November 2006
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Month November 2006

more on simplicity (ha)

Ahhh, more Windows Vista bashing. Joel on Software has a post regarding the 15(!) ways a user could exit their Vista experience. The post is titled Choices = Headaches.

We librarians already know this. That’s why people love looking at the books behind the circulation desk that have just been checked in. Someone already made the choice to check out those books. It doesn’t matter if it was a bad choice, because sometimes just not having to make a choice is what is important! Do your book displays prevent people from having to make a choice? Are they as novel as the Yellow Books Display? Do you have 3 sub-menus though which your web users must drill down?

Still not convinced that choice can hurt and make people feel stupid? Take a look at this configuration of Firefox! Egads.

crazy firefox
[via digg]

line rider

Have you played around with Line Rider yet? It is a brilliant little Flash game in which you draw the course for a sledding penguin. Seriously, take 5 minutes, get the hang of it, make your little guy race around. Done? Okay. Now take a look at this: Line Rider – Jagged Peak Adventure [YouTube]. Holy smokes, right? In fact, Line Rider stared a whole genre of YouTube videos. People make screencasts of their penguins in action, or they aim their digital camera and record the monitor! The videos include elaborate death scenes for the penguin, and some cute ones with cute music. In a sense, each one of these little videos tells a different story. See also Crazy for Line Rider, David Pogue’s post about the game.

User generated content can be so much more creative and entertaining than stuff put out by publishers. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Let’s have more interactivity and content creation on our library websites!

P.S. Another fun line drawing game is Paths

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.

security issues in virtual reference systems, ageism

Please don’t mistake this post a bit of schadenfreude, but I was very interested to read an article titled “a spam filter for questionpoint” the other day. In it, Caleb Tucker-Raymond, the Statewide Digital Reference Coordinator for the L-net project, describes the issue of spam coming through QuestionPoint. He also does a great job describing the measures he considered implementing, and the one he actually has implemented to (mostly) stop the arrival of virtual reference spam. Regarding IM security, Caleb hits the nail on the head:

I haven’t used Meebo or other web IM clients much, so I’m not sure if embedding and HTML image or movie or piece of malicious code would be a problem, but something tells me the IM people have it figured out already.

What interested me most about this post, and others about patrons changing font colors within QP by (perhaps) writing some HTML and leaving tags open, is how vendor driven VR products are seen as safe and instant messaging is seen as insecure.

There are a number of reasons why librarians started believing this, but one reason I want to bring up is the not so subtle ageism I see present in many libraries. Because of their age and associated lack of power, it is easy for libraries to manage their behavior. Even though both groups might be participating in the same activities, librarians can much more easily act on biases they have about young people than they can act on the the biases they have about other people. There’s no difference in one patron emailing friends, and another IMing friends. Both are legitimate library activities, and should maybe even be encouraged. “Libraries? Oh yeah, that place where I connect with my friends.” That has a nice ring to it.

It is only possible for librarians to take issue with web activities like gaming, IM, blogging, and MySpace because these things are (incorrectly) seen as the territory of kids. If these things were introduced to the library world not as things that “those crazy Millennials are doing” but rather as new information trends, I doubt librarians would have been able to take such objection. Just because younger people were among the early adopters of these technologies does not give libraries the right to treat them as illegitimate.


I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of an office supply and writing instrument junkie. Index cards? Moleskines? Binder clips? Love ‘em. If you’re ever in Japan (or on eBay) I suggest picking up some Pilot G-Tec-C4 gel ink pens. They are better than expensive fountain pens I’ve used. Amazing!

But this post isn’t about pens, it is about paper. In particular, wallpaper that consists of four layers of post-it note like squares. What’s even better is that the layers are different shades of grey (perfect), so shapes form as pieces are used and the wallpaper is peeled away.

Check out Duncan Wilson’s pixelnotes, a great example of taking something functional and turning into art. Now how am I going to DIY a small version of this…?

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.

flickr game: name that movie, and social OPACs

In Flickr I recently titled and tagged a photo of mine with the name of a movie. I clicked through to see what other photos were tagged with “videodrome” and found one that is part of a flickr group called NAME THAT FILM. Group members post screenshots of films (placing them in the group and tagging them with name that film. Other members attempt to figure out what film it’s from. Try it out!

This is fun stuff, but it is also slightly important. Flickr didn’t intend for people to play this game but it sprung up organically nevertheless. People are creative and will do neat things when they can interact with data on the web. Imagine if we could build something like this into our OPACs. Off the top of my head, what about having short passages listed (or letting people contribute them), the make the goal figuring out the book to which it belongs and posting a URL to the book’s OPAC record. Oh my! A game that would make people better at finding stuff in our collections.

I’m sure if our OPACs were social, people would come up with all sorts of games and most certainly interesting tags. Here are some tags I’d love to see:

  • stories to read on a stormy night
  • books i’m reading in high school
  • relaxing
  • you’ll hate this book
  • read by:username
  • not written by a dead white male
  • favorited by:username
  • chicago
  • High School Name: English 205
  • reluctant readers (clearly tagged by a librarian!)
  • CDs that changed my life
  • for:username

A guy can dream, can’t he?

make your library trendy

Trendy is a dirty word in libraries, isn’t it? It conjures up thoughts of sinking resources into flash in the pan ideas, harebrained schemes and jumping off of the bridge just because the cool kids are doing it. Even though many librarians would have us be above all of that, libraries still contain all sorts of fad-driven content: The DaVinci Code, CrazyNew Miracle Diet, Oprah’s Sad Book of the Month and so forth all take up valuable shelf space. The greater world of publishing has an effect on people’s tastes and libraries respond. That’s not so radical, is it? And if not, can’t we be just as trendy in our other services and things we do?

All of that for a simple link and some images. Via somewhere, here’s the Web 2.0 Badge Photoshop Tutorial. In just a few minutes I made these:

If you like any of these, please, use them! To put it at the upper-right of a webpage, use something like this:
<div style="position:absolute;top:0;right:0;float:right">link to image here</div>. Here’s the image as a photoshop document if you want to make it say something else or change the color.

Librarians live in between realizing that libraries are a growing organism and embracing every next new hotness. But a simple image can spruce up your website and is a lot easier to remove than 16 copies of Tuesdays with Morrie.

Happy Friday!

qwerty warriors

Yeah, this game nominally involves shooting aliens, but it is still great for typing practice! Everyone I’ve shown this too seemed to like it, so with any luck you will too. My high scores stink so I’m not telling.

As creatures approach, you need the correctly type the word underneath to, uh, neutralize them. Perfect for a few minutes of playing around and learning about games.

qwerty warriors


This weekend at the conference I got to spend some quality time with Jessamyn. Not only did we share one of the best wifi experiences I’ve ever had, but she also turned me on to a Firefox extension I’m wild about: CustomizeGoogle. If you haven’t explored the world of extensions for Firefox (you *are* using Firefox, right?), they are little add-ons that can make the browser even more functional. Here’s a list of “The Firefox Hacks You Must Have” from Wired.

Back to CustomizeGoogle. This little guy removes Google ads from search results, gmail, gcal, and other apps in the Google suite. We’ve all become good at ignoring these ads, but the pages are much easier to look at without the extra clutter. One other nifty thing it can do (among a bunch of other stuff) is add links to other search tools to the top of a Google search.

CustomizeGoogle might be useful for school librarians and teachers that want to get students using these tools (because they are free, or to expose them to the latest and greatest) but don’t necessarily care for making those ads part of the curriculum. Then again, is preventing students from seeing real world ads not preparing them for real world web surfing? Is taking the google ads off of a public access computer in a public library censorship?

I don’t have the answers to those questions, but CustomizeGoogle is still a great way to filter your own internet experience!