Saturday, May 24, 2008

#16 Wikis

When it comes to the quick answer and one requiring little authority, Wiki can be useful. For example, if a patron wants to know who won the best actor award in 1999, Wikipedia is as useful as having to go through the American Academy Awards site (it was Kevin Spacey for anyone interested).

However, I would not be as inclined to go to Wikipedia for nutritional information, scientific questions, or actual research. To me, these types of questions need the accountability of putting a name to the reference. However, when it comes to research, the first step should usually be basic familiarization with the subject and for that, any encyclopedia or wiki should suffice.

#15 Library 2.0

One of the most important issues that these posts talk about is bringing it back to the people and changing the way we view ourselves in the profession.

Information control is out. Librarians can no longer look at themselves as the holders of information, the information is already out there. As we try to hold on to strict bibiliographic measures, our patrons look elsewhere. Web 2.0 is all about putting the power into the users' hands and deeming their choices as the most valid (think in terms of 'the customers preference is always right).

Librarians, from the 2.0 perspectives, are the providers of this information. Our job is to know about the various ways and places our patrons are finding and using their information. Our job is to find creative ways in using these currently popular trends of information gathering and find ways to best supply our patrons with it.

I think the message is also clear that we need to look at the various successful sites out there and see how we can make them work for ourselves as well. I cannot think of how many times I have heard patrons say "I go to Amazon first and then see if the library has it." Sure, the end result is that they are still coming back to us for the book, but the question we should be asking ourselves is why they feel the need to go to a different catalog before ours?

#14 Technorati

Personally, I've never been a big fan of Technorati. I've found that if I am looking for general information and do not generally care where the resources came from that the results were satisfactory. However, if you are looking for specific information, say from a specific blog, Technorati is not the most efficient site out there.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that it does not do combined word searches. Therefore, a site like Library Garden, doesn't even pull up on the front page of the front page search; and changing refining the search to blogs will not pull it up at all. Now, I do realize there is a bit of ego in that criticism but, if we consider that Library Journal, American Libraries Direct, Palinet and Open Stax have all recently referred to the site, it seems there may need to be a bit of tweaking to the search engine efficiency.

#13 Tagging and Folksonomies

How I wish, wish, wish we would use tags in our catalog.

And, yes, I realize it may be deemed ironic for me saying that as I have not used a single tag in any of my posts yet.

While it is important for libraries to keep their information straight and hold on to tighter standards than out patrons may keep things, that doesn't mean we still shouldn't set up a tool for our users to try and find information.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

#12 NetLibrary

Of course, I had to search for ebooks about the paranormal on NetLibrary.

Overall, I think the site is relatively easy to use. Again, the search engine tends to be pretty good sifting through its information and finding books based on relevance. For the average user, if they can't find the book they want, they will at least find a book that is similar.

As far as interface, it is fairly straightforward, but with one 'problem.' Personally, I tend to believe that, if we really want ebooks to take off we need to fix the scrolling dilemma. It's a weird complaint, I know, but part of the idea of an ebook is also trying to get the 'feel' of an actual book. When the reader has to scroll for text it does change the interaction. I know it seems a small thing to pick but, for me, it is one of the things that keeps me from buying an e-reader.

#11 Library Thing

Ah yes, nothing like an online catalog for my many loved books.

I'm sure no one is suprised that I put in mostly graphic novels first. I think the thing that is most useful for these 'catalogs' is that I tend to get really good recommendations from my friends' profiles.

And if there is something we, as libraries, could learn from Library Thing is how our patrons are actually searching for information. Perhaps, someday, we will purchase the algorithm that makes this rather effective search engine possible and put it into our own catalog.

#10 Technology Blogging

Here is a post that I wrote for the blog I write with on the new approach for finding qualified IT applicants.

In the past couple weeks, I've listened to a few librarians talk about the woes of their supposed IT specialists.

The problem? They are really good with buzzwords and not so great with applications. Some have complained that their IT specialist were generally unfamiliar with basic computer competencies. And while it is generally deemed okay for a 'normal' librarian to be unfamiliar with computer applications and some 2.0 technologies, this should be essential for a person who specialized in IT for their library. If not, we are then left with libraries that stagnate in their IT competencies and fall behind the tech-trend.

So, let's lose the buzzword interviews. Let's plan an application process that would really test the abilities of your IT specialist.

When the job is posted for a general IT position, require that the application and cover letter be sent via email in an attachment. If they can't do this, which is largely considered a basic competency, then they are not qualified for the job. Require a cell phone number (more on this later).

If they are applying for a webmaster position, require them to post their resume online. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a site with resume and a link to download the resume as well... to show they have basic web-design skills.

If the person's resume and cover letter meet your standards, TEXT their cell phone to set up an interview. Unorthodox? Perhaps, but part of the IT personality is embracing modern technology. Texting is one of the most popular means of communication with our younger population and, if we want to stay current with our patrons, then we need make sure our IT people are familiar with it as well.

Next, set up a time to talk meet your potential employee ONLINE. Nothing complicated, have them meet you on G-chat, Meebo, AIM or whatever. Once they get there, just hold a brief conversation about what the upcoming interview will entail, quick clarification questions, or see if they have any questions. Better yet, perhaps ask them, for the interview; to prepare a brief demonstration on their favorite 2.0 technology that they think would be useful or popular with the community. The importance is not the conversation itself but more that, once again, they are familiar with using this technology. Again, IM is a popular method of communication and your IT specialist should be comfortable with it.

By this time the interview comes, you will have a basic understanding of the applicant's technological ability. If they needed instruction or familiarization with any of these things, that should be a warning flag. When they give their demonstration, you will also be able to see how well they can communicate the use of these technologies to other people and just how ambitious their Library 2.0 goals are.

Yes, I do realize there is a possible flaw in this method; it requires that someone on the interview team be familiar with technology as well. It's a conundrum, that's for sure. But, let's look beyond that.

Oh, and if you want to have a little fun with them at the interview, put them in front of a computer with the machine on but the monitor off (or unplugged) and ask them to figure out the problem. Tell them you've tried hitting the machine but 'nothing happened." If they look at you, remark, "I just don't think this machine likes me very much." Then watch for a reaction.