July 2006
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Month July 2006

weblogs, they work

When I talk to people about using weblog software for library projects I always mention that the clean code it’ll spit out is advantageous. This clean code, along with dynamic content makes it easy for search engines to index, increasing the chances of your stuff getting noticed.

As of yesterday, I have a really great example of this that also servers as a reminder of the positive impact that libraries can have on the web. In the TFML inbox yesterday:

Dear Madam, Dear Sir,

I am trying to trace an old friend of mine, [XXXX], that I lost contact with over the past 8 years. In the search engine I found the link below and would be grateful to receive a copy of this article, so I can check whether the deceased is the person I am looking for.
I live in Frankfurt/Germany.
Thank you for your attention.
Best regards

[gives link to an entry in the TFML obit index]

We no longer had the newspaper so I had the obit faxed over from a nearby library and emailed the text to Germany. Today, a response was waiting for me.

Dear Aaron,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Unfortunately, [XXXXX]
is the person I was looking for. I am stunned that he died more than 3 years
ago, while he was still quite young and had so many plans.

The patron went on to give the story of how they knew each other, then ended with this:

In the past few years I “googled” him unsuccessfully, but only now traced
him on Amazon’s search-engine A9.com, in case you are interested how I
discovered your website. What would we do without the internet!

Again, thank you very much, and although I feel quite sad now, with your
information I can close a chapter in my life.

Sincerely, [XXXX]

Wow, just wow. Let’s not underestimate the impact libraries can have by putting quality content on the web through our own websites and in other receptacles. Our dispersed digital branches go far beyond the boundaries of our communities. Even small libraries secondarily serve people around the world.

read a good bokilur lately?

The other day, Springwise.com had a post titled “Audiobooks for phones” about a product and company in Sweden.

Bokilur is Swedish for book on phone. And the company offers exactly that: audiobooks for cellphones. …

Books are usually split into 5 parts, each of which costs SEK 30 (USD 4.10/EUR 3.25), and is between 50 and 150 minutes long. Payment is processed through the user’s normal phone bill. Available titles include popular fiction, literature, children’s books, business titles and language courses. …

For consumers, downloading on the go is far more convenient than downloading to a non-phone mp3 player, does away with the need to carry multiple devices, and allows for spontaneous downloads. …

Bokilur definitely benefits from 3G bandwidth being cheap in Sweden, which has made for far wider adoption of mobile services than in countries where mobile downloads are prohibitively expensive.

I don’t know if the cell phone situation in the US is fertile ground for this type of service. We aren’t (yet?) as attached to our mobile devices as Europe and Japan, but certain segments of the popular are certainly getting there. Telco download offerings so far have been pretty poor, DRM-laden, and expensive.

I wonder if Sweden’s libraries feel the need to compete with Bokilur. I suppose that might depend on just how popular the service is.

International Survery on DDR

For those of you in libraries that might need some research and numbers to start gaming events in your institution, here’s a paper titled “International survey on the Dance Dance Revolution game”. Print it and wave it all around, maybe in the general direction of any wet blanket in your building. The full text pdf is free.

An online questionnaire was used to study various factors related to Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) gaming. In total, 556 respondents from 22 countries of ages 12 to 50 filled in a questionnaire which examined the players’ gaming background, playing styles and skills, motivational and user experience factors, social issues, and physical effects of dance gaming, and taking part in dance-gaming related activities. The results show that playing DDR has a positive effect on the social life and physical health of players, as it improves endurance, muscle strength and sense of rhythm, and creates a setting where new friends can be found.[em mine]

How great is it to think of your library as a place where new friends can connect? hint: amazingly great!


gaming in libraries: old idea

Some have tried smoking rooms, had boy’s club rooms and games, and many have tried simply to make the rooms homelike and cheery, and all of their experience is valuable to us.– “The Library as Social Centre“, the opening address of the Minnesota Library Association, October 12, 1905, by Miss Gratia Alta Countryman

Read the whole thing because it is awesome, but here’s another pull-out:

The whole building at all times should be managed in the broadest spirit of hospitality; the atmosphere should be as gracious, kindly and sympathetic as one’s own home. Then do away with all unnecessary restrictions, take down all the bars, and try to put face to face our friends the books and our friends the people.

Gratia Alta Countryman was city librarian until 1935.

DSing on the Plane

DSing on the planeI lived the Digital Natives conference travelling to and fro Boise. On both trips I found myself next to some young people travelling alone, and I knew it wouldn’t be difficult to make airplane friends with them. Both had their Nintendo DSs along for the journey and were bug-eyed excited when I brought out my DS lite. We linked up our machines and had fun passing time and riding out about 50 minutes of turbulence! At one point during the trip back, the young woman was playing New Super Mario Bros. with me, chatting and listening to her iPod. Wowza. That’s more stimuli than I’m used to having at once.

quick educational gaming links

Wrapping up the Digital Natives conference there was a huge brainstorming session in which people worked together (just as if they were DNs themselves!) to come up with some great ideas to get started on. The presenters recapped what went on, and I chose to spend my time highlighting the theme of gaming in libraries. There were a number of edu-gaming links in my aggregator this morning that really came in handy. They mostly came out of the NECC I’m pretty sure, and in particular from Tim Lauer’s site. So, here are some games with great potential:

Dimenxian – Learn Math or Die Trying. Homework just got Hard

PeaceMaker – Be the Prime Minister of Israel or Palestinian President

Disaffected – Be a Kinko’s employee

Darfur is Dying – Prevent genocide

Food Force – Prevent hunger

Peter the Packet – Play the role of a packet of data on the web.

our libraries need to be brighter and noisier

I’m in Eagle, Idaho for the awesome “Evolving Library Services for Digital Natives” mini-conference put on by the Idaho Commission for Libraries. Last night we got to hear Stephen Abram talk, this morning we heard Alane Wilson talk about the OCLC Perceptions study, and in the early afternoon we heard from a panel of real life Digital Natives! And we just listened. Then Sarah Houghton, Stephen and I were moderated (ha!) by Alane while we had what was essentially a nearly three hour Q&A/show and tell session with the amazing audience. Tomorrow we get to workshop in the morning, and help groups plan services for Digital Natives. This has been a top-notch event! The librarians of Idaho should be thanking Gina Persichini and State Librarian Ann Joslin (and I’m sure others) for putting this on.

Kris and Jen have been blogging about the conference at Russet Vixen, so check that out, but I want to include my notes on the panel of Millenials. Stephen did a bang-up job asking them questions, which I’ll include right here so you can copy, paste, and ask these to a group of teenagers in your library.

What was the last song you listened to?
How do you listen to music?
Should the poor have access to college education or should it be only parents money?
Agree or disagree: It is better to be seen as a peer group than too smart by the group.
When did you last exercise, what did you do?
When was the last time you volunteered outside of school?
Will the world be better or worse in 10 years?
What will your standard of living be like? Same, better or worse than your parents?
How many friends are of a different ethnicity?
How many close friends do you stay in constant contact with?
What brand of jeans do you like?
Do you play an instrument?
Have you put content on the web?
Do you IM?
How much text messaging do you do?
Do you have a MySpace? Tell me about it.
Do you play videogames?
When did you last visit a public/school library?
When was the last time you were in a big bookstore?
Do you believe that gay marriage should be legal?
What is your career goal?
If you had money to spend on parks, libraries or schools, where would you put it?
Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat or independent?

Sarah did a great job writing some prose about the questions, so here’s the notes I took. After the ones Stephen asked, there are a few that were asked by the audience. In case you don’t read that far, let me pull out a few things:

  • Even though some of these kids have grown out of IM (for the time being I suspect), and even though they are NOT library users, they unanimously thought that being able to contact the library via IM was a great idea.
  • The number one things they’d change about the library teen spaces is the color. They want something very bright. So bright that you’d think it was totally gross.
  • Every participant was very enthusiastic for gaming events in libraries.

Ok, here’s how they answered the questions.

radio – rock/pop
MP3 – can’t remember song
delilah (local woman)
wicked musical
delilah, not by choice!
lincoln park

how do you listen to music?
split between radio and ipod. no CDs

what brand of jeans?
american eagle
BKE – the buckle
american eagle/aeropostle
whatever fits
don’t wear jeans, i like cargo pants
old navy
don’t care

how many close friends do you stay in constant contact w/?
phone a lot
3-4 local friends
3-4, with them a lot
groups, 10-12
10, around the state, everyday, phone
(girls have more)

how many friends are of a different ethnicity
not many
small minority

what will your standard of living be like? same better or worse than parents
aiming for better
same, but better
better, prolly the same
better, same is ok
better, prolly the same

will the world be better than 10 years?
same, prolly better
same, or worse
some aspects better (tech), but worse because more poverty
maybe better because of tech! environmental concerns

when was the last time you volunteered outside of school? – 100% of the crowd!
every fall, church related
church, carwash
carwash, church
church, family friends

when did you exercise, what did you do?
this morning, weights, running
this morning, pilates
skateboarding is not excercise
this morning
two days ago

it is better to be seen as a peer group than too smart by the group – agree?
that’s the way things are
i agree, you’ll be left out otherwise
really better to be smarter
i get picked on for being smarter
good to be smart, but don’t be cocky, friends shouldn’t care
what he said
better to be part of a peer group, if you’re smarter, you might be seen as making people stupid
people should accept you

should the poor have access to college education (government) or should it be parents money?
if they’ve worked hard, social status shouldn’t matter at all
same thing, if you work hard you should be rewarded
agreed, not your fault if you are poor
the government should help
agree. everyone should be able to do it. money does not equal smart
the rich should have to pay, the poor should not

do you believe that gay marriage should be law?
boy – nope, should not be law
boy – nope, it is not right in my beliefs
girl = it SHOULD be law
girl – shouldn’t be illegal
girl – can’t control it, called something different
girl – yes, ppl should be able to do what they want
boy – marriage no, being together okay
boy – gay marriage i disagree totally
boy – marriage no, being together okay

when was the last time you were in a big bookstore? (nothing w/in walking)
month ago
2 weeks
quite a while ago
quite a while ago
long time ago
i don’t read unless it is assigned, don’t visit them
when harry potter 6 came out
winter to buy books

when did you visit a public/school library?
really really long time/school often
couple months for big projects/constantly!
quite a while/don’t go in there much
couple weeks/not for a while
when i was 9/school year
when i need to get a study book or project, couple days ago/regularly
only been there once, a month in a half ago, didn’t have da vinci/for projects
winter/last day of school

do you play videogames?
yes, xbox and ps2 – tony hawk
no, sometimes like DDR
quite often – king of hearts 2
yes, mario, gameboy
few weeks ago, xbox motorcycle, computer
ps2, don’t play often, role playing games
daily, war games, call of duty, madden, xbox
this morning, the sims
late last night, xbox, all the games that i owned, halo. i was bored. i played a while ago, yesterday

do you have myspace, tell me about it
2 accounts, one real, one test, i talk to friends that way
don’t do it too much anymore, switching to facebook
don’t use it too much any more, i got over it
don’t have one, my friends do
trying to get it canceled
don’t have it, don’t get it
don’t have it, don’t get it
my parents hate it, think it is unsafe, won’t get it
don’t have it, made one up for fun

text messaging? how much
unlimited! all the time
all the time, 3000/month
don’t have a phone
no phone
would have to pay for it, no
don’t have phone
no phone and i don’t see why not. i want one!

MSN, Yahoo, and AIM, but I use myspace. used to be obsessed w/IM
in middle school i IMed all the time
yahoo, msn, aim, don’t use it much anymore
don’t have IM, parents won’t let me (has secret one)
msn, AIM, yes
msn, aim, yes
used to use it when i was younger (boy is 16), homework help
parents won’t let me
no accounts, my sister has three accounts, on it constantly

have you put content on the web?
yes, friends set up site for homework help
yes, video

yes, tried things

republican, democrat, independent?
republican, but some dems are okay
no idea
whoever i agree with
democrat (my mom might kill me otherwise)

what would make you go the library!?
group collaboration!
sweet computers, flatscreens – sexy!
plan ahead of time for research
talk and make noise
an area where you can have bigger groups
faster computers, way to find the books easier
easier way to find books
(boy thinks his library doesn’t have internet, window 98 is getting SLOW)
faster computers, easier to find books

parks, libraries or schools?
schools, parks
(their concerns are better equipment)

what is your career goal?
physical therapist
graphic designer
marine biologist
medical field, physical therapy
undecided, medical
computer programmer
football player, navy pilot

would you go to the library if there was gaming?
of course
my friends would, tons of people would
if it was closer

what would your space in the library be?
barnes and noble, sit and read
bright colors, contemporary, sunken in floor
trendy colors
more colors, couches
food stand
music playing, headphones
comfortable seats

do you know any librarians as friends
my grandma

what would be in the library?
magazines and books
girls magazines
game rental, play it there and take it home
big TV, game nights like the library

what would you need in a study space?
3-5 people, 2 computers or big monitor
2 computers, doing different things (multitasking)
wireless keyboard/mouse

IM reference?
yes (willing to pay!)
easier to drive,
never phoned the ref desk

we have this stuff. how should we let you know?
something on the internet
video announcements

how do you FEEL about the library?
they are not so nice, eagle library is nice tho. depends
the library is a friendsly place (the homeless scare me), i’ll get what i need
depends on library and librarian, for the most part, good
always willing to help
i don’t know enough to know
they are nice for the most part
they want to help
it is a friendly place

have a favorite search engine? do you have a strategy?
dogpile, gives you the least amount to go through
google, spell correction
google, yahoo ads suck
google, the first i used
google, yahoo
google, used it first, i’m learning how to use it well

has anyone heard of lili databases (local stuff) 2/9 🙁


idaho RULES!

online library card applications

The Web isn’t useful just because we can read documents on it. Utility on the web comes from actually being able to accomplish tasks. Time? Space? Forget about ‘em. Do your banking at midnight, choose your movies without leaving home, and now the residents of Western Springs can apply for a library card online!

Looking to add the most utility as possible to our website, we decided to try out having an online library card application. Why? Letting people apply online and simply present two forms of ID at the Circ desk to pick up their cards saves the time of the reader. Secondarily, it eases the burden on the staff in charge of making the cards. The URL for the page is very straightforward: fordlibrary.org/gettingacard. I’m happy to note that this page is the second hit for the search online library card application. Neat. The page has been up for perhaps two weeks, and we’ve had about five submissions, each one requesting more than one card. A link to the online application sits in a prime piece of real estate on the library’s homepage. How long does it take you to find it?

Technically, this feature on the library’s website is a no-brainer. It is just an email form, the result of which gets sent to two email addresses: Main Reference and the manager of Circ. The most important aspect to the success of the project is the coordination of appropriate staff. If you want to do something like this, it will only be successful if the people that create the library cards are on board. This is usually the Circ staff, right? We got people up to speed by saying, “Hey, you might get some slips of paper with a library card request from Reference staff. All you have to do is make up some cards, call and/or email the patron, and put them in this special box. When people come in looking for their cards, check their IDs and find their cards in said box.” Not too bad.

The language on the form could use a bit of improvement. Presently it only has spaces for the person applying and children. Including spouses would be a good idea. The other thing that should be added is a statement about how and when patrons will be notified that their cards are ready. We’re shooting for just a few hours during the business day.

Two weeks doesn’t allow for much of a data sample, true, but just like patron placed materials requests, this seems to be a case of “if you build it they will come.”