Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creepy, questionable & fun

Change is healthy and normal and I sort of embrace some of the big shakeups coming down the pike.  Sure, it'll be kind of sad, in a way, to no longer have the post office, the check, etc.  Those are so ingrained in our minds as part of daily life, even when we don't really use them, that their lack might leave a big, nostalgic void for a while.  But the simple fact is that when we come up with a better way of doing things, the old way dies away.  The trick is to try to get on the right side of the change.  In the early 20th century, when the car culture was in its first appearances, livery stable owners had a choice: go away quietly, or adapt to become car dealerships and auto garages.  I'm not sure how a government agency like the post office could adapt in that way, but surely there will be a way for the individuals who have spent a lifetime organizing the logistics of the postal service to continue to serve in the information world.  We'll see.

I'm particularly happy to see the evolution of the television.  I think we've spent enough decades frozen in front of the boob-tube.  I feel bad, a little, for the networks (and the even more struggling cable channels), but they're working on getting with the program with streaming services through their own proprietary web presences and through services like hulu.  I think this change is great: so much excellent commentary has appeared on the internet revolving around tv shows--comedies, dramas, original stuff, literary adaptations, whatever--delving deep into serious social and cultural issues like our perceptions of race, sexuality, violence, and more.  There's a whole cottage industry out there of amateur criticism focused on tv, and I think it's due in large part to the shift to internet viewing: it allows for much easier pausing, rewinding, and tracking through for specific moments; and the medium by which to record your thoughts and feelings is right there in front on you, so a lot of people have taken advantage.  (For a great example of thoughtful commentary on a wide range of tv shows, check out Alyssa Rosenberg on ThinkProgress--tv criticism with a socio-political edge.)  I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm excited to see something that has long been a stereotypically braindead pastime begin to turn into something that's fostering some intelligent engagement.

But yeah, there's that scary side.  Privacy--what's that? I just got done writing a paper in which I explored the "privacy is dead" attitude prevalent among the upcoming generations, after which I speculated on the negative consequences of the tendency to sort of hold that up as inevitable, as something to accept and move on--namely, that the any, many people who still DO care about privacy will be tempted to eschew these new services and paradigms.  Not the least victim of this hesitance to access all that the century has to offer is the library; and if even one person feels like the library is not a safe place to enter private data, then the promise of the library as an institution of democracy is not being fulfilled.

So, yeah, privacy.  And e-books.  My 505 class had a guest speaker today, Mr Ken Fujiuchi, who informed us that to buy an e-reader is to give up the privacy of your reading habits.  The two concepts just can't co-exist.  Your data is culled and stored and analyzed every time you make a purchase, every time you browse.  That's sinister and unnecessary.  I don't want guessing what I want to read.  It's different with Pandora, upon which I commented in Karrie's post, wherein you actively give the details of your musical taste and let the application do the rest.  But with bookstores--I mean, forget the creepiness of individually targeted marketing; for me, part of the point of reading is the jumping around.  If I've just read a John le Carre, who says I'll want to read another cold war era espionage thriller with a humanistic bent next time?  Presumptions make a...pres...out of u and me...or something.

But all in all, I think I'm excited for the coming changes.  Mr Fujiuchi, who is an emerging technology librarian at Buff State, offered us some tantalizing glimpses of the future, not the least of which is Facebook and Intel's ability to create a museum exhibit of your life.  Creepy, questionable and fun--just how I like my futures.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I really appreciated this whole Web 2.0 exploration.  I had a lot of criticism about many of these applications, but I did appreciate learning about them, and some I've even come around on--the RSS feed is a part of my daily life now, and I've been using Zotero steadily for my big projects.  These are useful, yo.

I'm not sure I was very surprised at any point in this process; maybe my past posts belie that, but I sort of had a sense that these things existed out there somewhere.  It is a wide range, that's for sure, and I do appreciate having had this survey, because now I think I won't feel any intimidation in seeking out and implementing these technologies, either in my own life or in any library setting I find myself in.

On that note, I think that that about sums up the effect this experience has had on my Lifelong Learning techniques.  It's safe to say that feelings of intimidation play a large role in many facets of my life, including in seeking out and using technology I'm not already comfortable with.  Word processing and email, those have been my main digital crutches.  But there is so much more out there that can streamline life and business and careers.  Along with intimidation, I have to add that procrastination is a big part of my life, and assuming that doesn't go away any time soon, these technologies might make my life a bit smoother.  (Thanks for this semester, Zotero!)  I don't know how huge a shift in my perspective this is, since as a big reader and writer I was already kind of locked into the concept of being a lifelong learner.

One addition I might want to see on there is Prezi.  That keeps coming up in my LIS classes, and I'd love to have an excuse just to go play with it.  (Maybe after this semester.)  Such a pretty alternative to PowerPoint.  But in terms of format, I dunno, I have appreciated the self-direction of the experience, but I might like a few more mentions of due dates and whatnot in class.  Just touching base to remind the students that it's not a 'get it done whenever' process. It's all good, though.  I just need to keep my syllabus more handy.

Gubb Love

I was pretty comfortable with this exploration of sundry tools because, for once, I was encountering techs and tools that I've already been familiar with--either the ones listed, or very similar equivalent applications.

The biggest one is Google Calendar.  Never have I utilized a more useful app; never has one become more ubiquitous to my daily life.  I've been using it for about two or three years now and I just have it up on my browser constantly; I put in my class assignments, trips, visitors and visits.  I also stick in things I aspire to do but it maybe gets bumped due to timing issues--so it just clicked-and-dragged to the next week or month.  (Visiting my LIS friend Jared at the music library for a look around has been a frequent casualty due to my 506 class on Thursdays--no hard feelings, though ;-))  But it's great--I never forget anything, even those hole-in-the-wall art gallery exhibits or two-for-the-price-of-one zoo admission days.

Another utility that has been of great benefit to me is the whole concept of the online to-do list.  Before this web 2.0 business, my life was drowning in bits of paper.  Story ideas, books to read, song lyrics i heard on the radio in hopes of tracking the artist down good.  Certainly not for a future librarian!  Then I found  You can make as many little post-it note-resembling list things in different as you want, and specify whether you want them to be to-do style--with check boxes--or simply list style.  No more paper drown.  Sorry, etc....looks like you have pay shields.  Gubb is free.  I love my Gubb!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Exhilaration, Exhaustion, and an Idea I'm Apparently Very Fond Of

Much of the general thought on Web 2.0 seems to agree on one thing--it's exhilarating.  I'd add that it's somewhat exhausting.  Not necessarily a bad thing; it's a workout for the mind.  But as with any workout regimen, I think it has to be approached carefully to avoid burnout or injury.

These dangers are especially true when it comes to thinking about Library 2.0.  We have to remember that, in whatever version of a library we may someday find ourselves, that not everyone can or wants to be as technologically cutting-edge as it's currently faconnable in the LIS world to be.

Not to say that we should shy away.  We ought to put every resource that we can out in front of our users, guide them to new ways of doing and thinking that might solve their problems, and teach them to become fluent in the ones they choose to use.  But we have to be very careful not to lose them in the flood of apps, services, digital revamps, and buzzwords.  I know I've been looking at some of these Web 2.0 activities skeptically, but a lot of it has been devil's advocacy inspired by initial momentary setbacks.  These are the problems we're going to have to help our users navigate through.  We have to remember that we're to serve as facilitators to information and technology use, not merely as passive stewards or docents.  A lot of people will have a lot of trouble with these newfangled ways of doing things, and a lot of them will be turned off by less-than-stellar first impressions; we have to be ready to pick up the pieces without hesitation, try to turn those frowns upside-downs, if you will.  There will be a lot of that.  It will probably be more annoying, after the ten-dozenth time, to have to help someone untangle Zotero than it is to constantly direct traffic to the bathrooms--and we know how prickly librarians get about that. But I think most of us will soldier on, content in the knowledge that at least we're helping with an information need.  (Maybe we should look at the bathroom thing from a similar perspective: it's hard to engage in worthwhile lifelong learning when you have to pee.  True fact.)

So, exhilarating and exhausting--that's Web 2.0 and that's Library 2.0.  Both good things--both great things.  We're poised to be the psychic personal trainers of the 21st Century and beyond and I'm thrilled with the responsibility.  No doubt sooner or later some library will be posting "8-Minute Apps" videos on YouTube.  Oh, actually, that's hilarious.  I slay me.  Nobody steal that  Totally copyrighted !!! :-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wherefore art thou Zotero?

Zotero!  This bit of web wizardry seems eminently practical.  It's something I would really want to use.  I hate creating citations!  I hate trying to keep track of a million disparate sources online while I'm trying to craft a paper!  This will save me much time!

Only I can't get it to work right.

Is it just me?  What am I doing wrong here?  After I installed it (forced to use firefox, btw, which is not my browser of choice, but I can deal), I went to Amazon to test it out, since the tutorial thingy prominently featured that site.  I tried to save an entry for Towers of Midnight (yeah, as if I'm ever going to lose track of that book in my brain-stacks, but this is an exercise, dammit), and it ended up giving me...a blank zotero thingy.  Nada in there.  Okay, so maybe there are some issues with Amazon.  I'll try Google Books!  Less capitalism, more open access, or whatever.  We were just exploring it in my class today.  Perfect.  So I pull up Richard III and presto, I save it to zotero!  Only, wait.  it has listed as its title the following: "King Richard III - a tragedy in five acts - William Shakespeare - Google books."  That isn't the title.  That's the title, plus the author, plus the source.  It's not helpful at all to have all that crap lumped together and leave their appropriate slots blanks down below.  Am I expected to fill the info in myself?  Hardly seems likely.  And it won't even let me copy-paste from the title field, soooo...

I tried with Frankenstein too, just to see.  Same problem.  So then I went to see what it would do with a database entry.  Jstor hoooo, gimme something onnn---oh heck, it's October, let's search for Bram Stoker.  Okay great, here are some articles.  Zotero, do your thing, and--nup.  no good.  For the title, it lists JSTOR and the source journal.  i thought the point was to save citations for individual articles--right?  Am I doing something wrong?  I thought I did what the tutorial video guy told me to.  Shall I just blame firefox?

The worst was when I tried to save articles on the digital divide from some library database or another.  Zotero didn't even respond.  Just ignored me.  it continues to ignore me.  I really want zotero to work as I enter the paper-writing season, but it doesn't seem to like me.  any pointers?  I'll keep messing with it in the light of day, but for now it's a no-go....

UPDATE:  I think I figured it out! <3 you, Zotero....

Monday, October 10, 2011

There are those out there on all sides of the ideological spectrum who think that this is an expression of First Amendment freedom.  It is not, as we as information professionals--standard bearers of legitimate freedom--must educate our users to make that distinction.

Tag! is NOT it.

I'm not sure and i are meant to be.  i'm an easygoing guy, i just like to go with the flow and use what works.  Delle (let's call her 'delle') is so demanding!  everything seems to have to be her way.  "ok, i'll try making a stack, Delle."  "Well, it has to have at least 3 links in it!" "Oh, I'm sorry, baby.  You didn't tell me that before."  "Well,I'm telling you now! God can't you just LISTEN?! I"M TRYING TO HELP YOU!!!!"

Yikes.  That kind of help I don't need.

There are a few other things i don't like about delle, besides this initial lack of clarity (despite my having read the helpful blog post we had linked beforehand).  For one thing, she's so...public.  I like to pick and choose what I put out there for everyone.  Yeah, I know Delle has the "private link" option, but everything she does seems geared toward full disclosure.  And that's fine for you millenials, all you kids who were spoonfed Facebook with your strained peas. I'm ever so slightly (so slightly!) more old-school than that.  And it's not like I want to hide things out of shame or embarrassment; I just don't think everyone wants or needs to know that I love 'Game of Thrones' on HBO or whatever.  that's just me.  I hang out in the corner until I feel I have something useful to say.  If i never feel that way, you will probably never hear from me.  very unlike the "I just had cheerios!" FB status updaters.  They're fine; I don't mind 'em; it's just not me.  and Delle seems to want to MAKE me that.

What else was there...oh yeah.  Speaking more generally, I'm not sure that tagging works for me in any useful way.  I gather that Delle's strength is in creating your own associations for things, making it easier to find them through a simple search, rather than dig through deep bookmark hierarchies.  Well, that's cool, but when I want to find in three months, will i remember that I tagged it as "asoiaf" rather than 'ice and fire,' two common abbreviations for the book series from which it comes?  should i have tagged it 'hbo' too? would i remember if i had?  if i tag it 'tv' will it be any easier to slog through all my tv-related links than it would have been to go through my bookmark hierarchies?  anyway, i *like* my hierarchies.  i'm that kind of organizer and thinker.  i've actually been tagging stuff for years--i tag all my journal entries--but i do it mostly for funsies, and completely inconsistently and inefficiently.  i don't think i'll be able to get more disciplined for delle. (and i probably shouldn't go into cataloging either, huh?)

Finally--''? to quote a great SNL sketch, "Who are the ad wizards who came up with that one?"  I don't think Krug would approve of the sheer annoyance that comes with trying to type that. at least it's not in the actual url.

PS i don't really see the need for this service and my RSS feed...their functions seem to overlap.  except with delle, i get other people's pithy judgments on a given site.  not sure what value that adds yet.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

RSS: Rather Shoddily Signaled

I've been using RSS feeds with my google reader for several weeks now.  At first, I was truly enamored with it; it seemed just as easy and convenient as all the hype claimed it'd be. I set up a bunch of folders to organize my feeds into my major areas of interest and need: LIS stuff; local stuff; news; art and literature; humor; the paranormal; miscellaneous personal interests (cartography, infrastructure, New York City history & development), etc.

Maybe I bit off more than I can chew, because now I sort of dread my twice- or thrice-daily scans of my feed.  There are always at least 500 new entries that I need to go through, and I feel more obligated to go through all of them than when I was just scanning the individual sites--I feel more like I "should" be reading them since they're being delivered right to me, else I'll reveal myself to be some sort of information poseur.  But despite that, I just can't do it, and I end of dismissing the vast majority of entries unread.

(The main offender here seems to be my subscription the the Huffington Post.  They are updating and feeding me CONSTANTLY.  When I visit the site I can easily run through the front page section, reading only what interests me, but when it all comes to my reader, all condensed and sans pictures and identifying section colors, I have trouble quickly identifying what I want to spend time on.  When I initially subscribed, it seemed like I could subscribe to individual sections--I chose Viewpoints, News and Green--but that was a red herring and each one just subscribed me to the whole site.  Bad move, HuffPo! Fix that.)

On the subject of news feeds (actual feeds of news sites, I mean), I think that a weakness the RSS model has is that you miss the context and clues inherent in newspapers, which news sites try to follow.  The reader just aggregates every update as it is posted in each site; there's no breakdown into sections, no clear sense of what's an update of a previous story, and most crucially, no sense of hierarchy: I have no idea what the top story of the moment is.  An article about the Bills winning is given as much priority about the latest happenings in Libya, and being in Buffalo, I have no idea which one might be considered the more 'important' story by the editors.

It's a bit of a mess.

Still, I go back several times a day in a quest to keep up.  Maybe I'll eventually abandon the idea of getting my news via RSS and rely on it to aggregate the pages of personal interest that used to take up a lot of bookmark space and cause a lot of skipping around the net for me.  That part's been working fairly well for me.

So, having built up a bit more RSS experience since the last time I touched on it in this blog, I think I need to reassess my sense of this technology's applicability to libraries.  I say, handle with care.  Having a "quick world catchup" feed on public computers for the edification of patrons can become overwhelming; sites to feed must be selected carefully, and I'd recommend skipping HuffPo.  So too with the library's own feed, if you have a site you want people in the community to subscribe to.  My best advice would be to mark each update with its relative importance level and subject/interest area right in the headline to that info will show up in feeds; important vs casual information, reader's advisory vs library operations vs community activities, etc...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wiki quickie

I love wikis.  Nothing screams collaboration, community, engagement and open access like wikis.  And, by and large, i think wikipedia gets a bad rap; in my (extensive) experience trawling it, I find that the vast majority of contributors know what they're talking about and contribute because they care about the topics they're elucidating.  On top of that, wikipedia's network of moderators does a great job flagging what's innacurate, biased, out-of-date, irrelevant, etc.  It's an amazing development of social industry.

That said, I'm disappointed by some of what I found on  I was excited to look through it, thinking, "Great!  This is perfect for me as a young librarian.  A one-stop shop of everything that works!  Tried and true methods."  Instead of an easily-digestible encyclopedia of practices, though, I found more of a directory of other websites, other sources and blogs and listings.  I think that sort of misses the point of a wiki, where we would expect to find knowledge concentrated, not merely pointing to its dilute locations around the web.  Not happy!

I did really love the notion of the wiki as repository of a library's community outreach events, as was the case with  If I had been them, I would have kept that up beyond 2006.  As a hopeless nostalgia-hound, I love the opportunity to look back at what I was reading years ago; a record of a summer book club is like a community-wide archive of literary memory, with full accounts of relevant criticism, discussions held, and reviews written.  I'm definitely putting that on my best practices list.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Netting the ephemera

This is not a video about a library in the accepted, modern sense of a public or semi-public institution whose primary goals include the organization and dissemination of information.  I know.  It's a private library--a place for one woman to think, reflect, read and write.  It makes the private library from my first post look a little paltry, but it's something to shoot for, and I think it's important to remember this other side of the library paradigm: that's it's a place that fosters creation and beauty, for the community and for oneself.  The term 'library,' as we've all been learning, signifies something bigger than the brick-and-mortar building filled with books, something bigger even that the electronic grooves in the air around us that contain, more and more each day, the sum of human discovery.  A library is something internal and private, too; each of us carries a library that serves as laboratory and workshop, as sounding board and depth finder, as the seismograph of the soul.  Our inner libraries are the fount of art.  This woman, with the help of architect Andrew Berman, has externalized her internal library, bringing forward the subtle stuff of her heart and connecting it to the idea of the traditional brick-and-mortar, but with whimsy and personal taste and, in a way, an eerie inaccessibility.  There's her mind, there's her soul in corporeal form, but its beauty is forbidding, as impermeable as the planes and ridges of her skull.

And a commenter on this video brings up a good point: "It's a beautiful job, but with a empty meaning. If this library was a part of a huge comunity of people, who try to live in a different way, it would be outstanding. But its just a job for a very rich writter. It's empty." That's Guilherme Cianfarani on the vimeo version of this vid.  He's right; if every public, school, academic and special library in the world were as much a piece of art as this one is (and more relevantly, if they were all as ecologically sustainable as this one appears to be), that would be a tidal shift in the existence of libraries; they'd be not just repositories and distribution centers, as they often seem to be now, but also creative inspirations and dynamos of environmental sustainability.  They would play an active role, as never before, in the creation and sustaining of beauty and of life.

The concept of 'library' seems to exist on a spectrum that ranges from an unfeasible and largely non-existent utilitarianism (think warehouses of books being shipped out by robots to suit humans' practical info-gathering needs), through the median ground of libraries as they exist in the real world, and on to the type of ideal realized in the video above--an ideal which, in attempting to capture the ephemeral 'personal library' of one woman, succeeds only in underscoring the narcissism and egotism of creative endeavors.  So, let your inner library float free, I think; catch its reflections in the sunshine rippling off the warped spines of your favorite volumes.  Let it echo down through your pen or typing finger.  But don't plunk it down in the middle of a perfectly good field, aloof and alluring.  Be ready and able to share the beauty that your libraries, real and otherwise, inspire you to make.

oh and PS: I love YouTube and Viemo; been using 'em for years.  I can always count on someone posting "Hell's Kitchen" all year (nobody tell me who won!!!).  But I suppose my criticisms of podcasts apply to self-published video stuff too.  Not to mention copyright issues that I should really be more concerned about...but the huge corporations that own TV shows seem capable of defending their interests.  (Moral dilemma: is it hypocritical to turn a blind eye to copyright stuff when its victims are the soulless megalopolies whose existence I loathe?  Answer: yes, very.  Working on it.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Podcasts on trial

Alex here with another Learning/Library/whatever 2.0 experience, this time on the murky and trending world of podcasts.  Okay, well, I feel like this is going to become my refrain around here, but podcasts are something I've heard a lot about and had a little experience with, but which I've generally maintained an intentional distance from.  Why?  Well, for a reason that has come true in spades since the start of this LIS program in my life--I have had doubts about the sheer volume of information that my brain can handle in a sitting.  And by sitting, I mean a day, though I'm trying to push that threshold up to express the measure of information I can handle in a week--I keep needing to think macro, macro, macro as my attempted info-intake swells and slides down the slipstreams of my brain.

Case in point, the RSS feed I established for myself over the last week or so, on the advice of several of my LIS instructors.  Oh my God. I mean, it's cool, it's great--I no longer have to check Huffington Post 12 times a day!  All the latest news on the Game of Thrones series is being sent to me! Awesome!  But maybe my eyes were bigger than my brain-ports because my google reader absolutely overflows with new RSS entries every hour or so.  It's overwhelming and makes me not *want* to wade through it.  So, what was once a simple matter of sifting through the HuffPo numerous times a day, but very casually flitting past the stories of no interest to me, now carries the weight of an emergency room triage unit.  "International news?  Is it related to Libya, or is it domestic British politics? Okay, better put it over there. Ah! reviews for the revival of Follies on Broadway!  I'll need to gush over Bernadette Peters, stat.  What? The Bills game score?  CAN'T YOU SEE THAT THIS IS AN EMERGENCY ROOM?!"

*Ahem*  Well, getting back to podcasts.  I knew based on previous experience that there'd be similar troubles on that front; my best friend signed me up for a bunch of current events casts a few years ago.  I listened to the first one or two, but as soon as I had a busy Sunday, I missed one, and then there'd be two waiting for me.  Then three, then seven, etc.  And these ain't five-minute digests.  It's just too much to wade through.  So, I sacrifice some of the depth of my potential knowledge in favor of breadth.  That's always been my style, for better or worse, and podcasts don't really fit in.  Unless I can find the ones that will offer me useful tidbits on the issues I find important, or the obscure stuff that might tickle my fancy, this might be one Web 2.0 element I'll have to eschew, at least during school.  But I think such identification, even, would be difficult without sorting through a lot of 'casts (especially since these sites the 2.0 activity page linked to--one of which is a dead link, btw--don't tend to give much in the way of descriptive info on the style or format of the show before you dive in).

That little parenthetical, I guess, brings me to a specific review of a 'cast I did find and listen to (well, currently on-going with the listening).  I found 'A Podcast of Ice and Fire' (, a weekly 'professional fan' roundtable discussion of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series 'A Song of Ice and Fire' and related projects.  (By 'pro fan,' I mean these are mainly guys who have started and run large, well-regarded fan discussion forums and sites and are sort of considered experts in the field of this particular piece of literature.)  It's literary in nature, on a topic I'm interested in, and, I feel, points to an opportunity for libraries to harness some Web 2.0 energy, which I'll discuss presently.  But first, my thoughts on the format and the pros and cons of the medium.

Well, mostly cons.  As I have already hinted, podcasts are sort of difficult to know without just listening in; there isn't a lot of useful metadata connected with them.  Most of those I looked at don't even list the lengths of archived episodes, and I was surprised to find my listening stretching into the hours--never wanting to stop because the next moment could bring that brilliant insight or piece of unknown lore I'd been looking for.  This is generally because these are amateur productions; these people have probably never taken any communications courses, or studied what information the consumers appreciate having before committing to a listen.  Another function of the amateur nature of these shows is that the content itself is very haphazard and sometimes painful to listen to; they have more the character of a talk among friends, recorded and posted on the internet, with no regard for ease of comprehension.  There's a lot of crosstalk, a lot of laughter and goofing around, lots of abstruse tangents.  Yeah, that happens on professional news and opinion panels too, but at least those tend to have a moderator whose main concern in getting things back on track. (Also--I'd have to check with my psychologist roomie on this--I assume that it's easier for our brain to sort through that kind of stuff when we're seeing what's going on.  Not so readily possible in a purely audio format.)

I think, in short, that my issue with podcasts is that they don't follow whatever the audio equivalent of Krug's maxims would be.  They're not user-friendly; they're not self-explanatory; they're not laid out prettily; none of the things you'd want and expect in a medium of information dissemination.  (Which isn't to say that I think *accessing* them is difficult; that seems swimmingly easy.  But accessing the *information intended for consumption* is where I think they fall short.)

But all is not lost.  The thing that podcasts have going for them is excitement.  The people who take time out of their lives to record their conversations--they're really jazzed about their subject matter.  This Ice and Fire cast was just bubbling with energy and creativity; literary criticism was happening in real-time.  Contributors were bouncing ideas off each other, coming to conclusions, and questioning their preconceptions.  All that was pretty awesome.

And libraries can use that.  'Ice and Fire' is big with a relatively isolated population, but imagine if your local library identified the next Harry Potter or Twilight or Dan Brown, and ran discussion forums on them that they streamed and posted on the internet.  My little podunk library, I know, has ins with all sorts of local minds, from authors to instructors at the college to who knows what all; it would be very easy to assemble a panel of smart, local people with constructive thoughts on such things, and let their discussion loose on the community.  These things have a tendency to snowball if they're successful in the first few runs.  And even as the library enlightens and entertains, it gains currency as a curator and cultivator of culture in the community, rather than just a repository of books and a place to read the paper on Sundays.

So what's my verdict on podcasts?  With semi-professional standards of moderation and appropriate marketing, they could be a huge boon to libraries great and small.  But I'm just going to keep trying to wrap my head around my RSS feed, for now.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And since I couldn't figure out how to upload two pics at once...

IMG00327-20110910-1456 by decgem
IMG00327-20110910-1456, a photo by decgem on Flickr.'s my li'l bookshelf in the library :-D I'd move my stuff over to the Third Man's shelf, but there's no telling when he'll be back to claim it.

Visit my photostream!

I've always been pretty solidly a Facebook photo album sort of guy, but I'm liking some of the features on Flikr--especially the ability to map where your photos were taken.  I love mapping, and I love linking my experiences to my travels!  So maybe I'll be wasting a lot more of my precious studying time sloooowly adding all pics to this.  We'll see.

EDITED TO ADD, post readings, with a little more depth----

I've been tinkering around with flikr and some of the other web things, and one thing I think they don't succeed at is simplicity of use, as Krug defines it.  Granted, his bar is pretty low--simplicity means "so easy I don't really need to be sentient to operate the thing"--but even so, the complications of the the flikr interface, in particular, seem a bit much.  And I'm a guy who's reading this text of ours and thinking, "I get your point, but I don't like the lowest-common-denominator subtext, and I actually enjoy puzzling out how things work, so you're not really speaking to me."  So for me to be a bit nonplussed by the thing is saying something.  I mean, it's cool; there are a lot of features.  Tagging.  Geo tagging. Albums.  Yadda yadda yadda.  But i think it's too much.  And it's all on different pages, and all the pages look slightly different, as though it's several different utilities that have been linked together.  Coming off of the extremely slick Facebook albums experience, Flikr is overcrowded.  And yeah, I don't think Krug would approve--but streamline it just a little, smooth out the rougher edges, and I think I'd be happier.

The sad state of a private library on Merrimac Street

IMG00326-20110910-1456 by decgem
IMG00326-20110910-1456, a photo by decgem on Flickr.
We thought we'd have it all.

Take three high school friends, add an exciting move to Buffalo together for higher education, and spice liberally with the books collected by the undergrad majors we had assembled between us: two philosophy majors, a psych guy, a mathematics guy, a creative writer, and a wannabe francophone. Let stew in the sunny, airy front room (a walled-in former porch) and you have the makings of a very interesting, eclectic private library.

Alas, it wasn't to be. My stalwart companion Scott has seen this transition through with me, but we've lost our Third Man to a combination of baseless neuroses and a perhaps well-founded case of good-old OCD. I guess it was never to be.

But oh, how beautiful our library would have been! For now, Scott and I will have to content ourselves with tracts on Freud and Marvel Comics trade paperbacks. That empty shelf sure would have looked good, loaded up with a lot of Michel Foucault texts that no one would want to read.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

7 1/2

Allow me to dispense with preamble and jump right into the prescribed Web 2.0 activity, dear readers.

I found the  7 and 1/2 lifelong learning habits e-presentation to be a bit hokey, but its heart is in the right place; I assume as a graduate student, the concept of lifelong learning is, by this point, innately familiar to me, but I get that that's not the case for every resident of the Charlotte and Mecklenberg County Public Library system area.  Despite my kneejerk condescension at its style and presentation (bad Alex), there are rather large nuggets of truth in there.

I think the biggest tip that I use regularly, and which works well, is the idea of setting a goal.  It really does help to make the final product of whatever you're going for seem more concrete, and thus attainable.  I hate the feeling of battering away at ephemera, and it's always comfortable to work within defined boundaries.  ("This pillar of marble will soon be a naked dude named David" rather than "Well, I'll just start chipping and see what happens.")

I have more difficulty with the tip that involves viewing problems as challenges to be surmounted.  I definitely engage in a period of wallowing whenever my blade is turned--I love a good sulk.  Excellent excuse for procrastination.  On the other hand, the perception of crisis sometimes jump-starts me, so I guess it could go either way.

I think one of these tips that I've completely skipped is the idea of having a toolkit.  I tend to start from scratch on every project or goal.  Maybe I have some mental tools tucked away that pop up without my realizing it, but I could definitely use some more conscious shortcuts, templates, appendices and such.  Maybe by the time I graduate, I'll have developed a set!