Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zombifying the library

Welcome to the final blog of the A-Z challenge. I will do a wrap up post about the whole challenge, but I'm pretty amazed I've made it all the way to the end.  I've read and appreciated all your comments, and even if you didn't comment, thanks for coming along for the ride and hope you got something out of my ramblings. I've really enjoyed reading all your blogs, most of which I would have never have known about except for the challenge so it definitely was a success. I'd love to think you've learnt something, or thought about something you hadn't before, or at least been entertained. I do hope to see you round these parts again.

Today's post is dedicated to Zombies. I've a strange fascination with zombies.  My supernatural obsession is not limited to them - I love stories about vampires and werewolves, but Zombies are special case. They have no internal dialog, there is no reasoning with them, and their humanity is totally gone. They are almost a force of nature rather then a monster, an unstoppable force. I try to hunt out good zombie movies, and have recently started reading zombie post apocalyptic novels.

How does this love of the undead tie-in with libraries? Well as you can see above there is a great information literacy comic using the zombie theme to teach college students how to use the library. I think it's a fantastic way of using librarians' skills (the illustrator and author were on the library staff) to create a fun and educational library guide that's been developed to perfectly target their key audience - the modern zombie, pop-culture, and comic, loving audience.

Here's a great interview with the creators:
Zombifying the library: how two creative guys found a way to meet student needs and save the world

Not only are library instructional guides being created using zombies, a South Australian library uses zombies as a theme for their fundraising calender. I've ordered one, and I'm looking forward to seeing in in the flesh, so to speak.

Zombies in the library calender from the South Australian Library & Information Network
"This year the South Australian Library & Information Network (SALIN) Committee has chosen to celebrate our diverse and changing profession through production of the 2011 calendar “Zombies in the Library”. In 12 beautifully rendered scenes the calendar covers such topics as the role of the Zombie in reference, the frustrations faced when the Undead hog the photocopier, and for cataloguers, poses the eternal question: 299.675 or 398.21? All calendars come in A3 size, are professionally bound and beautifully printed (and you can even choose your starting month). Whether its something for the wall in Technical Services or simply a Xmas present for Mum, be sure to place your order."

Friday, April 29, 2011


Welcome to my penultimate blog post for the a-z challenge. Yes I have talked, and shared content, from today's topic often on this blog and doubtless you are all familiar with this site. But I thought I had to have a post devoted to a site that occupies almost countless hours of my life. I love to laugh, I love to learn, I love to be entertained. I think YouTube is a pretty amazing creation for achieving all of these things, and sure there are other video sites out there, but YouTube was the first to capture the public's imagination and I think is still one of the largest, and one of the best.

Millions of short videos have been created and shared, but stealing a quote from one of my favourite movies the Matrix, unfortunately noone can be told what the YouTube is. You have to see it for yourself. And what better example of YouTube could there be, then this YouTube star singing at the YouTube live event:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Stephen Wolfram, author, scientist and creator of Mathematica computational software has built an answer engine based on Mathematica called Wolfram|Alpha.

Unlike search engines like Google, Wolfram is full of data chosen by humans, and students, educators, researchers, and simply the curious can do some pretty cool computations using natural language queries. And it's free.

I've only scratched the surface, but I know it will come in handy for that statistics paper I've been putting off.

Have you used it? Or have you read the imposing, 1200 page, A new kind of science? It gets mixed reviews on Amazon.

"Wolfram|Alpha is the world's first and only computational knowledge engine.
Enter your question or calculation, and Wolfram|Alpha uses its computational power and ever growing collection of knowledge to compute the answer. Discover new information about the world, and integrate expert knowledge into any facet of your life.
For more information about Wolfram|Alpha, please visit:"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Value of Your Library Use

Have you ever wondered if libraries are worth your tax dollars?

Do you actually get value from using your library?

Wonder no longer, as this snazzy library use calculator can tell you how much money you save by using your library:

Value of your library use calculator

And for those who aren't using your public, or any library; maybe you're like the CNET editor who wonders why he would go to a library to borrow a book, try entering the last few books you bought. You might be surprised at how much value your library can provide.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Universe's scale - unfathomable, but unifiying.

Trying to think of the immensity of it puts all my problems into perspective for me. But I also believe knowing we are only specks in the grand scheme of things should bring us closer to each other. We are all made of the same matter. The same star dust.  If we zoom all the way back, and therefore, back in time, to the big bang, the beginning, there was nothing but dust, and we are all made of the stuff, at one point that was all there was. So there is no excuse to treat each other badly.

(Love the soundtrack. In case you're wondering it's Promontory, also used in Last of the Mohicans, one of my favourite films.) 

Another site to try to understand the Scale of the universe.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for T-shirts - librarian themed.

We don't have to wear uniforms where I work, but it might be cool to wear one of these. I'd certainly like public librarians' more easily identified as such, and a (witty, attractive) t-shirt could be the way.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Save libraries

Libraries around the world, but especially in the UK and the US, are facing closure due local and national government budget cuts blamed on poor economies. In a bitter twist of fate, these closures and threats of closures are coming at a time when public library use is increasing. Just when people most need their public library for learning, job seeking, entertainment and social activities, they are being taken away from those most in need.

Because of these threats several movements to save libraries have been started.

 An American campaign describes their cause as:

"Save Libraries is a grassroots effort to compile information and advocacy resources for libraries that are facing devastating budget cuts. We are in the midst of what American Library Association and the Center for Library and Information Innovation at the University of Maryland call a “perfect storm” of growing community demand for library services and shrinking resources to meet that demand.

In a time when people and communities need libraries the most, libraries are reducing their hours or worse closing their doors."

There have been some stories out of the UK, from both the Guardian and the Independent, both acknowledging cost cutting is required, but not wholesale, and not at the destruction of library services.

Politics do get involved in this debate as it seems these cuts in funding are being driven by governments on the right side of the political spectrum, at least in the UK. From my reading, the US libraries facing cuts are facing pressure to cost cut and stop taxes rising.

I probably swing more to social liberalism then classical liberalism, but I do believe in the free market.  I hate wastage of any type, but especially government run services.

If libraries do one thing well, besides free education for all, no matter race, religion or creed, libraries save money. Not only saving their customers the need to buy all the books a library can provide, but they have the economies of scale to subscribe to electronic journal databases, or print subscriptions, that individuals couldn't afford to.

If there are gains through amalgamation of library related services, especially in their governance and administration, but we need well stocked and well staffed libraries to remain intact. Of course collections are going to change, as I've blogged about previously, but for now we need physical books, and we need libraries to store them and provide access, and we need knowledgeable and trained librarians to staff them, and to get them we need to pay for them.

Related links:

Here's a map showing UK libraries closed or threatened with closure.

Voices for the library

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for reading 2.0: the social side of reading

Kobo app's reading life - your reads as a book cover
One of my new years resolutions this year is to read more. I'd also like to record more of my impressions of each read. Through this blog I plan on reviewing books on libraries, learning, the net, or interesting reads I think may be useful or entertaining to others. But I also want to record my fiction reads. Some fellow bloggers and twitter friends have very impressive book tallies, managing to have read hundreds of books in 2010. I'm usually lucky to find time to read a dozen, so by making reading a priority I hope to learn a lot more, both through informational books and fiction. I may enroll in one of several reading challenges I see going on various blogs. I'm in no way a speed reader, so it's a big challenge for me, but I like a good challenge. Also, a book has to obsess me, if I can put it down, it won't get finished.

So how will I record all my reads? Looking on the web I've got plenty of choices. It seems reading has now become a social activity, through popular sites like librarything, good reads and shelfari, members can record their reads; share their reviews with others; connect with authors and build communities based around their favourite books. This type of community can turn into a powerful tool for libraries, through things such as librarything for libraries, which integrates the library thing database into library catalogues, adding rich metadata, like related books, cover images and book reviews.

Some other sites include: Amigo reader Goodreads Kobo's my reading life and Amazon Kindle's Read.Review.Remember

Reading 2.0

So what are all these sites exactly for?
You've heard of Web 2.0. Be prepared to enter the world of Reading 2.0. This is reading with a social spin. Using the internet we can now easily share what, when and who we are reading. We can find people who share opinions and find groups with similar tastes. For me, this social reading revolution is coming into its own on the iPad version of Kobo ereading software. This app tracks the ebooks you read and you can choose to share information about your reads by linking the app with Facebook.The great thing about it is it's seamless - no need to add books to your reading history, it automatically tracks everything you do in a section of the reading app called "My reading life".

The problem with this is it only works with Kobo bought ebooks, not print books, which is shame as I am still borrowing and reading these from the library. But I have bought several Kobo books, and I'm sure I will buy more.

Do you share your reads? How do you find time to read and review them?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for LIANZA Quiz night!

Today's post is for the LIANZA quiz I helped with tonight.

At least 100 librarians and archivists filled the Black Harp pub. My LIANZA committee colleague Laurinda met me there and throughout the evening while she excelled with a laptop and entered quiz marks, I busily marked quiz answer sheets. Thanks to Sean from the Archives association, ARANZ, who organized the night, and Rob from the Black Harp who was MC and bore the brunt of abuse from some disputed answers. A good night, but I'd rather compete!

False modesty aside, I'm quite good at quizzes, especially in a well mixed team. I think I'm best on pop culture, movies and music. When the sports rounds come around I respectfully let others take the lead. At my workplace, the library has won 2 of of the last 3 years' quizzes, the one we didn't win we were organizing so didn't compete.

I'd love to do more pub (bar) quizzes. I might have to turn up at a few and see how it goes.

How's your general knowledge?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Private Library: the world's finest

Jay Walker, inventor and entrepreneur has one of the finest private libraries in the world.

It's one of the most beautiful libraries I've ever seen pictures of, whether public, private or national library. Can you tell I'm jealous much? Wouldn't it be wonderful to get locked in for a few days, or weeks, of uninterrupted knowledge consumption?

The video below is from a TED talk, he's a bit of show off, but fair enough with a library like that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Overdrive ebooks

Have you checked your library to see whether you can borrow ebooks? Overdrive is one of the largest providers of ebooks to public libraries. I have mentioned them before, but what's new is they have developed their own app to allow downloading straight to a mobile device, no need to download a book to your computer first. Libraries would love to be providing their own books as ebooks, with their own decisions on access, and the ability to put the ebooks into their own catalogues..But they aren't in the position to do this yet. Overdrive, and other ebook vendors like EBL and ebrary are here in the meantime

Watch the video below for good instructions on downloading a book to your iOS Apple, or other device including your PC. Just replace the "Orange County Library System", who kindly made this video, with the name of your library. Many libraries are signed up to Overdrive, go check if out if your local library is signed up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for next generation libraries

Take a trip to the future with me.

What do you think the next generation of libraries will look like? As both a librarian and library user should I be pessimistic, optimistic, or a bit of both?

It's impossible to predict the future with certainty, but I can make some educated guesses.

I'm quite excited by the opportunities the future will bring, but they will be challenging too. Librarians will have to show they have knowledge and skills in information architecture, knowledge discovery,  data mining and information literacy teaching skills, to remain relevant in a digital world.


The discussion about the impact of technology on libraries is getting more intense as technology advances and libraries traditional services are being rethought. In a short time libraries won't be storehouses of physical items, books, video discs, sound recordings, will all go the way of the Dodo. We, the public, will be consuming information digitally, this new way of storing and accessing information is already causing major headaches for the music and movie business, with studios and record labels trying to figure out how to sell their content online while protecting their investments from being accessed illegally, which, going by what I've read, is extremely easy. These issues of providing digital content, and making a profit, are becoming challengers not only to publishers, but to libraries. How do public libraries compete with a future of extremely cheap digital entertainment? The physical collections will be obsolete, so they will need to collect and provide digital information if we are going to have public libraries at all.

As a lover of public libraries, as their physical collections disappear, I would like to see these spaces replaced by people. They may be creative types working, self-employed or teleworkers, or children attending story times.  But they won't be public libraries in the traditional sense, and we need to start planning for this.

Electronic paper

I don't think we will necessarily be reading our ebooks on clunky ereaders, or heavy tablets like the iPad. We will soon be reading, watching, and writing on electronic paper. The current state of eletronic paper is in use in ereaders like the Kindle, but I'm talking about the next stage, an electronic screen the size and shape of a piece of paper.

"Made of flexible material, requiring ultra-low power consumption, cheap to manufacture, and—most important—easy and convenient to read, e-papers of the future are just around the corner, with the promise to hold libraries on a chip and replace most printed newspapers before the end of the next decade."


Click the link below for a list of things that will be obsolete by 2020 in education. As an academic librarian the future of our library services depends on us thinking about the direction we are going, and not to waste time or energy doing things that are, or will soon become obsolete.
21 things in education that will obsolete by 2020 

Librarianship, where will it be?
A library expert has set up a group on professional networking site LinkedIn asking the question, Where will New Zealand libraries be in the 2025? That feels like a long time away, but its the incremental steps getting there that we can have some say in. If we become active in the conception and planning stages of the next couple of decades we can decide our future. Fate is what you make.
New Zealand Libraries in 2025

Where do you think libraries, public or other types, will be in the next 20 years?

M is for Meme

A meme (rhymes with dream) is a unit of cultural information. The word, coined by Richard Dawkins (The selfish gene, 1976) from an analogy of biology and genetics; genes being transmitters of biological information, memes are transmitters of ideas or cultural information.  I like the idea that information could be somewhat analogous with genes, that culture could be born, live, die, or be a success and pass information on so it remains in the human population. I love the idea of culture, and ideas, can replicate, mutate, die off, be subject to something akin to natural selection and eventually and evolve into something new.

The study of memes, memetics, gained in popularity through the 1990's, but there is still debate as to whether it is a science and whether memes can be measured in discrete units. There's also criticism of memetics not taking into account advances in other areas, such as sociologysemiotics cultural anthropology

Internet memes 

An Internet meme is a meme spread by the Internet.  They can take the form of videos, graphics, pictures and websites. They are often parodies, remixing and creating mash-ups with music, original text, or combing other memes. One of the most famous memes is spam, or junk emails. The term "spam" having originated from a Monty Python sketch. Monty python fans "spamed" message boards with the word "spam", which was soon forbidden by the message board administrators. Now today, unwanted repetitive messages are known as spam.

.One of the most notorious memes making rounds at the moment is Rebecca Black's Friday, which has been deemed by some the worst song in the world. It has now "gone viral" and spread around the world wide web with more then 100 million views and counting. The parodies and remixes are becoming as famous as the original.

For more on memes see Know your memes, or just watch youtube or surf the internet.

Have a great weekend everybody.

The internet is a wacky, wonderful place. Here are some of my genuinely favourite internet memes. 

Miss Teen South Carolina. I'm sure you're a lovely girl, but please don't enter any more recorded beauty contests, for your sake.

Dramatic chipmunk, as well as being cute and creepy at the same time, is actually a prairie dog.

And to play off this post, keyboard cat!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for LIANZA. What's that, some kind of exotic lizard?

Today's entry is about LIANZA, the Library and Information Association of New Zealand (thanks to the outgoing communications manager for the title of today's post).

I've been a member for what feels like a long time.  I first joined when I was just a young sprocket working in the circulation department of Wellington City Library. I can, with certainty, say I was the only member in my department, probably one of the few members in the whole library. It doesn't feel like many public librarians are that professionally motivated in New Zealand, it's just a job, rather then a vocation.  I thought it would be a good thing to put on my CV, and I attended most of the LIANZA sponsored events and conferences, discounted for members, so it made sense.

I'm not sure how many members there are at my current library, but I would think I could count them on one hand. The professional development events that are scheduled for this year include some great looking project planning and strategic workshops for public librarians. I'd love to see some practical (and cheap!) webinars, for people at a similar stage to me in my career. IT skills are going to be so important in the coming years if libraries are going to have any chance of competing and remaining relevant in a digital world.  I've been attending some U.S based webinars, but would love some with a local context.

Now for a confessional; I need to pay my membership and my professional registration fees, as they are overdue. The benefits I see of remaining a member of LIANZA, apart from giving back to the librarian community, is political advocacy, and professional development. I have been to some great LIANZA sponsored events, just over the last year I've attended; the Shanachie tour; a group of librarians from Delft Library Concept Centre travelling around the world telling and hearing stories about how libraries make a difference in their communities, and recording their journey along the way. "Shanachie" comes from the Irish storyteller tradition. I really enjoyed their enthusiasm for libraries and innovative ideas for funding.

The other standout thing from the last year would be the conference, celebrating LIANZA's centenary, the best part of which was reconnecting with (and meeting new) librarians from around New Zealand and the world, including having a "tweet up" where twitter users meet in real life and getting to see Dunedin, in the South Island, which I'd only briefly visited before.
I'm now a member of the Wellington LIANZA Committee, hoping to make the organisation work for its members and for me. We are more about the social side of LIANZA, but if any locals read this and want to see some particular events tell me!

I think I could probably put my membership fees towards other organisations, and I very well may join a more IT focused professional organisation and get a greater personal benefit from it owing to where my career is going of late, but LIANZA keeps my money for the foreseeable future. Are you a member of any professional organisations, and do they work for you, and how do you work for them?

Related blog posts:

Are you a member of a professional association?

Renewing my membership

And check out this Prezi by a librarian who went on the Shanachie tour
"People are our greatest collection"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You get what you expect, Rosenthal and the pygmalion effect in IT and organisations seminar

Seminar: IT Perceptions: The new reality.
Venue: Victoria University of Wellington, Feburary 2011.
Presenter: Professor James D. Mckeen, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a sculpture he made.

I recently attended a seminar by a visiting Canadian Information Systems professor, James Mckeen, on the nature of perceptions of the IT department within an organisation. It sounds like quite a specialized topic but what he talked about was an insight into human nature, and I found it very interesting. 

He began by referencing the Rosenthal and Jacobson study. In the study a group of psychological researchers went to a school posing as educational psychologists and identified a randomised portion of the class as gifted. The students weren’t gifted, only the teacher was told this, but after a year the researchers returned and found that the students who had been identified as gifted had better learning outcomes, higher grades, then the rest of the class.  The teacher’s perception of the students changed, and improved, her teaching to such an extent her students almost became gifted. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
This seems like a built in aspect of human nature, which has been named the Pygmalion, or Rosenthal, effect.

Wikipedia describes the effect as "the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, often children or students and employees, the better they perform...

The Pygmalion effect is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, and, in this respect, people with poor expectations internalize their negative label, and those with positive labels succeed accordingly. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regards to education and social class."

As well as the research to back this up, my personal experience from my school days that this effect is real.  If a teacher calls a kid clown, or expects less of them, they will give them that, and if they expect more, and ask for it, they will often get that too. I've seen this effect many times.

Briefly, Professor Mckeen’s thesis was that we form expectations of people, we communicate these expectations through cues, these form both our behaviour and our relationships with other people.

Mckeen focused his discussion towards the IT department of your organisation.
If you have a negative view of the IT department in your organisation, you will consciously or unconsciously communicate these views, and in turn shape the behaviour of the IT department.  The other aspect to this is that if we have already shaped our views, people tend to only notice examples of instances or interactions that confirm these views, ignoring interactions that contradict them. So if you believe the IT department to be unhelpful, but you do successfully receive help, you tend to ignore this as it doesn’t fit your view.

How do we combat these aspects of human nature?

When Professor Mckeen was researching larger organisations, he found that when CIOs, work with CEOs, and form good working relationships this can improve the perspectives held by both parties.

He also said that the world of marketing can teach us a lot about managing perceptions. There was a pessimistic tone about the seminar, that you can't change what people think about you, only manage the perception. But I liked the more positive position that working together can help to gain understanding about what others do, and therefore, help improve working relationships. Even if it takes a long time to change perceptions, or a good working relationship is seen as an exception to the rule, it's still worth trying to break down false perceptions. 

Within organisations, it's really important to try to see things from other peoples' perspectives and try to understand, at least in principle, the work people do and the skills they have. And as Rosenthal's research has shown, if you believe your colleagues can help you do your job, they probably will.

Related links:

New licence allows library to screen movies; family films start Friday (The News, New Glasgow, 12 Apr 2011, Page 4)

New licence allows library to screen movies; family films start Friday
The News, New Glasgow
12 Apr 2011

NEW GLASGOW – The New Glasgow Library isn’t just for books anymore. A new public performance movie licence allows the library to screen copyrighted full-length movies and documentaries for the public, and as part of that, the New Glasgow Library more...

K is for Kuhn and the Structure of scientifc revolutions

Today's post includes a shout out to my manager Kevin!

A nice short post with a video today.  Thomas Kuhn, as well as sharing my first name, was a physicist and philosopher who developed some fascinating theories on the nature of scientific thought and knowledge. He contends that scientific revolutions are built on paradigm shifts rather then incremental change. He is on my reading list. Have you read him?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for JFGI

If you ever ask someone a question and they tell you to enter JFGI* into Google, be warned that they are having a go at you for asking what they think you should be looking up yourself. 

I wonder if busy rushed off their feet librarians have ever felt a similar sentiment, hopefully not in so many words.

I adhere to my highschool English teacher's philosophy that there are no stupid questions. He did end that statement with "only stupid people", but I wouldn't go that far.  A so called stupid question is a "teachable moment" and you can help the asker by showing how to locate the answer rather then spoon feeding them.

Also, I'm sure I'm guilty of asking some stupid questions, so he who casts the first stone etc etc.

Have you ever been tempted to JFGI someone?

*If you are wondering what JFGI stands for, Google it! Includes strong language so may be NSFW

Ebook rush challenges our libraries (Canada). (Times Colonist, 09 Apr 2011, Page A3)

Canada shares New Zealand's pain in getting local content published electronically.

Ebook rush challenges our libraries
Times Colonist
09 Apr 2011

The demand for electronic books in public libraries has rocketed and is expected to continue rising, but their popularity is giving librarians a headache. Obtaining access to ebooks from publishers is difficult, said one of B.C.’s most more...

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for iPad, thoughts after a year, my 20 best apps for education & librarians

Apple has just released the iPad 2, but I'm still on the iPad 1 and I'm not in a position to buy another one less then a year after I bought the first version.

I do however, want to share how I've used my iPad over the last year.

I use it every single day, for many hours a day. During my lunch and morning tea breaks at work I use it for professional development, catching up on twitter, facebook, emails, browsing the web, making appointments on the calender and listening to podcasts. In the evenings and weekends I hunt down my favourite youtube clips, read books and magazines, read my RSS feed, write blogs and emails.

I like its portablity, quick loading times, and long battery life.

I dislike its slowness doing some tasks, typing, and heaviness.

I won't say I'd be lost without it, but I would certainly notice its absence.

Now for some lists of apps that I've found particularly useful. I have nearly 300 apps on my home computer, so I've reviewed quite a few.

They are listed in no particular order.

My top ten most used apps:
Friendly - facebook browser
Reeder - RSS feed reader
Atomic web browser
Blastr - scifi news

Besides the apps above, which I've estimated I spend the most time with, I've got a list of more specific apps below, follow the links to iTunes for a description and reviews.

Top 20 apps for learning and librarians.
iPod app combined with iTunes U - free education resources, podcasts and videos, from some of the major universities around the world.
Evernote - take notes anywhere and share with any device with an internet connection.
Dropbox - sync and share files from your computer to your iPad.
Smart note - Take notes in class, sketch out the next great idea, write personal notes in your password protected notebook, or simply highlight some text in a pdf. smartNote makes it easy to do just about anything you would normally do on paper on the iPad.
Quick office -  for its google docs syncing capability.
iWorks suite, numbers, pages, keynote - iPad versions of Mac's equivalent to Microsoft Office.
Blackboard - I haven't used but for schools with blackboard this would be important.
Wolfram - more then a search engine, a computation engine, WolframAlpha's mobile app is powerful tool.
iFlow reader - for reading DRM protected library books, slightly fuller featured then Bluefire, and arranges books as flowable sections, hence the flow in their name.
Bluefire reader - for reading DRM protected library books
Guiness world records - great for records.
CIA world factbook - great fact checker for country information
TED videos - inspiring videos from the TED conferences.
mTouch+ moodle app - a must for institutions who use the moodle course management system.
Twitter - I learn so much from the people and organizations I follow on twitter, find an app that suits you. I keep going back to twitter's own app, but there are heaps to choose from.
Howcast - for the visual learner in all of us, howcast has some great videos on how to do just about anything.
Zinio - a digital newsstand with hundreds of digital versions of print magazines.
Atomic web browser -
Penultimate - very realistic writing pad for handwritten notes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for help yourself

Help yourself. There's a triple pun in there for libraries.

1. We want customers to feel they can help themselves to our resources without being embarrassed.  You can often borrow as much as you need without guilt, with no direct charges, and of course consume as much as you can of the libraries' online resources like journal articles, newspapers and magazines.

2. Libraries want library customers to be able to self serve, literally help themselves. Librarians need to ensure libraries' websites, catalogues and databases are easy to use and that they don't need a librarian to be hovering behind shoulders, as more often or not, they can't, there aren't enough librarians to in the world to do that. Librarians also need to ensure customers know how to use our electronic tools, through teaching information literacy, and to our customers, librarians live to teach this sort of stuff!

3. But most importantly, library customers can help themselves by using their libraries. Accessing the libraries' treasure troves of knowledge and information resources to answer their information, or entertainment, need.

So do yourself a favour and go help your self - use your library, it's there to help you.

Library Sign
Photo by Gwen's River City Images via Flickr

Friday, April 8, 2011

G - Gamify your library fines

Another G - games entry, just because I can!
Swiss army librarian Brian Herzog, has an interesting post about turning the issue of fines in libraries into a game:

"The theory, called gamification, is that people enjoy playing games because of the positive reinforcement from doing something well – thus turning something normally punitive, like a speeding fine, into a game of consequences: play badly and get punished, play well and get rewarded."

We don't fine at my library, and I'm very pleased about that. I'd prefer not to see fines in libraries, maybe a suggested donation instead. I've read about some libraries upon changing their fine policy to a suggested donation policy actually take in more revenue. I think most libraries who fine argue that fines are punitive measures to ensure items are returned on time, but I think a lot of libraries would be sad to see lost revenue if all library patrons returned items on-time. A lot of the time library fines are revenue gathering.

I agree with Brian's sentiments:

"I prefer not charging fines at all, like my library, because I personally don’t think fines should be a revenue stream for libraries. It’s more important to get materials back on time than to profit from irresponsibility."

Gamifying your library fines sounds like an interesting idea, and it's one way for libraries who won't stop fining to continue to do so, but rewarding those who do return their items on time.

Thanks @sallyhereos and @maglib for the tweets about this blog.

G is for games in libraries

I used to spend hours at my public library playing board games as a kid. These were always popular so sometimes I had to wait for the good games, but in the meantime play that game you didn't want to play like boggle or some other horrible word game until mousetrap, guess who or connect four was available.

I also remember some awful games of monopoly at home, where if my younger brother found he was losing, or even worse, did lose, there would be hell to pay. This only lasted a few years, when he was in single figures. Once in his teens and we could play video games together, he was actually a much better sport. Probably helped by the fact he could kick my ass.

Are games appropriate for playing in the library? I think most people would agree that even a rousing game of scrabble isn't doing anyone else harm in the library and a game like scrabble is educational.
Library Club Game Day - "Boggle" game
Photo by Enokson via Flickr.

However what about computer or video console games? More libraries seem to be holding video game events inside the library, sometimes out of hours or late at night, to attract more people into the library, particularly teens:

There's a librarian in the above video who says "teens love this and when they associate the library with something they love they have positive thoughts about us,(laugh)... so that's what we're hoping for"

A shelver says "(the game night) is to show there's more exciting things going on in the library then just what a typical high school student thinks"

Is there a hint of desperation in the librarian's laugh?  Are public libraries using games to lure teens into the library and once they have captured them they can then promote the other (more boring) resources the library has. Or are games as valid a resource as anything else the library collects, and a teen only using the game collection is as valid as a romance reader. And librarians in turn should be satisfied that a teen may only want to use the library for their video game collection. Are video games being just another electronic expression of the human condition?

Here is a wigged librarian's opinion:

Games, be they video or board, can be educational, they can promote sharing and teach the need to take turns, they can teach people how to take losses with dignity, and wins without being a gloat.

And of course they entertain.

I do think libraries should hold video games in their collections, it's just another form of media that entertains people, no worse or better then a book. But should games be played inside the library? I think at the appropriate time and in the right space they are probably just as valid as a choir recital, or a book club meeting. What do you think?

There's heaps of resources out there for librarians using, or wanting to better use, games in their libraries. Here's just a selection:

Library gaming google group

Games in libraries

A Knol called Getting serious about games in libraries

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for 43things - What do you want to do with your life? asks the intriguing question, "What do you want to do with your life?"

It's a question I've often asked myself. 43things' somewhat simplistic solution to this perplexing question is to have you list 43 things that you want to to do with your life. You can see how popular your goals are, receive "cheers" from the community, and track your progress and review how you felt after you completed your goal. I think this site could be really useful for achieving your life's, or even this week's, dreams.

Goals don't have to be as worthy as "Teach literacy in the slums of Calcutta" - heck, most are about trying to live a life you can be happy in.

I've shared my professional goals on LinkedIn via a great group about libraries in the year 2025. Stay tuned for my N post on next generation libraries.

How things got my 43 things list:

I thought of things I'll be able to do one day, that will make me happy, and therefore, make me easier to be around. I think once we are happy ourselves we can better help others. Though I'm sure helping others makes one happy - that's why volunteer is on my list.

My goals might not be as world-changing, humanistic and selfless as I'd like to imagine them to be, but they are real.

Here are some of my 43things (so far).
Go on a cycle tour

Visit the Library of Congress

Visit NYPL, and their reading room.

Go paragliding

Visit South America.

A view from Knight's Point, West Coast. Goal: house with sea view.

So, what do you want to do with your life?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for espionage - In libraries, by librarians and in pop culture.

I've always thought I'd make a pretty good spy or intelligence agent. I love searching and finding information, I love gadgets, not so fussed on guns, but I imagine the real work of the governmental intelligence community is far removed from the romanticized gun totting spies of popular culture. Most of it would be spent behind computers, writing reports or combing through screeds of information, making connections between people and information; similar to what librarians do actually.

However, I'm sure I'd get a huge wake-up call if I ever had to do real espionage.  I would have to believe I was doing the right thing if I ever did this type of thing, and I can imagine that could get pretty tricky, no mater how nationalistic you are. Keeping your moral compass true, and working for humanity, not just a political ideology or regime, would be important to keep sane.

Maybe I'd be better sticking to corporate espionage, which made a cool premise in the movie Duplicity.
Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, corporate spies.

Libraries have been used for intelligence gathering since there have been intelligence agents. Libraries are a treasure trove of information, which could be used against the community or even country they serve. There is a fascinating book called Librarian spies about Mary Jane and Philip Keeney who were apparently part of the Silvermaster spy ring in the 1940's. I'm yet to read the book, have you read it?

I'm not going to get into the rights and wrongs of the whole wiki-leaks saga on this entry, except to say if the information was so important to national security then the countries concerned should have been more careful.
I note how Wikipedia distance themselves with "WikiLeaks is not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation." on the entry for wiki-leaks.

Some of the information leaked was pretty damning towards certain government polices.

But on a lighter note my favourite pop-culture spies have mostly been women, but I believe I can definitively say Sean Connery is James Bond.

Outside the Bond francise the best male spy has to be Matt Damon as Matthew Bourne.

My favourite female spies are either Jennifer Garner's Alias, or Peta Wilson's La Femme Nikita.

Do you have a favourite T.V or movie spy?

Bridget Fonda in a remake of the French La Femme Nikita

Damon as Bond, very exciting
Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita has at least 3 remakes

Sean Connery is James Bond.
This 90s series was excellent with the Australian Peta Wilson

Jennifer Garner as a CIA agent, one of favourite shows

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for dachshunds

Well they might not be libraryland related (apart from some stunning bookends below), but as they take up so much of my time I have to devote my D post to Dachshunds.

Phoebe and Connor - this is how they spend most of their time.

Connor helping to unpack the groceries

Connor young pup during a wet river walk

I think this is my favourite, almost art deco.

Phoebe as a young pup.

Another puppy shot.

We are owned by two five-kilo (11-pound) miniature dachshunds. Phoebe is long-haired and Connor is wire-haired. They aren't related, though they are the best of friends and spend hours a day playing, snuggling or causing mischief.

Dachshunds, like all official dog breeds, look that way for a reason. They were originally bred to fight badgers (their name means badger dog, even though they are called deckels or teckels in Germany, go figure), so their long and low bodies help them fit into badger holes, and their deep chests let them rest on the ground while they use their paws to dig. They have personalities to rival any larger badger or animal: the official breed standard states "brave beyond means" (it used to be "bold to the point of rashness" but I guess the spin doctors have rewritten it). Ours definitely exhibit some classic dachshund traits, but they are charming nonetheless. Phoebe is the softer of the two, both of coat and personality, as Connor will often try to take on strange dogs up to and including those 4-5 times his size. He is getting better though, and has some good doggy friends.

I tried to make him some real-life friends through a site called doggyspace, but this is the Internet, and that site is more for talking about your dog as if you were it, and as if it had its own blog. Haven't done much with it as I wanted to meet people in the real world.

And I have to give a shout-out to Four Legs Good blog, run by my wonderful partner. Here you will find many interesting stories about pets, including many featuring our two dachshunds.

All the best.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Cataloguing - your personal collections of books, CDs, and more.

This is the study, where lots of work gets done blog editing.
Another view, too many books to get in one shot.

My partner has a lot of books, CDs and is starting to build a DVD collection. 
Opera CDs

The last vestiges of an outdated technology

My small but messy book collection.

Cataloguing our collections

I go through obsessions, where I get intensely interested in a topic or activity and do it at the cost of sleep or regular, mundane tasks like housework.  This is why I have dozens of half-finished books in my collection. If a book doesn't grab me and I read it every free moment, it will be relegated back to the unfinished shelf. I'm like this with a lot of things, they have to grab me, and then I power through.

Recently, one of these obsessions as been cataloguing my partner's CD collection. This is mostly opera CDs. I discovered there were over 300 hundred CDs just on Opera in his collection! They are still in no particlar order on the shelf, but they are all recorded so we can sit and browse his collection from any computer with the internet.

His books are another matter, and I have only just scraped the surface. There are at least 500 of these, probably more like 800 all kept in our study, Nick's workplace as he mostly works from home.   He's a professional journalist who edits blogs (I know - lucky me, a very handy critic).

There are several book cataloguging tools out there, but I liked the software I did use as you are able to put all your collections into one database.

This site was itrackmine - a site that helps you organize your life and your collections, from books and CDs, to household appliances and software. You can even make a custom collection of anything. Say you collect teapots - you could use itrackmine to catalogue your teapot collection and share it with friends. Especially useful for insurance purposes.

I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they have on their shelf, either books, music or movies. You can find out about Nick here:

And you can find all about me and my tastes here:

Have you catalogued your collections? What tools did you use and would you recommend them?