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


New Library CMS?

   December 18th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Kyle and his Drupal bookYou know how you mean to do something, and know you should do it, but you never get around to it? Well, that's me with learning Drupal.

But my friend Kyle (that's Kyle, in the hat) isn't a slouch like me. He actually went out and bough a Drupal book to learn from (while I, on the other hand, sit about twenty feet away from one every day, but have yet to crack it).

Anyway: my library uses Adobe Dreamweaver to manage our website. But dealing with static html pages is cumbersome, and stands as a large barrier to getting more staff contributing (easily) to our website. So, using a tool like Drupal would be a great improvement - not just for site management, but also in usefulness for our patrons.

I'm getting there. I'm also looking at expanding our WordPress installation, from running just our blog to containing our entire website. Or, we could use Joomla. Or Scriblio. Or Plinkit. Part of the problem is the myriad of tools to choose from.

And Kyle's no help. He writes:

One thing that I have been looking into for one of my clients is Omeka (http://omeka.org/). Omeka is a wiki/cms solution for museums and libraries to catalog information in an online format. It is being developed at George Mason University specifically for historical institutions.

Another tool. But from what I can tell (using it is invitation only, at the moment), it is neat, and they've got some interesting sites running it. I'm going to watch it and see where it goes.

I know I've been talking about these CMS tools for awhile, but perhaps that's what new year's resolutions are for. We will migrate the website to a new platform by the end of 2008. Ah, we'll see.

Oh, and one more thing: I recently read that there's a new drupal4lib group. Maybe with a support group, it'll actually happen.

cms, drupal, drupal4lib, joomla, kyle, libraries, library, omeka, public, scriblio, wordpress



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NELA2007 – Tuesday Recap

   October 16th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Speaking to an Empty RoomMy second day at NELA2007 (Tuesday, the last day of the conference), was a quick one. I just went to two morning sessions, and then left after lunch (I had to come home to pack for my trip tomorrow morning to Omaha).

I blogged both sessions today, and posted them on the NELA2007 blog. They were:

Also, I posted some photographs of the Publick House. I really liked that place.

Right, now I need to go unpack, repack, and whatever else I can fit in before my flight.

annual conference, conference, libraries, library, nela, nela2007, public libraries, public library, publick house, scriblio



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CIL2007 Tuesday

   April 17th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Librarians on escalators in the Hyatt lobbyEven though cil2007 has already been going on for two days, today felt like things really got started. I ended up spending as much time in the exhibit hall as in the sessions, talking to vendors and other librarians. Which is unusual for me, but I learned quite a bit today.

Today's sessions were good. The first was about the South Carolina State Library's experience with migrating their website to the Joomla CMS. It wasn't as in-depth and "here's how we did it" as I had hoped, but they did talk a bit about frustrations and surprises they encountered along the way, which is good to hear before starting a project. I am hoping to sometime in the future help convert my library's website from static html to something more dynamic, rssy and all 2.0'd out, and seeing what CMSs are out there helps.

This session complimented nicely the next two I attended – Comments in Catalogs, and then an overview of LibraryThing (and the new LibraryThing for Libraries). This entire track focused on modernizing libraries' approach to web stuff, and how we can best communicate with patrons – primarily by making sure we look at this communication as a two-way street.

For instance, opening up our websites and catalogs to allow for patrons to comment directly on our materials not only involves patrons in their libraries by giving them ownership, but also provides us with invaluable social data on how and why our materials are used.

And it was this social data that Tim Spaulding is mining and using with LibraryThing. Regular people know what they think of books. Tim's entire approach has been to let people associate keywords with specific books, and then let the groupings of those keywords speak for themselves. With the widget that is the basis of LibraryThing for Libraries, those groupings, (in the form of tags generating lists of similar books, suggested reading lists, etc) speaks loudly.

If we would only listen. As Tim pointed out, library ILSs and opacs, and the traditional vendors that supply them, are not really listening. Neither is Amazon. These are all companies trying to make money (which is why Amazon is not the ultimate book website. LibraryThing is for readers and about books, whereas Amazon is for booksellers and about making money). But improving the usefulness of our catalogs with third-party plug-ins is a step in the right directions, and hopefully these obviously necessary add-ins will soon becomes standard fare of the big ILS interfaces – or smaller solutions like Scriblio.

Interspersed between sessions I was talking to exhibitors, learning more about what library systems could replace Horizon, and what public pc/print station management software options are out there. I talked to quite a few, and need to sift through my notes (some other time) before I remember what's what.

After the conference we got a personal tour of Alexandria, VA, dinner in the Old Town at the Union Street Public House, and then enjoyed Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's. Tomorrow is much more conferencing, and then flying back to Boston, if the weather allows.

alexandria va, cil 2007, cil2007, conference, conferences, libraries, library, library thing, librarything, public libraries, public library, scriblio, social data, tim spaulding



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Reference Question of the Week – 3/18

   March 25th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Sometimes, existing knowledge just does not translate well when things change. And, having worked hard to obtain that knowledge, people are sometimes reluctant to let it go.

This seems especially true in libraries. Some of the convoluted procedures and jargon we come up with are not just barriers to entry for new patrons, but also barriers to evolution for experienced patrons who have learned our complex requirements.

This week's reference question was posted to the Maine Libraries Listserv, but I thought it was worth sharing here. I thought it was both funny and sad, but also intriguing:

patron: Is there any way to interlibrary loan a downloadable audiobook?

(I've actually encountered this before myself, with the Boston Public Library's eCard program. My consortium subscribes to Overdrive, and so does the BPL. We have different downloadable audiobooks in our collections, so my patrons (since anyone in Massachusetts can get a BPL card) essentially has two collections to borrow from. It isn't quite interlibrary loaning, but it is worth knowing.)

Why it's funny:
This question makes me laugh just because it's such an unusual idea - right on the border between clever and naively optimistic.

Why it's sad:
As clever as this might be, it also sounds like someone trying to circumvent the system - which always bothers me. But too, it could just as easily be a case of the system failing the needs - if we can freely share books, magazines, videos, CDs, DVDs, and pretty much everything else in the collection, why can't we share digital audiobooks? Such strict copyright laws exist for electronic media (which laws covering other media don't even approach in restrictiveness) that it's frustrating to me to see this shortcoming. What this patron wants is possible with current technology, but is prohibited by the current business plans of corporations.

Why it's intriguing:
But even still, the idea of interlibrary loaning a digital audiobook is interesting. Aside from the file size, why shouldn't libraries be able to loan around their digital audiobook collections? They could be emailed or made available in a password-protected section of our website. This is another case where, if libraries banded together and spoke with one voice, we could possibly force change so we can get the tools we need to best serve patrons, rather than just take the tools that vendors develop.

Like with opacs - as companies like Sirsi/Dynix decide to drop entire product lines [pdf], librarians are developing tools like Evergreen and Scriblio (formerly WPopac) that actually address the needs that exist, not just make sense in a boardroom.

audiobooks, digital audiobooks, downloadable audiobooks, dynix, evergreen, libraries, library, opac, opacs, overdrive, pines, public libraries, public library, reference question, rome, scriblio, sirsi, sirsi/dynix, sirsidynix, wpopac



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Librarians in the Digital Age

   March 2nd, 2007 Brian Herzog

Congratulations to Casey Bisson and Lichen Rancourt for their NHPR interview last night.

Lichen reviewed the interview, which ranged from why libraries need to provide better electronic access to their collections to Google's book project to what libraries and librarians should be like in the near future.

They also highlighted their Scriblio project, and how they are working with the Cook Memorial Library in Tamworth, NH, as a beta site. Part of the benefit of Scriblio is that it is a huge improvement over the typical and traditional library website - in fact, it turns the library's website into both an efficient tool for finding information and an information resource itself. Plus, using Web 2.0 standards, library websites become easier to update and maintain, and become interactive and responsive, as information flows freely from the library to the patron, from the patron to the library, and from the patron through the library to other patrons.

I got to thinking about why this is different than what's been going on. To me, the core library function is to provide access to information. In the past, that information has been in print (books, newspapers and magazines), but that no longer necessarily the case. In response, libraries need to adapt to provide access to all types of information in all types of formats, be it printed or electronic (especially since so much information today is native to the electronic world). But also, this information is not limited to just reference or fiction information you'd traditionally find in books - it also includes community information, such as events, as well as the transaction of information, between community members, of which the library is one. Communicating not only the information we house as an institution, but also facilitating communication within the community, is what the core library function now encompasses.

There's my little sermon for the day. Good thing there are people like Casey and Lichen to actually put some of this stuff into practice.

casey bisson, cook memorial library, libraries, library, library 2.0, lichen rancourt, nhpr, opac, opacs, scriblio, tamworth



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