or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

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This Is Why I Like Working In A Library

   February 6th, 2013 Brian Herzog

My library's One Book Chelmsford selection this year is Townie, by Andre Dubus, and the kick-off event was last weekend.

To promote the book with patrons, we decided to hang up a punching bag right next to the circulation desk, so it's the first thing people see when coming into the library. Pretty neat, huh? Plus, since we didn't want to permanently attach it to the wall or ceiling, they let me build a stand for it:

It's nothing fancy, but I like woodworking and carpentry, and any excuse to use power tools is a good one. The wood and hardware cost about $30, and we bought the bag itself on Craigslist for $15, so it's not too much money for a pretty eye-catching display. And in how many other jobs would I get to do something like this?

Patrons seem to really like it too - especially kids. We encourage people to try it, and I'm pretty sure it won't fall over (we tested it). We still haven't decided what to do with it afterwards, but we've got a few months. Who knows - maybe we'll just catalog it and add it to the circulating collection for people to check out.

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Reference Question of the Week – 1/1/12

   January 7th, 2012 Brian Herzog

As we have come to expect over the last couple years, the first few weeks after the Christmas holidays means a rather dramatic spike in the number of questions about ebooks. The effect this year seemed more profound that usual, which led me to this conclusion:

Tweet: I think "how do I download ebooks?" has just surpassed "where is the bathroom?" as the #1 reference question #timestheyareachangin

This year, my library planned a program on using ebooks with library resources for the first Saturday in January. The plan was for me to talk about Overdrive, and give live downloading demos for a Kindle, iPad, and Nook. Also, we invited a sales associate from the local Radio Shack to come talk about the non-library aspects of ereaders - buying ebooks, the differences between the devices themselves, and hopefully answer a few hardware tech support questions.

Our meeting room is big enough, and ereaders are small enough, that I didn't think just holding one up would really help people in the back see which buttons to press. I got the idea of using a camera, pointed at a Kindle or Nook, to project what I was doing to it up on a screen, to make it more visible. I have a little external webcam that I plugged into a computer, and clamped it so it's pointing straight down at a table (where the ereader will sit). Then I found this software called FSCamView which does nothing but take the feed from the webcam and display it full-screen on the laptop. Then, plugging the laptop into a digital projector shows whatever I put in front of the webcam up on the big screen. How could that go wrong?

And since my library is lucky enough to have two digital projectors, I also plan to have a second computer to project the Overdrive catalog. This way, hopefully, people (even in the back) will be able to watch me search the Overdrive, checkout an ebook, download and transfer it to the ereader, and simultaneously see it actually show up on the device.

Here's what the setup looked like 20 minutes before we started:

Presenting with two screens

We presented from the podium in the right corner. Slides (and websites) on the computer were projected onto the wall in the center by our in-the-ceiling projector, and the webcam/projector/ereader setup was on a little table next to the podium, projecting onto the screen on the left side of the photo - you can see an iPad up there now.

It worked well enough for our purposes, and I think people were happy to (sort of) see what we were doing. The problems we had were that the camera wasn't very high resolution, and the lighting was tricky - not to mention glare off the devices.

Even still, the program was a huge success. We had over 100 people in the room (which seats 80), and had to turn people away. On the spot we decided to hold a repeat program in a couple weeks for all the people who couldn't attend this one. I think everyone learned something, and many said that after seeing the steps it takes to download ebooks from Overdrive, they now understand and can do it themselves. Yay for that.

I'm going to keep fiddling with the webcam/projector setup, because there's got to be an easy way to improve that. Then it'll be fun to think of other programs that might benefit from projecting physical objects up on the wall. Hmm.

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Kid Book Reviews on StoryTubes

   June 3rd, 2008 Brian Herzog

StoryTubes book review video imageA librarian in Maine recently posted to MELIBS-L that one of their local patrons was a finalist for the 2008 StoryTubes contest. I had never heard of this contest, but I like projects where patrons get involved, so I checked it out. I loved it.

Kids make a video of themselves reviewing a book on a particular theme (that week's was "Facts, Fads and Phenoms") and submit it to StoryTubes. Finalists get posted on the website (via YouTube), website visitors vote, and four winner win $500 in books (and their sponsoring school or library receives $1,000 in books).

This year's contest is winding down, and I'm sorry I missed it. It's sponsored by publishers and libraries, and the finalist videos are great (my two favorite are below, and more here).

But even outside this contest, I think this would be a fun thing to do in the library. All it would take is a basic digital camera and a YouTube account, and I can see parents, kids and librarians getting really into it. It gives kids an opportunity to create, and in a public way. You always hear the phrase, "it'll be something to tell your grandkids about." This gives kids something to be proud of and tell their grandparents about.

Your Chickens: A Kids Guide to Raising and Showing

Essential Visual History of the World

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Online Photo Sharing with Flickr

   April 3rd, 2008 Brian Herzog

Flickr Loves YouLast night I gave a workshop at my library on how to use flickr for online photo sharing (thanks to everyone who contributed). It went well, and I thought I'd post the handouts here (no slides, since it was a live demo in flickr). Feel free to use or repackage this material for your own purposes. The online version is below, and here are pdf and Word versions:


Introduction to Online Photo Sharing

  1. The three main reasons to use an online photo sharing website with your digital pictures are:
    • They serve as backup copies in case something happens to your computer or camera
    • They are easy to organize and manage to find later on
    • They can easily be shared with other people (better than emailing!)
  2. A short introductory video about photo sharing: http://www.commoncraft.com/photosharing
  3. Visit the Library's flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chelmsfordpubliclibrary


Creating a flickr account

Flickr has both a free version (limited to 200 photos, 3 sets, 100mb uploads per month - http://www.flickr.com/help/limits) and a paid "Pro" version ($24.95/year with no limits or ads).

Flickr is owned by Yahoo.com, so you will need (or need to create) a Yahoo account to use flickr. (You'll only have to do these steps once)

  1. Go to http://www.flickr.com and click "Sign In" and create your account
  2. Read the Community Guidelines
  3. Account Settings you should customize (click account name at the top right of the screen)
    Personal Information

    • Your buddy icon
    • Your screenname (this is what will show on flickr, not what you use to log in)
    • Your flickr web address (how people can find you)

    Privacy & Permissions

    • Who will be able to see, comment on, and annotate your photos
      • Only You, Friends and/or Family, Anyone
      • Guest Pass (share sets with specific people regardless of privacy settings)
      • Can be changed at any time, on a per-photo basis
    • What license will your photos have (http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses)

    There are lots more account settings that you can customize, but these are some you should customize


Uploading Photographs

Flickr offers lots of ways to upload photos - from the flickr website, from your computer, from your camera phone or by email. We'll look at using the flickr website.

  1. Go to http://www.flickr.com and click "Sign In"
  2. Click upload photos
  3. Browse to the photos on your camera or computer
  4. Set privacy setting, edit photo title, add description and tags (first step in organizing)

Make Notes and read Comments on your photos. Click the "Add Note" icon in the toolbar above each photo to highlight a specific area of your photo. Other flickr users will leave comments below your photos, and some will mark your photos are "favorites."

flickr image toolbar


Organizing and Sharing Photographs

Create Sets to group related photos.

  1. Click Organize > Your Sets
  2. Add name, description and photos (drag and drop)
  3. Photos can be added to more than one set

Add to Map to show where you've been or where something is.

  1. Click Organize > Your Map
  2. Find location on map (be as specific as possible)
  3. Drag and drop photo onto map

Use Groups to share photos with other people who have similar photos.

  1. Click Groups > Search for Groups
  2. When you fin one you like, click Join this Group
  3. Add photos to a Group's photo pool by clicking Groups > Your Groups

View Your Contacts photos to see what has been recently uploaded by people you know or like - you can also Invite people to view your photos even if they don't have a Flickr account.

Use a Badge to automatically show your photos on your website.

Print Your Photos right from flickr - choose the size and finish, and they will mail them to you.


Edit Your Photographs Online

Flickr uses Picnik to allow flickr users to edit photos right online. To do this, click the "Edit Photo" icon in the toolbar above the photo to edit, and this will import the photo into the Picnik editor.

  • Picnik allows for color adjustment, red-eye reduction, cropping, resizing and more
  • Some features are "Premium" - you have to pay to use them
  • "Pro" flickr users can replace photos; free account can only create new photos
  • Lots of other online photo editors are available, but this is the only one integrated with flickr


Glossary of Flickr Terms

Badge: A way to add photos from your flickr account right to your own website

Collection: A group of sets (can also include photos not in sets)

Contacts: Other flickr users you have chosen to add to Your Contacts page; can be Contacts, Friends or Family

Description: Text describing a photograph (shows below the photo)

Discussion board: Online discussion forum available for group members to talk to each other

Favorite: Marking a photo a "favorite" adds it to Your Favorites page, to make it easy to find later

Geotagging: Adding location-related metadata to your photos to make them findable by where they were taken (this happens automatically when you add photos to your map)

Groups: A group of flickr users with a similar interest, and share information via a photo pool and a discussion board

Metadata: Information about your photos used to organize and find them. Tags, titles and descriptions are examples of metadata, but your camera will also automatically add shutter speed, exposure, white balance, etc. to your photo's metadata

Note: Text describing a highlighted section of a photograph (shows right on the photo)

Photostream: The photos uploaded to a flickr account

Picnik: The tool flickr uses for online photo editing

Pool: The photos of individual group members that they have added to the group

Set: A group of related photographs

Tags (or tagging): Keywords added to a photograph to make it easy to find

Title: Short "headline" of a photo (shows above the photo)


More Flickr Resources


Other Online Photo Resources (no downloading required)

Photo Sharing:

Photo Editing:

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Online Photo Tools

   March 13th, 2008 Brian Herzog

cameraI am giving a workshop in early April on using flickr. It's the last in a digital photography workshop series at my library, because, after people learn how to use and take nice pictures with their digital camera, the flickr workshop will show them one option for doing something with those digital pictures.

I thought I'd get a jump on preparing for it, by compiling a list of websites I'd like to mention in addition to flickr - not just online photo sharing websites, but websites that let you edit photos, sites that have free archives of photos, etc.

In the process of working on it, it occurred to me that it'd be worthwhile to post it here, too. It's a long list, but certainly not all-inclusive, so if your favorite isn't listed here, please share.

Photo Sharing:

Photo Editing:

Image Archives:

Other flickr-related Information:

Also, this list will probably change a bit closer to the workshop.

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Libraries as Fun Places

   April 20th, 2007 Brian Herzog

I read a post on LISNews today about a "book bar" trend that is starting in the UK. Lichen had brought up this idea before, and I still like it - make libraries more inviting in general, rather than just hoping people like what we have where we have it how we have it.

Crowd watching Coffeehouse @ the Library performerMy library is having a "Coffeehouse @ the Library" series as part of our larger One Book Chelmsford program, and the response has been great. The first one was well attended (see photos), and patrons are looking forward to the second (which is tonight, so come if you can!).

And I'm hoping that if we can demonstrate desire and attendance among patrons, then this can be a regular program.

book bar, coffee house, coffeehouse, entertainment, libraries, library, live performer, public libraries, public library

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