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




Bloggers Wanted for NELA 2008 Annual Conference

   October 14th, 2008 Brian Herzog

NELA 2008 conference logoThe New England Library Association's 2008 Annual Conference starts this weekend, Oct. 19-21st. This year's conference is in Manchester, NH, and there is still time to register if you'd like to attend.

To supplement the conference sessions for people who can't attend, there will be a conference blog again this year. Last year, volunteers posted notes from the sessions they attended, and there were so many positive comments that NELA is doing it again. The blog is sponsored by Plymouth Rocket and is available at http://nelib.wordpress.com.

If you are interested in being a conference blogger, please contact Kathy Lussier at klussier@semls.org with questions or to sign up. Here's a bit of an overview:

What do you need to be a conference blogger?

  • Bloggers need some degree of writing ability and must feel comfortable posting with an online form (posting to a blog is as easy as sending an e-mail)
  • You do not need your own blog, since NELA will be hosting the conference blog
  • Bloggers can post about conference sessions, meetings or events. You can post notes from a session or write about what you took away from the session. We do ask that you commit to a minimum of two posts for each day you are blogging
  • If you aren't a blogger, but prefer taking photos, we have also created a NELA group on Flickr where you can post your conference snapshots. The group is available at http://flickr.com/groups/nela

Even if you aren't going to blog, please do check it out and let us know what you think. The goal is to make this blog as useful as possible, and all comments and suggestions are appreciated.

And if you're going, I hope you enjoy the conference. It's always a great place to network with librarians, learning about what's happening in the library world (such as Work Like A Patron Day), or attend a panel discussion (such as Library 2.0 For You).

I'll be there, and if you see me, please say hi.



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CIL2007 Tuesday

   April 17th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Librarians on escalators in the Hyatt lobbyEven though cil2007 has already been going on for two days, today felt like things really got started. I ended up spending as much time in the exhibit hall as in the sessions, talking to vendors and other librarians. Which is unusual for me, but I learned quite a bit today.

Today's sessions were good. The first was about the South Carolina State Library's experience with migrating their website to the Joomla CMS. It wasn't as in-depth and "here's how we did it" as I had hoped, but they did talk a bit about frustrations and surprises they encountered along the way, which is good to hear before starting a project. I am hoping to sometime in the future help convert my library's website from static html to something more dynamic, rssy and all 2.0'd out, and seeing what CMSs are out there helps.

This session complimented nicely the next two I attended – Comments in Catalogs, and then an overview of LibraryThing (and the new LibraryThing for Libraries). This entire track focused on modernizing libraries' approach to web stuff, and how we can best communicate with patrons – primarily by making sure we look at this communication as a two-way street.

For instance, opening up our websites and catalogs to allow for patrons to comment directly on our materials not only involves patrons in their libraries by giving them ownership, but also provides us with invaluable social data on how and why our materials are used.

And it was this social data that Tim Spaulding is mining and using with LibraryThing. Regular people know what they think of books. Tim's entire approach has been to let people associate keywords with specific books, and then let the groupings of those keywords speak for themselves. With the widget that is the basis of LibraryThing for Libraries, those groupings, (in the form of tags generating lists of similar books, suggested reading lists, etc) speaks loudly.

If we would only listen. As Tim pointed out, library ILSs and opacs, and the traditional vendors that supply them, are not really listening. Neither is Amazon. These are all companies trying to make money (which is why Amazon is not the ultimate book website. LibraryThing is for readers and about books, whereas Amazon is for booksellers and about making money). But improving the usefulness of our catalogs with third-party plug-ins is a step in the right directions, and hopefully these obviously necessary add-ins will soon becomes standard fare of the big ILS interfaces – or smaller solutions like Scriblio.

Interspersed between sessions I was talking to exhibitors, learning more about what library systems could replace Horizon, and what public pc/print station management software options are out there. I talked to quite a few, and need to sift through my notes (some other time) before I remember what's what.

After the conference we got a personal tour of Alexandria, VA, dinner in the Old Town at the Union Street Public House, and then enjoyed Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's. Tomorrow is much more conferencing, and then flying back to Boston, if the weather allows.

alexandria va, cil 2007, cil2007, conference, conferences, libraries, library, library thing, librarything, public libraries, public library, scriblio, social data, tim spaulding



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NELA 2006 Recap

   October 24th, 2006 Brian Herzog

I just got home from NELA 2006, and had a great time. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • One of the best parts of going to conferences like this is meeting area librarians. I met many this time, including Jessamyn West (with who, I’m sad to say, I think I made a bad first impression), and Michael Golrick (on his farewell NELA attendance on his way to the greener pastures of Wisconsin). I also got to spend time with Lichen Rancourt, which is always enjoyable
  • Although the Internet Librarian 2006 conference was going on at the same time, many of the NELA sessions I attended focused on Library 2.0 gizmos. Of particular note were:
  • NELA’s Information Technology Section held a new technologies demo session, where I got to play with Microsoft Vista (which isn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and really might be tolerable), learn about creating podcasts with Audacity, and ask questions about PlayAway digital books
  • I happily attended a guerilla marketing session, which presented both good and bad ideas:
    • Ideas that have worked:
    • A nice-looking signboard in front of the library promoting events to passing drivers (studies show white lettering on a black board is the easiest to read)
    • Advertise when possible at local businesses, such as fliers at supermarkets, on-screen advertising at a bowling alley (on their scoreboard computers), etc.
    • Create informative library placemats for use at local restaurants (give interesting factual information, list upcoming events, talk about useful resources, etc.)
    • Get listed on regional tourist maps
    • Try an adopt-a-highway project, and get staff and local teens involved to help clean up the community
    • Simple paper fans to pass out in the library in the summertime, with library information or a clever "I stay cool at the library" message imprinted on them
    • Advertise upcoming events on craigslist.com
    • Distributing bookmarks to students listing databases and other "homework help" resources
    • Ideas that did not work:
    • Imprinted lollipops: no one wanted them, and the library was stuck with them for months and months
    • Metal bookmarks: they ripped the pages of books
    • Advertising on the local cable station: it gets the message out, but it is hard to keep up on new events and you have to keep on top of the cable company to remove old ads
    • Working with schools: this often meets with resistance from the schools, but they are a great resource so keep after them
    • They also provided some tips for making flyers:
    • Print on regular paper and cardstock, and use the cardstock versions when a crowded bulletin board requires the flier to stick off the edge (common in supermarkets)
    • Keep fliers short an content-focused - too much color or graphics will detract from your message
    • Keep library information in a consistent location (such as, always in a box in the lower right corner)
    • People read fliers in a "Z" pattern, so design your flier to put your important information where their eyes will see it
    • For training on Microsoft Publisher, they recommend SkillPath
  • I also had a few productive talks with many vendors in the exhibit hall:

So, all in all, a very productive conference. It’s even better since it was in Burlington - such a nice city. And I got to see the exhibits at the ECHO Center, devoted to promoting the science and public awareness of Lake Champlain.

Now all I need to do is put all this new knowledge and ideas into action when I get into work tomorrow.

burlington, conferences, library, nela, vermont, vt



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