September 2009
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Month September 2009

thoughtless act: front of the shopping cart

Somebody must have done good research on people’s shopping cart habits.

grabbing the cart

The other day I grabbed the front of a shopping cart and was delighted to find that I was using a comfortable handle.

This is, writ small, exactly what libraries need to be doing.

Proposal: The Case Against Innovation in Libraries

What do many organizations usually do when it is time to enhance their products or services? Add features! Phones now take photographs, there are web enabled appliances and many cars tell you which direction to turn. Similarly, libraries now communicate with people via IM and even text messages. Libraries have added new features to their services in attempt to capture bits of people’s ever thinning supply of attention.

Many librarians have spent a significant amount of time advocating that libraries experiment with new, fun and exciting services, quite often with a glancing caveat that it is best done while keeping in mind community needs. This has lead to little more than aimless feature creep. It is now time to start spending time and effort on what has usually been treated as a simple aside.

This presentation will explore the problem with trying to grow through feature parity and propose that libraries start doing less rather than more.

I’ve been planning upcoming presentations and articles by prototyping session descriptions.

in development


libraries all over: confirmation bias in action

Wherever I go I end up seeing libraries. This summer I went to SE Asia and saw…

…an ancient library at Angkor Wat…

…and the National Library in Ventiane, Laos…

…and the city library in Ventiane…

…and the library in Luang Prabang!

Library Parks in Medellín


The five library parks in Medellín, Colombia are amazing and not just because of their architecture.

Included in the network are five library parks, known as “hearts of knowledge.” Located throughout the city in some of Medellin’s most marginalized communities, the library parks have become cultural centers, providing broad, community access to information and educational resources. The network’s libraries offer a range of training programs, including how to use the computer and access information online, and English for the Internet.

“Libraries have become spaces to not only access knowledge and learning, but also areas of community action and pride,” said Clara Patricia Restrepo, executive director of the EPM Foundation. “By continuing to bring new information and resources to our users, libraries are now perceived as dynamic centers that offer accessible, relevant learning opportunities.”

The organization behind them, the Fundación Empresas Públicas de Medellín was recently awarded the 2009 Access to Learning Award by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

NPL has shifted people’s perceptions of libraries from traditional “bookshelves” to dynamic centers—places that offer tools for personal development and economic improvement, places that create a sense of local community and provide a connection to the global community.

By bringing citizens together in a communal setting, libraries are encouraging unity and learning. Historian and library coordinator Gabriel Jaime Vanegas said, “We believe that you can learn better if you’re part of a community.” Now, according to Gabriel, the young people of his district have a place where they can interact with the rest of the world, and that place is their library.

I highly recommend looking at more photos of the libraries at Parque Biblioteca León de Grieff / Giancarlo Mazzanti
[thanks, Erica!]


A while back I was interviewed by Marie Claire in Italy about libraries. (Your guess is as good as mine). I haven’t seen it in print but the article, Book Club, which appears on the cover (!) is on their website. More stuff about libraries in fashion magazines is a good goal.



A while back I was interviewed by Marie Claire in Italy about libraries. (Your guess is as good as mine). I haven’t seen it in print but the article, Book Club, which appears on the cover (!) is on their website. More stuff about libraries in fashion magazines is a good goal.


User Hostility: EBSCOhost Connection

The other day a result from EBSCOhost Connection appeared in one of my searches. This was a first for me. I was initially very excited (Library resources! On the open web!) but this feeling soon faded into that special Yeah-I’m-using-library-resources malaise.

First, I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of EBSCOhost Connection. Attempting to learn more, a Google search returned 15 results including a Web4lib post from 2006.

I wasn’t particularly interested in the article returned to me but wanted to look at it as a proof of concept so I clicked though. As expected I was presented with the article’s abstract and further action was needed to get to the full text. I assume that if I was in a library and my IP was authenticated the article would have been right there, but since I wasn’t I needed to search for my library to log in.

Problem. My library, Multnomah County, wasn’t listed even though it provides me with access to EBSCOhost through their website.

Note the “Library Sponsored Research Content” seal of approval

Having worked in an Oregon library I happen to know that the state library provides this particular database to libraries in Oregon and that’s probably why MCL wasn’t listed. No one outside of the library field would know this. Would they think to click on the “Oregon State Library?”

Since I did I eventually got to a login box. I tried to use my MCL credentials to login but they didn’t work. I had been defeated by the system and had no other options.

Here’s where we could start assigning blame. Who is responsible for this situation? Our profession for giving money to vendors providing stuff like this? EBSCOhost for not conducting effective user testing or even heuristic evaluations? I dunno. Both? Whatever the case it boils down to this:

We should be ashamed for putting (potential) library users through these experiences.


P.S. I found the article quite easily searching EBSCOHost’s MasterFILE Premier through the Multonomah County Library website. Here’s the permalink they provided. Can you login and see the article with your barcode and PIN? I could not.

more augmented reality for the iphone

A bit of a parlor trick but still interesting as a proof of concept is the easter egg in Yelp’s iPhone application.

After launching the app and shaking my phone I saw a heads-up type display containing an overlay of restaurants and bars down the block. Turning about and pointing the phone in the opposite direction loaded watering holes towards the East.


Another AR app for the iPhone is one for the Metro in Paris but none of this is as cool as AR for contact lenses.