Virtually Community

It seems that since I was able to access the Internet, I have been involved in one virtual community or another. Initially it was a *very* small community of IRL friends who gathered in an AOL chatroom to play a traditional role-playing game over the Internet.

Later, I dabbled briefly in a few chat groups through our college “dataphones” which allowed a text-only interface.

I was very intimidated by chatrooms, which are so hard to read and follow. I wasn’t a very fast typist back then, and always felt like, by the time I composed my response, that the group had moved on.

After college, I discovered the vast and sprawling Harry Potter community through a variety of websites, such as The Leaky Cauldron for news and information, and Sugar Quill for fanfiction. Even though I had user names on both of those sites (and many others) I was essentially a consumer: reading what others had posted and occasionally commenting, but never offering my own work or information.

The only online community to which I was ever a contributor was for a brief time when I was creating pixel art. I was part of a forum where artist would post their work and others would comment on it. My pixel period was not very prolific, however, and I soon left that community.

In the few online communities I belong to now, I never seem to get past the lurker stage. may be interested in greater involvement, but either don’t feel worthy or don’t know how.”  The part about not feeling worthy really resonates with me. Who am I to comment on whatever topic may be at hand. I’m content to just listen to the experts and absorb.

Now that I have my own blog, however, I have been force to put myself a bit more “out there.”  I may not be an expert, but really, how many of the members of my online communities really are experts? We’re all just folks trying to make a connection in a big world that keeps getting smaller.


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.

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 🙂


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!


Creative Commons License

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.

Post #3 – Shift to Gaming

I’m not sure how I missed it before, but since I attended the Gaming in Libraries program at Dominican, I have been enjoying Jenny Levine’s Shifted Librarian blog. She collects all the best ideas about using gaming and technology in libraries into one, easy to digest blog.

Here are a few of my favorite recent posts:

Dance your fines away

I love this idea. Not only is fine forgiveness a great way to encourage people to come back the library, this idea is a guaranteed publicity magnet. Any time we can draw positive attention to what we do, we are making our communities more aware of what the library provides the community. Not only that, but the library is publicizing its acceptance of gaming and gaming culture in the library. This is very important for changing the public’s impression of the library as a quiet, boring place.

What do games have to do with literacy?

I had a couple of run-ins with this question in my own library as we were questioned on our policy restricting gaming on public computers (which has since been lifted) and our purchase of a PS2, DDR and Guitar Hero. A new staff member was questioning why the games had been purchased and what they were being used for.

Besides the fact that video games fit perfectly with the iREAD Summer Reading Program theme, games are a fun way to teach. Take the article by Brian Mayer linking the New York State Curriculum standards to board games. Or Paul Waelchli’s article on teaching information literacy by playing fantasy football.

Barack Obama may be telling parents to turn off the video games in order to encourage learning for their children, but maybe they need to keep those games on in order to prepare kids for a Web 2.0 world.


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?

Post #2 – Growing Up Online

Someone on the Yalsa-bk listserv that I’m subscribed to sent a link to this Frontline episode called Growing Up Online. The whole program is interesting and relevant to our discussions on Web 2.0, Millennials and teaching technology.  The specific segment I want to talk about for this post, however, is the second segment: A Revolution in Classrooms and Social Life.

The piece is a profile of a high school that is working to embrace technology in order to engage students. There are two teachers featured in the piece and you can read the full interviews for each of the teachers here. In looking over the comments, I found many people (keep in mind, these are PBS watchers for the most part) who were objecting to the comment made by Steve Maher that we need to re-look at what constitutes cheating. Here’s another quote from Steve Maher that gets at my point on this issue:

“Remembering information isn’t as important; accessing it is important. And then, since there’s so much information out there, it’s judging the information that applies to your particular situation. What types of information do you need, and how can you trust it? How did you know what’s valid? …”

This has always been a major part of my beef with the current educational climate. Don’t tell kids what to think, teach them how to think. As a (future) library professional, I am very involved with the idea of information literacy.

Is it important to know that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066? No. (and yes, I found that in a brain crevice somewhere… (history geek=me)) It’s more important that a student knows where to find credible information when they need it.

Is it important to read Heart of Darkness or Catcher in the Rye or Jane Eyre or (insert name of “important” literary work here)? Maybe. But to me, it is more important that they be able to read, reflect and discuss a narrative coherently, even if that narrative comes from a graphic novel or a work of series fiction. Better still, let the student choose their own reading…

So is using Sparks Notes cheating? In the full interview, Steve Maher goes on to say that the best way to prevent cheating is for teachers to create authentic assessment tools. Don’t have the students write an essay on the causes of the Cold War. Have a debate in which half the students prove that the US started the Cold War and the other half proves that the Soviets started it.

Don’t give a multiple choice test on the themes in Othello. Have students recast the roles of Othello, Desdemona and Iago to reflect today’s values and social prejudices. How would the story be the same; how would it be different? (Othella and Desdemona, anyone?) You won’t get the answers to that from Sparks Notes.

This has turned into sort of a novel, so I’ll quit. But I’m interested to see what others think, especially those who are currently/hope to be in education.

Thanks for indulging me,


How do you cope?

Okay, I experienced this in undergraduate school, but it was different since I wasn’t actually working in the field while I was getting my degree.

When you’re in school, you learn an incredible amount. You get excited about the things that you are learning and you want to try to make your profession a better place. You have so many new ideas, and you want to try them out in a real world setting. That’s why it’s really nice to be working in a library while going to library school. You have all these guinea pigs co-workers and patrons around to test your theories.

Then you run into barriers. People in and outside the profession who aren’t interested in change. People who are comfortable in the status quo. People who have a very Library 1.0 view.

Is anyone else dealing with this? How do you cope? How do you get your message across when those around you dismiss you as “young and idealistic”? Any words of advice?

Post #1 – Library Thing and Reader’s Advisory


Ever since I got home from class, my head has been spinning.

I was settling down with Catcher in the Rye (for school, not for pleasure, believe me!!) when I started thinking about Library 2.0 and reader’s advisory.

I’m not sure of all the specifics yet, because I don’t know the limitations on these particular sites, but for instance:

Let’s say a library staff opened a Library Thing account, or several Library Thing accounts that were all connected in some way. I know you can use tagging in LT, so each book gets tagged for stuff like age group or genre, even AR level, or whatever. Then when we need to do reader’s advisory, we pull up LT and have access to everyone’s recommendations. More savvy patrons can do their own browsing by accessing our LT “library” from our website.

Better yet, why not do this in the catalog? If a librarian had read and wanted to recommend a book, they could add a tag with their name. Then you could search by tags to find books that were recommended.

Turns out, (I did a bit more searching) Library Thing has started offering these sorts of features for libraries. Library Thing for Libraries offers widgets that can be added to an existing catalog to help users find similar titles and add or search by tags. East Brunswick Public Library  is using these widgets and has a good page describing them for their library users. Looking over the buzz page, it seems like lots of people like this idea. My favorite quote calls Library Thing “”the love child of Melvyl Dewey and Web 2.0.”

I may have to do some more investigating before our Library 2.0 paper is due.

At my library, we just started a Roladex for readers advisory. ::yawn::

I’ve used a database for years, but the idea of a living, shared document that wouldn’t necessarily take any more time or expertise than what already exists… ::sigh::