Tuesday, October 30, 2007

IL2007 & work with WebJunction - it's fun!

I'm at IL2007 and am having a great time. WebJunction people (pictured on our homepage here) are blogging our conference experiences here and I think we're all having a great time. Be sure to check it out if you'd like to hear more about what's happening at this year's festivities - you can also follow me at twitter if you want the play-by-play.

Meanwhile, applications are rolling in for three open Community positions on the WebJunction team. If you're interested in social networking tools and online community programming, or helping library service agencies build their own communities, please check out these current opportunities on the OCLC careers site (search for Seattle if you want to check out the jobs I'm referring to, or for WebJunction if you just want the general scoop), and LMK if you have questions!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Something else for us to hate

When I saw that ABC (that's the Australian Broadcasting Company) is broadcasting a new series called "The Librarians," I just had to go check out the web site of the show. All I can say is, I hope it gets imported to the US. It looks like it has nasty humor, stereotypes we can all sink our teeth into, and a knockout premise: the straight-laced library director is forced to hire her free-living ex-best friend as Children's Librarian to save her from jail (excuse me, gaol). Here's a quote from the director, just to get our knickers in a knot: "God loves all his children, but especially those who return their books on time."

I always thought that there was a great library-based sitcom just waiting to be produced. When I worked at a branch library in Buffalo in high school and college, I decided that our staff was basically the cast of M*A*S*H. We had the lovable colonel, our branch manager who let us get away with anything in pursuit of higher circulation and more people in the building and who turned a blind eye to a lot of the petty bureaucracy Central handed down. We had Frank and Hot-Lips, the new junior branch assistant, fresh out of library school, who was striving to be perfect and who ended up dating and later marrying one of the student assistants in the branch. (Don't go "yuck!" She was a senior in college when they started dating.) What made them Frank and Hot-Lips was that they didn't want anyone to know they were dating. One day, one of our regulars, a 10-year old terror named Shawn, announced to everyone in the library that she had seen the pair at a basketball game, and they were KISSING! We had the martinet from headquarters, a wily clerk who could make things magically appear as needed, and of course, the guard and I saw ourselves as Hawkeye and Trapper John (pre-BJ days).

Episodes of The Librarians are scheduled to be posted to the ABC website after they're broadcast. I can see myself eating up some bandwidth for this!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

sharing, privacy, trust, and vacation in our networked world

I started a week's vacation on Monday. I'm taking some time for a 'writing retreat' so that I can make my next deadline (Nov 1 - ahhh!) for the infamous book I'm writing about libraries and community building.

Serendipitous it was then that the new OCLC report on sharing, privacy, trust, and social networking was published online here (pdf) on Monday. It's perfect timing because it has such relevance to that 'other' work.

But because it also has such absolute relevance to my work at OCLC and with WebJunction, I couldn't help but pop in here and say 'hey! you should read this!' and invite everyone over to my other blog for early thoughts and highlights. As I say over there, there's more to come, I'm sure, as we dig into all those juicy details.

Back to my vacation -- very much looking forward to seeing some of you at Internet Librarian next week, BTW. If you're gonna be there and want to connect, my profile and schedule is up on the IL wiki.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

If you deal with anyone under the age of 22, you need to see this video, "A Vision of Students Today." It summarize much of what we have all experienced in a very real way, in less than five minutes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ohio Library Council Conference

I invested a good day at the Ohio Library Council Convention and Expo here in Columbus yesterday.

I spent about an hour in the exhibits area. Since Ohio public libraries continue to enjoy above average funding, many vendors and architects come to this conference.

The program I mentioned earlier on It's All Good about the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route came off very well. My colleague Chuck Harmon (who planned the Ohio portion of the route) had put together three moving photo montages with musical accompaniment to showcase the route's first official rides. Mario Browne drove over from Pittsburgh to talk about his involvement with the project and his work with the Center for Minority Health at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health. We had about 40 people in attendance, and a useful and inspiring time was had by all.

LibraryThing's founder, Tim Spalding, did a very good (and very well-attended) presentation called, "Is Your OPAC Fun?" Short answer: probably not, but he had some excellent ideas about what to do to change that. LibraryThing continues to grow and add new features; they have over 285,000 registered users already.

Finally, I went to a presentation called "Crisis Communication: Sound Like a Star on the 6:00 News," by Bob Zajac of Highland Public Relations. He gave some excellent tips on how to prepare for the public relations fall out of a crisis (anything from a fire to a funding disaster to a challenge to your internet policies to an invasion by the June Taylor Dancers). Bob has many years of experience in TV news and public relations, and his ideas were down to earth and told with a nice leavening of humor.

Kudos to OLC on another excellent conference!

Monday, October 01, 2007

How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm?

I spent this past weekend in New York City with my wife, the long-suffering Joyce, and my grandson, Jake. Jake is a pretty smart kid, but his frame of reference continues to astound me.

We went to see the musical Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theater on Friday night. Joyce and I had seen it in London a couple of years ago, and thought Jake would be thrilled by the outstanding singing and dancing, and especially by the technical wizardry of the production. We were dead wrong. He was only occasionally interested in the show, and he seemed to be humoring Joyce and me most of the evening. (He was really looking forward to the visit to the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday.)

When I was the same age Jake is now, my birthday present from my parents was tickets to Melody Fair, an entertainment park and summer stock theater near Buffalo, to see The Music Man, starring Kolchak the Night Stalker himself, Darren McGavin, as Harold Hill. I'll never forget how exciting it was to see live actors doing amazing things, and when the North Tonawanda High School Band came down the aisle next to me, playing "Seventy Six Trombones," I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Surely Gabriel's horn could not have sounded as sweet as those trembling saxophones!

Of course, when I saw The Music Man, my family had only owned a TV for about three years. It had a 12 inch screen (the only screen in my life at that time), a set of rabbit ears (children, ask your parents...), and three channels which broadcast for about sixteen hours a day in black and white. I rarely went to the movies, except for the occasional drive-in that went on way past my bedtime.

This is NOT a harangue about how much better it was in the old days. Instead, I'm always stunned at how much more of the world Jake has seen, compared to me at that age. His horizons are so much broader.

There was a song that came out either during or immediately after World War I, titled "How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?" The song worried about whether the boys coming back from the front would still be interested in working a plow after they'd seen the lights of Paris. The song sounds like a novelty today, but the farm population of the United States dropped from roughly 35% of the population in 1910 to 1.84% of the population in 2002.

How can a child find wonder in a chimney sweep dancing clear around a proscenium arch, or Mary Poppins flying out over the audience to close the show, when he has seen the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies? So I wonder how we're going to keep people like Jake interested in my two biggest loves (other than the long-suffering Joyce, of course): libraries and theater.

Basically, if it doesn't have a screen, it doesn't hold Jake's interest. I have seen him concentrate for long stretches of time, playing Pokemon or building a room in Webkinz (parents, ask your children...), so I don't think it's ADD, and he loves soccer and baseball with a passion, so I don't think he's simply a couch potato with a proclivity for obesity (like his grandfather).

I don't really have any answers. In fact, after three days of chasing a 7-year old around Manhattan, I'm lucky I've made it this far through Monday. But I think we'd better come up with some answers if either of these traditions is going to survive another generation in any form we would recognize.