge that is shaped by their techno world.

In fact just this morning before the session I was glancing through a RSS feed from Wired and found this article about a 17 year-old girl whose Breakup video on YouTube has created a lot of buzz. The buzz is from the marketing industry because a) it’s been the most viewed video over the past few days and b) it’s a great example of how unexpected peer-to-peer promotion and "viral marketing" works.

Watch the video for yourself…

Can you see why it’s generated so much buzz? Here’s a teen using the special effects of her Logitech web cam to talk about her recent break-up with her boyfriend. What stuck me most about the video wasn’t so much the special effects (BTW: I do think their fun and cool), but rather these observations ...

--> Did you notice how comfortable she was talking about her breakup and sharing it on the camera? In my youth, this type of thing would be saved for a locked diary.
--> Did you notice how her boyfriend alienated her? By blocking her out of his MySpace.
--> Did you notice who her new “big brother” is? An online friend who she wasn’t even sure how to pronounce his name yet.

Anyway, you might wonder what does this video have to do with Libraries? The answer is EVERYTHING !!! As Alane Wilson (another great presenter BTW) talked about yesterday in her review of the OCLC Environmental scan , Libraries need to be constantly scanning their environment (and that doesn’t mean reading Library-related journals) and adjusting their services to fit the needs of their users. If millennials (those born between 1982-2000) currently make-up 36% of our population, then we need to take notice of the communication tools and spaces they choose to use. Checking out and seeing what millennials are doing in their own spaces is a great way to start, but making spaces for them within our libraries (both physically & virtually) to express themselves is even better!

BTW: If you’re interested in what other special effects that the Logitech webcam offers, then check out Bowiechick’s (as she’s known on YouTube) follow-up video.

PS: With marketing like this, I think it maybe time for me to look at investing in Logitech.

PPS: After showing my hubby these videos he now wants to replace his 4 year-old quickcam. Perhaps I should insist we buy some stock first :)

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CIL- Buzzwords

Every conference has them … words that create a buzz. And although I think the most often repeated word of the conference definitely has to be “wiki”, for the most part the word isn’t actually new. So what is new you ask? Good question. Well here's my short list of new words I encountered today …

  • Amazoogle - a cross between Amazon & Google. Meaning?
  • Spimes - (see wikipedia)
  • Blogjets- objects that blog?

And apparantly two of these words are so new that even Wikipedia hasn't got an entry for them yet.

So here's my plea.. can anyone out there define these for me concisely? I can patch together the first one, sorta and thank goodness for Wikipedia on the second... but the third has got me a little stumped. I understand the use of the term "objects" from a digithead standpoint, but I'd love to have an example.

UPDATE: Thanks to Alane Wilson, here's an explanation from the OCLC Blog.

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CIL day 2 : My head's still spinning …

Hands down the most informative presentation of the day goes to Megan Fox, this morning's keynote speaker from Simons College who did a whirlwind tour on mobile computing.

Yup, talk about your head spinning. Megan definitely gave us all a lot to think about … from mobile access to the catalog, 3G mobile wireless capabilities (sorry North America doesn’t have this yet) to convergent technologies that are getting both bigger (as is options) and smaller all at the same time. Honestly Megan covered so much ground in 45 minutes that I just wanted her to stop and breath a little bit so that the rest of us in the aduience could catch up. Next year they definitely need to have Megan back, but have her do a longer pre or post conference instead.

In the meantime, I’m adding a few of the mobile computing info sites to my bloglines account and am hoping that someone captured a podcast of this great session so I can view it again. Megan’s presentation and information page can be found here (Note: presentation slides from today soon to follow) and from a quick of her page, I think I could spend a few hours here just sponging.

Anyway, as a follow-up to the most informative presentation of the day, my vote for best presentation format goes to Bill Helling, Crawfordsville District Public Library for his clever baseball score board approach (to tackling the 9 challanges of opening a new library with limited staff and new technology) and nice imbedded HTML popups. The good news is that staffing won, but not without a lot of help from technology. :)

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CIL - 1st Day Wrapup & one additional 2.0 item ...

1st day of CIL? A busy one consumed with presentations on ...

Wikis (Note to self: Gotta checkout Twiki – its wysiwyg interface and list of plugins definitely beat out Mediawiki)

Technology Challenges (tentative plans to do lunch with guys from Gwinnett County tomorrow since PLCMC & GCPL seem to run parallel on all vendor/technology fronts-- Horizon, Envisionware, TechLogic, etc – and compare notes and implementation strategies.)

IMing – hot, especially as community builders.

E-Learning Communities - Our library’s already participating in this WebJunction e-learning pilot, so it was good to meet the players and discuss future enhancements for MS Live meeting (FYI Julia & Lori – I put a plug in for PLCMC to help beta test version 3.0 with VoIP)

And last but not least the featured evening program on Dead Technologies/Emerging Technologies which beat the Library 1.0 vs. 2.0 meme to death. In all serious there were a lot of laughs as well as many great points made by the panel of eight. Scott Brandt’s opening was perfect a way to start off the panel discussion roast of old technologies with the meme repeated often throughout the night…

  • Vendor OPACS –> Library 1.0 … Casey Bisson’s Wordpress OPAC (with tags) –> Library 2.0

  • "No Cell Phones or Food or drink in the Library" -> Library 1.0 ... "Enjoy hot fresh steamy coffee while you browse" -> Library 2.0

  • Email reference -> Library 1.0 ... IM reference -> library 2.0

  • Library newsletters -> 1.0 ... Library blogs -> 2.0

You get the drift ... so what sets the notion of 2.0 apart from 1.0 -> basically it’s the recognition that our users can add value to the library... that yes, we can trust them... and that it’s no longer a one way push. So along this same vein, I’d like to suggest just one more element to the whole Library 1.0 vs. 2.0 that I think in all the examples (and laughter) was overlooked ...

Information Specialists -> Library 1.0 … Information Facilitators -> Library 2.0

The 2.0 meme is more than just technology and signage folks… it’s about people, perceptions and how we interact with our users too!

Websters definition: fa•cil•i•tate = “to make easier : help bring about”
-- after all, isn’t that what it's all about???

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Gaming: Creation vs. Consumption

Wired magazine’s got a great article in it this month about how gaming helps to unleash human imagination. The article has some great points about gaming and the differences in how children are learning today, but the one big thought that stood out for me was this one…

“In an era of structured education and standardized testing, this generational difference might not yet be evident. But the gamers' mindset - the fact that they are learning in a totally new way - means they'll treat the world as a place for creation, not consumption."

Read the full article,titled Dream Machines and then think about its application to Libraries. I know there are lots of libraries out there (inlcuding our own) that are offering gaming tournaments and options for users and that's great, but should we do more?

For me the fundamental question here is not the gaming question (should we or should not doing gaming in the library*) but rather
this ...

If the youth of today are our future, then how can we make libraries become more of place for creation, rather than just consumption? Got any ideas?

*BTW: Just for the record - My gaming hand for "yes" is raised high. :)

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Future Wish List Item

As I was scanning images from last week's CeBit Technology Fair, this item caught my attention -------> RFID Glove

I can see a gadget like this easily making its way into libraries some day ... just think how neat it would be to print a reserve label at the point of pulling a book to fill a hold right from the shelf.

BTW: Off to CIL2006 for the remainder of the week and hope to post a few items of interest while I'm away.

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On OPACs again ...

John Blyberg has a great thought provoking post today on the social impact of OPACs
Our OPACs cannot be the golden kiosks we all want, but by inviting participation in the stewardship of a community resource, we can begin to build unique meta-collections that slide value, pertinence, and humanity into the search process. It may be that in that moment when a patron is about to turn away from the library, something catches their eye–a tag, a comment, some marginalia, perhaps, that puts the patron in front of the material they truly need.

The key component in growing social OPACs is community. Once you put the community you service into the process of delivering content back out into the very same community, you initiate a loop that will become exponentially richer over time as those neural connections glom on to each other.

Here’s a few examples of what he's talking about:

I can’t think of much more to add to this discussion, because I think John says it already so well. I agree that it’s time to begin rethinking the services that we offer in our libraries and realize that the notion of service is no longer a one way extension of what we do. Our services need to also empower users with the ability to add their own contributions and value to our collections/services if we are to truly continue our role as the “community resource”.

After all, just take a look at Webster’s definition of “community” and you’ll see that it’s strongly defined by the words sharing, participation and fellowship. And, it seems to me that these same three words form the cornerstone of social software tools as well. Therefore, doesn't it seem natural to extend this idea to our OPACs?

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I’ve forgotten how I stumbled across this OPAC interface (or rather who to credit for the discovery), but I just have to say I not only love the name of this consortium catalog InfoSoup (& tagline) but the simplicity of the design too! I really love the Audiobooks search which makes it so easy to search by format -- tape, CD, MP3 and even Overdrive.

The tagline for the site is “when you’re hungry for answers.” After seeing this site, I’m hungry for an OPAC change.

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Social Bookmarking

A good introduction to social bookmarking and and well worth the 8 minute listen/view. Tutorial - Podcast

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Another example for doing more with your catalog PCs

In a follow-up to my post last week on our new catalog kiosk, I recieved this note from Sally Fry, Branch Administrator from the Orange County Library System regarding their implementation of Info Spot.

From Sally ...
"The purpose of Info Spot is to revamp our current Catalog Only stations for easy 1-on-1 assistance and training emphasizing key resources, Do it Yourself (DYI) options, packaged guidance to frequently asked for topics and services and to feature premium online databases available from one’s home. The Info Spot hits the highlights of our website and the most popular topics and sites – all just a few clicks away. When training staff we describe Info Spot as a collection of computers and staff who together will customers with demonstrations of the vast array of services and resources that is at their fingertips whether in the library or the comfort of their home.

Info Spot is currently in six of our 15 locations. It is being installed at each location as part of a deployment of new computers. We plan to include Info Spot on all public Internet Stations and to have a link from our website. We’re still working on developing the “Power of the Pin” message – we want to emphasize the value of your OCLS card. The “Links Basket” allows a customer to mark the Info Spot areas he learned about during their Library visit. Therefore, when a person accesses our website at home, she knows how to get back to what she learned. This is especially aimed at the reluctant Do it Yourselfer.

On the dedicated terminals, Info Spot is offered through Flash wallpaper (attached). On the Internet stations and home use, it is a website application including “more” links that lead a person further into our website."

Wow! The design is definitely eye catching and seems to hit some of the same objectives we wanted to include and I see some neat ideas here that we may be able to borrow from as we continue to improve our catalog kiosk.

BTW: Their website is very flashy (no pun intended) too! The option to change skins (colors) is neat. :)

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Terms Library Users Understand

Periodicals, pathfinders, online resources – what do these terms mean to you? According to recent usability studies of common library terms found on library websites, these terms are confusing to users …

Library Terms that Users Understand

Library terms evaluated in usability tests and other studies

Terms found on usability-tested library homepage

A good resource for any redesign or library web project.


On Innovation & Popping Bubbles

Wired published a piece on innovation last week titled Good Idea: Reinventing Invention.
"Companies are finding that more and more innovation is coming not from in-house developers, but from users who do their own re-engineering."

For me the above statement mirrors what's also happening in libraries - that our users have become our biggest innovators and are continually popping the technology bubbles that we've in the past often kept ourselves within. I can point to myself here as an example... How often have I said "we can't do that yet, because XX (insert Library vendor here) doesn't support it" The truth is, it's been more often then I care to admit.

When one looks for user-developed Library innovations, there are several recent examples that can be pointed to - Library Elf and Library Thing come to my mind. Both were created by library users (NOT librarians and/or vendors) and both tools are brilliant in meeting users needs! One service offers the ability to catalog books and connect with users who have similar reading interests, the other to access and consolidate (optional) library accounts and send notifications via email, RSS and /or text messaging on a schedule that the user wants. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm a big fan of both. :)

Anyway, my point is this ... I think it's been easy for us as libraries to pigeonhole our users into meeting our business needs first with the services we offer (just think of how many times you've had to assist someone through your catalog and LOC subject headings) rather then allowing them the flexibility to meet their needs how they want to. (Can you guess, I love the idea of social tagging here.)

On a 2.0 note, I'm glad to see that a shift is happening and upcoming Library Camp; a Library 2.0 Unconference, (see SuperPatron Ed Vielmetti's post and AADL/John Blyberg's post for more info) takes this idea of user innovation to whole new level. What a great way to bring together library staff and users to talk about issues, emerging technology trends and ways that we (libraries & users) can work together to advance the shared vision of the Library as a community resource. If you're within driving distance of Ann Arbor, by all means go!!! but if you're not able to make the conference (Alas, I can't either) there's a conference wiki you can check out.

Finally, on an end note to this ramble of a post, I can say that personally I find myself challenging the "vendor doesn't support it yet" excuse more and more. And with projects in development like our Catalog Kiosk, website redesign, and a online credit/debit application for f&f payment, it feels good to be popping our own bubbles for a change rather them waiting for XX Vendor to get around to creating them. After all, our users aren't waiting, so why should we?

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My brain was wandering tonight and then I saw this ...

Several weeks ago I posted a news article about RFID chips being inserted under the skin... and today I found another news piece about this trend - hmmm, for some reason I find this intriguing!! And, while I know I wouldn't feel comfortable having a chip implanted under my skin myself, it is interesting to hear that there are people out there doing it. Think it's crazy? Well, I'm guessing that less than 20 years ago body piercing was a crazy thought to most people too (OK, punk rockers excluded). Now it, and tattoos, seem to be the norm.

Anyway, I think it's a new and interesting twist to technology and I can't help but wonder if twenty, ten (maybe even less than five) years from now implanted chips will be the norm. Heck, they do it for pets ...

Computer Chip Love ( ABC news video)

If you can't view the video, here's a related news article.

What are your thoughts about this development? Do you think it's possible that one day we'll be offering the option to authenticate library users by the chip under their skin?

PS: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the body piercing/tattoo thing is over with by the time my girls reach their teen years. But given the two options, body peircing over a chip under the skin, I'd definitely take the latter! Besides, I could see some definite advantages as a parent to having a teen tagged, can't you? :)


Windows Live Search - First Impressions

At first glance I gotta say I kinda like Microsoft's new Windows Live Search ( released in beta today. What I especially like about the site is the slider bar feature that allows you to collapse and expand the results from a web search. At the highest bar setting it adds a Search Within this Site field that allows you to directly search the site without having to visit it -- very useful! My only frustration at this time is the small search results window. Since I'm a "page down/page up" gal, this element of the site just doesn't lend itself well to keyboard commands.

But all that aside, I think the search tool has potential. The search within the site feature for me definitely raises the bar and I would expect to see Google and Yahoo also adding something similar soon. In the meantime, check out the site. It also includes a nice image search (the compress and expand feature is nice here too) and a feed search tab. Anyway, in the next few days I plan on playing around with this site a lot. In the meantime, I need for someone to create a Windows Live search plug-in for Mozilla. :)

PS: The image search screen to me looks so clean and Apple-ish, that I think even diehard Mac users will like this tool. :)

PPS: The site has locked up on me twice in IE, but hasn't yet once in FireFox -- hmm, interesting...

PPPS: Wouldn't it be cool if future library catalogs could borrow upon this concept ... Think of a "Search within this book" field being part of the holdings/title results screen.

OK - end of thoughts :)

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The Lulu Blooker Prize

Ever heard of the Lulu Blooker Prize? Me neither, until now… but I can say that I’ve read at least one book based upon a blog. The short list of finalists for the Blooker (books based upon blogs) Prize has just been released and includes finalists for non-fiction, fiction and comics.

I think it’s interesting to see self-publishing ventures like this really take off and it makes me wonder how this trend may affect how we develop our collections in the future.

Any thoughts?

See also: US News & World Reports: One for the Blooks, 03.04.06

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The Weblog Project ...

... is one of my favorite sites that I love to show staff members who ask about blogs. Just what is a blog? the answers can be so varied from a online journal to a content management system and everything in between. In reality, a blog is nothing more than a publishing tool. How you use it and the content that it contains are all controlled by the user.

Anyway, if you're interested in getting a few fun video clips to liven up a Blogging or Web 2.0 presentation, the Weblog Project is nifty little site. It contains view points on what a weblog is from the every-man(woman)-on-the street perspective all the way to industry and media leaders.

Here's a few of my favorites:
Father & Son "A blog is a weblog"
Nancy White "A pallet to paint a picture"
David Sifry's video (Technorati founder)
And this entry (which includes a mention about libraries)

The Weblog Project

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New Catalog Kiosk

It's hard to believe that it's only been a year since our system finally got rid of the last few remaining dumb terminals (there actually were only about three dozen units system-wide, but they were still green screens none-the-less ) that were still in use as public catalogs -- it really seems like so much longer.

Fortunately our upgrade to Horizon last May changed all that. :)   And, with the standardization of PAC PCs system wide, it not only gave us the ability improve access but to also offer our patrons a lot, lot more.

Fast forward nine months and several technology projects later and I was pleased to finally send out this brief announcement to staff today ...
Catalog Kiosk Update:

For those of you who have been waiting, PLCMC's new catalog kiosk is on its way. Starting this week, University City begins the pilot for this new catalog interface that includes among other enhancements the ability for patrons to self-register for themselves for new library cards.

Yes, that means no more need to decipher messy handwriting (is that M or a N?) or second guess an email address. With the new catalog kiosk patrons will be able to enter all their personal information themselves and then see a staff member to complete the process and receive their card (procedures for this are also being piloted by UC staff).

In addition to simplifying the library card application process, the kiosks are also customized to each branch location with a profile that a) highlights the branch by name and photo and b) lists upcoming branch specific programs. Other features of the kiosk include staff reading recommendations, system-wide resource highlights, and easy access to OneSearch research tools.

Staff can preview what their specific location will look like by substituting their branch abbreviation to the end of this URL: (replace ML with your branch ID). Kiosk configurations will be rolled out to all locations beginning in April, once the pilot at UC is complete.

If you have any suggestions for improving this interface, please let me know. We envision that the features on this page will change as we continue to work on improving catalog and information access.

Anyway, I'm just curious ... are there any other libraries out there that have developed something similar for their OPACs?

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Podcast Tours

I've mention some examples before of how libraries are using podcasts to reach out to users with this technology. Here's another application... Library Tours.

Library iPod Introduction Tours:
University of Sheffield , UK

They even have signage in their library indicating listening points - cool!

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MySpace Library Profiles - UPDATED

As a follow-up to my recent post about MySpace -- Note to aspiring bloggers: If you want your blog to come alive, it looks like all you have to do is post a commentary on this :) -- I've discovered a few libraries out there who are actually testing this space with their own profiles - Neat!

Take a look ...
Public Libraries:
The Library Loft @ ImaginOn - PLCMC
Denver Public Library - eVolver
Goshen Public Library
Hennepin County Library
Lansing Public Library
Parma Public Library
New Castle-Henry County Library
San Jose Public - Tully Branch
Thomas Ford Public Library
Tonganoxie Public Library
Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
Westmont Public Library

Academic Libraries:
Brooklyn College Library
Georgia Tech Library
Morrisville State College Libraries
University of Texas - Austin libraries
Wendt Library - UW Madison

If you know of a Library that's not on the list who also has a MySpace profile, please let me know and I'll be happy to add it :)

3/8 Update: The list is growing thanks to everyone's responses. I'll try and update this again later in the week with any new replies. So keep profiles coming. :)

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WiFi & Security

Like many public libraries, PLCMC has been adding public access wireless networks to our long list of user services. In fact, just this last week WB became our newest location to offer WiFi.

Anyway, as we continue to expand this service system-wide, I'm beginning to field some questions about wireless and security. Like most public facilities and businesses, our implementation of wifi is unsecured* to help make access as easy as possible. What this means is that the information that is transmitted between your laptop (or wireless device) and the wireless access point is not encrypted** so that anyone with right eavesdropping software might be able to capture your data and listen in. So with all this being said, why don't public wireless hotspots offer better security? The answer lies in the concept of "public." To make a wireless network more secure involves configuring passwords and locking down the connection which therefore removes "easy access" from the notion of a public network.

However even on open access wifi networks, there are still some things you can do to safeguard yourself. Here's a list from JiWire's Complete Guide to Wi-Fi Security - an excellent, easy read, even for the techno-impaired :)

Top 10 Security Tips for Public Hotspots:

  1. Make sure you're connected to a legitimate access point.
  2. Encrypt files before transferring or emailing them.
  3. Use a virtual private network (VPN).
  4. Use a personal firewall.
  5. Use anti-virus software.
  6. Update your operating system regularly.
  7. Be aware of people around you.
  8. Use Web-based email that employs secure http (https).
  9. Turn off file sharing.
  10. Password-protect your computer and important files.

* Optional WEP key is avialable, but key is public.

** Sites that are secured through SSL (secure socket layer) protect your data while it's being transmitted on both wired and wireless networks. These sites typically display the padlock key and have a URL that begins with "https"

Related links: PLCMC's Wireless Network Access Policy