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I’ve seen quite a few good services that somewhat mimic what librarians are trying to do in the physical library space, answering services and the like though I don’t think I’ve ever come across something quite like this before. And, really, it makes me wonder who came up with it. BookSwim, a book rental program in the vein of Netflix but, you guessed it, for books. Normally I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it at all, but a ‘review’ of this from Download Squad got me laughing. Thanks for the vote of confidence in libraries guys.

When you think about it though, it makes you wonder just how far Web 2.0 services like this are destined to go. I’ve heard this time and again in the Web 2.0 classes we give for the staff in my system, usually from the slightly older employees but not always, about the sheer amount of whats out there wondering how anyone could possibly keep up. Just today we’ve got Flickrvision and Bringo, the first of which is more a time thief and the second I hope grows in size. It’s why my coworker and I were so careful to pick and choose the services that we included in the class, though those services have changed since the first time we taught the class as the face of Web 2.0 has shifted right under our feet.  I don’t think I’ve ever taught such an interesting class before.

I thought I would drop a link to the Map of Online Communities. Infomancy mentioned it today and I thought it was of very interesting merit. I am a little surprised that Google isn’t on there and owning a large chunk of the real estate (though they would clearly not be banished to The Icy North with Yahoo, Windows Live, and AOL). But still, its a very interesting visualization of Web 2.0 land and just fun to boot.

Fun With Surveys

 A List Apart has set up an online survey for web design. It’s worth checking out.

In the upcoming website revamp one of the main concerns, outside of format and graphics, is bringing the library together on the website. The concept of a virtual branch is heavy in the air, the idea of ‘walking’ into the website and knowing where to go. Intuitiveness, in short. This can be a tricky concept, since no two users will go to the same place or even have the knowledge to find those places the first time. That is why making the navigation and the layout as open and friendly as possible, yet keeping a keen and contemporary look is so important.

However, perhaps even more than this is showing our users what we have. Even customers that come into our library on a frequent basis often don’t realize the myriad of programs and services that the library offers. It’s only on the off chance they pick up a flyer or see a poster on the wall, just that one time. But is usually only takes that one thing to get them hooked. This is where I hope Web 2.0 technology will lend a helping hand. Already we’re putting ourselves out there on Flickr and Librarything and both have done well for the limited uses we’re currently employing them for. But they can do so much more. Using a blog to promote events and allow users to comment on whats going on, to give their feedback on things, what they like and what they don’t. That is important to any business these days, feedback when and where the customer wants it. RSS to keep them updated, along with explinations on how to use it, since we can’t assume anymore, about anything. And things like Flickr to chronicle what has happened, changes in the library, the history in pictures instead of dry paragraphs. That is what brings the library to life.

It will take time of course, though setting up and using Web 2.0 utilities is a heck of a lot easier than writing CSS and XML, I can tell you that right now. I’m rambling by this point, yes, but this is important to create a virtual branch that is as interactive as a physical one. (And perhaps less intimidating too.)

A Room of Ones Own

It’s certainly been a long while. After deciding to make the move from WordPress to Blogger I once more decided to move back for various reasons. So, all of my posts (the few there have been, alas) have been imported over here. (Which, might I say, is a wonderful feature.)

Look for more. It will come.

There is a lot of talk about multi-tasking not just in the workplace now but in general, and how it can be unhealthy for us, though unfortuantely it seems that it’s impossible to get away from it now. I know I’m a serious multi-tasker both professionally and personally. (Though I must say I’m a lot worse at work.) Things like Firefox and its multitude of extensions only make it easier for us to do these things and so for my own interest I thought I would make a definitive list of what I use at work just for this purpose.

Browsers

Firefox

I primarily use Firefox 2.0 in my everyday life. It is by far my browser of choice not just because of its extreme amount of customization but because of its relative ease of use. (I can never get enough of talking about it to people.) I design in Firefox as well because of its high level of standards compliance.

Extentions

PermaTabs – This does just what it sounds like. I keep certain things open all the time to help keep me on track with things. I keep my Google Reader, my Ta-da Lists, and Meebo always open. I check my feeds a few times a day, use my lists to make sure I don’t forget anything, and Meebo to chat with coworkers at other places in the building since its a lot faster than calling if you’re just needing to get a quick idea across or toss a link their way.

Firebug – I use this every single day. This handy extention shows all manner of site code, allows you to edit it, and highlights different sections of a webpage just by mousing over. And that’s just the simple applications.

Web Developer – This is another extension I use everyday. It has an insanely large amount of options for breaking down webpages to see how they work. One can edit code live which makes my life a hundred times easier and the ability to turn elements on and off is very useful.

Clipmarks – I’m relatively new to this one but the idea of being able to clip out parts of the web just like you would a print source (not books of course!) is terribly appealing to me.

ColorZilla – This little extension gets pinpoint color from any place in the browser. I find it faster and easier to use than most anything else.

IE Tab – Since IE is my very last choice browser this allows me to view a page in IE inside Firefox.

del.icio.us – I tag. Lots. ^^ My coworkers and I also utilize the social tagging to save links for one another that we think might be of interest.

I also use AdBlock Plus, Download Statusbar, Foxmarks, Linkification, URL Fixer, and Aardvark. Lets just say I’m a little addicted.

Opera

Opera 9.1 is my second browser of choice. I don’t use it quite as much as Firefox but when the Fox is giving me trouble I always default to Opera. The built in BitTorrent client is certainly nice and the interface is very attractive. The widget engine is also pretty cool, though not quite as user friendly as Firefox extensions. I don’t recommend it quite as much to others simply because it is a little more advanced for people so used to IE. And speaking of…

IE

Internet Explorer 7 is my last browser of choice. I mostly only use it to test webpages in or if a site hasn’t been designed with Firefox or Opera in mind.

Some Other Programs

FileZilla – This is my FTP program of choice. It’s very simple and easy to use and lovely open source.

Joomla – The authoring system we’re using for our intranet.

I’m sure my experience in using things like Firefox and the like are different than other librarians. Even down on the floor in my system the computers that have Firefox installed are more interested in del.icio.us than most anything else. It makes me wonder what other librarians are using. What kind of extensions and software do you use to make your day go smoother?

A Change in Direction

I’ve been quiet the past few days here, but this time I do actually have a reason that doesn’t stem from my own laziness. (I’m just kidding, I promise.) I’ve accepted a new position in the system where I currently work so I will no longer be serving as a reference librarian. Instead my position will be as the web librarian, where my duties will be creating and maintaining the systems website. This is an exciting turn for me as it will allow me to put many of my ideas into action and help construct our site using many of the Web 2.0 tenants. My transfer should go into effect sometime in February.

I had been thinking about library websites as well, as I was brainstorming about many of the things I would like to be able to impliment. So many sites I see are (lets face it librarians) subpar, looking like they were made in Geocities or in *shudder* Frontpage. Even libraries that serve big cities are often overly simple or just not exciting. Now I know that I shouldn’t expect librarians to also know webdesign too and that learning code takes time and study to master. There is always the option to hire someone to create a site for you who only does webdesign but I think in this capacity while you may get a site that looks visually lovely it won’t nessicarily incorporate what a library really needs to properly serve its patrons in a virtual environment. This is because while webdesigners create usable pages they aren’t librarians and so don’t know what libraries need. Librarians know, but are held back in the design aspect. This seems a real pity.

There are sites such as the Lansing Public Library (Illinois). Visually pleasing it is not, however, they’re utilizing a blog like feature for news on their main page, RSS feeds, IM reference, del.icio.us, podcasts!, flickr, and they have several seperate blogs with their own Feedburner stats. I know technology isn’t everything, but despite the fact that it doesn’t look like this or this such things are a draw to the website and I think a pull for patrons to utilize what their library has to offer online. If these two ideas could be married on a library website, just think of what could go from there. (Just a note, off topic, I have a particular soft spot for Korean library websites. I can’t read a lick of Korean,and the English versions of the sites are usually not nearly as good, but they are very visually pleasing, at least to me. Sejong University‘s website is a far cry from my alma mater‘s own, and I think a lot more nice to look at.)

But, I’ve gone far off topic here so I’ll veer back into the right lane. I will admit, I am not a webdesigner. I follow a lot of blogs and hopefully now professional publications on the subject. I know the trends and I know HTML and CSS so I can author. And I know I’ll have the tools too. Therefore, outside of making flickr, del.icio.us, blogs, and the rest a noticiable part of our online services, I hope to make a library webpage that reflects what a library really needs in order to serve their patrons, of all age groups and classes. This is my goal and I will try my hardest to see it through.

I’ve been very bad lately, oh yes. It seems I’ve become one of those with high ideals who starts a blog about something and then abandons it. I haven’t meant to but the holidays and work were crazy and I have been so busy in the last few weeks that I haven’t had time to write anything at work or home. It’s unfortunate really as I’ve had lots of thoughts both from my library and from posts other librarian bloggers have recently done, most especially Jessamyn West and David Lee King. His Inviting Participation in Web 2.0 is looking to be very interesting. (I was one of the ones who posted in response to this article.) But really, I’m hoping to get back on the bandwagon here, with renewed fervor. Perhaps I should make it my resolution for the year.

I’ve had lots of ideas for implementing Web 2.0 and that sort of technology in my library system, though as of now there doesn’t seem to be to much support for what we’re trying to do. We’re in the very, almost painfully, slow process of setting up a public blog for our news, events, etc. At the moment we’re going to be using Blogger, though in the future I would like to possibly migrate to something like WordPress or the like. We’ve created a Flickr page which will hopefully let us take more pictures, are on MySpace for the teen events, and are using del.icio.us for reference. (This just happens to be my little pet project that I would really like to see go into action.) We’re also making use of LibraryThing for our book discussion groups. The circulation department, from what I’ve seen in the Web 2.0 classes we’re giving seem to be very interested and open to the idea of learning and using these new technologies and understand their potential to make their jobs a lot easier if the opportunity was given. (Now if we can only get admin to take the class too.) I’m hoping that this will be the drive to allow us to move forward.

Well, that’s all for now. I am going to try to post more, perhaps even if it is just my strange and sordid thoughts on the matter of technology in libraries. (Or the lack thereof. Yikes!)

For some reason I find this terribly funny.

What is a poor librarian to do?

I also thought I would post a link to Jessamyn West’s (from librarian.net) very neat presentation on Web 2.0. I was a little late in finding this but I liked it so much that I decided to share it with my fellow reference people here.

Doing More With Less – Sensible Library Technology

She also has a wonderful one on tech support, and who hasn’t bemoaned that its not our job to handle it when patron’s ‘break their yahoo’ which happens with a frequency I don’t like to admit.

And so:

On The Fly Tech Support