Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Brother Rick of the Librarian Order

Brother Rick Looks Right
Originally uploaded by ricklibrarian.
Brother Rick of the Librarian Order visited the Thomas Ford Memorial Library on October 31, bringing his message of scholarship, research, and free wifi to the villagers of Western Springs.

For twenty-five years Brother Rick has made his appearance on this hallowed day, wearing his hand-sewn woolen robe and leather sandals. Humble, pious, gentle, and pledged to poverty, Rick offered books and information service to the digital and physical.

Blessings to all who follow the library way.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

LISZEN: Library Blog Search Engine

Just yesterday I thought someone should make a customized search engine with library blogs using the new service from Google Co-op. Well, today (reading my LISNews email from two days ago) I find someone already has. Garrett Hungerford of Library Zen has created LISZEN.

LISZEN already includes over 500 library blogs. Garrett tells his sources in his post about the engine. I ran several searches. Being self-center, I first checked what happens when I put in "ricklibrarian" to see if I was included and I found that I was. The result was a mixture of my main page, specific ricklibrarian posts, and other blog posts linking to ricklibrarian.

I then searched to see if I could find LibrarianinBlack's post about search.yahoo.com. I found it. The info was in a post about Search Engine Watch and not as the separate post as I remember. I might not have found it scanning through the posts I have saved in Bloglines.

Then I tried to find Aaron Schmidt's post about libraries and trust. When I searched "trust aaron schmidt" I found just a link to Walking Paper in general, links from other blogs, and the RSS of comments to the post. I did not find the post itself. The I tried "trust walking paper" and it was the first item. (I hope the lesson here is not that you can't "trust aaron schmidt.")

It might still be interesting to build more limited search engines with the Google Co-op service, taking just segments of the library blog world. It should be easy to do.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Genealogy Blog Search: A Customized Google Search Engine

I just learned from Jack Simpson's genealogy blog at the Newberry Library in Chicago about Genealogy Blog Search. Christopher Dunham of the Genealogue created a custom Google search engine that draws from 150 genealogy blogs that he has identified. I tried several family names before I found one that returned results, but I got good results on state searches in my trial. As Dunham adds more sources to search, the handmade tool will become more useful to genealogists searching for what other genealogists are doing and reporting.

The Google Custom Search Engine looks pretty easy to use if you have an idea. I might make an engine to search book reviewing blogs, or one to search regional bird watching websites. A customized search engine using my favorite gardening websites could be handy. Of course, I could make one with the blogs that I read regularly to make refinding a post I remember easier.
Google has a webpage showing some sample customized search engines. It looks like the possibilities are endless.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

"Now that I'm dead I know everything," is Penelope's first line in Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, a retelling of the tales of Homer from the viewpoint of Odysseus' wife. Not only does Penelope know everything, she is telling. She dishes out dirt on the Greek gods, the heroes who fought at Troy, and Helen, her cousin. She really dislikes Helen, who continues to be a royal pain in the afterlife. She still has high regard for Odysseus, but she lists his faults and misdeeds. He left her in a bind for twenty years, and she is not forgiving and forgetting.

Penelope's purpose in The Penelopiad is to counter the Homeric tradition that portrays her as innocent, obedient, and dutiful. She would like everyone to know that she recognized her husband right away when he returned; his legs were a dead give away. She had to be smart and resourceful to keep the suitors at bay so long and protect her son.

Penelope also wants the world to know how shabbily the twelve maids were treated. In a modern court of law, they would be found innocent of crimes against Oydsseus, who with his son Telemachus hung them after forcing them to clean the blood of the suitors from the palace. Penelope tells their story and includes them as the Chorus in this book.

Many readers will enjoy this alternate account of the Greek myths.

Atwood, Margaret. The Penelopiad. New York: Canongate, 2005. ISBN 1841957178

Friday, October 27, 2006

Last View from the Hotel in Monterey

Last View from the Hotel
Originally uploaded by ricklibrarian.
I had a great view from my room in the Marriott in Monterey during the Internet Librarian 2006 conference. Every morning around dawn the fog would roll in and then burn off, until my last day. On Thursday there was no fog, so I had clear driving as I left.

I was up early. Around three o'clock the sea lions in the bay were making quite a racket. Arr-arr-arr-arr-arr-arr. I wonder what was going on. Maybe they were saying goodbye to everyone.

No Pastrami

This happened at a sandwich shop in the San Jose International Airport as I returned from the Internet Librarian 2006 conference.

The sandwich chef asked, "What would you like?"

I replied, "I would like the vegetarian sandwich."

"What kind of bread?

"I'd like the rye."

"Everything on that?"

"Hold the onions, please."

"No onions. Mustard and mayo?"

"Yes, please."

"What kind of pastrami would you like?"

"I want the vegetarian sandwich."

"Which kind?"

"May I have the vegetarian sandwich?"

"Oh, sure. You get three kinds of cheese. No charge for the cheese."


A few minutes later I took the paper-wrapped sandwich to the cashier.

She asked, "What kind of sandwich?"

"It's the vegetarian."

"What kind of pastrami on that?"

"No, it's vegetarian."

"Oh, okay. Vegetarian."

So, is there a different definition of "vegetarian" in San Jose?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Internet Librarian Conference Traditions

I believe I have discovered why some librarians make a habit of returning to annual Internet Librarian conferences in Monterey. Of course, they come for practical information relevant to their profession and to collect new ideas, but that is not reason enough to come when they could be attending other conferences, studying the literature, reading profession/industrial news, and communicating with other professional via the Internet. They come because they know they will be engaged and entertained. They know there will be presentations that include audience participation and a chance to win prizes. In other words, games (one of the themes of the conference) are actually incorporated into presentations. Also, they know the presenters who return each year to act as game masters. Attendees learn while they laugh.

Barbara Fullerton, Sabrina Pacifici, and Aaron Schmidt drew a big crowd on Monday afternoon for their traditional program Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets. Each took a turn showing a slide of a serious or silly new technological product and telling why it would be popular. Portable MP3 players, translation devices, and handheld computers were shown with digital rubber ducks, haircutting machines, and Japanese robots. Many of the products were only available in Japan, Korea, or the European Union. During the program the presenters asked questions and gave prizes for the quickest correct answers. There was lots of laughing.

On Wednesday afternoon Steven M. Cohen led his annual What's Hot and New with Social Software. The tradition is that he has an A to Z list of names that the audience tries to guess before he reveals his answer. Many of the answers are websites but some are categories of websites or names of people in the profession. Some audience members win Starbuck's cards when they guess Steven's answers first. After he finished with his list, librarians in the audience called out websites they thought everyone should see and Steven would project them. Of all the websites shown in the session, I was most interested in the online image editors (snipshot.com, pxn8.com, resizr.lord-lance.com) which allow photos to be cropped or resized without downloading software. Steven also showed the Zoho website, which has a word processor, spread sheet, slideshow, and other online products. Steven ended the presentation with video of his three year old daughter, which might be another tradition.

For more details on these programs, read the Librarian in Black's reports Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets and What's Hot & New with Social Software.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Conference Goer's Guide to Seating

Several speakers during Internet Librarian 2006 said that context is as important or more important than content, meaning library users are seeking good experiences, and content is just a means to an end. With that in mind, it seems logical to say that sitting in a good seat is a very important factor in having a good conference presentation experience.

Rule 1. If you can, sit with someone you know and like. This may be the best advice for enjoying a presentation. You can chat before and after the speaker speaks. If the presentation starts to drag, you can play tic tac toe. Of course, at Internet Librarian, you play tic tac toe on a laptop or a pocket PC.

Rule 2. When the presentation is in a shallow but wide room with two screens, do not position yourself an equal distance between the screens. You will be uncertain which screen is best and keep turning from one to the other. If you are in rows one to four, you will have a difficult viewing angle and find neither screen satisfactory. Take a warm shower afterwards to relax your neck muscles.

Rule 3. Do not let your whim to photograph the speaker lead you to sit in front of a podium that is toward the front of a stage. When the presentation begins, you will find the speaker and the podium are standing between you and the slide show.

Rule 4. If you want some room, sit toward the middle of a long row. Most of the attendees tend to take seats at the ends of the row.

Rule 5. Remember Rule 1. Do not arrive early. Wait until many people are already in the room so you have a better chance of finding a friend.

Rule 6. If you can not satisfy Rule 1, make a new friend. It will make satisfying Rule 1 easier in the future.


Cafe in Bay Books

If you are traveling to Monterey, California, perhaps to attend Internet Librarian 2007, I recommend you frequent the cafe in Bay Books. It was the first place that I ate in the city, having a delicious sun-dried tomato and basil quiche after a day of eating only airport food. I followed that with a tasty raspberry bar. I dashed in for a quick lunch on the first day of the conference, having a thick and cheesy piece of ham and cheese quiche and an oatmeal cranberry cookie. On my last evening after a bit of blogging, I went down to the cafe and got a wonderful slice of Reese's peanut butter cup and chocolate cake. Directly across the street from the conference center, it is the place to go for a quick bite to eat in Monterey.

Rick at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey

Internet Librarian 2006 in Monterey, California has now ended. After the final session, Aaron Schmidt and I ate tacos and then walked around the wharf until I took him to the airport.

There is a funny story about the drive to the airport. I took US Highway 1 in the wrong direction when taking Aaron out to catch his plane. We had lots of time, so it was no problem, but we kept looking for an exit that was not there. We timed this well, as we turned around just in time to see a beautiful sunset over the dunes. Once the sun set, it got dark quickly, so we also got to see the lights of Monterey sparkling over the bay.

Monterey is a really nice city for a conference. The climate is pleasant, there are lots of small restaurants, and you can walk around town and along the bay. Internet Librarian is a good conference, and it is usually in Monterey. I hope to come again some day.

A Wiki as a Research Guide by Chad Boeninger

You would think that I would have heard enough about wikis already at Internet Librarian 2006. I attended the preconference presented by Meredith Farkas, which was quite good. I was trying some other tracks this morning, and found myself wanting to hear more about wikis instead. So, I snuck in to Wikis for Libraries in time to hear Chad Boeninger give the final presentation.

Chad's title was A Wiki as a Research Guide. He told about how he turned three subject guides that he uses with business students at Ohio University into wikis. He used to update them annually and the students would lose their copies, often before they left the classroom. Now they are wikis, which he can update easily, are readily available anywhere there is a web connection, and link to many of the tools cited.

His wiki does not fit the stereotype. He is basically the only person adding to it, but that is okay with him. It works because his students and his fellow librarians can turn to it, saving him many questions. It is also searchable.

I was struck by the idea of a wiki working where other software has failed. We used to have rolodexes at the reference desk. When we got rid of them in the 1990s, I started a simple database of stray information for ready reference in Microsoft Works. It worked pretty well. When we replaced our computers with Works with computers that had Office, I tried to move the data to the Access database software. It did not work. I started a new Access database, but I found it more trouble than I liked. The ready reference database faded away.

I still find bits of information that I wish I could just put in an easy database. I have stuck some tidbits in blog posts, both on my own blog and on the staff intranet, but I have handed the information inconsistently.

Voila! Chad said the wiki was easily searchable. A wiki might make a nice place to build a new ready reference database. I have to try it!

Aaron Schmidt Moderates the Social Computing Track at Internet Librarian

Aaron Schmidt Moderates
Originally uploaded by ricklibrarian.
There is actually nothing very moderate about Aaron Schmidt. Look at the wild eyes and the caveman stubble. Oh, that is just shadow from the strange stage lighting. Some footlights would have softened his look.

Aaron was a very busy man at Internet Librarian on Tuesday as master of ceremonies on the Steinbeck Stage, a presenter on that stage, and a discussion leader in the exhibit hall. As a future candidate for U. S. President, he still found time to shake hands and talk with all the attendees.

Aaron, please forgive the less than stellar photography. This was the best of the lot. Rick

Challenges of Cyberinfrastructure & Choices for Libraries

Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information started the second full day of Internet Librarian with his keynote address Challenges of Cyberinfrastructure & Choices for Libraries. Anyone who has heard Lynch before knows that he mixes philosophy, science, and future studies into his presentations, bringing in many concepts unfamiliar to most of humanity, and he can at times be hard to follow. Perhaps I have heard him at enough conferences. I think I understood him this year.

Teaching, learning, and scholarship are rapidly changing, according to Lynch. The explosive increase and retention of digital documents alters the missions of scientists, scholars, and librarians. So much scientific data is available that scientists no longer have to do actual experiments or field work; many people are needed to mine and analyze the data coming from the big projects, such as the Hubbell telescope. Biographers studying important individuals can no longer read all their subjects' published or archived writings and communications, as digital capturing has caught much too much. Academic libraries can no longer afford to comprehensively collect research literature.

Lynch calls on libraries to help manage the data. There will have to be more collaboration and agreeing by academic libraries to specialize and then share their collections more readily with other institutions. They will have to get beyond just having published materials. Researchers who are not part of large, richly funded projects are the people who most need library help with managing and storing their data.

Lynch spoke at length about the predicted growth of the field of data science, which he says is ill-defined and unplanned. Who will be training these new scientists? Where will they work? He foresees that they will be decentralized, spread to academic departments, funding agencies, and small research institutions.

Lynch ended by pointing out how democratization of data has led to the amateurization of research. Non-funded individuals are doing great thinking. How can their work be synthesized. The future is full of opportunities.

Blood, Tin, Straw by Sharon Olds

Do we really know what we have on our library shelves? There are so many books, compact discs, videos, and DVDs chosen by a series of librarians. Our collections are wonderful collaborations through time, of which we can only read, hear, and view a few items each week. If a librarian stays in a library for decades, perhaps she can read, hear, and view thousands of items. She will still wonder what else is there.

Before my conference trip, I browsed the poetry section in my library, looking for something unfamiliar. I found Blood, Tin, Straw by Sharon Olds. I remembered the poet’s name from Poetry 180, and the seven year old item looked shiny and clean, hardly touched by readers. Now I wonder why so many readers passed it unnoticing. It should call out to be read. I imagine it shakes on the shelf, wanting to get off.

The title Blood, Tin, Straw does indicate the content, especially blood. Olds paints very physical images of daily living, including death, childbirth, pregnancy, menstruation, and sex. These concerns permeate the poems, many of which deal with marriage and family. Olds is also quite aware of the planet and the universe and their physical natures. She begins “What Is the Earth?” by comparing the planet to the unfortunate of its dominant species.

“The earth is a homeless person. Or
the earth’s home is the atmosphere.
Or the atmosphere is the earth’s clothing,
layers of it, the earth wears all of it,
the earth is a homeless person.”

One of my favorite poems in the collection is “Elopement” in which a spur-of-the moment wedding takes place in a rural general store. The bride counts the Dutch Girl on the cocoa tin, the Campbell Soup twins, the Gerber baby, Aunt Jemima, Betty Crocker, and the Sun Maid raisin girl among the witnesses.

Blood, Tin, Straw appears to serve as a memoir in verse. Should we believe the incidents are true? In “1954” Olds remembers the story of a local murder, and in “Fire Escape” she remembers youthful disobedience. Most troubling is “The Day They Tied Me Up.” Would parents go to such extremes to punish a child for a spill?

Some readers may be disturbed by the level of sensuality in the book. I was surprised to see the author thank the Lila Wallace – Reader’s Digest Fund for support. I doubt any of these poems ever appeared in the mainstream magazine.

Sharon Olds has won many prizes and more libraries should have her collections.

Olds, Sharon. Blood, Tin, Straw. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. ISBN 0375707352

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reaching Patrons: Online Outreach for Public Libraries by Sarah Houghton-Jan

Sarah Houghton-Jan is one of several people at Internet Librarian with multiple presentations. She had a quick Jamba Juice for lunch on Monday and took the stage a second time with her presentation Reaching Patrons: Online Outreach for Public Libraries.

With many library users (and nonusers), especially teens, on the web gathering information, Sarah says that it is important for the public library to go where they go and be where they look. To this end she has created a 20-item checklist for library cyberoutreach.

I am glad to see that my library does some of the things that she suggests. Still there are some opportunities we have not taken. I plan to address items #5 (List your library events and services in local community websites and calendars) and #11 (Check reviews of your library on social review sites) when I get home.

One of the points Sarah makes is that once a library goes onto the web with its services it adopts everyone on the planet as possible library users. We have no choice. We have to get past geographically-limiting thinking. We serve everyone or no one at all. If we serve no one, then our purpose disappears.


Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff by Sarah Houghton-Jan and David Lee King

Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff was one of the most useful programs I have attended at Internet Librarian. Sarah Houghton-Jan of San Mateo County Library said one of the most important things that I have heard said. It expresses a goal that all libraries that I know have trouble achieving. It is that all public service staff in libraries should meet technical competencies so all library users get the same high level of service. It should not matter who is on duty.

What libraries live up to this goal? Few, I suspect. Sarah's message is somewhat tough, but it is not unreasonable. She is currently writing a book on the topic and has much advice for libraries trying to meet a high standard for user services.

Central to Sarah's message is conducting a competencies evaluation, which can be done for an entire library or by department. The idea is for the staff to determine what skills are needed by all the staff for everyday service, list the skills, and then address bringing all the members of the staff up to standard. This does not mean that every member of the staff has to have every technical skill known to librarianship. The challenge is to have every staff member competent in the skill necessary to serving the everyday needs of library users.

Sarah said much more. In her own post on the program, she links to all of her slides and to a post by Chad Boeninger that outlines most of what she said in the program.

David Lee King presented the second part of the program. He listed 10 ways to keep techies happy.

1. Techies are part of the team. Invite them to important planning discussions that involve technology. They might have important input.
2. Techies need toys and time to play to learn new skills and generate new ideas.
3. Everyone must learn basics. Do not call a techie to replug an electrical cord.
4. Give the techie a time line for your project.
5. If more than one library patron asks for something, it is important to have.
6. Have adequate technical staff.
7. Tell the techie when you do not understand. Don't pretend and then complain about how the techie can't explain the technology.
8. Pay the techie well.
9. Budget appropriately for technology.
10. We are all geeks at something, whether that is with computers, reference books, or cataloguing. Treat the geek respectfully.

Cultivating Tech-Savvy Library Staff was a content packed 45 minutes.


Waves Hit Beach: Flickr Slideshow Showing Highway 1 from Carmel to Big Sur

Waves Hit Beach
Originally uploaded by ricklibrarian.
I took a late afternoon break from Internet Librarian to drive down to Big Sur. It took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there as I stopped at over a dozen overlooks to take photos and watch the big waves crashing on the rocks. Having grown up in arid west Texas, I find the Pacific Ocean is almost incomprehensible. The irony is that despite all the water over to the right, the hills to the left look just as dry as the western edge of the Edwards Plateau.

Take a look at the rest of my photos at Flickr. The best viewing experience is the slide show.

Three Thoughts on Internet Librarian in Monterey

Here are some stray thoughts about the conference so far:

1. I am not the oldest person here. I had thought that Internet Librarian might be dominated by twenty-something and thirty-something librarians. I was wrong. There are plenty of middle-aged boomers here. The community is not much different from any other library conference agewise.

2. None of the speakers are promoting virtual reference. I have hardly heard it mentioned. Instant messaging is the medium of choice for public service.

3. The quick 45 minute programs allow participants to attend lots of sessions. I see very few people slipping out of sessions, as they are not stuck in one place long by design. The speakers do not have time to get boring. In a few cases a little more time would have been helpful, but for the most part, the topics have been kept to manageable sizes. It works well.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Increasing the Use of Online Products

It was a challenge, but four speakers were able to tell their stories within 45 minutes at the program Increasing the Use of Online Products, an early program at Internet Librarian 2006.

The first speaker was Peter Simon from NewsBank Inc. In addition to introducing the other speakers, he directed our attention to a best practices page on the NewsBank web site. Most important in the points was having dedicated database introduction pages on a public library website. Having remote access also increases the use greatly.

Leslie Williams of Evanston Public Library in Illinois said increasing paid database use is a marketing problem. Many library users do not even know what a database is, much less think public libraries would have such research tools. Many consider libraries as repositories of books with service to children as their main mission. These people have to be enlightened. One method is to partner with other community organizations. Get the Chamber of commerce to provide a link on its website to your business databases. Likewise, get the local hospital to link to your medical databases on its pages for patients.

On the Evanston Public Library's website, databases are highlighted on its research resources page without ever using the word "databases," which Williams said is meaningless to most library users. Links are also present on the library's subject pages, such as the page for science research. Hennepin County Library also puts database links within subject guides. The nice thing about this library's subject guides is that the librarians responsible for pages are identified, as in this Literature subject guide.

Larry Mischo of Tacoma Public Library showed how his library has used the software Webfeet to categories and organize the databases. The web site has a rotating spotlight that features different databases in turn on the main page.

Jeff Wisniewski of the University of Pittsburgh showed how his library provides access to databases on a variety of web pages, including on an alphabetical list, in a federated search, and in subject guides. He agreed that words other than "database" should be found to use on public websites.


"Grabbing Attention" by J. A. Jance: An Unlikely Opening to a Technology Conference

In 1982, fresh from a divorce and a move from Phoenix to Seattle with children, J. A. Jance took a Dale Carnegie course including public speaking. She must have learned the lesson well, for she was a terrific keynote speaker to open the regular sessions of the Internet Librarian 2006 conference. The author of 36 books, mostly mysteries, mixed strong emotions with a big serving of humor to tell how she gets her ideas for books.

Jance was invited because she worked a blog into her recent book The Edge of Evil. She told how she came to write the story and also revealed that she was an early user of personal computers. In the mid-1980s she used $5000 of insurance benefits (from her alcoholic first husband's death) to buy an Eagle computer with a 128K memory and two floppy drives. On this she wrote in short chapters (memory limitation per floppy) for her early works. She recently donated both the computer and the collection of floppies with her drafts and unpublished works to the University of Arizona. Those floppies are the only copies of some of the manuscripts, and the computer is needed to access them.

With the timing of a standup comic, Jance kept the audience laughing and listening. I suspect she seeded the sales of some books in her 35 minutes before us. I think I'll place a reserve and see if writes as well as she speaks.

il2006 il06

Dog Getting a Ride in Monterey

Dog Getting a Ride
Originally uploaded by ricklibrarian.
Between programs at the Internet Librarian 2006 conference here in Monterey, it is fun to get out and walk along the hiking biking trail that runs along the bay. There are many of these pedal vehicles filled with families rolling along, ringing their bells. This is the only one I saw with a dog on board. The man in the sunglasses told me the dog was loving the ride.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wikis: Basics, Tools, & Strategies by Meredith Farkas

According to Meredith Farkas, the word "wiki" comes from the Hawaiian word meaning "quick." In the mid-1990s, Ward Cunningham and the Portland Pattern Repository created the first wiki software as a quick and easy content management system for collaborative projects. Of course, the biggest and most famous collaboration to date is the Wikipedia, but Meredith highlighted many other large and small efforts in her Internet Librarian 2006 preconference program Wikis: Basics, Tools, & Strategies.

Conference wikis, fan wikis, wikis as library staff intranets, wikis as library websites, wikis to manage short term projects, wikis for professional organizations, wikis for community information networks, and wikis as courseware figured in Meredith's presentation. Access to viewing wikis may be public or restricted. Access to editing can also be public or restricted. She showed many samples in the process of showing how wikis are set up and managed. She also managed to show samples created with several of the current software packages, many of which are free.

After deciding why a wiki is needed (never start one just to be cool), one of the most important decisions is what software to use. Meredith pointed us to WikiMatrix, which compares software. In general, she said that it is better to download software onto your own server if possible, so you will have more control, but it is possible to use wikis that are hosted by the software companies as well. MediaWiki and PmWiki are the downloadable software we most discussed, while hosted software included PBWiki and WetPaint.

A new trend is toward wikis that are WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). This means that the wiki looks much like a word processor and the users do not have to know much syntax, such as using special characters for highlighting and linking.

When choosing software, you should consider these issues:

  • Programming language (a server issue)
  • Ease of installation
  • Security
  • Permissions
  • Spam prevention
  • Ease of use
  • Cost
  • Version control
  • Syntax
  • Ability to hold discussions
  • RSS feeds
  • Ability to change looks
  • Availability of extentions
  • Prospects for development and support from the software company

When you set up a wiki, be sure to create a beginning structure and seed it with content. Many wiki volunteers are leery of adding to blank pages, so it helps to have content started. To help the wiki's audience, have documentation and instructional material ready.

Of the many wikis shown during the preconference, these were my favorites:

RocWiki (community information in Rochester, New York)

St. Joseph County Public Library Subject Guides

University of South Carolina Aiken Library website

Princeton Public Library's summer reading program Book Lovers Wiki

Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki

The possibilities are many, and wikis can be easy to set up. I could now do one tonight!


There was much more to this presentation. The slides will be available on the Internet Librarian 2006 website several weeks after the conference.

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution by David Quammen

According to David Quammen, Charles Darwin is like George Washington - everyone knows his name and major accomplishments, and many have strong opinions about him without ever having read past their school books about his life and work. Like Washington, he was a quiet, private man who had great impact on our world. While there are several good large-sized biographies of the scientist, Quammen saw the need for a short focused-on-the-essentials book, so he wrote The Reluctant Mr. Darwin.

To save time of readers, Quammen starts his story of Darwin after the young man returns from his five years as a scientist on the voyage of the Beagle. Darwin was in London consulting with the various scientists who received the botanical and zoological specimens from the voyage. It was ornithologist John Gould who pointed out to Darwin that many of the birds from the Galapagos Islands were finches. Darwin had not seen the similarities and was not really sure what to make of the fact, though he had noticed other interesting isolated species during his voyage.

For several years, Darwin was busy young man in London, joining scientific societies and writing several books about the Beagle voyage. Quammen describes these years and then leads readers through his retreating to his estate in southeast England, where he raised a family and worked in isolation on his not-yet-revealed theories. Only when he received an interesting paper from Alfred Russell Wallace, who was working in the Malay archipelago, revealing that the younger man was ready to publish his own version of the same theories, did Darwin finally complete On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin is very quick moving up to the point of the publication of the master work, often known as just The Origin of Species. Then two thirds of the way through the text, it slows and becomes a bit confusing as the author summarizes the subsequent literature both praising and condemning the book. Like Darwin, the scientists in both camps had no real evidence with which to know how species evolved. Mendel's studies had been ignored and DNA had not been discovered. Once Quammen refocuses on Darwin the story quickens again.

With Darwin and evolution still a divisive topic in our society, public libraries are going to want this book.

Quammen, David. The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN 0393059812

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I Could Be Whale Watching

I Could Be Whale Watching
Originally uploaded by ricklibrarian.
I arrived in Monterey, California today with the intention of attending Internet Librarian 2006. I did not realize I could be taking a whale watching boat instead. Maybe I should rethink what I am doing here.

I did register and pick up my packet this afternoon. Now I can pour over all the listings and decide what to attend. I do not know much about mashups, so maybe I would benefit in one of the mashup programs. I know I want to attend programs on public library uses of Internet technology, web design, and wikis. Look for my reports in the next four or five days.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Next Week's Conferences: Internet Librarian and LITA Forum

There are two gatherings of librarians interested in technology next week. The first is Internet Librarian in Monterey, California and the second is the LITA Forum in Nashville, Tennessee. Thanks to the wonders of blogging, you can follow the programs without leaving your home or library.

Internet Librarian starts with preconferences on Saturday, November 21. The regular program runs November 23-25. A wiki has been created for the conference and on it are a list of attendees who will be blogging.

The LITA Forum begins Thursday afternoon, November 26 and the regular program runs Friday through Sunday. A group of bloggers will be reporting on the programs at the LITA blog.

This year I will be among the crowd in Monterey. I will flying to San Jose Saturday, when I also plan to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On Sunday I will attend Meredith Farkas' preconference about wikis. Then I'll start blogging. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

CEDAW: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

I had a question today about which countries have reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and which are signatories without reservation. I have not found an easy chart or list to answer this, but I have found some articles about regions, such as one about North Africa and the Middle East. The only way to answer this that I see so far is go through the country reports at the CEDAW website.

Looking at the list, I see this statement about the United States of America: "not a party to CEDAW convention." The convention first passed the United Nations in 1979. We have had time to sign on. How sad!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich

In the past 30 years, there have been over 4500 articles on mental depression in psychology literature, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Dancing in the Streets. In that same time, there have been about 400 articles in the professional literature about joy. In her new book, the author sets out to examine the little studied subject of collective joy or community celebration.

In Dancing in the Streets, Ehrenreich presents a social history of fairs, festivals, carnivals, and other mass gatherings. She starts by examining ancient and primitive communities, presenting evidence that celebratory gatherings helped bind people together. She also contends that primitive celebrations of third world tribes were (are) not so wild and uncontrolled as judgmental first world observers have reported. Tribal celebrations are guided by strict traditions. Singers learn their parts, and dancers learn their steps. Costumes take months to create. Young people are taught by their elders approved behaviors. Tribal events that Freudian psychologists labeled as mass mental illness are seen by sociologists as reasonable group behavior.

Throughout the book Ehrenreich returns to rites celebrating Dionysus. Though there was a flowing of wine and much dancing, she says the behavior at this events has been unfairly described by many scholars as hysteria. There were rules to which celebrants adhered.

The author tells much about the development of carnivals and festivals. For many years in Christian churches, there were no pews and services involved dancing and more participation by the congregations. During medieval times as there grew more stratification of society, mocking of the clergy by lower ranking members during such services led to the expulsion of celebrations from the building. This led to secular festivals held in squares and other public areas. Church and government officials struggled to regulate these events, which did lead to rioting and revolution in some cases.

Ehrenreich includes an interesting chapter on rallies in Nazi Germany. She contends that these were not true festivals, for everything was reheared and scripted by Nazi officials. There was no real feasting by common people and certainly no joy. In contrast, the folk and rock music events of the 1960s were real festivals as attendees stood, sang with the songs, and danced in the aisles, much to the dismay of ushers and police assigned to control crowds.

When I first received the advance reader's copy of Dancing in the Streets, I thought it was a departure from the author's works, including Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. I see now that she has also written other social histories, including Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passion of War. Also, I see that throughout her works, she is concerned with the stratification of society and the abuse of the working class by the rich or powerful. In Dancing in the Streets, she contends that social elites still often oppose working class festivals.

Dancing in the Streets will be an interesting and worthy addition to many library collections.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006. Available January 2007. ISBN 0805057234

Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith

I am an Alexander McCall Smith fan. I counted the titles in the front of Dream Angus, and I calculated that I had read fifteen of his books. Sixteen now. I am inclined to enjoy them before I ever start, and I have not yet been disappointed.

Dream Angus is unlike anything else I have read by McCall Smith. It is not a mystery or an academic satire or a book continuing the story from another book. It is a book in a series, but not one by the author; it is in the Myth Series by Canongate, which includes books by Karen Alexander, Chinua Achebe, Margaret Atwood, and others. It is not funny like some of the other McCall Smith books, though the holy man who can sleep under water without drowning and the pigs who start their own village amused me. It is somewhat melancholy in a way reminiscent of the serious parts of the 44 Scotland Street Series.

Angus is the Celtic god of dreams and love. McCall Smith tells of his birth from the union of the powerful god Dagda and the water spirit Boann. Mixed in with the retelling of myth are contemporary stories that are variations on the myths, involving dreams as a part of the plot device. In each there is an Angus character, though the reader may have to search for him. McCall Smith also draws from William Shakespeare's Richard III and the poetry of William Butler Yeats. The story ends with a poem.

I am still trying to understand all of what happens in Dream Angus. I might wait a couple of weeks and read it again. It is worth rereading.

McCall Smith, Alexander. Dream Angus. New York: Canongate, 2006 ISBN 1841958239

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Collaboration as the Norm in Reference Work" by Jeffrey Pomerantz in Reference & User Services Quarterly

Jeffrey Pomerantz of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has written a thought-filled article about reference librarians helping reference librarians called "Collaboration as the Norm in Reference Work." It is in the new Fall 2006 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly. He describes the past and forecasts the future of collaboration, focusing on technology toward the end of the article.

I enjoyed some of his observations, such as this statement on page 46:

"What sets the reference transaction apart from an ordinary conversation is that the participants attempt to achieve common ground on a topic about which neither may possess any knowledge."

How true! I can think of countless times when students arrive asking about terms assigned by their teachers. They have no ideas and I have to start fishing for circumstantial clues. "What class are you taking?" "What subject are you studying?" "Do you have a copy of your assignment?" "Were there other terms on the assignment?" These can sometimes be times when a second reference librarian come in handy.

It can be even harder. Pomerantz mentions cases when the person asking a question is only the agent of some one else who needs the information. School assignments come to mind again. "My son is at football practice and he needs five books and three magazine articles on an actor from India."

The author talks about in-building collaboration, which was the only direct form of multi-mind reference before modern communication methods, such as the telephone. It is still quite prevalent. At Thomas Ford we sometimes have two staff members at the reference desk in the evening. If it is slow and someone has given us a challenging question, we may have both working on the question, one finding book or online information, while the other pulls magazine articles. Our clients leave feeling they got red carpet treatment, and we enjoyed the collaborative search.

In much of the article, Pomerantz examines remote collaboration. He tells the histories of The Exchange in RQ and later RUSQ and the Stumpers listserv. He goes on to discuss asynchronous and synchronous digital reference services, virtual reference, and instant messaging. In discussing whether digital reference services will ultimately succeed, the author says the following:

"...just as a librarian has one chance to impress a user before that user makes a judgment about her willingness to return to that librarian, so too does a digital reference service have one chance to impress a user before that user makes a judgment about her willingness to return to that service."

When there are digital alternatives, users may soon turn to other options if they are not satisfied.

Pomerantz discusses privacy as a consideration in collaboration, insisting that reference librarians should have clients' permission before bringing other librarians into interviews or sending the question to remote colleagues. Client deserve confidentiality and might not want their situations discussed.

Pomerantz concludes that we are in a time of innovation and transformation and that we should try new methods of collaboration. Individual services and reference work in general will benefit.

Pomerantz, Jeffrey. "Collaboration as the Norm in Reference Work." Reference & User Services Quarterly, (fall 2006) vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 45-55.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Reference & User Services Quarterly: An Online Version

I received the Fall 2006 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly in the mail on Saturday and noticed right away it has a slightly new look, including a photo on the cover. I have not figured out why there is a picture of prairie grass blowing in the wind, but it is attractive in an academic way. Inside are several articles that I have read or are planning to read in the next few days. Just wondering if I could find an online version of the article I wish to review, I looked and was surprised to find that there is. In fact, it appears that the entire issue is now online at the RUSQ website. Great! Now I can link to the article. Thank you RUSA.

The new issue starts with "A Hard Act to Follow" by the new editor Diane Zabel. She salutes the editors that have preceded her and tells about planned changes for the publication. She says that 71 percent of the RUSQ readers who responded to a survey indicate that they still prefer a paper issue of the quarterly, but the organization is working on an electronic version (not saying that one is available). She also says that Michael Stephens has been retained as a consultant for developing the online edition. She also lists topics for future articles and tells who will be writing columns.

With the online version, readers can email links to their colleagues, bloggers can direct their readers to articles, and library school instructors can put links into their online assignments. RUSA has just made the quarterly much more accessible.

Real Price of War by Joshua S. Goldstein

Joshua S. Goldstein claims that both conservatives and liberals will dislike his book The Real Price of War. He argues in the book that the war on terror being waged by the current administration is costing much more than is being admitted. Some of the costs are secondary, as funds that support economic growth are lost. People are losing jobs and others are not getting training because of the war effort. Further, he believes tax cuts have undermined the strength of the federal government and made the war effort weak.

What liberals do not like is that the author then argues that too little is being spent on the war effort. He argues that our failure to spend more on the war effort now will cost us much more in the future.

Both political sides could be mining Goldstein's arguments. The book is now two years old and seems to have been forgotten. In our SWAN catalog, I see that nine libraries own the book, of which eight are on shelf and the other is in storage.

Why has The Real Price of War become so lost? Are there just too many political books in circulation? Are readers overwhelmed by war news? Is a book that offends both major political parties ignored? Will libraries soon be deleting this inactive book?

Maybe we should put this book on display to see if anyone will read it.

Goldstein, Joshua S. The Real Price of War. New York: New York University Press, 2004. ISBN 0814731619

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tea and Green Ribbons: A Memoir by Evelyn Doyle

Because novels are written in the first person with narrators telling what has happened in their lives, the entire genre of the memoir can be thrown into the category of "nonfiction that reads like fiction." That is unfair, as it is really the first person novel that is posing as something it is not, but it is a useful ploy for librarians trying to connect books with readers. One memoir that might particularly interest fiction readers is Tea and Green Ribbons by Evelyn Doyle.

When Evelyn Doyle was eight years old and living in the slums in Dublin, her mother left her family to live in Scotland with one of her father's cousins. Because her father was out of work, he placed her and her five brothers in orphanages and moved to England to find work. When he returned to Ireland with his earnings, he found a job, applied for public housing, and tried to reclaim his children. The Irish government, however, refused to return his children without the signature of the missing mother on the release papers. She was not cooperative.

In Tea and Green Ribbons, Doyle weaves together the stories of her father's legal battle and her life in the convent with orphans and nuns. Readers who enjoyed Brendan O'Carroll's Irish novels will enjoy this true Irish story.

Doyle, Evelyn. Tea and Green Ribbons: A Memoir. New York: Free Press, 2003. ISBN 0743242599

Thursday, October 12, 2006

In the Suicide Mountains by John Gardner


What madness or desperation drives the dwarf Chudu the Goat's Son, the strong and beautiful Armida, and Prince Christopher the Sullen to seek their own deaths? The three meet on the road in In the Suicide Mountains by John Gardner. At nearly 200 years of age, Chudu, who is also a shape-shifter, is much older than the other two; he is tired of being a community scape goat. Armida is tired of pretending to be soft and feminine in a home dominated by her stepmother. The prince is avoiding the King's command to kill the Six-Fingered Man; he might as well commit suicide as face the notorious outlaw. Into the mountains they go, where they meet the abbot of the Ancient Monastery, who tells them three Russian folktales and sends them on a dangerous quest to kill a dragon.

John Gardner, perhaps best known for Grendel, was a very talented writer who died far too young. Many of his works, including In the Suicide Mountains, contained stories inside stories, often evoking medieval atmosphere and drawing on folktales and history. Amid the emotional anguish and uncertainity of these tales, Gardner always inserted comic relief; in In the Suicide Mountains Chudu shifts into some pretty strange objects when he is flustered. Reading and rereading Gardner's books is always entertaining.

In the Suicide Mountains includes fantastic drawings by Joe Servello. The book would look good along side volumes illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

It looks to me like this book is being forgotten. Relatively few libraries have copies. The bookstores and vendors no longer sell it. It is only available through used book dealers. This is sad, as it is such a good book.

Also, there should be a John Champlin Gardner fansite where the fans discuss his books. Someone there would define "larble."

Gardner, John. In the Suicide Mountains. New York: Knopf, 1977. ISBN 0394418808

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nonfiction Stars at Overbooked

Are you short on time or short on funds for book buying? Would you like to know what are the best nonfiction books according to the major review journals (Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal) without waiting for the end of the year list? Looking for something to read? You might try the Nonfiction Stars List at Overbooked. This web page lists all the nonfiction books with starred reviews in the four sources.

Looking over the page for 2006 books, I see that the review journals do not often agree. Only Orson Welles: Hello Americans by Simon Callow, Flaubert: A Biography by Frederick Brown, and The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan have been given a star by all four journals. Most other have only one or maybe two stars.

This Overbooked page is worth a bookmark.

Readers Advisory on the Web

I was trying to find something I saw the other day (unsuccessfully so far) when I came across Readers Advisory on Squidoo. I do not want to lose this link, as there several interesting website, especially Reader2. Reader2 appears to be a shared book suggestion website that is a little short on explanation and long on potential. I think it can also be used as a personal catalog. The shared data, of course, is only as good as the entries the members enter. So far, it looks like few people are actually saying much about why they recommend books.

Along the same lines, I saw in Librarian in Black a recommendation to a post at Stephen's Lighthouse, which lists more websites.

There seems to be no shortage of websites with reading advice. I now have to decide what advice I like.

New Link for the Junior Drones Club

The website with a list of the Junior Drones (friends of Bertie Wooster) from the novels by P. G. Wodehouse has moved. Click here to find several entertaining Wodehousian lists and a curriculum vitae of Bertram Wilberforce Wooster.

What are your favorite Drones' names? I like Bingo Little, Dudley Wix-Biffin, Gussie Fink-Nottle, and Stilton Cheesewright.

Lion Boy: The Truth by Zizou Corder

With the publication of Lion Boy: The Truth, Zizou Corder's trilogy about Charlie Ashanti, the boy who can speak with cats, is complete. I will not give away the story or its ending, but I will say that it continues the international chase. The Corporacy sends out its agents to capture Charlie to force his parents to help them with their evil schemes to breed cats that spread asthma among the world's children.

I found personal reading convergence in this book. I have recently read nonfiction books about Africa, Haiti, and New Orleans. All these places are settings in the story.

I listened to Lion Boy and The Chase on compact discs. I read the hardcover third book and discovered that bits of sheet music are included. I also learned that Zizou Corder is a pseudonym for a mother and daughter, Louisa Young and Isabel Adomakoh Young. Zizu is their pet lizard. The audiobook cases did not tell me this.

Look for this book to be banned by school boards in Florida, who will not like the role that the Cuban leader plays in the story. Young readers everywhere else will enjoy this book.

Corder, Zizou. Lion Boy: The Truth. New York: Dial Books, 2005. ISBN 0803729855

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Letters of Confirmation

Cleaning out files, I found letters of confirmation for my first two jobs. The first is for the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia, Missouri, where I started in the fall of 1978. The letter does not state my salary, but I remember starting at $9600 per year. Within months I was up to $10,000 annually. The funny thing is that I never felt poor. There was inexpensive housing available and it was fairly easy to live cheaply. Of course, I rarely bought anything I did not need.

My second job was at the Dolton Public Library District in Cook County, Illinois. I started in the spring of 1981. President Reagan was shot on my first day. I could have qualified for housing projects on my salary. As it was, I spent about 40 percent of my salary on an apartment.

Things are a lot better now.

Rick with Scarry Potter

Rick with Scarry Potter
Originally uploaded by ricklibrarian.
Today I met Scarry Potter and many other scarecrows at the Morton Arboretum. Many of the scarecrows had been made by scout troops or elementary school classes. It is the second year that there are been scarecrows at the arboretum. There are many photos from both years on my flickr site.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Use of Google Notebook for Library Selection

At the library we get lots of mail promoting books for sale. I have in the past kept the pieces that most interested me in Princeton files, where they sometimes get lost until I clean up.

There are a few books in series that I might like to order if we have enough money at the end of the year. In an effort to reduce the paper and try to keep the better items findable, I have started a Google Notebook Book Series That I Am Considering. I take the information from the publishers' websites and insert into the notebook. It works fairly well, though I found I had to do some regular cutting and pasting to fill in what would not transfer with the Google Notebook command.

If you make your Google Notebook public (which you do not have to do), there are two versions of the page, yours and the one everyone else sees. In this case, my page, which I can modify at will, looks much better than the public view. As you can see if you clicked the link, the photo showing the book covers is very small. Did you know those were book covers? I can read the titles from my page.

One of the advanges of a Google Notebook is that I can collect my research on a web page that I can access anywhere. Also, I may reduced the collection of flyers and catalogs on my desk.

The service is free at Google Notebook.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Older Adults and Readers' Advisory by Alicia Ahlvers

My favorite article in the summer 2006 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly is one whose ideas I can apply directly to my work in a public library. Turn to page 305 where you will find "Older Adults and Readers' Advisory" by Alicia Ahlvers.

The author seems to have had many thought-provoking experiences working as the Senior Services Librarian at Kansas City Public Library. As you would expect with a position such as hers, she often leaves the building to serve her clients, bringing books to their homes and seeing that their requests are filled. It is work requiring a lot of customising, as every senior has different tastes and personalities.

Ahlvers has identified three groups of seniors: the G. I. Generation (older than age 85), the Silent Generation (64 to 84), and the Baby Boomers (43-63). Of course, only some of the Baby Boomers are considered as seniors at this point in time, but they all will be eventually. Ahlvers points out that the Boomers will especially show that seniors can not be stereotyped.

Being a librarian, the author likes lists. She names ten authors that each of the generations usually enjoys reading. These lists might be used for book and audiobook selection and then referenced when conducting readers' advisory interviews.

The longest section of the article deals with the readers' advisory interview. Ahlvers recommends trying large print books with many older adults and giving audiobooks to others. She warns against formats that are hard for older adults to manipulate. The author concludes the article with a discussion of helping readers with physical limitations.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

When Isaac Asimov wrote the stories in I, Robot, the 21st century was still far in the future. Thoughts about robots and computers and space travel were very speculative. Space stories were published in inexpensive magazines popular with teenage boys and not taken seriously by most of the reading public. Asimov was among the writers to change the face of science fiction.

Over fifty years later, the stories in I, Robot seem a little dated, for it is now obvious that the timetable and sequence of scientific developments is amiss, but they are still very entertaining and thought-provoking. The technical team of Donovan and Powell lend comic relief to a series of nasty predicaments. Robot psychologist Susan Calvin has the deductive powers of Mr. Spock and the understanding of mental states of Counselor Troy (of different generations of Star Trek) combined. The directors of United States Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. are not above bending the laws to forward corporation profits and power, and they use their influence to obtain military and government contracts. Religious conservatives question the ethics of scientific developments; some even try to sabotage technical progress. It is a bit like now.

What is wrong with the historical sequence? We should by now be ready to colonize Mars. Also, Asimov believed that robots would develop ahead of computers. In fact, computers would be a subset of robots and be required to be programmed to obey The Three Laws of Robotics. Is your laptop programmed (1) to protect you from harm, (2) to obey your orders, and (3) to protect its own existence so long as it still follows the first two laws? Has Microsoft written that program? Late in the 21st century there would be only a few computers called brains and machines, but they would control most human industry and agriculture.

I listened to I, Robot brightly read by Scott Brick. It is a good addition to most audio collections.

Asimov, Isaac. I, Robot. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1950.

7 compact discs: Sana Ana, California: Books on Tape, 2004. ISBN 141590121x