Thursday, May 29, 2008

The end is just the beginning

Whew! I made it through all the different 2.0 tasks...just in the nick of time! So many things got in the way of completing each item's required tasks, I feared I would not finish before my 4 months were up.

It's been quite an adventure going through each step. I learned so much, and there are so many things (the rest of the video sites, for example) I plan to go back and explore further. My favorite pieces were the steps where I signed up for a Facebook account (and later when I learned how to add Scrabulous to it--both are addictive!), signed up for a Pandora Radio profile, watched funny videos, and learned how to create this blog. I did enjoy many of the other sites & features we tried out as well--Flower Sudoku was fun, Flickr can be an enjoyable way to waste time online, RSS feeds are good for helping me remember what the heck it was I wanted to keep reading (like friends' blogs and so on) and letting me know when Nancy Pearl has a new podcast (radio broadcast). Meebo with the Firefox add-on helps me keep track of when friends & family are online without me having to toggle back & forth between tabs--this is a handy timesaver for me. I already had a Goodreads account, but I enjoyed creating a LibraryThing account and comparing the two. And it was good to create a Google doc from scratch instead of only knowing how to follow a set link to get to one particular file I could edit--a wide world opened up for me with that one.

I won't bother to talk about the steps I didn't like as much or find as useful. I've ranted about those enough already. If you really want to know how I feel about them, you can always re-read prior blog posts. I won't bore either of us with a repetition of my complaints & frustrations.

When I began this program four months ago, I had no idea I would find some of these 2.0 technologies so incredibly addictive or fun. I wanted to learn more about them so I wouldn't sound so clueless when interacting with patrons (especially teenagers), but I didn't think I personally would find some of them as fabulous as I did. What a wonderful surprise! And to think I got paid to learn these great new

I was able to find friends on Facebook whom I had not spoken to in years--never knew what happened to them after we graduated, for example. I'm glad I was sitting at my desk at the time so I didn't startle any patrons with my exclamations of joy & astonishment. :) (Apologies to any coworkers who weren't so lucky and got to share in my delight.) That was probably my most favorite aspect of this whole program and the part I'll use the most in the future, both on a personal level and probably on a professional basis as well, eventually.

My only suggestion for improvement with this 2.0 program would be that a few of the steps could use more explicit instructions. There were several times when I had to ask Sam for help because I had no idea how to accomplish something. (I can track backwards if you want to know specifics.) And there was one item where the instructions on how to accomplish a task were in the comments below the post, not the post itself. I have no objection to asking colleagues for help, and I actually think it's a better way to learn something if you have to teach someone else, but sometimes there isn't anyone around when you get to a step where you need help. So rather than saying things like "Go here and embed such-and-such in your blog," it would be helpful to include step-by-step instructions as to HOW to do that, for example. Overall, though, I think this whole experience was fantastic and completely worthwhile. Thank you very much, Discover 2.0 planning team! I look forward to using my new skills for years to come, adapting to updates and changes and new inventions as they come.

Too many videos, too little time...

Everyone has heard of YouTube, but I have to admit this was my first experience searching for something there. Mostly I'd seen a few of the One Minute Critic videos Sam had posted on YouTube, and I think I'd seen some other random "hey-you-should-watch-this" videos other people had pointed out to me. For my search, I typed in "Library Week," which brought up ALA's videos that I wanted plus other videos I didn't particularly care about. Revising my search to "National Library Week" helped a bit with that. I also got to view a short video from some university library that was pretty cool--video of the library on campus overlaid with clips of students talking about their favorite places in the library & why & what they'd like to change if they could. That was fun!

And I like the option YouTube gave me to put one of the videos (I chose the Nat'l Library Week video about Reference) on my Facebook profile. Very cool!

Next was and another search on "National Library Week." That brought up a whole list of videos in a format that was much easier to scan. I like it better than YouTube's too-crowded layout. Here's my favorite Reference video (the same one I posted on Facebook): makes it really easy to embed their videos. I appreciate that! Plus, on their site, the videos are larger (easier to see) than on YouTube. You can even click a little icon and make them full-screen, which is fabulous!! (note: I just discovered almost by accident that YouTube offers this feature, too. That's good!)

I also discovered that has a drop-down menu off to the side of the video you're watching that lets you "share" the video via a selection of options which includes Facebook. I think I'll try it and compare the two....OK, at first glance they appear the same, but clicking on the postings to view the videos has two different effects: takes you to their site in a new tab, while YouTube lets you view right there within Facebook. I prefer the latter, I think. Still, it's good that no matter which of the two sites I'm on, I can add a favorite video to my Facebook account. (So again, why in the world would you need one of those tumblelogs??)

As for library applications, well, bring on the videos! Sam's One Minute Critic program should be advertised on our FVRL website with all kinds of videos--he's certainly got enough to choose from! Why are we not taking advantage of them? He's been posting them on YouTube & & elsewhere for months. But why not here, where our audience/participants are likely to be?

Likewise, I think we as a library system should be using videos and podcasts to advertise all kinds of library programs and activities. Currently we're only just beginning to do this, and mostly through our teen MySpace pages, etc. This is fine--a good thing--but not enough. We're not maximizing our potential yet. (Incidentally, why can I not find links to these MySpace pages from the FVRL website? Am I just looking in the wrong place, or do you need to go to MySpace directly and then search for FVRL?)

The tricky part is overcoming search quirks. How can we be consistent in our tagging so that all related things can be found by unrelated users? Tags and titles are crucial for the ever-important "findability" factor. It's why I prefer Goodreads to LibraryThing and why I like Blogger's "show all" option for a post's labels--so that I can see what tags (or bookshelf titles) I've used in the past and remember to use them again for related items. I don't have any magic answers here. Just my opinion that there is great potential out there in techland to reach new and returning patrons, and we should be thoughtful in how we go about doing it. That's my 2 cents' worth. For today. Tune in tomorrow....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I'm skipping ahead and blogging about the whole microblogging phenomenon before I blog about YouTube, et al. I'm sure the world will continue to rotate on its axis.

I don't know whether the inventors of Twitter or Tumblr are intending to be annoying, but I find them so. During my video search for the previous Discover 2.0 item, I stumbled across the CommonCraft video on Twitter. I love the CommonCraft videos in general because they explain technology succinctly and clearly. But this one made me laugh because there was a moment in it when Lee LeFever explains that we're interested in what our friends & family are doing but that we wouldn't email them to tell them we're drinking coffee...and yet you can Twitter this information out to everyone in your circle! Aack! If I wouldn't bother people with an email, why in the world would I bother them with constant, pointless updates on my every little move? This is a waste of everyone's time. I cannot express how irritating I find this concept. So do I think it has library potential? God, I hope not! The only redeeming value to the technology seems to be that you have to self-select, in essence to sign yourself up for it. Something I will NOT be doing anytime soon.

Tumblelogs are not quite as annoying, in my opinion. If you have absolutely nothing better to do with your time (you're imprisoned in a dungeon with no books but only a computer, for example), I can see how having one of these or reading someone else's could be fun. I did find a couple of interesting little tidbits on someone's Tumblr posts. Don't think I could necessarily locate the interesting posts again, but that's OK. It's not that important. Frankly, I don't see the appeal of spending all your time finding links or videos or quotes to post on a microblog. If you've got something to post, why can't you post it on a regular blog? There is no minimum length requirement! Personally I'm much more interested in why a person thinks XYZ is worth sharing. Lists of links with no explanatory messages don't tell me why I should spend my valuable time clicking on the links.

Maybe I'm just grumpy because I seem to have too much to do, and all these people on these Twitter & Tumblr sites seem to have WAY too much free time.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Casting about for podcasts

I started off this section of Discover 2.0 by trying to search the first of the recommended directories, But I got an error message saying the server wasn't found or I'd typed the address in wrong (I'd clicked the FVRL 2.0 link and then tried typing the URL in manually, but whatever). So on to the next site, I got a bit luckier with this one, seeing as how the link took me to a real website. So I tried searching for "Nancy Pearl," thinking that if we had to find library-themed podcasts, her interviews might be a good place to start. Trouble was, the results page was an unhelpful list of seemingly unrelated podcasts. I tried a few other searches and eventually located a series of podcasts that were more or less related to one of my searches (the parts I listened to were boring, but that's not the site's fault). The search feature is NOT useful, in my opinion. Or if it is, then it's just not intuitive.

I got a little bit lucky and saw that one of the newest 5 podcasts on the site at that time was a library-related one from Lincoln City Libraries in Nebraska, so I was able to listen to a very interesting 3-book booktalk/book review session. Kind of like a much longer version of our One Minute Critic videos, only just with audio. However, after I'd navigated away and then wanted to return, I was unable to figure out the proper search terms that would locate the Lincoln City podcasts again. Aggravating! So I'm not impressed with PodcastAlley.

The third podcast directory is the Yahoo! Audio Search. Looks easy to use, but all I was able to locate on purpose was one of Sam's early One Minute Critic reviews--audio only. An interesting review, to be sure, but overall I wasn't thrilled to get so many random search results and have 99% of them look like they were songs, not podcasts. And only samples/snippets at that.

Frankly, if I'm searching for a podcast, I'm much much more likely to go directly to a website I like and search for their podcasts. For example: & Bill Harris' blog posts on audio, or NPR's podcast page. So far, I much prefer this method to searching one of the directories (with the possible exception of iTunes, which I haven't tried because I believe we have to be able to download it, which we can't to our work computers). I think going to a known site and listening to podcasts I find there much more useful in general. Then again, I'm not one of those people who spends hours every day aimlessly browsing the web to see what I can find.

NOTE: When I Googled "podcasts," the 6th or 7th link listed was for has a new address?? has grouped the podcasts into folders, which I find useful, but some of them require iTunes to listen to them, which is not so useful here at work.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Opening Pandora's Box

Oh boy. I am totally in love with the Pandora music site. I checked out & IMEEM as well, and they both have their good points, but Pandora...oh my my my. I can now sit at my desk, working away, headphones on, completely blissed out because I'm listening to my "station" on Pandora Radio. When I first went to their site, I typed in "Josh Groban," my favorite contemporary artist, as I had done when I first went to Then a strange thing happened--Pandora did start by playing one of Josh's songs, but then it moved on to playing other songs by other artists whose music matches Josh's in certain characteristics, like melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, vocalizations, instrumentation, orchestration, and arrangement. At first I was startled, but soon I began smiling as I realized that I actually liked these other suggested songs. Some of them were actually some of my other favorite songs, and some were brand new or relatively new to me. After a few songs, the site asked me to register--and like a drug addict, I did because I was already hooked. Once registered, Pandora gave me a chance to give each song the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. So far I've only used the thumbs-down option once, and that's over the course of now hours of listening! The one time I said I didn't like a song, the song immediately stopped playing, and a new song began. The rest of the time, I've been sitting here at my desk getting all kinds of things done--I've nearly cleared off my desk for the first time in weeks--while feeling my heart rate slow, my breathing deepen, and my stress melt away. I realize these things are the result of choosing to listen to music that is beautiful and peaceful. (I also created a "Loreena McKennitt station.") Were I listening to rap music or anything with a driving beat, I would not feel so calm. Too bad we can't make some of our edgier patrons listen to my "stations." :)

I also visited the four non-music sites for this 2.0 Item, and while I think they are interesting, none of them captured my adoration as Pandora did. I am glad someone is preserving items on the internet (Internet Archive) and offering free access to them. Ditto for open access to books in the public domain ( But searching for them is so clunky! And I am not a fan of reading copious quantities of text online. Blogs are bad enough, but whole books? Ugh. No thank you. Give me a hard copy any day. (Did I see somewhere that you can download these things and then print them out? That would be preferable, if detrimental to our forests.)

I do like the Mango Languages site, at least based on my free trial. (I am tired of registering for things, so I'll wait on that one for now.) I tested out the Spanish language lesson one, and it was very repetitious, with native speakers pronouncing the Spanish words--2 essential elements for learning a language. I think this site has potential for library use, especially if we could afford to offer at-home access where patrons could sit and practice to their hearts' content without bothering others around them. I didn't check out the costs of offering this service, but I did notice it was specifically marketed for libraries. Patrons frequently ask for language-learning materials to check out, only to discover that the level(s) or formats they need are already checked out--very frustrating for all concerned. This is not to say that I think we should eliminate our current collection. Obviously not everyone has internet access at home, much less the high-speed access Mango would require for optimal functionality. Rather, my vote is to add the service to our existing resources. I know I would use it to brush up my faltering skills!

As for the question of whether CDs are dead, well, no, they're not. They may not be the newest technology on the block, but they are not obsolete yet. Was this supposed to be a serious question?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Google doc experiment

This is the first Google doc I've created. Ta da!! I've been using Sam's Google doc spreadsheets for months, but this is the first time I even considered trying it out for myself. So far...not that hard. Couldn't locate the "Quick Tour" we're supposed to take, but that's OK. I'll ask around to see if anyone else knows how to find that. that I've seen the Quick Tour feature, I have to say I already knew the information in it, so it wasn't that useful. That's OK. It was also quick--as advertised--so I don't begrudge the time. As for the overall concept of Google docs, well, it's fantastic for files you need to edit and share with multiple people, assuming everyone has internet access. I do get a little anxious over the idea of not having a copy saved to my own computer because what if Google's system crashed or the server my documents were on died or somebody hacked my files? Maybe this isn't really a concern and Google has redundant systems and safeguards. Maybe there will never be a time when I need access and have internet problems. Maybe it's no safer on my own computer because it could crash. Nevertheless, I still have a niggling fear over the idea of my stuff being solely "out there" in cyberspace. Overall, though, I think using Google docs to create and manage files for sharing is a great idea! It's proven invaluable more times than I can remember in my own job here at FVRL. And I love that you don't have to worry about not having the "right" software on your computer to match your collaborators' versions. That's very handy. <One frustration I do have is that sharing this document is not as easy as it sounds. I followed the instructions and did everything I think I should have, and yet my "collaborators" haven't received their invitation emails. Argh! So I'll wait some more to see if the next part gets edited....> Thoughts? Opinions? Agree? Disagree? Feel free to edit below:

I received Erin's invitation, and here I am, ready to edit! Do you see me typing, Erin? If we both have this document open at the same time, and if we save frequently, we can use Google Docs like IM!!! Okay, maybe that's not such an efficient use, but kind of fun....

Fun!!! :)

Sort of a slow IM, waiting for the "autosave," but yes!

What this document needs right here is a photograph. One moment please....

We could set up the Information Desk right over there by the edge of the water.

Good patron service -- we go to them wherever they are!!!

But not too close, lest we get swept away... :)

(Post-posting comment: for some reason, publishing my Google doc directly to my blog messed up the permalink. Why is this?)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scrabulous and Reading Levels

My official reading level of my blog, according to the Blog Readability Test, is "high school." Woohoo! I'd feel even smarter if only I knew whether there was a "college level" rating. Still, it was fun to test out and see.

The next cool thing I played around with learning was Scrabulous. I'm not a fan of violent computer games, and I have barely any hand-eye coordination abilities anyway, so I love the idea of playing word games online. I also like that there isn't necessarily a time limit. This is good because unlike real Scrabble, I can't manipulate the tiles with my hands, just my brain. A tricky thing some days. This is a fun (read: addictive) way to spend time at a computer.

It took a while to figure out how the site worked and how to sign up for it through my Facebook account. One didn't seem to lead to the other until I searched within Facebook for the Scrabulous application. Once I did that and added the application, I realized that there was already a game waiting for me from way back when I first joined Facebook and a friend challenged me to a game. I vaguely recall someone suggesting I join, but at the time, I didn't get the whole "application" concept and ignored her game request. So now...better late than never! (I was able to take my turn, despite the length of time between her challenge and today.) When I added the application to my Facebook account this afternoon, it asked me to invite my friends to join, so I invited a couple I thought might be interested. Many of my friends weren't listed, which I thought odd, until I realized they were already Scrabulous participants.

It would be quite easy to be in the middle of a multitude of games simultaneously, given that you can play with several people at once (on the same game even) and have multiple games going concurrently. What I have not yet sussed out is whether I'm now registered twice--once through signing up on the Scrabulous website & once through Facebook. And does this matter? I suppose I could log in to Facebook & Scrabulous at the same time and compare to see if my 2 in-progress games show up in both places. That would probably be a good clue. :)

Friday, May 9, 2008

It's a Wiki World Out There

On the Info Desk, we refer to the IS Fugitive Facts wiki quite frequently, and some days it feels like every other reference question requires a trip to Wikipedia to get a handle on the topic before we can even know where to begin our search. So I've been familiar with wikis for a while now. The one thing I haven't yet done is actually edit a wiki for myself. Jen keeps pestering us to add to our YA Wiki, but thus far I haven't come up with anything brilliant to contribute.

My biggest concern with wikis is the usual: who gets to edit, and how do you know the information is reliable? I sort of vaguely knew before getting to this 2.0 item that not all wikis are open for anyone to edit, but it was nice to get confirmation of that when I read several of the articles for this Item. I was impressed by the St. Joseph County Public Library Subject Guides wiki. That one is edited only by the librarians, and it seems to do a great job of pulling together a great deal of useful information and links--the kind of information we've tried to do on our website, only SJCPL has done a better job (in my opinion) of grouping the information and making it easier to find and browse. I'd love to see us create something like that--sort of a cross between our IS Fugitive Facts wiki and the information we've gathered for our website. I think our patrons (and staff!) would find it enormously useful, especially for the layout that puts local links & other links up near the top and then the "articles" below the table of contents for each page. In fact, I'd bet our patrons would use a wiki like this far more than they use our website because it would be far easier to navigate than our current website is. (Sad to say, I'm continually discovering new, great links on our site entirely by accident because I stumble across them while searching for something else entirely--I never seem to find these things on purpose, and our site often feels too "busy" for my taste.) Just my $.02!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

LibraryThing vs. Goodreads

I already had an account with Goodreads, so for this program I signed up with LibraryThing. It's been interesting to compare the two. I think Goodreads is more intuitive to use at first, easier to add books, but I really like that you can rate with half stars on LibraryThing. It was really helpful to have a total stranger comment right away on one of my reviews because she's the one who told me about the half-star capability. That never happened to me on Goodreads! Well, to be fair, I set higher privacy levels when I signed up for Goodreads last year, so that could be a big reason why I rarely receive comments on my reviews.

I think I like LibraryThing's displays a little better, although I like the choices lots better on Goodreads now that Discover 2.0 helped me accidentally stumble across them. :) I do not, however, like the way you add tags on LibraryThing--I can never remember what ones I've used before, so I'm quite likely to have similar things NOT grouped by tags purely through faulty memory. I MUCH prefer the "bookshelves" concept of Goodreads. It's so much easier to choose from a list of options that I've created and can edit at any time. On the other hand, Goodreads' version of tagging that occurs at the bottom of the review, when you say who else would like the book is, well, not at all useful so far as I can determine. Where does that go, and what does it do?

I do like that both sites create "clouds" based on my tags/bookshelves. That's kind of a cool visual of what I like to read. And it's another way to find likely books to recommend for reader's advisory, which is the reason I joined in the first place--because my memory isn't good enough to keep track of what I've read for longer than a nanosecond.

I love that LibraryThing lets you add favorite authors to your profile--in a totally different manner than Goodreads, which just lets you list things about yourself. But I don't like that you have to pay (admittedly not very much) to add more than 200 books to LibraryThing. I know it's not unreasonable for them to charge for their services, but still...I like free. :)

I REALLY like how LibraryThing keeps track of who has similar libraries to mine and what my ratings statistics are, etc. That's very cool. But it's too many steps to add books from other libraries or from an author's profile page to my library. Once you're on a book's page, clicking "add to my library" should do just that, not make you go select the book from a search page, and especially not a search page that doesn't even come up with the right book at the top of the list, as happened to me once! What's up with that? Goodreads is much more streamlined and easy to use.

Bottom line? Each of the two sites has their moments of greatness, and both are useful in a library setting when you want to find something to recommend to a patron, but I think overall I prefer Goodreads purely for ease of use.