Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thingy 10: The Virtual Library Branch

"The end is the beginning is the end." --Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins

Well, here we are at the 10 Things finish line, feeling a bit winded I'm afraid. "What a long, strange trip it's been" (Grateful Dead). This Thing makes the valid point that a library's virtual presence should transcend and exceed its website. One can only hope that the library will continue to hire staff and dedicate staff time to cultivating this presence. However, I do worry about the "digital divide," namely those people without regular internet access. In our increasingly techno-savvy jobs, we cannot lose sight of such people--particularly in our community where there are many recent immigrants who perhaps do not yet have the lifestyle and technological access that "we" have. One need only observe the jockeying for position in our computer labs some evening or weekend in order to recognize how many people do not have this access at home. Thus, we cannot make the assumption that people have ready home access to our website, let alone other permutations of the online libraric presence.

Speaking of SPL's website in particular, I do like its thoroughness, the functionality of the catalog, and the online account management function. The IM reference service is pretty cool--I wonder how much it's getting used? Perhaps, in the future, this could be expanded to other departments: YS answering programming questions and registering people via IM, circulation staff helping patrons manage their accounts via IM, etc. However, my main suggestion regarding the website is that it is very text heavy. If you click on the "Kids" tab, for instance, you mainly get a detailed list of options, with a picture at the bottom of the page and some graphics off to the side. It seems very dense and not all that welcoming, particularly for this demographic.

I did download a digital book from the website--Fear Itself: Enemies Real and Imagined in American Culture--but found the process to be a bit confusing. The directions didn't exactly sync with what I found on the page itself. But this is an intriguing feature, though I am not fond of reading text on a computer screen.

Well, I suppose that about does it. I would like to thank the 10 Things Team for being our guides through this process--it has been challenging, enjoyable, and has opened up many possibilities of discussion regarding how to implement these Web 2.0 technologies into our personal and professional lives.

Thingy 9: Google Tools

Who needs Big Brother or H.A.L. (from 2001: A Space Odyssey, not dear Mr. Dickens) when you have Google Tools? Truly this is an impressive array of tools--in fact, it's nearly paralyzing. I do respect Google's emphasis on innovation and how they dedicate 20% of their staff time to this.

Most of the Google tools require you to download software to your computer, so I just perused many of them, not being eager to become host to all kind of semi-known, nascent, potentially un-useful programs. The Picasa photo program seems interesting and helpful, particularly in its emphasis upon working with the pics on your hard drive, organizing them, backing them up, etc., and giving you the option to post them on the web, as opposed to Flickr, which is completely web based and thus focused on the social dimension. Of course, I haven't downloaded the Picasa program yet (I think I have commitment issues). I like how it is integrated into one's extant Google account (one less password to remember!).

An aside query: Anybody have any terrific ideas of how to conveniently and securely keep track of the burgeoning user names and passwords that one develops in using various websites? I'm hesitant to just use the same password for everything, lest someone blow my whole life wide open.

Back to the matter at hand: Google Docs does seem useful--sort of like a specialized wiki. Though I again worry about the inability to back up web-based documents, I suppose it has some advantages over just being on my hard drive. I do like the idea of being able to access a set group of documents from any web-connected computer. And as the nifty video shows, it can be very helpful for working on a document collaboratively and avoiding having millions of versions floating around.

To be honest, at this point I think I am dealing with oversaturation of Web 2.0 items; it'll be interesting to let these things percolate a bit and see what I actually end up using in my ongoing life. Provided I have such a thing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thingy 8: Wikis and Radical Trust

Being a theologically-scarred individual, the notion of "radical trust" in anything is problematic for me. However, I think this phrase is a misnomer, as the trust one bequeaths to a Wiki need not be "radical." If someone changes what I wrote on the SPL Wiki, for instance, I think I will still be able to sleep at night. And this dovetails with another question we are to answer: I do use Wikipedia sometimes, but only to get an initial orientation to a subject. I would never count on it as authoritative. I followed a link from a link on the "How Things Work" article on Wikis in which the co-founder of Wikipedia argues that Wikis should not be anti-elitist to the point where there is no deference to the input of experts and the pooled knowledge drips down to the lowest common denominator (click here for the article). Thus, "trust" is required, but not "radical trust," unless you are citing nothing but Wikis in your dissertation.

Given that modification, I am good with the idea of "measured trust" in the other people who may collaborate on projects such as Wikipedia. Most of the time, the "better angels of our nature" prevail (to steal Lincoln's phrase, I believe).

I think that Wikis could be used by library patrons as a common pool to share knowledge on shared interests, such as parenting, book recommendations, etc. Wikis would be helpful in the security department, except for the fact that they are not, well, secure. Thus, we already have a shared log that multiple users in our department can add to or modify but is located on a secured access drive; now that I think about it, this essentially functions as a Wiki.

But that example of using a Wiki to plan a camping trip has stimulated the wanderlust in me...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thingy 7: Podcasting

Must... not... like... anything... from... the internet...

Okay, I have to admit that I could get into this podcasting thing. Perhaps this is mainly because it doesn't involve reading text on a glowing screen for hours on end (instead, it involves some of this but then nicely melds into an aural experience). And adding podcasts to my RSS feed gives me the greedy joy of collecting all these fun things to listen to later (provided they don't disappear from their home on the web. I seem to have this persistent, existential concern with the impermanence of the internet. At least my overly massive collection of actual books will be cluttering my life for the foreseeable future.) I think my next step is to start downloading podcasts into ITunes or something, then I will "have it" and my fears be slightly assuaged. Now, if only I had an Ipod, then I could listen to these casts portably, and their usefulness/enjoyability would be markedly increased. Know anywhere where I could win one? Hmm?

Now, admittedly, the podcasts that stimulated this something-better-than-sour reaction were not "library-related" podcasts. Sorry. Among others, I added NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" program to my RSS feed--it's newsy and amusing all at once.

I did, however, listen to several library-related podcasts: a presentation from the Moraine Valley Community College on Jack Kerouac's On the Road and the headline news from library world as related by the LibVibe podcast. Given the time it takes to load and listen to podcasts, I don't think they would be the most helpful for SPL as a way of giving updates on programming, new materials, etc. However, they could work well as a sort of packaged "book club" discussion to keep people learning and reading about various genres. This could also be a way to tap into the specialized expertise of our various librarians in a way that would be enlightening for our patrons.

Or perhaps we could create a weekly podcast consisting of the most amusing and asinine phone conversations circulation staff have had with patrons:

-"Good morning. Skokie Public Library."

-"Are you open today?"

-"Ummm, yes."


-"Good morning. Skokie Public Library."

-"Uh, yeah. I have an overdue book."

[Long pause in which one searches for the question or directive in that statement of fact and ponders the inappropriateness of responding, "I'm sure you do--lots of people do. For shame!"]

-"Yes, and what can I do for you?"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Thingy 6: Social Bookmarking

A personalized list of internet bookmarks, searchable by multiple tags, centralized and accessible from any internet computer--what will they think of next?

Having faithfully changed computers every, say 4-5 years when the bugs finally bring down my stumbling processor, I have several times created and then lost extensive lists of internet bookmarks. So having a centralized, online list of these could be tremendously helpful (provided, of course, that doesn't go under). Of course, I've never really remembered or missed what all those lost bookmarks on previous computers were... I tend to be a linear thinker, so having a set of folders to organize them worked just fine for me, though I didn't always keep up with my "filing." However, having multiple tags for each bookmark may open up new dimensions of cyberspace to me. Or not.

As for the social aspect of social bookmarking, I am intensely ambiguous as to whether the input and selection of fellows humans will help or hurt the agony and chaos of navigating the morass of websites on the internet. Are there no other myopic internet users out there?

As for which tags would be most useful for the library, well that depends on whether staff or patrons will be using this, and if staff, then which staff. Perhaps, from my perspective, the following are salient: mapquest, licensedtherapists, nationalsexoffenderregistry.

Lastly: ""? Whaa?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thingy 5: Flickr and Photo sharing

Can I buy an "E"?!? What's with Flick_r? And Organiz_r?

Elision of vowels aside, Flickr is admittedly pretty cool. I had fun finding lots of photos of pretty places that made me want to be somewhere besides in front of my computer. There are so many photos that it's a bit overwhelming to navigate, but then again there are many ways to navigate it. So there. There must be a sea of microchips somewhere to store all the data from these photos, and one cannot help but wonder if, millenia from now when the cockroach people have taken over the earth from the extinct homo sapien sapiens, any of these data will be retrievable and if they'll wonder why there aren't more pictures of cockroaches?

I do like the idea of setting up a "collaborative" Flickr page like we've done for SPL--this could be a good way for an organization, family, or group of friends to share pictures. It seems to me that it would be more helpful for the library to integrate photos into other aspects of its Web promotion (blog, RSS, website, etc.) than to create a separate Flickr group for this purpose. Some suggested tags for the library's Flickr page: "kids," "new books," and "strangely disturbing people observed in the library."

Over and out.

Hi-ho Silver!

Hi-ho Silver!
Originally uploaded by theskokieten
Ladybug Ellie and her trusty steed.