Creative Commons

Really tired after 14 hours of class this weekend, so this will be short.

I just wanted to say how much I love the idea of the Creative Commons. In case people are unfamiliar, Creative Commons allows a person to license their work in a way that allows other people to use it, but only in the way you want them to.

For example, Michael Stephens (tech librarian extraordinare!) just did several presentations in Australia. He has his presentation available on his blog under a Creative Commons license. Other librarians or library school teachers can use his ideas or even his slides as long as they attribute what they borrowed from Michael.

I have been introduced to the Creative Commons in several of my LIS classes, and I really think that the folks at CC and the folks that are using those licenses are really moving in the right direction as far as rethinking ownership and copyright in a digital world.

And for the funsters in the crowd: a few links.

1. Facebook people can add Creative Commons as a cause on their profile. (I did!)

2. One of my favorite CC Creator is Jonathan Coulton, a brilliant songwriter who allows his work to be used in multimedia applications like videos. Some of my favorites include Re:Your Brains (which I mentioned in a previous post about zombies) and Code Monkey which kept running through my head this weekend as I hunted for unclosed td tags. Thanks to Roisin for the tip!

~Renee

Creative Commons License

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Web Site Review – Chicago Public Library for Kids

For this web review, I have chosen to focus on one particular aspect of each website, that is their page for children. I did not frequent CPL’s former website, so I can not comment any recent changes or improvements. It’s a little long, but I wanted to cover the topics appropriately.

To the Head of Youth Services for the Chicago Public Library,

It has been my privilege to examine the part of the new CPL website that is devoted to children and their families. and I am impressed by what I saw. The site is pleasantly designed and contains excellent content that will be of interest to the audience. I liked that the basic design of the main site was maintained, but that the color and font schemes are different. I also like the area near the top of the page devoted to Kid’s Events. However, in studying similar pages designed by the New York Public Library (NYPL)and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLoP), I see that there are some ways that CPL could improve their children’s site, especially in the areas of language, layout and usability.

I am glad to see that CPL is not using jargon-filled language that is hard for patrons to understand, like “catalog” or “databases.” However, the language that has been chosen instead is so general, that it’s hard to know where to look for information. If I’m looking for good books to read, where will I look? The word “book” only appears once in “Book Reviews.” Clicking the link takes a visitor to a short list of reviews written by kids. While charming, it is not helpful in finding an excellent mystery book. Similarly, it would not occur to me to click on “popular topics” when looking for a website to help me with my science fair project. In contrast, CLoP has a portion of their site known as the Book Nook, which contains links to book lists, as well as book related databases and programs. On the NYPL site, the popular topics are each featured on the tool bar across the top of the page. Kids looking for information on science can find links to websites and databases from one place.

One of the things that I like best about the layouts of both the NYPL and CLoP children’s pages is the fact that the important information on the front page is available without scrolling. Information is available at a glance. While this may not be possible on the CPL website, changes in layout could make important information easier to find. For example, on the main page of the Chicago Public Library site, information is organized into three areas, Read, Learn and Discover. This organization is not used on the children’s page, and I feel that keeping that consistent organizational scheme could improve the layout of the site.

Many children visit the library website in search of help with homework. CPL’s children’s site does have a place to click for Homework Help. It lists Programs and hotlines for homework help as well as websites for test prep. However, there are no links to reference sites, to databases or to information about area schools. Both NYPL and CLoP have created comprehensive homework help areas. At CLoP, students can find books lists by grade, subject links and a list of databases that is organized by a series of questions students may need answers to. NYPL has created a separate site for assisting children with homework with research guides, links to databases and even calculators and sparks notes. Having a similar comprehensive area for schoolwork help would improve the usability of the CPL children’s site.

This letter lists only a few ways that Chicago Public Library’s website for children could be reorganized to make it easier to use for children and their parents. Children and families are an important part of the library community and I am pleased to see that CPL takes their information needs seriously.

Thank you,

~Renee

Web 2.0 Review – Meebo and MeeboMe

Fellow Reference Librarians,

About a year ago, we began offering reference service via Instant Messaging services like AOL, MSN and Hotmail. This has proved to be a popular service, with teens and adults able to ask questions while they surf the web and get immediate responses. Recently, I have become aware of a tool that would help us offer our Instant Messaging service to more users in more places, as well as making the task of checking and responding to those messages easier for the reference staff.

Meebo is an online service that allows users to tap into all their Instant Messaging accounts at once. Messages from friends on Yahoo Messenger and AIM pop up in the same window. Not only that, but there is no need to download a program to run it. It operates directly in the browser window. Meebo also offers a few embeddable applications that can be placed on any blog or website, including MeeboMe, which places an IM box on a webpage. I believe that Meebo and MeeboMe could enhance library service in three ways.

First, we should recommend Meebo to patrons using library computers. Currently, settings on the library computers prohibit patrons from downloading or installing progr ams. This protects our computers from viruses, but also prevents patrons from being able to use traditional IM services which require a program be loaded on the computer. This is not an issue with Meebo. A public library in Vermont made these posters to encourage users to IM using meebo. Patrons who learn about Meebo at our library can also use the site to chat at other places were instant messaging is restricted, such as school or work.

Secondly, the reference staff can use Meebo to log into all of our IM accounts at once and respond to instant messages. There are many IM aggregators available, but Meebo is free and very easy to use. Many of the librarians who responded to this Meebo blog post use Meebo to control their virtual reference transactions. Recently, Firefox teamed up with Meebo to offer a Meebo Firefox add-on. This post by Aaron Schmidt, an expert on technology for librarians, discusses the benefits of using this add-on.

Third, we could use MeeboMe to install a virtual reference portal right on our webpage. Users who do not have an instant messaging account or those who stumble across us on the web could use the widget to contact a librarian during business hours. When the library is closed, the widget allows patrons to “leave a message” on the website for a librarian to respond to later. Many libraries are using a MeeboMe widget on their webpage, such as Park Ridge Public Library and Villa Park Public Library. Some libraries are even starting to use MeeboMe on the “no results” screen in the catalog. This is a great way to connect to users at their point of need.

Of course, all technologies or applications are fallible, and Meebo does have a few problems. This tutorial by California State University points out that Meebo does not allow the librarian and the user to look at the same site at the same time (called cobrowsing) or keep transcripts or statistics of reference transactions. Meebo is working to overcome some of these challenges, and transcripts are available for some of Meebo’s more recent applications. However, I believe that the benefits of Meebo (simple, universal and free) outweigh the downsides and that adding Meebo and MeeboMe to our arsenal of reference tools would help the library reach out to more users in more places.

So Wrong! So True!

Thanks to Ruth Kneale whose blog led me to this gem from Timothy McSweeny

Top Ten Reasons to be / not to be A Librarian

And I’ve actually spent two hours on a sign about the library being closed…

::sigh:: I love my job.

Post #5 -History of Online Gaming

Okay, I’ll admit… I’ve been dreading the internet history posting. I blame it on tech-speak. Not that the articles we read for class are so bad. I just get a bad case of MEGO (my eyes glaze over (thank you Marjorie Bloss, Cataloging Professor extraordinare)) when I see acronyms.

I’m thinking it must be a syndrome… you know, IRAD (Inability to Read Acronyms Disorder).

Anyhow, in order to overcome my hesitation, I decided to focus on an area of the internet that I am very familiar with: online gaming. This article from Wikipedia does a great job of highlighting the history of MMORPGs in a very readable way. Their article on the history online gaming in general was a bit harder to digest.

It seems that wherever there are two gamers, there will be a game. And wherever there are gamers separated by a distance, they will create a way to game. Most of the early games were text-based (:turn left) and played over university networks. As the internet expanded, so did the games. Even without specific software, gamers find ways to game. I remember a friend running a traditional RPG in an AOL chat room in the mid-90s. We even had a little program to roll dice for us. Now, of course, there are 10 million gamers playing World of Warcraft and even console games like Final Fantasy XI connect users around the world.

How does all of this connect to libraries? To paraphrase Jenny Levine, if gamers are going to game, why don’t we have them game while surrounded by books. Gaming programs at libraries have become a popular way to attract users that would normally never darken the library door. Traditionally, these programs have focused on console games like DDR and Guitar Hero. Some libraries are begining to offer programs featuring online games as well. Recently Aurora Public Library (that’s in Colorado, folks, not west of Chicago) held a Runescape tournament for Teen Tech week.

I don’t know about your libraries, but we already have unoffical runescape tournaments going on every day after school. Why not tap into that energy to create a fun program that may attract a different sort of library user?

Just a thought,

~Renee