IL06 Wrapup

I probably should be doing homework right now, but I've been doing that all day and I need to do something else right now. Aaand since the rest of the biblioblogosphere has already blogged the conference sessions much better than I could and in a more timely manner, I'm going to make this my final post on the subject and then move on to other things. (For those curious about the other sessions - go search the IL2006 tag over at technorati, you'll find plenty to keep you occupied.) As great as the sessions were (and they were great), and as lovely as Monterey was, what I'm going to remember most about the conference is the people I met and some of the more informal, and not necessarily library-related chatting I got to do, and I really want to make a point of saying thanks to Michelle Boule, Steven Cohen, Karen Coombs, Mark Dehmlow, Nicole Engard, David Free, Tom Ipri, Josh Neff, Michael Sauers, and Greg Schwartz for being nice to the noob and for helping to make my first professional conference such a great experience. Ya'll rock!

Here's the rest of the highlights reel:

Having somebody ask me the first morning if I'd figured out how to long on to the conference center's WiFi and then turning around to find that the person doing the asking was Roy Tennant, and then being too shocked at finding out who was doing the asking to really talk to him (okay, the too shocked to really talk wasn't exactly a highlight, but still, I got to meet Roy Tennant, kinda).

The sea of laptops that made up the front row of the Tuesday afternoon Social Computing track. I met so many great folks thanks those sessions, it was amazing. Fun was had, stuff was learned, friends were made.

Street Market The impromptu street market that seemed to spring up out of nowhere on Tuesday afternoon and that made the stroll back to my motel a great deal of fun. I still have no idea if there was some sort of special occasion or if it was just the weekly farmer's market, but there was a lot of nifty stuff, and some of the best looking produce I've seen in a looong time (put my Safeway to shame). Pity I wasn't hungry enough to buy anything.

Discussing the insane distance between Denver International Airport and Denver itself with Michael Sauers. ( I miss Colorado, I really do. Crazy airport arrangements and all. )

Winning a Starbucks gift card from Steven Cohen in the What’s Hot & New with Social Software session for knowing about Digg. Going out for Sushi with the gang after the conference had wrapped up. This was kind of a milestone for this picky eater: I ate raw fish, and I'm still among the living. Cool.

Listening to Stephen Abram talk politics and libraries at the Crown & Anchor pub. Being part of the group that closed down the Crown & Anchor pub (two nights running). Mom, Dad, you were right, the best discussions at conferences *do* happen in the bar.

Aaand... maybe I should leave it at that.

All in all, a great conference, and I am definitely going back next year. (And as an added bonus, next year the conference ends on Halloween - that should make for an interesting last day.)

Free Time?

Oh, yeah, I've heard about that. That's that thing that happens to other people.... In the week or so since I've been back from Internet Librarian (of which, more shortly), it's come home to me just how much I have to do during the month of November:

  • Finish my part of a group project for my Ethics class (on Intellectual Property) and then glue everybody's contribution into something comprehensible.
  • Do my individual project for my Ethics class (which I'm ashamed to say I haven't really started yet) - I'm hoping this will be a code of ethics for information architects - I really need to e-mail my prof for a topic okay soon....
  • Write three small papers for my management class (including a writeup of Internet Librarian, which I get to do instead of an article survey about facilities management, wahoo!), all of which really need to be turned in by the end of the week.
  • Finish up the group project for my management class - a 30-page strategic planning document for a community college library.
  • Write a critique of two information-related websites (one good, one bad) for my User-Interface and Web Design class (sooo many bad websites, sooo few good ones).
  • Actually keep up with the reading and class participation in all my classes.
  • Prepare a presentation on RSS for the LSO Graduate Student Symposium that's happening in two weeks (oh, and by the way, we had fewer presenters than expected, so instead of sharing the time slot with somebody else, you get the whole 50 minutes). Whee.
  • Help out with the pre-class organization of Yet Another Intro to Library School class (my third so far - at least I know what I gotta do by now). Aaaand, they're actually going to let me teach the intro unit for our online courseware again, so I must not have made too much of a fool of myself the first time around (a minor miracle considering that I had so much other stuff to do, I had no time to prepare and did the intro cold - note to those of you who teach: avoid getting into that situation whenever you can - preparation is a good thing).
  • Finish the paperwork for my spring internship. The internship's mostly lined up - I'll be doing webby things for the Law Library, but there's always the bloody paperwork.
  • Get the application for a travel grant into the Graduate and Professional Student Council - 'cause I'd like some help defraying the cost of attending ALA MidWinter.
  • Making some Christmas presents (of which I can say no more, because the intended recipients are probably reading this).
  • Heaven only knows what else.

The scary thing is, I'm having too much fun to be stressed about anything. And since, for reasons passing understanding, school stuff's pretty much going to be wrapped by the first week in December (something like 2 weeks before the official end of the semester), if I can survive November without going stark raving mad, December should be relaxing.

Only 26 days to go....

IL06: What's a Mashup & Why Would I Want One

I started Tuesday morning at the conference with Cliff Lynch's keynote about Cyberinfrastructure, which I will confess mostly went completely over my head. I took notes, but the talk didn't really make much sense to me at the time (I don't have that deep a background (yet) in the area of electronic scholarly communication - which I think was the general subject of the talk) and my notes make no sense to me at all now. So, I'm going to cruise right into the first major session, which was about mashups. Now, I'm already fairly familiar with the idea of mashups (for folks reading this who don't know what a mashup is, a definition is coming a bit further down), and since I have a programming background, I'm confident that I have the skills to create one, should I ever be inclined. What I don't seem to have these days is a lot of time to keep up with what kinds of mashups are out there, so I thought this talk would give me a good overview of some of the stuff that's out there now (which it did).

Darlene Fichter, Data Library Coordinator, University of Saskatchewan

Darlene Fichter and Richard Hulser What folks think of mashups:

  • They're like the recipes on the back of Jelly Belly jelly beans - somewhat pointless.
  • Stupidest term ever.

But there's a serious side to mashups, too: Enterprise mashups at IBM:

  • Lets employees create applications in 5 minutes via toolkits.
  • Gives people the freedom to innovate - short development time for really small projects and widget-like apps.

The way Darlene sees mashups:

  • today's playground
  • even the trivial stuff shows the potential for other things

Definition of a Mashup

  • A web site or app that uses content from one or more sources to create something new.
  • Content is typically sourced from 3rd party via an Application Programming Interface (API) or an RSS feed.

Mashup Ecosystems

  • Need open data.
    • Not necessarily free data, some can be licensed for a fee.
  • Open set of services.
  • Need a programmatic way to get the data.
  • Need a culture of trust.
  • This is the idea of small pieces loosely joined.

Mashups are building blocks - think about legos - you get a bunch of peices you can assemble into something bigger.

The wild world of mashups (note that I didn't get URLs for everything, but that's what Google is for, folks):

  • Housing maps - find your next apt via google maps & craigslist housingmaps.com
  • Zipcode lookup maps.huge.info/zip.htm
  • Routemap for bookmobile deliveries: library route data and google maps api
  • Daily Mashup: photos links and news: flickr, del.icio.us & furl
  • Newsmap: a nifty visualization of what subjects are being covered where.
  • Earthquake data in realtime via yahoo maps & usgs data
  • Book carousel: Syndetics book covers and a library's top 20
    • Darlene noted that it would be better if it was the last 20 returns, so you could see what was actually available to check out.
  • Crime statistics: chicagocrime.org
  • Placeopedia - google maps and wikipedia
  • Digital life aggregators - there are lots of these, dunno which she showed, and I can't think of any I know of off the top of my head...
  • frappr - the blogging librarians! (which I must add myself to at some point).
  • Liveplasma: looking for relationships in media content (music, movies, etc.)
  • BashR - flickr & wikipedia & del.icio.us
  • Weatherbonk: weather data (from diff sources) & web cams
  • bookburro.org - Firefox browser extension to find books in stores & libraries (some libraries are doing something similar.)
    • I doubt this is the sort of thing Amazon had in mind when they opened up their API - it let's you price compare with competitors.

Facts & Figures

  • 1105 mashups as of Oct 24th (via programmable web)
  • There are about 2.5 new ones per day
  • Maps, photos, and search are big

Typology of the Mashup

  • Presentation mashups (and unfortunately, I don't remember what this means).
  • Make use of client-side data.
  • Have some sort of clientside software.
  • Do it via server-side software.
  • Make use of server-side data

Where do you start?

  • Point, click, cut, paste & publish - there are sites that make building these fairly easy (though I don't remember what any of those sites are, now).
  • Cloning similar source edits - build on what other folks have done already.
  • Just program it - for those with mad skillz.

Your First Mashup

  1. Get an idea
  2. Sign up for a developer token and read the fine print about what you're allowed to do.
  3. Create your first mashup

Commuity Walk is a good place to start - there are lot of cool things you could do with this, and you don't need a lot of technical knowledge to use it.

Technical Issues

  • Tech is still in infancy
  • Tools still fall short of ideal
  • No universal registery for APIs
  • There are scaling and dependency issues
  • How much to invest?
  • Will the data always be free? Will it always be available?
  • Dev is quicker with languages like Ruby (Wahoo! Go Ruby - I so want an excuse to learn Ruby....)

Social Issues

  • Do you have the right to remix? - Intellectual Property issues
  • What's the provenance? - Where'd the data come from, and is that source trustworthy?

Unintended Consequences (both positive and negative)

  • Somebody created a mashup of people who are interested in suspicious books via amazon wishlists and yahoo people.
    • Okay, that's just scary. Really scary.
  • End users can do a lot on their own (whether we want them to or not).
  • Client side scripts to modify pages - this can be both good or bad, depending on what the scripts do.

-----

Paul Miller from Talis then spoke briefly about the Mashing Up the Library Competition

  • First round of prizes have been given out, but the contest is still going on.
  • We're moving in the open data direction, and we want to encourage people to make use of mashups in the library world.
  • Were setting up the innovation directory.

Summer Winner: Google Gadgets - John Blyberg

  • Pulls library info onto the Google personal homepage

Another reminder: Competition has been re-opened, and yes, there are still prizes available (including stuff for little innovations).

Halloween Excitement! Gremlins Have Infested My Server

Well, if you're all reading this, it means that "Adventures in Library School" is once again in the land of the living. Something went wacky with my server today - I don't know when - I noticed it about 18:30MST on the 31st. But since I've been too busy today to check before then, I have no real way of knowing how long it was down. I do find it funny that my site chose today to die, though.... Things that go bump in the night, indeed.

IL06: Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets!

Presented by:

  • Barbara Fullerton, Manager, Librarian Relations, 10-K Wizard
  • Sabrina I. Pacifici, Editor & Publisher of LLRX.com
  • Aaron Schmidt, Thomas Ford Memorial Library & walkingpaper.org

The final session I attended on Monday was all about gadgets. From the really cool, really, useful, may they catch on and get cheaper soon (like the Kurzweil Federation for the Blind Reader), to the totally ridiculous (the Glow in the Duck glowing rubber duckie).

However, since this was one of those sessions where you really had to be there, I'll just leave it at this:

If you ever have the chance to be there for another one of this crew's presentations on gadgets, take it! It's a tremendous amount of fun, and you do learn about some neat stuff amidst all the goofiness.

IL06: Second Life Library 2.0: Going to Where the Users Are

The first of the afternoon sessions I went to was about a library project I've been following from afar for a while: the construction of a virtual library in the online game Second Life. So it was really interesting to hear about the ups and downs of this project first hand. I've also been debating about whether to volunteer for the project, and this presentation decided me, although not, perhaps, in the direction the folks presenting would have liked: I have too much going on in my first life right now to have any to spare for a second one (though this might change once I graduate, we'll see). The presentation started off with showing a brief video tour of the library site (called Info Island) on YouTube. Then Lori Bell gave us an introduction to Second Life and the virtual library.

Regarding Second Life:

  • It's not a game - it's a sandbox.
  • It's growing fast.
  • Major companies are opening businesses there.
  • There's a definite feeling of "you gotta try this!" about the game.
  • It's important for libraries to be there.

When the project started, they wondered if folks wanted a library. They do. Folks are getting tired of the sex and gambling that can be found elsewhere in the game and Info Island is one place they can go to get away from it. They now get 45,000 visitors a day (and they only just officially opened), and they're always in need of more volunteers.

There's lots happening:

  • Writers are hanging out here (and some of them are publishing in-game too).
  • There are all kinds of programming - talks, tours, exhibits.
  • They've got ways to access web resources (and some subscription databases that have donated trial subscriptions).
  • Trying to staff 24/7 (though I got the feeling they aren't there yet).
  • Reference service is available.
  • They have book discussion groups.

They're still experimenting with services and such - so if you've got ideas, come try them.

Info Island is gaining a reputation as a safe and welcoming place to hang out in Second Life.

A bit of history:

  • Started in April 2006
    • Since then they've had two islands donated, and have gotten free trials of lots of library software.
    • Have a grant for HealthInfo Island - to create a virtual library of medical info.
    • They have a branch library in Caledon, an area that's a simulation of the 19th century.
  • They're developing lots of partnerships:
    • Tech Soup
    • ICT library
    • World Bridges
    • New Media Consortium
    • Higher Ed Folks
    • Museums

After Lori's introduction, Michael Sauers brought us back down to earth with a bit of a reality check.

Here's what you're getting into if you decide to volunteer:

  • You need a hot system to make the game work - you really need to at least have recommended hardware specs.
  • Communication is like IMing - so if you can't follow multiple conversations or are a less than stellar typist, you're in trouble.
  • You don't have to spend real money to play, but it helps smooth out the experience.
  • Lag happens: the more people playing, the slower everything runs.
  • Your boss and co-workers probably won't view this as work, even if you're doing the same stuff here that you do at your day job.
  • The grid (what the Second Life gameworld is known as) is addictive - the more fun you have, the more time you want to spend there. It's easy for your Second Life to take over your First Life too.
  • Software updates are required, and there are a lot of them (and you're downloading the whole thing, not a patch).
  • Bugs happen:
    • Gray goo
    • Purchased items dissappearing (this is BAD - money down the drain).
    • Sometimes the game just barfs.
  • So, in some respects, it's kinda sorta beta software (and not Google's idea of beta either).

This part of the presentation, along with some brief experience in the game myself (I still haven't gotten out of the tutorial yet), is what decided me on waiting a bit before jumping in and volunteering. Oh, and they mean what they say about the system specs - I tried it on my old PC and... OUCH. (And I've heard some kinda bad stuff about the reliability of the Mac version .)

Tom Peters finished off the presentation with a rundown of what they've learned and where they're going: What they're learning:

  • How to build the infrastructure.
  • Staffing, and how to handle it.
  • Governance & management (no, even in the virtual world, you still can't get away from management issues).
  • Collections:
    • Do we need one, and if so, what do we collect?
    • Should we be the archivists for Second Life?
  • Catalogs
  • Reference Services
    • What does reference servce mean in Second Life?
  • Exhibits
    • These are popular.
  • Events are big draws - and there's a lot more to do here.
  • Privacy, safety, and security issues abound.
    • There have been problems in this area.
    • How do you deal with backups?
    • They've had virtual gang warfare invade Info Island (um, that's bad).
    • In the end, the only things you don't have to worry about are vermin and restrooms.
  • Has potential to be a great tool for professional development, so how to leverage this.

Fundamental questions:

  • What services do we provide?
  • What links to Real Life do we provide?
  • What buildings do we build, and where do we build them?
    • For instance, people like to be outdoors in the game - how to make use of this?

Challenges

  • Self-inflicted burnout (Michael Sauers mentioned this, too).
  • External funding (though they've had some breaks here, thanks to Talis).
  • Implementing library 2.0 concepts in Second Life.
  • Dealing with the rapidly evolving environment and people's reactions to it.

Predictions:

  • Library services to the avatars in Second Life will thrive.
  • In game architecture will evolve away from real world architecture.
  • Libraries, museums, and theme parks are merging in the online world.
  • Events and exhibits will reign over collections.
  • Immersive, experiential learning experiences will be important (walk in books and more)!

IL06: Delighting Public Library Users: Personas in Action

The second session on Monday in the public library track was given by Stephen Abram VP of innovation at SirsiDynix (for any family members still braving the library geekery, they're a major vendor of library computer systems), who talked about the idea of personas as a means of user-centered planning. Fun with Typos The presentation kicked off with mention of signage goof up outside the room, the session was listed as "Delighting PL Users: Personals in Action" instead of "Delighting PL Users: Personas in Action".

Abram joked that a talk about library personals would be more interesting - library dating! (but... on to the talk...)

Remember, people aren't coming into the library for books, no matter how much we want this to be the case. They're coming to use the computers or to hang out or some such.

Also remember, when you're adding a room to your house, you think about how you want the space to feel first, not how they're gonna build it. So why do we send out brochures talking about how to do stuff at the library rather than talking about the experience of visiting the library.

Context is king, not content! It's not about the library, it's about:

  • learning
  • research
  • community & neighborhoods (physical & virtual)
  • workplace (people want to be able to control their environment)
  • entertainment & culture

Remember, libraries were free before anybody knew about the internet, so it's not just about free services. How do you find their contexts?

  • Usability Tests (but this isn't the whole picture)
    • We do them, but do we follow them? (Or, why do we keep recommending bestsellers when the waiting lists are so long? How 'bout recommending similar.)
  • Personas are better (and more about these shortly)

Remember, kids today (the millennials) really *are* a different generation, are you planning for this?

  • Their brains are wired differently, and they're smarter than the boomers, on average (by 20 pts).
  • They have different behaviors.
  • They're format agnostic - they just want the info, they don't care how it's delivered.
  • They're very direct & confident (they actually expect service from folks in the service industry, like us, so they aren't deferential).
  • They demand higher info density (those differently wired brains can handle it).
  • They have different eye movement patterns than the boomers.

Lots of folks (esp. kids) don't read "below the fold" (that is, they don't scroll past the first screen) - so why are we putting content there?

Reading is only one way to engage with info (and for the milennials it's one of the lowest level of engagement).

Reading's only one component of learning - remember Bloom's taxonomy!

There's also been some recent research showing that personality influences searching (a recently published dissertation, which I should look up at some point).

  • Extroverts like informal and thought provoking material.
  • Introverts like other stuff.
  • And so on...

Can you tune your searches to accommodate this? How can you tune your searches to accommodate this?

So, SirsiDynix is starting to gather the sort of data needed to build a better model of how people are using the library (and the library's computer systems) by creating personas: hypothetical representations of different types of library users. They're hoping to learn more about user's expectations.

Interesting side note: the statistics we keep - they don't really tell us if we're helping the users acheive their goals. The approach for creating the personas:

  • Use narrative capture: get people to tell stories.
  • Capture characters, issues, themes, problems, behaviors.
  • Don't do the research yourself, the folks you have relationships with won't tell you the whole truth.
    • The first story they'll tell is what they think you want to hear.
    • By the third or fourth story, you're getting to what they really want and what they're really doing.
  • Don't make them write stuff, too much self-editing - just let them talk.
    • Have them describe a day they came to the library.
    • Have them describe a day when they wanted to come to the library but couldn't.
    • And so on...

What they've discovered about what users want: they want interaction.

What they've discovered about what users value:

  • Community
  • Learning
  • Quality

In the end, they created 7 personas that define the main public library user population.

  • Discovery Dan (main population)
    • Casual user, mostly interested in the entertaining stuff.
  • Rick Researcher
    • Folks engaged in more in-depth research, like the genealogists.
  • Tasha Learner (adult learner)
  • Senior Sally
    • They're no longer just the stereotypical seniors with poor computer skills looking for help, they're affluent, sophisticated, and increasingly computer savvy.
  • Mommy Marcie (parent of young kids)
    • Frequently these folks are interested in pursuing their own lifelong learning goals, in addition to helping out their kids.
  • Jennifer, parent of teens
  • High School Hillery

We ran out of time before all these personas could be covered, but the basic idea is that the personas are fairly detailed descriptions that can help the folks designing library services better understand the needs of their users. (Apparently, this idea is used fairly frequently in the software industry.) Still, it's an interesting idea, and it seems like personas would be helpful in making user expectations seem more concrete to those of us who are developing library services.

Beep Beep

Okay, this is just too cool. On my way home for the grocery store this afternoon I got to see (for only the second time since I moved to Tucson) a roadrunner crossing the road. Man, those little critters are fast.

Alas, there was no coyote tearing after it, but still way cool.

IL06: Public Library 2.0 - Emerging Technologies & Changing Roles: Helene Blowers

The second speaker for the public library 2.0 presentation was Helene Blowers from the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. She talked about the program she set up to encourage library staff to learn about new technology, and this has got to be one of the coolest training programs I've run across in a while (although considering one of the points make in the talk, I hesitate to call it training).Here are my notes. Helene Blowers Why learning 2.0?

  • Because life comes at you fast.
  • Technology is changing to rapidly for a traditional technology training program to be workable.

Remember: Training does NOT equal Learning!

So, Learning 2.0 is different from a standard training program.

The Learning 2.0 program in a a nutshell:

  • Staff take responsibility for their own learning (it's voluntary and self-paced).
  • It introduces folks to new tech by having them use it.
  • Reward staff for taking initiative (everybody who completes the course gets an mp3 player, and there's a drawing at the end of the program for a new laptop).
  • It's like a summer reading for your staff.
  • It's not training, it's learning!

Technology covered in learning 2.0:

  • blogging
  • photos and images
  • rss and newsreaders
  • tagging and folksonomies
  • wikis
  • online apps and tools
  • podcasts, videos, and downloadable audio

The really cool thing is that it's possible to do this entirely with free apps and sites that are hosted by somebody else, so it's not a huge drain on resources. There are now over 300 people at PLCMC participating in the program and about 200 folks will complete it by the October 31st (when the program officially ends).

Take away messages from learning 2.0:

  • Lifelong learning applies to staff too - here's a way to help make that happen.
  • Remember to have fun, the learning will happen along the way.

Other libraries are now starting similar initiatives, the program's been released under a Creative Commons license, so it's available for other folks to use and build on. The presentation will be up on the web soon, and if I remember, I'll link to it once it's up. You can check out the blog for the program by going to http://plcmclearning.blogspot.com

So. Very. Tired.

After an amazing 3 days at internet librarian, I've managed to drag myself (and my luggage) back to Tucson in one piece. A core dump of conference posts is coming tomorrow - they need a bit of cleanup so my notes don't sound like they were written by concussed toddler with no typing skills (not that folks wouldn't find that amusing, too). But right now I must sleep.

IL06: Public Library 2.0 - Emerging Technologies & Changing Roles: Michael Stephens

I spent the morning sitting in on the Public Libraries track, mostly because they had speakers I wanted to hear (I read way too many library blogs, and now I get to see some of these folks talk in person - very cool). Here's the first of several sets of my (somewhat disjointed) notes. Michael Stephens Michael Stephens was up first, with a very brief into to what's been going on in public libraries lately.

This time last year, the term Library 2.0 was new. Now Library 2.0 stuff is turning up a lot and libraries are jumping into the realm of social software.

Mentioned the Newsweek Cover Story: Putting the "We" in Web.

Mentioned the IL2006 tag on Flickr to find conference photos.

Says that a lot of us are living on the web now.

The Web 2.0 idea has spawned a lot of other 2.0s, most notably (for us) Librarian 2.0 and Library 2.0

The point of library 2.0? It's all about the user*

*(or customer, patron, client, or what have you ::wave to my IRLS608 class::)

User-Centered Planning

  • Keep the people involved: this is key.
  • Users need to be at the center of what we're doing.

People's perceptions: Libraries = books. We need to get the word out that libraries are a lot more than that now.

Remember, tech is a tool, not an end in and of itself.

Advice for those attending the conference: be a sponge - take in as much as you can.

6 ways to help make library 2.0 work:

  1. expand the brand
  2. marketing is important and we need to do it better
  3. we need to be telling stories
  4. break down barriers to the users
  5. remember the power of the blogosphere
  6. think about the user when setting or changing policy

Other things to remember:

Adopt a 2.0 philosophy

  • People are advertising for librarian 2.0 positions, so this can be to your advantage.

What is Library 2.0 about? It's about experience and play, so here are some ways to play.

  • create a virtual tour on Flickr
  • make a gadget lab (give folks hands on experiences - staff and customers)
  • learn from the gamers (its okay to make mistakes)
  • second life rocks!

Create a Culture of Trust

  • let people comment in the catalog
  • trust users *and* staff

5 Phrases Michael Never Wants to Hear Again

  • we've always done it this way
  • he/she is a roadblock to anything new
  • the it department won't let us
  • I don't have time (see David King: making time for web 2.0)
  • our director doesn't like technology

Plan, Dream, & Innovate

Never Stop Learning

If you want to read more about Library 2.0, check out the Squidoo Lens that Micheal Stephens and Jenny Levine put together about it.

Greetings from Monterey!

Hi all! I'm here for Internet Librarian, and enjoying myself immensely.

Oh, and remember how I said I wasn't going to try to blog professional development stuff because it takes me too long to write things up?

Well, I lied, at least in one case.

I forgot my paper notebook and I'm taking notes on my computer, so I've got (nearly) instant blog posts at my fingertips. I'm currently running about a day behind due to some troubles finding exactly which of the many WiFi access points in the conference center was the free one, but I'll be catching up over the course of the next couple of days.

Seminar Retrospective - Friday, 26 May - Wrapping Things Up

Well, I have come at last to the end of the seminar. Friday was the last day of schedule activites, and a pretty lightly scheduled day at that. In fact, there was only one real content-related session: a talk about skills for 21st century librarianship. And actually, I have to say that particular talk was slightly disappointing. Mostly because it seemed like a rehash of a lot of the stuff that had been covered in previous session, but also, I think, because if you've spent any time keeping up with some of the more informal discussions that have been running around the world of library bloggers you've already heard a much better take on what you'll need to know. The other big event was our final dinner in the evening, which I expect was like a lot of similar events. We took lots of pictures (well, everyone except me - I don't actually like taking pictures of people all that much - I always feel like I'm imposing), we spent some time talking about what we learned, we spent a lot more time talking about things like our plans for the summer and television (turns out I wasn't the only seminar attendee who has a fondness for British TV), we all drank more wine than we probably should have... I seem to recall a fairly badly sung chorus of "In My Life" at one point... But, enough about that....

Instead of discussing the last day in any great detail, I'd rather summerize the whole experience. The short summary is that it was wonderful.

The long answer is that this was an incredible chance to take a peep inside the workings of a major library that's undergoing a some serious changes. Although this was billed as a primarily academic seminar, it didn't really feel like a class. The folks who came and presented for us didn't really take the role of teachers as much as collegues sharing their experiences, most of the presentations were something along the lines of, this is how our world is changing is this is how we're dealing with it, we hope it can help you. Now, I realize that in grad school there is more of a collegues sharing experience than in undergrad classes, but this was different still - I almost wonder if this was more the sort of thing that happens at professional conferences (I've not yet attended one, so I can't comment). Anyway, that was very cool. It was also great to meet folks from other schools that I might not have gotten a chance to otherwise. After many years of reading British fiction, I finally got to see England with my own personal eyes, and that was very cool. I got to hang out in what has to be one of the original "college towns," and since I think college towns are some of the coolest places on Earth, I really enjoyed that. In other words, I had a great time, and I wish ya'll could have come with me.

I would very much like to go back sometime and do it again.

So, I've now come to the end of my narrative. I didn't expect it would take me quite this long to write (over 4 months), but to those of you who have hung on, thanks for your patience. I think this proves that I probably do *not* have a future in journalism - reporting is HARD, dammit, and I blew just about every deadline I tried to set. But it was still fun. I now plan to shift gears slightly and just ramble about, as it says in my tagline: library school, books, technology, and other things.

Watch this space for more.

Seminar Retrospective - Thursday, 25 May - The Geeky Side of Libraries

The second Thursday of the seminar was probably my favorite, content-wise. Our two morning presenters spoke of much that is geeky in the library world and in the afternoon we got a tour of the Oxford University Press Museum (representing an entirely other kind of geekiness, but still very cool). Before I talk about the fun that was Thursday, though, I need to go back and mention one other thing that happened on Wednesday. On Wednesday evening, Bill Clennell (who I mentioned quite some time ago - he's been involved with UNC Oxford program for many years) and Jane Bale (Bill's sweetie) invited the entire seminar group to dinner at their house in suburban Oxford. Bill and Jane wanted to do this to give us a chance to get away from the school for an evening and to socialize and to see a little bit more of the area. A splended time was had by all (even my cold had finally cleared up), and it was great to have a dinner that really felt like it was a meal shared with friends (rather than just classmates). Ah, but onto Thursday....

The New Computer System

The morning's first presentation proved that when Oxford University Libraries decided to reorganize, they decided to go BIG. In addition to the mergers and consoloditations of departments and collections, they're also rolling out a new computer system (and actually, by now, I think it's supposed to be rolled out) to manage library operations (which if my understanding was correct was likely to cover everything from the online catalog to inventory and ordering to managing some of their digital holdings). Erin Raynor, Library Management System Project Manager explained some of what was involved in managing the project. And this was a challening project. The Oxford University Library system is extremely complex (all those libraries, the fact that a large percentage of the collection is in closed stacks, etc.), and the hope what that the new system would not only be able to fill current needs but would also be scalable to future needs. A tall order.

The project team eventually compiled a 135 page specification, and got a grand total of 7 responses from vendors. 3 of the vendors made the short list and their offerings went through an intensive evaluation process before the contract was awarded. Then of course there's the building of the system (with many custom features), training staff, testing, and roll out. All of this on a timeline that was really too tight to follow (because this is the way it always seems to work). They were still in the testing/training phase in May, but were confident that the system would be up and running (at least in part) on schedule.

This presentation did point out some good points to keep in mind for projects like these, though. The clearer your idea is of what you want, the better off you'll be (hence the 135 page spec.). Take great care when coosing your vendor (make sure they can do what you need and that they're willing to work with you). Make sure that you have a contingency plan in place in case things go wrong (they weren't going to turn off the old library system until they were absolutely certain the new one was working).

A very interesting presentation, in all - and I hope the implementation went as smoothly as the run-up sounded like it went.

Ah, and I've just discovered that it looks like the roll out of the new system has been (at least partially) delayed until December. Which maybe proves another point about good project management - don't go live until you're ready, even if it puts you behind schedule.

Oxford Digital Libraries

The second presentation of the morning was from Michael Popham, Head of the Oxford Digital Library, about, appropriately enough, Oxford's Digital Library (that is, their efforts to digitize library holdings and make them available online). I was actually kind of surprised to learn that they've had digital holdings of one sort or another dating back to the 60s (text archives, I believe, ala Project Gutenberg). They really got going in 2000 though when they got a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and have sense worked on several projects that range from early manuscripts to printed ephemeria.

However, in a library with over 11 million items, you can't digitize everything (well, at least, not all at once), so one of the biggest challenges in managing these projects is simply in choosing what to digitize. Some material isn't really suitable for digitization (at the moment), some of it is still under copyright, which leads to additional challenges. There is also the little matter of the fact that digital libraries are still new and so they're still working the technology out (both in terms of things like scanning and in terms of organizing the collection and making it accessible). The library is hoping to be able to follow a capture once - reuse many times method by providing the best resources they can for selection, capture and management, by providing very good descriptions of the items in the collection (the technical term here is metadata), and by using open standards so that the data will remain usable.

Then, of course, there's the big news on the digitization front at Oxford: their participation in the Google Book Project. And we got to hear a mini presentation about this too. Unfortunately, I can't talk about that. No, really. There's a note on the handout I got that says that rules of commercial confidentially apply, and I'm gonna respect that and play it safe and *not* go into detail about this. I'll just say this - from the sound of it, the folks in Oxford are proving quite nicely that they can work with a big company like Google without compromising their principles and create a resource that will be valuable for all parties concerned. If ya'll want to learn more, check out these sites:

Oxford University Press Museum Tour

Thursday afternoon was taken up by a tour of the Oxford University Press Museum, conducted by Martin Maw, Archivist for Oxford University Press. The museum itself is small - just one room, really, but the tour was excellent. We got a crash course in the history of printing in Oxford. There was quite a lot to say about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary (an effort that took... rats, now I don't remember exactly how long, but I think something along the lines of 80 years to get the first edition completed) - which is surely one of the great feats of humanity (and if you don't believe that, go read "The Meaning of Everything" by Simon Winchester, a book about which I must say more at some point). Very interesting stuff. The museum is open by appointment only (although according to my Lonely Planet Guide, it's free), but if you find yourself in Oxford with an hour or two to spare, I'd say it's worth making the appointment.

All in all, an excellent day.

Seminar Retrospective - Wednesday, 24 May - Medical and School Libraries

Believe it or not, I haven't forgotten about the seminar retrospective, nor have I abandoned the blog here. In fact, I have a very great motivation to finish the seminar retrospective posts this week - I'm giving a short presentation on the seminar for a talk our Library Student Organization is hosting on Saturday, and I want to be able to say, "and if you want more detail, go read my blog." What's been holding me up has been the fact that Wednesday marked the day that I remember the least well. My head cold finally cleared up in the afternoon, but not before inflicting upon me its worst in the morning. As a result, I was fuzzy in the morning due to feeling bad (and to the cough medication) and I was fuzzy in the afternoon due to relief at no longer feeling ill. (And, I must confess that medical and school (as in K-12 - the stuff before college school) libraries are two areas of librarianship that I really have no interest in, so my mind tended to wander a bit anyway.) However, here's what I remember:

Medical (or Health Care) Libraries This was a joint presentation given by Donald McKay (Head of Health Care Libraries, Oxford University Library Services) and Jo Hunter (Research and Effectiveness Librarian, Health Care Libraries, Oxford University Library Services). It sounds like the heath care libraries in Oxford face some interesting challenges that the average medical school library may not. For one thing, they're used by local hospitals and practices as well as the university (making them something of a hybrid between an academic medical library and a more general hospital library - though, for all I know, this may be the way libraries in teaching hospitals are set up - this really isn't my area of expertise). For another, they have to deal with the British National Health Service, a bureaucracy for which terms like "Byzantine" and "ponderous" seem to be made for. Oh, and Evidence-Based Medicine is big in England (though I think that's true in the states, too).

Still, it sounds like they're doing a lot of work to bring the health care library services to where they're needed (electronic resources are a big help here) and to make sure that medical research is easy to come by in a lot of clinical settings in addition to in the libraries.

School Libraries

The school libraries presentation was given by Kate Potter, Senior Librarian at St. Clare's International School (a private school in Oxford that participates in the International Baccaloriate - and yes, I know I probably spelled that wrong - program). And here, alas, my memory really fails me (and unlike with the medical libraries presentation I have no copy of PowerPoint slides to use as notes). Two things, and two things only stick out in my mind:

The first was the idea that getting kids involved in choosing the books for the library is a good thing. (Which seems like a no-brainer to me, but apparrantly it isn't done as frequently as it could be.)

The second was a little thinking exercise our presenter had us do at the beginning of the presentation. There is on BBC Radio 4 a program called Desert Island Disks, where famous people come on and tell the world what 5 music CDs they'd want to take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. Well, since this was seminar for librarians we did a variation on the theme and were asked what book we'd want with us if we were stranded on a desert island, but with a twist. We were to mention the book we would have picked when we were kids.

And you want to know the scary thing? For me, its the same book: "The Hobbit" It's been my favorite since I was six (or so) and it still is. I've read it so many times I have fairly large parts of it memorized (don't worry, I won't inflict any upon you), and yet every time I read it I manage to find something new in it. (Decide for yourself what this says about my taste in literature, but that's my choice and I'm sticking to it.)

And so, I'd like to end this entry by posing that same question to you. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book with you, what would you choose (and what would you have chosen when you were a kid)? You can comment by clicking on the title of this entry and then scrolling down to the comment form at the bottom of the page. And no fair saying the book you'd choose is "How to Escape Being Stranded on a Desert Island," although "Robinson Crusoe" would be reasonable....

School Daze

Ah, it's that time of year again. The time of year that most folks in academia regard as the real new year's - the beginning of the school year. And quite an interesting start it's been for me. I managed to get through the first week of school with no problems at all, even though I was about 900 miles away from campus (though I'm home now). No, I haven't invented my own version of Star Trek's transporter (that's still just a wish) - all my classes are online this semester, so I didn't have to be physically on campus for the beginning of classes. So, I took advantage of the situation and extended a visit to Colorado (wonderful, cool, mountainous, Colorado).

Up until now, I have to say I've been fairly dissappointed in my online classroom experience - in large part because the software my university uses is... not the greatest. However, I'll admit that I now see one really big advantage (provided all your classes are online): you aren't chained to campus during the school year.

I don't really think I appreciated just how nice a thing that was until now. I managed to extend a visit to my family and still not miss out on the beginning of the school year. I'll be able to travel to professional conferences and not entirely miss class, if I wish (and librarians put a lot of stock in professional development, so this is a good thing). If my budget permits and I get sick of the heat of Tucson, I can escape to cooler Flagstaff for a few days without too many ill effects. That flexibility is nice.

But of course, it's still the beginning of the semester, no matter where I am when it starts. There's a lot of reading to do - almost more than I can keep up with (though I bring this upon myself, the class I'm most interested in is, of course, the one that has the most optional reading, and I want to try to read all of it - I just have to remind myself that I don't necessarily have to read it all right now). There's me wondering how on Earth I'm going to have time to complete all of my assignments, and how I'm going to survive the fact that all of my classes have group projects associated with them (when most of my experiences with group school projects have been... well, let's just leave it at saying that most of them haven't gone well at all).

Still, even though I'm in a bit of a daze, I'm still happy to be starting a new semester. I like school, all of my classes are interesting so far, and after a somewhat rocky first year, I think I'm finally getting the hang of grad school.

Of course, since this is a Master's program, I've only got one more year....

Seminar Retrospective - Tuesday, 23 May - Collection Management & Library Tours

Tuesday saw two presentations on managing the collections of the libraries of Oxford University in the morning, and tours of 3 college libraries in the afternoon. However, as it also saw my ongoing bout with a head cold, I have to say that the day was a little fuzzier for me than it might have been otherwise. Collection Management

As I mentioned previously, the libraries at Oxford University are consolidating, and one of the trickiest bits of that consolidation is figuring out how move from a system where every library managed their own collections to something more centralized.

Our first presentation of the morning, given by Alice Keller, Head of Collection Management, Oxford University Library Services, was an overview of how Oxford is handling this problem.

The primary sticking point here is how to manage subscriptions to scholarly journals. For the folks reading this who are not currently involved in things academic, journals are the primary publication method for scholarly research. They are very large and necessary chunk of any academic library's collection, and in recent years their prices have been skyrocketing.

So, one of the big tasks in creating a more centralized, co-operative collection management policy for Oxford libraries, is to see just what journals the libraries in the system are subscribed to and to try to reduce the number of duplicate subscriptions as much as possible.

Which is where the second of the morning's presentations came in.

Managing Electronic Resources in a UK Academic Environment

This presentation was given by Jonathan McAslan, Electronic Resources Co-ordinator, Oxford University Library Services

Many of the academic journals libraries subscribe to are available in electronic format (sometimes in several different electronic formats from several different providers). The electronic versions of these journals are, like their print counterparts, also extremely expensive, so it's in a University Library's best interest to do everything in their power to negotiate the best deal they can for access to electronic materials. (And let me tell you folks, having spent the past year using mostly electronic material for my class research projects - electronic blows print out of the water - don't get me wrong, I love books, and I love curling up with a good read, but for academic research, the electronic world offers a lot more flexible search options.)

Because most universities in the UK are public, they've banded together to form some collective bargaining partnerships, the details of which I won't go into. In part because it's the sort of thing that's likely to make the non-library folks reading this whimper (unless they happen to have a particular interest in contract negotiations), and in part because I wasn't feeling well during this presentation and I'm a little fuzzy on the details myself.

However, having heard this, my advice to my fellow librarians is this: Learn How to Negotiate, and be willing to look for other libraries to partner with on big vendor contracts (which probably hold true for vendors beyond those selling library materials).

Tours!

All Souls College: Codrington Library Tuesday afternoon was taken up tours of 3 of the libraries of individual Colleges at Oxford. And English weather running true to form, I seem to recall that it tended to start raining almost as soon as we stepped outside and then stopped almost as soon as we got to where we were going and went inside again. All the libraries we saw were lovely, although as an interesting commentary on how library use is changing in Oxford, I'd say that these libraries are well on their way to becoming museum pieces, rather than libraries proper.

In fact, the library at Merton College may already be there. The collection it contains looked to be pretty small and quite old (lovely for the antiquarian scholar, but not so useful for, say, the average chemistry major). It's also still very much an old-fashioned library - dark, close, and without many places to sit and study.

The library at All Souls college is striding the line between museum and library, I think, and since we didn't see all of the library at Christ Church, only one of the older more museum-y rooms, I can't comment on where it stands as a whole. I also have to say that my impressions of these libraries may be entirely off base, I was still battling with my head cold and was rather... medicated... during those tours.

Christ Church College: Dining Hall One other cool thing about the tours though.... When we toured Christ Church, we got to see the dining hall there - the dining hall that was the visual inspiration for the Hogwart's dining hall in the Harry Potter movies (and there's some confusion about whether the scenes in the movies were actually filmed there or not - the hall in the film is a bit larger than the Christ Church dining hall and I've heard both that they filmed at Christ Church and then digitally enlarged the room, and that they just based the set on the Christ Church hall, but I don't know which they actually did, or if it was a combination of both).

Tucson Rivers: Easy Come, Easy Go

The monsoon returned to southern Arizona with a vengance this weekend. I drove to school for the last day of the intro class I was assistant for on Saturday in a steady downpour and I encountered a couple of minor flooding issues in the streets on the way there. Many, many University buildings had flooded basements (although not, thankfully, the library's below-ground Information Commons computer area). Rain continued on and off on Sunday and Monday as well, leading to some of Tucson's normally bone dry rivers overflowing their banks and flooding local streets and buildings. By way of a visual demonstration, here's a picture of the Rillito River on Monday, July 31st:

Rillito River 07-31-2006

This is a riverbed that is usually completely dry (this is the first time I've ever seen water in the riverbed), and in this picture it is running at nearly full capacity. It actually overtopped its banks a bit further upriver, closing a couple of roads due to flooding on Monday.However, rivers in this part of the world are somewhat ephemeral things. Here's a pic of the same river taken barely more than 24 hours later:

Rillito River 08-01-2006

Quite a difference, ain't it? (Yes, that's the same view, and yes, that's the same bridge in both pics).

Unless there's another deluge this weekend, I expect the river will be dry again by Monday....

Seminar Retrospective - Monday, 22 May - Ideas Stores & Special Collections

The seminar's weekend was unscheduled free time for us participants. I know several people went away for the weekend, but I stayed in Oxford. I spent Saturday wandering around (many of my photos of Oxford were taken that Saturday), and I spent Sunday nursing a head cold (which you probably don't want to hear about, so I'll say no more about the weekend). Monday was a return to the more regular seminar schedule of presentations and tours, and after a quick debrief about what did and didn't go well the first week we were off and running.

Ideas Stores - The New Face of the Public Library

The first presentation was by Heather Wills, Ideas Store Programme Director, London Borough of Tower Hamlets who explained the concept of the Ideas Store, which some public libraries in Britain are converting to in the hopes of increasing library use.

The Ideas Store concept is the result of an intensive market research effort to discover what kind of atmosphere and services library patrons (and perhaps more importantly, people who weren't library patrons) wanted to see libraries offer. The result was to create storefront-style libraries in major shopping areas (because that's where people congregate) and to offer computers for patron use and expansive educational opportunities (for all ages - kids to adults). These libraries still have traditional collections and services, of course, but they're just as focused on being centers for community gatherings as on being lending libraries.

The concept has been particularly sucessful in the area of East London that Heather Wills oversees. This is an area with a large immigrant population that did not make much use of the old style libraries. However, as libraries are being reformed to the Ideas Store concept, library visits have increased dramatically, proving that understanding and providing for the needs of the community is a good thing. If you'd like to know more about Ideas Stores, head to the following website: http://www.ideastore.co.uk/

I think what I found most interesting about this presentation though, was how much Heather Wills reminded me of Tucson's own Public Library director, Nancy Ledeboer. Both are some of the best public speakers I've encountered, and both are passionate about improving library services so that libraries better serve the communities they're based in. I think more libraries need folks like this in charge (not just public libraries, either, all libraries).

Rare Books from the Bodleian's Collections

Monday afternoon's presentations focused on various special collections that the Bodleian possesses. It started out with 3 people (Alan Coates from the Rare Book Section, David Helliwell from Oriental Collections, & Martin Kauffmann from the Western Manuscripts Section) from the Bodleian showing off some of the items in the particular special collection they work with. The rare books and the western manuscripts section folks both brought manuscripts (ie from the days before printing) of religious texts, although I can't tell you exactly what because I didn't write it down. These were nifty, although since my knowledge of such things is miniscule, I'm not sure I was in the best of positions to appreciate what I was seeing. The item from the oriental collection was a Chinese book made using the Chinese printing technique. This was really nifty - and I know enough about Chinese printing that I could appreciate what I was looking at.

Next we split off into seperate groups to get a tour of some of the other special collections areas of the library (well, to some extent, one of the tours was of technical services, which wasn't exactly a special collection, but I didn't go on that tour). The tour I chose was of the John Johnson collection of printed ephemeria. John Johnson was printer to the university and collected a great deal of printed material (both his and other's, if I'm remembering correctly). The collection itself is quite a bit of a mish-mash - it contains things like playbills, resturaunt menus, advertising broadsides, leaflets, and so on. The tour was conducted by Julie Anne Lambert and we got to see quite an array of items from the collection. However, my memory of specifics is a little fuzzy - I was still in the midst of my head cold at the time, and by mid-afternoon my energy level was seriously waning.

One other cool thing about the collection though - they're in the process of digitizing part of it (it's large and their budget is small, so I'm not sure they'll manage to digitize the whole thing for awhile). Anybody who's interested in seeing what they've got so far can point their browser to http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/johnson/