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Horse-drawn Bookmobile? July 29, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Of Interest.
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Check out this image of what may be the first Bookmobile in the United States. Made in 1905 for the Washington County Library in Maryland, it was only around for 5 years before it was tragically, hit and destroyed by a train! Two years later it was finally replaced, but by a motorized version.

via Neatorama.

In Other iPad News (briefly): Get Thee to a Library! April 7, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Just stumbled across this New York Times “Op-Chart” entitled, “How Green is My iPad?,” comparing the environmental impact of e-readers with actual books. It’s interesting enough to browse but what I really wanted to post was the article’s pithy last line which states, “All in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library.”

Ray Bradbury on Libraries March 15, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in education.
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Ray Bradbury on Libraries (quoted in NY times last June):

Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.

Thanks KtotheY616!

What Digital Natives Really Want March 2, 2010

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Libraries are always trying to meet the needs of their patrons, but sometimes we just don’t quite get it. Sometimes we try surveys, or comment cards, but these measures can’t quite capture what it is our patrons want now. Luckily, digital native Abby breaks in down in this adorable video from Australia.

The Myopia of Techy Librarians February 18, 2010

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Today I (virtually) attended the second Handheld Librarian Conference. I had the opportunity of watching three sessions:

1. “This is Now: The Mobile Library” by Joe Murphy from New Haven, CT.

2. “Developing Library Websites Optimized for Mobile Devices” by Brendan Ryan of Providence College.

3. “Mobile Trends and Social Reference” by Alison Miller a Doctorate student of Professional Studies in Information Management at Syracuse University, School of Information Studies.

Overall, the conference did exactly as advertised–the sessions explained the current trends in mobile technologies and how to apply them to library services. The second session, “Developing Library Websites Optimized for Mobile Devices”, was the most straightforward, giving detailed instructions on how to build a mobile web site, including lists of resources and web sites, barriers, challenges, lessons learned, examples, etc. The other two were highly informative as well but I have a problem with this subject matter that I think needs to be discussed in greater detail.

From Toban Black's Flickr stream

My first problem with libraries embracing social media is Twitter. I love Twitter; I use it for this blog and also have my own personal account. But report after report says that young people don’t use Twitter. As an academic librarian, Twitter is not going to do much for my patrons. Is it going to do anything for my fellow librarians? Joe Murphy suggested we use it to facilitate committee chatter. I heartily agree with Joe that, harnessed correctly, Twitter can boost professional development and sharing. But the learning curve is extreme, especially for those not born into the digital revolution. I can’t blame Joe for his enthusiasm over augmented reality, QR codes, and location-based gaming because I think they’re great as well, but I do blame him for falling into the trap of “techy librarian myopia.”

Those who are addicted to technology and use it throughout the day, every day, often forget that most of the world does not use technology in the same way. One of the statistics Alison shared was that 63.1% of mobile users sent a text as of December 2009. She, and many others, acted as if this number was astoundingly high. I though it was low. If only 63.1% of mobile users in America have texted, how many have Tweeted? How many have gone on Facebook? How many are going to text a reference question? It’s easy to forget that we, especially as librarians, are not the general public and don’t use technology the same way they do. We are constantly in danger of being too cutting edge. I think this conference teetered on the edge of that precipice. I remember when I first discovered Mashable and threw around Peter Cashmore’s name like he was my BFF. Turns out 95% of my friends still have no idea who he is. Just because we have become a profession of netizens and social media junkies, doesn’t mean our clientele has the same needs as us.

The second problem I had is what the presenters referred (fleetingly) to as the “mobile divide.” For years we have been hearing about the digital divide, and trying to decrease it. That is the library’s job–providing equal access to information and media for everyone in a community. One of the commenters in the chat room mentioned that the mobile divide will be smaller than the digital divide because cell phones are cheaper than computers. This is greatly simplifying a multifaceted problem. Cell phones may be cheaper but smartphones are not that much cheaper than netbooks. And both “divides” are about so much more than owning technology. They are about being raised in a culture that embraces technology, research, and learning. Two people may both have iPhones, but depending on their socioeconomic background, education, and the way they were raised, they may use the iPhones in completely different ways. The challenge for us as librarians is the same–teach people how to find reliable and current information. Mobile technologies do not bridge the divide. Using Twitter, Facebook, various augmented reality apps, Foursquare, QR codes, etc. require learning and support.

My final issue, and one the conference understandably ignored, is cost. The point of the conference was to explore and share technologies, not to discuss whether they were feasible. While Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, and many programs that turn sites into mobile sites are free, the time dedicated to embracing such technologies is not. And time is one of our greatest resources.

I think that it is important that we discuss these trends and I think the presenters did a great job of doing just that. It is my hope that participants will closely examine their user population before jumping into any kind of relationship with these trends. If there is someone techy on staff who can set up a Facebook page in ten minutes and show colleagues how to use it in a 20 minute powerpoint presentation, then go ahead–nothing is lost. But if you have to spend hours upon hours creating a mobile site when half of your patrons don’t even know what an “app” is, then focus on something else, like building your collection. It is and has always been the librarians’ job to meet the needs of their user population.

Text Reference: Boon or Curse? February 3, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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In a few weeks I will be (virtually) attending the Handheld Librarian Online Conference. I am particularly excited about Alison Miller’s keynote talk entitled, “Mobile Trends and Social Reference.” What most interested me about Miller was the fact that she makes a living working from home–both for the Internet Public Library, and by “responding to questions from a variety of Mobile services, including My Info Quest, Aardvark, Mosio and kgb” (handheldlibrarian.org). This led me to thinking about the changing face of reference and how many libraries are adopting text messaging as the newest form of reference. In fact, the New York Public Library announced yesterday, via Twitter, that they would be accepting text message reference questions. The quick blurb on their web site does not say whether the service is limited to those holding New York Public Library cards. One might wonder how they would even know if the questions came from card holders, as they do not require a bar code or user name. Perhaps they will look for New York area codes as they extend membership to all New Yorkers.

From Moriza's Flickr stream. Creative Commons licensed.

While I laud the attempts of libraries to remain on the cutting-edge in responding to patrons’ needs, I wonder if library reference will take a back seat to other, more widely used technologies such as Google and Bing apps on smartphones or, as O’Reilly’s Radar Blog believes, social search. Social search is different from search engines in that it queries a group of peers to find information, rather than scan web pages for keywords. (Six and a half in one, a dozen in the other, if you ask me.) One of the best known sites for social searching is Aardvark. (Others include Miller’s employers: kgb, Mosio, etc.) While commenters on the O’Reilly blog disagree that social searching will cause the demise of Google, I found myself wondering if social search was proven to be nearly as fast and more reliable than search engines if it could conquer such a feat. And just what could make social searching fast and reliable? Well, librarians of course! (And free, as well, since public librarians are paid through taxes.)

Text message referencing, as an emerging trend, could either be a boon or a curse to libraries. Clearly, the curse would be if people use social search sites instead of using the library. But it could be a major boon if the library is just as easy to access as these sites, but with more reliable results. Text message referencing once again resurfaces the fears librarians felt with the emergence and fast adoption of the web. While librarians knew their services couldn’t be replaced, they were afraid that their patrons wouldn’t understand why. Thus, we are once again called upon to prove our relevance. [1] We must outreach! Let people know the service is available. And, [2] teach information literacy! Make people understand why text messaging a librarian will get you far more reliable answers than social search!

Stop Freaking Out and Head to the Library! January 20, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Okay, so you’ve probably heard by now that the New York Times is going to start charging for (frequent) access in 2011. Take a deep breath, relax; it’s all going to be okay. You’ve actually been paying for the New York Times this whole time –with your taxes. Almost all public libraries have a subscription to a database that covers the New York Times. And even if they don’t, most local colleges allow people to have a visitor pass or use the databases on campus. And now that we are in the 21st century you don’t even have to get in your car and drive to the library – you can access the newspapers you’ve been paying for this whole time right from your desktop. And if you’re still moping about changes to access, remember that changes like these allow struggling publications to remain in existence. Obviously the Times wouldn’t charge for access if it could afford not to.

New Yorkers – your access is right here.

Day Two at ALA January 17, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in ALA Mid-winter Meeting.
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View of the Exhibition Hall from above

On day two of the American Library Association’s mid-winter meeting we hit the exhibition center around 1 pm. It was far more crowded than the previous evening and people were far more interested in us. We also felt a lot more comfortable stocking up on free books after we realized everything was free, unless marked otherwise. Though I didn’t hand out any resumes, I did meet a few people from my region and made small talk. I also passed on the blog’s business card to a select few.

book vending machine

Kids promoting Literacise (Click on the pic)

My friend and I sat through a few demonstrations (with the promise of possibly winning a kindle at one) that we ended up finding very interesting. The first one was by SirsiDynix on library guides and OPACs (aka Online Public Access Catalog). The product was great, but would be very expensive and was more geared towards public libraries. The second demonstration we went to was by ProQuest-Bowker. We learned about their new OPAC and its use of LibraryThing for Libraries‘ tags and reviews–something we had discussed and “dreamed” of in library school. It was really great to see what is out there, even if our libraries can’t afford all the bells and whistles right now.

Mini-wine tasting! (And yes that's Jaeger in the background.)

Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library

Highlights of the day included meeting and speaking with Leila of the Leila Texts Blog, who works for Penguin Books and was really nice and personable. She even showed us the mis-directed texts she had received that day! My friend and I also took the free shuttle into the heart of Boston and toured the beautiful and historic Boston Public Library. We got back to the convention center just in time to walk over to a cute hidden gem – Lucky’s Lounge, where I met my ALA assigned mentor, a librarian from Clemson University. We had communicated a few times via email, but meeting her in person was better than I could have expected. She was friendly, outgoing, interested, and an all together lovely person. We had a great time!

Boston Public Library

We were pretty burnt out by Sunday morning and decided to head home, very satisfied with what we had taken from the meeting. Overall thoughts: I wish we had done the proper research and found some discussion groups to join. Although we had fun, and some of the products and product demos were interesting we could have learned a lot more (and networked more!) with our peers. Despite this minor setback, we learned what the mid-winter meeting is like, how to navigate it, and what to expect. Overall it was a great experience that I would not hesitate to do again.

The shuttle bus at the Prudential Center

Click here to read about DAY 1!

Move Over Dewey! Here Comes the Library Dogs! January 14, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Ever since I saw a picture of a cute black lab hanging outside of my local public library I became interested in the phenomena of children reading to dogs. (I even looked into getting my two over-excited labs trained for just such a program and if you are interested you should check out therapyanimals.org’s page on Reading Education Assistance Dogs aka READ.) While I excitedly told my friends and family about this great library program and was always greeted with smiles, someone did finally ask “just how does having a dog present help with reading skills?”. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue. Kids love dogs so they might jump at the opportunity to read to them–that was my only response. So it was with great excitement that I read this post by the Book Patrol blog on just such programs.

From Alice Jamieson's Flickr Stream, Creative Commons Licensed

The post entitled, “These Libraries Are Going to the Dogs,” cites empirical evidence that “the program has been so successful in improving reading scores that it has spread nationwide, over 2,300 dog and trainer teams are now helping reluctant readers become book lovers, according to a 2009 ABC News story.”

The reasons are numerous:
1. Children who are embarrassed by their reading skills do not feel embarrassed in front of dogs.
2. “The dogs are patient, nonjudgmental, and can even be trained to be encouraging.”
3. Reading becomes more like a reward or a game than homework.
4. Homeless children, crippled by stress, make time to read to the dogs.
5. Children choose what they want to read rather than be held to specific books.

Read the whole post here!

Library Cats January 9, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Just for Fun.
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You may or may not be aware of the close relationship that public libraries and cats have, although 2008’s bestseller Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World made that quite obvious. Lovemeow.com, a “blog for ultimate cat lovers,” has taken the time to chart the number of library cats worldwide and even included some cute-cuddly photos for your enjoyment. Check out the whole post here.