Friday, August 29, 2008

Who's on twitter? Are you?

Last week Lorcan pointed to an interesting article [Even Gen X is aTwitter] with data about who’s using twitter. In addition to 57% being from California (really?) and 63% being male “…the age demographics of Twitterers show a dramatic shift. When the site became popular in early 2007, the majority of its visitors were 18-to-24-year-olds. Today the site's largest age demographic is 35-to-44-year-olds.”

David Lee King recently posted on his blog about how many patrons are already using twitter and other social media tools. “Yes, people in your community are already connecting and engaging with others via social media tools,” says David, “Are you?”

Over the last several weeks at WebJunction we received a number of support requests about user inability to view some of our videos about the new platform (here's an example with others linked here). In exploring the reasons why, we realized that some of our users in libraries still work in libraries that block access to youtube, and the like. Reasons cited include bandwidth for networks that are already stretched. What should we say about our own Internet use and access to our IT admins? Our security and privacy colleagues? Our funding councils and governments?

Very simply, we must continue to articulate our need for access to both social media and social tools in terms of relevance to our patrons and our community. Without our knowledge of and participation in the social spheres where our patrons engage with each other, where new content is published and knowledge emerges, we can't stay relevant. And without relevance, we won't be around.

Update: let me just add that I don't care about twitter in particular. It's just a tool and one of many examples of things we should be exploring.

Student comparisons, or, Why Penn State students come out ahead

Eric is madly dashing around the office, trying to get ready for a presentation he's giving in Mexico--or he would have posted this himself.

But he knew I was NOT madly dashing around the office. In fact, I'm here on an almost leisurely Friday morning before the three-day weekend. I biked the baby to school today, as we have been doing for the past 2 weeks now. It turns out, it's practically as fast as the car and it may not be saving a ton of gas...but I decided it saves me feeling like a nincompoop for driving the 3 miles twice a day. Plus the fresh air, a bit of exercise, some drama as I turn onto the main road with lots of cars. All good.

But I digress. Penn State took the results from The College Students Perceptions report and compared it with their latest FACAC results, as reported by E-Tech.

Penn State students regularly came out on top, above national averages revealed by the report. Now, there are a number of factors that could be in play here:
  • Penn State students are above average. (Probably quite likely, yes.)
  • Students have gotten much more information literate since the report was published (less likely.)
  • Librarians have become much more aware of the need to bridge the chasm between student perceptions and library offerings since the report was published (Overwhelmingly likely!)

Any of the above--and in combination--I am ecstatic about the possibilities and excited by the potential. With academic life cranking back up next week (if it's not already cranked in your neck of the world), what's your response to these findings, in terms of your own experience?

Also (unrelated) a colleague just forwarded me a link to Wimba Pronto. Looks like a nice way to carry conversations from the classroom to the dorm room and beyond. Even if it's only for virtual office hours--could be a more formalized setting than Facebook and less stilted than Blackboard. (Not that I've actually used Blackboard myself, but so I'm told.)

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Customer Focused Library

There's some great new content to check out on the WebJunction site. The Metropolitan Library System, based in Burr Ridge, IL, and four participating libraries, three public and one academic, engaged a nationally recognized retail space consulting firm to look at what people do while they are in libraries. Research included unobtrusive observation, questionnaires, and videotaping of actual patron behavior.

The result is a short but very useful booklet titled Best Practices for the Customer-Focused Libraries.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Meaningful work

Please see the following announcement for an opening for what appears to be a very interesting position, which was described to me by Janna Greenberg of Benetech.

Thank you so much for offering to help me with my search for a librarian for Benetech. As I mentioned in our conversation, Benetech's mission is to create new technology solutions that serve humanity and empower people to improve their lives.

Benetech has an opening for a Librarian for its division. is the world's largest collection of digital electronic books for the blind and print disabled. has recently been awarded $32 million by the Federal Government to expand their online book collection for print-disabled students nationwide. The role of this Librarian would be to curate and digitize's online library.

The position announcement and further information are available here. Please note that this is NOT an OCLC or WebJunction position, so please don't contact me directly about this. Thanks!

Monday, August 25, 2008

hi-fi sci-fi li-brar-y

One of the best things about my job is that I get to work with creative, energetic, and innovative colleagues that have a lot of fun with their work (even when they're not getting paid for it and even when they have to work massive and odd hours to get it done).

You've heard about the WebJunction musicals, karaoke, and maybe even our very own "family drinking song," but Michael Porter (aka libraryman) has topped it all with the prep for his talk at LITA National Forum later this fall.

He and David Lee King's original music, lyrics, and video for "hi-fi sci-fi library" are posted now on his blog. And for those of you who are lyrically oriented, they're here and well worth the gander.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Thanks to Library Journal and John (Blatant) Berry for the big plug and the great exposure for Futureproofing in the August issue. Joan Frye Williams and I developed this concept for an upcoming program sponsored by the State Library of Arizona, and subsequently requested for the Association for Rural and Small Libraries conference as well as staff development days in San Antonio and Vancouver, Washington. We discussed the idea briefly with John when we were each speaking at the Ohio Library Council's Reference and Adult Services conference in Columbus in early July, and LJ ran with it. The additional input from LJ's Movers and Shakers that appears in the magazine will help inform our presentations.

Now that's synergy!

(Note to LJ copy editors: Next time, you don't need the hyphen. It’s just “Futureproofing.")

Early Childhood Learning Materials Available

Washington Learning Systems in Seattle is offering free access to materials to assist in early childhood education. According to the press release I received:

These materials include 14 activities designed to be used outside the home: in the car, while walking, during bus rides, etc. The activities encourage early language and literacy development from birth through preschool. They are appropriate for children with disabilities as well as children who are developing typically. The development of these materials was supported by Grant H324M020084 from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

The materials are available in English and Spanish.

You can download the materials here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Remembering Gary Houk

This week has been a difficult one for OCLC staff. On Monday, August 18, 2008, our friend and colleague, Gary R. Houk passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

A person widely respected, liked and admired by his colleagues, Gary started at OCLC in 1974 as a programmer/analyst and held many technical leadership roles, rising through the ranks to senior management and serving over his career at OCLC as Vice President, Member Services, later as Vice President, Cataloging and Metadata Services, and most recently as Vice President, Corporate Information Technology and Business Integration.

Despite challenges with chemotherapy treatments and the reduced mobility associated with his medical condition over the last year and half, Gary -- as was his nature -- did not let his illness deter him from being an active and engaged leader at OCLC nor did he permit his illness to deny him the pleasure of taking part in his daughter’s wedding.

For myself, many of my colleagues, Gary’s family, and his numerous friends who attended a memorial service today at a local church, it was comforting to be reminded of Gary’s warmth, charm, good-humor, and his life’s love (his wife, Randi), his life’s joy (his daughter, Shannon), his love of family, his loyalties (Gary was a graduate and life-long supporter of The Ohio State University), his passions (his work at OCLC and his passion for the game of golf), his public-spiritedness (Gary served on many local civic and business organizations in Dublin), and his personal faith.

Described during the memorial service as a “larger-than-life” figure who leaves a larger-than-life hole in the fabric of the lives of those around him, Gary was for the many of us who had the pleasure to work for and with him over these many years, a reliable, ever-present, ever-well-informed, favored colleague and friend, a man with a keen mind, quick wit, the patience to give all ideas and concerns a fair hearing, and the generalship to get things done. As Gary was himself a change agent and embraced risk-taking, he admired such qualities in others and was often a sponsor and internal champion of people and ideas that pushed boundaries. And if you needed to know anything about Ohio State’s football program, Gary was the man to go to.

In his message to OCLC staff on Monday, Jay Jordan called Gary Houk “an exceptional colleague and leader who contributed greatly to OCLC’s success.” I know Gary would have liked this well-deserved tribute to his person and his good work.

That I and my fellow IAGers, and all of our colleagues at OCLC shall miss Gary is an understatement. We mourn the passing of our friend and colleague. And we’ll keep Gary’s family in our thoughts and prayers.

Links related to Gary Houk:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Free like free

I just heard this funny anecdote today about the different meanings of "free."
Free as in:
  • Free Speech.
  • Free Beer.
  • Free Puppies.

Free Speech: You have the right to do something at no cost, as in "it's a free country" or "free speech."
Free Beer: There are things like "free beer," that might be free for you but someone has to pay for it. (This is something like "everything is free at the library!" but someone has to pay for the materials, staff salaries, lighting, heat, chairs, plumbing...)
Free puppies: Open source software might be something akin to free puppies. You may acquire them at no cost, but you may be looking at some bills down the road for food, vet bills, carpet cleaning, etc.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Authenticity: An Olympian Struggle

I've been enjoying the kerfuffle over the lack of authenticity in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing. With the CGI-generated fireworks, lip synching cherubs, and, of course, chemically enhanced athletes, my wife, the long-suffering Joyce, has taken to referring to this as the Milli Vanilli Olympics.

But I think there's a pretty important lesson for libraries in this, too. We need to be careful to protect our authenticity. To quote that eminent maritime philosopher Popeye, "I yam what I yam." When we try to be something we aren't, we destroy the authenticity that people treasure in libraries. This is not to say we should avoid building services that meet current and future needs, whether they be gaming, embedded librarians, cooperatively generated content, or joint use facilities. But we need to do this while being constantly aware of, and actively drawing upon, our core principles.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bronx Lab School Shout Out

Regular readers of these posts may remember my piece about a group of students from the Bronx Lab School in New York City who were going to ride the Ohio leg of the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route. They completed their ride last week, and their journal of the trip is now online. Each of the students took a turn at writing the entries, and if these comments don't move you, check your pulse.

My favorite quote is from Edrina. On the seventh day, the students were in northeastern Ohio and had a lot of hills to conquer. There was considerable discussion about whether they should attempt to ride the bikes over the hills, walk them, or take portage in the vans. Edrina is quoted by Kevin as saying, “The hills are like life, where we will always find obstacles in our way that we have to climb and if we give up before we get to the end, we’ll never get past it.”

The pride of OCLC, Chuck Harmon, laid out the route in Ohio and accompanied the students on their ride. He tells me these kids were as great as they seem to be in their journal.

If you have ever complained about kids today, you owe it to yourself to spend half an hour reading this journal and looking at the photos. It could cheer up anyone!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Re-Kindle, Re: Kindle

Hate to argue with my colleague Roy Tennant (OK, I actually enjoy arguing with Roy), but I don't think Kindle is going down in flames, or as Roy would have it FLAMES.

Eric Schonfeld at TechCrunch, quoted in Engagdet, says Amazon has sold 240,000 of the e-content readers, for nearly $100,000,000 in revenue. So even if, as Roy contends, Kindle "is not it," it sure is something.

Of course, for the record, both Roy and I have a stake in all this, since our mutual employer, OCLC, owns NetLibrary, a leading provider of e-content to libraries.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Amazon Grows Again, eh?

Amazon announced today that it is purchasing AbeBooks, the used and rare book dealer based in Victoria, British Columbia. This will result in more consolidation in the secondary book market, but it will certainly increase Amazon's ability to deliver Canadian content.

Added 10 minutes later: Incidentally, this gives Amazon a stake in Library Thing. Tim Spalding discusses the implications for LT here.

Resurrecting Reference

The archive of the webinar "Resurrecting Reference" which Joan Frye Williams and I presented yesterday is now available on the Infopeople website. There's some interesting additional material available from the Infopeople blog, too.