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




How To Search The Web (in 2000)

   July 1st, 2010 Brian Herzog

We just subscribed to the Safari computer ebooks database, so I started weeding our print computer book collection. It's a heavily-used collection, but I found a few books that made me laugh.

Not that they were bad books, just out-of-date for the computer field. Case in point is How to search the web, edited by Robert S. Want, ©2000. Flipping through it was a walk down memory lane - heck, right on the cover were listed search engines that I used to use a lot and now had forgotten about (but I do miss Infoseek):

How to search the web book cover

The book itself was obviously useful in its time, and now is an interesting look back at the past. Among other information, it contains b&w screenshots of each of the search engines' homepages, reminding us what the web looked like 10 years ago - directory browsing is certainly less popular these days:

Yahoo
Yahoo homepage 2000
Internet Archive, 7/6/00
Yahoo Today
Ask Jeeves
Ask Jeeves homepage 2000
Internet Archive, 7/6/00
Ask Jeeves Today (ask.com)
AltaVista
AltaVista homepage 2000
Internet Archive, 7/6/00
AltaVista Today

And this was on the shelf in a library that weeds regularly - who knows what gems are waiting in larger libraries that have the space to keep lots of things.

On another note, my parents will be visiting for the Fourth of July, so I won't be posting again until later next week. I hope you have a good holiday (non-Americans, I hope your regular days are good, too).



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CIL2010: New and Hot: The Best of Resource Shelf

   April 12th, 2010 Brian Herzog

CIL2020 Gary PriceNew & Hot: The Best of Resource Shelf, with Gary Price, Publisher, ResourceShelf

Keeping up with all the changes in our industry and staying one step ahead of our clients require solid strategies to deal with this challenge. Our popular expert shares his ideas, learnings, top tips, and techniques from the search and search engine world to ensure that you stay in step with the fast-changing online information world.

Complete list of links at http://www.resourceshelf.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/bor2010cil.html, but I have some annotations below:

Web searches

Ready Reference

  • Wordnik - shows word-based results: definition, number of mentioned, examples common usage, etc.
  • Wolfram Alpha - educators are focusing on this as a replacement for almanacs and also as a computational engine. They're always adding and updating data.
  • MRQE - Movie Review Query Engine - reviews coming from traditional and social sources
  • AllMusic - info on singers, albums, groups, songs, and it also provides "related songs" and "influenced by" suggestions. Now all features are available without login. There's also allmovie.com and allgames.com.
  • Lyrics Wiki - great for song lyrics. One of the first spinoff wikis hosted on Wikia.com by a specialized group of Wikipedia editors
  • Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection - the go-to place for maps in the news, for education use, map research, or for general use

People Search

  • NNDB Notable Names search and biographical information. And NNDB Mapper is a visualization tool that shows relations between people.
  • Whitepages.com - like a typical people search, but uses public data to build a personal profile, including ages and neighbors
  • Muckety.com - similar to NNDB, but does it for business and business relationships between people

Go to http://www.resourceshelf.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/bor2010cil.html for more useful links



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Resources for Free Images and More

   November 19th, 2009 Brian Herzog

squirrelSometimes, being a librarian equates to being a packrat. At least in the virtual world, I can collect as many links as I want and it doesn't take up any room. However, to be useful, it does take organization.

For awhile now I've been bookmarking posts about free resources for clipart, photographs and other artwork. I use them for library publications, and also for my posts here. But just this week I got my act together and started transferring those links from my Bloglines account to my Delicious account, and thought I'd share them.

If you're curious how to do this with Delicious, check out my how-two post for creating library subject guides.

And just for good measure, here are a few web design tools I had bookmarked, too:



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Library policy about personal blogging

   July 14th, 2009 Brian Herzog

The Man Behind The CurtainA couple of weeks ago, the director of the Wadleigh Memorial Library in New Hampshire wrote me with this question (I'm paraphrasing):

We have an intern for the summer, and she's started a blog about her work at the library. However, the next thing I knew, there was a link to her blog from the library's homepage (it's since been removed). While I like the idea of the public getting a bird's eye view of what we do at the library, I have to think of worst case scenario....

I couldn't find your blog linked from CPL's website, but you do publicly announce on your blog where you work. Does CPL have any policies in place about staff blogs? Have you ever had anything you've written come back to bite the library?...

This is a very interesting question. Something I wrote once did come back to bite, and the Town, the Library and I were all threatened with a lawsuit. That prompted a discussion between my director and me about separating library and personal, although no written policy ever came of it. But in general, here are the blogging guidelines that I follow:

  • Nothing written can be unwritten - think before you publish
  • Get permission before using names, and be vague when referring to people otherwise
  • Personal website has a disclaimer disassociating the library/town from me

Which is basic, I know, but since it's a personal website done on personal time, there's not much keeping me from doing whatever I want - other than common sense, experience, and goodwill towards the library. Since most of what goes on in libraries is public record anyway, pretty much everything I do at work is fair game, so long as I don't break the law or violate patron privacy.

Even still, it might be a good idea for libraries to create some sort of guidelines for staff who publicly use the library's name online. I don't think libraries can force people to do or not do most things (aside from using library resources and time), but basic guidelines might help a well-meaning library employee avoid awkward situations they might not have otherwise considered.

A few resources for these guidelines are:

It's a great idea for library employees to share their work with the public (and other librarians). Especially if the library is going to link to that personal blog from the library's website (in which case, the library might be entitled to more control over the content of that personal blog). If no employee is doing this on their personal blog, the library's blog itself could occasionally spotlight behind-the-scenes activities in the library.

I guess the bottom line is that people are still discovering Web 2.0, so there's a lot of inexperience and new situations out there. Libraries shouldn't try to prevent their employees from participating, but instead can assist them in doing it well (remember 23 Things?).

After our email discussion and speaking with library Trustees, the Wadleigh Library decided to put the link to their intern's blog back on their homepage, which was good news. So if you're looking for a model on how to do this, check out Lexi the Intern's blog - she's doing a great job.



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Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data

   July 2nd, 2009 Brian Herzog

Library Mashups book coverSpeaking of embedding things into library websites, I wanted to highlight a book due out later this year.

In the interest of full disclosure, I contributed a chapter to this book. I don't get any kickback from the profits (except for a free copy), but I am really looking forward to it.

Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data is written by librarians for librarians, on how we can expand our websites and web presence to better serve our patrons. Nicole Engard pulled us all together and edited the book.

More information about the book and authors is available at http://mashups.web2learning.net. It's not due out until September, but just skimming the table of contents makes me pretty sure I'll learn a lot from the other authors.

Writing my chapter made me feel like I was back in library school working on a paper, but I am glad to have done it. Plus, I'll soon be able to tell people I'm a "published author." People ask me why I became a librarian, and my answer is always the same: fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory.

update 7/12/09: a couple new related links:

update 8/20/09
Library Mashups is available to order in the United Kingdom, Europe or British Commonwealth (excl. Canada) from Facet Publishing



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Upcoming Workshop: CMS Day!

   May 19th, 2009 Brian Herzog

website designer comicI'm a member of the IT section of the New England Library Association, and we're holding a workshop on popular CMS software. If you're thinking about redesigning or updating your website, or would are just curious about what CMS' are and what they can do, then this workshop is for you.

CMS Day! Build a better website with Content Management Systems: Drupal, Joomla, Plone, & WordPress
Keynote by Jessamyn West

Date: Friday, June 12, 2009
Location: Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth, NH (directions)
Cost: NELA members - $50; Non-members - $60
Registration Fee includes lunch & a NELA USB hub!

To Register
Secure online registration & downloadable mail-in registration [pdf] are both available at http://www.nelib.org/its/conference. Registration Closes Monday June 8.

Program Schedule
10:00 a.m. - Registration & Coffee & Library Tours
10:30 a.m. - Keynote: CMS options - Jessamyn West
12 noon - Lunch (provided!) and Library Tours
12:45 p.m. - Librarians share their real-life CMS experiences:
--Drupal - Darien (CT) PL (darienlibrary.org) & Paige Eaton Davis, Minuteman Network
--Joomla - Randy Robertshaw, Tyngsborough PL (tynglib.org)
--Plone - Rick Levine & CMRLS Librarians
--WordPress - Theresa Maturevich, Beverly (MA) PL (beverlypubliclibrary.org)
3:30 p.m. -Wrap-Up!

Keynote by Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West is a community technology librarian. She lives in rural Vermont where assists tiny libraries with their technology planning and implementation. Her favorite color is orange. Jessamyn maintains an online presence at: librarian.net and jessamyn.info

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NELA Program Refund Policy: A full refund shall be granted provided that the registered attendee has contacted the authorized representative of ITS responsible for taking registrations, at least ten (10) business days in advance of the program. In the event that notice is given less than ten days, a refund is not granted, however, they may send a substitute to the program.

For more information, please contact Scott Kehoe at 978-762-4433 x16 / scott@nmrls.org



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  • Hiya. My name is Brian Herzog, and I am, among other things, a reference librarian at a public library in MA, USA. more about me...

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