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Goal Setting for the New Year

1 Jan

Well, Happy New Year everyone and to all a good night.   :)

This year seems to me a great one for looking at new things to try.   Last year I found myself catching up on old things.   With the recession, keeping positive would have been the main goal, and I had a lot to be positive about in 2010.   For one, I got the Fusion Halifax Metropolitan Award.   A blog post I wrote about professionalism in librarianship made it to the Library Journal website, and had an amazing reflection/editorial by Francine Fialkoff .   Podcamp Halifax was very successful last year and McLean Greaves even scooped the iPad announcement three days before it was announced by Apple!  (By the way, as of now there are only 26 out of a total 350 tickets left for 2011 (to be held on January 23rd).

This year, however, I feel like I need some new goals.   Here are a few:

  • It’s time to start blogging regularly again, at least once per week.
  • I’d like to go visiting someone who is not family a little more regularly.   Time to reach out!
  • Mr. 7 insists that I help him finish his rogue-like game called “Rasghiosse.”
  • I want to do a better job recording the things that I’ve done and will do.    Too many projects exist where i am the only one who really knows how they work.

That’s good for now, there’ll be more I’m sure as the year progresses.   What are your big goals for this year?

In My World…

6 Jan

I need to just rant more.    Obviously, I am not keeping up with my blogging very well, although my Twitter account is doing ok.   Anyway, maybe the occasional asinine opinion piece will help me get back into the blogosphere somehow.   Because I miss it.  Truly, I do!

I’ve been noticing quite a few things about the world that really just rile me hard.    So here is a list of thing that would happen if I owned the world:

If I owned the world:

  • Kids under 12 would not be allowed to wear clothes they are not allowed to get dirty.   Their ‘good’ clothes would be as affordable as second hand clothes.
  • ‘Prorogue‘ would be delicious dipped in sour cream and sriracha.
  • Most conferences would be un-
  • Jane Siberry would come to Halifax more often.
  • People would see debate for what it is, and get a life accordingly.
  • Anonymity would be used to benefit humankind, rather than mere internet cowardice.
  • Internet and Tech knowledge would be seen as ‘regular business’ rather than ‘something for techies to do.’
  • Curiosity would trump complaining (yes, yes, I know that I am undermining everything I’m saying here).
  • People would realize that I am actually a technophobe with a sense of responsibility.

That’s it for now.  I don’t want to complain too much on this blog.   Hopefully I’ll get around to putting out something useful and wise.  Until then – what rules would you make if you owned the world?

Podcamps in Libraries

26 Jan

podcamp_large2I have always guessed that unconferences and public libraries are a natural fit.   Now, after Podcamp Halifax, I am absolutely convinced.   If you are a director of a public library, I suggest you drop everything, do a twitter search for “podcamp”, catch the feed in your aggregator and pay attention to who, when and where a podcamp might be happening in your area.   You want to be a part of the experience.   Actually, depending on your community’s needs, you may have a moral and ethical obligation to be part of the experience.

Thanks Dan Robichaud!

When all was said and done, we had over 250 people who said they wanted to come, over 160 who actually did come and we had a top Twitter tag for part of the day and the tally is still running.  Feedback so far has been extremely positive, and people are telling us they want to do it again.   I was in the community news prior to the event, we had some great sponsors who helped us out financially or with their promotion machine, and Andrew Baron of Rocketboom gave one of the most inspiring, interesting and audience-aware talks I’ve seen in a while.   (Take-away:   Be 1) First 2) Best or 3) Most Unique .   If you are two of those, success is likely in the bag.)

The library worked out very well as a podcamp space.   Adding in the Alderney Landing Theatre as a venue was also an excellent idea.   Podcamp started at 9, we held the keynote at 1:30 so we could avoid the Sunday crowd rush at 2pm.   Then back to the library for some cake and coffee and on to the theatre again for a talk by Eden Spodek and Connie Crosby to cap off the day.

But why podcamps  in libraries?   Here are my top-ten reasons:

10.  Unconferences are community-driven events.

9.   People are curious about technology and don’t know where they can learn more.  Our community needed this podcamp!   Libraries should be responding to community need.

8.   Bloggers want to talk about what they love and often don’t have the crowd around them to do so.   cf. the picture of “I am Not Alone!”

7.  Podcamps are events where people share ideas.

6.  They are much, much, much easier than organizing even a particularly small conference.

5.  160 people in attendance for a full day event – a good lot of them said they could not remember the last time they were in a library.

4.  It shows libraries can be innovative in how they use their space.

3.  Libraries and librarians get to learn too.  In fact, staff might learn more about community development from a podcamp than they would from a library conference.

2.  Partnerships – we partnered with organizations that know stuff we do not.   That made for a successful podcamp, but it also made what I do more effective as well.

1.  Fun fun fun fun fun.   Our community walked away smiling from this event.

Of course, an unconference can be done on any subject — it doesn’t have to be social media.   Also, there are many many many more reasons why a library could participate in a unconference in general.   What kind of unconference do you think your community needs?

Also, here are a list of content as I continue to find cool things.

The Life-Path of a Librarian

8 Feb

Steve, Iris, Rikhei & others are going through some kind of meme on why they are librarians. I think self-reflection is great. In fact, when I started this blog, that’s what I intended to do — take opportunities to look at the library world in ways that might reflect “others” in the world. This blog is my way of pretending I am not myself for a bit so I can look at what I do in a new light.

But to say I am pretending not to be myself is a little untrue as well, because I am a contrary person. I do not like to do things the way everyone else does them. That’s why I’m taking this meme and running with it in my own way. So instead of offering why I became a librarian, I am going to imagine a life-path that could very well produce a librarian. Kind of like a 30 second biography.

Librarians :

  • as babies. . . had parents who were less-than-skilled at “peek-a-boo.” That’s why they had to turn to books to get that “it’s gone — no it’s back!” sensation. Every turn of a book, of course, is a game of peek-a-boo!
  • as early schoolers . . . had someone in their life with the guts to give them a book that might offend their parents. Beowulf at six was my big entry into that world. All that blood and gore really showed me that there was a world my parents (and any other authority figures) could not take away from me.
  • at about 10 years of age . . . found a corner of the library where they could laugh and giggle to their friends about all the books with a 613.907 Dewey number (PDF warning). (They would share that “super secret” corner and the Dewey number with their peers of course).
  • as a pre-teen. . . never received “secret admirer” letters because all potential anonymous love interests knew they could figure them out [no, it's not because librarians are too geeky to be admired].
  • as a teen. . . pretended to read Dostoevski, Trollope, Derrida etc. simply to expose their friends to the fact that these folks exist.
  • before they graduated high school . . . changed from sciences, to arts, to business, back to sciences, and was confused by the idea that anything resembling a specialization in these fields existed.
  • in college. . . confounded profs in discussions by injecting sources of information that the prof never heard of before.
  • before graduating . . . realized that specializing in a particular field was a) going to drive them insane and b) not going to get them a good paying job.
  • in library school . . . reminded themselves “this is temporary hell before getting to a rewarding job.”
  • before graduating . . . forgot most of what they learned in library school (not realizing that this was probably a good thing), but found someone who convinced them that they belong in the profession .
  • in their first job . . . practiced remaining calm, courteous and friendly in front of a mirror while pretending to be abused Hamburger Hill style.
  • by six months . . . after having one of the following happen to them, felt emphatically that they were meant for this job:
    • teen patrons saying hello out of a library context
    • helped someone through a serious health information inquiry
    • got a procrastinating student through a project due next weekend
    • found a weird object to classify and got it fixed nice and easy-like
    • saw a navigation issue with the website and found a logical way to fix it
  • by 2 years . . . learned something they ought to have learned in library school.
  • by 5 years . . . laughed at a library student who was worried about their library school grades.
  • on their first management job . . . started to see the reasons for all those crazy policies that got made in the previous 5 years.
  • yesterday . . . thought about why they became a librarian and pretty much decided “yeah, what Steve, Iris and Rikhei said.”

A Few Things I’m Noticing While I Twitter

16 Jan

I cannot say that I am completely convinced Twitter has specific library applications, it does have very excellent librarian applications. I can attest to this, as a librarian who loves using Twitter. Like regular blogging, microblogging is most effective when there is an individual you appreciate behind the wysiwyg.

That does not mean people do not have interesting ideas about how it could be used. And certainly, some libraries are using it. Still, as I’ve said about the Facebook universe, I strongly feel that we need to come up with tidy, professional-looking ways of using the technology before we deem it important. I am not putting libraries using Twitter down — in fact, I think they are laying the foundations for the future of the service. I also believe that innovation comes from doing, rather than conjecturing. However, we need an empirical understanding of what Twitter is, how it can be most effectively applied to libraries, and, most importantly, we need to have an honest look at what real success is in this realm.

So here are the things I notice about the Twitterverse, as an experienced user and some thoughts about why these things matter to libraries.

  • I ignore most promotions of all kinds.

Description: I had a few “friends” that do little more than send me links of promotions. The only exception to this rule so far is LISNews, but there are two mitigating factors 1) Blake “friended” me first and 2) I still see the Twitter link as Blake letting me know what’s going on, not as a promotion for the LISNews blog. Even so, what I see in links from LISNews in my Twitter account, I more commonly read from Google Reader anyway.

What Libraries Should Think About: Promotion appears to be the main purpose for libraries using Twitter, but mere promotions of programs are not going to be that successful in the end. If you are going to promote via Twitter, there’s got to be some social goodness there. It has to be fun; it has to be unique; it has to bring more value to me than my tick is bringing to your quantitative success measure.

  • I’m mostly using it from a browser.

Description: Jeremiah Owyang confirmed this a little more empirically. I mostly view Twitter from a website. Sidebars and cellphones don’t cut it for me right yet.

What Libraries Should Think About: Dreaming about accessing the mobile market through twitter is probably a bit optimistic right now. You may get some, but not a whole lot.

  • It’s great as a more disposable yet friendlier version of del.icio.us.

Description: I use delicious alot for bookmarking. I find myself using Twitter to show neato stuff to friends. While delicious seems to have the win for helping me store information I may want to look at later, Twitter is where I go to say “hey guys, take a look at this!” In other words, if I’m not likely to want it later (ie. a “breaking news story”) Twitter’s where I’m going to go with it. I also find that links are just a bit more personalized when I get them through Twitter, probably because they are the sort of things you’d want other people to see.

What Libraries Should Think About: The personal aspect of Twitter is very important. If a library is sending links, it ought to be something the library thinks is special — there has to be a human aspect about it. That’s not an easy thing to pull off.

  • Food/Coffee is a common theme.

Description: Maybe it’s just librarians, but people are always going on about their lunch, coffee, supper, sleep. I wonder what a Twitter search for the word “yum” would bring out?

What Libraries Should Think About: Twitterers have real lives too. You can learn alot about a subject using Twitter Mashups though. For instance, I searched the word “library” in the twittermap application and a whole lot of tags showed up around Philadelphia. I wonder why?

  • It’s about my friends, really.

Description: More than anything, my twitter account is about people that interest me. I choose my “friends” carefully, and usually along a specific train of thought. Actually, I see most of my social sphere as involving different “moods” of my internet access. Facebook tends to be about local and highschool/college friends. Twitter is about librarians. This blog is about libraries on the whole.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Is there a “mood” within social softwares in which libraries belong? Is the library going to improve or worsen that mood?

  • It’s great for social planning.

Description: When I went to CIL last year, I really wished I had twitter. All the cool cats knew where all the cool events were, and poor old me had no clue. Don’t get me wrong, I had lots and lots of fun anyway, but Twitter is great for keeping up with your acquaintances.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Twitter is about up-to-date, quick-paced blogging. Twitter ought to happen a few times in a day, and in general, it is better to have a one-month hiatus and then 20 twits in one day than it is to pace yourself with a once-a-week post like you would with a normal blog.

Your Twitter persona happens in a series of post usually happening in one or two days. Your customers’ Twitter experience will change from day to day as some people login and out over time. In other words, it is not unlike a chatroom. A good strategy might be to schedule a day in the week or all-day event where the library will “Twitter” over the course of the day.

  • I always want up-to-date Twits.

Description: I do not look at old Twits really. In that sense, the information on Twitter is highly, highly disposable. If, for some reason I am not receiving my twits, I feel like a twit because I am usually responding to things that are out of relevance.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Old news is no news. If you are not Twitting often, you should probably not twit at all.

  • I most frequently read twits with an @username attached to them.

Description: Twitter lets people comment on what people say, usually by placing an “at” sign in front of the user name. This draws the attention of a twitter friend. I love this stuff the most, and I often track the old twits by clicking on the @username.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Twitter is banter — you just have to accept that reality. Humans like banter — it’s ingrained. If you do not want your library to be part of the banter on the web, perhaps Twitter is not for your library. Then again, the *real* question you have to ask is whether your customers want the library to be part of this banter. That’s a hard call, and that’s why I want to see some empirical data on the issue.

Conclusion:

All in all, Twitter is another tool to play around with to see if it works for what your library is doing in the community. From what I’ve seen so far, the Library Twitterverse has been occurring in about the same way that most Library Facebook applications have been occurring. First, interested library techies start “friending,” then come a few library customers. After that, it will either fizzle out or take off. In the end, “how” you use these technologies will matter more than “what” technologies you use.

In With the New; In With the New.

8 Jan

Ten more ideas about how I can make my life better, in libraries and elsewhere:

  •  Plan an unconference — somewhere, somehow.

The field needs more unconferences, and I’d like to host/organize one for local librarians this year — probably in the summer sometime.

  •  More controlled and productive computer time.

No, this has nothing to do with social software.   I just found that the end of last year turned my computer into a television/gaming system.    I have nothing against gaming or entertainment, it’s just that my kids are growing up, and I definitely want to spend more time focussed on friends, family and physical fun.

  • Two good books a month.

I want to start tracing my reading just like Jessamyn does.   It’s been a good start though.   I just finished Evelyn Waugh’s Men at Arms, which is a great book and the first of the Sword of Honor trilogy.

  • 12 Beers (or other favored beverage) for 12 Librarians

Librarians deserve a beer.   12 librarians will get a beer from me.

  • More blogging, but with more citations and reading to go with it.

One of the most satisfying posts from my point of view was my review of Margaret Somerville’s The Ethical Imagination.    I disagree with many points that the book makes, I truly felt that Somerville gets a bad rap around town undeservedly for her views on same-sex marriage.   Further, I am glad Somerville is out there with the guts to say the unpopular thing that she believes needs to be said.   True ethics may just about the opposite of being popular, in my view.

Anyway, even though my online survey (there’s going to be a results post soon!) has suggested that book reviews are not really a priority for my audience, you’ll just have to accept my indulgences here, ‘k?

  •  More fiction/poetry writing, published or not.

I used to love writing fiction and poetry.   I even won the Clare Murray Fooshee poetry prize (first place) once.    I’d like to get back to some of that.   It was a great hobby and it brings back my memories of the rec.arts.poems usenet group (which, like many usenet groups, is a mere shadow of its former glorious self).

  • Pare down the social with social.

Libraries weed books that have lost their relevance over time.   I think I need to think about the relevance of my “friends” and look at doing some serious weeding as well.   Of course, I mean “friends” as in “Facebook friends,” which, in the end, can be likened to a reference source more than it can to a “real” friend.

If you can be of use to me, information-wise, I’ll read your blog.   If I can be of use to you, read mine.   If we have some mutual co-sharing thing going on, you will make my Twitter list.   And, honestly, I’m just about finished with Facebook.

  •  Less money waste.

It’s crazy how the local coffee shop will just eat away at my wallet.   And for what?   It’s not like there is a ton of nutrition there — and it’s not like I couldn’t just drink water.   That’s all money that could go to my kids’ RESPs or some of my favorite charities.

  • No gifts please, and clutter-free-me!

Another one that is just wasteful.    Please, no gifts.   None — except maybe a book I don’t have, or a donation to a charity in my name.

I do not want anything that will end up in a landfill within a year.   I do not want to pay to store stuff that I never use.  Whenever Big Brothers, Big Sisters asks me if we have any used clothing, furniture or appliances to give them, I will say “yes.”

  •  Increase my code-fu.

It’s coming along, and I want to learn more.   At this stage, however, it’s about doing — developing skills versus learning syntax.

That’s 10 and that’s enough.   I look forward to re-visiting this list next year to see how well I did/didn’t do.

What’s on your self-improvement list?

Out With the Old, In With the New. . .

7 Jan

Last year, I created a post of Ideas for the New Year as a way to mark my progress over the year.   Overall, I don’t think I did too bad in completing them.  Here are the ideas, and how well I’ve done in completing them.

  •  New Website for the library.   

Check.  It happened, go look.

  • Contribute to or Create an Open Source product.

Sort of. I did learn a lot more coding this year over last and some of that code could be applied to an open source product.   For instance, I was playing a bit with PHPList, and learned how to create a component for Joomla.    Our website does use a custom component for the Programs section, which may be shared for other libraries in the future. 

  •  Have visible abs.

It did happen, and then I lost them.   My biceps certainly bulged a bit, but the spare tire is still a worthwhile nemesis for me.   Add that to the next list!

  • Learning 2.0 for work.

Check.   We’re half-way through a 6 month program.

  • Reduce my consumption of meat.

Perhaps, but not sufficiently enough if I’m going to be honest with myself.

  • Public something scientific in a journal.

Nope, but I did get approved to present at two big conferences and I had a couple of blog posts added to trade journals as well.

  • Go to a good tech-related conference

Yup!   Computers in Libraries last year was great.   Steven Cohen calls it his favorite.

  •  Be a once-a-month Second Lifer.

You know?  You make these promises to yourself that, in retrospect make no sense.   This is one.   I am glad I did not become a once-a-month Second Lifer.   Although I did try it probably about 12 times last year.

  • Go to One or More of the Following Places: Cuba, Quebec City, London UK, Killarney IR, Savannah GA, Chicago IL or San Francisco CA.

New baby nixed this one.    That said, my 4 year old took up an interest in flags, one of which was Virginia — which I did go to for CIL, and my mother moved to Montreal, passing Quebec City, and came back to visit for the Holidays so I’m accepting this as resolved.

  • Go Out with a Friend once Every Two Months min

Total failure.   I blame LSW and Uncontrolled Vocabulary.

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