As follow-up to last night's post and question about RFID, TechEssence has posted a nice overview of RFID today that covers a high level summary of the technology, costs and benefits. There's even a printer friendly version.

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Why Blogging Matters

One of the best reasons for a department director or any member of management to blog, is the ability to share with staff some of things that keep you thinking. What makes blogging rewarding for me is not only the ability to stick ideas and thoughts out there, but it’s the feedback and emails that I recieve from staff.

As Tech Director for a twenty-four location library system with 550+ staff members, I don’t have the opportunities to meet every staff member as I used to have when I started here as library resources trainer. So today when I received this email from a staff member that I’ve never even had the pleasure to meet before (T, please excuse my memory loss if I have met you at Orientation), I was pleased to find that this endeavor is making a connection.
“I have been working at PLCMC for a few months now and I've been keeping up with the blog. I'm really enjoying it and it's nice to get some input from outside my branch. Actually, I subscribe to a lot of blogs … and I found a couple of entries today that I thought I would pass along to you.

An article about RFID - I've heard some talk about this recently at our branch - ...

Nice to 'meet' you! T ”

Hi T, It’s nice to meet you too & thanks for the links. As for all RFID talk at your branch, that’s definitely a technology strategy we’re working on building into our future.


PS: In case you're wondering when we'll make a move to tagging books, it won't be this coming year for we still have a system-wide study to complete and funding to secure.

On Innovation & Overcoming Road Blocks

A great article on innovation appeared on the cover in this week's Business Week titled The World's Most Innovative Companies and although the focus of the piece is geared towards the private sector, there are plenty of observations that can also be applied to the public - including libraries. See if any of these barriers sound familiar...
"The No. 1 obstacle, according to our survey takers, is slow development times. Fast-changing consumer demands, global outsourcing, and open-source software make speed to market paramount today... "Some organizations are nearly immobilized by the notion that [they] can't do anything unless it moves the needle," says Stalk. In addition, he says, speed requires coordination from the hub: "Fast innovators organize the corporate center to drive growth. They don't wait for [it] to come up through the business units."

"A lack of coordination is the second-biggest barrier to innovation, according to the survey's findings. But collaboration requires much more than paying lip service to breaking down silos. The best innovators reroute reporting lines and create physical spaces for collaboration. They team up people from across the org chart and link rewards to innovation. Innovative companies build innovation cultures."

Read the full article here. I think there's a lot of ideas here that any library can adopt.

PS: Thanks Sarah for link and also for continually helping PLCMC strive to be better.

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Wondering what may be ahead?

In my searching for more information about the MS Wallop project, I stumbled across Microsoft’s Research site outlining various projects that they are working on in the Social Computing group. Take a look at the size and breathe of the projects (small sampling below):

Sapphire: We model the user experience after the way people (vs computers) think, feel, organize and remember.

Visual Summaries
: Sapphire Data Visualization and Summarization.

Conversation Clusters
: Grouping email conversations based on text indexing.

Personal Map: Modeling contacts, communication groups, and social network (also a project with Outlook integration)

Microsoft Research Connections:
Online social map that allows users to develop an awareness of the informal, dynamic groups and projects in Microsoft Research, and navigate for information using the connections between people and groups.

And more. Way,way, wayyyyyyyyy, much more! & all this from only one of their ten separate research areas.

NTS - I really need to consider a move to Redmond. :)

Social networking to take a Wallop

This just in via CIO

“Microsoft is entering the social networking market currently led by News Corp.’s and Friendster with its own entry, Wallop.”

Although no specifics have been unveiled, MS claims the new site will offer users "an entirely new way for consumers to express their individuality online"

I found a few small screen captures on MS Research site. Wow... it definitely looks interesting and the social mapping interface (albeit small) definitely looks promising.

Update: MS Spins off Wallop to Startup.

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10 Tips to avoid Spyware

TechSoup offers a good article this week with ten tips for avoiding the pitfalls of nasty spyware. Of course, its inevitable if you doing any type of searching on the web that your PC is going to pick-up some malware sometime. But there are definitely some things you can do to avoid it. Fortunately for most libraries, there are competent IT folks that are taking care of protecting your network from the most dangerous kinds out there, but that doesn't let staff off the hook. Take a look at the summary list below and pay special attention to those items marked with an asterisk. These are items that every library staff member can assist with.

  1. Keep a firewall running at all times. .
  2. Make sure all Windows updates are updated promptly. **
  3. Use an anti-spyware tool with real-time protection. ** But be sure to consult your IT staff before downloading anything
  4. Don't open attachments or click links in emails from strangers. ** This can’t be said enough
  5. Only download software from a trusted source. ** Or better yet, consult your IT staff
  6. Don't visit adult sites. ** In libraries, does this really need to be said?
  7. Avoid using file-sharing programs. **
  8. Don't click pop-up ads. **
  9. Always read end-user license agreements.
  10. Surf with a fox. ** And last but not least if you haven’t discovered the FireFox yet, just do! If tab browsing isn't not enough to convince you, then this tip should!!!

Ok, nuff said. And, also be sure to read the full text.

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Emerging Technology Committee

This is the announcement that I sent out less than 24 hours ago ....

Do you IM, podcast, or have your own blog or a wiki? Are you sometimes affectionately call a gadget guru? Do you enjoy spending your free time in online social spaces, such as Second Life, MySpace and/or MMOGs?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you may have some skills that could benefit the Library and the new Emerging Technology Committee.

PLCMC is establishing an Emerging Technology Committee to help the Library a) evaluate and explore new technologies for their potential use in libraries b) examine emerging social and virtual trends and c) assist in developing beta tests and/or pilot programs that support the library's mission for possible system-wide implementation.

Staff members who are interested in applying and serving on this team, should send an email (With "ETC Submission" as the subject line) to Helene Blowers with a reply to the following questions:

· What expertise can you bring to this committee?

· How would you describe yourself as a technology enthusiast?

· What are your specific technology areas of interest?

Although the committee itself will be limited to eight members, it should be noted that it is not necessary to serve on the committee in order to participate or champion a new idea. All Emerging Technology Committee meetings will be open for all staff members to submit ideas, champion potential projects, and attend/observe the meeting should they desire to. And, as the committee moves forward in evaluating and piloting new technologies there will be many opportunities for staff involvement and participation.

Please view the New Team Member Request form which is attached.

Thank you

... And what's best is that I already have several excellent submissions! :)

A note to all PLCMC staff - if you're interested, by all means please throw your name into the ETC pot. With so many possiblities for involvement, I have a feeling there's going to be lots to explore!!!! :)

Meeting Users Needs

=In Between= posts a great entry this morning that clearly demonstrates the need for increased user-centric services.
"When a user of library systems complains, we should listen and think, because we might learn something. Sometimes however one learns more by watching the audience to which a user complains. Enter a horrid story..."
Read more here.

To add my two cents to this antidote, I have to agree. One of the primary goals that we should have in creating library services should be to do more than just re-focusing libraries with education roles (I cringed too when I hear the audience suggested that presenter needed to go back school and "enroll in a course in information skills") but rather to actually improve our services so that they (heaven forbid) empower the user.

I am always constantly amazed in this day and age of information and enlighten communication to still find so many staff threatened by this word empowerment. User self-sufficiency translates into "their going to take away my job". A relaxed user-center atmosphere equates to "but we're a library. We can't do that" And the desire for user-friendly intuitive tools? Forget it -- our users are, after all, uneducated goofs who need to be schooled.

Honestly - we're better then this!!! We need empower our users in everyway ... by making our catalogs easier to access... by making our subscription resources easier to search ... and by making our libraries feel more like a second home.

If the creation of services that empower the user is the foundation that every single library is built upon, then why it is still taking us so long to get beyond merely borrowing the book?

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Smart Kids

I read this article on Cnet this past weekend ...

Kids Outsmart Web Filters

It's one of those battles you just don't want to have to fight. It eats up resources... it eats up time - as I'm sure any library IT staff can attest to! But since CIPA requires it, we're in a Catch 22.

Second Life - Teen Services

Through the RSSvine this morning, I stumbled across this exciting development regarding Second Life - Library 2.0 ... my own library (PLCMC) is getting involved and has just recently taken up the charge to help develop a Teen Services componet to this endeavor.

After emailing back-n-forth with Kelly Czarnecki, I learned that this idea has literally bloomed overnight and really just in development right now, but that there is also an information blog setup to help keep staff and libraries informed. What I didn't know before emailing with Kelly is that there is actually more than one Second Life out there. Apparently the online environment separates teens from the adult world for safety purposes, but but w/permission teachers can enter the teen world with a legitimate purpose. I'm guessing that's the reason I never ran into flying flag woman (I'm seriously envious of her outfit) or the inferno shirt person during my visit. Yet, in some folks Flickr galleries, it's apparent I was there. Hmmm... can anyone help me undertand this??

Anyway, read up more about this additional development for Teen Services in Second Life over at Kelly's blog, Virtual Teen Library.

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Second Life - My 1st Adventure

My first foray into my second life (aka Beans Sismondi) this morning was a fun journey and it was nice to find a good crew of folks hanging around in the meet-n-greet room for the Alliance Library System OPAL broadcast. I'm still really new to this thing so all I did was a lot of looking around and talking, but here was my first impression... FUN! I can definitely see some teen programming going on in here as well as library gatherings. I grab several screen captures of the journey and have posted them up on Flickr. I also tried to capture a screencast through CamStudio, but failed when it overloaded my PC. :(

Anyway, take a look at Flickr images and perhaps check out Second Life on your own.

BTW: 2nd life pointer: You don't need to use a CC# to verify your free account, you can also do it with your cell phone ;).

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A look at 2015 ???

I hope you've seen the mock documentary from the Media Museum of History before, but if you haven't, it's worth the 12 minute view...

2015 (flash movie)

All I can really say is that given the rapid and development and announcement of many of these new services lately (trusted searching, online storage, social network apps etc) it seems to me that we may be on a much faster path then is depicted in this flash movie. Today's TechCrunch post was the recent: Microsoft Live Drive may launch before GDrive

Watch it -- what are your thoughts? If it does work out this way, then what are the opportunities for libraries and what do we need to be doing do NOW (8.5 years is not that far away)? Just think about it ...

PS: Sorry for the repeat post, but I think it's just too interesting to pass up sharing it again (also posted in November.)

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PlayAway (not throw away) Audio

During a recent meeting with our Collection Management Director, I was pleased to hear that our library is looking into expanding the collection with more downloadable options inlcuding pre-loaded single-title audio books.

Although I had an image in my mind of what these might look like, it wasn't until I came across a posting about Playaway books on Library Stuff, that I actually saw a picture of one. Take a look at the PlayAway site -- I have feeling that Linda's right - this new option is going to fly off the shelves, especially with those users who love audio books, but are not savvy enough to download and transfer a mp3 or wma file to a portable device.

What do you think about this audiobook option?

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In the coming weeks, I’ll be partaking in an online journey with 50 other enlisted volunteers from around the country in ALA’s library 2.0 Innovation BootCamp. Although in some ways I think I’m pretty much already on board with all this L2.0 stuff, I signed on to participate in this endeavor hoping to take away as much from it as I can to offer it. My selfish interest is to take away enough knowledge and ideas that will help me jump start a Learning 2.0 initiative for my library’s own staff later this year. Ideas are formulating as we speak and if we can find funding for the entire project (isn’t that always the question? – especially this time of year), then I think the journey’s going to be a fun one for all staff involved. Ok enough, sorry to digress…

My unselfish reason for my involvement is to lend whatever expertise and knowledge to the effort that I can with the hopes that the program will be a model for libraries everywhere who may be having difficulties getting their staff (and/or Administration) to see all the potential in what these new technologies (and social trends) offer us.

Anyway, as part of the project each participant must maintain a blog. I plan to keep this blog Library Techbytes still focused as I always have (on new technologies, libraries & bits of interest) and stuff related to the course over at my BootCamp project blog (

In the mean time, if you’re interested in following along, there's a list of reading resources that have already been provided by the drill sergeants (Michael Stephens & Jenny Levine) and if I’m a little bit scarce around here in the coming weeks, just look for me over in BootCamp trenches :) .

Library 2.0 BootCamp Reading List (hosted on Squidoo)

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To IM or not to IM?

I know, I know -- the title of this post is bad play on words (and an even greater insult to our library users who's expectation for this form of virtual reference service is already there). But if your library's not convinced of the merits of IM yet, then you need to read up on some success stories here...

More info:
Instant Messaging Overview, TechEssence blog
Library Success Wiki: Online Reference

BTW: In addition to adding your comments, please feel free to also IM me with your thoughts. :) Yahoo IM: hblowers_plcmc

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Sorry, I'm late to the party ...

Last week was Libraries & Information Resources week at the Higher Ed Blog Con and although I had great intentions of blogging about this for staff, with all that was on my plate it just didn't happen. But, hey - not to worry. The great thing about this unique online conference is that all the presentations (including screencasts & podcasts) are archived so that they are available when ever you want.

I've been following this conference daily and have been impressed by the not only the seer quantity of program offerings included, but more with the quality. Last week several offerings for me stood out (be sure check out the site and listen/view some of the excellent screencasts and podcasts), but the paper the intrigued me the most was John Blyberg's Patrons in the Drivers Seat: Giving Advanced Tool-sets to Library Patrons (Ann Arbor District Library's experience)

Although some readers may find the entry a bit heavy on techspeak, it's definitely worth a complete read!! What I find so wonderful about AADL's approach is that they've used the open-source creative model all over the place... from improvements to the catalog and gaming initiatives to the Picture Ann Arbor project (which allows patrons to add value to the electronic collection) and electronic signage displays -- Note: be sure to check out the sample movies too! And in true open-source style John even includes a link to the source code. :) From all that they've accomplished it's clear that AADL is doing a lot of neat and innovative things to meet users where they want to be.

Anyway, if you haven't checked out the online blog conference yet - DO! It's a wealth of information and includes a lot of great presentations too!

BTW - Here's a few other topics I've enjoyed ...

Podcasting 101: The basics for Librarians Be sure to listen to the podcast presentation of the program as well.

An Online Research Toolkit - Exploring Web 2.0 for Library Research

Building a Wall of Books

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New email feed :)

After hearing from a few PLCMC staff members that the email feed for this site wasn't working, I've ported my subscriber list over to FeedBlitz.

If you had already subscribed to the email feed before, then you shouldn't have to do anything to start getting TechBytes posts via email again. However, if you haven't subscribed and wish to - by all means please add yourself. You'll find it over there on the sidebar to the right ------------------------------------------>       :)

Technology on Stamps

Wired News has a nice image gallery/history of computers (and related technology) featured on stamps from around the world. My personal favorite is Snoopy with a mail sorting PC, but I'm also fond of this stamp dipicting the once feared Millenial bug ...

Computers On Stamps Gallery

Y2K - it seems like ages ago, doesn't it?

Second Life Library 2.0

There's a new take on virtual library service and online programming that's being explored by the Illinois Alliance Library System and OPAL using the popular online virtual reality game Second Life.
"Alliance Library System and OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) are pleased to announce that selected OPAL programs will soon be offered in the online virtual reality game Second Life. Book discussions, training sessions, and other programs will be offered to current virtual residents. The goal of the project is to promote the real library and online library services to adults who might not otherwise use the library. What is Second Life? Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by nearly 200,000 people from around the globe. There are shopping malls, events, homes, lands of different types, and best of all, participants can contribute content, buildings, and other digital creations."

Source: Alliance Library System

This project really sounds interesting and from my quick review of the Second Life Library 2.0 blog it looks like there is already quite a few programming opportunites in the works. The first opportunity is scheduled for this Friday:

Getting Along with IT staff for Librarians and Educators
Date: Friday, April 21, 2006 Time: 8:00AM - 9:00AM (60 minutes) Pacific time, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Central time 11:00-12:00 am Eastern time
Location: Juanita (217,241)
and is FREE. All you need to do is get your Second Life Avatar before then. :)

Additional info: Library of Avatars ALA TechSource Blog

PS: I'm off to create my alter ego now :)

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Social Searching

As a follow-up to my earlier post on Google Scholar and Windows Academic Live, this announcement has really caught my attention...

Microsoft Gets Social
Redmond has big plans for tools and partnerships that will let users consult a circle of friends when conducting Web searches

Talk about different a different take on web searching. I wonder how this might muddy the waters by perhaps creating a new spin and a different meaning for "trusted (as in one's 'circle of friends') searching"?

Any thoughts?

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The Google Scholar & Book Search Question

I love to see emails like this from our staff ...

Have you seen what Google is doing to facilitate book and journal searching? If so what is your impression on it's impact on libraries? I thought it might be something you might want to put in an installment of TechBytes. Check out the following links. They have really sparked my interest but I am concerned about how it would affect us.

Google Book Search (and the Library Project)

Google Scholar Search (support for libraries)

... for it's an indication that we're not keeping our heads stuck in the sand. -- Thanks Christie (IB) for the email prompt. :)

Anyway, the question above is a pretty loaded one and to be honest I'm not sure at this point that I have enough insight into these recent Google projects to form a full impression yet. What I can say about both of these, is that from a user perspective I like the idea of being able to being able to see snippets from inside a book (Google Book Search) before I decide to purchase or check it out. Like browsing in a great library or bookstore, this allows me to do some of this from the comfort of home. But for me it definitely doesn't replace reading or viewing the book itself. And that's where I still think good libraries have a stronghold.

As for Google Scholar, this recently released project also has caught my attention as well and like Window's Academic Live search tool, I think it has the potential of really changing the way our users access inforamtion typically found in library subscription databases. What I find most interesting about both the developments of Google Scholar and Windows Academic Live is that it is a clear indication that there is both a mainstream market for authoritative/trusted searching ( i.e. the users are finally catching onto to what librarians have known all along - that just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's reliable) and a clear need for it.

So where does that leave libraries? Good question - I think in some ways we're still right where were are - offering leisure, life long learning and reference/homework services to our users (albeit the leisure and LLL pursuits weigh heavier these days - which is also where I think we have our greatest future) ... that is until Google or Live start gobbling up publisher resources and/or vendors like Ebsco, Gale and Proquest.

What are your thoughts about Scholar? Book Search? or both?

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2 Things : World's smallest training handout & JumpCut

Thing 1:

I had to both laugh and applaud when James passed around his training handout for the staff Tech Talk workshop on Weblogs this week -------->

What a perfect way to introduce staff to the concept of using a blog as an information tool !! Thanks James for a great class !

Thing 2:

I forget where I stumbled across the mention of this web application, but after playing around with it a bit last night, I can guarantee you that this will be a site I revisit again and again.

Online video editing and remixing -- now that's cool!


PS: Haven't got anything of my own to show yet, but I've been having a lot of fun remixing others. :)


Just because it's Wed & this caught my eye ...

Wired News has posted an online gallery of some strange USB devices. And, with more and more of our library's PCs being upgraded this year with technology that easily supports plug-n-play USB 2.0, I would imagine we might see some strange requests in the coming years -- USB handwarmers? Aquariums? Eye Massagers? Don't say it's not possible... just look at some of the strange requests you've gotten so far. :)

BTW: The sushi flashdrives -- now those are fun ! But I don't see it available in my favorite - spicy tuna roll. :)

Do any of these devices catch your eye?

Windows Academic Live

In the never ending quest for trusted search tools, Microsoft has recently unveiled it's Window's Academic Live. (in Beta)
"Academic search enables you to search for peer reviewed journal articles contained in journal publisher portals and on the web in locations like Citeseer.

Academic search works with libraries and institutions to search and provide access to subscription content for their members. Access restricted resources include subscription services or premium peer-reviewed journals. You may be able to access restricted content through your library or institution."

Although I think it's neat that the search tool scours journal publisher portals for articles that they published for free, what really intrigues me is the second part...

Could Academic Live be used as a replacement one day for our federated OneSearch tool? Hmmm... I really need to look into this more.

Anyway, check out the For Librarians page and if anyone on the PLCMC staff is interested in looking into this more and figuring out if there is anyway this new development could benefit us, please contact me.

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OPAC 2.0 ?

I finally had the opportunity to check out the new enhancements to OCLC's WorldCat.

Found via LIS News:
"User-contributed content helps extend the OCLC cooperative to include record-enhancing information from non-cataloging library professionals as well as library users. For example, family members may add notes to records for genealogical materials about their families, or community members may comment on historical photographs or documents from digital collections about their communities that reside in the WorldCat database."

Talk about Library 2.0 and allowing users to contribute to the value of your catalog. :)     Perhaps this is part of the long overdue birth of OPAC 2.0?

PLCMC Staff: Access OCLC WorldCat through NCLive.

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Teens & Technology

Lee Rainie’s (of the Pew Internet & American Life Project) presentation on Teens & Technology given at PLA is now online (complete with talking notes) and offers a quick and easy glance at the unique “realities” that define this largest population group.

Well worth the review and a great starting place for any library discussion.

Related post: On Millennials & the Bowie Chick

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Business 2.0 & the evolution of the envelope

A few weeks ago while I was sitting in the waiting room of an accountant's office (yup, you guess it-tax time), I found myself glancing through a magazine I had never read before Business 2.0.

Admittedly, the title of the publication was what made me pick it up. But as I scanned through the magazine and read a few of the articles (BTW: Did you know that in just five short years, NetFlix has redesigned their packaging envelope over a dozen times?*), I found myself thinking -- this is one publication that I definitely need to add to my regular roundup. Anyway, fast forward a few weeks to today ... where I find the same mention of this outstanding publication in a great post by Roy Tennant on Making Good Technology Decisions. The first point in the article:
Keep an ear to the ground and an eye on the horizon. Monitor key publications, current awareness services, and trend-spotters. Current awareness publications such as Current Cites can cut down on the number of publications you need to scan. But don't limit yourself to library publications. Take a look at commercial publications such as Business 2.0 and Fast Company. Magazines such as these will alert you to societal and business-wide trends that will impact libraries.

And the rest of the article is equally informative as well.

* BTW: On the NetFlix thing ... for some reason I find this fascinating and can't help but wonder how the evolution of future potential mailers for Library by Mail services will look? And from my search on the web, I guess I'm not the only one who finds this fascinating. (See Flickr).

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Top 10 Technologies

Michael Stephens presented a great program this afternoon via OPAL titled Top Ten Technologies for Libraries 2006 which really seemed to reinforce a statement that I made last week during my SLA presentation…

"Of all the technologies available today, the ones that have the greatest influence on libraries both today and in our future, are those that libraries can't afford to purchase at any price.

Why? Because they are FREE."

Take a look at Michael’s presentation and follow along with his audio podcast and see if you can find just one technology on his list that you can’t implement or try for free!

And a plug for PLCMC staff - don't forget to sign-up for the upcoming Tech Talk workshops on Weblogs: Fresh Content, Fresh Context (Monday, April 10th) and RSS & Newsreaders (Tuesday, May 2nd) and you'll have covered over half of Michael's suggested 5 Things You Can do NOW.

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Library Podcast Promos

Our Library's teen services staff is gearing up to launch podcasts on our teen Library Loft site in the comings weeks. Personally I can't wait to   see   listen to the results. :)

Anyway, along the lines of podcasting, I stumbled across this find this week. The Lansing Public Library (Lansing,IL) is running short podcast promos all week long for National Library week -- Neat! Listen ...

Don't you just love the energetic introductions and endings? Talk about fun. :)

PS: Podcast feeds found on Lansing Library Teen Blog

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National Library Week

In the spirit of National Library week and especially National Library Workers Day, I thought I'd showcase a few gems that I found on YouTube last week.

1st --- a short video (a little fuzzy) of just what might be happening in your library when you're not looking.

2nd --- another take on foolish fun in the library stacks.

and finally ...

3rd --- you asked for it... the library musical Reading on a Dream.

Happy National Library Week!!!


Bloglines Tutorial

I've had a few staff inquiries lately about RSS and Newsreaders (yeah!). And even though I'm offering another Tech Talk workshop on the topic early next month, I realize for some staff that can't come soon enough.

So, if you're interested in subscribing to news feeds and need a reader - I'd recommend Bloglines to start with. It's not as slick looking as some other readers (Google Reader and NetVibes included) but it sure offers the options as an industrial easy-to-use reader for lots of feeds. In my quick search on the web, I didn't come across any instructional videos for Bloglines, but I did come across this very excellent tutorial on BetterDays.

Using Bloglines Tutorial - or how to keep up with dozen of blogs (and newsfeeds) a day

BTW: If someone knows of a good video or podcast on Bloglines, please let me know.

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NC & SC SLA Talk

Friday I had the pleasure of speaking at the joint NC & SC Specialized Library Association chapter meeting on the changing terrain of library webscapes. Here’s a link to my PP slides.

And links to several references I mentioned (that are not included the slides):

Tech Talk on RSS & Newsreaders
Technorati (blog search tool)
Blogger & Wordpress (free blogging hosted sites)
PBWiki (free wiki hosted site)
& my public Bloglines roll (RSS feeds I read)