June 2007 Archives

UMN Libraries Toolbar

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More cool stuff from the UMN Libraries, including a Firefox toolbar, and an Amazon lookup tool.

I love the tool bar. It's another neat way to embed the library into the user's environment seamlessly. It's also very easy to install.

It has some cool features:
--a News and Events RSS feed
--Many search options connected to the primary search box, including a dictionary, an encyclopedia, stocks and weather (great way to increase the likelihood that the user will integrate the toolbar into their everyday web use!)
--A built in e-mail notifier!

Like I said, I like the way they thought 'outside the library box' in building this. Their toolbar features a unique set of web tools that would appeal to a wide cross-section of UMN users.

Great inspiration to work from as we begin to design our own toolbar!

Campus Connections

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While I haven't enjoyed the luxury of attending any presentations here at ALA yet, I did have two lengthy conversations which were definite food for thought in the realm of libraries and technology.

Both of my friends (ex-colleagues) are in administration now at large research universities. Both of them shared at length with me the many campus partnerships that they are creating throughout their respective universities. One of them has already funded all three phases of their planned information commons via monies from the Provost and other campus entities. She detailed the many faculty and administrators that she has collaborated and convened with (all of the outside of the library) to garner campus buy-in for their ambitious project. The other friend shared her concrete, in-process plans for embedding information literacy into the curriculum, threading IL skills throughout all disciplines taught on campus.

When they asked me what I was working on, I felt like I was climbing out of a tiny mousehole. My job has become in some ways very tech-oriented, and I love it, but it reminded me that even as we focus on small projects, the big picture must still remain in view.

I really like this guy...

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Two columns by Lance Ulanoff (of PC Mag) caught my eye today.

MySpace, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed. I think he's right. All three of these sites are the equivalent of visual 'noise' to me (and I swear it's not just because I'm 38)--MySpace especially. My take on MySpace is that it exists solely to create the most visually damaged, poorly laid-out web pages that have ever existed in the history of the Web. And Ulanoff is so right about all of the 'page stumps' out there in MySpace land that will never be developed and are just cluttering up the online landscape.

I'm glad to hear his thoughts on the corporate presence in SL. None of this has ever made sense to me--how a Dell store in SL can lead to anything remotely rewarding (in a commercial sense) in RL. Feel free to refute me if you think I'm wrong.

And finally, Twitter. Ah, Twitter. How I love you for telling me when someone I know is eating ice cream and preparing to watch American Idol on tv. While i think you've helped jell the idea of 'micro-blogging' for some of us, I will not miss you when (or if) you go.

The other column is:
iPhone to Flop...Then Fly (and you can see Jim Louderbeck's rebuttal here):
He says of the iPhone:

No, the iPhone will struggle initially because consumers will be unwilling to break their cellular-service contract simply to have a new phone.

I knew there was a reason why I had pay-as-you-go cell phone service and a used phone I bought on eBay! Goodbye, PagePlusCellular, Hello iPhone!

Seeing how posting a link to a pre-set iGoogle tab works...

Updated to add: Pretty cool! I love how it gives the user the option to pre-select the components of the tab that they want / don't want. That functionality was never there in Netvibes.

Sharing iGoogle Tabs

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Ahhh---I have been waiting for this! Finally, we can share full tabs (instead of just sharing widget by widget) in iGoogle.
This capability has been there in NetVibes for a long time, and I was just this morning thinking about it while I was drying my hair. (I know, pretty pitiful--I need more exciting things to think about.)

Here is my idea: You create customized, library-focused tabs for different audiences (students, subject-specific ones for faculty in certain disciplines, Libraries faculty and staff, etc...) Then, you run workshops on setting up one's own research desktop and help people learn how to integrate these tabs into their own custom online workspace. And, you also make these tabs available on the Libraries' home page.

Anyway, I think I'll start experimenting with making iGoogle tabs for different audiences. Ignacio and I have been working on a project centered on this for the Gateway Desk staff for several months now. The capability to share tabs may be just the push we need to finalize things.

If you're interested in exploring this more (and would like to see some of the tabs) let me know.

Post-consult...

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the advice is...you can't have it both ways. You can't post everywhere to increase your readership, and then complain later that you don't have any control over it. (and the lawyer-in-residence clarified for me that we are really talking about licensing here, not ownership.)

Use of my postings is limited by my copyright over it. But it does mean that if I post it in 100 places, it will remain in 80 places over time. And this is a concern for people posting articles in progress. Once you post it, especially if you personally license lots of sites to put it up, you are effectively losing control over it. For me, this means that I will likely stop importing my blog and other original content info Facebook and similar applications. It's better to just point to content than to re-publish it entirely in more than one place.

The more interesting question is with Facebook Apps. When your institution wholly develops and invests in an application, and then posts in on a site like Facebook, what are the ramifications?

I don't think so. This article says otherwise. Perhaps they own the notes that I write directly on the site. But the notes that I import from this blog? Not so sure about that. Regardless, it's a thought-provoking question that will definitely define future directions I take in re-purposing my blog content, etc... elsewhere.

I think I need to ask my IP lawyer-in-residence about this. I'll report back with what he says.

(Thanks to Marcy for pointing this article out!) :)

This weekend, a post by (my personal God) Stephen Abram identified some libraries doing some interesting things with Facebook Apps.

Specifically, I was taken with Ryerson U's new Facebook App for their library. I think this is genius--an app that exists in the sidebar, entirely outside of the Facebook profile page itself. This way, when the user wants their library tools, they simply click on their app to open it up. Install the Ryerson App on your Facebook profile and see what you think.

I think there is still great utility in widgets, and after we finish developing ours, I would like to see us move on to working on an App like this.

We have a Social Networking Group here in the Libraries, charged with helping plan and develop the use of various library-related social applications. A few weeks ago, the group conducted an internal survey of Libraries' faculty and staff, to ascertain the current climate and future direction of social apps in the Libraries.

I'm not going to blog about the survey results themselves, although that would make an interesting blog post for any of the other group members (hint hint). One of the survey comments, however, said something that's had me thinking for the past few days.

The comment essentially said that in the world of information literacy, the expectation "is that we jump on every kind of information bandwagon that comes along." It went on to say that "the Web 2.0 hype is getting old already." Fair enough.

What made this useful comment stand out to me was simply that it qualified Web 2.0 tools as "being in the world of information literacy." My essential question was, "Why?" Is it because we have several information literacy librarians here in the library who are very enthusiastic about these tools, so much so that people here have begun to think, information literacy=Web 2.0? If that's true, we need to continue to stress how 2.0 tools can impact and be usefully embedded into all aspects of librarianship.

Really, though, this comment made me think about the essence of information literacy, and especially the IL standards. The IL standards are not tool-based, or even resource-based, they are skill based. Think about the definition of information literacy itself:

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."
It is the learning outcomes that get more into resources and tools---and even then the Standards' learning outcomes are not so specific as to identify certain technologies--that would date them much too quickly.

What 2.0 technologies can do with regard to IL is give the students the tools they need, where they need them, so that they can more readily acquire information literacy skills. 2.0 technologies are simply more tools(like the computer, the OPAC, the reference desk).

And if we let them drop off our radar because it's too much to follow, or because we don't feel they fall under our purview, then our users will just move on to other tools that exist more readily in their world.

This post by Scott Walter over at ACRLog distilled many of the current issues we face with regard to publishing on library-related topics.

Specifically, to quote Scott,

where is the ACRL version of EDUCAUSE Review (with its contributions from non-technologists who understand the critical nature of IT in higher education) or the 7 Things You Should About series (with its cogent synopses of emergent issues in a fashion timely enough to be useful across the academy)?

If you haven't taken a look at the 7 Things series, you should. It's an excellent format for helping those unfamilar with specific technologies learn about them in a quick, easy-to-read burst.

This is something that I have thought about often with regard to the ACRL Information Literacy Web site (which I edit), and the ALA Web site as a whole.

As Scott says in the piece, we have

to find ways to better highlight our contribution to broader discussions that may be of interest to non-members.

It all comes down to making our publishing efforts more exciting, more broadly focused, and above all, more accessible. I think the many terrific librarian authored blogs out there have helped push us in this direction. Now it's time to take the next step and make our more formally-produced publishing more responsive (on a variety of levels) as well.

I loved this TNYT article

It made me think of what's to come in the future with my kids, and reminded me of the horror on my spring intern's face when she realized I had a Facebook profile and might possibly want to 'friend' her. :).

The UIUC Libraries debuted their new library search widget on Facebook this week.

I like it. I'm not sure I like that it goes into their MultiSearch application, but I like the way it looks (colorful and widgety) and I also like the little 'Ask a Librarian' link up in the corner. Once the new school year is in full swing, it will be interesting to see how many students add and use this.

Our widget is coming along---should be ready in the next few weeks! (thanks to Binky)

It will be interesting to see how tools like this evolve on FB. My hunch is that FB is eventually going to go to a tabbed interface, allowing for more separation of different types of FB uses.

We'll see.

The CIC and Google

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Persistent Queries

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Google Operating System had a neat post today on a script called "Try This Search On..." Try the script out--install it in your browser.

In a nutshell, this script senses when you are on a search results page, and launches a little embedded toolbar at the bottom of your page, with links (including your search terms) to a variety of other search engines.

I installed it, and then re-wrote the script a bit to see if I could get it to point to Libraries databases, like CQ Researcher and ProQuest. It worked, but it didn't work---the links worked but the search terms did not carry through. This is, of course, because I am a moron when it comes to coding things. Perhaps someone else can make it work?

I think scripts like this take toolbars to the next level. Here's a screen cap of what this script looked like on my page:

burgoon.png

I've over-committed myself in ALA, and as a result, I don't get to attend many sessions when I go to Midwinter and Annual. I'm looking forward to having that change at some point, even if it is a few years away.

That said, here's a session that I would like to attend more than anything at this year's Annual conference. If you're able to go, be sure to tell me all about it! Or blog it and send me the link!

Title - "The Ultimate Debate: Do Libraries Innovate?
Speakers: Stephen Abram, Joe Janes, Karen Schneider, and Andrew Pace"
Time: 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm Saturday, June 23, 2007
Room: Renaissance Mayflower (MAY) Grand Ballroom

Description - Libraries did not invent Google Book Search, LibraryThing,
Facebook, or any other innovation critical to the new information era
and knowledge economy. We make use of these inventions, but is that
enough? What prevents us from being more creative? Questions and answer
session follows.

Question 1:
Is there any evidence that libraries are innovative institutions?

Question 2 (reserve):
What is your definition of an innovative library and what would be some
of its qualities?

Question 3:
What prevents libraries from innovating?

Question 4:
Can libraries become more innovative, and if so, how?

Question 5:
What will happen if libraries do not become more innovative?

Question 6:
Even if libraries become more innovative, can they hope to compete with
the private sector for their user's attention?

Question 7:
What is your vision for the future of library innovation, and what is
your level of confidence in achieving it?

Please join Stephen Abram, Joe Janes, Karen Schneider, and Andrew Pace
for the ultimate debate on these questions.

Blogs & Wikis Class

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I taught an Adobe Connect class on Blogs and Wikis for Libraries faculty & staff on May 30. All of the materials (and the session recording) can be found here.

This was an exciting class for me, becuase it allowed me to try out some new philosophies I've been forming with regard to blogs and wikis (more so blogs).

Back when Rebecca B. and I taught our first blogging class in 2003, we focused primarily on the mechanics of starting a blog: Where to publish, how to publish, what to publish, etc.... Things have changed. This class was not so much about the specifics of making a blog as it was looking at blog content and how to disseminate it to different resources via RSS.

I also experimented with making a Google Reader Mash-Up blog for this class. You can see it here.

I swear, this is the last Facebook post for today, at least.

Educause came out with an update to their previous document "Seven Things You Should Know About Facebook." The new version integrates in some of the updated privacy features and mentions the Applications.

I thought that this quote, in particular, had some reasonance:
"Facebook’s integration with cell phones—the ability to browse the site or upload photos from a phone and communicate with the site through text messages—moves the notion of social networking away from computers and into the realm of an “always on” application. The interesting question is whether expanded access and a growing number of functions will lead users into more substantive activities on the site."

The Tipping Point

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I was talking with a close friend this weekend about what I'm working on with the library interface, Facebook, etc...

We've had discussions like this before, and when Facebook comes up, he shuts down. "Why would I need to use this? Why would I want to put my personal information out there for others to see?" I can see his point, usually.

This weekend, I took a different tack, and encouraged him to just explore it. Now that Facebook Apps are there, it's gone to a different level. I think it says something for how we will connect to people, information and resources in the future. Like it or not, the social networking aspect of the Web is going to intersect with many other aspects of our online lives.

"No thanks," my friend said, "I have absolutely no interest in even exploring it. I'm not interested."

That's fine, he doesn't want to touch it. I can accept that. His assertion made me start thinking in general about the generational divide that is now in place with regard to social networking tools. When it comes to these technologies, I am definitely a digital immigrant, and him? Well, he's still in the old country.

My friend is 38, I'm 37, and there is no natural place in our lives for these tools. Sure, I use Facebook, Twitter and IM, but my use is really driven by wanting to understand and experience how these things work. I don't use them because my friends use them and I need them to keep in the social loop of what's happening. Email does that for me, 100%, with my social groups.

No one wants to think they're getting old. But this conversation, to me, it was the present-day equivalent of the dad yelling at his kid to "stop playing that noise that you call rock n roll!"

We (me, Binky, Emily) are working hard to make library-based widgets that can be integrated into any environment---iGoogle, NetVibes, but most especially Facebook.

With the launch of Facebook Apps over the past week or two, Facebook has entered a whole new realm. I agree with what Cole and the others said on last week's ETS Talk about FB becoming a 'Social OS.' Everything that I once thought (and only a few weeks ago) about the role of the library in FB is being thrown out the window.

We have real estate here in the library--search tools that our students need. And to make those tools own-able pieces that they can integrate into their own social / learning environment is pretty exciting. The added bonus is that it begins to make all of my concerns about the library web interface (vendors notwithstanding) pretty null and void.