April 2006
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Mar   May »

Month April 2006

libraries positively impact the web

This email just came in through my contact form. It encouraged me and reinforced the belief that libraries are doing really positive and helpful stuff when they interact with the rest of the web. Our actions have an impact.

I was happy to find your post about the Denver library MySpace page. I am doing research on MySpace in regards to adolescent literature. My experience with the site has been horrible. I take care of a 14 year old girl who obsessed with it and when I saw her page I felt sad for humanity. It is a scary place for kids to grow up. The library site showed me something positve about MySpace. Thanks.

western springs history synchronicity

Wow. Something really neat happened on the TFML’s Western Springs History website. I recently posted an essay titled “Memories of Western Springs” by long-time resident Don Kennedy. Half coincidence, and half the power of using weblogs to get community input, a librarian from Ohio added an amazing comment to the post:

Mr. Kennedy & librarians at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library,

I arrived at your website as I contemplated attendance at a program in Columbus, OH where Mr. Aaron Schmidt was to be a featured speaker. (I am an academic librarian and an adjunct library school instructor.)

A “small world” event happened this evening as I browsed the library web site. I was looking for links that would give me information about that speaker when I stumbled upon a name so very familiar to me in the history of a town where I’ve never been but a person and a place that my very existence depends upon: Mr. Kennedy, you have “made my day”!

Western Springs did ring a very distant bell with me. I have longed to visit there (even though I had no idea where “it” was) ever since we drove to the area with our oldest son as he began his studies at The University of Chicago back in 1988.

My parents have been gone many years but I have wonderful photos of them on their wedding day (after they eloped from Marion, Ohio). The pictures were taken at the church in Western Springs, with Mom’s cousin, Rev. Stubbs, who married them. I have always wondered if I could ever find that church just to see it.

Now, the next time I come to Chicago I will be able to find the church for sure. I’ll just go to the library where they have so wonderfully preserved the history of the town and I am sure I’ll get help to find what I’m looking for.

So, thanks Mr. Kennedy. And thanks in advance to the librarians who I know I’ll be able to count on.

Susan D. Scott
Pataskala, Ohio

What are the chances of that, right? And it’s unlikely we would have heard about this if the website wasn’t as two-way as it is.

best library myspace yet, and a request

Take a peek at the Denver Public Library’s MySpace, found at http://www.myspace.com/denver_evolver. For a number of reasons, it is one of the best library MySpaces I’ve seen. They’ve included music playing on their page, like every normal MySpace around, they’re networking with YA authors and cool bands, it has a visually appealing background, and, the page links back to content on their main website.

Also, has anyone written a policy especially for MySpace? I received an email:

We are developing a MySpace Page for our teen users but, before we can actually get the go-ahead from our director, we need a Myspace policy. I was hoping to look to see what policies other MySpaced libraries have put into place in order to get an idea of where to begin with ours.

Does your library have a policy in place for MySpace? If so, I would love to take a look at it.

I’m not sure what policy for a library’s use of a specific social software site would look like. Considering some libraries can’t change the location of their pencil sharpener without a forming a committee and drafting a report, chances are that some libraries will “need” policy for the use of social software. I would argue, however, that a library’s basic online policy could cover the using things like Flickr, MySpace, del.icio.us, etc..Here’s a relevant portion of the TFML’s Online Privacy Policy:

The Internet represents a world of resources and organizations beyond the walls of the Library. This website provides links to other sites that the Staff feels are valuable in some way. However, the Library cannot take responsibility for the accuracy or reliability of these linked Internet resources, their privacy policies, or their use of personal information. As an Internet user, be aware that some material found on the Internet may be considered offensive.

What’s different about linking to websites that happen to hold some of our content? I don’t think there’s any difference.

database craziness, bloglines saves the day

So, LISHost had a hiccup and was restored back to Sunday’s state. Therefore, two posts here were zapped into oblivion….or not. You saw them appear again because I was able to rescue the content from bloglines’ cache. I knew it was too soon for the Wayback Machine , but I knew it had to be around somewhere. Digital content never dies, right? There’ve been a few links in to the obit index post, which had to move from walkingpaper.org/309 to http://walkingpaper.org/311. Your insightful comments, however, are gone.

In my long-time use of LISHost, this is the only bad thing that’s ever happened. Not too shabby. Blake gives amazing support (he especially loves mod_rewrite), and is a great hosting solution for you or your library.

where in the world is thommy ford?

Last month, Rick posted about the “Where in the World is Thommy Ford?” program and the associated Thommy Ford Abroad set on the TFML’s flickr account. We have a 11×17 poster of our library’s namesake, along with our URL, and naturally, “Where in the World is Thommy Ford,” available to patrons who want to join in the fun. We haven’t publicized it that much, and already Thommy has been to Africa, Canada, China, Norway and Slovakia. This little project brings up a few things:

  • Some patrons don’t mind having their pictures on Flickr. Don’t forget that patrons are normal people too and think it’s fun to be involved with the production of content.
  • Libraries provide entertainment in the form of books, DVDs, and so on, but libraries and their websites can also be entertaining. Without much effort in this case. WitWiTF, AADL’s virtual catalog cards, various library podcasts, are neat examples of libraries using their skills and unique assets to produce entertaining content. Sweet.
  • Libraries can indeed use social software sites to bolster their web presence. Doing so can show that the library is a vibrant, thoughtful institution, rather than a book mausoleum. I’m totally done with feeling like our content has to be housed on servers over which we have control. The digital branch of the future may, in part, be spread throughout the web.

If you’d take a picture of yourself with Thommy and contribute to our project, email me and I’ll send you a poster!

western springs newspaper obituary index

You all may get a kick out of the Western Springs Newspaper Obituary Index. An industrious Magazines Desk employee was interested in indexing obits from our local papers, and naturally we wanted this index to be online. The obvoius solution was to use WordPress:

Quick and easy database creation. In fact, I didn’t have to do anything, WordPress did it all. Yay. Fully searchable.

Easy data entry This is Beth’s project, and she’s very dedicated to it. I wasn’t going to have the time to enter code myself, and there wasn’t time to show her how to write code. It took literally 4 minutes to show her how to log in, make an entry, select a category, and post.

So each ‘record’ in this database is a blog post. Categories were put in alpha order by

< ?php wp_list_cats('sort_column=name'); ?>.

I had to get the posts within a category display to be in alpha order too, not the usual bloggish reverse chronological. Luckily I found this code on the WordPress forums:

< ?php if (is_category()) { $posts = query_posts($query_string . '&orderby=title&order=asc'); } ?>.

The static front page is produced by semilogic’s static front page plugin.

It isn’t the prettiest website I’ve ever seen, but it’s functional. And it’s sure a great example of how weblogs can be so darn handy.

n.b. People can’t make comments on the obit index. I wasn’t quite comfortable with giving people the opportunity to talk about the deceased. “Online Grieving @ Your Library” has an odd ring to it.

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.