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

Library 2.0 For You

   September 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

NELA 2008 conference logoIn my last post, I mentioned that at this year's NELA annual conference, I will be part of a panel called "Library 2.0 For You." A few people asked me about it, so here's what it is and how it came to be:

The description from the NELA conference program [pdf]:

Flickr isn't just a bird, delicious isn't just your NELA luncheon, and WordPress isn't a new kitchen gadget. Find out what these things are and how these popular Web 2.0 applications (and more!) are being used in real-world libraries. L24U offers a panel of three experienced Massachusetts librarians: Paige Eaton Davis from the Minuteman Library Network, Brian Herzog from the Chelmsford Public Library, and Elizabeth Thomsen of NOBLE. They share their expertise with applying Web 2.0 technologies to help promote your library's resources, programs, and materials. The program sponsor is ITS whose business meeting is included in the program.

Sounds great, huh? This program came about because there seemed to be a need for almost a how-to session for Library 2.0 tools. Lots of programs at past conferences and seminars were either general overviews of this technology, or very rah-rah Library 2.0 cheerleading. Which were great, because they raised awareness and interest, and got people excited about exploring these tools.

However, when people left the conference, they knew they were interested but didn't know where to begin. So in L24U, we're hoping to show a few examples of what can be done with a few Library 2.0 tools (using actual working examples from libraries), and explain what the steps were to implement these tools.

It won't be hands-on training, but attendees will hopefully leave the session with an understanding of how to put these tools to work for them as soon as they get back to their libraries.

That's the plan, at any rate. Even if we just end up answering peoples' questions, it should still be interesting (that is, once I get past my fear of public speaking). So if you're going to NELA 2008, look for this program on Monday at 1pm.

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AllMyFaves (Are Belong To Us)

   August 5th, 2008 Brian Herzog

All My Faves websiteSomeone sent me a link to AllMyFaves.com recently - at first I ignored it, but now I kind of like it.

It's a visual list of popular website, broken up into cataegories like Video, Maps, Search, Travel, etc. It reminds me of the early days of Yahoo, with two guys making a directory of useful internet websites. But seeing everything on one screen is helpful (and being a visual person, I like the logos).

And that's it's compiled by "a team of experts," I can reasonably presume that these are the "important" websites in each category (at least, important to someone). Which is great for me to learn of a new website, or to use as a cheat-sheet to see what the kids are using. Plus, it helps with reference questions like "what's another website like Facebook and MySpace."

I did notice they didn't have a "Books" category, so I made my own:


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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 [email protected] 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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Embedding Content in Websites

   June 17th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Got 2.0?What do you do with your weekends? I talk about Library 2.0 with other librarians. Fun, yes?

In the course of discussion this weekend, I found myself focusing on one of my favorite elements, shared content. There is much more to Library 2.0 (and Web 2.0) than this, but it's a big part of it. By "shared content," I mean being able to display on one website content that originated (and is hosted by) another website.

On a lot of popular websites (like YouTube), there will be links to "embed this video" or "get our widget" or whatnot, and that's what I'm talking about. It's an easy way to make your own website more useful and interesting, but it also opens up all kinds of possibilities. You don't necessarily need to know anything about file formats, ftp'ing, or even HTML coding - all you need to know is how to copy/paste.

So, here's a bit of roundup of common types of embedded content, and a few ideas for using them to supplement what you're already offering on your website. The possibilities are really only limited by your creativity, so please share if you have ideas better than mine (and I'm sure you do).

Adding Movies and Video Clips
There's lots of websites that can host videos, but YouTube is the most common. Whenever you view a video on YouTube, you'll see a box titled "Embed" with some code in it. The code usually looks like this:

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/9FQzhtIJXJM&hl=en"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/9FQzhtIJXJM&hl=en" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

You don't need to know what any of that means. You just need to copy/paste it into your own HTML page or blog post, and a happy little video will be displayed on your webpage (the video still "lives" on the YouTube server, and you're just displaying it on your webpage), like this:

Ideas for using this:

  • Book Reviews, like StoryTubes
  • Library Tour, or a tour of historical sites around your community
  • A Teen Movie Making club
  • Staff introductions (I know, it'll never happen...)
  • Training on using library resources

Fun With Photographs
Again, lots of websites do this, but flickr is one of the most popular photo hosting services (it does video now, too). Instead of storing photographs on your own server, you can upload them to your flickr account and take advantage of the other tools flickr offers.

You can embed individual images (flickr gives you a choice of sizes, and provides the code for embedding it), or you can embed a slideshow or flickr "badge." These two are nice because after you put the code in, it can be set to automatically show your newest pictures. I use a flickr badge in navigation bar on the right, and my library also uses it to display historical photos and photos of our childrens room mural. Here's a sample of photos I have taken and tagged "Maine:"

herzogbr's items tagged with maine More of herzogbr's stuff tagged with maine on

Ideas for using this:

What's the feed, Kenneth?
Lots of Library 2.0 tools offer on RSS feeds. These can be grabbed and displayed on your website, no matter where they come from. One simple tool that converts an RSS feed to code you can embed on your website is Feed2JS - you just give it the feed, and it gives you the code. It also gives you some control over the formatting, too, which is nice. My library uses this to embed our three most recent blog posts onto the library's homepage - same content, different places.

Another fun set of feed tools let you mix multiple feeds into a single feed. So, if you wanted to get news from CNN, NPR and the BBC, or photos from different family members, you could combine them into a single feed and it makes keeping up easier. My favorite tools for this are FeedBlendr and FeedBurner - just enter the feeds you want to blend, and they produce a single feed for you. This can then be run through Feed2JS to embed on your website, and FeedBlendr also offers tips for using it.
Ideas for using this:

  • Promote your library blog on other webpages
  • Display blog posts with certain tags on related webpages
  • Display community news (especially headlines from your local paper)
  • Promote community connections by displaying feeds from patrons' blogs, photo streams, or other sources

Make subject guides dynamic
Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website. It lets you "bookmark" websites into your account, which then can be used by you or other people. Del.icio.us lets you tag the websites as you bookmark them, which means that can be organized using your own structured vocabulary.

This is perfect for libraries that maintain online subject guides. It is much easier to add a website to del.icio.us and tag/describe it on the fly than it is to add it to a webpage by HTML. And when you do use a structured vocabulary for your tags, these new websites showing up on your library subject guides is automatic. It's also nice that multiple computers can add bookmarks to your account, so other staff can be adding websites whenever they see them. Read more about how to use del.icio.us for library subject guides on a previous post.
Ideas for using this:

Embedding fun features and communication tools
Once you start looking for them, you'll find lots of websites offering to embed their content on your website. This is a great was to encourage interaction and involvement, but the utility of the content must be evaluated - don't just embed things because you can.
Ideas for using this:

  • Local weather, from the Weather Channel
  • Polls and Quizzes, to see how patrons feel about an issue or just solicit input (flexipoll.com is one option)
  • Online chat, to ask a librarian a question or have a discussion (MeeboMe is one option)
  • Games, perhaps for a game club, to illustrated an article or collection, or just for fun (everyflashgame.com is one option)
  • Book information, to show new additions or a special collection (LibraryThing.com is one option)

Like I said, the possibilities of this are endless. The goodwill and usefulness can be immeasurable, too, but there are a few drawbacks. First, since this content is coming from other servers, it can be unavailable at times (or worse, go away forever without warning). Also, if you're displaying the content of other people, you can't control what they will say or do. This is why it is important to grab feeds only from trusted sources, or embed specific videos or photos, so you're sure of what you're getting.

And certainly, don't be afraid to just try something to see how it works. That's usually the best way to learn, and the best way to show people what is possible.

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Weird Massachusetts Is Here

   May 15th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Weird MassachusettsI know I've mentioned this before, but it's still fun: the authors of Weird Massachusetts found some photos I uploaded to flickr and asked if they could include them in the book.

I bring this up again because my complimentary copy of the book arrived - complete with my name in the photo credits. I suppose me being excited about this shows just how uncool I really am, but come on, it's neat.

This type of social networking is one of the great things about using Web 2.0 tools. But also, it illustrates the reason to share what you upload via a Creative Commons license, instead of the default All Rights Reserved (when possible, of course).

Another funny thing about this: during my ego-search of the photo credits page, I noticed two other library people listed (congratulations guys). I wonder if this is because librarians use tools like flickr more than regular people, or if we're more just inclined to share because of our profession.

Oh, and if you live in Massachusetts, this book is worth looking at. I've been here about three years, and at least half of the book was completely new to me. I'm looking forward to exploring some of these weird places this summer.

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