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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excellent Readers Advisory article

Just thought I'd share this http://lu.com/ranews/dec2009/nagle.cfm

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Using Novelist to find lists of classics

Did you know that the NoveList Plus database also provides annotated reading lists of classics for children, teens, and adults? To access the lists, enter "classics" in the search bar. Under the Curricular Connections tab, you will find compiled lists of classics appropriate for children and teens. Here, there is also a list of classic readalikes and retellings set in a contemporary or alternate time. The adult version, Classics Revisited, can be found by limiting the search to adults and then clicking on the Recommended Reads tab.

NoveList also provides annotated lists of classics in various genres such as romance, western, horror, etc. To access these lists, enter "classics" in the search bar and then click on the Recommended Reads tab.

Finally, if you enter classics made into movies in the search bar and click on the Recommended Reads tab, you will get just that: A list of classic novels that have been made into movies.

Have fun rediscovering old favorites and perhaps finding some new ones!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Library Subbing Checklist

For those who are subbing in a new library, here is a checklist I use that you may find helpful.

*Head librarian:
*Youth services librarian(s):
*Other librarian(s):
*Circulation supervisor:
*Support staff:
*Volunteer coordinator:

LIBRARY EVENTS (date and location):

*Adult fiction:
*Genre fiction (what genres have their own sections?):
*Paperback fiction (shelved separately from hardcover? Which genres?):
*New books:
*Large print:
*Music CDs:
-List of newspapers available at this library:
-Today’s paper:
-Back issues:
-How far back are issues retained?
-Current issues:
-Back issues:
-How far back are issues retained?
*World language materials:
-What languages are available and in what formats and for what age groups?
*Books for sale (if applicable):
-Charge for each type of item:
*Special sections (e.g. travel, business/careers, local history, etc.):

*Other things to note:

*Consumer Reports:
*Phone books:
*NADA Used Car Guide:
*Other things to note:

*Graphic novels:
*Other things to note:

*Juvenile fiction:
*Series fiction (e.g. American Girl, Captain Underpants, etc.):
*Juvenile nonfiction:
*Easy readers:
*Picture books:
*Board books:
*Comic books:
*Music CDs:
*Toys and puppets:
*Other things to note:

*Book drop:
*Self-checkout machines:
-Cost per page:
*Drinking fountain:
*Fire extinguisher:
*Other emergency equipment:
*Holds pick-Up:
*FAX machine (or location of nearest one):
*Meeting rooms and study rooms:
-Policies on use:
*Pay phone (or location of nearest one)

*Catalog stations:
*Internet stations:
-How many?
-How are they numbered?
-Any age restrictions?
-Time limits
-Software available
*Computer reservation station (if applicable):
-Cost per page:
-Is there a coin box to pay for prints or are they paid for at the desk?

*Pencil sharpener:
*Black markers (“Sharpies”):
*Paper clips:
*Rubber bands:
*Scratch paper:
*Extra paper for printer/photocopier:
*Extra staples:
*Three-hole punch:
*Post-it Notes:
*Sanitary wipes:
*Things for the little ones (e.g. stickers, stamps, crayons, coloring sheets, etc. If library allows):
*Emergency manual:
*Information desk manual:
*Other things to note:

*Lockers or place to put your coat/bag/etc.:
*Break room:
*Timecards (if applicable):
*Lost and found:
*Keys to get into staff area (if applicable):
*Cleaning supplies:
*Supply storage area:

*Bus schedules:
*Drivers manuals:
*Tax forms:
*Library-related brochures (library locations/hours, library events, etc.):
*Other giveaways of note:



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Substitute Librarian's Survival Guide

As some readers of this blog may know, I am a substitute librarian. I have been subbing in public libraries since February 2007 and have worked in three different library systems.

I find my work very rewarding. I sub at different libraries depending on where the need for a substitute is greatest. (I have subbed in over 30 libraries) I love the variety of working at different libraries and seeing the different ways libraries do things. Some libraries I’ve worked in are very large, urban libraries; others are small rural ones. The libraries have different patron demographics and collection strengths. Regardless of where I work, it’s always an interesting and educational experience and I get to meet lots of wonderful people.

Each library has its own layout, policies, patron demographics, and atmosphere. It can be a challenge to keep all of this information straight. In particular, when subbing in a certain library branch for the first time, or if you are new to subbing how can you avoid getting overwhelmed? I will share some tips that have worked well for me.


Half of the battle is knowing where things are located. To avoid the embarrassment of not being able to answer or answering incorrectly the patrons’ questions as to where things are, if possible, I recommend visiting the library before you are scheduled to work there. I would especially recommend this if you are subbing there for the first time or if it’s been a long time since you subbed there. When visiting, do a thorough examination of the library’s layout. I find that a checklist template works well for me. The template lists things that are common to each library. I print a separate copy of the template for each branch and take notes as to the locations of things. This works particularly well for libraries that I only work at on a very occasional basis. I find that if several months pass by between library visits, I forget a lot of the details as to where things are located. The notes are helpful in refreshing my memory from my last visit.

What kinds of things should you be looking for when visiting a library? I will post a more detailed list in a future blog post, but I recommend paying attention to where the different parts of the library collection are located. Where are the fiction, nonfiction, large print, new books, audio books, videos, music CDs, magazines, and newspapers? In the children’s area, look for the juvenile fiction, picture books, easy readers, board books, magazines, videos, and audio books. Are there any toys, puzzles, or puppets available for the kids to play with? In the young adult area, look for the fiction, nonfiction, magazines, audio books, graphic novels, and manga.

Some libraries may shelve items differently. For example, some may place paperbacks separate from hardcover books while others file them all together. Some libraries may interfile juvenile nonfiction with adult nonfiction, others may keep them separate. Genre fiction may be shelved differently between libraries. There may be separate sections for genres such as mystery, romance, science fiction, or westerns. In the children’s area, some libraries may have a section of books that part of a series (e.g. American Girl, Captain Underpants, etc.). Different libraries may have their own special sections. For example, there may be a travel section, local history section, holiday books section, or jobs and careers section. Pay attention to anything that’s unique about the way the library shelves its materials.

What foreign languages does the library have? What formats are the foreign language materials available in and for what age groups?

Take note of the library’s reference collection. Learn the locations of commonly used reference sources such as the encyclopedias (also the circulating set), dictionary, almanac, atlases, NADA guides, consumer reports, phone books, etc.

Regardless of where I work at, patrons ask me several times a day if they can borrow certain desk supplies. When you arrive at the library, study the layout of the information desk area and learn where the commonly asked for supplies are. If your workstation is out of something, do you know where the library’s storage room is in case you need to get more?

Patrons frequently ask for giveaways such as tax forms, bus schedules, drivers manuals, list of upcoming library events and classes, library card information, library hours, etc. Learn where these are located.

Also study the layout of the library’s computers. Where are the catalog stations and Internet stations located? How are the computers numbered? Does the library use computer reservation software? If so, where is the reservation station? What types of software are available on the library’s computers? Are there separate computers for children, teens, and adults? If so, are there age restrictions on them?

What is the library’s policy on computer usage? Are they available to only those with registered library cards or are they available for everybody? How does the library handle patrons who don’t have a library card, forgot to bring the library card, or are just visiting the library for the day? Are they granted a guest pass to get on the computers?
Is there a time limit on computers? Can patrons be granted a time extension and under what circumstances?

Where is the printer? How much is the charge for printing? Do patrons put money in a coin box to pay for prints or do they pay staff members at the desk?

Where is the photocopier? How much is the charge? Where is extra paper for the photocopier/printer stored?

Where is the book return?

Where is the drinking fountain?

Some libraries may also have one or more of the following: Meeting room, study room, self-checkout machine, and holds pickup area. What are the policies regarding meeting room and study room use?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, where are the restrooms?


Even though the library you are subbing in may be part of a multi-branch county or city system, it may still have its own unique policies. If you are subbing in a library for the first time, it’s good to ask what these are. If it’s been awhile since you’ve subbed at that library, you should also ask if there have been recent changes in policy. For example, some libraries may have age restrictions on usage of certain computers or may hold the patron’s ID or library card for heavily used items such as today’s newspaper.


Chances are each library you sub in will have a different ‘feel’ to it. If subbing for the first time, it’s a good idea to visit the library in advance and talk to the staff members to get a sense of what it’s really like to work there and what to expect. Some libraries may be busier and others quieter. When are the library’s peak periods of activity? Patron demographics also vary between libraries. For example, one of the branches I often sub at has a large number of teenagers who come in after school to use the computers. Another branch is very close to senior housing, so the library has a large number of senior patrons. I’ve subbed in libraries where there are a large number of recent immigrants, so common requests are for foreign language, English language learning, or adult basic education materials. Socioeconomic factors can also affect patron needs. For example, if the library is located in a poorer section of town, the patrons are less likely own a computer and may depend on the library for computer usage. What are the demographics of the patrons in the library? How will this affect what the most common patron needs are? In addition, the personalities of the library staff will be different depending on the library, which may also affect the ‘feel’ of working there.


If you are scheduled to open the library, know how to access the building before it opens. Some library systems may issue keys that will work for multiple branches. With others, you may not have access to a key, so you will need to ring the doorbell or knock on the door at the staff entrance to be let in.

If it’s your first visit to the library, you should be shown where to put your coat/bag/purse/etc. Many libraries will have lockers available for you to use. Some come with a padlock. If so, what’s the combination? Also, you should be shown where the break room is. Most libraries break rooms will have a fridge and microwave. Some may also have toasters and coffee makers. Some libraries may charge a small fee if you wish to have coffee.

It’s good to arrive at your workstation several minutes before your shift begins- earlier if it’s your first time, so you can get your questions answered before the patrons arrive. If there is more than one workstation, ask which one you will be stationed at. Make sure you can login to your library’s workstation and the ILS (Integrated Library System). If there are special passwords to log on, know where they are stored in case you forget.

Make sure the phone at your workstation is working. In some library systems, you may have to “log on” to the phone. Become familiar enough with the library’s phone system, so you can put a caller on hold or transfer as needed. In case you need to transfer the caller to another staff member, be sure to have a list of the library’s phone extensions nearby.

If your shift is several hours or more, you should get a break. Find out if this break is paid or unpaid and when it is and for how long.

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER YOUR TIME THAT YOU WORKED! Different library systems handle this differently. Some literally have you punch in and out, some will have you fill out paper time cards, and others will have you submit your time electronically.

Here are some more things you should know:

*The library’s hours, address, and phone number

Who’s Who
*Who will you be subbing for? What’s the reason for the librarians absence? When will that librarian be returning? (if known)
*Who will be the librarian in charge when you are working? (This may or may not be the same as the head librarian or branch librarian)
*Who is the circulation supervisor? (if applicable)
*Names of other staff members
*Who is in charge of library volunteers? I frequently get asked about volunteering and it’s good to know who to direct the patron to. Will there be volunteers coming in today? Who are they and what will they be doing? It’s good to know, especially if you are subbing for the person in charge of volunteers.
*Where is the staff schedule posted? (I frequently get asked if a certain employee is available and when.)

*Are there any special events or programs occurring in the library today or in the near future? What time? Where? Is registration required?

*If you are scheduled to open or close the library, what is to be done?

*Any other library news I should be aware of?

Resources near the library:
*If the library doesn’t have a FAX machine for public use, where is the nearest one?
*Where is the nearest pay phone? (Some libraries may let patrons use the staff phone to call for rides or for emergencies. Other libraries may have a ‘courtesy’ phone for this purpose as long as calls are limited to a couple minutes. Ask what the phone policies are)
*Where is the nearest notary?
*Where is the city hall?


The irregularity and limited number of work hours may pose another challenge with subbing. While some subs may regularly work part-time at a particular branch and sub every now and then to work additional hours; many other librarians who sub do just that. They are not permanently assigned to any branch and have no set work hours. The number of work hours can vary widely from week to week. Since there is no guarantee on the number of hours, library subs are typically not eligible for benefits. In addition, library systems may have limits as to the amount of hours a substitute can work in a given week or per year.

Depending on the library system and the state of the economy a substitute librarian may or may not feel comfortable with subbing as the sole source of income. Some substitutes may find that they need to take on an additional job to feel comfortable financially. Substitutes are often needed during weekends, right before and right after holidays, and during major library conferences. Substitutes who are available and willing to work during these times have the greatest likelihood of getting more hours as well as those who are willing to fill last-minute vacancies.

Depending on the library system, you may be notified of shifts via email, phone, or via an online scheduling system such as AESOP, or a combination of these. One of the library systems I sub in uses AESOP for posting substitute vacancies. The first person to see the shift and accept it gets it. It’s good to check your email, phone messages, or online scheduling system frequently for potential shifts. .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Science Databases

Earlier this month, I attended a free webinar sponsored by MINITEX on science resources. The webinar emphasized two databases in particular: Science Reference Center and General Science Collection. I frequently provide science reference services so I am already familiar with these databases but I was hoping to learn more about them in depth.

Science Reference Center is one of the EBSCO databases. This database is a good "one stop shopping" resource for science related information, featuring the following:

--181 full-text science periodicals
--626 full-text science reference books
--23 full-text science encyclopedias
--812 full-text science essays
--3790 full-text, full-length biographies of scientists
--61 science annotations
--10,000+ science images
--519 science videos

The articles in this database all correspond to state and national curriculum standards.
Additionally, science experiments can be searched via advanced search. This will really come in handy when the science experiment books don't have what the student needs. One can also limit searching to a certain lexile level here.

Science Reference Center can be accessed through three different interfaces, depending on the age level of the user. The default interface is geared towards an adult audience, accessed by selecting Science Reference Center in your library's list of databases. A second interface geared towards middle school and high school students can be accessed via Student Research Center. There is also an interface designed for elementary school students via Kids Search.

General Science Collection is one of the GALE databases. Compared to Science Reference Center, this database seems to be more geared towards high school and college students. The database searches over 200 science journals covering a wide diversity of scientific fields. The database's main page features a "What's New" section and tabs for search results for three very common topics: Stem Cell Research, Global Warming, and Animal Rights.

When searching General Science Collection, the search results are divided into the following tabs: Academic journals, magazines, books, news, and multimedia. The results default to the academic journals tab, which is usually the majority of the search results. To see results in other formats, simply click on the corresponding tab. The multimedia tab is used when you wish to limit your search to articles containing images. If you search with limits, remember that if you switch between tabs, you will lose any limits you set.

The advanced search allows for limiting your search results by document type, publication date, publication title, publication subject, or lexile level. I learned that biography is listed as one of the document types.

Discovering Collection (another GALE database) was also mentioned as another electronic science resource. This database is geared towards middle school and high school students and curriculum standards avaiable.

One way to access science information in Discovering Collection is via the database's Topic Trees. The Science Topic Tree represents the most frequent searches for scientific topics. This list changes approximately every 6 months. Science experiments can be searched in the advanced search by selecting "Experiment Activity" as the document type.

One new thing I learned about Discovering Collection is some articles have corresponding MP3 files. You can download the MP3 file and have the article read to you.

Some of the other databases containing science information include:

*Expanded Academic ASAP (GALE)
*Academic Search Premier (EBSCO)
*Student Resource Center Gold (GALE)
*Britannica Online School / Public / Academic Editions

Friday, December 11, 2009

Using Science Reference Center to locate videos

Did you know that you can use EBSCO's Science Reference Center Database to search for videos? This is a great alternative to searching the library's often limited collection. To search videos, click on the "Images/Video" at the top of the database's main page. To limit the search to just videos, uncheck the "Image Collection" and the "Image Quick View Collection" boxes while making sure the "Science Video Collection" box is checked. Most videos are under 5 minutes in length but there are some longer movie-length ones. If your library doesn't subscribe to Science Reference Center, Google Videos and YouTube are some other sources for science videos.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Online practice tests (GED, SAT, etc.)

One question I frequently get is "Do you have books with practice tests for the GED/SAT/GRE/etc.?" Besides books there are also free online options for patrons. Some libraries, including Hennepin County Library subscribe to Learning Express Library. This is an excellent online resource which offers a variety of practice tests including: GED, SAT, ACT, GRE, TOEFL, adult basic skills, civil service, law enforcement, military, EMS, postal services, firefighter, and U.S. citizenship.

My library also subscribes to Brainfuse, which is an online homework help resource. The Adult Learning Center component of Brainfuse provides free practice tests for the GED and the US Citizenship exam.

If your library doesn't subscribe to these or related resources, there are still numerous online resources not requiring a subscription that are free to the general public. Some of these include Test Prep Review, Study Guide Zone, and GED Online Course.

So consider these online resources, especially if there is a wait for the book and/or if the patron is comfortable with computers and the Internet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fun alphabet books for children

Here's an annotated booklist I created on fun alphabet books for children. I chose these for their creativity and photographic appeal. You can also view the list here, with pictures of the book covers: http://www.hclib.org/pub/bookspace/Profile.cfm?DisplayName=Laura%20Miller

The Z was zapped : a play in twenty-six acts
by Van Allsburg, Chris.
Each letter goes on stage and dramatic things happen to each one, from A being in an avalanche to the Z being zapped.

Tomorrow's alphabet
by Shannon, George.
This book emphasizes thinking ahead skills as the reader guesses what the object will become using the key letter. A is for seed which is tomorrow's apple; B is for eggs, which is tomorrow's bird, etc.

The alphabet from A to Y with bonus letter, Z!
by Martin, Steve, 1945-
Presents a rhyming couplet featuring each letter of the alphabet, with such characters as David the dog-faced boy, who dons a derby despite being dirty, and Victor, whose frequent victories have made him vainglorious.

Chicka chicka boom boom
by Martin, Bill, 1916-2004.
An alphabet rhyme/chant that relates what happens when the whole alphabet tries to climb a coconut tree.

by MacDonald, Suse.
The letters of the alphabet are transformed and incoporated into twenty-six illustrations, so that the hole in "b" becomes a balloon and "y" turns into the head of a yak.

Alphabet city
by Johnson, Stephen, 1964-
Hidden letters are found in objects located in the city. For example, a G is hidden in the curve of a lamppost.

Eating the alphabet : fruits and vegetables from A to Z
by Ehlert, Lois.
Colorful illustrations of everyday (e.g. apple, banana) and less common (e.g. quince, star fruit) fruits and vegetables by letter of the alphabet. There is a section in the back to learn more about each featured fruit or vegetable.

Old black fly
by Aylesworth, Jim.
Rhyming text and illustrations follow a mischievous old black fly through the alphabet and he has a very busy, bad day landing where he shouldn't be.

Read anything good lately?
by Allen, Susan, 1951-
An alphabetical look at some different places and things to read, from an atlas at the airport to a zodiac at the zoo.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Textbook Rentals

As the school year is upon us, college students are coming to their local public library in hopes that the library has the textbooks they need for their courses. College textbooks can be highly expensive, so it makes sense that students would consider borrowing it from the library rather than purchasing it.

Public libraries tend to carry a only a limited number of textbooks and usually they are not the same ones the students need for their classes. Borrowing a textbook via interlibrary loan may work for some students but the problem is it can take several weeks for the book to arrive. The books may not arrive until after the course begins.

The student often needs the book for the entire duration of the course. Most commonly this is for a four-month semester. Loan periods are typically three weeks. If another student has placed a hold request on the same book, the student will not be able to renew it. Libraries also have renewal limits (usually 2 or 3 times) so even with maximizing the number of renewals, the loan period may still not cover the length of the course.

Textbook rental sites such as Chegg allow students to rent books, typically saving 65-85% off the list price. Students can rent books for the entire duration of the course and have the option to buy the book at the end of the rental period if they choose to do so. Students can also use Chegg to sell old textbooks. Bookswim is another website that does textbook rentals.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know

New York Public Library has a list of 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know. I have found this list to be a very helpful resource for young childrens' readers advisory and for potential storytime ideas.

This list includes several of my childhood favorites such as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Judith Viorst), Corduroy (Don Freeman), Harold and the Purple Crayon (Crockett Johnson), and Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak). From this list, I have also discovered new favorites such as How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (Jane Yolen), No David! (David Shannon), and Froggy Gets Dressed (Jonathan London).

This list covers both longtime classics as well as more contemporary fare.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Things you may not know about Novelist and Readers Advisory

Recently, I attended a workshop on using the NovelistPlus database to provide Readers Advisory services. The workshop was presented by Duncan Smith, NoveList Product Manager. The presenter was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining.

Some of the key points the presenter stressed regarding readers advisory:

1) Research tells us fiction readers are browsers. They are looking for something good without REALLY knowing what they're looking for.

2) A question to ask patrons is: "Tell me about a book you've read and enjoyed." Readers generally like to be asked this question. The reader will then talk about one or more of the following:
setting (time/place)
emotional affect.

What element(s) the reader mentions gives clues about what's important to him/her.

Then paraphrase back what the reader said in order to clarify what a "good" book means to the reader.

3) Readers essentially rewrite the books they read. They tend to remember the parts that speak to them and throw out the rest.

4) Involve the user in the readers advisory process. Maintain contact and talk about what we are doing.

Some key points about Novelist Plus:

*Covers over 250,000 titles with about 170,000 of those being fiction. The adult nonfiction titles do not include how-to books or the more informationally oriented ones. Instead, it includes topics such as memoirs, narratives, armchair travel, or true crime. The juvenile nonfiction books, however, do include curriculum oriented materials.

*About 30,000 titles are added to the NovelistPlus database each year

*About 540 Book Discussion Guides are available for use in book clubs

*Each item has a popularity ranking on a scale of 1-4, with 4 being the most popular through the course of time.

*Lexile scores are provided for approximately 30,000 titles

*Book talk outlines are available for over 900 titles. These can be printed out and used.

*There are approximately 1200 preconstructed book lists with brief annotatations. These can be helpful for generating ideas for displays.

*Grab and Go lists provide a listing of curriculum related materials

*Author read-alikes are provided for many authors. The read-alike list provides a rationale as to why certain authors are similar.

*Subject headings are provided for books and can also be useful in finding similar books.

*Can limit search by age group: Teens (13-18), Older kids (9-12), Younger kids (birth-8)

*Can limit search results to fiction or nonfiction

*Can search book reviews. Oftentimes the book reviews will suggest similar authors.

*Since NovelistPlus does not monitor editions or formats, it is not possible to search using these parameters.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thing 47- Evaluation

Reaching the end of More Things on a Stick has made me happy and sad at the same time. I'm happy because I feel like I've completed a major undertaking and I'm far more tech-savvy as a result. I'm sad because there are no more cool things to explore.

I enjoyed exploring all of the things in this program. The things that are the most useful to me personally: Google Tools (Thing 29), More Ways to Use RSS and Delicious (Thing 30), Books 2.0 (Thing 35), and WebJunction Minnesota (Thing 46). While each of the 23 Things is useful, these ones I see as being the most helpful in enhancing my career as a librarian.

As a result of completing 23 Things on a Stick and More Things on a Stick I plan on using the majority of the tools I've learned about on a regular basis. I hope there are more programs like this one. There are always new tools out there to learn.

Thing 46- WebJunction Minnesota

I had already registered with WebJunction Minnesota before starting this thing but I decided to revisit the site, update my account information, and take advantage of more of its tools. For me, the most useful thing on WebJunction Minnesota is the multitude of free courses available. I previously took the Managing Difficult Patrons With Confidence course, which I found extremely helpful. I browsed through the list of courses seeing what I might want to take next and decided to sign up for the Readers'Advisory Services course.

I also found some librarians I know who are using WebJunction Minnesota and sent them friends requests. I think WebJunction Minnesota can serve as a powerful networking tool for librarians.

I also browsed through various discussion groups and joined the MN Early Career Librarians group. I have been employed as a librarian just over two years, so I would consider myself relatively early in my career.

One thing I would like to see more of on WebJunction Minnesota is information pertaining to job hunting for librarians. I think this is a concern for many, especially in today's economy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thing 45- Cloud Computing

What if I lost all the data stored on my computer, would I have the data backed up somewhere? That's a question to ask yourself.

I have my important files backed up on a flash drive. Now, suppose that my apartment burned down in a fire and I lose all of my possessions, including the precious data stored on my flash drive. I'm screwed.

Thanks to cloud computing, that no longer has to happen. Cloud computing stores data on another computer, via an Internet connection. For example, when you save bookmarks to Delicious or create that Google Document via Google Docs, you are using cloud computing.

Besides providing a place outside your computer to backup files, I see cloud computing as also having the advantage of being able to access your files anywhere for free. Right now, I am using cloud computing for storing my bookmarks in Delicious, for saving documents in Google Docs, for saving important emails, and storing my photos in Flickr. Cloud computing has enhanced my productivity because I can access this information from any computer. Several of the bookmarks I have saved have come in handy when assisting patrons with reference questions. In my Google Docs account, I have several booklists saved, which is helpful when assisting patrons with readers advisory.

A concern I have with cloud computing is privacy. Although the account is password protected, I do worry about some hacker trying to get in. So I won't store anything really personal on the web. Also, there is a learning curve for websites such as Delicious and Google Docs. Some people may not be willing to take the time to learn these tools. Also, what if a site where you have your data stored on goes out of business, what happens to your data then?

In the future, I plan to use cloud computing more. I would like to add more of my photos to my Flickr account and upload more of my files to Google Docs.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thing 44- The Economy

As someone who is not employed full-time, I find I have to be extra careful with how I spend and manage my money. My money management philosophy is pretty simple: only buy what you can afford and avoid debt if at all possible. I do have student loan and car loan payments each month, as do many, but other than that I don't have debt. I rent rather than own a house. I manage to pay off my credit card bills in full each month to avoid the astronomical interest interest rates they charge. I have health insurance but have a high deductible to lower my monthly rate. It's still a lot of money I have to pay out of my pocket each month.

In general I think my money management skills are good and I didn't see a need to set up an account with one of the money management websites. What I am interested in though, is additional ways that I can save money, that I may not already know about. Frugal Dad offers 75 hints gives a good summary of money saving hints. Many of these I do already, such as taking advantage of the library. Others I've thought about doing but don't have the know how such as cutting my own hair. My hair would be a disaster if I did that, so I end up paying for my haircuts.

One of the tips was to eat less fast food. This is one I'm guilty of. Even though I usually opt for the healthier choices on the menu, it still costs far more than eating at home or cooking my own meals. Yet, I eat fast food several times a week because it saves time. When I'm subbing, some of the libraries are an hour's drive away and the last thing I wan't to do after a long drive is cook.

For me, time is money. I won't use a money saving tip if its going to take up too much time. Spending an hour clipping coupons just to save a couple of dollars is not worth it.

Of all the money saving tips, my favorite one would have to be borrowing things from the library. Since becoming a regular user of the library, I almost never buy books anymore. Rather than renting movies or subscribing to Netflix, I put myself on the waiting list to watch a recent release for free. Sure, I have to wait, but there's plenty of older movies I can view for free while waiting.

Some of the other websites I found helpful were the free coupon sites, gas prices, and garage sales. I'm always on the lookout for a good deal.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thing 43- Online TV and Video

I set up an account with Hulu and explored some its features. I was able to easily find episodes of my favorite TV shows and add items to the queue for viewing later and subscribe to episodes of shows. One limitation of Hulu is that it only displays the last episodes from the last few weeks.

I also used Hulu to browse for movies. The selection of movies I thought was rather limited but it did have a fairly large number of trailers, including the latest Harry Potter movie.

I think online videos will decrease the demand for broadcast or cable TV but it won't eliminate it entirely. Unlike cable TV, online videos are free. On the other hand, online video sites like Hulu don't have everything that cable TV might, such as reruns of older TV shows.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Handling difficult patrons effectively

Recently, during one of the staff development days for Washington County Library, Warren Graham came in to speak. Graham is an expert on library security procedures and has also written a book, Black Belt Librarians which is a great resource.

One of the things Graham discussed during his visit was how to handle difficult patrons effectively. He mentioned the 4 key emotional states of patrons and how to recognize them and respond appropriately. He uses the easy to remember acronym A-B-C-C.

A = Anxiety
The patron is “on” about something but is being civil. Remember to respond by stopping what it is you’re doing, make eye contact with the patron, and listen to what he/she has to say. Respond by saying things such as “I understand” or “I hear you”. Don’t say things like “I agree.”

B = Belligerence
At this point, the patron is obviously upset and may be doing things such as yelling, slapping the counter, cursing the situation (but not you), or acting in a willfully contrary manner. Like the anxious patron, remember to stop, look, and listen. It is also important that you establish your credibility as quick as possible and not let the patron go on and on. Examples of appropriate responses include things like: “We’re ready to help you but I need you to stop yelling” or “Give me a chance to explain it to you.” Do not tell the patron to “Calm down”, this phrase is too clich├ęd. Instead it’s better to say “settle down” or “compose yourself.” Don’t use terms such as ‘rules’, ‘procedure’, etc. It’s better to say “the library doesn’t allow that.”

When interacting with belligerent patrons, bodily reactions such as shakiness, muscle tension, or butterflies in the stomach are perfectly normal. They are nature’s way of preparing you for a potential confrontation.

There are several reasons why patrons get belligerent, including:

1) We live in a very negative society. (Just read or listen to the news)
2) People are stressed out.
3) Excessive email communication is harming our ability to communicate face-to-face.
4) The patron has had previous bad experience(s) with the library.
5) You are a victim of their bias (e.g. The patron may be biased against a certain gender or race.)
6) You are the first person in the library to tell them no.
7) They don’t understand the policies and/or why they exist.

C = Control (as in out of control)
At this point, the patron may be cursing you or communicating a threat against you, is drunk or drugged out, refuses to leave the library after being asked to leave, or is performing a sex offense. Police intervention is often necessary at this point, never hesitate to call 911. If the patron doesn’t leave by the time the police arrives, s/he could be arrested for trespass.

C = Calm
This is the ideal state of emotion. If you effectively deal with a patron who is anxious, belligerent, or even out of control, you may be able to get him or her back to the calm state.

Additionally, Graham recommends taking the following approaches toward problem patrons:

1) Approach patrons with a relaxed, yet confident frame of mind. If you feel vulnerable or anxious, try not to let that show.

2) Give patrons the benefit of the doubt at first. You can start out as nice and then come on strong but NOT the other way around.

3) Never apologize for doing your job. Don’t say things like “I’m sorry I have to tell you this” as it makes it sound like you don’t believe in the rules.

4) Respect the patron’s personal space. Don’t lean over and hover. Keep your distance, at least 18 inches from the patron.

5) Appearances mean nothing! There is no correlation between physical appearance and who’s a problem patron. Saying things like “he’s harmless” or “she has never caused any problems before” means zip.

6) Don’t say “No” and then immediately walk away or the patron may just continue doing what they shouldn’t be doing behind your back.

7) If you contact a patron sleeping in the library, and you can’t wake them up, call 911.

8) Any patron who is drunk or drugged out must leave the library.

9) Never argue with the problem patron. That will most likely make the patron even more upset, resulting in an even worse problem.

10) Remember that most kids are good kids. They may do things you don’t want them to do such as run, eat food, or talk loudly; often because they don’t know what a library is for. If you explain the rules to the kids and why they exist, most will readily comply.

11) #10 above goes for teens as well. Many problems with teenagers are the result of staffs’ fear or bias against teens.

12) Never go outside of the library with a problem patron, since you are now on their turf.

13) Respond fairly to unfair treatment directed at you.

Finally, Graham recommends five fundamental questions to ask yourself when working with patrons:

1) Am I passive or aggressive by nature?
Most library staff are passive by nature.

2) Am I more emotional or more of a thinker by nature?
Most people are naturally emotional. If you are a thinker, make sure you don’t suffer from paralysis by analysis.

3) Am I more introverted or extraverted by nature?
If you are more introverted, remember that a willingness to engage can make all of the difference for the better with upset people.

4) Do I like people?

5) Do I like my job?

Making your library a more secure place

Recently, during one of the staff development days for Washington County Library, Warren Graham came in to speak. Graham is an expert on library security procedures and has also written a book, Black Belt Librarians which is a great resource.

So how can you make your library a more secure place? Here are some suggestions according to Graham:

1) There needs to be rules and guidelines for the library.
They need to be kept short and simple and consistently enforced. For example, rules should not change with the person or the time or day.

2) Increase awareness of your surroundings.
Graham strongly recommends the 30-30-30 technique. For the next 30 days, every 30 minutes, look at what the patrons are doing for 30 seconds. This will heighten your awareness and intuition about others regarding security. Remember that the bad guy also has a heightened sense of awareness about you.

3) Document all problem incidents.
Incident reports should be forwarded to the library director within 24 hours of the incident. It is important to keep a problem log. Enter the patron’s name, the description of the problem, the date, and the staff member who submitted the entry.

4) Employees should be thoroughly trained in library security measures.
The managers should be trained first. The managers should then train the staff. Also make sure volunteers are informed on basic security measures. This includes knowing the locations of basic safety equipment as well as letting a staff member know when you encounter a patron that makes you uncomfortable.

5) A library should have a good relationship with the local police.
The library should let the police know that it’s got security measures in place and that the library staff are trained. If the library needs to call the police, it means that they REALLY need police intervention. If the police are *truly* needed, this is likelier to get an expedient response.

6) The library’s procedures must be periodically reviewed since the library’s vulnerabilities can change with time. Each library has unique challenges and a library staff member should never say things such as “Other libraries do it that way.”

7) Most libraries need a fundamental security camera system. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but at the minimum it should be able to detect who is entering and exiting the building.

8) Have the right managers in the right branches. For example, a manager working in a library that’s in a high crime neighborhood should be experienced and comfortable in dealing with crime related issues that arise.

9) The library needs to have the proper security staffing. Not all libraries require security staff but if you feel that your library needs it, then it’s important to hire the right staff. It is generally better to have officers rather than staff from contract-based security services. The security staff also need to be in good physical shape and trained in defensive techniques.

10) One of the most dangerous things is working alone. If for some reason you are working alone, never admit it. You should also never exit the library by yourself.

11) Saying hello to patrons and acknowledging their presence can be a major deterrent against problematic behavior.

12) Having a bell that rings when patrons enter is a good idea.

13) Regarding childrens and teen areas:
*Seating in childrens and teen areas should be just for children/teens and their care providers only.
*Teen and childrens areas should in separate sections of the library. This reduces the likelihood that a teenager bullies or otherwise harasses the younger children.
*It is a good idea to have the teen area where you can see it from where you normally work.

14) Regarding cash registers:
*They should require a secret sequence of numbers to enter in order to open the drawer
*They should be placed where patrons can’t easily access it
*Look at your library’s money handling methods and think like a bad guy. This will give you insight on what aspects of money handling need to be changed.
*Never announce out loud where patrons can hear things such as:
“Do you have change for a $50?”
”Can you run this money to the bank?”

15) Regarding staff areas:
*They need to be locked at all times. Never prop open the door to the staff area.
*You should put a padlock on your own staff locker

16) Restrooms shouldn’t have a light switch in them. It’s best if the lights in the restroom are controlled by a master switch outside the restroom.

17) Never loan patrons money, give them a ride, etc. If you say yes once, they will expect you to keep doing so.

18) You may want to have a policy where chairs and furniture cannot be moved. This is so that patrons don’t move them to hard to see areas from the main desk.

19) You may want to limit the number of computers for games or social networking (or not allow them).

20) Parking lots should be lit up at night.

Thing 42- Music 2.0

I've had Pandora and Last.fm accounts for quite awhile now but haven't really used them that much. I guess its because I'm usually content to listen to the CDs and MP3s that I own. I was glad to revisit both of these sites and discover some more music I like.

I like Pandora for its simple interface and because its fun to see what song it will play next based on a favorite music artist. I tried it with Jack Johnson and Coldplay. Some of the songs it selects are eerily similar to the artist, others are a bit of a stretch but for the most part, the songs it selects are pretty good. I like being able to rate each song as its played and being able to bookmark favorites.

With Last.fm, it's easy to look up favorite artists and find similar artists. The neighbors feature is neat. It shows you a list of people who share common music tastes. You can also add radio stations and share them with others.

I also explored Internet radio station sites including Reciva and Live365. I had fun browsing through the list of genres and stations, it was hard to choose which ones to listen to since there were so many choices. I was in an adventurous mood and decided to try something different- something I'm not already familiar with. So I opted for Bula FM- a music station from Fiji. It's not in English of course but the music is cool. I also tried some other world music stations but could not get some of them to play. They were not compatible with Windows Media Player and I didn't feel like downloading any new software.

I see Internet radio as becoming increasingly popular and I know people that primarily listen to the radio that way. I think there will still be a market for broadcast radio but I see it becoming more specialized. More and more people are flocking to satellite radio using services like radio XM, which has numerous highly specialized radio stations.

Finally, as someone who purchases MP3s over the Internet, I am interested in knowing where I can download free music and do so LEGALLY.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thing 41- Mashup Your Life

I set up an account with FriendFeed. What I like about FriendFeed is being able to retrieve content from multiple sites all in one place. For example, I can see what my friends have bookmarked in Delicious, their Twitter updates, and recently added Flickr photos all in one place. In this sense, FriendFeed is a productivity enhancer. I also like that you can view one friend's updates at a time and filter by content. For example, if you are just interested in seeing your friends latest Delicious bookmarks, FriendFeed makes that possible.

I used FriendFeed to import my Twitter updates, my Flickr photos, my Diggs, my Blog posts, my LinkedIn information, and my Delicious bookmarks. I tried to add my Facebook status updates but was not able to since I could not locate the appropriate URL in spite of going to the help section and following the instructions to the letter.

I was disappointed to find that just a couple of my friends from Facebook and Twitter are on FriendFeed. I suppose that many have not heard about it, are not interested in it, or are using some different lifestreaming site. Perhaps, peoples' interest with lifestreaming sites such as FriendFeed will increase with time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thing 40- Mashup the Web

Mashups are alot of fun and I discovered several new favorites in this thing.

Bkkeeper is a Twitter mashup that makes it easy to quickly track your reading.

Ping.fm allows you to post to multiple social networks simultaneously. At times I've been frustrated having to log into both Twitter and Facebook to post a status update. Now I no longer have to.

Flickr Memari Make memory games out of your Flickr photos or play the any of the preset memory games. I tried the hard level ones (6X6 grid). Quite challenging.

TimeTube View a timeline of videos based on a given keyword. I tried it for library but it only went back to December 2005. I was hoping to find some really old ones.

I tried the Last.fm+YouTube mashup, which is like an online music television station based on your music tastes. Unfortunately, it wasn't working.

According to Walkable the walkability score based on my address is 46/100, which places me in the car dependent category. However, the nearest library is less than a mile away!

Here is a mashup I created using Yahoo! Pipes of libraries within 10 miles of my hometown, Bloomington, MN.

Some of the mashups I explored would be useful in libraries. Book Tour will let you know when a favorite author is coming to your town.

Lazy Library searches for books from Amazon.com that are under 200 pages on a given subject. The sad reality is students sometimes wait until the last minute to do a research assignment and don't have time (or the interest) for longer books.

Some of the patrons I serve do not drive or are considering walking more. Walkable would be useful for them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thing 39- Digital Storytelling

I'm not that much into scrapbooking but if I was, I would definitely get into digital scrapbooking. Digital scrapbooking has several advantages over regular scrapbooking. Entries can be edited in just a click or two. There is much more flexibility with layouts. Your creations can be shared over the Internet. It's cleaner too- you don't have supplies spread out all over the room. Finally, if your house burns down, you have a copy of your scrapbook on the Internet. That will stay there unless you delete your account.

Libraries can use digital scrapbooking as a creative way to share photos of events or for making fliers and posters. Libraries could also offer courses on digital scrapbooking. Lots of people take up scrapbooking as a hobby, but I bet many of them aren't aware of the advantages digital scrapbooking can offer.

Digital scrapbooking is even being used in the classroom as a means of enhancing the learning experience.

The first challenge was to figure out which photos to use for my digital scrapbook. For one thing, I only have a limited number of photos in the digital format. I ended up using the some of my photos from my vacation to Duluth and the North Shore even though I would have preferred something different this time.

I ended up choosing VoiceThread to create my "story". VoiceThread was easy to use and I could type up comments to my photos.

Although, I initially experienced some frustration, I was able to see all the wonderful things digital scrapbooking can offer. I can see myself using digital scrapbooking tools in the future for my personal use. I just have to take more pictures first.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thing 38- Screencasting

I love screencasts. They make things easier for people to learn because movement on a screen can be captured in addition to the image. They appeal to both visual and auditory learners because one can both see and hear (if audio is added) the instructions. Libraries use screencasts to show people how to navigate the library's website, the catalog, or the databases. Screencasts are also used to show patrons how to place holds on items and how to access their account information.

I explored various screencasting tools and ended up choosing Screencast-o-matic in making my screencast. I wanted a tool that was simple to learn and didn't require any downloading. ScreenToaster also met these criteria and initially appealed to me but whenever I tried to use it, my computer slowed down considerably. So I gave up on ScreenToaster.

I made a screencast showing Washington County Library users how to access their account information from home. I don't have a microphone, so my screencast has no audio. I tried to add a note in one part but I couldn't get it to work.

Making a screencast was a frustrating experience at first but wasn't too bad once I got the hang of it. I would be interested in making more screencasts in the future and posting them to my library's website but would want to use more sophisticated tools.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thing 37- Photo Tales

Many libraries are using photo sharing sites such as Flickr to post photos of the library and events. Libraries can use photo mashups to improve the quality of the photos or make them more eye catching. Some of the mashups are strictly for fun and libraries can use these to make creative posters and fliers.

For this thing, I explored various photo tools and mashups and had a great of fun doing so.

I used Animoto to create an animated slide show with music using some of my vacation photos to Duluth and the North Shore.

Next stop was Collagr which creates a collage using your Flickr photos. Here's my collage using my vacation photos.

I then tried out CaptionBubble, which adds captions to your photos. Here's one I created:

Create your own caption

I used the Image Mosaic Generator to make a mosaic of smaller pictures using my avatar. Unfortunately, I can't get the picture to upload on here or Flickr, probably because the file is too big.

I played around with some of the tools on Picnik. Here is the "heat map" version of my avatar:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thing 36- Comic Relief: Generate Some Fun

I found the password generators to be particularly useful for those who need a highly secure password or need passwords that meet certain requirements (e.g. At least 8 characters, at least one capital letter, both letters and numbers, etc.) In my job, the passwords I use to login to the staff computers, my work email, and my paystubs all have to meet strict security requirements.

The Free Password Generator generates strong, secure passwords and you can specify which requirements your password must meet.

Hashapass is a great site for generating highly secure passwords using a master password and a parameter. As long as you use the same master password and parameter, the same secure password will always be generated. Pretty neat.

PDFOnline will generate a PDF file from a different file format. I have received questions from patrons asking how to get a PDF from another file format, so sites like these are good to know about.

Citation Generators such as Son of Citation Machine and EasyBib are immensely useful for students working on papers. Enter information about the source, and a citation is automatically generated. The latter one appears to be more reliable and powerful (works for over 50 types of sources) but it charges for $8.99 per year for APA and Chicago/Turabian styles. MLA is free for some reason. Still, I think the charge would be well worth it for students who write alot of papers. It certainly saves the time and anxiety of trying to get the citation just right. I remember being a student and hating the citation part of writing papers with a passion.

I used to teach chemistry in community college and I wished I had been aware of Classtools, where you can generate educational games, activities, and diagrams. These can then be posted to your website or blog. Best of all, there is no signup required and its free! I also wish I knew about websites for generating free graph paper, since my students frequently had to make graphs for lab reports. As an instructor, I used the Random Integer Generator to help me in constructing the answer key for multiple choice exams. I wanted to assure that I wasn't biased towards the one particular answer option (first, second, third, or fourth).

For this thing, I also explored and tried out some comic strip generators. I searched for library related comics on ToonDoo and found a couple that I liked:



Other sources for funny library comics include Unshelved and Shelf Check. Both have RSS feeds you can subscribe to. The latter blog is by the same creator of the first comic.

I also used Make Beliefs to generate my own comic. Although its geared more for kids, I liked the simple, easy to use interface. I found some of the comic strip generators difficult and confusing to use. Here is the comic I created. I realize its blurry but if you click on it, you should be able to read it.

I used the ImageGenerator to generate this Windows pop up icon:

I also had fun with the Windows Error Message Generator.

In conclusion, I love generators and what they can do. I subscribed to the RSS feed Generator Blog and added it to my bookmarks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Convert your name to a Dewey Decimal #

Laura Miller's Dewey Decimal Section:

004 Data processing & computer science

Laura Miller = 21181392258 = 211+813+922+58 = 2004

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

Use Wordle to create beautiful tag clouds

Here's a tag cloud of my recent blog posts, using With Wordle, you can edit the font, color, and the orientation of the words. It's lots of fun!

Wordle: Bookwormishnerd's blog

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Library Technology Conference- What I Learned, Part 2

In this post, I will discuss what I've learned from the following three workshops I attended at the Library Technology Conference at Macalester College.

*Stuck in the Social Web
*Hi-Tech Toys


This workshop discussed the use of social tools such as blogs, wikis, social networks, instant messaging, and social bookmarking and how these tools can be implemented in libraries. Before using these tools in a library, the following should be considered:
*What kind of a web connection is needed?
*What are the financial costs?
*Who will be responsible for maintenance of these tool(s)?
*What is a reasonable time period for a trial of the tool(s)?
*What will be evidence of success for use of these tool(s)?

For blogs, the start-up time is generally moderate and ideally should be maintained weekly. Applications for libraries include posting of news and events and book reviews and marketing the library. Samples of good and not so good blog layouts were shown and differences between blog providers such as Blogger, WordPress, and EduBlogs was discussed.

Wikis generally have a longer start-up time than blogs and also should be maintained weekly. Wikis can be used in libraries for task force/committee work and also for conference planning. Sites such as WikiMatrix.org compare the differences between various wiki hosting sites.

Social networking sites have a minimal to moderate start up time and should be maintained daily. Applications for libraries include virtual reference (the presenter uses Facebook's chat feature to hold virtual office hours), low cost marketing/publicity, share common interests with patrons/colleagues, task force/committee work, and professional networking. One of the most popular social networking sites, Facebook, has a Library Applications for Facebook group which I joined. Facebook also has a Visual Bookshelf application, where you can post books you've read, want to read, and enjoyed. Way cool!

Instant messaging has a minimal start-up time and should be maintained daily. Applications for libraries include advising students, collaboration/networking with patrons/colleagues, virtual reference, and holding office hours. Meebo is recommended for IM as it integrates all of your IM accounts with just one single login.

Finally, social bookmarking has a minimal start-up time and should be maintained monthly. Applications for libraries include posting recurring assignment and research links, posting lists of databases, and posting topic guides. Several libraries are using social bookmarking sites such as Delicious for these purposes.


Ask MN is an online service available for Minnesota residents and students 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Benefits include reaching distant learners/patrons and giving patrons the opportunity to ask questions during non library hours. Over 60 librarians participate, with the typical librarian working one 60-90 minute shift per week. Off hours are handled by QuestionPoint, a 24/7 National Reference Cooperative.

Statistics taken from 3/24/08 through 2/28/09 show the following:

*2620 Academic library sessions (62%)
*1592 Public library sessions (38%)
When a question is asked, it gets assigned to the appropriate queue (academic or public). Questions assigned to the academic queue are only answered by academic librarians; likewise with the public queue.

*83% of questions are answered in a given session. The remaining 17% require some follow-up.
*The average length of a session is 17 minutes.

*Types of questions asked:
--Subject specific research (47%)
--Resources (eg. Do you own ___________ resource?) (23%)
--Circulation related (8%)
--Library information (13%)
--Technical problems (5%)
--Non-questions (eg. Testing out the service, non-library service related ?s) (4%)

*The most common time of day for questions is from 9:00am-noon but many are during non-library hours

*User feedback (4 institutions reporting, 266 responses)
--87% of participants found the librarian to be helpful
--82% were satisfied with the answer
--91% would use the service again


Various new hi-tech toys and tools were demonstrated and passed around. The features and benefits of the tools were explained. Much of the time was spent discussing eBook readers such as Amazon's Kindle and Sony Portable Reader System.

Features of the Kindle include:
*Built in web browser that can be accessed via a wireless connection
*Built in dictionary
*Ability to export articles from magazines/newspapers/databases to the Kindle
*Remembers where you left off in a book since you last used it
*Can highlight portions of the text and make notes on it
*Text to speech
*Text is in black and white but the Kindle application on the iPhone features color, which would be useful for reading picture books.

Sounds cool but the cost is $359 so I think I'll be waiting awhile.

Some libraries are even loaning out Kindles to patrons. I have mixed feelings about it. What if the patrons fail to return the Kindle?

Other hi-tech tools featured in the workshop include:
*Asus EEE mini PC
*Xo-1 from One Laptop per Child
*Apple iPhone
*Apple iPod Touch
*Flip Video Camera This is a small video camera with a built in flash drive so you can easily upload videos to the computer.
*Fly Fusion Pentop Computer

Library Technology Conference- What I Learned, Part 1

A few days ago, I attended the Library Technology Conference at Macalester College in St. Paul. This was my first time attending such a conference and it was great. I was only able to attend the second day but I learned a great deal.

I attended the following workshops:
1) Reading for Digital Natives
2) Library Technology Programs for Baby Boomers and Beyond
3) Stuck in the Social Web
4) AskMN
5) Hi-Tech Toys and Tools

The next two blog posts will discuss what I've learned from these workshops. I'll be discussing the first two workshops in this post, and the last three in the next.


Apparently, digital natives have brain differences compared to digital immigrants. For instance, the visual cortex is 20% larger today than in brains measured 20 years ago. There are also differences in picture retention, with digital natives retaining 90% of pictures, digital immigrants retaining 60%, and pre-digitals retaining only 10%.

Strengths of a digital native brain include:
*Reading visual images
*3-D and spatial thinking
*Mental maps or paper folding
*Inductive discovery, hypothesis, etc.
*Fast reaction times to expected and unexpected stimuli

Some concerns about digital natives include:
*Can they reflect?
*Can they think critically?
*Do they consider ethical issues like copyright?
*Does their health suffer? (eg. Does too much time at the computer make them sedentary and/or overweight?)
*Do they get bored frequently? Easily tuned out? There is concern that kids expect everything to be easy, fast, and fun. An interesting study on attention span was done with 5 year old Sesame Street viewers. One group played with toys while watching the show; the other did not. Although the first group watched 47% and the second group 87%, the both groups learned the same amount from the show.
*Can they function in a community? (eg. poorer eye contact due to less face-to-face interaction and more texting others)

So what is the impact of all of this on reading? Digital immigrants tend to read what they see on a computer screen, much like reading a book: left to right, then down to the left of the next row. Digital natives will start at the top left corner, then the top right, then the bottom left, then the bottom right, and finally back to the top left corner. The result is less eye movements for the digital native, so they can read and get the gist more quickly. Digital natives tend to be attracted to burnt orange, neon green, and red colors on a screen and tend to ignore black and white.

I also learned that there are differences in brain structure (confirmed by fMRI technology) between good readers and poor readers. Poorer readers may have one or more of the following: improper balance between gray and white matter, hemispherical assymetry, or underactivation or overactivation in certain areas, causing less efficiency.

Some things that can be done to improve reading include:
*Teach reading at all levels in all areas
*Teach reading strategies. One common strategy is KWL (what do I KNOW, what do I WANT to know, what have I LEARNED). Good readers will constantly predict and reflect while reading
*Be a mentor and model reading
*Let them have some choices as to what they wish to read about
*Practice, practice, practice
*Use technology when appropriate

Some libraries are implementing Senior Surf Day, which is an opportunity for seniors to learn how to effectively search the Internet. Examples of topics a Senior Surf Day might cover include:
*Navigating between webpages
*Determining if websites are secure
*Using search engines such as Google
*Preventing, detecting, and reporting healthcare fraud
*Introducing patrons to websites potentially of interest to seniors, such as:
Minnesota Help
Administration on Aging

The workshop also discussed ways to effectively deal with seniors in learning technology. The first thing to note is that the majority of seniors (65%) do not have Internet access. Many have zero experience with the Internet (and computers), many are not interested, and many think they are too old to learn or think its too complicated. Approaching the seniors rather than waiting for them to approach you seems to be more effective. Some seniors may be uncomfortable about seeking help even if they do want it.

The workshop presenters also recommend taking a Would-Could-Should approach. First ask them if they WOULD like to use technology? Some seniors may be rather resistant but often this is because they lack confidence or don't see how it benefits them. Second, show them that they COULD learn how. Some seniors may lack confidence in their ability to learn. Finally, explain to them why they SHOULD learn technology. Just do it in a way that doesn't sound to preachy.

Finally, I learned about Jitterbug Phones, which are senior friendly cell phones with large number buttons and a simple interface.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thing 35- Books 2.0

The role of books in libraries and elsewhere is evolving. Patrons are still primarily using the traditional bound book format but I've noticed the increasing numbers of patrons who are interested in other formats. Many patrons are too busy to read many books but like to listen to audiobooks on their way to work. I know some people who primarily digest books through this format. E-audiobooks are increasingly popular- some are compatible with MP3 players and iPODs, so you can listen to books while exercising or in the car. An increasing number of people are also willing to read books online, via a reader such as Amazon's Kindle, or even via phone. Even book clubs are going more online, with sites such as Booksprouts.

Book lovers today do not have to rely as much on librarians or printed book reviews for finding good books due to the numerous book 2.0 websites that now exist. There are websites for finding books based on your reading tastes, for locating reviews, for discussing books, and for renting or swapping books. I believe these book 2.0 tools serve to greatly enhance one's reading experience. The only downside is that there are so many great sites and not enough time.

For this thing, I explored numerous book 2.0 tools. I could spend all day on this! Some of the more interesting ones I visited include:

DailyLit Read entire books in short, customized installments which are sent via email or RSS. The downside? Some novels have several hundred installments.

Twitterlit posts the first line a book without author's name or book title. It provides a link to Amazon so readers can see what book it comes from.

BookLamp is a readers advisory site that analyzes writing styles based on the amount of pacing, density, action, description, and dialog. There aren't many books yet in the database and I've only read one of the books listed, but I think this will be very promising as more books are added.

What Should I Read Next? Enter a title or author you like and get recommendations. I found the recommendations to be quite accurate.

Literature Map Choose an author you like and it will map out similar authors. The closer the authors are on the map, the more similar. I don't think its always the most accurate but its still fun.

What's Next? and Juvenile Series and Sequels

Find the next book in a series.

BookStumpers If you are searching for a book and can't remember the title or author, this site might help. You post a stumper and others can make suggestions. It does cost $2 to post a stumper. If you don't wish to pay, consider subbing and posting to FICTION-L

Overbooked I have found this to be an excellent readers advisory site. Find starred reviews and "If you Like ________" lists. I also joined the Overbooked Ning.

BookGlutton Read books online and chat with others with a unique interface, where you can click anywhere in a book and initiate a discussion about that part.

Reading Group Choices Good site for those seeking reading guides for their book club.

Booksprouts Start your own online book club here!

Librivox Free audiobooks in the public domain

SwapTree Swap books, music, games, and movies. The site features a calculator for the postage and the ability to print out mailing labels.

BookCrossing Release a book and track its journey via the Internet.

BookSwim Rent books here, including paperbacks, hardcovers, and college textbooks. The NETFLIX answer to books. There is a monthly service fee. Bookrenter.com is another textbook rental site worth checking out.

A list of book-related applications on Facebook

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Levels of Competency

I was going through my old notes from library school which have been gathering dust. Some of the stuff is no longer useful due to changes in technology (I attended from 2003-2006) Things have changed fast since then. Even a few years ago, there wasn't much talk about all this library 2.0 stuff. Anyway, I did find some information on the levels of competency from my Management of Libraries class that I think is very pertinent to our jobs as librarians today.

According to this article, there are four levels of competency. The first level is unconsciously incompetent, where you are unaware of your lack of knowledge or skill. An example would be someone who doesn't know what a bike is. The person is unaware that he/she doesn't know how to ride a bike.

The second level is consciously incompetent, where you are aware of your skill deficit, but not have yet addressed it. For example, a kid watches someone riding a bike and wishes he/she could do that.

The third level is consciously competent, where you can perform a skill with a certain amount of concentration. For example, with effort you can ride a bike and not manage to fall down.

The fourth level is unconsciously competent, where the skill has become automatic or second nature. For example, you can ride a bike and not even have to think about it.

I've been thinking about how these levels apply to me as a librarian. So when have I been unconsciously incompetent? I can think back to the times when I've felt disappointed when I have applied and interviewed for jobs I did not get. When applying, I felt I was well qualified for the position, only to find out in the interview that I was in over my head. So prior to the interview, I was unconsciously incompetent. Another example: When I first started subbing in libraries, I was not even aware of the existence of some of the databases that could help me in answering some the more difficult reference questions and I never thought of the fact that I could even be asked some of these questions because I was unaware of the existence of such subject matter. Once I was aware that such reference questions could be asked, I became consciously incompetent.

Here's another case in point. When I started subbing I was woefully poor at reader's advisory and didn't even know about readers advisory websites or databases such as Novelist. I never took a reader's advisory course in library school and never received formal training on this. When asked a readers advisory question about a genre I wasn't familiar with, I just stood there helpless, all too aware of my incompetence.

I now consider myself to be at the consciously competent level with most readers advisory and reference questions, even if I am unfamiliar with the genre or subject area. I am aware of and can navigate through the key websites and databases that can help in answering such questions. It takes a good deal of effort at times but I can usually come up with something that's helpful for the patron.

Storytimes are another thing I can pull off successfully with some effort. I don't do enough storytimes for it to be second nature (I only do them occasionally when subbing for a youth services librarian).

Some areas that formerly required effort are now second nature to me and they are at the unconsciously competent level. Most of the ready-reference questions, placing holds, shelving materials, searching the library's catalog, and providing basic computer assistance would all fall into this category. Actually, there can be a drawback to being unconsciously competent. Sometimes, I'll know these tasks so well that I can forget that the patron is not at the same level I am. For instance, I'll quickly search the catalog and the patron is puzzled as to how I found what I did.

So how do these 4 levels of competence play out in your job?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thing 34- Is This Our Competition? Online Answer Sites

The appeal of online answer sites, I think, is being able to get an answer quickly, possibly from several people, all without having to leave your home. Are the answers credible? It depends. Some of the online answer sites such as Yahoo! Answers and WikiAnswers, anyone can post a reply to. Therefore, the credibility of some of the replies is questionable.

Allexperts claims to have experts answering all questions. To answer questions in a given area, you must apply to be an expert. It doesn't appear to too difficult to be an expert, basically you have to demonstrate at least some expertise and be able to follow basic spelling and grammar. Still, I like that there is some level of restriction as to who can reply to what questions. Therefore, I would trust an answer on this site more than Yahoo! Answers or WikiAnswers.

Another site I like is Snappy Fingers. This isn't so much an answer site as it is a search engine for FAQs on a given topic.

The types of questions I've seen on online answer sites widely vary, here are some examples:

*Practical, how-to questions such as "How do I unclog a slow shower drain?" This type of question could be directed to a library but is also appropriate for an answer site where people with the appropriate expertise can answer.

*Questions that based on opinion rather than fact. Some of these are really just a form of polling. They are not appropriate for libraries. For example: "Do you refuse to use port-a-potties?" Some of these questions can stir controversy, eg. "Adoption not abortion?" and should be proceeded with caution.

*Really technical types of questions. These are probably best directed to libraries rather than online answer sites. Ask a Librarian is an online reference service provided by the Library of Congress, which can be useful for the really technical or specialized questions. In the case of medical or legal types of questions, these need to be referred to a doctor or lawyer as the librarian is not properly trained to give advice in these areas.

*Questions such as "How do I STOP from being negative all the time?" can be directed at the librarians, but the librarian can only do so much. The librarian is not a therapist. What the librarian can do is direct the patron towards appropriate self-help resources.

In general, I think it is preferable to use the library in obtaining accurate information rather than relying on online answer sites. If a patron has trouble getting to the library, there are good online resources out there, such as the ones mentioned here. I do think that some people rely on online answer sites because they may not be aware of some of the more credible websites and don't want to or can't get to the library.

I haven't had the time to answer any of the questions posted on the online answer sites. I did explore the concept of Slam the Boards. On the 10th day of every month, librarians visit online answer sites and answer questions using credible sources of information. They also say that they are a librarian and try to promote the value of the library. I don't think I'll have the time to participate in the next one, but I think the idea is a good one. I also explored the Slam the Boards wiki.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thing 33- Travel 2.0

For this thing, I explored travel 2.0 sites such as travel blogs, travel review sites, travel journals, and travel mashups. I love traveling but since I don't work full-time, I can't afford to travel much. With the economy being the way it is, I don't see this changing much in the near future. So right now, some of these sites, such as the travel review and the travel journal ones don't have a lot of use for me.

I did enjoy browsing through the travel blogs, especially The Lost Girls which is about three young women in their 20's who embark on a year-long journey around the world. Their stories are entertaining. Another one of my favorites is The Window Seat because I get to learn more about all kinds of different places.

My favorite travel mashups include:
*Hotspotr for locating Wi-Fi hotspots and cafes throughout the U.S.
*Cost2Drive which accurately predicts the cost of gas on any road trip. It combines local and average gas prices with Google Maps and car-specific MPG data.
*Twittrans which translates your Twitter posts to another language

Travel questions are common at the reference desk and librarians should be aware of and post links to the most popular travel 2.0 sites on the library's website.

For the patron who wants to read about other peoples' first-hand experiences with traveling to certain locales, librarians can direct them to travel journals and blogs.

For the patron who needs information/advice on trip planning, the librarian can show the patron some of the trip planning/review sites.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thing 32- Google Maps and Mashups

Here is a map mashup I created using Google Maps with directions to the Park Grove Library, where I work at:

View Larger Map

The biggest challenge was getting the size and level of detail right.

I had a lot of fun playing around with various map mashups. Some of my favorite ones:

Most Dangerous Roads on Earth

Hotspotr Locate Wifi hotspots

Mezzoman Find a place to meet in the middle.

MapsZipcode Shows zip codes nationwide

Area Code Maps

If the Earth Were a Sandwich Shows you the point on the earth that is the exact opposite of any other point you select. The point exactly opposite my residence is in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia and southeast of Madagascar at -44.8355 latitude and 86.7224 longitude.

RoadlessLand.org Map of all of the designated road-free areas in the United States.

If I Walk in a Straight Line Around the World, Where Will I Pass?

Map mashups have many uses in libraries. Many library websites use them to post directions to the library or other places of interest in the local community. Some library patrons may use public transit or walk and Google Maps gives that option when finding directions. Map mashups giving information such as zip codes, area codes, wifi hotspots, restaurants, parks, etc. can be useful when answering reference questions.