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


NELA2010: Easy Website Mashups

   October 19th, 2010 Brian Herzog

ChelmsfordHistory.org/Resources.html pageAs part of NELA2010, I'm doing a poster session on Quick and Easy Website Mashups - very simple ways to add more information and utility to library websites.

The image at right is an example of the Resources page on the ChelmsfordHistory.org website (a town-wide history project my library participates in). Embedded in the page are four different mashups, which makes it both more useful to researchers, and easier to maintain. Win-win.

If you're interested in seeing easy examples of adding more content to your website, check it out.



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Coraline: The Movie

   February 10th, 2009 Brian Herzog

coraline movie posterI'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman, and subscribe to his blog feed.

It was through his blog, in fact, that I learned about his book Coraline, and purchased it for the library so I could read it.

Then, more recently, he's been talking about the movie release. After watching this trailer on the blog, featuring him, I went to see the movie.

It goes without saying that Neil is just cool. But on top of that, how great is it to have an author talk about and promote his work, not only in a very personal way through the blog, but also in a very personal way through the very impersonal medium of movies? To wit:

Not that this movie would need much promotion, but a library could do a movie-to-book-to-other-books-by-this-author tie-in quite easily by embedding this trailer into a page on their website and also including an annotated listing of his other books, and link to those books in their catalog.

Oh yeah, and the movie was great. Different than the book (from what I remember), but great in its own right.



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Library Word Find Puzzle

   January 22nd, 2009 Brian Herzog

library word find puzzleHere's another way to be interactive with flickr - a cool little find-a-word puzzle.

Check out the puzzle on flickr, log in, and use the Add Note tool to circle words as you find them. Because this is flickr, all the words are either horizontal or vertical, but can be either forwards or backwards.

I put a lot of words in to hopefully let a lot of people play - please only circle a couple words, so everyone can have a chance. All of the hidden words are listed below the image in the description.

I thought this could be a fun thing for libraries to do for their patrons. The puzzle is easy to create (I used a spreadsheet [xls] and print preview - not quite as easy as the library crossword, I admit) and can be made on any theme. I also like that more than one person can work on it, so they can be solved as teams.

I'm actually stealing this idea and modifying it with library words. There are other puzzles on flickr, and where this idea originated will be obvious - but NSFW.



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With Friends Like These

   November 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

flickr friends screenshotIf you haven't already, read David Lee King's post about Web 2.0 and friending. It might be hard to swallow at first, but he's absolutely right.

His main point:

When your organization decides, say, to create a Facebook page … who are you trying to connect with? Me? I don’t live in your neighborhood. Another library on the other side of the world? They’re not going to use your services.

He's right in that libraries aren't implementing Library 2.0 tools to connect with other libraries - we need to focus on connecting with our patrons. Any library service (be it a newsletter, a storytime, a flickr collection, or an rss feed) should be directed to the patrons. Those are the people (we hope) who will benefit from it.

Friending other libraries is safe and tempting, but is slightly counterproductive (we don't want it to look like these are library-only tools). But I also agree with David (and commenters) in that it's important to connect with other librarians professionally, and to keep up with what other libraries are doing - there are a lot of good ideas out there that we can adapt for our own libraries.

Hmm. I'm guilty of this myself, but I'm going to keep in mind moving forward.



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Simmons Tech Summit

   July 24th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Simmons Tech Summit Tech ToysLast 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.



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Political Parties and Technology

   July 22nd, 2008 Brian Herzog

Donkey and Elephant political iconsI noticed this interesting juxtaposition of the difference in the way the Democratic and Republican parties are approaching technology at campaign events.

The Arizona Star reported that the GOP wanted to prevent any attendees of a Tucson fundraiser from recording the event, out of fear of what might show up on YouTube. Bush himself asked the attendees to turn off all recording devices, and was quoted as saying

I don't know a lot about technology...but I do know about YouTube.

On the other hand, an email from the Obama campaign goes in the exact opposite direction. The email mentioned an upcoming rally in Massachusetts on August 4th (Obama's birthday, incidentally), and read in part:

...remember to bring your camera and snap a few photos! You can share them with us at eventsforobama@gmail.com. We'll start posting photos soon!

Not that there is any one right way to approach technology, but I did find this contrast telling. The Bush Administration has a long reputation of trying to suppress and control information and keep things behind closed doors, whereas the Obama campaign has embraced modern technology and has put effort into learning it to use it to their advantage.

Politics is politics, but I am all for being encouraged to participate. Besides, I like taking pictures of things I do and places I go, and would kind of resent being told I couldn't because of someone else's misunderstanding or fear.



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