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

Library Website 404 Pages

   September 18th, 2007 Brian Herzog

404 screenshotSparked by a discussion in the ning Library 2.0 forum, I recently revamped my Library's 404 error webpage (what displays when the webpage someone is looking for is not found).

Until earlier this year, we just had the standard "404 error: file not found" page, which is common and boring. I had made it a little more interesting just by adding our logo and some helpful information. But Darlene's call for injecting humor and casualness in this situation got me to rethink it, and I came up with our current page.

Libraries are always fighting the traditional stuffy stereotype, and little things like this can make the patron experience more interesting and memorable. Also, it really was fairly easy to do, and I think in this case, a little effort goes a long way (of course, ideally, this page would never be seen).

But let your 404 page be seen - Darlene also started a flickr Library 404 Page group, so please add your screenshots. Also, some live, non-library examples are available at sendcoffe.com.

And before anyone asks: I didn't put too much thought into the books in the photo. This is just the shelf closest to the Reference Desk. But really, I think these titles lend themselves pretty well to the process of discovery of something missing - plus, this is the "self-help" section.

404, 404 error, chelmsford, chelmsford library, error page, librarian, librarians, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, web page, website

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Reference Question of the Week – 9/9/07

   September 15th, 2007 Brian Herzog
WebTV logo & Netflix logo

Helping this patron after she asked the question was straight-forward, but the question itself was kind of interesting (for three reasons).

Patron: I need help with my Netflix account.
Me: Sure, what's the problem?
Patron: Well, I have WebTV at home, and I just signed up for a Netflix account. It worked far enough to allow me to input my credit card number and purchase the account, but it stopped working when I got to the part were I set up my request list. I called their tech support, and they said that yes, the WebTV browser will not work with this part of the Netflix website, and that I should go to my public library. So here I am.

3 Reasons Why This Is Interesting

  1. People still use WebTV?
  2. WebTV does not work with Netflix
  3. WebTV tech support's solution to this computer problem is the library*

The patron and I went over to one of the public computers, logged into her account, and selected a few movies for her to start with. She figured it out pretty quickly, and should be able to do it on her own the next time she comes in.

*Earlier this week I read a Public Libraries article by David Lee King and Michael Porter entitled, "You as Internet Know-It-All". Basically, it explains why it is important for librarians to (at the very least) be familiar with emerging technology and what's popular, regardless of whether or not we use (or even care about) them ourselves.

I liked the article, but the reference question above nicely illustrates the importance of their point: this patron would not have been served well by a librarian who wasn't comfortable with websites, at least somewhat familiar with Netflix**, and willing to explore something new. This is who our patrons are, and we need to be ready for them.

**And for the record, I don't use Netflix myself. I mean, come on; I work in a public library... every movie I'd ever want to see, and no little red envelopes.

david lee king, librarian, libraries, library, michael porter, netflix, public libraries, public library, reference question, webtv, you as internet know-it-all

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Free Citizenship Resource

   September 13th, 2007 Brian Herzog

U.S. Customs and Immigration logo
I recently received this announcement in email. Free to public libraries, this is a Federally-produced citizen toolkit, geared to immigrants working towards American citizenship.

September 12, 2007
To: Public Libraries serving New Immigrants/Newcomer Populations

The Task Force on New Americans, a federal interagency effort to help immigrants learn English has developed The Civics and Citizenship Toolkit. This free toolkit is designed to serve as a self-study resource for immigrants but can also be useful for librarians and adult educators in a classroom or community literacy setting. Included in the kit are guides in English and Spanish, Welcome to the United States, that contain a wide range of practical information as well as basic civics information introducing newcomers to the U.S. system of government. Also included are Civics Flash cards for individual study or instructional use and Learn about the United States: Quick Civics lessons. In addition, the kit includes a Citizen's Almanac and Pocket size Declaration of Independence, copy of the U.S. Constitution and a DVD covering an introduction to U.S. History and Civics.

Interested? Please go to http://www.citizenshiptoolkit.gov/ and register for a FREE copy of the Civics and Citizenship Toolkit.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Registration limited to PUBLIC LIBRARIES ONLY.
  • Please DO NOT REGISTER IF YOUR LIBRARY IS PART OF THE FEDERAL DEPOSITORY LIBRARY PROGRAM (FDLP)*. Registration is subject to review to ensure eligibility.
  • If eligible, registrants will receive a copy of the Toolkit on a first come, first served basis.
  • Resources are limited. Registrants will receive one Toolkit at no charge.
  • Registration for the toolkit is now open and will be available while supplies last.

The Toolkit is a joint effort of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the U.S. Government Printing Office.

All questions about the toolkit should be directed to the federal office at the above website.

citizenship, government, immigrant, immigrants, immigration, librarian, librarians, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, resource

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Librarian Blog Rankings

   September 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Earlier this week, the Online Educational Database released its rankings for the top 25 librarian bloggers. Although I am tops with some people, I am not tops with them. Sigh.

But don't despair; I have a theory. As I was looking down the list, I noticed something: they all have a cool, easy-to-use name. librarian.net. LibrarianInBlack. The Travelin' Librarian. See? Compared to them, "herzogbr.net blog : A Hitchhiker's Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk" is a bit cumbersome.

PageRank? Subscribers? Pshaw. I'm convinced that if I just had a catchier name for this blog, I would be much more popular.

I had actually thought about the whole name thing a few months ago, and came up with a couple options. But a friend of mine recommended against adopting one. The logic was this: it might be counter-productive to rename an already established entity, because that would be confusing and erode whatever name recognition already existed. Which makes sense.

But now, not making the top 25-tier, well, that's just the clincher. I've decided I am going to start using a new name - and redesign the entire website, as well (which I've been meaning to do for awhile, anyway). My goal is to design solely with style sheets, and use WordPress as a CMS, to finally move away from my oh-so-'90s static html pages with table-based layout. It'll take a little while, but I'll keep posting my progress.

That being said, I would like to get back to the list of top 25 librarian bloggers. First of all, congratulations to everyone on the list. Thank you for contributing to the overall library world - even Annoyed. Well... maybe.

I was also curious how my blog fared based on the metrics the OEDb used. As near as I can tell, here's where I stand in each category:

Metric My Score*
Google Google PageRank 4
Alexa Alexa Rank 5
Technorati Technorati Authority 5
Bloglines Bloglines Subscribers 1
Total Score: 15

*These numbers are estimations; I just found my rankings, found one of the top 25 that was close, and adjusted from there

So, with an overall score of 15, I'm really not that far out of the running - #24 and #25 both scored 17. Of course, as Jessamyn (a.k.a. #1) points out, the methodology of this study is somewhat questionable, so who knows.

Besides, there's always next year.

blog, blogs, librarian, librarians, libraries, library, online education database, rankings, top 25 librarian bloggers

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  • Hiya. My name is Brian Herzog, and I am, among other things, a reference librarian at a public library in MA, USA. more about me...

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