Saturday, June 23, 2007

Creating a Wiki

How easy was that? PBWiki is a great site- I really like their instructional videos and setting up a wiki is dead simple. Here's mine: Wikilib. I plan to explore the use of wikis as educational tools, so I will be playing with the plugins and the templates, watching the tutorials and messing about to see how stuff works. I already added the "YackPack" which allows those logged into the wiki to talk to each other- for classroom collaboration, that would be great.

Wikis- what works and what doesn't

As an exercise for the class, we were instructed to look at six examples of wikis that are being used in libraries. They are being used for subject guides, electronic resource guides, staff information, reference guides and OCLC's user comments system (to be released apparently in September, according to their website).

After looking at the examples, I would conclude that wikis are useful as a way to collect, organize, present and update particular information. The UConn staff wiki was particularly well organized, and obviously useful (for the staff, that is). I also liked the St. Joseph County Pulic Library's Subject Guide wiki which was very well organized, frequently updated and easy to navigate.

One of the features of a wiki is the possibility for user interaction- something that seemed to be missing from all of these examples. I think the chief value is if multiple people in an organization need to contribute material, a wiki is a convenient way to collaborate.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Teen rules for blogs and boards

One of the sites we were to evaluate was the Gameblog of the St. Joseph County Public Library. This is a very lively blog, with an active discussion board, apparently moderated by two staff members who seem very much in tune with their patrons.

I was struck by the sensible list of rules that one of the moderators set forth in an initial post to the discussion board. Despite evidence that the rules are enforced, resulting in many participants being "banned" either for a period of time, or, for more serious infractions, permanently, the gamers seem to accept it philosophically.

The rules are:

#1 Be nice and we won't kick you out.

#2 I have a feeling that none of you are new to boards, but if you have any questions, feel free to IM or email me.

#3 Avatars can't be larger than 80x80 and 6k.

#4 Signatures are allowed, but please keep the graphics down to 150px high or 500px wide. Also, don't go nuts. Keep it to 2 images max. You can always change it later.

#5 Do not directly link to an image that isn't yours. It's called bandwidth theft and it's not nice. Try using ImageShack, PhotoBucket, or AllYouCanUpload.

#6 Right now there is no #6, so check back here often so we don't have to say, "I told ya so!"

Building a successful e-Branch- Infopeople's online class

I am taking this online class with Sarah Houghton-Jan as the instructor.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Library Reviews: PLCMC

Charlotte & Mecklenberg Public Library: (besides having a way too long name!) most of the links from the home page were non-functional on my visit this morning, which, in my opinion, is a fatal error. I have just checked back, and they appear to be working now, so maybe I just happened upon a rare glitch- hopefully, because non-working links are a fatal error in my opinion.

Library Reviews: Denver Public Library

Some observations from viewing the websites for the suggested libraries:

Denver Public Library:
I really liked their Kids page, Wonder Web, although when I first tried the kid search, it returned an error. After another few tries, it worked. They seem to be using a product from TLC, Carl. I's quite kid-friendly in appearance. They had great graphics on the kids page, bright colors, good categorization. The podcasts are a good idea (Beatrix Potter stories, songs, interviews), some great weblinks to games and other sites, and a nice "write your own book review" feature that can tie to the catalog.

I also like the "Downloadable Media Site", although that is a clunky name. There seems to be some confusion as to what to call this stuff- Berkeley Public Library refers to it as "online resources" (which category also includes online databases, and eBooks are not easy to find as a category), PLCMC calls it "Digital Media Downloads", and has a prominent link to the page from the home page which is good. This nomenclature is not very user-friendly and might be confusing and off-putting to patrons.

DPL's "e-center" does have a nice menu, though, and clearly separates eFlicks, eBooks, eAudiobooks, and further classifies some as most recent, always available, children and teens. They also provide clear help instructions (although I think a patron has to be somewhat tech-savvy to attempt the downloads).

Although I mostly like the home page, I am not sure I agree that one third of it should be devoted to Live News Feeds, particularly since they are national news feeds rather than local. Their menu opens from the side, which can be somewhat annoying as it blocks the middle column if your mouse strays over there, but it's a good menu- logical and thorough.

Another cool feature is the downloadable toolbar- I would be interested to know how many patrons actually download this. Also liked the bottom row with four interactive options: bookmark, newsletter, comments and donate.

On the whole, a clean, useful "well-lighted" website.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

On demand books

I was reading an article from the New York Times on BookExpo America that mentioned, which has created the Espresso Book Machine.

From their website:
"On Demand Books LLC. is planning to become the first company to globally deploy a low cost, totally automatic book machine (The Espresso Book Machine), which can produce 15 - 20 library quality paperback books per hour, in any language, in quantities of one, without any human intervention. This technology and process will produce one each of ten different books at the same speed and cost as it can produce ten copies of the same book. ODB has two machines currently deployed (one at the World Bank InfoShop in Washington DC, and one at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt).

ODB is also finalizing technology to access a vast network of content that can be accessed and produced via The Espresso Book Machine Network. The content of this library will reside in numerous locations from a multitude of sources. Our system will accept multiple formats, and fully respect licenses and rights."

As the company's co-founder said, "This could replace the entire supply chain that has been in existence since Gutenberg."

Their website is very rudimentary- a single page with the above claim, some contact info and some video clips that took forever to download. The machine kind of looks like Wallace and Grommet invented it.

I also wonder if reproducing books is really the wave of the future. It seems contrary to the research and development efforts in the electronic access to printed material that has been the focus of the future.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Google Reader

Not that I need another feed aggregator...I already have Bloglines (too hard to get to), my Yahoo homepage (comes with the SBC DSL line service, and is quite visible and accessible, being on my homepage, but also limited because you just don't want to see all that stuff when you first log in), but somehow, while I was trying to add an rss feed to my blog, I came upon the Google Reader aggregator-very nice, easy to use- great feature of bundling selected blogs into categories (like the "geek" bundle, the "news" bundle, etc. offering the "top"?? 5 or 6 sites in the category (how do you get on the list?)

It seems a bit buggy (the perpetual beta effect maybe) in that the settings page never fully loaded (giving me an error on page message), but true to Google's spirit, it is really simple to use.

The Democratization of Culture

I must say that I am enjoying my embedded videos. I just checked in to see what YouTube had put up there, and clicked on a rather nice poetry reading. This may be the real use of these things- a constant trolling for new, relevant and interesting content, not necessarily from traditional sources. We have all become accustomed to getting our stuff through "authorized channels"- department stores, newspapers, published sources and (dare I say?) libraries. In this model, the validation process is built into the production and distribution process, the theory being akin to peer-review for scholarly works or market forces in the case of books and movies. The reasoning is that these businesses are in it for the money, and the money is in what people want: ergo the publishers and producers are giving us what we want. BUT are they? I think the whole Web 2.0 thing proves that we are not getting what we want from the traditional sources.

After viewing some quite professional music on the Baeble site, seeing some quite amazing videos and photographs on YouTube and Flickr, it occurs to me that what we are really witnessing here is a total democratization of culture.

If it's still up there, check out- ....darn, it's gone. Now I'll have to search YouTube to find it again, but I will.

Wait- it's back! It's called "When Mystery Winks and Smiles". If it floats by, please click on it and it will play. This is not actually immediately obvious on the widget, and may not work in all browsers, but it sure is fun.

Enhancing the blog

I was trying to add an RSS feed to my blog, which I was not able to do, but stumbled instead upon this new feature which lets you add videos from YouTube and Google video to your blog. I chose "Flowers" for the title, and roses, daffodils and irises for the subjects. Very odd collection of videos resulted- including a Guns n Roses video and some other things. It seems to change, so I'll keep an eye on it- maybe change my search terms to be more specific.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


In my explorations I came upon a site that posts new music videos- it's kind of like YouTube: