The Egalitarian Librarian

Have you ever noticed how many words rhyme with the word librarian?  I have been considering reviving my blog for a few months now but was unsure what to focus on.  There are so many library blogs out there, why should I bother?  Then I realized…I miss having an outlet for my thoughts on the profession of librarianship!  Doing 23 Things and Library 2.0 made me a more thoughtful librarian as it forced (albeit gently) me to consider concepts, possibilities, and ideas that I would not have considered in the course of a normal day.  Therefore I decided to start blogging again and see where it leads me.  The name “Green Librarian” was already taken.  That’s when I used a good old online rhyming dictionary and found a plethora of possibilities.  Agrarian…but while I live in the boonies, I work in town.  Proletarian…but is that co-opting the working class?  Contrarian…not really me.  Hungarian…1/4th, but how would that reveal anything about this blog?  Libertarian…nope.  Vegetarian…partly.  Bulgarian…not that I know of.  Authoritarian…disciplinarian…totalitarian…octogenerian…none of the above.  Unitarian…again, kind of.  And then I saw it: EGALITARIAN.  According to the Encarta Webster’s College Dictionary (2nd edition), “maintaining, relating to, or based on a belief that all people are, in principle, equal and should enjoy social, political, and economic rights and opportunities.”  This is the reason that I became a librarian; I see libraries as a place that is open to everyone and interested in enriching the lives of all who walk through the door or use our services.  While my idealism was tempered a bit when I started working in libraries, I still truly believe that libraries are meant for all.  I became a librarian because it was a profession where I felt like I could make a difference in the world. 

 Check out my new blog here.

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Number 23!

23.  Summarize your thoughts about this program on your blog and learn about where to go from here.

Wow, summarizing my thoughts about this program as a whole might be challenging, as I’ve tended to be a bit verbose in my individual posts.  The aspect that I like the most was that after going through these 23 things, I look at the world, both my work environment and my life, a bit differently.  I see ways to utilize certain technologies to improve communication, to facilitate discussion, to encourage sharing.  I’ve created a blog for a political organization I’m involved in, and I am hoping to catalog the books in the library of a community organization with LibraryThing.  I have also set up a wiki for the Great Picture Books committee that I’m chairing this year, after realizing that we still have a lot to discuss and thinking about ways to speed up discussion (particularly of the titles that aren’t so great). 

I’ve also learned that there needs to be a balance between embracing new technologies and tools and just going crazy trying to use all of them even if they may not be the best option.  While some of these tools can be amazing assets to libraries, some are good to know about, particularly to help customers with, but won’t truly improve library services.  When a library becomes so crazy about new technologies simply for the sake of new technologies, I think it loses credibility with staff that aren’t such early embracers.  I’ve encountered this already in conversations about Library 2.0 and possible uses of it.  If you mention creating a wiki, you’re met with knowing eye rolls…i.e. it’s the next big thing that we’re going to have to survive rather than seeing how sometimes, a wiki really could improve how things are done!!!  I believe that libraries do need to incorporate some of these technologies into our services, but we need to do it selectively in order to prevent the next-big-thing mentality.  However, selectively does not necessarily mean slowly. 

 I’ve also enjoyed the online community this has created and the unexpected interactions between people at HCPL and from elsewhere.  The concept that someone found my blog, linked to it, and quoted it on their blog was just incredible!  And I would definitely participate in another discovery activity like this one!  I’m a big fan of self-directed learning and the flexibility it offers. 

So overall, learning Library 2.0 has been an incredible, eye-opening experience, both by teaching me how to use these new technologies and by enabling me to imagine the array of ways some of these tools could be used to improve library services.

Week 9 continued

21.  Discover some useful tools for locating podcasts

All right, on to podcasting!  As I have an ipod, I’m somewhat familiar with the concept, but I rarely it for anything besides music.  And it’s an ipod mini (“It’s for girls”) so it doesn’t do any of that fancy video stuff.  So I searched all three of the podcast directory sites for Democracy Now!, a news radio show.  On podcast.net the most recent one was from December 13, 2006.  On podcast alley, I couldn’t even figure out how to listen to different shows, there was just the option to “Subscribe” or “Listen.”  On Yahoo, the most recent on was September 7, 2007…better than podcast.net but still a week old…a bit too old for a news show.  Then I did something crazy and went to the Democracy Now! website.  There I found the option to view or listen to TODAY’S SHOW!  Hmm, for news shows or anything timely, I definitely will not be using podcast directories. 

Thinking about podcasting in libraries, I wanted to see what else is out there (especially podcasts that are not time-relevant) so I searched for the words public library.  Some of the results were impressive, with guest speakers, poetry slams, authors, books being read aloud, and storytimes.  I like all of these ideas but the storytimes.  While part of the purpose of storytime is to listen to stories and do the fingerplays, there is so much more to it.  There’s the socialization aspect of being around other children and adults.  And while it is important to hear the stories, without seeing the accompanying illustrations, children will lose part of the story and lose the opportunity to think about the story or engage in dialogic reading and prediction.  The development of print awareness skills is lessened if children do not see the book and intuit the concept of reading from left to right, both through by seeing the words and watching the action of the illustrations.  Also, many of the rhymes and activities lose their basic educational influence if you can’t see the visuals than go along with the words.  However, I do like the idea of having books being read aloud as podcasts, as long as the child has the book there.  That idea is similar to the books with CDs that we have in the collection, which enable the child to follow along with the words on his or her own.  While I think podcasting can have a place in delivering library services, I think we need to be careful of using new technologies just because we can without thinking of if these technologies alter our objectives or the outcomes.

22.  Take a look at the titles available on Overdrive or Netlibrary or Project Gutenburg and learn about downloadable audiobooks.

This one I have done in order to learn about these products that we offer our customers (which translates to “I have an account but I’ve never listened to a downloaded audiobook”).  Plus I can’t listen to audiobooks on my ipod, so I’m looking forward to downloading books to my new MP3 player soon!  I’m so close!  I find browsing a more effective searching tool in Overdrive, as there’s a good change that a specific title I’m searching for won’t be found.  I was impressed with how many children’s and YA books are in Overdrive.  I was also intrigued where the record says “burn to CD allowed.”  I mean, once it’s burned to a CD it’s permanently yours, correct?  Wow.  I am going to download Feed by M.T. Anderson, in honor of all this new technology. 😉  With my limited experience, I like the audiobooks and have been hearing more and more positive feedback…almost shock and awe…when customers learn that we offer downloadable audiobooks and movies.  Once I have my new MP3 player, I’ll do some more exploring!

Podcasts, Video and Downloadable Audio…aka Week 9

20.  Discover YouTube and a few sites that allow users to upload and share videos.

I’m already pretty familiar with YouTube and it’s time-suckage abilities.  Whenever I find myself on YouTube, suddenly I look at the clock and an hour has gone by.  I had actually already embedded a video in my blog, but I did so again on the post immediately before this one.  I chose the video I did because earlier in the week, I downloaded Google Earth to my computer at home.  I located my house, my parents house, my apartment in Chicago, and was marveling at the capabilities of this tool.  I decided to try to find evidence of mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia and Kentucky, and I did, simply by searching for Whitesburg, KY and moving the view around in that area.  It was very disturbing; most of those areas of grey or brown in the green mountains are mountaintop removal sites.  In case you don’t know, mountaintop removal is a relatively new mining technique where they blow the tops off mountains to get at the coal underneath and then dump the dirt into the valley next to the mountain, usually smothering the waterways in the valleys.  There is a good diagram here from the folks at Mountain Justice Summer.  It’s very harmful for the water, causes erosion and flooding, creates many devastating environmental conditions, and employs significantly less miners than any other mining technique.  Okay, I didn’t mean to get onto an environmental lecture here, but that’s why I put the Appalachian Voices video on my blog. 

 As for how to use it in the library, I think using it at all will improve library visibility.  Since a few of HCPL’s staff day videos are already up there, I’m sure people have gone into YouTube, searched for Harford County, and found our staff day video.  A scary prospect to some, but this simple presence is good advertising, provided it’s nothing, um, inappropriate.  Another idea comes from my former library, the Lexington Public Library; they created a commercial for their summer reading program which can be viewed here.  YouTube is fun, but can also be very useful and educational, it all depends on how you search it.  While the impression seems to be it’s all fun and games, there are plenty of interesting and even educational videos on YouTube…unfortunately it’s blocked by many school district’s computers, which prevents teachers and librarians from accessing all of this available information. 

Week 8…aka Online Applications and Tools

18.  Take a look at some online productivity (word processing, spreadsheet) tools.

Please refer to my previous post…I decided to create my response to Thing 18 as a Google Doc, and then publish it to my blog.  It worked, and was very easy…I had shared documents before but had never published one. 

19.  Explore any site from the Web 2.0 awards list, play with it and write a blog post about your findings.

I was excited to see care2 as the winner for Philanthropy…it’s a site I used to use for email, and had a social networking aspect before I had ever heard of MySpace.   I also glanced at Odeo, PodShow and PodOmatic because I haven’t done much podcasting (partly due to the fact that until 4 months ago I had dial-up).  However, upon exploring them, I decided that I know what I’m looking to upload (Democracy Now! and A Prairie Home Companion) and would rather find those shows individually than sift through all the tons of options on any of the podcasting sites.  However, it’s good to know they are there.

 The site that completely blew me away was Pandora.  At the risk of sounding like a teeny-bopper, ohmygod I love it so much!  You type in an artist that you like, and it creates a radio station of other similar artists.  I’ve discovered about 9 new bands/artists in the past half hour!  The only problem is, after about a half hour, I was at the point where I wanted a little variety.  So then I created a new station!  You can bookmark songs or artists that you like, and tell Pandora if you like or don’t like a song, so that it will create a station with the music you really like.  The only thing I didn’t like is that when I was exploring the site, it wasn’t easy to get back to the main page with the song/artist currently playing. 

I also quickly looked at YourMinis, a widget site, but as I tried putting a Weather Channel link that would give the current temperature of Darlington on my blog, I learned that WordPress is not so allowing of outside widgets.  As in, I don’t think I can copy code and put it in the text widget.  I’m going to try a bit more to see if I’m incorrect.

 And then I decided to stop, because I could do this all day…

Published from Google Docs!

I have used Google Docs already, both personally and for work. I was first exposed to a Google spreadsheet through my role as facilitator of Great Picture Books; we have a shared document for the lists of books to discuss, keep, drop, or transfer. It’s worked very well for those of us who share the list; we can all see it in its most updated form whenever we need to (no need for emailing and attaching). I’ve also created a budget and shared it with my husband, so that we can keep track of our monthly expenditures without having to email or attach every month.

The other nice thing about it is that it saves constantly, so there’s less chance for accidental erasing or computer-induced problems!

Week 7 continued

17.  Add an entry into the Learning 2.0 Sandbox Wiki.

I added my blog to the list of Favorite Blogs page.  I also added a few links to a certain Ohioan’s list of Favorite Places to Visit in Ohio.  I felt that the southern portion of Ohio was under-represented!  I am definitely becoming a fan of blogs and their capacity to connect people in more collaborative ways than other technologies.  There is an element of trust involved in a wiki; having a blog still means one person is in control over the editing, in a wiki everyone is in control!

Wikis…aka Week 7

16.  Learn about wikis and discover some innovative ways that libraries are using them.

I saw Meredith Farkas speak at ALA at a session called “Wiking the Blog and Walking the Dog”…and I LOVE the idea of adding user input or wiki functionality to the catalog.  I blogged about that for Thing 7 regarding John Blyberg’s presentation from the same ALA session.  In addition to making a library’s catalog look more familiar to the many people who use Amazon or Barnes and Noble’s website, it also provides more of a comprehensive portrait of a specific book, movie, or program.  If someone found a book in the catalog, they could tell what others thought about it (either by its rating or by comments) and other materials they might like.  It also gives I think this ties into the idea of serendipitous discovery, which is something I like about Aquabrowser as well.  It would also reduce our workload, as when customers are making recomendations for books to each other we are tapping into their knowledge and experience in order to help other customers.  For example, a co-worker had a question today for a family-friendly movie that teaches moral lessons.  Honestly, I think customers could answer this question better for each other through ratings, comments, recommendations, and lists than I could as someone who doesn’t have children and probably has a different concept of what is “appropriate.”

I really like the SJCPL subject guides as well.  It provides an explanation for each topic, simplifies the search for materials by listing titles AND Dewey numbers, and successfully meets the customers in their space, on their time.  For example, the subject of “Voter Information” includes upcoming elections, current elected politicians, and information about where and how to vote.  In short, it contains answers to questions that people frequently have, and using a wiki to provide this information would simplify their journey to finding it.  Also, with a typical library website only one or two librarians have control over the website or list of subject guides and links.  But with a wiki, if ANYONE finds a new source, they can simply add it to the wiki themselves, which is less work for everyone involved and gets people intrinsically involved in information sharing.  I know there are downsides to this open editing as well, but it seems that with the regular monitoring that goes on with a wiki, it’s not a serious problem (at least with a public library-sized wiki…I’m not talking about Wikipedia and authority). ‘

A use that I think would work in HCPL, in addition to the subject guides, is using a wiki for deparmental connections.  As a children’s librarian, I value the information that’s shared at Children’s Services meetings about conference attendance, educational experiences, program ideas, and miscellaneous valuable resources (both in print and people).  However, there are continuously more and more people at these meetings as the library grows and with a static amount of time per meeting, it can be a less than ideal opportunity to share these experiences and ideas.  If there was a Children’s Services wiki, we could share information about these topics!  I don’t think a wiki would take the place of the meetings, but it would give more of an opportunity to include the parts of a discussion that are likely to get cut out of a meeting, or only given 5 minutes, so that we could focus on making decisions and planning at the meetings.  What do people think of this possibility?! 

Week 6 continued

15.  Read a few perspectives on Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and the future of libraries and blog your thoughts.

First of all, I loved that YouTube video, “The Machine is Us/ing Us.”  I found a site that includes a script of the movie, because I found so many of the concepts so mind-blowing that I wanted to think about it more, not just that brief moment when the words were in front of me. 

I found Rick Anderson’s commentary to be fascinating, especially for me just coming back from the Maryland Library Leadership Institute.  There have been vast changes in the American culture over the past 15 years, which necessitates a change in how we conceive of library services.  Everyone is concerned about Google, but instead of phrasing it as “competing” with Google (because Google is just not authoritative!), we should realize that Google is there and customers use it A LOT (and librarians do too!) and how can we complement it, supplement it, help people learn what it is and what it provides, and offer what it doesn’t (and not simply by offering complete print materials, because they can do that too).  The concept of re-examining how we think of a “collection” is exciting, and necessary. 

Also, the idea that people need to come to us…I think that’s changing already.  We do offer anytime, anywhere services; we need to keep improving them and expanding them AND make sure that customers are aware of them!  So many people have no idea that we provide databases that they can access at home.  So many people have no idea what a database is!  Is that our problem for not educating them, or is it a problem of terminology?  Could we simply call them “Online Magazines” or “ejournals”? 

Michael Stephens made a good point when he said that “Librarian 2.0 embraces Web 2.0 tools.”  I’ve been wondering about this whole experience; it’s great for us to be familiar with the Web 2.0 technology, but how are we truly going to use it to deliver library services?  While we do have public blogs, they are pretty hidden in our same-old non-interactive website…that doesn’t encourage use!  At some point during my 2.0 explorations, I came across Ann Arbor (MI) Public Library’s website, which IS a blog.  There’s not a link to a blog somewhere on the site, it’s main page is a blog.  That’s embracing Web 2.0 technology.  I really want to be a part of taking this technology and seamlessly incorporating it into the services that HCPL offers.

The idea that struck me from Wendy Schultz was the future of Library 3D and Library 4.0.  It’s easy to get caught up in what we’re doing right now, but I think it’s important to remember that Web 2.0 is done, it’s here, we’re not on the front line of it.  If libraries can get to the front line of Library 3D or 4.0 (or whatever you want to call them), that will be a big deal, and show that libraries have accepted the concept that we are in a constantly changing environment.  The part about Library 4.0 also ties in with the idea from Britain where they are calling their libraries “Idea Stores,” to emphasize the experience and the possibilities from a library, not just the concept of what is physically in the building.

The main thing I got out of all of this is that the new Internet is not static, it’s not websites that people create, occasionally update, and just sit there.  It’s constantly changing because it’s collaborative, it encourages everyone to be a part of the creation, not just a consumer of the information provided.  That’s the thing I think libraries don’t get; there needs to be a paradigm shift from libraries as keepers of information (a concept where we have it, it sits, you want it, you come get it) to libraries as centers for dynamic information dialog and exchange (a concept where it’s out there, you find it, you contribute to it, you are a part of it).  Whew! 

Lord Waldemart

This is a video I discovered on Technorati…

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