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


Book Covers and Bathing Suits

   August 1st, 2012 Brian Herzog

As seen on BoingBoing, the website http://matchbook.nu matches up bathing suits with book covers - pretty convincingly, I might add. A few of my favorites:

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and suit

The book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The first sentence:"All this happened, more or less."
The cover designer: Carin Goldberg
The bikini: Kudeta Bikini. $45.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and suit

The book: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The first sentence: "My suffering left me sad and gloomy."
The bathing suit: Men's Swimming Trunks by EUROPANN. $49.

 

However, one it missed was for ebooks - generic, nondescript, uniform:

Kindle bathing suit

The book: The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
The first sentence: “I do not wish to remember these things.”
The cover designer: Amazon
The bathing suit: Submarine One-Piece Swimsuit from Anthropologie. $278.



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Two Examples of Doing Things Well

   April 25th, 2012 Brian Herzog

I don't post nearly enough instances of Things Done Well (check out Walking Paper for lots of examples), but here are two things I saw recently that deserve attention:

Thing One: Ramp-In-Stairs
What I like about this is that they were designed together, from the start, and not only look nice, but (presumably) work well too. Much better than having a magnificent grand staircase, then a rickety wooden ramp up the side, or worse, a sign saying "ramp access around the back."

stairs with ramp built in

It's similar to deliberately designing websites and catalogs that look good and work well on multiple browsers at multiple screen resolutions. The best approach, I think, is starting from the ground up with responsive web design (à la Canton (MI) Library, à la One-Pager), instead of trying to backward-hack mobile-compatibility in after the fact, or just tacking a mobile-friendly site on in parallel to your main website.

Thing Two: Domino's Engine Noises
So apparently, Domino's delivers pizza via scooter in the Netherlands, but the scooters were so quiet that cyclists couldn't hear them. To help prevent accidents, Domino's added a "motor" sound to the scooters - but instead of just a typical engine noise, they had fun with it:

[video link]

Awesome, because it not only serves the purpose of an audible warning, but it's also extremely well-done audible advertising - it's funny, attention-getting, memorable, and shows an unexpectedly playful side of an otherwise perhaps impersonal company.

When libraries start delivering items to people via scooters, this would be a great thing to try - the engine noise could be "vrrrlibrarylibrarylibrary BOOKS librarylibrarylibrarylibrary DVDs librarylibrary..."



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Resources for Redesigning Websites

   November 18th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Thinking about the new design of the San Jose Public Library reminded me that I've been collecting links to tools and articles about web design. I posted a few resources before, but the demise of Bloglines has prompted me to pull out all my bookmarks and do something with them.

I'll be using these when we redesign our website, and hopefully you'll find them helpful too:

Web Design Overview

 

Design Tips & Goals

 

Testing & Development Tools

 

And the final word on this subject will come from Chuck - Design Coding is not only hilarious, it's amazingly accurate:

But I'm sure there are tons of other tools out there, so please share your favorite in the comments. Thanks.



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New San Jose Public Library Website

   November 16th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Whoa - check out the new website for the San Jose Public Library:

San Jose Public Library website

Sarah goes into some detail about the features of the new website and their reasoning behind it, which is worth reading. Here's my two cents too:

  • I love that they've done away with organizing their website along library department lines (Reference, Childrens Teens, etc.)
  • The design is wonderful - so clean and simple, yet colorful, engaging and informative. It's so different it's shocking at first, but once your eyes and mind adjust to the new design, everything is just there
  • Actually, now that I think of it, the homepage reminds me of the app icons on a smartphone - which is an interface that increasing numbers of people are becoming familiar with
  • I like embedding functionality, so two things I'd be curious to try to see if they'd work are:
    • In the New and Events block, instead of a picture to click on, embed a scrollable list of upcoming events to bring that info one step closer to the patron. Also include the link to drill down into the rest of that section
    • In the Locations block, again instead of a picture, it'd be neat to just embed the Google Map right there, and have each of the branch location markers include address, phone, email, and hours. That would put so much information right on the homepage, and of course again include a link to get into the rest of the section
    • But these might be overwhelming, so you'd have to try them to see

My library is planning to redesign our website, ahead of our migration to Evergreen. I'm definitely going to lobby to use SJPL's design as one of our models. Good job guys.



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Judging Book Covers

   September 23rd, 2010 Brian Herzog

Book Title Fail - How to raise your daughter without reading a bookWith the demise of Bloglines, I've been going through all the posts I had bookmarked and pulling out the ones I wanted to mention in a post - this is one of those posts.

Something I really like about feed aggregators is that, by reading feeds from a wide variety of sources, it is possible to spot coincidental trends (which I like doing). For instance, a couple weeks ago I noticed a few of posts all about book covers:

Of course, this isn't a new trend - Awful Library Books has been around awhile, and I've talked about book covers, too.

And speaking of book covers, remember to play with LibraryThing's CoverGuess, to help build a database that can answer questions like, "well, I don't remember the title, but it was a red book, and had like this guy on a street with maybe like a purple penguin?"

Update: I forgot to include my two biggest book cover pet peeves:

  • Covers where the author's name is bigger than the title
  • Cook books where the chef (usually a celebrity) is more prominently-featured than the food

Those to things always make me suspicious.



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RYO OSS ILS, or, Ideal Catalog Features

   December 3rd, 2009 Brian Herzog

Unsheved comic stripSince I first heard about it, I've been yapping on about the Mass Libraries Open Source Project, trying to publicize and chronicle its progress. It became official a couple weeks ago, when the membership of the three consortia involved (MVLC, NOBLE and C/WMARS) each voted to go with the Evergreen ILS.

Now that the software has been chosen, the next step is to define the features we want. See, with open source, you can shape the software like clay to mold to your situation, rather than being handed someone else's idea of what you need.

In order to figure out what we need, the December issue of the MVLC Connections newsletter [pdf] asks staff to create an list of ideal features (questions below). Obviously, one source of ideas is likes and dislikes of our current ILS (SirsiDynix's Horizon), but they're also encouraging staff to pull great ideas from other industries and websites - at this point, the sky is the limit.

I think we should also ask the larger library world - what do you think are important ILS features? If the questions below were handed to you, how would you answer? A quick internet search found some information on what an ILS/OPAC should really do. But if you have any ideas, please leave a comment below.

  1. List the three most annoying “features” of Horizon in regards to Your Specialty and describe how they could be made less annoying.
  2. What process or activity in Your Specialty is the most time consuming or frustrating and describe what it is that causes the problem. Is there something that the system could do to help?
  3. Are there any procedures or policies in Your Specialty which seem cumbersome or awkward because they are based on what the system can do and not what is logical or needed?
  4. As you are using the Internet copy the url or print out those sites which are exceptionally user-friendly or really cool. Also, are there any times when tie-ins with communication tools such as Twitter, email, or a blog could be useful to Your Specialty activities?
  5. You are the librarian on the Starship Enterprise. Everyone knows that Your Specialty can not be fully taken over by the ship’s computer...it is much too complex for that. However, as long as you walk the computer through the process, the computer can do a lot of the nit-picky stuff for you. Outline some of the most tedious or complex procedures that you currently do and show where you need to "ask" the computer to do something and what it is that it should do.

Unshelved Answers logoI'm also giving this a try on the new Unshelved Answers website. It's similar to other question-and-answer websites, but is a forum specifically for librarians. I didn't find any related questions, so I asked one, but was informed it might get deleted because "we prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed."

This will be a long process, but at some point I'll try to make sure all the various features and pulled together in a single list. Yay for having input.



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