November 10th, 2011 Brian Herzog
This has been in my "to blog" folder for awhile. I haven't gotten a chance to use it yet, but wanted to share it because I think it's neat.
The website http://ifttt.com, which stands for "If This Then That," allows you to makes things happen online as a result of something else happening. The If/Then is a reference to logical causality, and in this case basically means,"if this one thing happens on the internet, then do this other thing automatically."
They explain it very well on their "About" page (I put "About" in quotes because their actual URL made me laugh and is so much better than "/about").
Anyway, there already are some tools that offer consequence-action services (like Google Alerts, getting an email if someone comments on your flickr photos, using Twitterfeed to automatically tweet blog posts, etc). But this one seems the most versatile, because it isn't service-dependent, it does more than just notifications, and it lets you manage all your notifications from one service.
I'm hoping to use it to automate some of what the library does online (as seen in our Online Marketing Flowchart). There are lots of triggers and actions available, and it seems limited only by your imagination. But of course, like with any online tool, the more you use it, the bigger impact you'll feel if it suddenly goes away - which never stopped me before.
Also, like LibraryElf, this is a tool I think patrons can use on an individual basis - I say this because it offers notifications by text, phone, and email, and triggers can be calendar events, feeds, and more.
Tags: action, automate, automatic, automatically, if this then that, ifthisthenthat, ifttt, ittt, libraries, Library, networking, online, public, social, trigger, update, updating
September 22nd, 2011 Brian Herzog
Since getting back to work this week, I've been trying to get caught up on emails and feeds.
Stephen's Lighthouse linked to the top 25 most downloaded titles on Overdrive - which reminded me that I had recently done our year-end database usage stats, and compiled highest-access titles for our Safari Computer Ebooks database.
Our top 12 most-accessed books were:
|Sams Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours, Fifth Edition, by Rogers Cadenhead
|CISSP Exam Cram, Second Edition, by Michael Gregg
|CISSP Study Guide, by Eric Conrad, Seth Misenar, Joshua Feldman
|The Green Screen Handbook, by Jeff Foster
|Java: A Beginner's Tutorial, by Budi Kurniawan
|Adobe InDesign CS5 On Demand, by Steve Johnson - Perspection, Inc.
|SAP MM HANDBOOK, by Kogent Learning Solutions, Inc.
|Microsoft Excel 2010 Step by Step, by Curtis D. Frye
|Sams Teach Yourself Android Application Development in 24 Hours, by Lauren Darcey, Shane Conder
|Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial: Learn Rails by Example, by Michael Hartl
|IT Systems Management, Second Edition, by Rich Schiesser
The Safari stats interface doesn't make it really easy to identify this. Finding the number of sessions isn't too bad*, but we have to report the total number of "circulations" for these ebooks - which to me means the number of times each one was accessed.
I was able to run one report that seemed like a master total usage report, which I think indicated that 433 of our ebooks have been "hit" a total of 12,256 times.
Also interesting, if I'm reading these reports right, those 433 books are only about 1/8 of the collection, meaning 7/8 never got touched even once. Also, of those 433, 250 were accessed five or fewer times (totaling 410 circs), and the top twelve books (which all had >200 "hits") have a combined total of 5233 circs. Which means that 12 books account for a little under half of our total activity.
That is shocking, but also should be a fairly good indicator of what the leading technologies are right now (at least for my patrons, and among the selections available in our Safari catalog) - and a good reason to supplement our Safari access with print copies.
*Incidentally, we had 963 patron user sessions for FY11
Tags: computer, ebook, ebooks, libraries, Library, online, popular, public, safari, stats, usage
August 30th, 2011 Brian Herzog
Over on LISNews, Blake has a series of posts on IT security in libraries, and it's absolutely worth checking out. So far there are five parts:
- IT Security For Libraries
- Practical Tips For Online Privacy
- Practical Advice On Choosing Good Passwords
- Staying Safe Online
- 20 Common Security Myths
It's good for library staff to know and abide by this information, but it is also very useful material for building a online safety program for the public.
Another of my favorite security-related posts is the Email Scam Competency Test, to see if you can tell legitimate email messages from scams. At the end of the test, click the "why" links to see the clues for telling the difference.
August 4th, 2011 Brian Herzog
My library just launched our long-overdue Facebook page. In the course of preparing it, we had a discussion about why we needed a Facebook page, what we wanted to use it for, and how it related to everything else we were doing online.
This led to the realization that no one really understood exactly what all we were doing online. We have a website, Twitter account, blog, email newsletters, flickr account, and now Facebook, but no clear policy as to what gets posted where, when information is duplicated, how things are updated, etc.
To help understand how our various types of information are represented online, I created the diagram below - it's probably not 100% complete, but it does cover most of our bases:
On the left are our different types of information (MacKay is our branch library), and the arrows show how that information flows through different electronic tools. There isn't necessarily a hierarchy at work*, other than perhaps the automatic updates necessarily come after the manual updates. Otherwise, the boxes are laid out just so they all fit on the page.
After discussing this, we uncovered two philosophies at work:
- use the different end tools - website, Facebook, Twitter - for unique content, so as not to duplicate things and essentially "spam" our patrons that use more than one service (for example, you can see above that no event information is posted to Facebook)
- publish all of our content almost equally through all of our channels, so we're sure to reach all our patrons regardless of which tool they choose to use
I don't think they are mutually-exclusive, but it does take a lot of work and forethought to do it well. I also think that more of what we do could be automated, as cutting down on the manual postings would save staff time.
Do other libraries have similar online information relationships? I imagine things range from very structured to a free-for-all to orphan accounts galore, but I'm curious to hear what other libraries are doing, to get ideas on how to do it better at my library.
*Something to note on the diagram is our "secret" Twitter account. We have a primary Twitter account
we encourage patrons to follow and we use for regular tweets. The secret account is one we use only to post messages directly to our homepage
. The reason for two, and why I don't really want anyone following to the homepage updater one, is that clearing the message off the homepage requires sending a blank tweet - it's not the end of the world if anyone follows it, but the blank tweets do look odd. Besides, everything posted to it gets posted through our primary account anyway.
Tags: blog, calendar, diagram, electronic, events, facebook, flowchart, info, information, libraries, Library, online, post, postings, posts, public, tweet, tweets, twitter, website
February 24th, 2011 Brian Herzog
Here's something to check out: Hack Library School.
It's mainly a tech sandbox for library school students, but since today's students are tomorrow's librarians, keeping up with what they're doing is well worth the time. Librarianship is increasingly technology-based, and libhackers are well-positioned to be the innovators and leaders.
From the website:
The Web is our Campus.
This is an invitation to participate in the redefinitions of library school using the web as a collaborative space outside of any specific university or organization. Imagine standards and foundations of the profession that we will create, decided upon by us, outside of the institutional framework. Ideas like the democratization of the semantic web, crowdsourcing, and folksonomies allow projects like this to exist and we should be taking advantage of it. What will the information professions be next year if we define it for ourselves today? If we had a voice in the development of curriculum, what would that degree entail? This is our challenge to you; participate or come up with a better idea. How would you hack library school?
Besides, they rank Swiss Army Librarian at #5 of library blog to follow, so you know they've got good taste.
Tags: graduate, hack, hacklib, hacklibraryschool, innovation, libhack, libraries, Library, lis, online, school, student, students, web
October 23rd, 2010 Brian Herzog
This week's question is actually one I needed to answer myself - it's a little bit random, so bear with me.
My library just held our annual thank-you dinner for all of our adult volunteers. To illustrate "the value of volunteers" (in other words, how much money volunteers save us) my director and I came up with a "volunteer stats" bookmark* [ppt, 1.2MB] to hand out.
We had 241 volunteers last year, with a total of 5804 volunteer hours. We figured if we paid them each $15/hour, their labor would have cost the library $87,060. Just to add another little fact to the bookmark, I wanted to figure out just how tall $87,060 was in $100 bills.
So of course, I turned to the internet. I did a search for something like how tall is a stack of money, and after clicking on a few results, I found a forum posting that provided the Excel formulas needed to calculate not just the height of a stack of bills, but also the cubic volume and value of different denominations. Neat.
I copy/pasted the formulas into an Excel spreadsheet* [xls], and after a little tweaking, had my answer. And just to double-check it, I went back to the internet to find a "known value" (in this case, the height of $1 million in $100's). It checked out, so I had my fact for the bookmark, and a job well done, right?
Well, not so fast: being me, I thought, "hey, wouldn't it be awesome to turn this Excel spreadsheet into a web form that other people could play with? After all, that was so popular the last time."
And it turns out, there is: I found SpreadsheetConverter.com, which does exactly that. After you download the software, it converts spreadsheets to a web-ready format with just a click of a button - pretty neat.
But even better was their free demo offer, where you email them your spreadsheet and they convert it for you. Within 24 hours they sent back the converted webpage, and it works great - just enter the height** of your money stack below, and the spreadsheet tells you the value of various denominations, for both a single stack and a cubic block of bills.
One condition of the free demo is that it is for evaluation purposes only, so evaluate away and keep this tool in mind if you ever need to throw a spreadsheet up on your website - it can save you a lot of time. Too bad I didn't know about it when I was coding the Library Use Value Calculator.
The thank-you dinner went well, and the bookmarks were a big hit. Yay for volunteers.
*Feel free to download, edit and reuse our volunteer bookmark* [ppt, 1.2MB]
or the Excel spreadsheet* [xls]
if you like.
**This was designed to figure out height in inches - to use different measurements, the form below will convert those values into inches: