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


Government 2.0

   February 3rd, 2009 Brian Herzog

obama on iphoneBefore and since the Obama Administration moved into the White House, there's been much talk about how Obama was using technology, really using it properly, to get things done.

These ranged from his change.gov and recovery.gov websites to the Blackberry battle to tech problems in the White House to Obama's Technology Agenda to the newly revamped White House website and blog.

I subscribed to the White House blog's rss feed on 1/20. In addition to reading the posts, I also paid attention to how many other subscribers there were. At the end of the first week, there were about 800 subscribers in Bloglines, and about 3,000 in Google Reader. As of 2/2, it's up to 1,100+ Bloglines and 16,000+ Google Reader.

This is out of a country of 300 million people - I'm surprised it's so low*.

I think it's great that the government is putting effort into reaching people in new ways, so people can get the information the way they want to be reached. But at what point does it become worth it? These numbers don't take into account people that use other rss readers or actually visit the website, but they do seem low.

Regardless, leading by example is a good thing - if the White House is taking bloggery seriously, then perhaps other parts of the government will also be making information available quicker and easier via technology. The Library of Congress blog predates Obama (191 Blogline/241 Google Reader subscribers), and it has a flickr stream too (~90/226 subscribers). Also, iLibrarian recently pointed to a recap of the Best Government Uses of Web Technology, and that's interesting reading.

These web 2.0 communication channels are now an integrated fact of life for many people, so it makes me feel better that our government is deliberately addressing it instead of trying to ignore it.

 


*My library's blog isn't much better - out a of a town of about 32,000, we've got 3 Bloglines and 4 Google Reader subscribers (we average over 700 page visits a month).



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With Friends Like These

   November 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

flickr friends screenshotIf you haven't already, read David Lee King's post about Web 2.0 and friending. It might be hard to swallow at first, but he's absolutely right.

His main point:

When your organization decides, say, to create a Facebook page … who are you trying to connect with? Me? I don’t live in your neighborhood. Another library on the other side of the world? They’re not going to use your services.

He's right in that libraries aren't implementing Library 2.0 tools to connect with other libraries - we need to focus on connecting with our patrons. Any library service (be it a newsletter, a storytime, a flickr collection, or an rss feed) should be directed to the patrons. Those are the people (we hope) who will benefit from it.

Friending other libraries is safe and tempting, but is slightly counterproductive (we don't want it to look like these are library-only tools). But I also agree with David (and commenters) in that it's important to connect with other librarians professionally, and to keep up with what other libraries are doing - there are a lot of good ideas out there that we can adapt for our own libraries.

Hmm. I'm guilty of this myself, but I'm going to keep in mind moving forward.



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Library 2.0 For You

   September 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

NELA 2008 conference logoIn my last post, I mentioned that at this year's NELA annual conference, I will be part of a panel called "Library 2.0 For You." A few people asked me about it, so here's what it is and how it came to be:

The description from the NELA conference program [pdf]:

Flickr isn't just a bird, delicious isn't just your NELA luncheon, and WordPress isn't a new kitchen gadget. Find out what these things are and how these popular Web 2.0 applications (and more!) are being used in real-world libraries. L24U offers a panel of three experienced Massachusetts librarians: Paige Eaton Davis from the Minuteman Library Network, Brian Herzog from the Chelmsford Public Library, and Elizabeth Thomsen of NOBLE. They share their expertise with applying Web 2.0 technologies to help promote your library's resources, programs, and materials. The program sponsor is ITS whose business meeting is included in the program.

Sounds great, huh? This program came about because there seemed to be a need for almost a how-to session for Library 2.0 tools. Lots of programs at past conferences and seminars were either general overviews of this technology, or very rah-rah Library 2.0 cheerleading. Which were great, because they raised awareness and interest, and got people excited about exploring these tools.

However, when people left the conference, they knew they were interested but didn't know where to begin. So in L24U, we're hoping to show a few examples of what can be done with a few Library 2.0 tools (using actual working examples from libraries), and explain what the steps were to implement these tools.

It won't be hands-on training, but attendees will hopefully leave the session with an understanding of how to put these tools to work for them as soon as they get back to their libraries.

That's the plan, at any rate. Even if we just end up answering peoples' questions, it should still be interesting (that is, once I get past my fear of public speaking). So if you're going to NELA 2008, look for this program on Monday at 1pm.



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Simmons Tech Summit

   July 24th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Simmons Tech Summit Tech ToysLast week, I was invited to participate in the first Simmons Tech Summit.

Organized and hosted by a few instructors in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, it was a small unconference of tech librarians discussing using web 2.0 tools to reach out to patrons.

It was fun. I was the only public librarian there (and, it seemed, the only one without an iPhone), and it was interesting to hear how academic librarians approach web 2.0 tools. Also, I like meeting other librarians, especially when they're doing cool things.

We created a del.icio.us account for the tools we covered - a lot I don't use, a few I'd never heard of, and some I need to investigate further. Check out the full list, but here's a few highlights:

  • VoiceThread and Animoto are different, but similar in that they are both easy tools for creating videos. Animoto puts music over photos, to create fun music videos. VoiceThread is a bit more powerful, and is a tool for creating presentations with slides and voice - but best of all, viewers can leave comments on the slides. Great for interaction in the classroom, but questions/feedback is also great for instructional screencasts or collaborative creativity
  • LibraryFind came up early in the day, as any meeting of tech librarians will quickly turn to lamenting the state of ILS software. LibraryFind is an open source metasearch/federated search tool developed (and in use!) by Oregon State University - definitely worth some play time
  • ChaCha was new to me - it's basically a reference service for mobile devices. Send them a reference question via text message or phone call, and they send you back an answer. Registering your mobile devices means it can log the questions you ask, so you can see who answered it (the "Guide") and where they found the answer. It looks like Guides can be anyone, and are paid $0.20/answer
  • Wordle.net was new to me, too - upload a block of text to it and it creates a pretty "word cloud." Like a tag cloud, but not linked, so it can be eye-catching but not inherently useful. But I like the concept, though, and it's fun: here's a wordle of the Tech Summit delicious feed, this blog, and the White House's news feed

Keeping up by reading journals and blogs is okay, but I usually learn a lot more by talking to people and hearing their ideas on tools. Yay for sharing and working together.



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Web 2.0 Companies and Libraries

   March 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

LinkedIn officeA little while ago, grow-a-brain linked to a list of photographs of what some Web 2.0 companies' offices looked like.

I found this interesting, so I thought I'd share. The photo shown here is in the offices of LinkedIn, a social networking website. When I saw it, I thought it could pass for a children's room in a library.

Which got me thinking about what library "offices" look like. Public desks are one thing, but a lot of work also happens beyond the public areas, behind those doors marked "staff-only."

This reminded me there is a Librarians' Desks flickr pool, which has both public and staff desks. Really, they don't look all that different from the Web 2.0 companies.

By the way, here are my public and private library desks.

via



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