Fab Friday Salute

Over the past few months, I’ve been using this space to blog about new technologies, the changing social & informational landscape and their impact on libraries. But as I continue to scan the horizon for ideas and perspectives that can help PLCMC move forward, I’m noticing a lot of great and innovative things that are happening right within my own library's walls. So many in fact, that I’ve almost contemplated setting up another blog just to cover all the great stuff I see happening within our system. But after thinking about it a bit more, I’ve decided to take another approach and post at least one great/new/innovative idea from our own PLCMC ranks here on TechBytes each week. With this in mind I’ve decided to make Friday’s “Fab Friday” and throw out a staff salute.

And since this my first installement of Fab Friday, I'm going to highlight two innovative ideas today ...

First – as I mentioned last week, PLCMC’s GetSet4K was one of 15 finalist for the SirsiDynix’s Building Better Communities award. And although PLCMC was not one of the award winners announced at ALA this past week, its place among the 15 finalists is an honor within itself. According to the announcement there were over 130 applicants for the award, so making it among the top 15 hails a salute in my book. I know there were many youth services staff who contributed to final result of the beautiful website. Some of them, like Melanie Huggins (former YS Director) have moved onto to bigger and better things, but I would remiss if I didn’t shout out and acknowledge Paul DeVillo for all the web development work and the entire PLCMC Youth Services Staff (esp Susan Pflugg, IMG and Alison Bauknight, SUG) for all the excellent content. The GetSet4K site contains a treasure trove of ideas and information about preparing pre-schoolers for that first day of Kindergarten. It's definitely a winner anyway you look at it!

– This event happened actually last December, but it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that a video of the event made its way onto the Steele Creek Library & ImaginOn MySpace pages. Murder Mystery Night was an event at ImaginOn that was put together by the fabulous Teen Services staff. The video's a lot of fun and shows off both the creative side of staff and teens. Check out the great mug shots in the video of staff and the teens. Credits for the this innovative idea and film are found at the end of the short video. Take a look for yourself...

Get this video and more at

Way to go Teen Services! Can’t wait to see the video from the next Murder Mystery event! :)

Be on the lookout next week for another Fab Friday Salute. And PLCMC staff, if know of an innovative idea or use of technology that worth highlighting, drop me an email or add it to the comments.

Happy Friday Everyone!!

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"You"niverse Stats

Trend Watching's July issue focuses on product branding in virtual worlds and online communities. The article (which is a good one) contains some fascinating statistics about "youniversal" users. Here are some figures for popular online communities/games that should blow you away:
Add it up and that's more than 1 billion people (or should I say "avatars") interacting with each other in virtual worlds! Read the full report here.


Freedbacking – another great idea blooms

Have you read about the newest folksonomy to hit the blogging world – freedbacking. The term’s so new that it’s not even in Wikipedia yet (at least as of this posting). The idea of Freedbacking (coined by Lockergnome’s Chris Pirillo) is to use the growing popularity of tags to provide “free feedback” (aka freedbacking) to software developers and other providers of service in an effort to “bridge the gap between users and developers.” -- Another great idea that I wish I had thought of first. :)

Anyway, think library vendors are scanning Technorati and Google Blog Search for mentions of their names and products? – you bet they are (and if they're not, they're fools). Include “freedbacking” in your tags and you’ll have a more targeted way to get their attention and give them feedback.

UPDATE: Bloglines (my favorite news aggregator) has already stated that they welcome feedback through this method.

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Good Stuff

Via Chris Harris over at Infomacy , I learned about this streaming video of Stephen Abram's keynote presention from the MINITEX Reference Symposium in May. Those that have heard Stephen speak before know that he's a very dynamic and thought provoking speaker. Those that haven’t heard him speak before … well here’s your chance.

Reference 2010: The Librarian 2.0 in your Future
– Stephen Abram’s keynote

     Part 1 (11.8 mb Quicktime)
     Part 2 (14.9 mb Quicktime)

Watch (or listen) to the 90 minute keynote address at your leisure. In true Abram style, he goes off course a bit and spins in several antidotal tales. Well worth the listening time.

PS: He also provides a great overview of the Second Life Library too!

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2nd Life Tour

I took my husband on tour inside Second Life last night -- his 1st, my 3rd visit -- and was pleased to find the Second Life Library at Info Island so wonderfully supplied with amentites. After touring various areas of SL for about an hour (we explored a shopping mall, took rides at an archade, danced in disco, explored the Dummies Book gallery -- interesting titles here -- and even stumbled across a church and got a little religion), we finally teleported over to the Second Life Library 2.0 and found Librarian Rain Noonan and colleages busy making additions and preparing the building for the Grand Opening. (I don't think there's a specific date yet).

Anyway, the first floor was awesome -- newspapers and several reference books were out for easy access so it was easy to grab the latest copy of the Metaverse Messanger and find out what's going on. On the 2nd floor, we checked out the Internet terminals (just touch the screen with your mouse and you're able to access the site) and then chatted awhile with Rain and the crew we found working here. I wish I grabbed my camera (aka hit the print screen button) and snapped a few pictures to show off the place. But I decided to do something better -- teleport back to SL and shoot a little video screencast. :)

As you can see the screencast is choppy (that's the software effects, not how SL is in real life) and I haven't figured out how to walk a straight line yet or open a door with ease - but for those of you who haven't experienced it yourself, you at least get an idea of what's it like. :)

On a another note, here was my hubby's first comment about 2nd Life and the Library -- "Good move for the Library! Cause THIS (2nd Life) isn't going away, It's only gonna get BIGGER!" And I have a sneaking suspicion he's right. After all, I just read that Amazon is exploring building APIs for SL to sell real goods in this virtual space. And if Amazon's exploring SL an option, you know ...

PS: Video captured with CamStudio freeware.


Anyone have a spare ticket to Denmark?

UPDATE: Slide presentation is now online (.pdf) - Thanks, Knud :)

Both last week and the week before, I had the opportunity to meet librarians from Denmark and learn about the fascinating technologies that they are experimenting with over there. Knud Schulz's (Manager of the Main Library in Aarhus, Denmark) gave a 30 minute overview this past Thursday on the innovative projects that they are working on that made me seriously drool. And before it all escaped my mind, I thought I'd post it...

In his current library there is a 3000 square foot experimental lab -- They call it the "Transformation Lab" -- where the library in conjunction with leading university, research and multimedia organizations experiment and pilot projects that explore new ways to interact with information/media in a library setting.

Over the last two years, there have been several innovative projects exhibited in this space - - which is located in the very front of the library. Among the "transformation lab" themes that projects have revolved around ther has been ... (this is from my memory)... a digital music lab, a news media interactive space (they even had a broadcast studio in it), and an social media exhibit. Sorry, I know I missing others (I just wish I could read Danish so I could find links to all these ultra neat projects).

The Info Gallery is the current exhibit in the Library's Transformation lab and is "internet-based infrastructure for enriching the physical library space with informative arts "exhibitions" of digital library material" Photos of the exhibit can be seen here. What's neat about this project is the way information is retrieved and displayed. The multimedia interface also has several skins that to fit children's and other specialized library needs.

Other interesting projects that Knud shared included prototypes from the Children's Interactive Library: (more info )and other forward thinking prototypes include:

  • The Story Surfer (also here) - includes both an interactive floor map that children can collaborate on to locate materials through a unique interface that requires full body movement and an interactive table which allows then to refine discoveries from the floor mat in order to locate the information that they are looking for. PS: The video is really worth watching if you can wait for the download.
  • Story Finder - an interactive table that lets children explore historical archives (multimedia, pictures, etc) by placing movable objects on top of an projected interactive map. (still looking for links to pictures of this)
  • The BibPhone - see my earlier post on this
  • and more. (Again, this is where my lack of Danish fails me)
I really wish I had the full presentation to reference because there were just so many neat ideas (I forgot to mention the information robot) that they are playing with. What I was so jealous about was that this initiative is being lead, backed and funded by the Aarhus library system in conjunction with the University of Southern Denmark and other interactive companies.

All I can say is what forward thinking -- to use an existing library space as an experimental lab for future libraries - WOW! Does anyone know of a library here in the US that does something similar?

Anyway, if someone has a spare ticket to Denmark just lying around, please let me know. After Thursday's presentation, I feel like a road trip. :)

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Required reading ...

OCLC’s current NextSpace newsletter focuses on the future of libraries and contains a wealth of web 2.0 perspectives from several industry leaders. Among the many insightful essays are …

... and more. Be sure to read the full issue. It really should be required reading for anyone who works in libraries.

Web 2.0 – Where will it take libraries?
-- Read it!!

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This is almost as good as a HT feed ...

I know I've lamented about this before ... but thanks to a tip from a colleague, I think I've found a RSS feed that might be just as useful to me as the weekly specials from Harris Teeter ---->the Red Circle Boutique Sunday circular RSS feed --customized to my zip code! [insert happy dance here!!]

Here's a great post from Steve Rubel with 34 other ways you can use RSS feeds. I myself have used a few of these examples in my RSS Tech Talk class. :)

PS: Thanks Russ -- you made my day!!


Fingers Crossed

As several staff members and colleagues depart for ALA later this week (I'm not among them this year), I'm keeping fingers (& toes crossed) that my library system is among the 5 recipients this year for SirsiDynix's Building Better Communities award.

Just the week before last, I received notification that PLCMC's Get Set 4 K (kindergarten) program & website was among the 15 finalists selected -- Yippee!! And in looking at the list of other finalists, I feel honored that this useful community project is among such an elite group of great ideas!!

Best of luck to all libraries ... including my own!

Catalogs Smatalogs ...

Think the online library catalog could use some improvement? Well you're not alone. There's been quite a lot of bashing discussion traveling around in blogosphere about the state of library catalogs, especially lately. If you haven't been following the conversation, John Blyberg posts a good recap here.

From my point of view, when you read through at all the arguments it seems like everybody makes a good point. Our catalogs are lacking, our resources are limited, we do need more access to API and the database, etc. However, having recently lead a system-wide ILS migration I can also understand the vendor side of things too -- As libraries, we continuously ask demand that our ILS systems be built around our own individual library specialized processes rather then ask ourselves how we might be able to build our processes around a better system that allows our users (and us) greater flexibility.

It's hard to change people's habits (especially when they are in the drivers seat demanding that odd collection code for that obscure 90 day material type status be included in the new system, etc), let alone reverse 20 years of ingrained processes. But in looking at the state our catalogs, I think we should also take a look at many of our circulation and collection procedure oddities that also effect how things appear in our catalog. It's not just all our vendors fault that our catalogs are confusing, it's our fault too!

So... while we may ask more of our vendors in the way of opening up our ILS systems to do more (BTW: I'm 100% for this, I REALLY AM), I think we need to also understand that is becomes our responsibility (not the vendors) -- and that means hiring qualified programmers and developers on our staffs, not just "technie librarians" -- to ensure that it does.

PS: BTW, this mockup If Amazon sucked, like our old OPAC is hilarious -- but I think the copyright line at the bottom is inaccurate. The responsibility should be shared.


Library Aquariums

You know, this what I really love about putting thoughts and ideas out there on this blog ... conversation!! And along with that, occasionally a great comment comes along that helps me think of things a different way.

I just love Sarah's aquarium analogy to my recent Technology is not a service post, dont' you?

You make an excellent point, and I agree with the idea of a model showing technology as part of the larger foundation. However, I would suggest that “Highly Trained and Skilled Staff” is actually another layer of the foundation, rather than one of the supported “silos.”

While I agree with you that “Because of the implementation, support and use of technology, our staffs are more skilled and highly trained,” I would also argue that without highly trained and skilled staff to envision the practical applications of new technologies, they simply remain expensive novelties. What good is funding for New Technology if you don’t have “Highly Trained and Skilled Staff” to take that funding from Dollars to the actual useable, integrated Thing (email and phone communication, electronic databases, cataloging systems, etc.). And how do you get funding? Sometimes it’s with the pursuasive skills of “Highly Trained and Skilled Staff” who can visualize and explain the implementation and eventual benefit of the new technology. Which came first, the chicken or the network?

My point is, it’s almost impossible to separate technology from staff. Ultimately, new technology is only as good as the staff that’s available to make it a reality.

And while we’re speaking of models, instead of a plateau supporting numerous columns, perhaps a more accurate representation would be a library system as aquarium. Our community is constantly demanding more fish… the best fish, the prettiest, most tropical fish (current collections). But the acquisition of these fish means a need for larger and better tanks (facilities), more water (staff), constant monitoring and adjustment of the PH level (technology), and a consistent oxygenation process (planning, training and visionary thinking).

If any of those elements falls out of balance, you risk being left with a tank full of smelly, dead fish.

PS: It also helps if you have a light above the aquarium so the public can see the fish (marketing).

Thanks Sarah. What a great analogy!! You make many good points about highly trained staffs and technology. PS: You know you really should be blogging. :)

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Guerilla Marketing Technique #6

As seen over at Forbes …10 Effective Guerrilla-Marketing Tactics.
Infiltrate the stacks.
Tucking fliers under windshield wipers is more annoying than effective. A better trick: Stuff business cards into relevant books at the library. One company providing investigative services to law firms slipped its cards into law tomes at the courthouse library. Attorneys and paralegals assumed that other firms used the company, giving it credibility and causing its phone to ring off the hook.

Isn’t this just what every library needs ...?

Personally, I'm taking this as a nice library compliment -- That libraries (and books) are an effective place to market things, means we're heavily used. :)

PS: Which brings me to another thought ... I'm wondering if there are any libraries out there that have effectively use this technique to market their own library services. Has yours?

Discovered via Wired

Another thought on Technology is not a Service

The title of Roy Tennet’s recent post on TechEssence, A Technology is Not a Service, (good article BTW) reminded me of two presentation slides I have used often to talk about how the role of technology has changed within libraries. Under the old model (which unfortunately I think so many libraries still subscribe to), technology is viewed as one of the four pillars of library service. The problem with this approach is that the funding of technology is often seen as a “service” competing with your book budget, staffing dollars and facilities/operations funding, when the reality of it all is that technology doesn’t stand alone as a parallel silo. But rather that technology has become part of the larger foundation that supports all areas of library service.

Because of the implementation, support and use of technology, our staffs are more skilled and highly trained. And when the network goes down or there is a strain in the infrastructure backbone, it cripples our ability to provide full services.

Because of the use of technology, our collections are accessible to more people (from home, work or anywhere), our materials move faster to and from the patrons hands and we are better able to develop exciting and diverse collections to meet our growing public’s demand and need.

Because of the use of new technologies, our buildings and facilities are better managed, smarter in design to deliver services and capable of adapting more easily to service level changes.

So if your library is still treating technology as a separate service offering or silo, step back and think about this. What would you do …

… if you lost email communications for week because your server crashed and hadn’t been upgraded in 5 years?

… if all your access to electronic databases and the internet went down for a week because your network (built on a fragile spider web of routers, switches and equipment) failed and was as old as that first PC -- remember those PCs that booted from 5 1/4” floppies and had 10 mb hard drives – your library installed?

… if access to your online catalog evaporated along with a nasty virus attack that rendered your database useable?

… if you had no way to check-in or scan returned materials so you could get them back on the shelves or forwarded to the next patron in line?

The truth is technology is core to nearly everything we do, from checking out books and materials to answering simple reference questions; to communication with our staffs and public; to providing access to our buildings and facilities; and most especially, to our core services.

I agree with Roy... Technology is NOT a service. Technology IS an ever-evolving FOUNDATION.

PS: Read Roy’s article too – he takes a different spin to this “Technology is not a service” thought in his article and makes an equally sound argument... “The technical infrastructure that makes something possible is only the first step of a long process to make something usable.”

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Ask the Planet

Now this sounds like a contest ready made for librarians …

Yahoo Answers Ask the Planet
June 13th- July 7th

Eight usability problems that haven’t changed …

Usability guru Jakob Nielson (and Hoa Loranger) have a new book out titled, Prioritizing Web Usability. Webmonkey has an excerpt

Though some of these bad design practices are less common on the web now, others are actually more of a problem because continued abuse has made users ever more sensitive to them.
Areas that still cause major problems include:
  • Links that don't change color when visited
  • Breaking the back button
  • Opening new browser windows
  • Pop-up windows
  • Design elements that look like advertisements
  • Violating Web-wide conventions
  • Vaporous content and empty hype
  • Dense content and unscannable text

Read more here.

And from a look at the book’s cover – - I actually read his first book Designing Web Usability years ago -- I can see one other thing hasn’t changed … The plain two tone half-n-half cover.

Hmm... I wonder if this approach has been proven to improve the usability marketability of his books? I'll be honest, for me the cover just doesn't work.

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If you haven't read this yet - do!

Funny, that I should find this blog comment from Matt in my mailbox after just delivering a co-presentation (with James Kelly) titled Information Literacy 1.5: Expanding the Toolbox & Bridging the Gap at the Metrolina Library Association Information Literacy Conference this afternoon.

Here’s Matt’s comment to my post about the Talis Innovation Contest:
“After reading this a few days back, I sent it off to a few friends that I thought might be interested and capable. Today while reviewing it again, I was wondering about the fact that innovation on the development level is great always needed, but what about innovation on the practical level of thought, policy, and philosophical approach to programs and services? That is usually the major stumbling block aside from funding in most orgs. I do think that Karen Schneider's current meme/manifesto on the: "User is not broken" has some very interesting points to make in reference to innovation, especially is it pertains to libraries.”

Here’s one of the slides from my presentation containing just a few tenets from The User is not Broken manifesto/meme:

Be sure to read the full manifesto/meme which is based in part on the thought provoking best seller, The Cluetrain Manifesto (also an excellent and easy read). I agree with Matt on Karen's very excellent meme - it does make some strong points about making our libraries more user centered which in turn leads to greater innovation in ALL areas of service (not just technology).

What are your thoughts on this manifesto? Do you agree or disagree with its tenets?

PS: I hope to have slides of the full presentation on online soon. :)

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Could iTunes woes = downloadable audiobooks opportunity ?

After reading about the backlash of criticism and pending legislation from the European courts regarding iTunes/iPods restrictive digital rights/restictions management (DRM), I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the fallout from all this hoopla overseas might someday easily enable downloadable audiobooks from Recorded Books and Overdrive to work on this market-dominating player.

Yup, It's irritated me from day #1 that neither of these library solutions work on iPods. Thanks Norway for leading the way!!
[fingers crossed] :)

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An invitation for innovation ...

This just out ... library automation company offers innovative library mashup competition ...

"Talis is pleased to announce the first competition intended to encourage innovation in the display, use, and reuse of data from and about libraries. The competition is open to all, and includes a first prize of £1,000 for the best entry."

And the best (and most forward thinking) part of it all ...
The competition is open to anyone, anywhere. You do not need to work in a library, and you do not need to use any Talis product. You simply need to have an idea for a way to make better use of existing information from or about libraries, and an ability to turn that idea into a 'mash up' or other application that shows it off to good effect.

Mashing up the Library Competition Announced

Talk about 2.0 - now THIS is VERY EXCITING!!!

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IM Reference Bots

Haven't jumped on the IM reference bandwagon yet? Well, IM reference is getting hot enough that even developers are looking into bots and gadgets to help deliver this service via IM. MSN messenger is currently running a conversation robots (or bots) developers contest to assist in the creation of tools that support IM users.

Can you guess which bot is currently leading the pack?   Encarta Instant Answers

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Reading Facts...

"On average across the world people spend 6.5 hours a week reading. The most of amount time spent reading is in India (10.7 hours), the least Korea (3.1 hours). UK is very near the bottom at 5.3 hours, Germany and USA a little higher at 5.7 hours.
The Chinese listen to radio less than any other nation (2.1 hours a week), Argentina the most (20.8 hours).

On average people now spend more time on the Internet for leisure (not work) than reading - 8.9 vs 6.5 hours. Mexico uses the Internet for leisure least (6.3 hours) and Taiwan the most (12.6 hours).

Internet use reduces the time people have for reading by around 20%.

40% of Europeans do not read books.

More people use the Internet for leisure than read books in the developed world."

From Richard Charkin's blog (CEO of Macmillan publishers in the UK). Discovered via one of my favorites - BuzzMachine

The UK book publishing industry's Statistical Yearbook 2005

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My New Favorite Find --- We Feel Fine

I’m fascinated … I’m spellbound … I’m totally enthralled with this site … We Feel Fine

We Feel Fine is an exploration of human emotion on a global scale.
Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

Here’s the stats of what they’ve gathered so far … 3.4 million feeling from close to 1 million people see more here.

Go check it out for yourself --- but be careful, it’s addicting! :)

BTW: circles are text, squares are photos. Also be sure to check out the options on the red navigation bar at the top as well as Montage, Murmurs, Mobs etc in the corner.

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Email to RSS feed & RSS to IM - cool!

... or "thinking out of the inbox."

Turn email into an RSS feed –--> SocialMail

Turn RSS feeds into IM ---> InstantFeed

Big in Japan also offers other tools and has more planned.

PS: I tried the email to RSS feed - works swell!