Creativity for Sale?

A co-worker and I were preparing for the new session of storytimes coming up. She mentioned that she had been looking on the Internet for a while for a flannelboard pattern where kids add feathers to a turkey’s tail. Turns out, we already had just such a flannelboard made from a pattern from a book. My co-worker commented that it was “exactly what she was looking for” and was frustrated by trying to find similar materials on the Internet.

I, too, find that it can be difficult to find planning materials for storytime on the Internet. Of course, there are no end to storytime websites, including Bayviews, The Best Kids Book Site, and the newest offering from Hennepin County: ELSIE.

But storytimes are about more than books. They may also include rhymes, songs, fingerplays, flannelboards, crafts, games and music. These elements can be harder to find online. Finding flannelboards and crafts that are of high quality can be even harder. Because the truth remains that it can be hard to make money from your ideas when you make them freely available on the web, but people are generally reluctant to pay for web content. The best way to get credit (and benefit financially) from your ideas is to put them in a book. However, I never think to look for rhymes or flannelboards in books anymore.

I do use DLTK for crafts and the occasional flannelboard, and I have found some rhymes on The Best Kids Book Site, but I wonder if other have any good ideas for flannelboards, rhymes or crafts.

This also brings up a bit of the arguement about creative commons and copyright. If a person has a talent, they deserve to be recognized for that talent and, in many cases, compensated.  My talent as a singer is a commodity. I choose to donate my talent or use it in return for compensation. It seems however that there is a stigma in the library world against those who expect to be compensated for their abilities.

I am, of course, a fan of the creative commons and of the open source movement. But sometimes I pause before I put my ideas up on a listserv, thinking “what if I put these ideas into a book and made some money off of them instead of just giving them away?” Is there still a market for books containing storytime ideas? Should these ideas be freely available on the internet, even if it affects the quality of ideas available? What do people think?

Library 2.0 and trust

This happens to me every semester (see last semester’s rant for reference). I go to class, soak up all these interesting, original and important ideas, then I go back into the “real world” of libraries, and get very discouraged.

As an avid user of the social web, I highly advocate that libraries make their presence available on the web in a variety of ways. At my medium sized library, we’ve done a pretty good job recently of trying to expand our presence. For example, we’ve recently redesigned our website with the intention of making it more user-friendly (less library jargon) and we’ve added blogs for youth, teens and reader’s advisory. Soon, our consortium plans to overlay our existing catalog with Aquabrowser, which allows for many “Amazon-style” functions, such as user-tagging, reviews and ratings.

One of the aspects of Library 2.0 which Michael referenced in his talk is that libraries need to trust their users. John Blyburg states that libraries must content with the question of “authority” when it comes to the user. With our new catalog, users will be given the “authority” to tag records and to write reviews. But how does this question of trust play out in the physical library?

Recently, I was asked to keep an eye on a patron who was thought to have viewed “inappropriate content” on the computers in the children’s area. I’m not generally comfortable monitoring patron’s activity on the internet; indeed, to me, such monitoring infringes on privacy.

So what is the balance between insuring patron safety and infringing on user’s rights?

Another issue at our library recently has been extensive problems with graffiti and vandalism. The problem has gotten so bad that the library has decided to lock the bathrooms. Patrons must ask for a staff member to buzz them in. Michael Stephens says that a librarian 2.0 “does not create policies and procedures that impede users’ access to the library,”but which is worse: having to ask to use the restroom, or the possibility of facing human waste on the walls when you walk in.

If we trust users to comment on blog posts and to tag the catalog, shouldn’t we trust them to use the library’s resources appropriately? Is this too naive? How does Library 2.0 play into these issues?

No real answers here, just lots of questions. Hoping you all have thoughts to help me clarify my thinking.

Library of Hogwarts

Library of Hogwarts, originally uploaded by LaTur.

No… It’s not… It’s the Research Library in NYC, but I was there this spring and it is truly “magical”

Re-envisioning the library website

It began innocently enough. One of my co-workers mentioned that the children’s page for our library was really outdated. I had just registered for this class and I thought it might be fun to take on the challenge of redesigning the page. I had no idea what I was getting into.

Really, our library’s website isn’t bad. It’s better than some I’ve seen, just a little bland. So I started goofing around. I was inspired by the design of the Maui Community College Library, which Michael blogged about some months ago. My first attempt was really bad. No… really.

But the effort was not in vain, because I got to practice using tables in tables. I know that using tables to create layout is no longer correct, but with my limited knowledge of html, it was the only option available to me.

Having the chance to map out my plans for the page was really helpful. It helped me know where I was going before I started messing with the code. The other assignment that significantly affected my thinking in regards to this project was the website review. I loved the content and design of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburg’s Kids page, and have incorporated many of their ideas in the organization of my site.

Putting the Youth Services page together was not difficult, just time consuming. Even though content was not a factor in the project grade, I would ultimately like to use this page as an example of what could be done to re-think the real kids page. I needed enough content to flesh out my thinking. I used the picture of the library and the library logo from the main page. I created the Youth Services logo in Publisher. I chose green because of the color scheme of the original library page, and tan because it was a nice complementary color. While I do like the bolder color schemes used on other library kids pages, I sometimes find them kitschy or garish. I felt a more understated color scheme, supplemented by lots of colorful pictures, would convey the idea of a children’s space without “screaming”. As for the colorful photos, Flickr Creative Commons is AWESOME! Of course, eventually I’d like to have pictures from our library, but we’re still wrestling with privacy and liability, so we’ll leave that for now.

Overall, I’m happy with the way the page turned out. Obviously, there’s still some work to be done. Eventually, I’d like to play around with some CSS and maybe even redo the whole page the “right” way.

But for now, the page is achieving the objective: I’ve managed to sneak my way on to the library’s website re-design committee. Because of the information I’ve learned in this class, I have a lot of ideas to contribute. And, more importantly, the confidence to share them. We probably won’t be adding texting or cover flow. But we have a blog now. And I’m going to float MeeboMe at our next meeting. So there’s progress.

And I’m good with that. It’s good enough 🙂


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 #4 – Not exactly a blue-eyes white dragon, but…

It’s a far cry from my blue/green fairy snack deck, but…

Trading Card

Make your own! Follow me to Big Huge Labs

More on Public vs. Private Life

This is a continuation of the question I asked in class about privacy and, to a certain extent, a segue from Laura’s post on Internet Privacy and Social Networking tools.

When Michael told us about imagechef I was immediately drawn to the campaign button. In this time of wall-to-wall primary coverage, I have found ways to make good use of it. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Last week I made a fun button with a message about a political party supporting a certain Harry Potter villain. I had it as my work desktop picture for about 24 hours before I decided to change it. Why?

First, I was tired of trying to cover it up every time one of my co-workers from the other side of the political spectrum came along. And second, I didn’t think it was very professional. I’m a librarian (in training) and I lead people to the information they need without personal agenda or bias.

So I joined Facebook the other day. My sister’s been bugging me to and seemed a good way to waste time experience Web 2.0 and social networking.

I’m filling out my profile, and they have a place for me to list my political and religious affiliations.

Normally, I’m not a person whose shy about sharing their opinion, even about these hot button topics. But as a future information specialist, I gave the questions pause.

Is it appropriate for me to post my personal and political beliefs where patrons may view them? Do the old rules of issue neutrality still apply in the Social Web?

I’m very new to Social Networking and don’t know the secret handshakes as yet. What do others think?