multnomah county OPAC gets RSS

Imagine my surprise earlier this week when I went to the Multnomah County Library Catalog and found a big, bright orange RSS icon.


They’ve rolled out III’s RSS product, and have 15 feeds coming out of the catalog:

  • Audiobooks,
  • Children’s fiction
  • Cookbooks
  • DVDs
  • Fiction
  • Gardening books
  • Graphic novels
  • Music
  • Mysteries
  • Non fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Teen fiction
  • Teen graphic novels
  • Travel books
  • Picture books/ easy readers

I subscribed to a half-dozen feeds in Bloglines to see how many subscribers are listed (not that this figure is the be all, end all) and found that DVDs is the most popular feed with 34 subscribers. Other feeds have 4-10 subscribers.

I like that they are promoting their RSS feeds in a prominent place. I also like the nice What is RSS? page they’ve put together.

Gripes? Ideally patrons would be able to create their own feeds for specific searches (like but, to my knowledge, this isn’t a feature available from III. I’m guessing that most “2.0” solutions coming from vendors will be watered down like this. I’d be more than willing to eat my words though!

Having the feeds available is a great first step, and I hope to see MCL take further action integrating the library into the community by helping other organizations get feeds displayed on their websites.

libraries can learn from rivendell bicycle works

riv bikeDon’t you love it when different spheres of your life collide? Today I saw an Interview with Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works that contained a few good acorns for libraries. The interview and the pullouts might make sense with some more context.

RBW is a small company that makes high end bicycle frames that has a strong (read: cult) following. “High end”, you say? Their flagship bicycle frame, the custom made Rivendell, costs $2750 and takes two years to get to your house (…don’t worry, the production frames are only about $1400 and come much quicker). Their frames are beautiful, practical, and well made. Grant Petersen, the personality behind the company puts out a journal-esque catalog called the Rivendell Reader that is infused with his voice and character. Our library newsletters and websites should be more like it. For a sampling, there are some good bits in their online catalog. Here’s part of a description of the kickstands they sell:

When Barbara Torres ordered her Rivendell with a kickstand plate and couldn’t be talked out of it, I said fine, and that was that. Two others followed, and I’ve since put one on one of my bikes (see the cover of RR30), and my daughters insist on them and my wife wants one. I don’t think every bike should have a kickstand, just lots of them. They weigh as little as 9.5 ounces, are simple to use, keep your bike from falling over, and are cheap. Most of the bikes in the world have kickstands, because they’re shopping and commuting bikes. That’s not dorky, just smart.

Everyone should be authentic when writing on library websites/weblogs, but the writing should strive to highlight the humans of the institution. This sure does.

On to the interview. Most of the questions at the Push Button For interview are cycling and fly fishing related, but read this one in relation to our OPACs and services.

In your catalogs, web site, and in The Rivendell Reader, you write a lot about simplicity. Why is simplicity important?
Simple things make people feel smart, or at least competent, and complication has the opposite effect. If people feel smart and competent, they’re happy, and happy people are nice to other people, and it all starts or stops with how hard it is to use something.

Regarding running a transparent organization, it seems to come so naturally that he doesn’t quite grok the question.

You run Rivendell as openly as any company I’ve ever seen. Is there a conscious philosophy behind that?
Well, I wouldn’t call it a philosophy, but I don’t distinguish between “me” and “my company” when it comes to things like keeping secrets and telling the truth. It’s hard to keep secrets, so it’s best not to have any, but beyond that, I’m not exactly sure of what you mean by “open.” Is that it? If it isn’t, just clarify it and I’ll try to answer it.

social OPAC roundup

Speaking of social OPACs, I came across MIT Libraries’ The Virtual Browsery (Beta) via It appears to be another OPAC/WordPress mashup, but not yet with as many records as the WPopac from Plymouth State’s Lamson Library.

Other social OPACs include Hennepin County Library’s catalog which allows for patron reviews, having reviews from load in the record, and RSS feeds for the reviews. Towards the beginning of the year John Blyberg showed everyone the AADL’s virtual card catalog. There’s also PennTags, which allows students to bookmark records in the Penn Library catalog, as well as PDFs, and websites. Am I missing any others?

I’m happy to see the project from MIT Libraries and hope more projects pop up. Due to ILS limitations it takes some serious coding to make anything like this happen, and since coding isn’t part of LIS programs, only libraries with enough resources to have coders on staff can approach these projects.

library n00b

Working in a library (especially one in the same town in which I lived) for the past 5+ years I never really placed ILL requests using anything other than the staff mode of our ILS. Now that I’m a bit more removed from a library setting I’m having to work a bit harder to look at books.

I think only 15 minutes had passed from when I got my Multnomah County Library card to when I placed a hold online. A few days later, I received my first ever hold notification via email, and now my limit of 15 holds at a time has been nearly met.

It’s like I’ve passed some sort of milestone.

funny stuff

A few people have emailed me asking about my absence, so here’s a quick note saying hello to everyone. I’ve been off doing fun things, usually involving riding one of my bikes fast, far, or both. For some content, here’s a great comment I found on the MySpace of one of the TFML’s MySpace friends:

omfg! take ur town off of myspace! people could molest you!!!!! jk jk jk. lol. jus got back from my aunt &uncles crawfish thingy. fun fun. okay. laterr.

The library had a slew of 6th grade classes come in to hear about the summer reading program today. Their eyes popped when we told them about the library’s efforts with books on iPod, IM, video games and MySpace. Some of them were so shocked you’d have thought we showed them a married bachelor or a three sided square. I didn’t know our image issue was *that* bad.

thoughts on the stapler

My small post about the reference desk stapler solicited some hilarious and insightful comments both here and at a pic of the stapler on flickr.

Highlights include Richard Ackerman’s comment:

Of course we let our patrons use staplers! We just require they take training in the use of advanced stapler features first

and Jenny’s response. As usual, she’s spot on:

And we call it a collation tool that you have to reserve in advance and show a library card to use. Then we make you use it in the designated collating area, where no more than two people can be at any one time. Removing the collation tool from the collating area will result in an immediate suspension of all collating privileges.

Users are allowed to collate up to 30 pages or 10 sets before they must surrender the tool to the next patron in line. If no one else is waiting, the patron may continue to use it for an additional 15 pages or 5 sets. Patrons may not exceed 60 pages or 20 sets in any one 24-hour period. Failure to observe these rules will result in the immediate suspension of all collation privileges. Staff will refill staples in collation tool within 24 hours of the first written report of an empty cartridge.

Collation tool hours are 9:16 a.m. – 8:44 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday. Classes in basic and advanced stapling are offered in January, June, and October.

JanieH links to a post on “Library Garden” which asks the great question, “Have you considered the price you are paying by punishing the majority of your good customers to deal with a few of the bad?” It also links to an amazingly titled bit from “Pop Goes the Library:” Red Tape = Patron Kryptonite

All of this is feeding into what I decided was going to be my theme for this year: Let’s Make Libraries Easy. I’m not a big fan of when people throw their arms up in the air and proclaim, “Libraries can’t be everything to everyone” because, duh, it’s a totally obvious statement. What I really dislike about the phrase is that it seems to discourage innovation and prevents us from striving to do the best we can. Right? “We can’t be everything to everyone so we probably shouldn’t try this new service.” “It might be nice to have IM clients installed our our PACs, but we can’t do everything.” Concentrating on the fact that we can’t be everything to everyone will lead us to become nothing for nobody. So instead, let’s think locally. We can be, and often are a heck of a lot to our communities. And I don’t mean communities in just the geographical sense.

We can’t maximize what we can do for our communities unless we stop with the passiveaggressiveness and make nice library signage, reduce barriers to service and think about our libraries from a non-librarian perspective.

Here are five things you can do this week to make your library a better place:

  • Let people bring drinks into your building. Let that group of high schoolers studying together eat the cupcakes they brought in. They might even offer you one. If they do, take it. It’ll make you seem human.
  • Communicate with your users who IM.
  • Let patrons plug their digital cameras into your computers.
  • By your DVD collection, have hold slips filled out with the info for popular films. They’ll just need to write in their name and hand it to you.
  • Allow kids to bring their skateboards in the library

The next time you’re involved with making a decision in your library, please consider the needs of your users. My thanks go out to all of the library workers – shelvers, administrators, IT geeks, janitors, catalogers and everyone else – who are working to make their libraries easier to use.

hardcore public access computer usability

I got to teach a beginning internet class this evening and I learned something in the process. It may seem very minute, but I learned that it would probably be a fine idea to check up on the response rates of the mice in our library. You might consider it too. Maybe you have one set so fast that only a cowboy could easily double-click and fixing this could prevent someone from having a terrible experience at your libray. I’m happy to report that even though one of tonight’s students was accustomed to a trackball device, she was clicking up a storm when I slowed down the mouse’s pointing action. Does anyone already do this?

bq. Windows users: start -> control panel -> mouse
Mac users: system preferences -> keybord & mouse