September 2004
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Month September 2004

A Starter OPML File for Librarians*

Blake of lisnews fame wrote an interesting post on his personal lisnews blog/journal today. I’ve been waiting all day to write about it. The jist of his post is that he, although he started lisnews, doesn’t read many blogs.

Blake hasn’t been using an aggregator. It isn’t a surprise when he writes, “Part of the reason is I don’t go blog reading much is just forget to find my way back, my bookmarks file hasn’t been touched in ages…” Steven has encouraged Blake to get on the RSS train, I know. Blake knows this too. The last sentence of his post is “Steven M. Cohen keeps my prayers would be answered by an RSS reader, maybe he’s right. “

I happen to think Steven is right. I’m not sure if Blake has fooled around with bloglines before, but I decided to populate an account for him, forcing him to at least try it. I exported the OPML out of my bloglines account, imported it into an new one and then edited it a bit.

I’m about to change the email address associated with this new account to Blake’s address so he’ll get an email from them. I’ve already sent him an email telling him the password. We’ll see what he thinks of all this.

If you are interested in setting up any kind of aggregator for librarian colleagues of yours, don’t duplicate my work. Grab the OPML file that I’ve created, I’ll call it A Starter OPML File for Librarians*, by right-clicking, and saving. Send it to friends and have them import it into a desktop aggregator or pull a bloglines trick and import it there.

*The title probably should be elongated with “interested in technology” but that wouldn’t make it as catchy.

twentyfour/seven access

As we were closing up the bookhaus tonight I noticed a younger couple using a powerbook in the adult services area. I approached them and asked if they had an easy time connecting to the library’s wireless network. They said they did, and that they thought it was “cool you guys have wireless.” They weren’t quite done taking an online exam but I needed to get them out of the building. The nice guy decided that they would save the exam and leave, but I noticed them walking out of the library with the laptop still on and wide open. As I approached them again I told them I tested the range on our access points, and that they would have no problem sitting on a bench outside of the library and finishing their work.

Let’s just hope that they don’t get harassed for using it after I gave them the library’s express permission. This, I think, is the first recorded of people using our connection after hours, although someone once told me they sat in their car one morning and caught up on their email before catching a train downtown.

Yahoo! Alerts, eh.

About two months ago I wrote about Yahoo! Alerts beta. Here is a followup to that.

For the past two months I’ve been receiving probably 15 text messages per day from Yahoo! One of these is a weather report for the next day, and the rest are ‘breaking news’ stories. While I still think the concept of this is great and important, I now think the content I’ve chosen is terrible.

Weather alerts
People love talking about the weather. If something ‘crazy’ is going to be happening with the weather, I usually hear about this from coworkers or hear random people discussing it. If this fails, I’m a big fan of looking out the damn window.

Breaking news
My news gathering habits are largely web based. I read newspapers infrequently (except for the local police beat, which I read religiously), and never watch TV ‘news.’ There are a number of periodicals I enjoy reading for news, but I’m not too fervent about keeping up with them. Using the web, I can largely ignore mainstream news and select the sources I like. I think I was too excited about the delivery of AP and Reuters headlines via text messaging to remember that I was going to be getting frequent bundles of crap sent to my phone. Not only were the headlines bad, they were often incomplete. British sources say a car bomb exploded on the Gaza Strip, injuring six people on Monday. Investigations are un and the like. There were a few standout headlines among reports of people killed in Iraq and turmoil in Palestine. That Clinton was having emergency heart surgery was somewhat interesting (although I’m not quite sure why). Also, I was watching a movie (at home) when the AP alerted me that a ‘mushroom cloud’ was spotted over North Korea. That was spooky and prompted me to a) text some friends and b) get to my computer for more info. I was confused as to why this was being reported three days after it happened at that point, and slightly relieved that there likely wasn’t a nuclear war going on.

There is different content available through Yahoo! Alerts beta and I might investigate it. I’m concerned though because I signed up with a throwaway account. I had no forsight. Now I’ve got to so some serious sleuthing to figure out how I’m going to login to delete the lousy alerts. Ouch.

When we’re offering text message alerts to patrons, let’s remember to make it easy for them to unsubscribe.


I hope this post let’s others learn from my mistake. The YA librarian just took 100 knitting club flyers over to the local junior high but I forgot to put the library’s screen name on it! Boo. I even proofed the thing.

Make sure you’ve got (fax, phone, web, email, IM) contact info on your promotional materials.

On a positive note, if any more YAs start IMming me, I will be forced to take the Head of Adult Service’s up on his interest in helping with IM. I’m looking forward to this not only because we’ll be increasing our availability, but also as an experiment of sorts. Many of the patrons who have been IMming me now know me by name. Through repeat contact I’ve seen working relationships develop between librarians and patrons in person, and perhaps now through IM. Will that be affected by someone else being on the librarian end of the IM session? Many patrons have certain librarians here that they prefer, likely from experiencing a good reference transaction with them at some point. What happens when they don’t have a choice of librarians with IM? I have more questions. Will IMming patrons be able to tell that another person is acting as thommyford? Do patrons have the right to know with whom they are chatting? Would it be a good policy to state something like, “Hi, this is Aaron, how’s it going? What can I help you with?” after an initial patron contact.

These are questions that we don’t have any answers to. Yet. Let’s get to it, huh?


While AOL, MSN and Yahoo! compete for users we should be offering our services to any person using IM. This being the case, a key best practice in IM in libraries is using a multinetwork piece of software (such as Trillian) so that no potential library IMmers are alienated.

I’ve been living in bad faith for quite some time, only offering patrons AOL Instant Messaging. I knew it wouldn’t take long to set up accounts on their other network, but for whatever reason never got around to it. I finally took the time today and I felt relieved. It would have only taken 5 minutes to do but I needed to download a patch to get Trillian to work with Yahoo! Figuring this out and installing it took another 10 minutes.

It will be interesting to see if offering IM over these other networks will change the type of questions we get. Anecdotal evidence tells me that younger people use AIM while older people perhaps prefer MSN or Yahoo!

Now I just have to get out the word.


spyware presentation

The Tech Summit at the Metropolitan Library System went well today. Many people were excited to have a disc full of spyware removal programs and a few said that there were going straightaway to use them.

I encouraged all in the audiance to use my presentation as a basis for training both people working for their library and people at their library. The class I offer patrons on spyware here is quite popular. Learning how to take care of this stuff certainly beats paying some geek $50-100+ to do it for you.

In my section on the prevention of spyware, one of the things I mentioned was using alternative browsers. I asked if anyone in the audiance (of about 40 people) had been using Firefox and not a single person raised their hand. This was a bit surprising to me might have been the first thing I brought up that was new to everyone.

Here is the presentation in powerpoint form.
Here is the presentation in low-bandwidth text file form.

Two extremes, I know. I really meant to use Jessamyn’s cool css presentation format, but became too busy/lazy. Next time!

Lastly, here’s a pic that Jenny snapped with her Treo 600. I look too relaxed.

more competition and Sprint PCS have teamed up to offer audiobooks on phones. This is exciting but nerve-racking. It would sure be terrible if people thought about getting digital audiobooks on their phone before getting them through a library.

Read “Audible and Sprint Debut Co-Marketing Program with Availability of the Sprint PCS Vision Smart Device SP-i600 By Samsung” from Business Wire [via]

september 2004 tech summit at the mls

Short notice, I know, but I’ll be giving a presentation about spyware removal at the Metropolitan Library System (I wish it was the neopolitan ice cream system…mmmm) this Thursday, September 23rd.

I’m excited for it, especially since people in attendance will receive a CDR of 11 malware removal tools that I compiled. They are all freeware, so it seems pretty legal.

In the future I might put up a ‘presentations’ section, and if I do, you’ll find my presentation there. Prolly not in ppt form though, because that’s just a waste of bandwidth.

how much is too much?

The library at which I work provides good service to its patrons. We accomplish this without any offensive references to the business world or many hokey ‘customer service’ workshops. I think we are going to have an inservice day in October dealing with this topic, but I trust it won’t be too terrible. Can a helping attitude be taught? My suspicion is that people either have such an attitude or they do not. Librarianship attracts many of these people (but we all know that not everyone in the field is one of these people.) Besides a collective staff’s proclivity to help, their working environment has an effect on how patrons will be treated. Without sounding too much like a cheerleader for our library, I think our good service stems from the general good attitude that our workplace allows us to have.

Again, I’m not trying toot my own horn, but in the name of good service I’ve done some things that are perhaps beyond the scope of a library’s responsibilities to its community. It is interesting to me that these things generally happen to be all within the realm of tech support for patrons. Whilst they may have been nice things to do for people, I felt like I almost left the library exposed by doing them.

For instance, not many would argue that helping a patron changing the settings on her computer so that she can access the library’s wireless network is in appropriate. What if, though, the librarian in this case finds that the wireless hardware on the computer has not been installed correctly? Is it inappropriate for a librarian to download the appropriate drivers for the hardware and try to fix it? Does that put the library is a position of liability if the computer later decides to misbehave?

Another example. Every day many librarians help patrons get started using library computers to surf the web. How many of us would feel comfortable essentially filling out an online job application for a patron? Many more would certainly not think twice about simply helping with one or two steps.

I shudder at the thought of the library turning into a computer repair shop, but I’m sure there are people that would say we should be doing anything to make our users happy. I’m not ready to claim that since public libraries are supposed to help people navigate the current information ocean, and since people’s personal computers are their vessels, that we should be patching ruptures. Perhaps outfitting them with a compass, or GPS unit for the advanced, is more in line with our duties.

Please email (or comment below for the benefit of others) with any info you wish to share about tech support for patrons in your library. I would be most interested in this topic has made its way into any library policies.

email? psssh!

School is back in session and with this I’m getting tons of questions from students via instant messaging. On two occasions today people IMed me with questions that I couldn’t answer. Both were questions about the Teen Advisory Board (which met on Sunday) and since the YA librarian isn’t here today I couldn’t tell these prospective members when the next meeting would take place.

I offered to email them the info once I spoke with the YA librarian, but both replied that they didn’t have email addresses. Wow. I then asked them to IM back in a few days for an answer. This is anecdotal evidence of what many people consider the trend in the communication of younger people. To put it as I imagine a 13 year old might type: Email=slow=letter=long, IM=fast=fun. Even if these two people don’t (at this point) find email to be obsolete, it is obvious where their preferences and priorities lie.