A Note to the Casual Reader

When I set up this blog the week before leaving for Computers in Libraries, my intent was to use it primarily as my own repository of session summaries to be shared with Skokie Public Library staff. These postings here are in no way meant to compete with the high-quality blogging already out there. So many bloggers/conference attendees wrote funny, complete, and infinitely more useful posts than I, so if you're looking to get additional dirt on the sessions, I recommend searching the internets for cil2007. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...


Trends in Mobile Apps

Another trends program! Megan Fox from Simmons College is a mobile apps guru and talked at some length about the consumer trends that are driving how content is delivered on an as-needed basis.

Fox cited the statistics: 75% adults have cell phones, meaning that cell phone ownership surpasses landlines ownership; 90% of college students have cell phones; 350 billion text messages are exchanged worldwide each month! Wow! I'll spare the readers of this summary the rundown of the status of the current market and move right along into the ways in which the Mobile Web is changing web design.

  • .mobi domain for websites that are compatible w/ mobile devices (see cnn.mobi)
  • Libraries developing mobile page. Fox mentioned Fremont PL in Mundelein, but I couldn't find any evidence of its mobile page on the website.
  • Innovative Interfaces has AirPac, currently in use by 88 libraries including KCLS and Minneapolis PL
  • READY REF ON THE GO! Through sites like Answers.com's MobileAnswers
  • Simplified mobile layouts are being rolled out in databases like Westlaw, Factiva, and LexisNexis
SMS/Text Messaging services are also being used for ready ref-type questions. Current examples are Google (text 45546 -- it really works! I use it quite a bit), Yellow Pages (text YP411), Merriam-Webster (27563), and even Rome's Biblioteche di Roma.

Texting/SMS is the preferred communication style of the youngsters, but its use is growing among older Americans. How can we adapt in the library? Several email to text services exist, allowing the "old folks" who still email to send an email that will be sent as a text message to a cell phone.

Mobile audio and multimedia is making appearances in libraries in the form of iPod shuffles for checkout and LibriVox, the audio version of Project Gutenberg. Fox failed to mention the already-existing downloadable audiobook services to which libraries are increasingly subscribing, though.

Presentation slides and links available here.


Comments in the Catalog

Glenn Peterson, Web Administrator at Hennepin County Library, gave a show and tell of HCL’s user-centered catalog and Bookspace website. HCL is a Dynix library and they are fortunate to have web coding specialists on staff who can create mashups of their various web applications. When searching the HCL catalog, the bibliographic record offers many more features than just indicating location, call number, and status. These records mash bibliographic information, enriched content from Syndetics, patron comments, audio reviews (podcasts), Amazon reviews, and related lists. Further, each bibliographic record has an associated RSS feed so that users may subscribe and watch for further comments on that same title.

A few words on the comments themselves:

· This is the most heavily used feature on the entire HCL site, and is especially popular with teens. Even before receiving the 7th Harry Potter book, there are currently 60 comments from users merely anticipating the title and conjecturing about what will happen

· Comments demonstrate the “Long Tail” concept—most titles have one or two comments (if any), while very few books have a lot of comments.

· Comments are open! When a patron logs in to make a comment, it goes up right away. Immediate posting sends the message to patrons that their ideas are welcome. Great example of the phrase “radical trust.”

But what about bad language? And what are the maintenance requirements by library staff? All of the comments are pre-screened for language with what Mr. Peterson called the “naughty word filter”; those comments are held aside until staff can take a look. An automatic script runs every four hours and batches comments in an email message that is sent to the Web Services staff. If naughty words are present, the staff will manually edit and include the phrase “edited for publication.” Mr. Peterson assured the crowd that in their experience so far, with over 5700 comments by 3000 users (!), they have very infrequently had to edit for publication. HCL developed submission guidelines to inform patrons not to include spoilers, profanity/obscenity/spiteful remarks, or any personal contact information.

HCL has been able to innovate from within because of their skilled coders. However, there are other projects in the works, both as open source ILS projects and vendor upgrades that are building these types of comments/feedback forms into their catalogs. Yay!

Accelerated Planning: Not an Oxymoron

Rebecca Jones, a library consultant with Dysart & Associates, spoke about the steps she uses to guide libraries through their strategic planning processes. She lives by the “go fast planning” technique. Speedy planning is possible only with ample pre-work and pre-thinking. But if the initial work is done by all participating parties, planning committees should be able to move quickly through the process. She says that one of the challenges of any planning process is to balance inclusiveness with decisiveness, meaning that a variety of voices should be heard, but that at some point, tough choices must be made. Acknowledging that the plan will not please everyone.

I found it useful to attend this session outside of our Strategic Planning meetings because I was able to take a more objective view of our purpose. Jones talked about “Rules of Engagement” for the planning process that will be helpful for me: there are no martyrs, as we’re all busy people; there should be no hidden agendas; there is a common picture of the end product; I am honest about what I think during the meeting and not after. Jones is also a proponent of the 5 Goal limit. She believes that any strategic plan should only have 3-5 goals, because it’s hard to remember more than that and realistically even harder to do more than that and succeed. Finally, consider the resources (staffing & money) required to produce and deliver on your goals. What are the implications and consequences of (re)allocating staffing and dollars? What are you going to give up?

Info Design for the New Web

A topic close to my design-fetishist heart...
Columbia University librarian & consultant Ellyssa Kroski talked about web design trends that libraries should be paying attention to. She showed many examples of websites, color schemes, logos, fonts, and discussed what it is about the “new web” that make it so appealing. As an example, Google is indicative of what’s going on in design today—simple search interface, uncluttered screen, centered orientation. Ellyssa discussed three major elements of the new web:

SIMPLICITY of web applications and of design/style

  • Choice can frustrate; focused approach is better, leave off certain functions to make it easier for users
  • Even though there is not a lot of text to explain what you’re supposed to do, it’s more intuitive and easy for even new internet users to figure out
SOCIAL for social’s sake
  • Collaborative applications with allow interaction with information
  • Commenting, rating, sending things to our friends, keeping track of things we like are often built into these sites. User profile is often the primary component and is customized to reflect user’s personality
  • Visual representations of what is important; tag cloud is best example; also things sorted by “most searched” or “top” searches
  • Widgets and mashups which allow web designers to remix data to create new forms of navigation

Taking these principles of design for the new web, what can libraries do to make their web presences dynamic? It’s important to include only necessary functionality with a clean, efficient design; meet users’ expectations of the web by enabling connections and participation; offer alternative ways to navigate a website, customizable by user’s preference. And most importantly, remember that everything is “in perpetual beta” and we should be prepared to get rid of things that aren’t working.


Pimp My Firefox

Blogger-librarian Jessamyn West presented some cool tricks to use in the Firefox browser to deal with common browser annoyances, or, as Jessamyn said "make Firefox look awesome and work excellently." This was a tech-nerd program that might not be interesting to many people, but she is a supercool speaker and knows her stuff. I’m a fan of Firefox and am always happy to testify to its usefulness to whomever will listen. Best look at her presentation here.

Millennials and the Library

Marshall Breeding from Vanderbilt University spoke about generational transitions and the current “millennial” generation, those born between 1981-2000. In an academic setting in which Mr. Breeding works, Millennials are the majority of patrons. The basic generational assumptions are that people born during this time have an innate ability for technology, are accustomed to frenetic multitasking, are comfortable with diverse types of digital media, and have a highly interactive style of working.

In developing collections, think of Content, Discovery, and Access. In the area of content, focus on digital collections: audio, video, podcasts, ejournals, ebooks. Discovery refers to the hyperlinked serendipity that happens through regular web surfing—for example, looking up a title in the catalog, reading user reviews, listening to the author interview. The access, then, to library services should be Anytime Anywhere.

As we consider ways to reach out to our teen and young adult users, these are all things to keep in mind. However, it’s not just the library user that needs to be considered. The Millennial generation is the next group that will be working in libraries. Will the library as workplace be welcoming to those who are accustomed to receiving info quickly and from multiple sources; like to parallel process and multitask—listen to music, talk on the phone, answer email all at the same time; work in peer groups; learn while doing instead of the traditional read-then-do learning model?

Also think about website design. Heightened user expectations (all users, not just millennials) require that pages load quickly and that interfaces are highly graphic, not text-based. Consider the conventions in web design that seem to have missed the Library Boat: navigation, simple search interfaces with minimal textual instruction. Mr. Breeding touched on traditional library website design, which he describes as “status quo”, require too much jumping through hoops to get to the content, and are designed for librarians who are text-based learners.

Me, MySpace, and I: Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in the Networked World

Alane Wilson from OCLC spoke of this work-in-progress research about online privacy and behavior. The report compares librarians’ online behavior with that of the rest of the general population in the US, UK, Japan, France, and Germany and takes a look at where we currently are with the reality of online privacy and individuals’ own perceptions of their privacy.

Ms. Wilson talked about this being the 3rd wave of computing in which there is Ubiquitous Computing (“Ubicomp”). We are no longer tethered to a desktop machine and the technology has receded into everyday life. Current estimates show that 120,000 blogs are being created every day, showing a solid trend of community authorship and individually-driven content. Take a look at Amazon, Netlix, Barnes & Noble and you get an idea of how much people enjoy contributing their thoughts to the masses—it’s not even necessary to delve into the blogosphere to see how companies are harnessing user-driven content.

In regards to privacy, Ms. Wilson said “the footprints we leave behind will not melt away”, meaning that the things we put out there online will be searchable, archived, and cached on servers all over the world. She believes that 21st century civic behavior will be characterized by this idea, and that intervention by educators (schools and libraries, namely) is essential. Survey results have shown that there is a big gap between what’s actually happening in regards to individual privacy and what we’d prefer to have happen. Most people say that they don’t want their personal information to fall into the wrong hands and would prefer not to leave a trail, yet they often do not choose anonymity on the internet, as they very well could. It’s a conundrum! Individual users have the power to keep their personal information private while contributing, yet they are stuck in the “nothing bad will happen to me” frame of mind. At this time, the survey data has not been posted. I will be anxious to read the full report which will hopefully be out this summer.

Planning & Implementing Library 2.0

David Lee King, Digital Services Manager from Topeka & Shawnee County Public Libraries, was brave enough to do several presentations, one of which was this very helpful overview of first steps in planning and implementing web 2.0 services. The variety of local decisions is immense, and deciding who/what/why/where/when can be a stumbling block for some libraries. King said that whatever decisions are made about implementing these services, we need to “organize around the work, not around the department”. There may be support staff who are skilled at editing audio files, for example, and IT staff may not have any idea what to do with a MySpace profile. Challenge the library’s inclination to give all new technology tasks to the dedicated tech staff.

King also spoke about how easy it is to get the message out quickly with web 2.0 services. The conventions of web 2.0 are conversational, friendly, imperfect; this is not master’s level thesis writing we’re talking about! Once the content is created, it can be posted in multiple spaces for different audiences (post events to MySpace page, link to photos in Flickr, upload video to Blip.tv and create easy links to library blogs). Also important to think about in the planning process is how to go about inviting participation. What is the level of customer participation you will seek, and what type of control will the library give up to encourage that participation?

David's presentation is available here.

Monday's Keynote: Web 2.0 & the Internet World

Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, was our first keynote speaker—a perfect choice to kick of a Web 2.0 conference. One of the great things about this conference was that the presenters assumed a level of knowledge of web 2.0 principles. Mr. Rainie spent only a brief moment talking about these principles before moving quickly on to what it means for libraries. He indicated six hallmarks that we should be aware of:

1. The Internet has become the computer
• 89% of online teens have access at home; 75% at school; 70% at a friend or relative’s house

2. Tens of millions of Americans are creating and sharing online
• content creation = artwork, photos, creative writing
• 33% have created or worked on webpages/blogs for family or community

3. Even more internet users are accessing the content created by others

4. Many are sharing what they know & feel online via ratings and reviews, tagging content, and commenting on blogs

5. Individuals are contributing their knowledge without even getting paid for it! Peer-to-peer file sharing and open source software development is being driven by bored programmers.

6. Online Americans are customizing their online experiences w/ web 2.0 tools. It was cited that 25-30% of younger users get RSS feeds, often without realizing it, so seamless is the integration with web browsers.

A Word to Our Conference Center

Dear Crystal City Hyatt,
Please make your conference wifi setup work consistently so that I can do live blogging. Thank you and respectfully submitted,


Feed Me!

On my way down to Sunday's AM preconference session, Simple Solutions for Dynamic Web Services Using RSS, which was being presented by McMaster University Reference Librarian Amanda Etches-Johnson, I rode the glass elevator with a woman sporting the perfect shoulder bag. I'm always on the lookout for a good stash bag and hers was well qualified: not too big, not too small, and plenty of interior pockets. You're probably thinking, "What the heck does the perfect stash bag have to do with computers in libraries or RSS?" Nothing, except that the bag was on the shoulder of... well... Amanda Etches-Johnson!

Amanda presented a hugely informative session about how libraries can use blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, and photo sharing tools to create and publish original content, generate and syndicate RSS feeds, and keep the content fresh and interesting. She also demonstrated some of the tools she uses such as RSS remixers, OPML packagers, RSS-to-JavaScript code generators, and sources for news, information, and electronic journal feeds.

By the second break my brain was pulsing. I had Amanda's presentation notes, my own notes, and a second tablet on which I captured my streams of thought about how I'd like to implement RSS on our library's Web site. So much information... my brain is stumbling over itself with ideas for subject-specific blogs and headline feeds, collaborative linkrolls, RSS feeds on plasma screens, journal feeds, internal wikis for committee work... sigh.

And did I mention that all of the tools that Amanda showed us are freely available on the Web? Budget that!


We Will Survive.

Within walking distance of the Hyatt: sushi, steak, tapas, seafood, thai, chinese, italian, ice cream, starbucks, chipotle, corner bakery, a few bars, a liquor store that doesn't sell beer or mike's hard, CVS pharmacy, and more in the opposite direction of where I walked. I'll have to check that out tomorrow.

We will survive.

Wi-Fi in the Sky.

...courtesy of the Courtyard across the street and our room in the crow's next. It's a little slow during peak times, but if you sit near the window and position your laptop at just the right angle, you'll get a decent single. Hell, it's free.

No room fridge, though. I hope the chocolate doesn't melt.


Oh the Pressure.

Hello, Ruth!

Library Jenn-point-Oh.

Hello readers! Another sunny day and I start blogging...again. This new venture, The Flying Keyboard, is a first--the first time I will be sharing blog duties with someone (say Hello, Ruth!) and also the first time I will be blogging for work. This month, Ruth and I will be headed off to Arlington, VA for some exciting Library 2.0 conference action at Computers in Libraries 2007. We hope to bring back loads of good stuff we can use to awesome-ize Skokie Public Library, though it's already pretty awesome if I don't say so myself. So check in with us as we navigate the wide variety of conference programs, WiFi our way through the conference center, and dodge the vendor swag that is omnipresent.

Anyone need a totebag?