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

Upcoming Workshop: Mobilize Your Patrons

   April 26th, 2011 Brian Herzog

NELA: New England Library AssociationEvery spring, the IT Section of the New England Library Association hosts a workshop on some aspect of technology in libraries (past workshops rocked). I'm actually one of the presenters at this year's workshop, along with far more interesting people, and the topic is:

Mobilize Your Patrons: Library Services in a Hand-Held World

2011 ITS Spring Event
New England Library Association - Information Technology Section

When Friday, June 17, 2011, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston MA 01505 (directions)

Registration (includes lunch!)

  • NELA members - $50
  • Non-members - $65
  • Library school students & unemployed librarians - $35

Registration closes Friday June 3th. Space is limited.


9:00 AM Registration

9:30 AM Keynote - Megan K. Fox, the Director of Knowledge Management and IT, Jobs for the Future

Libraries on the Go: Trends in Mobile Tools and Applications
Current hardware and new technologies are making hand-held computers essential for on-the-go users. Fox highlights the latest development in applications for mobile and hand-held tools and how these can and are being utilized by libraries and information seekers of all kinds.

11:15 AM - Jessamyn West, a technologist living in rural Vermont studying the digital divide and solving technology problems for schools and libraries

The Mayor of Everywhere Using Social Tools to be More Places at Once
Web 2.0 tools are uncomplicated to use and freely available online, and they have been making it easy and even enjoyable to remix, share, and repurpose content. The added new dimension of ubiquitous mobile computing is providing more opportunities for libraries to reach patrons and for patrons to interact with librarians. This presentation will address trends in Web 2.0 and social technology.

12:30 PM Lunch (included in registration)

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM Panel presentation/discussion on practical library applications

  • Brian Herzog: Making your Library Mobile-Friendly
    Tools and techniques to create a useful resource for your mobile patrons
  • Bonnie Roalsen & Ryan Livergood: Talking Walls & Augmented Realities
    Using QR codes to extend your library’s services and programs, engage your communities and construct mobile knowledge networks
  • Christine Drew: Enabling Mobile Academic Library Users
    Accessing student’s technology-use, deploying a mobile site, dabbling with QR codes

3:30 PM The End

It should be a great day. For my part, I'm basically going to go through the steps I took to make a mobile site for my library, and also mention a few other mobile options for libraries.

Whether you're considering maybe possibly thinking about doing something in the mobile world, or looking for new ways to interact with the mobile patrons you're already serving, there should be something for everyone at this workshop - I hope to see you there.

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Conference Twittering v. Blogging

   June 16th, 2009 Brian Herzog

twitter logoA quick recap of my experiment to both twitter and blog the CMS Day workshop last week: I didn't like it.

And interestingly, while catching up with rss that night, I read Librarian by Day very nicely summing up everything I didn't like about it.

Blogging a conference is how I take notes for myself during the sessions - I don't know if it's helpful to anyone else, but it is to me, and I put it out there just in case someone else is curious. But twittering a conference ultimately felt like a series of inside jokes that only people at the conference would get.

Don't get me wrong - the conference was great, which is why I was trying to share it. So perhaps it is my lack of tweet skills, but it didn't seem that 140 characters, without the context of the conference, is very helpful (other than a laugh or two).

I'm still new to this, so forgive me if this observation has already been made: it occurred to me that twittering is the metadata of life. I can describe the conference or what I'm doing at any random moment, but it's still just a description of something else. Metadata absolutely serves a purpose, but when it comes to conferences, maybe the most useful tweets are those that point to resources available elsewhere (or that are humorous one-liners).

Or, perhaps more likely, I'm just doing it wrong.

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NELA-ITS Spring Workshop 2009 – CMS Day!

   June 12th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Website 2.0! slideToday's workshop is all about CMS - why use them, and what's available. I'll try to provide useful notes - also follow #nelaits09 and/or #nelaitson Twitter.

CMS Day: Building a Better Website with Content Management Systems
Drupal, Joomla, Plone, and WordPress

June 12th, 2009, Portsmouth (NH) Public Library

Keynote: Jessamyn West - Website 2.0!
--Slides & Links

  • Old style web maintenance: people give content to one person who updates the site (bottleneck) - relies on ftp and requires expertise
  • New style (with CMS): everyone can update all the time - quicker and more efficient, and doesn't require heavy-duty tech skills

Your website doesn't need to be special and unique, just useful to your patrons. Timesavers like CMS software, and good ideas that other libraries are already doing, are your friends. You can include a calendar, catalog, links and databases, programs, "about us" and local history, contact info - every has these things, and you can too.

Static v. Dynamic content (the C in CMS): dynamic content means websites are built on the fly by pulling information from multiple places

What is a CMS (content management system)

  • creation of content - lets the right people do it
  • management - easier to get info out (and remove it when old)
  • distribution - send out (or bring in) via rss
  • publishing - much easier, and more standards compliant
  • discovery - you learn, everyone learns

All cms share similar tools: themes, calendars, rss feeds, blogs, uploading images/files - don't get too hung up on these. All have online demos/versions to try out. There are also user communities that offer development and support.

Paige Eaton Davis, Minuteman Library Network

  • Using Drupal for staff intanet
  • Goals was to facilitate communication (which staff wanted), web 2.0 features (rss, comments, etc), calendar, printer-friendly versions (because it will be a source of documentation for member libraries)
  • Why Drupal? free, open-source, large community support, robust and room to grow
  • Install was kind of techy, so not completely smooth and flawless - but they managed with little knowledge + documentation
  • "Drupal is a very elegant and yet very hairy beast"

Getting it going:

  • Drupal Core contains a lot of core functions (do not hack core modules)
  • Also lots of contributed modules to extend capabilities - two good ones: Content Construction Kit (CCK - lets you define different kinds of content types [blog post, calendar event, etc]) and Views (allows tweaking of content output). Others in use are Calendar, Minutes module, Signup, Interest Groups
  • One challenge with Drupal is learning its terminology
  • Great thing is that menus are dropdown and easy to universally manage from one location
  • Themes: use standard, customized, or borrow one http://themegarden.org/drupal6
  • Lots of support online, plus O'Reilly books, Library Technology Report

Kate Sheehan, Dairen Public Library

  • Kate's not a coder - has used WordPress, but now specializes in content
  • Lots of thought when into architecture of Drupal site - used it to pull all sorts of library content (static pages, multiple blogs, etc) together into one place and organize it logically and usefully
  • Staff did struggle with terminology until they got away from using blog terminology
  • Community: patrons can contribute to website and catalog (using sopac, which is a Drupal module) - anyone can create an account to participate
  • Using tags to specify age range/reading levels for kids, which helps both patrons and staff
  • Website has content pulled in from other sources (flickr, et. al.) so policies had to be reviewed on licensing, citing and the technical how-to aspects - they try to use a lot of photos to make things more interesting
  • Found that using Google calendar for events was easier than Drupal module

Randy Robertshaw - Tyngsborough Public Library

  • Chose Joomla because it is very easy to learn and has a low learning curve
  • Randy is only librarian in his library, so he does all the maintenance himself
  • View website as real electronic branch - staff contributing to it is same as creating book displays or answering questions in the library
  • When considering Joomla, only look for v1.5-native components
  • Lots of for-pay modules, which can be $5-20, and are professional looking right out of the box, instead of spending time reinventing the wheel - http://extensions.joomla.org and http://joomlacode.org
  • Prefers Google calendar to events module - uses rss to feed events to homepage. Others are JcalPro and Eventlist - but prefers "outsourcing" tools like gcalendar and flickr (using iframe) to embed content back into library website
  • Joomla allows multiple themes, so children's site can look different from adult portion
  • One plugin is a PDF indexer - lots of others - some simple, some complex
  • Content can be timed, so it will automatically go up and come off - is also archived to use later use, and stats show on each post on the backend

More considerations

  • Remove copyrights for programs
  • Review the reviews of extensions before you choose them
  • Stay away from "beta" software (no release schedule)
  • Make sure to cache your website so you're not hitting the database every time
  • Is CMS search engine friendly? Always a problem with dynamic content
  • Security and backup of CMS and website and content
  • Use distributed content lets you share the work among staff but make things easy and centralized for patrons
  • Always keep an eye on development - Joomla is available now, but things always change


Rick Levine - C/W MARS
"Home on the Web" [pdf] project uses LSTA grant to enable small MA public libraries that currently have no website (or were part of the local government website). Goals were kept simple and cheap - single template, promote databases & local programs, forms-capable, "harvestable" calendar (for down-the-road state-wide zip code based calendar).

The Plinket program offers a lot features, and creating library websites is quick. The time investment comes in creating content - which is where time should be spent.

Backend input forms, content types, and management is very simple - does provide security levels to control what people can do and what html code they can use.

Examples: Bolton Public Library and East Brookfield Public Library and Thayer Memorial Library (uses fanciest features in iframes)

Theresa Maturevich, Beverly (MA) Public Library
Chose WordPress because it was free, NOBLE offered some support, staff had some knowledge of it, large community base (easy to search for answers online), lots of free themes and plug-ins and widgets, easy to customize.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org - wp.com is hosted and has limitations, whereas wp.org is downloaded and installed on your server. .org offers more features and control, but you're responsible for backups and maintenance

Don't need a lot of tech background, but some html helps. It's easy to modify page templates to customize or use different theme for kid's page. WP lets you use hierarchy (using Parent and Child) to make website look like web pages and less bloggy.

Can use multiple blogs (news, events, book reviews, etc) and keep them separate. Posts can be automatically posted (but not deleted), and they use comment moderation to check before they go live - and people do expect answers.


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