Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jack Valenti

I've only met a few people famous enough to be noted in the media when they pass, but one of those was Jack Valenti. In fact, I nearly made the biggest faux pas of my career with Mr. Valenti.

When I was directing Public Library Association, we held one of our bi-annual conferences in Portland, Oregon, and Mr. Valenti was our keynote speaker. I had some time, so I decided to ride out to the airport in the limo to pick him up.

We chatted amiably for a few minutes while we loaded up the car, and I couldn't help but notice that he had a thick red thread hanging on the lapel of his otherwise gorgeous dark blue suit. I kept asking myself, "Should I tell him?" After nearly a full ride back to the convention center spent trying not to stare at the offending fluff, I decided not to say anything.

As he delivered his talk that afternoon, he spoke about his life. He pointed to the small red thread on his chest, proudly mentioning that this was the ribbon of the French Legion d'Honneur. He'd received it in 1985 from Jack Lang, then the French Culture Minister, and he almost lost it in 1996 from the then director of the Public Library Association.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Roy Tennant - It's All Good

I am really pleased that Roy will be joining OCLC. I've known for a few days, and have been bursting to tell. Here's his full announcement.

"With OCLC I have an incredible opportunity to be active on a broader stage. OCLC is big enough to put libraries on the Internet map in a way that none of us could achieve alone. Open WorldCat is but one example of many. I will be working as a Senior Program Manager with the RLG Programs unit of OCLC Research and Programs. I will report to Jim Michalko, who in turn reports to Lorcan Dempsey. I have met virtually all of the top management team at OCLC and I've been very impressed. They know where things are heading and they're determined to position libraries in a way that will do us the most good."

Reactions will be mixed, no doubt, ranging from "Oh no, Roy has been assimilated" to relief that OCLC was wise enough to add his skills, passion and commitment to the staff.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

welcome to the twittcapades

Last week at CIL I conducted my first twitter + conference experiment and I have to say, I'm hooked on this tool even more than before. Here's what happened...

First, I recorded some tweets about the sessions or meetings I was attending. At first I did this primarily for the folks following along at home, but quickly realized that my tweets were being picked up by fellow conference attendees in other sessions /and/ by fellow conference attendees in the same session. Same session tweets quickly turned into a mobile IRCtype chat session - we used our tweets to provide commentary on the speaker while in session. Folks in another session could get the gist of my sessions without being there. A full conference experience without the cloning! Rockin'. And the folks following along at home? One of my colleagues mentioned to me in passing "It's amazing how much you can learn about a conference with such short notes from someone else who's there." Indeed. (She's not on twitter but had been following my profile on the web.) Another colleague (this one is on twitter and is my friend and is following me) directed me to a session he hoped I'd attend. Without my tweets, would he even have checked out the program? Not likely.

Second, I used twitter to find people in their physical locations. While at dinner with my fellow IAGer Alane, I broadcast the simple message "where are you?" (since I only follow 8 people I knew I could handle the answers). Several people responded and wouldn't you know it? A bunch of our blogosphere pals were merely across the street enjoying some beverages. Alane and I headed over in haste. Moments later, my WebJunction colleagues joined the fun. Talk about socially networking.

Finally, I used twitter to take notes for myself. You'd be amazed how much you can get into 140 characters. A quick look over my tweets from this last week and I have a reliable conference record, including reminders of things to post and people to follow up with. If my notes are interesting to my friends following, all the better.

I am as surprised by this as some of you. Me? On twitter? I checked this out as an experiment. I am the last person I ever thought would move into mobile online community. I like to read about such things, sure, but do it? And here I am.

What makes twitter work? Once I successfully solved a problem or made a meaningful connection, it was hard to turn back. I've learned this over and over again with my work at the WJ: it's not about the tools we use, it's about the connections we make with them - both to people and to information.

What would make twitter better? Groups that you could separate into channels, still delivered by mobile. There are some creative ways to pipe tweets into separate strings, but it's a bit tedious and doesn't work with SMS (as far as I know). Also, I'd like the ability to block individual people from following me without blocking anyone who isn't your friend. Sorry to my library followers who I inadvertently dissed when I freaked out last week due to JehovahOne's having added me. It was a little silly, I know, but I freaked just the same. Please, follow me again if you like. I promise not to diss you again!

Let the tweets play on...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Underground Railroad Bicycle Route Launched

Just under a year ago I did a blog post about the new Underground Railroad Bicycle Route and the message board that we were sponsoring on WebJunction about this.

The route was officially launched last weekend in Mobile, Alabama, and the first ride left that city to make the journey north to Owen Sound, Ontario. The riders reached Linden, Alabama, the other night, to a wonderful reception they certainly weren't expecting. The article is here:

Follow-up: This morning Chuck Harmon of OCLC (and the person who plotted out the Ohio portion of the URR Bicycle Route) forwarded another newspaper article about the ride. This one mentions the library at which two of the riders stopped. Having grown up in Buffalo, I especially appreciated the reporter's mention of "Lake Eerie!"

Steven Colbert Celebrates NLW

If you have any sense of humor left about libraries (and if you don't, why are you reading this?), check out The Colbert Report's take on our great celebration. There you will find Mr. Colbert's inimitable attitude toward National Libary Week (sic). See how (so far) Frank McCourt and The New Yorker's David Remnick tell us why they sort of support libraries. Move fast---I'm not sure how long this will be up!

Monday, April 16, 2007

CIL - Lee Rainie's keynote

I am in rainy (is it raining all over the continent?) Crystal City--well, actually, I am in the conference hotel and it's not likely I'll go outside until it's time to go the airport.

CIL feels big this year...over 2,000 attendees, and according to a show of hands, many first-timers. The CIL blog is here. Other bloggers attending are listed here.

Lee Rainie, the affable Director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, was the keynote speaker this morning. His talk was titled Web 2.0 and What it Means for Libraries. I'll add a link to his slides later but here's the major points, without any editorializing.

Lee confessed that librarians were left out when a list was created naming the major stakeholders of the Pew I&AL data back in 2000, but he says now he "adores librarians." He said he "youtubes" now just as he "googles" and showed this video, "askaninja." This is on podcasting and Jason the whale and apple pie...there are others

Several slides on the background of web 2.0 - September 2005 Tim O'Reilly and John Batelle - basic idea - web as platform.
- Meme map from O'Reilly

Lee's six hallmarks of web 2.0 that matter to libraries

1 -the internet has become the computer. - the # of computer users is almost the same as the of internet users in the US -as it gets easier to be online people spend more timeonline -broadband means more video is used and made -younger people love amateur videos -People are more social

2. -tens of millions of Americans espcially young adults are creating content - more than half of online teens have created profiles - SNS profiles - "switchboards for life" - Visual images are as much a currency of communication for the young as text - 40% of US young women have blogs - Librarians should think about offering support, training and mentoring for bloggers - One fifth of US young adults and 9% of adults have created avatars

3. -even more internet users are accessing content created by others
- 44% of young adults seek info at wikipedia
- people will ping their networks for help verifying info

4 - more sharing what we know and feel online and that becomes part of a big conversations
-33% of young people have rated a person product or service
- 33% of young people have tagged something

5 -Tens of thousandsof people are contributing their expertise and their computers to group activities

6- customization of stuff online such as news pages
- RSS is embedded and ubiquitous

Lee mentions Pam Berger's blog post on 5 Web 2.0 issues for librarians (can't find the post right now...)

1 navigation - From linear to nonlinear
2 context. Stuff is disaggregated people are too
3 Focus - continuous partial attention
4. Skepticism - need more
5. Ethical behaviour - understanding the rules of cyberspace

Lee ended by showing Michael Wesch's brilliant (ok, that's editorializing) video "Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Grab bag Thursday

Lots going on, it seems. I have smattering on unrelated items you may find of interest:

Farecast. An online tool to help you know whether to buy those tickets to Aruba now, or wait until next week. Very easy to use with nice information design.

Social Issues portal. News of this site came out a couple of days ago...put out by Gale. Nice for a snapshot of "current hot topics" of the sort that PAIS is so good at. Makes sense to include Crime, Animal rights, Genetic engineering, Islamic fundamentalism...but working women? That one was new to me, as far as a controversial topic. But my Americanism may be showing...

New York City Council has proposed the library stay open for 6 days a week. News clip from LJ. And Hennepin County recommends a merger with Minneapolis library system. We're headed to Minneapolis next week, to visit my brother and their family... (thanks to our awesome reference librarian on staff for the link.)

And we are all hats in hand for Mr. Vonnegut today. 624 works in WorldCat.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Weekend Silliness

OK, Karen S, for some reason (could it be she visits regularly?), caught my inference in the previous post to a blog with no reason for being except to post unbearably cute pics of animals.

Cute Overload! probably beats all library blogs for traffic and links, probably even The Shifted Librarian at 3.5 million page views a month. What does this say about us a a highly evolved species? What does it say about me that I am--and probably Karen too--among those millions of visitors? How can IAG even hope for traffic like this?

Well, posting a cute animal picture can't hurt.

Casper, 5 months old

Friday, April 06, 2007

5 Blogs - Alane

Lorcan's post on the 5 non-library blogs he reads reminded me that Chrystie tagged us, her IAG colleagues as well.

I read many non-library blogs and a lot of them are work-a-day tracking interesting things sorts of blogs, but here are 5 that stand out for various reasons.

Journal. David Byrne is the author. If you're around my age, or are younger and maybe discovered Talking Heads or Byrne as an influence on younger performers such as Arcade Fire, you'll know he's a very clever multitalented person (who else could turn Powerpoint into art?). And he's a good writer. Journal is just one of many channels at his site. He even has his own web radio station.

By Neddie Jingo. ( naughty pictures but topics and language are not always entirely SFW). A psuedonymous blogger who I find very, very funny (so does George) and who can rant better than most. Here's a fairly safe one from two years ago (just a few non-work words and no political views, which Neddie has aplenty) on "why are books the size they are?"

Arts & Letters. This is kind of cheating as A&L isn't really a blog. But it is blog-like and often the last webby thing I look at before going to bed and reading static words on repurposed trees.

the cassandra pages. This blog I read almost as I would a book...not daily, but in chunks, reading many posts at once, perhaps because cumulatively they are like chapters in a book and often beautifully written. One aspect of Elizabeth Adam's blog I like is that she is an American living in Montreal (as well as Vermont) and writes vividly and evocatively about being there. Many lovely photographs as well. Adams also writes a lot about religion--specifically Anglican/Episcopalian matters. I am not a church-goer but my father, among other careers, is an ordained Anglican minister so the topics and debates are ones I am mostly familiar with.

I really waffled over the 5th blog....the photo blog that would completely, irrevocably uncloak my politics? The nothing-but-cute-animals photoblog that would reveal my insipidness? The snarky celeb-tracking blog that would reveal my shallowness? So, I chose one that may be just as telling but about what, I am not sure.

I give you gapingvoid, Hugh MacLeod's cartoon blog from which I have borrowed cartoons for presentations when they do not have "Not SFW" words in them. It stands, in a way, as a metablog as on his blogroll are many other blogs I read regularly.

Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod,

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Libraries in the Mainstream Media

Eric has been good enough to send me two media video clips in as many days, and I'd like to share them with you.

The first is a touching, heartwarming story that just about brought me to tears. It's a woman from Jackson County, Oregon who describes what an emotional, transformative experience the library and library staff have been for her, in her life.

Her article led me to the Jackson County blog--which I had read before but it's worth reading again now, as closure time nears.

Concerned citizens have started the Save Our Library Political Action Committee. This is way cool but too bad it had to come to this...

A TV clip from the CBS Early Show that looks at positive (Princeton, NJ) and negative (Jackson Co.) library funding areas. Nice plug from Leslie Burger in there. Their overall report saying library funding is up...which I am not sure jives with the recent LJ article. But mainstream media...that there was coverage at all is something.

And speaking of, Katie Couric did a page in her online notebook about libraries recently. Her message reinforced that libraries=books, but she did have good mentions of the additional materials you'll find there like DVDs, internet access and more.

Funny how no one mentions the marvelous electronic databases you can gain access to? Or more importantly, the wonderful, kind and caring librarians who can help kids discover magical new lands and help adults continue to grow and expand their world-views? It seems like mainstream media is focused on the stuff--but Meghan O'Flaherty's connection is clearly with the people first and the stuff second....

It makes me think that the people in the library--librarians, paraprofessionals, volunteer help--are even more important than your collection, in terms of helping people connect with (and support) your library.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

WorldCat gadget now available on Google Gadgets

Exciting news! In addition to a cool downloadable search box (in customizable colors) that you can add to your blog or Web page (see ours at left, if you click through from your RSS reader), and browser toolbars, NOW you can also add a WorldCat gadget to your personalized Google page.

Happily, I have done it here:

Of course, if you're a Resource Shelf reader, you're thinking smugly to yourself, Ah Ha! Done! Downloaded! Awesome.
What other neat gadgets should I ask the WorldCat team to think about building for us?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Longing Look at Bibliographic Databases

I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions,
And I'm giving you a longing look.

Every Day I Write the Book” – Elvis Costello (Web site ; WCid ; Wikipedia)

At what point do landscape changes shift core bibliographic tools – shift as in the tools change and adapt, or shift as in relegate the tools to the dust heap? I direct your attention to a thoughtful and definitely worth-a-read post on this very question:

o Is There a Future for Bibliographic Databases? by John Dupuis (blog: Confessions of a Science Librarian) as a guest blogger on Michael Cairn’s blog, PersonaNonData.

John takes a personal-experience-based appraisal of a number of key professional tools including WorldCat and Books in Print, and offers insights broadly about publishing and the value of metadata going forward.

I commend the full piece to you, but here are some teasers:

o “ the face of competition from Google Scholar and its ilk, the traditional Abstracting & Indexing databases [are] increasingly hard-pressed to make a case for their usefulness to academic institutions.”

o “Search and discovery are incredibly important to these users, almost more important than the content. They also really don't care about the source of their content, what they really care about is having as few barriers between the content and themselves.”

o “Never underestimate the value of good metadata; never underestimate the value of the people that produce that metadata.”

o “...I will hardly be buying any more print books for my library in 10 years. Libraries are changing, bookstores are changing. Our patrons and customers are the ones driving this change. As my patrons want more digital content, as they use print collections less, as they rely on free search and discovery tools rather than expensive specialized tools, I must change too. As my patrons' needs and habits change, the nature of the collections I will acquire for them will follow those changes -- or I will find myself in big trouble.”

o Fee vs. free: “... BiP, WC and their ilk have to be better than the free alternatives. And not just a little better. And not just better in an abstruse, theoretical way...”

Good search, free tools, high quality metadata, a better value proposition. The times are still a-changing...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Surely in Doubt

I feel rich,
I feel poor,
I'm in doubt,
I feel sure
I Must Be In Love” – The Rutles (Web site ; WCid ; Wikipedia) (Song composed by Neil Innes)

Dateline: 1 April 2007

Well, it looks like we’ve been scooped!

Rumors of OCLC’s pending sale to a certain search appliance company have made a full round on the Web, and we at OCLC didn’t even get a memo! (N.B. Google did have an announcement today, but it wasn’t really OCLC-related...) Hrrmph!

I direct you to the following posts:
Google Buys OCLC, Announces New Products
Google Acquires OCLC, World Domination Near Total
Google Buying OCLC: An Early Analysis

This news represents a significant speed-up of the calendar for such a merger as rumored earlier by Ed Valauskas (as reported here) which gave us till at least 2014.

Frankly, we were hoping for the additional time to allow us to try and clean up those pesky ending-marks-of-punctuation* shortfalls in WorldCat (there is company lore that OCLC Research has a full-stop recycling bin in its office area – they take some full-stops out of the records, put the full-stops back in the records ; there have even been persistent rumors that our Dewey Services colleagues once thought about approaching ALA Editions to sell the surplus as micro-Dots (for those who remember poor Dot, a cheerful Dewey icon now relegated to a screensaver, sniff. ;( but ALA chose to offer other options instead (search "Dewey").)

“News” indeed! (Chuckle!)

Well in the spirit of things then, watch this space for the announcement of the availability of the Google WorldCat deluxe card catalog – 100M+ card sets and counting... ;)

(*For you non-catalogers, library cataloging rules provide simple-yet-difficult-to-follow rules regarding the correct marks of punctuation to separate different parts of a catalog entry. And yes, Alice, I can sense your eyes starting to glaze over now... ;)

[Image courtesty of Ben Ostrowsky]