July 24th, 2008 Brian Herzog
Last week, I was invited to participate in the first Simmons Tech Summit.
Organized and hosted by a few instructors in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, it was a small unconference of tech librarians discussing using web 2.0 tools to reach out to patrons.
It was fun. I was the only public librarian there (and, it seemed, the only one without an iPhone), and it was interesting to hear how academic librarians approach web 2.0 tools. Also, I like meeting other librarians, especially when they're doing cool things.
We created a del.icio.us account for the tools we covered - a lot I don't use, a few I'd never heard of, and some I need to investigate further. Check out the full list, but here's a few highlights:
- VoiceThread and Animoto are different, but similar in that they are both easy tools for creating videos. Animoto puts music over photos, to create fun music videos. VoiceThread is a bit more powerful, and is a tool for creating presentations with slides and voice - but best of all, viewers can leave comments on the slides. Great for interaction in the classroom, but questions/feedback is also great for instructional screencasts or collaborative creativity
- LibraryFind came up early in the day, as any meeting of tech librarians will quickly turn to lamenting the state of ILS software. LibraryFind is an open source metasearch/federated search tool developed (and in use!) by Oregon State University - definitely worth some play time
- ChaCha was new to me - it's basically a reference service for mobile devices. Send them a reference question via text message or phone call, and they send you back an answer. Registering your mobile devices means it can log the questions you ask, so you can see who answered it (the "Guide") and where they found the answer. It looks like Guides can be anyone, and are paid $0.20/answer
- Wordle.net was new to me, too - upload a block of text to it and it creates a pretty "word cloud." Like a tag cloud, but not linked, so it can be eye-catching but not inherently useful. But I like the concept, though, and it's fun: here's a wordle of the Tech Summit delicious feed, this blog, and the White House's news feed
Keeping up by reading journals and blogs is okay, but I usually learn a lot more by talking to people and hearing their ideas on tools. Yay for sharing and working together.
Tags: 2.0, gslis, libraries, Library, library 2.0, public, simmons, simmons tech summit, tech, Technology, unconference, web 2.0, web2.0
June 12th, 2008 Brian Herzog
Library-Wide IT Proficiency Workshop
New England Library Association, Information Technology Section
June 12, 2008 - Bryant University, RI
Gary McCone & Grace Sines
I'm writing today from the NELA-ITS Spring 2008 workshop. The handouts are available below, so I'll just be annotating with a few points throughout the day, and also trying to add pictures to flickr.
Here are the handouts, that were provided to all attendees on a flash drive:
Overview of the National Agriculture Library, and the services they offer. Being a national library, they are a resource for everyone, so check them out.
Library-Wide IT Proficiencies
- Why are IT proficiencies important? It's important to get IT support right the first time with the end-user, so front-line staff need to feel comfortable in both doing the support and managing expectations (we cannot "fix the internet").
- Keys to success Enable non-IT staff, excellent communications, understand end-users (needs, vocabulary and skills), know where knowledge or information lies within the organization, don't get stressed - we're all working towards the same goal
- Get to know your users Know their generation, but get past stereotypes - teach based on how different generations learn
- Expect things to change Technology will change, staff and users needs and skills will change - must expect change and be flexible to accommodate it
- Listen to end-users Meet with end-users in a non-threatening way to learn directly from them what they need (although it might be delicate, focus on what is wrong, because no one is happy with IT), and work to get ongoing feedback
Roadmap to creating an IT-Savvy Library Staff
- Technology Core Competencies Abilities, knowledge and skill required to do the job - can be itemized based on areas or tasks, such as "printer & copier," "operating system," "email," etc.
- Types Can be task-based (skill: refill printer paper) or descriptive (knowledge: know how to surf the internet)
- Get involvement from everyone Everyone should be involved in defining them and what is needed to achieve them (management, professional staff, front-line staff, etc)
- Plan implementation Everyone knows what's happening and what to expect, and how competencies can be met
- Why have them? Promote customer service, increase motivation, address fear/threats of technology or people with limited skills (and don't be afraid of providing incentives and praise)
- IT Liaison Program Designate one person from each department to be the lead liaison with the IT department - hopefully someone interested in IT, to be the first point of contact
- Ideas for training Experts in the library leading sessions, creating fact sheets (your own knowledge base), online training/webinars (free and fee), weekly tips. mentoring programs, regional trainers, keep track of what library staff don't know (FAQs)
- Topics for training Evolving technologies, real-world issues (spam, phishing, flash drives, etc), tour the library website, Google labs, digital rights management, RSS, media formats (flash, audio, interactivity, etc), hardware petting zoo (new gadgets, gizmos and games)
Tags: competencies, conference, information technology section, it, its new england library association, its08, nela-its, Proficiencies, spring08, staff, tech, workshop
May 8th, 2008 Brian Herzog
My library is in the process of re-doing all of our public computers. One major change we're making is to switch to Firefox for our web browser, instead of the Internet Explorer/Public Web Browser combo we've always used.
The reason we're switching is a simple one - Firefox is just cooler. It lets us have more control over how the browser functions, and lets us offer more tools integrated right into the browser. Better for us, better for patrons.
Here's a list of the customizations we're making:
- Public Fox - this is designed to make Firefox a public web browser, as opposed to being used and customized by a single, private person. We're using it to lock down add-ons, preference, about:config, and a few other things, as well as control what file types can be downloaded
- Menu Editor - also for the control freak in us, this one lets us remove menus from the tool bar (we're getting rid of bookmarks, help and history)
- Greasemonkey - one of my favorites, this lets us embed custom coding on webpages, such as a link from Amazon to our catalog, and helpful links on our catalog's "no search results" page (more info on those on our Tech Tools page)
- Add To Search Bar - this fun one lets us easily add our library catalog right to Firefox's search bar. The other searches we chose to include are Google, Yahoo, Amazon, the Internet Movie Database, Answers.com, Wikipedia, and Merriam-Webster
- IE Tab - For all of those "Best viewed in Internet Explorer" websites, this one lets you toggle back and forth between the Firefox and IE rendering engines, so IE-only pages and scripts will load in Firefox
- Image Zoom - just like what it sounds, this adds zoom controls to the right-click menu, to make images bigger and smaller. This one is most useful to patrons who get emailed digital photos at 1024 x 768 resolution, which is too big for our screens. This lets them zoom out so they can see all of their grandchild's face at the same time
- Update 5/30/08: Print Preview - We realized that we had forgotten to put the Print icon on the toolbar, and then that Firefox didn't seem to have a native Print Preview toolbar icon. This Add-On gives us the Print Preview icon
- Turn off all automatic updates - we use Deep Freeze, so we do our own updates
- Turn on smooth scrolling
- Turn on check spelling
- Set homepage to our Reference start page
- Always save downloads to My Documents
- Always show tab bar
- Turn off all warnings, except when redirecting from secure to an unsecure page
- Don't remember anything, delete cookies and clear private data when Firefox closes
- Disable mailto: links - one repeated tech question from patrons is "I want to send an email but I'm getting some connection wizard." This happens when someone clicks a "mailto" link on a webpage, and Outlook launches as the default email program. Since patrons need to log into their own web email to send messages, making nothing happen when someone click a mailto link is actually an improvement
- We also took whatever steps we could think of to ensure computer security and patron privacy - this means not keeping any history, and making sure that when Firefox is started, it does not restore from a previous session
- Update 5/30/08: Add the Print and Print Preview (see Add-Ons above) icons to the toolbar (we chose to use icons only and not text because it used less room)
A lot of these were judgment calls, and there is no single right way to adjust your settings. Also, there're lots of other useful Add-Ons out there too, and more at https://addons.mozilla.org. If you have any suggestions for security or usefulness that we didn't include, please let me know in the comments.
Update 5/15/08: I've had a couple questions about Public Web Browser, so I thought I'd elaborate. It is a great product that works with Internet Explorer (or other browsers, I'm guessing) to lock it down and make IE more applicable for a public library computer. It has always done exactly what it was designed to do, and the librarians who developed it provide wonderful service. Our switch to Firefox has nothing to do with PWB - we just prefer Firefox to IE.
Update 5/30/08: Added an Add-On and toolbar setting to make it easier for patrons to use Print and Print Preview.
Tags: add-ons, browser, browsers, computer, extensions, firefox, internet, it, libraries, Library, plug-ins, public, tech, Technology, terminal, workstation
May 1st, 2008 Brian Herzog
Today I'm peddling a workshop that a committee on which I serve is holding in June. The committee is the Information Technology Section of the New England Library Association, and it'll be fun, and interesting. Check it out:
"Library-Wide IT Proficiencies"
The workshop is focused on teaching technology self-sufficiency, so library staff in every department can feel comfortable handling common technology issues. Using a "train the trainer" format, the presenters will emphasize sharing the practical knowledge and skills IT staff may take for granted. The goal is to reduce the fear factor many library staff have when dealing with common technology, from changing printer cartridges to navigating the network.
Date: Thursday, June 12, 2008
Location: Bryant University, Smithfield, RI (Directions to BU's Bryant Center)
Cost: NELA Members - $55 Non-members - $65
8:30 Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00 - 12:00 Part I: Proficiency, IT Staff and End Users
12:00 - 12:45 Buffet Lunch
12:45 - 3:00 Part II: Roadmap to Creating an IT-Savvy Library Staff
3:00 Questions and Program Wrap-Up
Each workshop attendee will receive a flash drive containing all presentation materials and handouts!
Secure online registration & downloadable mail-in registration [pdf] are both available at http://www.nelib.org/its/conference.
More About The Workshop
IT staff must be able to assist in maintaining a library-wide level of competence and confidence not only in using current IT resources, but also in learning new ways of working smarter. The workshop begins with the basic elements of end user education to promote departmental self-sufficiency and moves on to the higher level of assisting librarians with cutting edge technology awareness and use. Participants will receive tools, techniques and many ideas on ways to increase the IT proficiency of all library staff.
About The Presenters
Gary K. McCone and Grace R. Sines work in the Information Systems department of the National Agricultural Library. As Associate Director, Gary is responsible for the development, maintenance and quality Assurance of computer systems and NAL databases, and has significant experience in providing consultation for the establishment of libraries in developing countries. Grace, Deputy Associate Director for Information technology, has over 20 years of experience in managing information technology services, and has authored numerous Federal policies and procedures concerning the implementation and operation of information systems.
For more information, please contact Rick Taplin, ITS Chair at ITS@nelib.org or call 508-655-8008, x201.
Tags: information technology, it, its, libraries, Library, nela, nela-its, Proficiencies, Proficiency, program, Programs, public, tech, Technology, workshop, workshops