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Blog posts from December 2009

More Crystal Visions: The Blockbuster in the Sky

Submitted by Michael Stephens on December 30, 2009 - 9:25am

Random thoughts about my media consumption while waiting for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince to download to my Apple TV:

It amazes me that 5 full seasons of Saturday Night Live are now available via Netflix streaming. Growing up, I’d tune in every Saturday to see if Roseanne Roseannadanna or the Coneheads were on. Now, I can check the Wikipedia article for Roseanne’s appearances and find each specific show and  the time of when the skit appeared via the Netflix player on my Mac or my Blu Ray player.

I passed a local Blockbuster today and the signs in the window proclaimed that everything was on sale, a common theme as all of the stores in my area close their doors. Fresh out of college in 1988 and still undecided about my path, I worked in a music/video store for 4 years until I found my first library job. The holidays would be crazy, with almost every movie going out. More recently, I remember the mountains of returned DVDs and VHS tapes at the Main Library every December 26th. We worked like mad to get things re-shelved. Now, via iTunes (Harry is just about ready to start playing), Netflix, and sites like Hulu, I have a boatload of choices anytime.

I’ve recently become infatuated with ABC’s Modern Family and found older episodes streaming for free on Hulu. The one or two no longer available were available on iTunes. Now, the DVR is set for the next set of new episodes, which begin in just a few days. Read More »

Have Tech, Will Walk into Walls

Submitted by Kate Sheehan on December 21, 2009 - 2:51pm

Technology makes us stupider. No, wait, that’s not right, is it? Technology lets us use our time, energy, and skills in new ways, which are inevitably called “modernity”...and modernity is inevitably chastised for being stupider then The Good Old Days. Cell phones have allowed us to stop memorizing phone numbers (they have also forced filmmakers and novelists to create a whole new genre of suspense clichés: the “my battery is dead and soon I will be too!” scene) and spell check allows us to find out the correct spelling of a word after typing it, rather than before.

But there’s always a kernel of fear when we feel a skill slipping away; a small, panicky voice that says we’re losing something essential. Anecdotally, it’s easy to back that feeling up – who hasn’t lost something to a data mishap that they would have had stored in another format in the past? Personally, I recently lost my entire phone book to a badly-timed sync. I still have the phone numbers of childhood playmates committed to memory, but all I could do to recreate my contact list was beg for texts on Twitter and Facebook.

Librarians are, naturally, more focused on teaching people how to acquire new skills that they need to navigate modernity. Showing someone how to apply for a job, file their taxes, get government information or socialize online are all daily public service tasks. Many libraries maintain two (or more) tiers of services, one for technologically inclined patrons and one for people without email. Read More »

Google Explosion

Submitted by Jason Griffey on December 21, 2009 - 10:24am

The last quarter of 2009 has seen an absolute explosion of Google features, acquisitions, and apps. Here's a summary of the developments that I think have the most significance for libraries and librarians:   Read More »

The Joy of Text

Submitted by Tom Peters on December 17, 2009 - 10:53am

As I enter the homestretch of my 23rd year as a librarian, I find myself thinking about my settled likes and dislikes.  The negative side the ledger contains the usual suspects.  Interminable meetings are frustrating, whether they are held in person, via conference call, online via webconferencing, or in a virtual world such as Second Life.  Despite the fact that I have not directly worked in a physical library for the past six years, I have not been liberated from the tedium of meetings.  Annual performance appraisals, either as the appraiser or the recipient, are near the top of my dislikes list, too.  There has to be a better way to encourage and enable people to do their best.

For years, book selection has been on my short-list of professional likes.  I love to read reviews, select titles, analyze collections and their usage, and eke out the maximum benefit to a community of readers who are often surviving on meager collections budgets.  Currently, I get to satisfy this professional passion by selecting new audio books for the Unabridged downloadable digital audio book service (, which serves blind and low-vision users in seven states. 

Surprisingly, the newest item on my likes list is providing SMS-based text reference service to mobile phone users.  For the past six months, I have been one of many volunteer service providers for the Info Quest (IQ) collaborative reference service (  When I first signed up to be a service provider, my hunch was that actually providing the service would gradually drift onto my dislikes list.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the joy of text.  Read More »

Library 2.0 Gang 12/09: Social Software in Libraries

Submitted by Richard Wallis on December 15, 2009 - 5:15am

Our guest for this show is Meredith Farkas, Author of the book “Social Software in Libraries”.  A couple of years after publishing her book, Meredith has become a little jaded about the way libraries are using social software, with some libraries seeing it as a magic wand for community building and engaging with their users.  This chimed well with the thoughts of the Gang, who were drawn to the conclusion that like most software, it is just a tool.  How you use a tool to communicate with your users, is far more important than the tool itself.  Librarians wondering why their blog posts are not receiving comments, should be checking their content for comment-ability. Read More »

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Opening the Secret Garden: Kindle to Become More Accessible

Submitted by Tom Peters on December 9, 2009 - 10:51am

When it comes to blind and low-vision members of our society, the stakes of the digital information revolution may be higher for than for the sighted population.  Once a text has been created in or converted to a digital format, the accessibility options blossom and bloom, at least in theory. Read More »

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ILS and Customization--Join the Discussion!

Submitted by Daniel A. Freeman on December 7, 2009 - 3:47pm

When it comes to the modern ILS, customization is all the rage. Marshall Breeding addresses this trend in the December issue of Library Technology Reports:

Over the last few years, Web services and the service-oriented architecture (SOA) have become dominant themes in IT across many industries. Web-based computing, service-orientation, and cloud computing increasingly displace the client/server approach favored by libraries in the past.

In library automation, one major trend involves evolving or rebuilding automation systems to adopt this new approach to software. Purveyors of both open source and proprietary library automation products increasingly emphasize the ways in which they embrace openness, support application programming interfaces (APIs), or implement Web services.
Read More »

Find your cake and eat it too

Submitted by Kate Sheehan on December 4, 2009 - 10:54am

What do four-year olds know that three-year olds don’t? In college, I took a class on linguistics that focused on brain development. The professor told us about an experiment done with small children. The children are told a story about Billy and his father baking a cake and leaving it in the cupboard to cool. Billy goes outside to play and while he’s outside, his father moves the cake to the fridge. When Billy comes back in, where will he look for the cake? The three year olds say he will look in the fridge, while the four year olds know that Billy will look in the cupboard.

Although we start to understand how to put ourselves into another’s shoes at age four, it’s a skill we continue to hone for the rest of our lives. It’s a fundamental part of a reference interview; when we ask our patrons about what they’re asking us, we’re probing to find out where they think the cake is. It’s a tough question to keep asking. We all drift towards assuming our experiences, perspective, and understanding of the world are shared and easily grasped.  We know where Billy will look for the cake, but how often do we assume that local practice is common to all libraries? Read More »

Charleston: There's Nothing Finer

Submitted by Cindi Trainor on December 2, 2009 - 9:50am

It’s been my experience as a librarian responsible for supporting and implementing technology that I spend more time on the “technology” bit rather than the “librarian” bit. You know, the things people think that one would do as a librarian--dealing with books, their use, and their longevity. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I think the percentages spent doing one or the other will vary with each organization and position. So how can librarians like me, who might be focused solely on the implementation and support of technology, feed our inner librarians?
Read More »