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




Google is not The Way to Salvation

   June 24th, 2010 Brian Herzog

I passed this church sign while walking around Ottawa:

Google Church Sign

I'm used to hearing the "Google is not as good as libraries" rhetoric, so it was funny to see another profession facing the same struggle. By the way, Bibles in my library are shelved at 220.5/Bibl - maybe our slogan should be, "find a library, find your way."



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Google Offers Secure Searching

   June 1st, 2010 Brian Herzog

Locks and glassesI read last week that Google is now offering an encrypted search option, and was surprised the story didn't get more coverage.

Anyone wanting to use it needs to go to https://www.google.com (note the https:), and it appears it only applies to web searching - not images or the other searches. Read more at:

This is good for those library patrons who want extra privacy while searching the internet. However, online privacy increasingly seems to be an illusion (remember, Google will still see and track these searches - this just cuts down on other people monitoring the searches).

via



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New Biography Selection Criteria

   April 22nd, 2010 Brian Herzog

BiographiesMy library's ever-shrinking book budget has made me be more discerning when it comes to selection. However, one area that is always difficult for me is biographies.

It seems like every troubled athlete, aging celebrity, recovering musician, reality television personality, unfaithful politician (and their wives), have all signed book deals. I don't pay much attention to pop culture personalities, so it's hard for me to tell if the person is someone significant.

So I was joking with a coworker about a new selection criteria for all of these celebrity memoirs. Since the importance of many of these people is based on social zeitgeist, I thought I could use Google to help me decide. I figure that if a person is important, a Google search for that person's name should return at least one million webpages. If they're above that (arbitrary) threshold, I'll buy their biography - if not, then I'll check again when the paperback comes out.

Granted, not all my ideas are practical, but here's how some current biographies fare with this "hive mind" selection criteria:


Obviously, not flawless, but this Google criteria might help tell me who I should pay attention to. And in addition to traditional reviews and ratings, another one of my tactics is to wait until requests for a book reach a certain number before ordering it, but that method only addresses demand after the fact, and leaves out the patrons who didn't think to request it.

Selection is a fine art, but when it comes to biographies, most my crayons are dull.



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Reference Question of the Week – 1/3/10

   January 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

You Can't Do That on Television sceneAbout 30 minutes before we closed one night, a patron came to the desk and asked:

How do I find a website that starts with "F"?

When I asked him what he meant, he said he was on a website last week that had Armenian Christmas music, but all he could remember was that the web address started with "F" - maybe "fru" or "fron" or maybe not.

Remember that show on Nickelodeon, You Can't Do That On Television, with the teacher who always said, "Where does the school board get them and why do they keep sending them to me?" Yeah.

I was pretty sure that Google's [site:] operator didn't work with wildcards, but I tried searching for "armenian music site:f*" anyway. That did not work, so I searched to find out how wildcards can be used with Google's limiters. A nice forum posting mentioned the [inurl:] operator, which seemed perfect (if you don't already use them, read about operators and other tips for searching Google).

I re-searched for "armenian music inurl:www.f" and that worked - it showed all websites that mentioned Armenian music and have a web address that starts with "www.f".

Of course there are holes in this tactic: the site might not start with "www.", the site might not mention the words "armenian music," the site might not be in English, etc.

I gave him these caveats when I showed him how to use [inurl:], but he was still excited. He tried a few combinations of "armenian" and "christmas" and "music," but he hadn't found the right website before closing time. I actually haven't seen him since, so I'm not sure if he ultimately found it or not. It's kind of a needle in a haystack situation, and it feel like all I did was give him a very small magnet.



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Google and Predictive Searching

   December 15th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Google Autocomplete for Swiss Army L...Jessamyn links to an interesting article about Google's switch to personalized searching - really, check it out, because it will impact patrons using public computers.

But it also reminded me of how much more prevalent Google's autocomplete feature has seemed lately. I know it's been around for awhile, but I've noticed it more for some reason, and have also been seeing it in Google's ads on Hulu.com (which I oddly could not find to link to), failblog, YouTube* and elsewhere.

So I got curious about what the Google zeitgeist would say about library-related phrases - here's what I found:

Libraries are

Librarians are

The library is
(a band)

My Librarian is
(a children's book)

Librarians never
(They just check out? They get weeded? They become overdue?)

And I had to try this too:
Brian is
(I think most of these are Family Guy references.)

Update 1/11/10: Using Google suggestions, check out the difference between what girlfriends and boyfriends are thinking.

 


*The one at 2:39 is my favorite. Actually, a lot of them are probably song lyrics, but how often do you come across a Dead Milkmen reference?



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Library Events Calendar Roundup

   October 13th, 2009 Brian Herzog


library calendarAn important function of the library is communicating our upcoming events to the community. There are lots of ways to do this, one of which is by having an online calendar.

Of course, there are also lots of software for online calendars and for patrons to reserve meeting rooms. My library just switched calendars, and so did the Blue Hill (ME) Public Library. Since we each evaluated a number of different calendar options, Rich Boulet and I combined our notes, in the hopes of saving other libraries a bit of legwork when looking at calendars.

There are more calendars than what is listed here (in no particular order), and our pro/con notes reflect the needs, requirements and situations of our individual libraries. If you have questions about how we made our decisions, you can contact me through my contact form, and Rich through Blue Hill Library's staff page.

Library Insight     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Groton (MA) Public Library for example
  • Patrons can submit room requests online
  • Comes with 1200 images
  • Marquee of upcoming available for index page
  • SIP2 compliant
  • Will not disclose how many clients use product, but says they are "in 20 states"
  • $695/year plus $600 setup fee
  • Contact: Steve Bolduc / 978-808-1089
  • More info: http://libraryinsight.com/products/rmInsight.htm

Google Calendar     (Rich)

Evanced     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Chelmsford (MA) Public Library and Blue Hill (ME) Public Library (calendar, room reservation) for examples
  • Looks like most comprehensive product available
  • Used by Maine State Library, Web Junction and many public libraries
  • Allows user-initiated requests for room reservation
  • Allows attendee registration and cancellation
  • Somewhat pricey relative to others in market, but unlimited in number of listed events, and no module pricing (except credit card processing is extra)
  • Allows some design customization, to make it look like your website
  • Most powerful calendar search options
  • Locally-hosted installation requires Microsoft IIS 4.0 or higher and has more up-front costs, plus 18%/year maintenance fees
  • Remotely hosted solution carries ongoing subscription costs
  • Seamless integration between web calendar and room reservation software allows users to click off on room policy
  • Calendar allows events to be downloaded to Outlook
  • Offers customizable rss feeds based n search criteria
  • Can be used to track program stats
  • Contact: Claudia Hackworth / 317-352-2188 x109
  • More info & demos: http://evancedsolutions.com/demo.asp

Calandarix     (Rich)

  • See Rockport (ME) Public Library for example
  • Very attractive and very affordable web calendar
  • Does not apparently allow patron-initiated requesting of rooms
  • Compatible with Apache or IIS
  • No remote hosting option, requires local install
  • Cost: Advanced edition is $50 for non-profits; also comes in a
    free basic version
  • More info: http://www.calendarix.com

Eventkeeper     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Hingham (MA) Public Library for example
  • Seems to do everything that Evanced does, but in a very different style
  • Pricing is generally less than Evanced, but is somewhat variable based on modules and number of events
  • Can customize and brand calendar for additional one-time fee, integrate it more with the look and feel of the rest of your web site
  • Also "EK Feed" can can be rss feed marquee of upcoming events for library's homepage
  • Only available as remotely hosted product, no local installation
  • Currently have 1200 customers
  • Exceptional customer support
  • Can be used to track program statistics
  • No maintenance fees (other than annual hosting)
  • Eventkeeper: $275/year; EK Rooms: $250/year; EK Feed (marquee)
  • Contact: Jim Stewart / 508-942-4209
  • More info: http://www.eventkeeper.com

Meeting Room Manager     (Rich)

ConnectDaily     (Brian)

  • See San Bruno (CA) Library for example
  • Reasonably priced
  • Remotely hosted with varying contract lengths
  • Allows a great deal of design customization, to integrate with the look of your website
  • Serves as both a calendar and meeting room reservation system
  • A limitation is that it is designed as an "in-house" product (example, a school would use it for the teachers to reserve meeting rooms). It does have a public room reservation form, but take a little work to customize to be easy enough for the public to use
  • Allows for multiple calendars (Childrens, Adult, Teen, etc) all to be fed up into one master calendar
  • Events available in rss and iCal formats
  • More info: http://www.mhsoftware.com/connectdaily.htm

Calcium     (Brian)



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