Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Big Brother?

Last week I had a brief, interesting discussion on Bush's surveillance habits in the comments section of my post on the Future of Ordering Pizza. Today, while catching up on my boingboing reading, I found a number of posts pointing to articles about Bush allowing the NSA to surveil more phone and Internet communications than previously thought.

Check out the following articles for more information:

According to the articles, the communications being monitored are those that are international. They eavesdrop on suspected terrorists but mine the data on many more international calls.

As someone who makes international phone calls to a close friend, I don't like the idea that my phone calls may be monitored by the U.S. They are already being monitored by my friend's country of residence, and it is no fun having to watch what you say. It is surprising how much some of the taboo stuff can come up in completely innocent conversation.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's False

Apparently, the story about the Federal Agents visiting a student because he had ordered a Chairman Mao book through interlibrary loan is just that - a story. Read the article here.

I wonder what made the student fabricate such an incredible story.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Terror in the Library

Now why didn't my library think of this?

Check out Pac Man re-enacted by humans at U. of Michigan (link directs you to the blog post about it at Boing Boing). At the University of Michigan, students got a study break when Pac Man ran through the library screaming while being chased by a ghost. I recommend watching the short video of the event.

Of course, it was students who did it, but at least they chose the library as one of their locations.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Future of Ordering Pizza

Check out this recent clip from the ACLU. Perhaps a bit exaggerated, but still very interesting.

Found on Burger's Blog.

"Are Colleges Failing?"

If you are teaching in higher education, I recommend an article entitled "Are Colleges Failing?" from the Boston Globe. For someone like me, who is just about to embark on this whole teaching thing, this is a very interesting and helpful article.

I can imagine that those who have been teaching for a long time would be inclined to continue to teach in the same manner they have for years. However, empirical evidence is providing ideas for changing teaching methods to help college students learn better. For example, "studies indicate that problem-based discussion, group study, and other forms of active learning produce greater gains in critical thinking than lectures."

I am lucky because my coworker, who taught in the Fall semester the class I will soon be teaching in the Spring, is very interested in problem-based learning and other forms of active learning. I have a lot of good ideas to draw from. He is also, incidently, the individual who forwarded this article to me. But then again, he is fairly new to teaching as well, and perhaps that makes him, like me, more inclined to come up with new, innovative, and interesting ways to help students learn.

Another quote from the article is actually rather frightening: "Most college seniors do not think that they have made substantial progress in improving their competence in writing or quantitative methods, and some assessments have found that many students actually regress." As someone who proofreads papers for friends and relatives, I can honestly say that while I have seen writing skills improve, it sometimes seems that these skills could have improved more than they did during undergraduate study. I definitely have not seen anyone actually regress, but then again, they've had me (nit-picky English major) to harass them and provide help beyond what they would get in class. And I do know, just from random things I've heard from students, that many of them (myself included, in fact) have figured out how to play the game. They become adept at determining what level of work a professor expects. Then, even if that level is below what they are capable of, they still provide work that only just meets that level.

I also agree with the article on the fact that graduate study does not really prepare one to teach. I realize that I have an MLIS, not the Ph.D. usually required to teach in higher education, but librarians do a lot of teaching. Graduate school did provide guidance on the "reference interview" so that librarians can better interact with patrons/customers to determine what information they are looking for. However, with those of us in higher education giving so many bibliographic/library instruction sessions, there really needs to be more guidance on teaching.

I suppose the moral of the story is that when teaching one needs to evaluate his/her techniques constantly, read literature on recent studies and new developments in teaching, and be open to change for the betterment of the students.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Google's Librarian Newsletter

The first issue of Google's Newsletter for Librarians arrived in my inbox last night (I forgot I'd signed up for that!). Curious about how Google ranks its search results? Read the article here.

If you are interested, you can sign up for the newsletter here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Are College Grads Less Literate?

A recent article from the New York times discussed the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. According to the article, college graduates did not perform as well on this test as they did on the 1992 version. Apparently, the percentage of college graduates who scored at the "proficient" level has declined from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.

Of course, the statistics skeptic in me has the following questions:
1. Are we really less literate than our 1992 counterparts? (I graduated in 2003 so would fall into the less literate category).

2. Is it perhaps due instead to a difference in the difficulty of the test between 1992 and 2003? According to the NCES website which discusses the test, the 2003 version contains "new assessment components and new performance levels". Maybe that was a factor.

3. How was the sample of participants chosen? Was it truly random? According to the report, the sample is representative of "the entire population of U.S. adults who are age 16 and older and live in households or prisons" and is not just college students. I am not seeing a place where it is broken down by education level but it's a long document and perhaps I am just missing something.

The original report is available for download as a PDF at the NCES Website.

Friday, December 16, 2005

NetLingo.com

For those librarians out there doing either chat reference or IM reference, here's an online glossary of "Net Lingo".

Do people actually use some of these?

ANFAWFOWS - And now for a word from our web sponser
AWGTHTGTTA - Are we going to have to go through this again?
DYSTSOTT - Did you see the size of that thing?
TEOTWAWKI - The end of the world as we know it

Of course, this glossary contains more than just common (or perhaps uncommon - see above) IM acronyms, including such terms as "america offline", "angry garden salad", "newsfeed", "wireless network", "word-of-mouse", and more.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Going to the Dogs

This is totally unrelated to the usual topics covered in this blog, but I just have to post about it. It's so absurd!

I'm sure we've all heard of the "dog ate my homework" excuse. Thought that was bad? Well, here's a new all-time low when it comes to accusing the dog.

Check out this news story at SFGate.com: Andi the Ohio Police Dog Named in Lawsuit. Apparently a drug dealer is suing for $450,000 in damages from "police investigators, Athens County Sheriff Vern Castle and the trial judge", and a dog! Of the dog, he said, "I want him charged with several different felony counts."

If the guy wins, what's the dog going to use to pay his share of the damages? Bones? Can you even really sue a dog? I am surprised they have gone as far as to have the dog "sign" the formal complaint with a paw print!

And, of course the drug dealer is representing himself! What lawyer would take that case?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Radio Ads I'd Actually Listen To!

As I was pulling into work this morning, I heard an ad that caught my attention because of its unusual nature. It sounded like an ad for a movie but without all the background sound effects, character voices, and so on. Then they mentioned Alex Cross and I thought, oh, another one of James Patterson's books must have been made into a movie.

But no! It was actually an ad for James Patterson's latest BOOK! On a regular radio station (as opposed to NPR or an AM station)! And in an area where the biggest bookstore around is the Waldenbooks in the mall, no less!

How exciting! :)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Most Literate Cities in the U.S.

Hey, check it out: America's Most Literate Cities. This study ranked U.S. cities with a population of 200,000 or more. "The main factors used to measure literacy [were] newspaper circulation, numbers of bookstores, library resources, publishing and educational attainment. These five ranked factors combine 22 different variables that form the operational definition of literacy."

Congrats to Ohio!
Cincinnati = #5
Columbus = #11
Cleveland = #14
Akron = #26

Cincinnati ranks high on number of bookstores. Columbus, Cleveland, and Akron have a lot of libraries (go libraries!).

Monday, December 05, 2005

Why is Firefox so great?

I have promoted the use of Firefox several times in this blog but never really gone into detail about why I think Firefox is so great. Based on Nye!'s comment, I think I better justify my love of Firefox.

Some general info: Currently, Firefox accounts for about 10% of browser use (at least, as far as the last statistic I saw). This is actually rather impressive considering Firefox 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004 (according to Mozilla's Firefox release information). There were other versions of Firefox available before then, but all in all, they are still a pretty new browser. Next to Internet Explorer, Firefox is the second most used browser, so they must be doing something right!

My list of 10 reasons for switching to Firefox:

1. It's free! Yes, I know, so is Internet Explorer, but there are other browsers out there that you have to pay for.

2. Firefox is safer. Internet Explorer is by far the most used browser out there. New computers automatically come with it. Therefore, hackers are more interested in exploiting IE than Firefox. Of course, that's not to say that Firefox is perfectly safe, because it's not. And as Firefox grows in popularity, it will probably have more security issues as well.

3. Firefox automatically blocks popups. Now I will admit I have not used IE in a long time, so I do not know if they have created a popup blocker to go with their browser. But when I first switched over, I was very impressed with Firefox's popup blocker. It doesn't get them all, of course, but it manages to block most. And it's very easy to unblock popups that you actually want.

4. Tabbed browsing is awesome! IE used to drive me crazy with the way you had to open multiple browser windows if you wanted to view more than one page at a time. Then, if you had too many open, it would group all of them together and you'd have to try to guess which one you wanted. Tabbed browsing means that only one browser window is open on your desktop. Within the Firefox browser, you can have many tabs open without it grouping them together (and believe me, I'd know. I have probably had as many as 20 tabs open at once). And now, with Firefox 1.5, you can drag and drop tabs to reorder them. There are shortcuts as well: ctrl-t switches between tabs, ctrl-tab opens a new tab.

5. Firefox has awesome extensions. Some of my favorites are Nuke Anything Enhanced, Colorful Tabs, Tabbrowser Preferences, and GooglePreview.

6. You can make Firefox pretty (okay, I'm pathetic. I know this, and I'm okay with it). Firefox has some pretty cool skins, or themes, as they call them. I love the Noia 2.0 theme.

7. Firefox is smaller than IE. It is a 5MB download (see Mozilla). IE is about 12MB for Windows XP (see Microsoft.com). I know 12MB isn't really that big with the monstrous hard drives out there, but still, IE requires more than double what Firefox does.

8. Firefox has built-in search engines. Firefox has Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and others all built into the search bar. And, you can add more, if you want (click here to do so). I've added IMDB, Wikipedia, and Merriam-Webster online so far.

9. Other cool options I haven't explored yet. Firefox has some other cool things that I intend to look at but just haven't gotten around to yet. The new release allows you to customize Google. You can remove ads and filter out certain search results, along with many other options. There is also supposedly a way to integrate del.icio.us into Firefox but I stopped using del.icio.us and switched to BlinkList, so that will not help me much.

10. Everyone else is doing it. Okay, I'm only semi-joking with this one. Most of the writers of the tech blogs I read seem to love Firefox (as do my techie friends), and if the techies love it, you know it's got to be good.

For more lists of reasons to switch to Firefox, click here and here.

Of course, as I said, I have not used IE in a long time so it may have some of the capabilities listed above. Also, as with any brower (or other technology) switch, you will lose certain shortcuts and other options you are used to. To me, Firefox is worth it, but perhaps others disagree.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Firefox 1.5

Mozilla released the new version of Firefox this afternoon! Read about the new features and download it here!

One of the new features is that it lets you drag and drop your tabs to reorder them. The pop-up blocker is supposed to be better as well.

Sony CD Spyware

Apparently the rootkit isn't the only thing to worry about with Sony CDs. According to Boing Boing, many Sony CDs contain spyware (called MediaMax) that can download itself to your computer permanently even if you decline the pop-up license agreement the first time around. EFF is suing Sony over this. See the Boing Boing post for more information.

Can't get enough storage?

Maxell is working on creating a holographic removable storage drive that will be able to hold 300GB (scheduled for release in September 2006). Future holographic storage devices may be able to hold as much as 1.6 terabytes. Read the article at CNET for more information.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wonderful Firefox Extension

If you are still using Internet Explorer, quit that! Firefox is so much better! And I just found a wonderful new Firefox extension (found on Download Squad). It lets you right click over an obnoxious flashing banner or anything else you don't want to see on a website and "Remove this object"! Get the extension here. It's called "Nuke Anything Enhanced".

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

gOFFICE Revisted... Again

I finally got around to calling gOFFICE tonight to ask all the questions I had come up with after exploring the site further and thoroughly reading both their Terms of Use Agreement and their Privacy Policy. (See my previous posts here and here for my past comments on gOFFICE).

I spoke with Kevin Warnock, who is the founder and CEO of Silveroffice, Inc. (the makers of gOFFICE.com). He was more than willing to answer my questions and also had a couple for me.

One of the first things I wanted to talk about was my concern about the following paragraph in their Privacy Policy:
Sharing Information with Strategic Partners

We may enter into strategic marketing alliances or partnerships with third parties who may be given access to personal information including your name, address, telephone number and email for the purpose of providing you information regarding products and services that we think will be of interest to you. In connection with strategic marketing alliances or partnerships, we will retain all ownership rights to the information, and we will not share information regarding your social security number or other personal financial data.
To me, this paragraph states that Silveroffice has the right to give out the email addresses and telephone numbers of its registered users to third parties, who can then spam and telemarket those users. I am perhaps hypervigilant about spam and telemarketing, but thus far I have managed to avoid spam in all my email accounts (except for one which was receiving minimal spam for a while but has since stopped), some of which I have had for five or more years. Of course, I have not managed to avoid telemarketing, but I do not wish to sign up for anything that could potentially increase the volume of calls I currently receive (I am in the Do Not Call registry, so I get very few calls, but I believe that registry excludes companies to which you have "knowingly" given your phone number).

Kevin assured me that it is not Silveroffice's intention to spam or telemarket its users. The creation of the Privacy Policy was sort of a hasty affair and the text of it was a conglomeration drawn from other sources (such as other privacy policies), so its scope may be broader than necessary. He said he will remove this section from the Privacy Policy, perhaps as early as tomorrow. I will be sure to check back on that. I suppose it really concerns me because even if that is not their intention currently, having that in the privacy policy allows for it take place in the future.

Another question I had for Kevin concerned the phone number field that is required when signing up for an account with gOFFICE. I am aware that I could have put in a fake phone number (as Kevin pointed out and which had occurred to me when I first went to sign up for an account). However, what is the point of having a phone number requirement if anyone can fake it? Why have it there at all? I understand the requirement of an email address because most companies (and gOFFICE is no exception) send you a confirmation email prior to authorizing the account. This prevents companies from creating accounts for users and other such problems. Kevin's response was that they will probably be taking out the required phone number field in the next release/update of gOFFICE.

I then brought up the issue of the seeming link between Google and gOFFICE. My main issue is the Press page which contains "A sampling of web log (blog) entries that include the word gOffice". I realize that that statement alone implies that they were simply looking for the word "gOffice" regardless of context. However, it bothers me.

In my opinion, and from what I know of my own skimming tendencies, users probably look at the first 5-10 things in a list and then the last one or two. The very first blog listed is entitled "What is Google?" and the last one is "What is Google up to?" Further, the other four blogs mentioning Google occur within the first 10 blogs listed. Based on this placement, users are more likely to notice it. Kevin was a bit hedgy in response, saying that when they initially created the blog list, there were very few blog posts about gOFFICE to choose from. He also mentioned perhaps including a statement somewhere on the site clearing up the fact that gOFFICE is not affiliated with Google, although I do not think I will be holding my breath for this one. :)

As a last question regarding my curiosity about the Google/gOFFICE link, I asked about the origin of the name "gOFFICE". The answer I received was that Silveroffice would leave me to "speculate" as to where the name came from.

So I guess I will chalk the gOFFICE/Google link up to a marketing strategy. Google is a household name, and I can see why anyone would want to encourage the idea of an affiliation between Google and their product. And afterall, Silveroffice did buy the domain name before Google could snatch it up, so whether or not I agree with it, the link is there.

I think that covers the concerns I had about the site. Now on to my other questions.

Since I did not sign up for an account, I have not created any documents or PDFs. However, Kevin informed me that currently you can create a document, convert it to a PDF, and save it to your hard drive. So, I could have experimented more with the site than I have so far. I believe he said this option will be disappearing shortly, so if you are interested in checking out gOFFICE without signing up, act fast!

PDF files are apparently very easy to create using gOFFICE (as far as I understand it since I have done this). You type up your document, click on a button, and voilà! A PDF! What a nice feature!

I also inquired about the upcoming spreadsheet and presentation capabilities. These have been given various predicted release dates - I think I saw April, then Summer, and now November. Kevin said that these features are working at Silveroffice headquarters. However, they do not contain all the features that Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, and similar products have. Silveroffice has been holding back on releasing them because they want to be sure that the features are sufficient and work properly first.

This is also where Kevin asked me a few questions, and I had to admit that I just want the Spreadsheet option for list-keeping reasons, not advanced mathematical computations. I just find it so much easier to keep lists of things like articles I have read or want to read in a spreadsheet rather than a word processing document. The appeal of gOFFICE to me is that it is available anywhere the Internet is available - my office, the reference desk, and my home - and I would love to be able to access word processing, spreadsheet, or other documents anywhere without having to carry around a floppy, zip, or portable USB drive. Kevin said that Silveroffice had not really considered the possibility of someone being interested in the Spreadsheet capability for purposes other than mathematical computations (perhaps I am the exception rather than the rule, I do not know). They are having a few difficulties with the mathematical computations and are therefore hesitant to release the Spreadsheet option.

I think that pretty much sums up the conversation. I hope that I have not misrepresented Kevin or Silveroffice in any way. The above information is correct to the best of my knowledge and memory of the phone conversation (I can see why reporters like tape recorders!). Hopefully Kevin or someone at gOFFICE will read this and post any comments, corrections, or updates necessary.

I am looking forward to trying out gOFFICE and perhaps even signing up for an account (with a fake phone number of course!). This product really could be a great one for libraries to use, particularly smaller libraries who may not have the funds to purchase Microsoft Office for all their computers.

Lastly, thank you to Kevin for taking the time to talk to me and answer my many questions. Silveroffice is definitely concerned about what their users think and want!

Perhaps when I have time I will create a summary of this rather lengthy post so that all of you who do not feel like reading it (I do not blame you) can see a shorter, bulleted list version.

Research Library-Related Topics for FREE!

EBSCO has made their Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts database FREE! Check it out at http://www.libraryresearch.com. Woo hoo!

Monday, November 21, 2005

New Name for Google Print

Google Print has changed its name to the much easier to understand "Google Book Search" which is now located at books.google.com. As a librarian, "Google Print" made sense to me. However, I can see how it could really confuse people, so the name change seems appropriate.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sony did a bad, bad thing

I don't know how many of you have heard of or have been following the latest news about Sony, but a lot of the tech blogs I read have been posting about it. Very long story short (to the best of my understanding since some of this stuff is just over my head), in an attempt to reduce illegal copying of CDs Sony tried out a new software (XCP Content Protection Technology). When you play a CD with this software on your computer, it installs a rootkit, which makes your computer more vulnerable to hackers. Also, if you somehow find this program on your computer and try to remove it, it will damage you computer. Okay, so that's my best description since I really don't understand the whole rootkit thing.

Ah yes, here we go: In true librarian form I shall point you toward a resource that can explain the whole Sony problem much better than I can. Check out the article "The Cover-Up Is the Crime" at Wired News.

Here's a list of the CDs that contain the hazardous XCP Content Protection Technology, so you can avoid buying them or playing them on your computer. Sony is going to re-release these CDs without the software on them at some point. Sony's official response is here. Looks like Sony is also letting you exchange a CD with the software for a CD that is software-free.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blogs Hinder Tenure?

Alane over at It's All Good posted about an article appearing in Slate called "Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs". The author, Robert S. Boynton (a non-blogger) discusses the potential affects that blogging could have on the careers of academics.

He also addresses ways in which blogs could become peer-reviewed. This is an interesting idea, and seems to be happening to some extent already. It is not yet taking the form of the highly prestigious peer-review system found in academic journals where original research is published, but peer-review does happen in other ways.

I see peer-review occurring in the form of comments left on blogs. I think one of the signs of a good blogger is his or her willingness to alter posts (and perhaps opinions) based on comments from others. Some blogs I read are constantly adding updates at the end of their posts in response to comments that have been left.

I also have a lot of difficulty believing that the professor mentioned at the beginning of Boynton's article (Daniel Drezner) failed to receive tenure because of his blogging habits. Boynton is not arguing that this is definitely the reason but he does suggest a link. Are blogs really so poorly-received in the academic world that they would have a detrimental effect on the tenure process?

If I had only finished the article before I wrote the above paragraph:
As for Daniel Drezner, you needn't worry about him. After being turned down by Chicago, he received a number of inquiries and this fall will be a tenured associate professor of international politics at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. How did Tufts learn he was available? They read it in his blog.
What a great conclusion! And an interesting article.

As a side note: This article also mentions the Public Library of Science whose goal is to make peer-reviewed scientific and medical research freely accessible to all. I'm looking forward to checking out this site!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lone Star Statements

Lone Star Statements contains excerpts from one-star reviews found on Amazon.com for books that made Time's 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

Some of my favorites are:

“The book is not readable because of the overuse of adverbs.” - The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein

“The only good thing to say about this “literary” drivel is that the person responsible, Virginia Woolf, has been dead for quite some time now. Let us pray to God she stays that way.” - Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

“This book is like an ungrateful girlfriend. You do your best to understand her and get nothing back in return.” - The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

I have to admit that I have not read these three books, but the reviews are hilarious!

Found on LISNews

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Del.icio.us in education

I just have to blog about this, I can't help it. I was talking to a friend yesterday who was working on an assignment for class. She consulted her very wonderful librarian friend (me) for help in finding information on a particular topic. Turns out her professor was requiring the students to come up with a list of resources and then compile them using del.icio.us. How nifty is that?!

I started off using del.icio.us, but just recently switched to Blinklist because the interface is prettier (pathetic reason, I know). I haven't really had much of a chance to check it out yet, though, so its usefulness remains to be seen. It does create a very pretty cloud of your tags though. You can also import your bookmarks from both del.icio.us and your browser, which is quite nice. For your browser bookmarks, it applies tags based on the names you've given them, but you can always go in and edit them. Did I mention it's very pretty? :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Educational Uses of Podcasts

I just finished reading a very interesting article called "There's Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education." It was mentioned in Open Stacks, and I fully intended only to read the introduction but got sucked in and had to read the whole thing. The introduction sets up a scenario of how a student uses podcasts in her daily life. It is potentially over-the-top, as I know of very few students who get that excited about what they are studying, but perhaps it's not too far off the mark.

This article gives a great overview of podcasting and some possible ways it can be used in higher education. Some of these educational uses include professors requiring students to create podcasts for group projects as teasers for their later presentations during class, professors who podcast about what they have been reading in the professional literature but do not have time to cover in class, and more. The author of this article, Gardner Campbell, has created a podcast series called "A Donne a Day" during which he reads one poem by John Donne each day. He hopes that his use of inflection and voice during the reading of the poems will help his students better understand the intricacies of Donne's poetry. What a neat idea!

Do any of you have professors who podcast or use podcasting in your classes in some way or other? I'm curious if this is becoming more widespread or if it's still limited to a select few professors or institutions.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

(in)famous Kat

So the college paper published an article about me, the new Reference Librarian. They got a few facts wrong:

1. I'm not currently working on my Masters in Library and Information Science. I already have it.
2. I did not graduate from this college a year ago - it's been over 2 years.
3. I'm not necessarily the one on the other end of Ask a Librarian. Only a few hours a month may you get the privilege of chatting with me on that service.

I'm glad they saw fit to include my age. Too bad they didn't also announce that I'm single... and desperate (sarcasm, people). Anyway, I suppose it's my own fault for giving them my age in the first place. However, I will claim inexperience: It was the first or second question she asked, and I'd never been interviewed before! I panicked! I do remember thinking immediately after I answered her question that perhaps I should've said I prefer not to answer that. Oh well. It could have been much worse. :)

However, the article really is quite nice. It's great publicity for the library, and the story itself is featured prominently on the front page. The quotes were well-chosen and portray me quite accurately. So, overall, it really is a good article, it just has a few incorrect statements. :)

Thursday Fun

Fun and entertaining events taking place on a Thursday in Library Land:
  • The student who kept exclaiming "touch√©" while I was helping him with the catalog and other things. Tourette's anyone? At least I felt my help was well-received.

  • Computer services bringing back our four broken computers (supposedly fixed) only to leave them here long enough for us to discover they were still broken, but now in whole new ways! Computer services then returned and confiscated them again. Apparently, librarians can't be trusted with computers.

  • Kat hearts post-its: My student worker came into the lunchroom today holding a piece of paper and laughing at me. I'd stuck 3 post-its on it about Interlibrary Loan-related things, none of which she could decipher. And that doesn't include the other post-it I'd stuck on a different sheet of paper. The worst of it is that I'd managed to write all of these post-its in less than 24 hours. What can I say? Post-its are my friend.
Life sure is interesting in Library Land.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Piracy is Progressive Taxation"

Today's Library Link of the Day was a December 2002 article entitled "Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution" by Tim O'Reilly. The arguments made in this article, in particular that obscurity and shoplifting are bigger threats to publishers than piracy is, are very interesting.

Another argument, or "lesson" as O'Reilly calls them, that I liked was his "Lesson 6: "Free" is eventually replaced by a higher-quality paid service". He states that free services such as local TV and limited dialup Internet are being replaced by fee-based, higher-quality services such as cable TV and dialup/dsl/cable internet. He foresees music file sharing heading in that direction as well, which we are already seeing with services like iTunes. The quality of music found on free file sharing sites is questionable so people may be more willing to pay if they have the assurance of higher-quality files. He also mentions that he thinks that an "'all-you-can-eat' subscription package" would be much more popular than a pay-per-song type deal (an opinion with which I completely agree).

How does iTunes work anyway? My impression is that it is pay-per-song, but since I only use iTunes for streaming audio, I don't really know. I suppose I could look it up - I am a librarian...

Anyway, definitely interesting stuff.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

What does Kat do all day?

I hereby dedicate this post to those of you who are wondering, "What exactly does a librarian do all day?"

I get this question a lot. And in reality, I honestly don't blame you. I wondered the same thing, even while I was in the process of getting my Master's Degree. So no wonder you non-Librarians are bewildered.

Well, wonder no more, your question is about to be answered. Of course, I can only tell you what a Reference Librarian at a small liberal arts college does all day, since that is the only professional library job I've held thus far, but here goes:

What does Kat do all day?
1. Work the Reference Desk. If people have questions, I have answers! (Hopefully)
2. Give instruction sessions. These are usually intended for specific classes on campus where the professor wants his or her class to do research and suspects (correctly) that the students are pretty clueless. We also offer instruction sessions on particular databases that anyone can attend.
3. Manage the reference collection. This includes taking old books out, adding new ones, and helping ensure that statistics are being kept on reference book use.
4. Create subject guides. For each discipline on campus, we have a guide containing useful databases, reference books, ebooks, journals, and websites.
5. Preparation - for instruction sessions, for classes (yes, librarians even teach classes on the research process at some colleges! I am not teaching one this semester but I will be in the Spring.)
6. Check various sources for new websites to include in the subject guides.
7. Keep current with the literature - stay up to date with what is going on in the library world through emails, listservs, certain blogs, and so on.
8. Manage Interlibrary Loan - there is a student assistant who handles most of this, but I created a manual of procedures and other useful information. I also answer any questions the student has and check periodically to make sure everything is running smoothly. I am also looking at ways to improve the Interlibrary Loan service.
9. Manage Chat Reference - this basically boils down to making sure we have librarians staffing the shifts we are supposed to.

I'm sure I could add more to this list, but I think it is long enough for now. But I hope that sheds some light on what librarians actually do all day long. :)

Sit in your bookshelves

Ever wanted to just crawl into your bookshelves and read? Check out a design for a bookshelf where you can do just that here. The shelves are also designed to fit all sorts of differently-sized books. Pretty neat.

(found this at LISNews)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Law and gOFFICE.com

I've been intending to write this post for several days now, but of course I keep putting it off or forgetting.

I wanted to revisit my whole gOFFICE.com post of a few days ago, and the comment from Nye! in response to my legal jargon confusion (and to express my gratitude for the legal information!). As a librarian, it is probably not a good thing that I do not know as much about copyright as I should, since that's one of the big legal issues we encounter. I do have some understanding of it, especially where it impacts my particular library, but not as much as I would like.

I re-skimmed over the Terms and Conditions as a result of Nye!'s comments, and I will still not sign up for a gOFFICE account. But for different reasons now. And here they are:

1. I am quite happy with Writely.com. I just forced (hehe) one of my coworkers into setting up an account so I could share a document with him and he could edit it, too. It's a great collaborative tool instead of emailing Word docs back and forth. gOFFICE does not appear to have this feature.

2. gOFFICE relies on ads to keep it free, and Writely does not. Of course, Writely may go "for fee" once it comes out of beta.

3. They will spam you and telemarket you (ah ha! I found out why they want your phone number!). Quoted from their Privacy Policy:
We may enter into strategic marketing alliances or partnerships with third parties who may be given access to personal information including your name, address, telephone number and email for the purpose of providing you information regarding products and services that we think will be of interest to you. In connection with strategic marketing alliances or partnerships, we will retain all ownership rights to the information, and we will not share information regarding your social security number or other personal financial data.
Perhaps I am interpreting this wrong, but I doubt it. It seems pretty blatant to me.

4. gOFFICE seems to be encouraging and even promoting the idea of an affiliation with Google that is simply not true. It gets its ads and search feature from Google, but nothing more. See the information in the article from PRNewswire located at Findwealth.com for more details. Of course, you have to scroll down below the huge picture of Donald Trump to see the info. Anyway, how is gOFFICE promoting this untrue affiliation, you may wonder?
a. On its own site, under "Press" it provides you, oh-so-conveniently, with a list of blogs that mention the word "gOffice", many of which link gOFFICE to Google. However, these are all older blog entries in which the blog author was speculating that Google would create a product such as this one and call it GOffice (notice the different capitalization). A cursory glance of the titles of the blog entries on gOFFICE's site does not make this clear and misleads the reader.

b. There is also the seeming gOFFICE / Gmail affiliation. What's the G for, eh gOFFICE? Why not WebOffice or OfficeOnline or something?
So, to sum it all up, I do not like gOFFICE. But I LOVE Writely!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wednesday Night Fun

1. Kids in the library: I kind of like that the education majors tutor elementary school-age children in the library. That's one thing I miss about public libraries - the little kids. Today I had to call on all my librarian brainpower to supply kleenex and a pencil sharpener. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!

2. "'Old school' books": I found some books for students doing a group project - the books were published in the 1920s or so. Upon returning to the table at which the group was working, the particular student I helped exclaimed to his groupmates, "Check out these 'old school' books! Look how old they are!" (Of course, I must admit that when I first looked it up in the catalog I laughed and told the student that the books were from the 1920s).

3. Lazy students: Why discuss back and forth whether or not you can use the CD you want to play during your presentation as a source? You've now spent more time discussing this than it would take you to find more sources. Of course, the students later asked the librarian (me!) and ended up with everything their hearts could desire.. and more. They needed 3 sources, but they got 4 circulating books, 3 reference books, 2 CDs, and a partridge in a pear tree. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Internet TV?

Richard MacManus over at Read/Write Web has posted about a new company, Brightcove, that aims to provide TV on the Internet (for more information, check out MacManus' ZDNet post on this company). According to Brightcove's website:
We're creating an open Internet TV service that empowers video producers and programmers to build broadband businesses while giving viewers more choices and control over their use of video and television.
Not sure what I really think about Internet TV. I really don't watch TV as is (since I don't have cable TV and therefore would probably get one station if I were to bother to hook up the antenna I recently acquired). Plus the quality of video on a computer screen varies. I currently use my computer to watch DVDs. I would have to say I probably have a fairly decent video card, since a techie friend of mine built the computer for me, and the quality is still not the greatest. Plus, if you have to pay to watch this new Internet TV, that would be another drawback.

Of course, if this were to somehow give us access to the movies still in the theatre (even for a fee), I can see the benefit of that. I am fairly certain that, if that were the case, I would start using the service. However, I don't know if that is even something this company is interested in doing. That might also have to be a down-the-road-type goal, since it would probably be easiest to start with TV before moving up to the newest movie releases.

Side note: While hunting around the Brightcove site for more information, I clicked on "Company" and was highly amused to see that the pictures of the members of the management team are actually short videos. Of course, having recently reread all the Harry Potter books, this reminds me of the moving pictures hanging on the walls in Hogwarts.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Librarians are Heroes!

Great article from the Des Moines Register: Our Librarians, Our Heroes. I'm not sure I like being thought of as someone tough on spelling who wears a cardigan (although it is somewhat accurate), but otherwise this is a great tribute to reference librarians. :) And I particularly like the following quote:

"...the reference librarian cuts through all the information overload like a skilled surgeon."

Having just blogged about this recently, it is great to see that others (and non-Librarians at that!) are thinking these things, too.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

gOFFICE.com

After posting about my newfound love of Writely, I have discovered (via eHub) a new online word processing tool, gOFFICE.com. The appeal of gOFFICE.com, to me, is the spreadsheet capability that is scheduled to be available in November according to the FAQs.

In addition to the spreadsheet option, it is also supposed to be implementing a presentation capability as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Update: Well, after trying to sign up for a gOFFICE.com account, I am somewhat less enthusiastic. At first glance, it seems as though they require a lot of personal information in return for an account. In reality, you only need to enter a username, password, first and last name, email address, and phone number. Why on earth is phone number a required field?!

Plus, a very quick look at the terms and conditions (yes, I actually usually do check that stuff out before agreeing to it) leaves me a bit curious about a few things:

Who owns copyright for the information I store on the site? Their copyright sections just confuse me.

Writely is much more clear on this, saying that information from the site is under copyright. That differentiates nicely between content I save to the site and content the site puts out. Plus, Writely has a section detailing "Your Intellectual Property Rights" in its Terms of Use.

Second, from gOFFICE.com: "5. Editing, Deleting and Modification We reserve the right in our sole discretion to edit or delete any documents, information or other content appearing on the Site." So, they can just delete stuff I put on there if they don't like it? I suppose where I need clarification is in reference to what counts as "content appearing on the Site." I would assume that my documents would only be viewable by me, so does that appear "on" the Site?

I hate legal jargon. I have a feeling I'm just showing my incredible ignorance when it comes to that kind of thing here, and the site is probably fine. Who knows.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sudoku

Be warned, it's highly addicting.

Sudoku was mentioned in a LISNews post today. I had discovered this game a while ago after reading an article in a local paper, and found a great online version located at Web Sudoku. Check it out for a challenging, fun, and addicting game.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

T.M.I.

Fred over at WeBreakStuff had an interesting post about the main problem with the world wide web: T.M.I. Too Much Information. These days I feel as though I'm suffering from a more severe case of information overload than ever before (for more on information overload see Wikipedia's coverage of the term). Unlike Fred, I don't have 1500 new items a day in my feed reader, but I do have around 200. And I'm adding new feeds all the time.

But the point is, that with all this information attacking us from all angles, the role of the librarian is becoming even more important, although less and less recognized. So much of the information on the Internet is, well, crap. One of the great things about the Internet is that anyone can publish on it. At the same time, that's one of the biggest drawbacks. Information ranges from high quality to very very low quality, and your friendly and helpful librarian is one of the best resources to help you find the high quality info.

Consult your librarian! Why? Because:

1. Your librarian may know of a better way to find the information you need. Searching through pages of Google results for that elusive article on your topic that you know is out there might be better accomplished in a different search engine, at a certain web site, or in various library resources. Or perhaps even in print (*gasp*).

2. Your librarian may know of a quicker way. Afterall, who doesn't want to save time? Why search through a long list of results when your librarian may have good suggestions for narrowing or limiting your search?

We aren't sitting at the Reference/Information Desk for our health, you know. :)

But, I'm done ranting about the usefulness of librarians. For today anyway.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Librarian's Wishlist

I saw a post over at Library Technology NOW about the Librarian's Wishlist brought to us by the wonderful people at the North Texas Regional Library System. All librarians have to do is make a wish and then encourage patrons to visit the site and fill that wish. This, of course, got me thinking about what I would wish for if I were crazy enough to submit wishes to that website:

Kat's Wishlist
1. Mold-be-gone for our oh-so-lovely and olfactorily-pleasing moldchives.
2. New computers for the library computer lab (adios to the broken, the rundown, and the damaged!).
3. A brand spanking new collection! Throw out all the old stuff and give me some new books please!
4. Endless amounts of money to use to develop the collection.
5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out with it means to the library! (translation: every student on campus would be DYING to use the library extensively. Do I hear, "My prof wants me to find 3 articles, but I want 10!" or "Wow, you guys have the most amazing collection I've ever seen!" or "You librarians are AMAZING! You know what I need and where I can find it!")

No wish is too big, right? Right...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

SHOUTcast

An excellent site for streaming radio is SHOUTcast. It has music from all genres, and all free! (Since free is the most important factor afterall). Many of the stations also don't have ads, which is wonderful. I've found that some of them do that annoying buffering thing from time to time, but if you try picking ones that allow lots of listeners and have a higher bitrate, they work pretty well. Anyway, it's a great option for music at work, particularly if your CDROM drive does not work (like mine). Happy listening. :)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Libraries Have Been Bloggin'

Recently, I've seen several posts praising Ohio State's Zanesville Campus Library's use of a blog to post updates about the library. This is a great idea and all, but they are definitely not the first to do so. Some examples are: Otterbein College, Muskingum College, Tri-College Libraries, and Temple University. One of these even dates back to May 2003, so it's definitely not a new idea! So congrats to Zanesville Campus Library for joining the rest of us. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Useful Web 2.0 Gadgets

I have begun using a few Web 2.0 or related gadgets at work and they are really quite useful. Since my time at work is divided between the reference desk and my office, I spend a lot of time at two different computers. This results in a lot of emails to myself saying "Bookmark This!" or "Save this to your hard drive!". So....

For my bookmarks, I am now using del.icio.us. It's been out there for quite some time, and I'm just now jumping on board. But now I can use my bookmarks at any computer! Unfortunately, it isn't the prettiest site, but it will do - a sentiment I've seen expressed in other blogs, so I'm not the only one.

For Word documents that I work on at both the reference desk and in my office, I am using Writely. Writely is a word processor available on the web, so you can access it anywhere.

Can't wait to find out what other eGadgets I can put to use at work!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Video iPod

Well, they've done it. A video iPod. And not only that - you'll be able to watch TV episodes in addition to the more obvious music videos and video podcasts! See the story at Quote.com. Disney and ABC, eh? Alias on iPod!

And people tell me my TV is too small. Viewing a TV show on the video iPod will make my whopping 9-inch TV look huge!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

30Gigs.com

I just added 5 or so blogs to my Bloglines account related to the whole web 2.0 idea, and I'm finding the reading fascinating... and bewildering. Just more evidence that I'm really behind on all this technology stuff and that the jargon is often lost on me. I think I at least finally understand the Web 2.0 concept where everything you normally do on your desktop would be available on the web - word processing, storage, etc.

In A Venture Forth Dan Grossman posted about 30Gigs.com. This site offers email with, as you can probably guess, 30 gigs of storage. So, essentially you can store most of your hard drive (for those of us with hard drives of less than 30 gigs anyway) in your email. It boggles the mind that email with such vast storage can be offered, and for FREE, too! Server space is apparently pretty cheap.

In case you are interested, the other 4 web 2.0 blogs are:
The last three are all available at the Web 2.0 Workgroup, which will be a constantly expanding site for blogs dealing with Web 2.0.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Rent Your Textbooks!

Rent your textbooks instead of buying them at BookRenter.com. As long as you are able to keep your textbooks in reasonably good condition, you will only have to pay 20-30% of the book's actual cost. This is a good option instead of buying the book and then selling it back to the college bookstore at a fraction of the original cost.

Read an article about BookRenter at Central Florida Future.

(See the post on Library Stuff where I found out about BookRenter.com)

Ig Nobel Prize

I highly recommend you check out the winners of the Ig Nobel Prize. According to the site, "The winners have all done things that first make people LAUGH, then make them THINK." And, not surprisingly, these studies really do both of those things

Examples include:

  • "The first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck"

  • The "irresistible report 'An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces'"

  • The report "investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule about whether it's safe to eat food that's been dropped on the floor"

  • The guy who patented the wheel in 2001

  • The "discovery that, biochemically, romantic love may be indistinguishable from having severe obsessive-compulsive disorder"

  • "The Kansas State Board of Education and the Colorado State Board of Education, for mandating that children should not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution any more than they believe in Newton's theory of gravitation, Faraday's and Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, or Pasteur's theory that germs cause disease."

  • "The British Royal Navy, for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells, and to instead just shout 'Bang!'" (this one has got to be one of my favorites because it invokes one of the most amusing mental pictures!).

  • and the one that always plagues me:

  • the "partial solution to the question of why shower curtains billow inwards" (what, only a partial solution?!).

The article about this year's winners is here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

End of the World

Well, here's a very random blog entry.

Amusing flash video: The End of the World

Google News

Here's an interesting article about Google opening a lobbying office in D.C. from SF Gate (a San Fran news source).

It also mentions Google's interest in providing free wireless to San Francisco. Too bad Google probably won't be interested in providing free wireless to my area next....

When it comes to Google, I'm always torn between:
  • admiration over its amazing accomplishments (what doesn't Google do?); and

  • curiosity about whether it will eventually take over the world (see Epic 2014 perhaps more commonly referred to as Googlezon)... or perhaps a slightly more realistic curiosity: Google developing a monopoly on a lot of Internet-related services.
And of course, most of us in Library Land wonder about what Google's services will mean for libraries.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Favorite Patrons

Kat's Favorite Patrons (perhaps this will be a recurring list as I encounter more fun patrons):

1. The ladies who bring their dogs into the library. Yes, I am serious, and no, no one says anything about it. I guess we don't have a dog policy. The ladies stay in the circulation desk area near the library entrance so the dogs don't get to frolic through the stacks or anything, but still. Dogs? Come on, people! (Hmmm, perhaps the dogs could be trained to pee on parts of the collection that we'd like to throw out? Here doggie doggie doggie, this row of books all date before 1950, could you please cock your little leg on them? I'll give you a doggie treat! You know you want to! I can tell your little bladder is full!)

2. The students who expect the librarians not only point them in the right direction towards useful resources, but also to pick the articles the students should read, print them out free of charge, AND perhaps even read the articles for them and type the paper. Oh yes, and properly cite everything as well. Reality check: We are here to help, not to serve you your paper on a silver platter. It's supposed to be a learning experience.

Monday, October 03, 2005

WorldCat adding a Reviews Wiki

Seen on the LibrarianInBlack blog: WorldCat apparently has a pilot project going in which users can add reviews to WorldCat records:

"Beginning in September, Open WorldCat users will be able to add content to WorldCat records using wikis. The pilot will give users the ability to add comments, see comments by others and add or edit other information they know about the record."

See the Wiki WorldCat Pilot for more information.

Do many patrons really use WorldCat? In my limited experience, it seems that librarians are pretty much the primary users. Will the librarians be the ones writing all the reviews? I don't want to sound anti-progress or anti-new technology, but we can already go to Amazon and others to get reviews. Is it really a feature WorldCat should offer? I wil be really interested to see the future success, usage, and overall benefits of this feature.

Yahoo Digitizing University Library Collections

Looks like Yahoo has jumped on the Google bandwagon (although they say the idea was in the works before Google unveiled their digitization project). Check it out on The Chronicle. Contrary to Google (and perhaps in reaction against all the recent Google controversy), "Leaders of the project stressed that no books that are under copyright will be scanned unless the copyright holders give explicit permission."

Always makes me curious what this will mean for libraries....

Friday, September 30, 2005

More Librarian Pickup Lines

LISNews has posted The LISNews Library Pickup Lines. Some of my favorites:
  • "I bet you have quite a nice book worm!"

  • "So when's the last time you were 'on the desk'"

  • "I'll make you scream LC subject headings."

  • "Damn! You're so hot, I can't even imagine how fine you'd look in shoes that weren't sensible!"

  • "When I'm through, you're gonna need to get your books rebound."

  • "Librarians do it in stacks."

  • and my favorite...

  • "Well, stamp me received! You are checked out and I am cheeeeck'd in!"
Of course, please don't take this as an invitation to use these on me. :) They don't really work.

What I Learned....

I gave my first solo library instruction session today. Afterwards I was left feeling like my incoherent babbling had bored the students to sleep. So, I officially deemed it a learning experience and created a list called "What I learned from my first solo library instruction session and what I need to improve on". For you reading enjoyment:

1. Slow down girl! (Yes, they want to get out early. But WHO CARES?)

2. Practice runs might be more effective if you practice while actually using the library catalog and database... instead of just going through the talking part while driving to and from work. (Ooops, my bad. It's been a busy week!)

3. Practice using the outline you've created. No amount of multi-colored highlighting will keep you from losing your place if you haven't done that.

4. Repeat common terms to self over and over so you can't screw them up during the presentation. The Library Catalog is not "that thing you use to find books. *blank expressions* You know? That thing?" (okay, so I lie, I wasn't that bad. It's a funny thought though.)

5. It is inevitable that someone will fall asleep. Try not to feel too depressed during the presentation (you can cuss the person out later in the privacy of your office. Unless of course, your office, like mine, leads out into the reference area. Then at least be sure to shut the door before letting loose with a stream of unfriendly language).

6. Keep trying to think of ways to make the presentation more interesting. It's not hopeless! It can be interesting! (Keep reciting this one until convinced).

7. You can only improve (at least, I hope it's not possible to get any worse!)

Yes, a learning experience. Officially.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

$100 Laptop

MIT researchers are working on creating durable $100 laptops. These laptops would be sold in large quantities to countries for distribution to school children, from my understanding of the article at ABC News and the information on the MIT Media Lab site. According to the MIT site, "Initial discussions have been held with China, Brazil, Thailand, and Egypt." Pretty neat!

Looking for a New Author to Read?

Well, here's a new way to find an author whose books you may want to read:

Literature-Map


Simply type in the author's name and you will be giving a list of names of similar authors which float around the screen. Of course, it is potentially headache-inducing (according to the Library Stuff blog) since they never really stop moving. Also, I tried Dan Brown as an author and Nora Roberts was one of the authors listed for him. Not sure how that relates since those reading Dan Brown may not be so interested in Nora Roberts. Best explanation I can come up with is that they are both quite popular authors.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Those Crazy Librarians

Wow, librarians (and perhaps others) are now using blogs to do presentations instead of powerpoint. Not sure what I think about that since you have to scroll down as you talk and such, but here's an example:

Weblogs and RSS: A Guide for Librarians


Interesting, huh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tech Gadgets for Girls

Found an awesome blog in a Columbus Dispatch article recommended by a coworker. For all you females out there interested in tech gadgets and gizmos, check out:

Techie Diva's Guide to Gadgets!

She's writes about various gadgets, from the OQO I mentioned in a previous blog to solar handbags to rubber radios. I'd be a bit put off if she seemed to gravitate toward pink computers and extremely "girlie" gadgets, but she seems to cover quite a wide range. Definitely worth a look - they are really thinking up some pretty wacky stuff these days!

Bye Bye Jeeves

Get your last glimpse of Jeeves before it's too late!

The company that owns Ask Jeeves is sacking the cute old butler, who apparently conveys too antiquated an image and will prevent users from realizing the search engine has made some changes. Read about it here.

Poor Jeeves!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Slawesome!

Back to posting multiple times per day....

Now here's an interesting site: Slawesome. According to the site, it's "email for your voice" but it is still "so alpha it makes us cry." Apparently you can record yourself talking and send it to others. I can't test it - no microphone. Neat idea though, although I'm not sure I'd use it...

It's Banned Books Week!

It's Banned Books Week! Read a banned book! For a list of books that have been banned or challenged visit the American Library Association's website for the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2001 and the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2004.

In January 2007, all new books will have ISBN numbers that are 13-digits long, instead of the previous 10-digit ISBN numbers. If you want to read about this in depth, download this. It's most likely way too much information for non-librarians (and perhaps even too much info for librarians - I don't know, I haven't read it yet).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yahoo's Instant Search (beta)

For those of us who apparently can't even wait for yahoo to return results after we click "search", Yahoo has an Instant Search out:

Yahoo's Instant Search (beta)

Wonder if it works on dial-up. You'll also notice, if you try a few queries, that it doesn't work well for various searches. It worked about half the time for me. But it's an interesting idea!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Need Your Input!

I will be teaching a class in the spring dealing with information, the Web, using the library, finding resources, etc. It's a 2-credit course that meets twice a week.

I'm trying to come up with innovative assignment ideas that will help the students stay awake and actually learn. I want it to be fun (I have unrealistic goals, what can I say?). Plus, since I have not taught before (except for a few library instruction sessions), I'm basically a clean slate as far as teaching style is concerned, and I want to develop a good one right off the bat.

So, what I want to know is what you all do to learn about things. It's not really important what you are learning about, just how you do it.

For example, I am very interested in computer technology but not very knowledgeable. To learn about it, I read library blogs that are tech-oriented, pester my tech-savvy friends (you all know who you are) with questions, and attend the occasional workshop, conference, or presentation.

Anyone have other techniques you use? Wikis, friend networks, etc? I'd love to hear your ideas and comments!

By the way, for anyone who teaches, a really good article is Growing Up Digital, which is from the USDLA Journal (full-text available online).

A New Way to Raise Money for your Library

Well, I'm not sure how well or how long this link will work, but here's hoping:

Sexy Librarian Calendar

In case the link is problematic, I'll tell you briefly about it. Twelve librarians wanted to get their colleague a special going away gift. He's retiring after 32 years. So they decided to make a calendar with their pictures in it. Then, after talking to photographers they decided to basically pull a Calendar Girls stunt to raise money for their libraries. Down to six willing librarians they posed with oversized books covering their unmentionable areas (the article clearly states that they all had some clothes on during the photo shoot, the books just cover the clothes giving the appearance of being nekid except for the books). If the link doesn't work, don't be depressed - the article didn't have any pictures.

So this got me thinking. My library is desperately in need of funds....

To finally give appropriate credit - I found the link to this article on the LibrarianInBlack blog. She also mentions that Opera's browser is now completely free with no ads! I love Firefox, but perhaps I should check out Opera.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Have you thanked your librarian lately? : )

Well, aren't I just post-happy today. I didn't think my first post on library instruction had gone through since Blogger was apparently not happy with me this afternoon.

Anyway....

It's so nice to hear from students that your pitiful attempts at helping them find information are actually appreciated. I've had quite a few students thank me for helping them the past few days, one of which was in an email. No, unfortunately, the student didn't take it upon herself to write me an email proclaiming just how fabulous I am. I had written her an email as a followup to a phone conversation once I'd had time to find more resources. Anyway, the response I got back was:

"Wow, thank you so much! You have no idea how helpful this will be! I really, really appreciate it!"

That made my day. :)

"It's a Strange World. Fish it." - Singingfish.com

So here's a fun search engine:

Singingfish

It finds free music on the web. I searched for David Lamotte, and it brought up the free mp3s that are on his website. The option to limit it to file type is nice for those of us who don't have Realplayer.

Of course, my favorite part of the site is where it says "Yes! We have a family filter. No! It will not filter out your family."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some blog search engines that I saw in another blog which I once again forget the name of:

IceRocket
Google's beta Blog Search
Technorati

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And then this one is pretty interesting:

SpoofStick

I'm not really sure I go to these "fake" pages all that often, but perhaps if I had SpoofStick, I'd find out that that's all I ever do! It's often called "phishing" which ties in nicely to the title of this blog entry - fishing/phishing. Okay, not so funny afterall...

Can Library Instruction be Fun??

I remember as a student feeling that library instruction was about the most boring thing I could possibly have attended. So now, in my new role as librarian, I’m trying very hard to find neat, innovative, entertaining ways to keep the students awake while still getting the information across.

So, my ideas so far are:
1. Using more examples
2. Choosing fun topics to search for (pornography anyone?)
3. The use of metaphors to explain concepts.

Anyone have any suggestions? I know most of you are not librarians, but you are or were students at one time. Is there anything that would have made it less boring? Anyone remember a good technique a librarian used?

For those librarians out there facing the same problem, there is a library instruction wiki here: http://instructionwiki.org/
I’m slowly going through it to see what information it has to offer.

Monday, September 19, 2005

HTML Tweaking

It's amazing what you learn in library school. It is due to my Web Publishing class that I just wasted most of my evening monkeying around with the HTML in the template for this blog. I'm so glad that they let you tweak the code because now my cursors are crosshairs. That's highly important afterall.

Just wait until I have more free time and decide to play with the colors. I learned the important HTML.

Yay for crosshair cursors!

Itty Bitty Computer

Wow, talk about a tiny computer:

http://www.oqo.com/hardware/basics/

Hmmm, what possible use could the OQO have in libraries? Well, I suppose we could carry them around with us and hunt for bewildered patrons lost in the stacks. We'd just whip out our handy little OQO, search the online catalog using its wireless connection (note to self: library would need to have wireless for this to work), and tell the patrons what wonderful books they can find on their topic. And all of that without the inconvenience of walking back to a computer station. Wow.

Somehow I don't think that will fly as an explanation of why I need an OQO at my library. Oh well.

Thanks, Paul, for today's terrific tech tidbit!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Jumping on the Blog Bandwagon

I thought I'd give this whole blog thing a try. I'm forever finding neat things on the Internet that I think people should know about, so now instead of emailing these things to everyone (which probably drives them batty), I can just post it on here.

So we'll see how my foray into blogging goes.

Today's fun website is:

http://www2.meebo.com/

This site allows you to be on AIM, ICQ, MSN, and/or Yahoo without having to download anything to your computer. It's in beta form, but I've tried it out briefly and it seems to work pretty well. I've only tried one screenname at a time, but apparently you can be on multiple accounts at once.

I found Meebo on a library blog somewhere. I'd love to give credit but have no idea which one I found it on. I will have to remember to pay more attention to that in the future. I love reading Library blogs, particularly the technology-related ones, because I find some of the neatest things.