June 2006
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Month June 2006

walking paper out west

I haven’t made many meta announcements on walking paper but this one is probably worth mentioning.

I gave my notice at the TFML and am moving to Portland, Oregon to get my school library media certification. This is a bit of a change in direction career wise (I can’t wait until I try to get IM unblocked from a school’s network), but much of my time as a reference librarian has been spent working with teenagers, and working on stuff teenagers like so I think it will be a good fit. Plus, my wife has summers off so it will be nice if I do too. This will probably help my serious case of wanderlust.

Leaving the TFML will be bittersweet because of the amazingly easy to work with staff, and because I’ve been able to do so much great stuff there with their help. I’m so glad that the library has dramatically changed since I started working there four years ago. My favorite projects and accomplishments have included:

There are also a few things I wish I could have seen happen at the TFML:

  • end cap displays for the stacks
  • a mounted projector in the board room
  • a redesign of the meeting room (a huge project because of structural supports)

Though I’ll be in Portland, I’m not going to be a stranger to the TFML. I’m still going to be developing fordlibrary.org, and I’m actually going to have more time to do it. I’m really happy about this because the site is getting used quite a bit, and we’re about three quarters of the way though an amazing redesign planning process. The website will be better than ever!

In addition to work on the website and taking classes, I’ll continue to write articles for print publications and continue to give presentations and consult with libraries. Not all, but most of my presentations to librarians (aside from at Internet Librarian shows) have been in the Midwest, so I’m looking forward to working with some libraries in the West. Walkingpaper.org will likely continue to stroll along at its usual pace, and perhaps even pick up more steam at some point. I know I’m going to get just as excited about implementing relevant, user-centered technology in school libraries.

That being said, I’m certainly looking forward to some major away from keyboard time. Living in the Pacific Northwest is going to provide me with greater opportunities for cycling, climbing, rafting, and everything else I like to do. As neat as it is to be connected, and as much as I like managing my digital presence, nothing beats being on top of a mountain, looking out on the vastness of the earth and sky. Except maybe the Nokia N80. Just kidding.

So. Thanks for reading. I’ll be back in the future with my thoughts on the web presence of public libraries, and neat things about school libraries!

fire, brimestone, and questionpoint

All I could think about while Rick and I tested the latest version of OCLC’s QuestionPoint virtual reference software was Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow.

I seriously can’t imagine how we’re going to give our users a good experience with this software. Sarah Houghton did a great job of listing her issues with QP in her post New QuestionPoint Flash Interface: LiB’s Review. I’m not patient enough to make such a list, but I can say that this software is designed with the librarian in mind, not the library patron. And all of the extra megabytes of software seem like cruft. It may have placated me a bit if, say, all of the testing we did with sending info from our databases worked well, but no such luck. I’m afraid that virtual reference software is still an expensive and cumbersome solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Jenny sums up another feeling of mine in her post about the Homer library getting good (print) press for their use of RSS and Flickr:

It’s easier to cut our funding when we’re just the nameless, faceless “library” than it is if they see happy, smiling taxpayers.

I’m afraid that big, multi-state virtual reference projects turn us into the “nameless, faceless” question answerer that Jenny mentions. People are less likely to become excited library supporters if they’re serviced by strangers. When people in Western Springs send an IM to thommyford , they know they’ll be chatting with someone from the TFML. The next time they choose to visit the library in person, they can say “Hi” and shake hands.

library: too hard too big

UPDATE: Nichole writes in to give a link to the Jail Library Group website.

Do you ever feel this way about your library? I bet our patrons do. Maybe frequently.

Check out jumblepile’s (aka nichole’s) set of jail finds on flickr. According to her, “These are things I find abandoned in books or stuffed on the book cart at the jail where I volunteer.” The above note was actually some sort of readers’ advisory transaction. Amazing stuff.

if you build it

An online library card application was the easiest thing I’d never done for the library’s website (I really like the URL too – fordlibrary.org/gettingacard). All it took was the repurposing of an email form already in existence and a few head nods from staff involved. The email gets sent to two address, the general one monitored by Reference, and to the head of Circ. The head of Circ gave a memo to her staff, created a box in which to put ready for pick up cards, and we were done.

We got an application within 24 hours of the form being on our website, so I’m very interested to see if it’ll get used often.

SPIM no. one

I’ve said before that the doom and gloom some people claim regarding computer security and IM is a bunch of hooey – and I still think it is – but this evening the library received its first piece of SPIM. The fact that something fishy was going on was so ridiculously apparent. Here’s what the message was.

patron: C:msdos.pif r

The message, of course, was a link but I’m not going to reproduce that here. Would this message have raised a red flag for you? Instead of clicking, I responded back to see what would happen. Again, it was an automated response:

patron: Find out who’s blocking you on AIM, Download it free from http://www.block-checker.com

Then the actual IMer responded, and we had a conversation:

patron: hi
patron: r u bored or something
thommyford: no, you IMed me, i think your computer might have a IM virus or something
patron: ya it does
patron: im like crying
patron: i dont know how to kill it
thommyford: do you need help getting rid of it?

I did a quick search to find out about “block checker” and found some removal instructions, which I copy/pasted to the patron. It was disappointing to finally get one of these IMs, but at least it turned into a positive library transaction.