Moving again

29 07 2014

I’ve moved again – (not that I’m not still friendly, it’s just a shorter URL). I’m taking on a reading challenge – 1 book/week (maybe more, but I’m committing to this) and blogging there.


Moving . . .

28 07 2011

Since I haven’t been a great blogger, I’m going to try my hand at being a tumblr. I’m hoping the shorter format will make it easier for me to share thoughts, photos, etc.

You can check out my newer, shorter blog at Content coming soon.

Me (the delinquent blogger) and the British Library

20 12 2009

My big fear in starting this blog was that I would be unable to post often enough to maintain an active blog.  That fear was realized this past month.  I have some good excuses – I traveled to London and Paris over Thanksgiving, then was sick and then finished graduate school.  I’ve had topics in mind to post about but haven’t had much time or energy to post.  I’m going to get back into blogging and with that in mind, I wanted to share my experiences from the British Library which I took a private tour of when I was in London.

The British Library was originally part of the British Museum.  Planning and construction started for a new building around 30 years ago and the building was intended to be 3 times the size it is now (which is pretty large if you consider all the underground shelving).  The tour of the library was fascinating, although probably more so for a librarian than for the general public.  They really undersold the tour since it’s about the library itself, and not its treasures (which include a Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare’s first folio).  The tour is also on the pricey side at 8 pounds but was totally worth it.

A few of the most interesting parts of the tour:

  • The glass display in the middle of the library holds George III’s personal collection, since his collection started the British Library.  However, the display was intended to hold card catalogs.  In the time between planning and constructing the building, catalogs moved online and there was still a giant space intended for the card catalogs.
  • George III was rumored to have chosen his books based on appearance rather than content (and they do look quite nice in the glass case) but there are handwritten notes in a good number of his books.  Patrons can request the books by title and staff retrieve them.  Most books can be touched by patrons but for some they need gloves and for others, which are old and rare (or really older and rarer) a staff member has to sit there and turn the pages.
  • The library is surrounded by the subway and was built out as much as possible without hitting the tube on each side.  You can feel the tube go by while you are in the library.
  • Behind the Reference Desk (which has a sign saying “Reference Enquiries”), there are 400 year old books right next to Ulrich’s, Balay’s and Wolford’s, same as any other library.  In the reference collection, it was the same thing – 20th century literary criticism next to old reference books and ones in other languages.

The most interesting part to me is the struggle about the identity of the library.  The British Library is a library of last resort.  To even get a reader’s pass (which sounds so much nicer than a library card) to just read books in the library for the day, patrons need to bring a proof of address (not just UK, any address will do) and a list of books at the library that they need to see.  Once patrons have that pass, they can request any book in the library they want.  They receive a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland.  When we were on the tour, we were able to see the books that patrons requested.  In this library of last resort where you need to have a desk spot in a reading room before they will deliver any books to you and that you can’t take the books out from, the books requested included: Windows Vista for Dummies, Dan Brown’s latest book and others of that sort.  These are books that can be found at any local library, yet they were requested and held for patrons at the British Library.

This reminded me so much of the signs we have next to the computers at our academic library.  It asks that before using facebook or checking email on our computers, students take a look around and make sure that there aren’t any other students are looking for computers to do work.  Our mission as an academic library is to provide resources to support the curriculum and learning at the college.  We provide entertainment resources, but they are secondary.  The British Library attempts to ensure patrons are looking for unique resources for scholarship by requiring a list, but clearly there are some using the library for more common books.  On the tour we learned that there are days where if you don’t have a table by 9am, you won’t find one all day.  I wonder if the British Library should do more to ensure it’s patrons are using the “appropriate” resources or redirect them to other libraries.  I usually tend to be of the thinking that libraries should provide what it’s patrons want and need, rather than what we think they want and need.  This tour showed me how critical having a mission and vision of the library is and how decisions should be made based on the mission and vision.

Google Voice

16 11 2009

While I’m still not sold on Google Wave, it was worth it to have it because I was able to trade it for an invite for Google Voice.  I haven’t even fully explored it yet but, so far, I am adoring Google Voice.

Basically, Google Voice is a product that is still invitation only from Google.  You can get a new “Google” phone number or use Google Voice with your existing phone number.  I chose to use my existing number rather than add a new phone number to my life.

The benefits of Google Voice, as explained by Google, are:

  • Google voicemail: voicemail like email
  • Voicemail transcription: read what your voicemail says
  • Custom greetings: vary voicemail greetings by caller
  • International calling: low cost calls to the world
  • Notifications: read voicemail messages via email or SMS
  • Share voicemails: forward, embed, or download voicemails

Additionally, the benefits that I’ve enjoyed are that you can:

  • Listen to your voicemail online
  • Pause your voicemail as you listen online
  • Receive the transcripts of your voicemail by email or text message

The transcripts can be a little iffy.  It depends on the background noise in the message and how clearly the person is speaking.  When I’ve had trouble with the transcript, I’ve listened to the playback online and it’s been just fine.  The one annoying part of Google Voice is that I don’t know when I have a new voicemail if I’m away from my computer. Since it goes to a different voicemail number, I only get a notification if I’ve missed a call, rather than if I have a new voicemail.

I am very excited to have voicemail access through Google Voice while I’m out of the country.  I’m leaving for London and Paris tomorrow and would normally not check my voicemail because of the expense (I don’t have an iPhone, which is a post for another time).  I do, however, have an iPod Touch which has wi-fi access.  During my trip, I’ll now have access to listen to my voicemails through Google Voice whenever I have wi-fi access.  Google Voice also supports multiple phone lines so we’re going to set up Google Voice to transcribe my husband’s voicemail also.

While there are merits to unplugging and being incommunicado, I prefer to have access to voicemail and then choose whether or not I want to access it.

I’ll post about library uses for Google Voice when I get back . . .

Google Wave?

4 11 2009

A few weeks ago, I received an invite to Google Wave, which by Google’s description is what email would be if it were invented today.  I’ve waved with a few folks, watched the two minute video about it, and yet, I’m still not sold.  I’m still not sure exactly what I would use it for.  Google even provides suggestions for how to use Wave, like organizing events and group projects, but it requires everyone involved to have both a Google account and a Wave account.   There’s even been hub bub in higher ed about Wave as a replacement for Content Management Systems (CMS).

I would love to find a use for it in my life, work or otherwise.  At the library, the collaboration tool that we use most frequently is a wiki (I’ve linked to the Wikipedia definition of wiki here which is so meta – love it).  We collaborate behind the scenes but the look we present to the user is (hopefully) seamless.  We don’t want our users to see whose hands were on what.  In my mind, everything should look the same and present the same to the user, but we can see who did what behind the scenes.

The thing that I do love about Google Wave, and about Google in general, is how it forces others to keep up and innovate.  PBWorks, formerly PBWiki, recently announced that they were going to have real time collaboration in their wiki.  As Google CEO Eric Schmidt says Google is “a disrupter,” (RT @NiemanLab)  I’ve used PBWorks before with ease and might have to add Google Wave to my instructional technologies list, which is on the PBWorks platform.

As more people get invitations to Google Wave, I hope to find a purpose for it.  In fact, the other night I traded a Wave invite for something I did really want – a Google Voice invite (which I will blog about soon).  I’ve been trying to publicize my blog more, and in the spirit of that trade, I would like to offer an invitation for Google Wave to anyone who:

  1. links to this blog
  2. facebooks this blog
  3. tweets this blog

If you do any/all of these things, leave me a comment on the blog to let me know. I have 13 invitations left.  If more people link, fb or tweet than I have invites for, I will raffle them instead.  Also, if you have an interesting idea for using Google Wave, especially in libraries, leave a comment on that also because I would love any suggestions or innovative ideas that people have for this service.

Twitter Lists

1 11 2009

After a crazy week, I’m finally getting around to exploring twitter lists.  For those unfamiliar, twitter lists are a way to organize those you follow or who follow you into lists that others can find (if they are public, there is a private option).  For more information on twitter lists, check out the post on

This lists feature creates a more democratic and personal social networking experience.  Until now, the best ways to find out who to follow was to 1. use their suggested user list and/or 2. check out who your friends were following.

The first option means that you would want to follow and be up to date on the postings of companies or celebrities.  The suggested users list is an eclectic group that ranges from Whole Foods to Britney Spears to David Allen.  You might even care about following a few of these folks, but it probably won’t keep you checking twitter or tweeting actively.

The second option assumes that you have friends that are active on twitter.  Most of the discussions about twitter indicates that most users post once and never return (check out slate for their article on “orphaned tweets“).   If your friends are not active posters, then you’re not likely to stick with twitter and will also be a one post wonder.

Why should twitters suggested users be prized above yours or mine?  In fact, the chief exec of twitter has suggested that they shouldn’t be.  These new lists are the way of the future at twitter and the suggested user list will be killed or evolved.  The new twitter lists feature provide better possibilities for finding twitter users to follow.  It provides a practical purpose for using twitter.  Finding out who my fellow library tweeters are following and being able to cull the librarians from their friends provides twitter with a networking angle.  If these users provide public posts and lists, I can extend my degrees of separation and find more librarians and create a larger network of librarians on twitter.

I’m also posting this as a slightly delayed response to the challenge posed  by the Internet Librarian, Sarah Houghton-Jan, to create a twitter list and let your community know that it’s there.  I’ve created my librarian list – if you’re a librarian reading this and you’re not on it, DM me or reply @quirkster to get on it.  While you’re at it, create your own librarian list and add me to it so that YOUR librarian followers can find me.

(Note: I’m not so much invested in the medium of twitter as I am in the fact that it has the potential to create a findable network of tech savvy early adopter librarians)

Cartoon Reference

26 10 2009

Libraries provide reference services through a variety of communication methods. There’s your standard face to face and phone. Electronically, email and chat have become more common with a variety of chat services with options for co-browsing and other fancy things. Some libraries are tweeting; others are on Second Life.

But I just saw Anthony Bourdain’s Alternate Universe (his new animated web series) and found myself wishing I could provide reference service online as a cartoon version of myself. The amount of time and energy it would take to animate myself (and my lack of artistic ability) make it highly unlikely this could happen.

At the root of this (aside from just how cool it could be) is the desire to have an online presence that is accessible to patrons. Librarians seem impersonal and “scary” to those who don’t know us. There’s a library anxiety and worry of judgement. Cartoons, pictures, details about interests and all of that kind of jazz personalize people. When I met Lisa Lillien (Hungry Girl) at a book signing, she seemed familiar and accessible because her cartoon was identical to her.

Common interests provide an entry point for patrons to feel more comfortable. It’s basic common sense that we all know and feel. As a resident advisor in college, we had to write a little intro about ourselves in the hall newsletter. I didn’t think anyone would read it, let alone remember details from it, so I wrote that I love cheesy ’80s music. On move in day, students came up to me all day long to let me know that they too shared my love for cheesy ’80s music. And that helped them to feel comfortable coming to me with their questions all year long.

That small detail made the difference to the students in my hall and can make the difference with patrons. Patrons have questions, some they don’t even realize they have or that they don’t think librarians can answer or that they think are too dumb to ask anyone. Having a personal connection can increase their comfort level and keep them asking rather than getting frustrated. Cartoon versions of ourselves might not be an option but being a little more animated and playful in our service delivery methods certainly are.