Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why I wouldn't subscribe to my own blog

I read heaps of blogs, but seem to always lust after more.

To feed the monster, every so often I:
1) Check in bloglines who has publically subscribed to this blog
2) Check in bloglines who has publically subscribed to other blogs I like
3) Look at the blogs that those people have subscribed to.

4) If I don't already have a blog in my collection, I run it through my blog-o-meter and subscribe to it if it passes.

More! More! (image)

What twiddles the "yes" dial on my blog-o-meter?

1) Updated within the last 2 - 3 weeks
2) Frequent regular posts
3) Not covering the same ground as something I already subscribe to
4) Description is a bit more unique than "Jane Jones gives her idiosyncratic view of librarianship"
5) Short posts about tools and sites that are useful
6) Posts usually less than 4 paragraphs long

My blog usually does not pass 6). Probably wouldn't have passed 4) either.

It's a good thing that other blogs slip though. How?
1) Recommendations or pointers from other blogs.
2) Looking at the blogs of people who comment here and on other blogs
3) A "something about you" experience where I just know I'll be friends with the type of blog I don't usually mix with.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

What you didn't know about my agnosia post...

Over at lint, I just posted a piece which used the rather grand term "software agnosia". I cut out a bit of the definition of agnosia, because it didn't really move things forward. I kind of liked it, so here it is:

If you're interested in "agnosia as bittersweet comedy", check out Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Dr P had visual agnosia due to brain damage. He could see objects but not recognise them. When he wanted to wear his hat, he reached for the thing he thought was most "hat-like". In this case, it was his wife's head.

Or, you could try the the Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form:

He sees things — just what, he can't place.
That's an object
agnosia case.
But with
This person who knows ya
Won't recognize you by your face.
contributed by Virge

del.icio.us tags in RSS feed

If you have subscribed to the feedburner feed for this blog, then you will have noticed that items I've tagged on del.icio.us have been in the feed.

I'm just fiddling with it for a work thing, so soon they will disappear as stealthily as they arrived.

TODAY'S HIPPIE CARD: Be supportive.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Introducing...Kathryn Greenhill

This post is brought to you by the Department of Way-Too-Much-Information

The other day, Iris asked me where I got the name "sirexkat" from, and I told her:

Sirexkat came about when I had already registered on a site as Sirex, then forgot my password, so had to create a new ID - so used the first 3 letters of my name.

I used to post to a ParentsPlace forum for mums who were pregnant at the same time, way back in 1997. I took my handle from my cat (who is in my profile photo and turned 11 last week). She's an almost hairless Cornish Rex
. When they breed them with Siamese markings, they are called a Sirex. (sigh-rex).

I called my first blog Sirexcite (as in Sigh-rex site and Sigh-rex cite), but saw that when it was written it looked like "Sir- excite" This gives quite a different impression!

At the moment I'm contemplating ditching it all and just writing everything as "Kathryn Greenhill". I write as Sirexkat on my blog and lint
, but then as "Librarian Kathryn" when I moderate on lint. I'm commenting throughout the
blogosphere with sirexkat and Kathryn Greenhill. Getting a bit too confusing for me. (And then there's Emerald Dumont in Second Life......)

Oh..way too much about names...maybe I'll recycle it as a blog post :)

Consider it done.

The tipping point for me was when Jennifer quoted from a post I'd written on lint about "early adopters" as "Librarian Kathryn", and I thought it looked unduly cryptic.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What do off-duty librarians do?

Today my good friend S and I had our annual "go to the posh revolving restaurant in the city for High Tea" afternoon. S is a librarian too. Browsing though the shops afterward, we ended up at the new-ish Borders bookshop in the Hay Street Mall, as I'd not been there kid-free.

En route, we popped into the Birkenstock shop (B store) and tried on some Masai Barefoot Technology Sandals. These cost about $400 a pair, but we both have friends who had epiphanies over these shoes - they've cured their back pain; they're going to wear them to balls, the beach and work; never will they wear anything else on their feet. The sole is shaped like a rocking horse's rocker, forcing you to adopt correct posture and use your core stabilising muscles. Of course, you need to be instructed in how to walk in them- so S and I imitated the "strutting dude" kind of walk, following the salesperson in a circle around the shop, looking like a kindergarten music and movement session.

Walking back to the train station in our infinitely inferior shoes, we realised what we'd been doing....

"Looking at books and checking out sensible shoes"

Shhhh.... don't tell anyone or we will have set the image of the profession back by 20 years.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Can you podcast all night and still be mummy in the morning?

I work on our reference desk from 5pm to 9pm on Tuesdays. Students don't respond well to zombies on the desk, so I try to be in bed at a reasonable hour the night before.

Can I heeeeelp you?

Last night, however, I was up late making a podcast using Captivate. The abstracts for the Five weeks to a social library course are up and the others all looked so good that I thought I should get cracking on my podcast/screencast. Participant applications close on 1 December.

I wondered whether I could just rant into the microphone, using my abstract for guidance, to get that unforced, conversational feel. Well- twenty minutes later- I discovered that I could, but I would repeat myself several times over, and miss some essential points.

Although I got some good sound bites, I'd need to be more formal and scripted. It was great fun to use the editing facility to cut out my coughs and irritating habit of repeating "Okay" at every small change of topic. Also, I want to work with a team from the library to see whether we can use this presentation to build our skills together.

Happy with my night's work, I went to bed, read Steve Holzner's "Secrets of RSS" for a few minutes and slept until 7am.

Except I didn't. Sleep.

4:30 am. Mr4 is "hearing beeps". Too tired to put him back to bed, Mr4, Snugglefish and Firebear join us in bed.

5:30am Our sirex cat, Nougat, scrabbles and caterwauls in the roof above our bed until the Co-Pilot gets up and lets her out the loft door.

6:30am Mr8 discovers his little brother's door open and bed empty and, very concerned, comes into our room to make sure we know.

ZOMBIEVILLE here I come.

Overindulgence (I did not make this up!)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Digital divide - not about gizmoes.

When I read Jessamyn West's latest post about the Digital Divide, I thought - "that's it, that's my family". The bit that struck a chord was:

... the Digital Divide isn'’t just about not having access to the Internet, it'’s about not living in an Internet-aware culture. So in the same way that poverty is really about paucity of options -— so not only do you not have money or resources but no one you know has money or resources - the Digital Divide is really about not having access, having erratic access, or not knowing what to do with that access once you have it. Every time I see a web page with ads designed to look like page elements, or pop-ups designed to look like Windows error messages, I cringe because I know that the people I work with are likely to have trouble with them. While I go on the road and talk about library 2.0, I'm still explaining to many of my students that no, they haven't won a free laptop no matter what the blinky ad on the page says. I feel sometimes like teaching computer skills is all about explaining to people why they should dip their toes into a culture that seems hellbent on deceiving them, misleading them and ripping them off.

Mr8's reading book this week is Hunting with my camera
, which is a diarised account of some guy snapping photos of wildlife in Kruger National Park. The date is written at the top of each entry and he kept skipping it until I said in frustration "You know how a blog is organised by dates - it's just like a blog". Then, and only then he "got it" and began reading the dates out.

So...I have a kid who understands blogs better than diaries. We are deliberately sending him to a school with high laptop usage, as he'd need to use one to cope with his handwriting difficulties, and that way he'll stick out less. While I help Mr8 with his homework, Mr4 "does websites" on a nearby computer.

Both kids can choose to have one hour of computing or of video/DVD per day - and usually choose video/DVD.
We don't have a gaming system like a playstation, but they do game on the PC.They probably use computers recreationally far less than their peers. BUT they constantly see me answer email, sync our PDAs with the online family calendar, read my RSS feeds and write blog posts. Their dad is often working from home, programming upstairs. We have a family blog and write about stuff like great lego models or particularly delicious muffins. At our dinner table we happily discuss topics like Telstra sacking a corporate blogger because of the contents of his blog.

I had wondered whether restricting our kids' computer usage was disadvantaging them. I can now see that they are actually immersed in techno-skeptic culture, so they can assess web culture and use it as a tool rather than a master.

Now...wearing my librarian's hat, I need to ask "Given that providing more gizmoes isn't necessarily the answer, what can I do to help my library users develop skills to evaluate and think critically about the web?".

I'm reassured, however that I'm not breeding super-freakish-techno-geeks. They still have their bewilderments about technology. Like Mr4, who yesterday stepped onto our digital scales to "see how many metres I cost".


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Technological fads, fridges and hippie librarianship

Every morning, each member of my family picks a card from the "hippie box". The rainbow cards were bought in Byron Bay and have an "Om" symbol on one side. On the other is a couple of words to think about during the day. For example, today's card for me was"Fulfillment"

They do nothing at all to predict the future, but do provide a focus and promote mindfulness during the day. If I am looking for "fulfilment" during my day, I will view the same events differently to a day where my card is "believe".

Fortune teller?

Here in libraryland, we're all terrified of hitching our wagons to the wrong star. We want to predict the future. What if blogs aren't useful tools that make lives easier and give us a connection to our users? What if they are as flash-in-the-pan as hula hoops or yoyos? What if wikis and podcasts just provide a chance for us bells-and-whistles-loving librarians to play, but annoy our users?

When I bought a fridge last year, I read consumer reports in Choice, talked to family and friends and checked out several appliance shops. No impulse buying for me! But, with some of these new technologies, it feels like the next Next Big Thing comes steamrolling towards us at such a pace, we have no time to evaluate and discuss. We need to make snap decisions whether this is a turkey or will give us wings of eagles. If we don't install platform x, then we won't be able to use application y, and - even worse - play, play, play with groovy application z.

So...what to do?

Focus group ?

I like the approach of the librarians at Carleton College, described in the Pegasus Librarian's blog. They sifted through the oodles of trends/ developments/technologies and changes and came up with a "watchlist" of 38 trends. They range from "RFID" to "collection and management of websites". Staff members now watch a couple of trends each and post to a blog.

Did they get it right? Are these the definitive trends they should be watching? Well... does it actually matter whether they got it right or wrong? They have thought carefully about the future. Even if they missed a couple of trends or gave prominence to something that turns out to be inconsequential, they have still examined a much larger range of issues than those that made the list. If some issues become more important later, then probably the Carleton librarians will spot this before librarians who haven't been through this process.

They have put a lot more thought into their list than I do each day when I pick my "hippie card" , but the effect is similar. They have a "filter" to look at each day with. I would think they would feel more confident and in control than staff where they are stymied by the need to totally road test everything before implementing it.

By the way, there is a way to fasttrack the evaluation of trends. The biblioblogosphere is invaluable for sharing what works and what doesn't...at a pace that approaches that of the newtech steamroller. Keeping up to date with library blogs involves viewing the same set of facts - like "Where the hell do we go now?" - through an absolute multiplicity of filters.

Every day I open my aggregator, never knowing what card will turn up to consider that day. Hooray for library blogs and the generous folk who share what is happening in their corner of libraryland!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Systems Librarianship - some lowbrow thoughts

...or how sometimes Systems Librarianship is like the Simpsons or Australian Idol.

First, an instant replay of a conversation in my household yesterday....

ME: "I thought I'd need to know more to be a Systems Librarian".
CO-PILOT: "No, you just need everyone else to know less".

I've been pondering about the skills I need to do my job.

Why? Well, I've come back from my holiday and MPOW is now actually paying me to spend a couple of days every week looking at blogging, podcasting, RSS feeds and other social software. (Yay, hooray, yippee!). Not exactly systems librarianship, but I'm not sure what you would call it.

Also Corey Wallis recently raised the issue on librariesinteract.info of "What exactly makes a Systems Librarian", referring to the excellent Dorothy Salo post on TechEssence about "Hiring a Systems Librarian".

When I left my Systems Librarians' job in 1997 to go off and have babies, I thought, "By the time I'm ready to return to the workforce, I'll have to be a childrens' librarian, because all the young graduates going though library school will just know all this technical stuff". But, even though more librarians have IT qualifications, it's still hard to find a good Systems Librarian.

Tentatively, I'm concluding that maybe I don't need to be able to code JavaScript while installing a printer driver and cobbling together a really hot mashup. Maybe I can stop being worried that one day my employers will find out I can't do all this stuff. Perhaps they already know and don't mind.

We'd both be delighted if I was technowonderwoman, but maybe it's also OK to pick things up quickly, be able to see gaps in our services that can be filled by technology, know which people in the library know what, and to communicate enthusiastically to other library staff.

Remember the Simpsons episode where the town gets lots of money and, at the meeting to decide how to spend it, a stranger in a candy striped suit bursts in and, via a song and dance routine, convinces the townsfolk to install a monorail ?. By the end, the whole town is chanting "monorail, monorail, monorail" - except Marge, who is rolling her eyes and wondering how she'll get them to see sense.

I've had moments at work where I've felt like the guy in the candy striped suit, singing and dancing about something that I only half understand, trying to drum up enthusiasm from people who trust me. I've also had those Marge moments where I've heard other staff chanting "mono-rail mono-rail", and tried to work out how to put the brakes on without seeming killjoy.

(If you're really keen, the episode has its own wikipedia entry for Marge vs. the Monorail, the Monrail lyrics are here, but it's really much more fun to listen to this 1 minute sound bite of the Monorail song . )

Just last week, however, I found comfort in another trash TV icon, Australian Idol. Ostensibly a singing contest, a contestant with perfect rhythm, pitch and a magnificent voice was voted off. Her technical skills were undisputably better than the other contestants, but the judges concluded that she just wasn't connecting with the public and there was no warmth to her.

Maybe, just maybe, it can be the same with Systems Librarianship. Maybe having perfect technical skills is a big asset, but perhaps if someone with less skill is connecting with people better, they are more suited to the job. Made me feel better, anyhow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"The End" is on Friday 13th October

"The End" is nigh.

After selling over 50 million copies, Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events series finishes up this Friday with the publication of volume 13, "The End". Pity I'm a whole hemisphere away from the Fond du Lac Library in Wisconsin, where they are marking the release with a trivia quiz and a chance to win a copy.

If you are not a kid's librarian, it is still worth checking out the series, particularly the 12th volume "The Penultimate Peril". This is set in the Hotel Denouement, that has arranged its services according to the Dewey decimal system. The elevator is on the First Floor at 118 (Force and Energy). The ninth floor includes an Indian restaurant (954) and a space observatory (999). If you want to know the rest of the layout, try the entire entry devoted to it in Wikipedia. (But please don't let those people who accuse Wikipedia of being a shallow and skewed source know it exists..shhhh.)

Although more paranoid librarians whisper that it was a cynical "made to order" effort, with the publishers finding the marketing concept first, then hiring the author, I've enjoyed it immensely. I love the literary and pop culture references. (Sunny and Klaus Baudelaire, two of the protaganists take their name from the von Bulow murder of the '80's. Two of the Quagmire triplets are called "Isadora" and "Duncan" - a reference to dancer Isadora Duncan). The solutions to riddles and mystery in the plot expose youngsters to more literary technique, knowledge and research than the average 5o+ million seller.

The official Lemony Snicket website has a counter showing the hours, minutes and days before the release. I wonder how they feel about the reports on the Amazon.com web page that people have already received their copies? Or about the seemingly genuine review giving it 3 out of 5 stars?

It wouldn't happen to Harry!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

GoogleTube and YouGoog ?

Google has bought YouTube. Google to acquire YouTube in $1.65 billion deal
by Wolfgang Gruener and Mark Raby.

A couple of days ago, Eric Bangeman foreshadowed that: money = copyright litigation = collapse. Will this come to pass?

Not necessarily, according to Gruener and Raby:

"Google's acquisition of YouTube could also possibly help the latter with its recent legal headaches. Because of pressure from copyright holders like NBC and Universal Music Group, whose content was illegally being posted on YouTube, the San Bruno, Calif.-based site was forced to initiate a project that would systematically check for and prevent copyrighted videos.

This big decision comes at a time when content companies have embraced YouTube, most likely because of the Google acquisition murmurs. Just today, Sony BMG, CBS, and once-nemesis Universal Music Group, all announced partnerships with YouTube. Under the music company deals, users have permission to use Sony and Universal music in their own videos. The CBS partnership will give the network station its own "channel" on YouTube."

There are a few gems on YouTube, along with a lot of dross (eg. hundreds of "funny" videos where one 16 year old pretends to take a photo of a group, but is really videoing them [chortle!!] ), so I hope the merger manages to preserve its chaotic soul.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

RSS readers and spazzes

I'm a bit of a comments freak. Love to make 'em. Yesterday, I started writing two on other peoples' blogs, but they soon became a bit of a monologue, so I've combined them into one post here.


This is in response to CW's request to know whether people are reading her blog via RSS and if so, which aggregator.

" I read in Bloglines, but if a post really interests me I click through to the live blog to check the "flavour" of the post...and to see whether there are comments.

Bloglines makes posts feel a bit like a translated text...the substance is there, but the nuance is missing. Even seeing a photo of the author as I read their post on the live site adds a very different feel. (Like "I wouldn't have thought someone who looks like YOU would have thought THAT).

I'm going to experiment in the next few weeks with using portable Thunderbird on a thumbdrive. My main reason for using Bloglines is that I can view it from home and work, but I'd really prefer to integrate my email, browser and RSS reader into the one place.


This one is a rather belated comment on Dee's Temporal Island about attending a workshop about disability studies for the new millenium, and how it would be great if people did research on "
how people with disabilities are often excluded from mainstream society, rather than embraced as a normal part of it"

It's a really tricky one, the visibility/normalising debate. On holidays at a medieval castle open day, I saw a sign on the wall near a wishing well saying "Make a wish. Support spastic children. Visitors have donated $22 500."

The medieval sign.

I felt like marching up to them with Mr8 and saying "This is my kid with cerebral palsy, not a spastic. It's a really medieval way you're describing him, can you please change the sign".

Then I thought "Hold on, they are raising money for these kids and people probably are going to give more to the poor little spazzes than to the regular kids who just happen to have brown eyes and cerebral palsy". The Cerebral Palsy League of Queensland was called the Queensland Spastic Welfare League until 1998, so maybe the castle just had not updated the sign.

It means degrading my kid's dignity and doing a bit of emotional blackmail to manipulate the public to give more money. It costs a serious lot of money to support a kid with reallly severe cerebral palsy , so would I be doing a disservice to those kids (and adults) by insisting that my less affected kid gets called the right thing?

Will YouTube survive?

I'm growing to really love YouTube. I've already added links to library videos I loved here and here.

Pootling about the other night, I followed up a crazy marriage of pop culture classics that I first head about on Library Garden after they had a showing at Princeton Public Library. If you play the soundtrack of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon while viewing the Wizard of Oz, there are eerie synchonizations. Entire websites are devoted to the phenomena, for example the Dark Side of Oz and the Dark Side of the Rainbow. I don't think it works for the Muppet's Wizard of Oz (2005) but it might be worth the experiment....

If you want to see for yourself, the "Welcome to Munchkin Land" synchronization is on YouTube. Watch out for "black, black, black" repeated over shots of the wicked witch, "down, down, down" over the image of the red slippers disappearing, and "which is which" being sung as we see the witch. Also check out the munchkin ballet in time to the music and the not-so "ordinary men". Search on "Dark side of Oz" or "Dark Side of the Raibow" to see other clips.

I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to make posts like this one. According to Eric Bangeman in his article YouTube's Future (or lack thereof
The questions on the lips of most people fall into three categories: how long the company will last, whether it will be sued out of existence, and whether someone is going to swoop in and buy it." .

The lack of "in your face" advertising is something I've always found attractive, but
Bangeman speculates that while they have 60 employees and the "monthly bandwidth bill is estimated to be around $2 million" it's not fiancially viable to continue.

And, what happens if they do get money? Well, how about the creepy munchkins above? I'm not sure who holds the copyright in DSOTM and WOZ, but not all corporations have gone the way of Warner who has uploaded their entire back catalogue of music videos plus allows user-created content to use their music. Have profit, get sued.

So, if you want to see the girl who took a photo of herself for three years, or the bloke in Central Park who plays the amazing version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the ukulele, do it now.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Watch this one...today...

I was half way through writing an early morning post about how thrilled I am that I'll be presenting in Five Weeks to a Social Library when Mr4 (a known bed wetter) wandered up to me in his 'jammies, gave me a big cuddle and said "The only part of me that isn't wet is my head". So please accept this is lieu....

If you're like me, in the last couple of days you've seen links in many library blogs to this YouTube clip prepared for the 2003 St Joseph County Public Library Staff Development Day. You've probably thought "It's a staff development video, how interesting can it be? ".

I exhort, encourage and strongly suggest that you watch it now. It's an uplifting portrait of the day in the life of their library. I found myself not only admiring their library, but thinking about how my library would look portrayed in the same way - "If we were showing people staffing the enquiry desk at night, this is how it would look, and I can imagine us showing Jane in cataloguing doing that".

Michael Stephens encourages us to steal this idea and see what we can come up with for our own libraries. Worth thinking about. I wonder whether he realises that he not only showed the day to day workings of the library, but also let slip how dedicated and engaged the staff are to have spent what was obviously a huge chunk of personal time crafting the piece.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Does it really matter what we call them?

Waiting in the queue for the Big Red Car ride at Wiggles World, I noticed a sign addressing me as a guest, as in "Guests who choose to ride must follow all instructuctions given by operator, signage and/or announcements".

I spent an hour in the queue, so I had plenty of time to ponder about how we conceptualise and address our library users. I've worked in libraries where we've called them: users, "the public", patrons, "the professionals", borrowers and clients. Often it's determined by whatever the ILMS wants to call them. Does it matter? They are the entire reason we get paid, so it should do.

Here's my knee jerk reactions to some of the terms we use:

1) CLIENTS. We are providing a professional service and bound by professional ethics to serve them well. Implies a give them what they need approach. Reminds me of: architects.

2) CUSTOMERS. We need to serve them well because we are competing with others who provide the same service. Implies a more give them what they want approach. Reminds me of: supermarkets.

3) USERS. We provide products for use, and service is secondary. We are in charge of their experience - they use what we choose to provide. Reminds me of: software vendors.

4) PATRONS. They are in charge of what we do. We are there by their grace and they provide the means for us to serve them. Reminds me of: Medici family and Leonardo Da Vinci.

5) READERS. They are there only for one thing. They interact with the bookstock, not us. Reminds me of: bar code readers

6) BORROWERS. Also there for the books, not the service we provide. Reminds me of: neighbours who want a cup of sugar

7) THE PUBLIC. Includes everyone, but doesn't really posit any special relationship. Reminds me of: an opera diva's audience

8) THE PROFESSIONALS. I actually worked in a law firm where that's what we were supposed to call them. Seemed to imply that I wasn't also a professional. Reminds me of: real estate salespeople.

Library 2.0 is bringing more demands from THEM. They expect to be able to write to as well as read our web sites. They want to see what other works people borrowed at the same time as a specific book. They expect more personalised service, remotely and for longer hours. They want to bring in their own access devices and have them connect seamlessly to what we provide. Do the terms above fit them?

Maybe we could try: "collaborators" (WWII French Nazi supporters?), or "seekers" (buddhists or Quidditch players?), or "people" or "accessors" or "accessories" or.....

If we choose to call them guests, let's hope we're better hosts than the Wiggles. Having made it to the start of the queue and strapped ourselves into the Big Red Car, we had just reached the Wiggle's kitchen and were singing into our microphones "Fruit salad, yummy yummy", watching the cupboard doors grooving along as they opened and closed in time to the music, when we caught up to the car ahead. It had broken down. Wags the Dog ceased his descent down the slide into the lounge room mid-bark, the Wiggles disappeared from the giant video screens and we were asked to get out of the cars and walk back to the start of the ride.

Let's also hope that our "guests" have the initiative of the mum in the car in front, who reassured the children with "Wow! No-one else gets to actually WALK through the Wiggles' house, Aren't we lucky?".