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




NELA2008 Session Highlights

   October 23rd, 2008 Brian Herzog

Ethan ZuckermanI was at the NELA 2008 conference this week, and spent yesterday and today going over my notes and trying to get caught up. Lots of good stuff, but here are a few of the highlights from the sessions I attended:

Ethan Zuckerman
If you ever have a chance to see Ethan Zuckerman speak, do it. Not only is he interesting and entertaining, but his work using technology to bridge cultural divides directly relates to what we do in libraries. He also approaches things from a global "big picture" viewpoint, which is a nice change from my generally myopic "what's going on in my community" point of view. I learned a lot from Ethan, both library-related and otherwise - read the complete notes from his "The Internet is NOT Flat" session.

Men in the Library
Being a male, I was curious about Nancy Davis' program called "The Vanishing Male: Guy Stuff That Lures and Hooks." It was a discussion about why men generally use the library less than women, and what libraries can do to attract more male patrons:

  • Men are "seekers" and not "browsers" - they want to go in, get their stuff, and leave. Libraries should have signage that caters to this, and be more open, so men don't have to wander around looking or ask for help
  • Book groups don't work for a lot of men because men don't like "sharing" - to get men to a book group, have it "led" by a scholar or other authority (male book groups prefer non-fiction books), and that way the men feel they're getting something out of it
  • For programming ideas, try anything tool-based, such as "greening" your house, installing solar panels, bike repair & maintenance, etc. Men also like father/son programs, like building a bird house or a "dads and donuts" story time early Saturday morning
  • To get guys to come to programs, promote them in places where guys go: the hardware store, the transfer station, etc.
  • Also, make sure you have men on your staff and on your board of trustees - it's easier to attract males if they feel comfortable in the building, and book displays are more likely to appeal to them if the books are chosen by other guys

NOTE: Keep in mind that most of these are generalizations

Genealogy Core Collection
Cindy O'Neil, a certified genealogist with the Manchester (NH) City Library, explained the resources she felt were essential for libraries to offer their patrons doing genealogical research. Her handout was a bibliography important genealogy resources, and I tried to include as many of them as possible in my session notes on the NELA conference blog. Definitely worth checking out and comparing to your resources.

Of course I got a lot more out of the conference, but these were the things that stuck with me that I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't go. A lot more information on the other sessions are available on the NELA 2008 conference blog.

Update: I don't know how I could have left this out: For people wanting a real hands-on demo of how to very quickly improve their library's website, Lichen Rancourt's presentation on how she converted the Manchester (NH) City Library's website from static to Library 2.0 is a must see. Even while working within the City's content management package (which means these changes apply to any website management tool), she brought the real spirit, vibrancy and interactivity of the physical library to the website. The improvements include a flickr badge, a WordPress blog feed for up-to-date news and information, and an events feed.



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Conference Blogging

   October 21st, 2008 Brian Herzog

NELA2008 registration tableRight now I'm in Manchester, NH, for the 2008 NELA conference. In addition to being an attendee and a speaker, I'm also blogging the sessions I attend for the NELA conference blog (read my posts).

This year there are ten volunteer bloggers, and I think it's great -

  • great that NELA is supporting a blog
  • great that people volunteer to contribute
  • great that the notes we take during sessions are available for all attendees, people who couldn't come, trustees who need to see these things, and anyone else who is interested

There are lots of worthwhile conferences and workshops every year, and I go to very few of them. I think it's important for these conferences to extend beyond the conference dates and facility to reach the people who can't come. Considerations for "virtual attendance" seems to be getting more common, in fits and starts, but I think it'll happen.

Along these lines, RUSA has recently asked a small group of librarians to look at this very issue. The goal of this task force is to recommend

a suite of technology-based approaches to virtual membership, virtual attendance at conference, podcasting or videocasting conference programs, the creation of webinars to be hosted by RUSA, and a range of other approaches that would provide resources to our members – both those that attend conference and those for whom conference attendance is a barrier to participation.

Now this is an organization moving in the direction of its members. Thank you, RUSA. I'm not sure what the end result of the task force will be, but just the fact that a large, member-based organization like this is paying attention to the needs of its members is a step in the right direction.

And hopefully, once RUSA develops and implements a good model, it will spread to the rest of the ALA.

But for the time being, don't be afraid to let your consortia, library associations, or other conference groups know what works and doesn't work for you, and where your needs are and aren't being met. That's the best way to get the resources tailored to our needs.

Update: I forgot to mention that the Internet Librarian conference is also going on right now - check out blog posts tagged with il2008 on google blog search.



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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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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Open Source

   May 17th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Looking for a way to learn more about using open source tools in your library? Sure, we all are. Have I got a program for you...

One committees I'm on is the Information Technology Section of the New England Library Association. In addition to going to the meetings and sponsoring sessions at NELA's annual conference, we're also planning the NELA-ITS Spring Program, called "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Open Source."

This program is being held Wednesday, June 6, 2007, at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, MA. I'm looking forward to going, both for the program itself and because I've heard Tower Hill is a great place to spend a nice day outside.

More about the program:

Program Schedule:
9:30 Registration and Breakfast
10:00 Opening Session - Elizabeth Thomsen, North of Boston Library Exchange
11:00 Break
11:15 Koha Open Source ILS - Joshua Ferraro, Liblime
12:15 Lunch
1:00 Running Linux Applications in a Public Library - Randy Robertshaw, Tyngsboro Public Library
1:55 Flavors of Linux (Ubuntu and more!) - Wes Hamilton, Technology Coordinator, Western MA Regional Library System
2:40 Q & A with our panel of speakers
3:30 Program ends

Cost: NELA Members - $40 Non-members - $50

More details and online registration is available, but feel free to ask me any questions you might have, too.

Going to various committee meetings is okay, but I really enjoy getting off the desk and out of the library to find out what other librarians are doing and how they handle the same issues I see in my own library. This program will be great for that - maybe I'll see you there.

Elizabeth Thomsen, ils, information technology section, Joshua Ferraro, Koha, koha, Liblime, libraries, library, linux, Linux in a Public Library, nela, nela-ite, nela-its, new england, new england library association, open source, Open Source ILS, public libraries, public library, Randy Robertshaw, spring program, tower hill, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, tower hill botanical gardens, Ubuntu, Wes Hamilton



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