Friday, November 9, 2007

Thing 10

Having looked at the library websites in the "public libraries hall of fame," it's pretty clear to me that they've probably entered themselves to the list (which, understanding how wikis work, is entirely plausible). In library school, my first assignment in my very first class was designing a website. In the process, we evaluated the sites designed by others in the class and other library websites in general. Some of the websites in this "hall of fame" list did not strike me as very impressive - many have home pages (and subsequent pages) that are so "busy" and "flashy" (blinking images, lots of movement) that, while attention-getting, they are more distracting than helpful. The more classy sites are straightforward, with clearly marked navigational features, and less of the glitz and glamour - but are still colorful, attractive, etc. I think our website falls under this category and can compete with the best of them. Beyond the look, our site is packed with resources! Unfortunately, although these are well-categorized and organized, there is so much here that sometimes I have difficulty remembering where to find something I know I've used before! This makes me wonder if patrons are getting the most out the resources we provide, or if too much useful information is buried, especially because it seems to me (and this is simply my personal impression) that the majority of people using online resources are very lazy in their searching techiniques and never get beyond the most basic keyword search in Google. Not a reason to dumb down our site or our catalog, but an incentive to provide instruction in finding information more effectively. In any case, I do think our virtual presence is impressive. (A question: do we know if it has had a measureable impact on gate count and in-house use of the library, as one might expect it to?)
Finally, to get to the assignment for Thing 10. I checked out and downloaded the book Shadow Catcher by Michael White to my computer. I have to say that I will probably never read an entire book on a full-size computer screen, but, as with Google Books full text editions, it's great to be able to look into a book without having the physical copy in hand. If I had a portable device, however, I think I would actually be likely to read a book on it. And, as a great fan of audiobooks, I can see myself -in the future - investing in an MP3 player to take advantage of the downloadable audiobooks we offer. I was surprised at how many e-audiobook titles were currently checked out when browsing the list! I will say that I found it difficult to browse the consortium list; as this expands I hope it can more closely replicate the search features of the library catalog, at least in allowing subject/genre searches beyond the very general categories now employed.

Thing 9

As instructed, I tried out several Google products - some for the first time, others that I've used before. My favorite is Google Earth, which I've been using for several months in conjunction with looking at realty property listings. I find it absolutely amazing, although the images are a few years old. I have also used Google Books quite a bit, appreciating the easy access to full text versions of literary classics, the ability to searching within the text for a particular passage, and the direct link to WorldCat. Although the directive was to check out the "Communicate, show & share" category, those tools seemed pretty much in line with what we've been doing in the 10 things - gmail, blogging, etc. I then proceeded to use GoogleDocs which I found very intuitive and straightforward, much more so than Word. The most obvious advantage over Word is the ability to share documents, allowing for collaboration (as demonstated in the Common Craft video clip) and to publish directly to the Internet. I was previously unaware of the features of GoogleDocs and am most impressed with its potential.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thing 8

Unlike many of the previous "10 things" encountered so far, I am actually familiar with wikis or, at least, with Wikipedia. I have found it useful numerous times, although I have never aimed for Wikipedia in seeking information - only gone to it after resorting to a random Google search that has led me to a specific Wikipedia article. I have found it to be a decent source for quick answers on often obscure topics. For example, several times I have found information there on Japanese anime shows - such as initial broadcast dates - that has been useful in cataloging dvds. However, even after reading about the administrative oversight at Wikipedia, it almost goes without saying that I would not consider it a legitimate reference source if, say, I was doing serious research or writing a paper on a topic - or if the information I'm seeking is of any vital importance. As for the idea of radical trust, the fact that Wikipedia has administrators illustrates that there is an admitted limit to community self-monitoring. (Naturally, proponents will argue that the administrators are members of the community, too.) In using any wiki, I may have "radical" trust that participants have entered information in good faith; does this mean that I can trust their information to be either accurate, authoritative, or without bias? Not necessarily - and Wikipedia very clearly states that in their FAQs. Obviously, a wiki is only as reliable as its community and the level of expertise of its participants. Wikipedia is commendable as a easy and accessible resource, is well-organized and fairly well-monitored, and offers a helpful array of links to other resources - but it is what it is. Most commendable is Wikipedia's honesty in admitting that and providing guidelines as to how to intelligently use the information it provides.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Thing 7

Having no prior experience with podcasting, I was eager to try this "thing." I went to the list on the Library Success Wiki - but had little success there! I clicked on 8 or 9 different libraries, finding podcasts that looked interesting, but when I entered the URLs as subscriptions in Google Reader I received a red message box stating that there was no feed for that address. Also, many of the links just led to a library's home page, where it wasn't always easy to find any "buried" podcasts. (So as a directory, this wasn't all that helpful.) Then I clicked on the Kankakee Public Library which has numerous podcasts available. Here you can just click on them to listen with no further steps necessary. How wonderfully simple! I listened to part of a podcast of a lecture/discussion session with book critic Liesl Schillinger. It was an hour long so I only tuned in for a small part, although she was an interesting speaker and I may go back to that. Looking for another library-related podcast I went to the Muskingum College Library and listened to part of an author talk by the writer of "Historic Tours of Ohio." In this case, when I clicked on the link, the podcast was downloaded to my computer in a temporary folder, realplayer popped up, and I listened to a bit of the lecture. Still hoping to access at least one podcast following the 10 things directions, I then went to the Podcast Alley Directory and chose "Nobody Likes Onions." I was able to subscribe to this one through Google Reader per the instructions. Unfortunately, it was an obnoxious broadcast - the background "music" so annoying that I couldn't even follow the conversation. In spite of all the different situations I encountered in exploring "thing 7," I think podcasting is a wonderful new technology. I know that many schools are using this as a means of making classroom lectures available and I think that it presents a real opportunity for libraries. I'm sure that many of our patrons would appreciate having author talks and other lecture/type programs held at SPL made available in this format. I, myself, would find this a useful way of listening to programs that I am unable to attend in person. I would hope, however, that we would make it as simple as possible for our users (meaning those who, like me, are novices to this technology) to access these podcasts, possibly following the example of the Kankakee Public Library.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thing 6

Having visited and completed the required activity, I have to say that this is the first of the "ten things" so far that I really see little if any use for. The hot bookmarks at the time I looked were all technical or computer-related, so had little value to me, but made me wonder why, for example, someone interested in Apple's new release (leppard) wouldn't go directly to the Apple site to find information or use Google or their other favorite search engine to find the information they need. In other words, isn't this just adding another step to their search? Also, I saw no discernible pattern in the way people chose to bookmark a page - entries ranged from single word tags to phrases to sentences, many of which lacked the key words one might expect for that entry. Perhaps I am too attached to the controlled vocabulary of the library cataloging world, but total randomness is entirely useless. I have similar feelings about the tag clouds on and other sites - most are so general as to be worthless - unless one wants to browse the entire online universe. I did add a site to the staffpicks list and was not surprised that even the sites collected under the "staffpicks" tag are entirely random and without any cohesive theme. (Of course, we were not instructed to choose a library-related site.) Obviously, I see little use for this as a tool for finding specific information, nor do I relate to the "social" aspect of it. The popularity of a site certainly doesn't guarantee its credibility. I can see and its counterparts as a possible means of organizing one's own favorite sites but not why it would be better than, for example, just bookmarking them on your own PC. As for library use, I'm skeptical of its effectiveness in this regard, as well. I do appreciate the attempt of the bookmarking sites to organize the web - I just don't think this is an effective means of accomplishing that.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thing 5

Uploaded one of my favorite photos of Bangle to Flickr - which you can see above! Searching using the tag "bangle" afterwards brought up a weird assortment of photos (no other dogs!). I did find lots of Airedale pictures - but none as cute as mine! This is the first time I've uploaded a photo to a site like this - but I have searched Flickr in the past for photos many times (once to help set a vacation agenda) and both of my kids use Flickr so I've viewed their pictures there as well. It is a fun way to share. As for library use, I wasn't sure how having pictures on flickr rather than just on our own website would serve patrons, but picked up some ideas from reading "16 ways to use flick @ your library" and see how it might as long as we direct them to those photos. Most interesting were the facts about social networking sites and Internet safety - and the need to educate ourselves and patrons about DOPA and its potential impact.


Originally uploaded by theskokieten
My dog Bangle. Isn't she cute?