Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Threat of Web 2.0

Rory Litwin at Library Juice reports on a speech by Jurgen Habermas on the perils of Web 2.0. Relevant quotes:
The price we pay for the growth in egalitarianism offered by the Internet is the decentralised access to unedited stories. In this medium, contributions by intellectuals lose their power to create a focus.
And in his report on the speech, Andrew Keen notes:
So the great achievement of the Web 2.0 is the undermining of the idea of a specialist, an expert, an intellectual.
So, is this repressive disintermediation? Or just anarchy? How much wikiality is there in such concerns? Not everything about Web 2.0 applies to Library 2.0, which encourages involvement but still has some central role for the library as institution. But there are valid cautionary notes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Project Play: Remember the Milk & Jott

These tools are cool, cute, well done and flexible. I may never use them again. I already have this mostly covered with my palm Treo, a phone which shares my calendar contacts, data files and to do list with web-accessible desktop Outlook and others at the library. Do I need more lists and reminders?

My phone already lets me blog or send messages. Still, it's kind of cool to blog via speech to text phone call. This entry was sent through Jott. listen

Powered by Jott

[Afterword: Jott is phone based reminders and speech conversion to text for messaging. Remember the Milk is a web-based to do list, which can be used collaboratively. The above posting required drastic simplification and editing to fit into Jott's 30 seconds per message maximum.

Both these services are easy to use. Both are in Beta, which makes one wonder if they will graduate to requiring some fees down the road. One thing I really liked about
Remember the Milk was its slick integration with Google calendar. It would also be good for collaborative project to do lists with a disparate group of folks. For my current purposes, they're marginal, but worth knowing about.]

Friday, January 25, 2008

On not sucking

I was happy to see in this month's issue of Wired, with a cover story of "Why Things Suck", that public libraries made their short list of "things that don't suck."

Thanks to Jeff Scott of Gather No Dust, I found out even more. In his blog posting, Jeff talks about why we don't suck. He also links to a Wired online copy of the "don't suck" list. This includes interactive ratings and according to people that have voted, we're doing pretty well.

Turn and face the strain...

Our good neighbors at the Neenah Public Library got a nice article in yesterday's paper about changes in usage patterns as seen in annual circulation numbers. My immediate reaction was how universal some of the trends seemed: if you change the exact numbers and a few proper names, the article would have been true of many libraries, and certainly ours.

The last sentence grabbed me: "...library staff has been able to keep pace with the growth in circulation though the help of volunteers and self-checkout machines..." -- yep, that's us, too, spot on.

But it occurred that we should look at specific numbers to see where we were alike and different -- and thank about why. Neenah's growth in circulation was 52,422 -- the largest increase in their five countypublic library system. Our growth at APL was 79,173, but we're a larger library, so it might be more useful to compare percentage changes.

Circulation comparison, % changes 2006-7:

Interesting stuff... more of our growth is coming in books, CDs, books on CD and magazines. Some of the differences may have to do with how the two libraries have implemented format changes in their collections. I know that we've been trying to grow our books on CD collection, and the numbers reflect that. We also finished bar-coding all our magazines, and while that's not a big number for us, it's probably more accurate now than previously.

But just like in Neenah, people like our video collection for the wide-ranging selections not found in video stores, and we're also pushing books and literacy.

"I am curious -- library"

A video of business author Seth Godin, found on John Blyberg's blog -- under the posting "Let's be curious with our users."

We certainly rely on users being curious with us.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

“With so much info on phone, why huge library?”

Found on Steven Cohen's Library Stuff, this guest editorial in the Jan. 22 Cincinnati Enquirer asks this question -- which we'd better be able to answer. The writer notes that his phone is:
a gateway to local and global news, updated in real time. It is connected to the greatest single information repository in the history of mankind, and can retrieve data from this network on demand - from anywhere, at any time
and in comparison notes that a new $18 million dollar library is "a monstrosity." He characterizes the library as wasteful of space for marginal uses, while real needs for local tax dollars go unmet. He cites articles (found by googling with his phone) which say library use is declining. But library users are lounging in spacious comfort, surfing the net, checking out last year's TV shows on DVD and playing Guitar Hero.

Project Play: Google Docs

Google is dangerously seductive. It's just too darn useful. It could be the next Microsoft: They mean to rule the world! Or at least control all information. But we can trust them -- their motto is "Don't be evil!" Their staff plays a lot of frisbee.

Of course, this blog is published with Blogger, from Google. I get my home email via Gmail, from Google. I use iGoogle as one of my regular home pages, with nicely customized newsfeeds and aps. Lest we forget -- as if we could -- Google is the search engine of choice. Google translator absolutely rocks! Google calendar is currently the product of choice on our library website. Oh yeah, and they own YouTube -- you gotta love these guys! Google books and the Google Library Project? A little controversy there -- let's not get started... and we won't talk about all the people who are deluded into believing that Google has made libraries obsolete.

Okay, then there's Google docs, the subject of this week's Project Play lesson. I love Google docs. My regular use is sharing files between home and work, but sometimes they're shared with other folks I'm working with. I've published some to the web and linked them from this blog. Barb Kelly, our Assistant Director, devised a way for people using catalog terminals in the library to take notes and save them in Google docs.

For my Project Play lesson, I logged into a shared Google docs account and messed around with a few documents. I read the Google docs blog and was truly impressed with some of the recent changes, particularly to presentations. This is really sophisticated stuff in creating external applications that provide most of the function of the basic "office" productivity, then host it remotely, allow customized publishing and sharing, making it easy to use with bells and whistles.

What's not to love? I just hate to put all my eggs into any one basket, so it's Flickr, not Picasa for me, and Bloglines, not Google Reader. Google Finance is pretty cool for tracking investments, though.

For more on Google, see:
Here's a presentation I whipped up from part of Joy's Google Docs post on the Project Play Blog. Reformatting it and putting it here took me about 15 minutes.

Video ratings

A recent question on WISPUBLIB mailing list, and my response, reprinted here for those who do not read WISPUBLIB (and for my own archival purposes). The question:

Hello All,

Does anybody have a specific policy in regards to minor access and R rate DVDs?

This should be on somebody's FAQ...

Appleton Public Library does not have a policy, but we have discussed with our board, and I have a bunch of thoughts:
  • Parents are responsible for their children
  • MPAA ratings are a marketing tool for the U.S. motion picture industry.
  • Libraries differ from movie theatres (and video stores) in many essential ways, including how we select and distribute titles and the economics of the distribution transactions.
  • MPAA ratings do not include TV shows, older films, a great many foreign films, and many direct video releases. They are unreliable and somewhat arbitrary.
  • Libraries are ill-advised to make policies based on these ratings, as this does not necessarily protect children from exposure to violence or sexuality in media, but creates a false sense of security while sacrificing access.
  • Making public library policy based on ratings constitutes prior censorship based on decisions that have nothing to do with a given film's suitability for library use or the values of any particular family.
  • You can effectively give parents the opportunity to restrict their children's access to materials, or types of materials, for those families who choose to do so, without implementing this arbitrary censorship on the entire community.
  • Where ratings exist, one should make this information available in the catalog and from helpful staff, in order to help families who want this information in making viewing decisions.
  • "You can decide for your kids, but let me make the decisions about my kids."
  • Libraries can best support the decisions of families and intellectual freedom for the community by avoiding making policy using or based on ratings
  • I wouldn't say this is the only right way to do things; these things often come down to local politics -- your mileage may vary, so you pick your battles & you do what works for your community.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

i.m. uncertain

Maybe it's an age thing. Maybe it's a style thing. I don't see where Instant Messaging holds a lot of interest for me in my own work. For my own personal workflow, it seems distinctly inferior to email and telephone. I was able to install the Meebo widget here and use it without too much trouble, thanks to a bit of help from colleagues at APL and OWLS. But the why of it isn't apparent to me.

I can see where it would have some good applicability for library service, such as on the library website. Service desks can be in touch with staff workrooms, colleagues at different libraries can collaborate and share info. People could ask reference questions real time. Except that's why we do AskAway -- at some cost. We could use IM during times when we're open and rely on AskAway when we're not around, if that would be clear enough to patrons.

A further complication is that our City policies generally ban the use of IM services, although we were able to convince the folks at City Hall that there were legitimate work-related reasons (such as AskAway) for IM use at our library. Part of our Electronic Communications Policy reads:
Employees are prohibited from knowingly visiting inappropriate Internet sites, unauthorized chat rooms or using instant messaging services through the City systems. ... Designated staff at the Library may use instant messaging services for work related purposes on Library systems at the discretion of the Library Director. These services may only be used with log files enabled and will be subject to regular review by the Library Director or designee.
Thus all employee use of Meebo, etc. has to be logged and I am required to review those logfiles. It's a regressive policy but it was the best compromise we could achieve at the time. This puts a chill on instant messaging. Although the policy is regressive, there's a basis. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure define electronic records as discoverable. Just like email, everything one does with IM is a public record -- and should be available not only to your supervisor but the local newspaper.

You wouldn't hang on the phone at work with friends for non-work reasons. Neither should we be IMing members of our "buddy list" for non-work reasons. Yet "radical trust" is not enough in areas of potential liability, thus management is required (however reluctantly) to take on a watch-dog role.

Symantec's CIO Digest notes:
Given the tumultuous, impulsive state of adoption, it's not surprising that many organizations lack consistent messaging policies encompassing all electronic communications, along with the systems to enforce them. In light of increasingly stringent regulatory and legal requirements, however, organizations would be well served to review their policies and assess their ability to discover, capture, review, and archive IM traffic.
I was skeptical about our overly cautious approach, but googling Instant messaging liability" produces 243,000 hits. Further reading:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Eating Books ?!?

Browsing news sources, a Pakistan Daily Times article titled "Eating Books" caught my eye. If this is a new way to learn, it -- sounds like something out of the Thursday Next stories. If it's a way to smuggle books out of libraries, it seems... self-defeating.

The article is either figuratively or wrongly or capriciously titled, as no actual book-eating is involved. But it is an interesting review of book theft problems across centuries and cultures. It seems Pakistani library problems are in some respect no different from Wisconsin problems. It's a small world.

I trust I won't have to eat my words...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Appleton library's new program reaches out to teens

Bethany Blank, 14, and Skyler Keough, 15, both of Appleton enjoy some friendly competition while playing a video game during the Teens Take a Break series at the Appleton Public Library. Post-Crescent photo by Dan Powers
Post-Crescent January 14, 2008
Appleton library's new program reaches out to teens
Series hopes to draw kids looking for a place to hang out and have some fun

By Cheryl Sherry
Post-Crescent staff writer

When you think of hot spots for teen fun, the Appleton Public Library doesn't necessarily come to mind.

Not yet anyway.

"We're not just stuffy old books and homework," young adult librarian Paula Wright said.

Although the library always has offered programming for teens, it never has been on a weekly basis. That all changed Tuesday with the kick-off of the new Teens Take a Break series, which gives young adults in grades seven through 12 four different entertainment options each month. It also gives them a break from the rigors of school, homework, work and social obligations.

"This is something where they can take a break from their busy lives and at least once a week come to the library and do something fun and relaxing," Wright said.

Menasha teen Tori Fisher said while there are many activities in the area for teens, Take a Break will offer them the chance to hang out with teens from all over the Fox Valley, which normally isn't an option.

Kaukauna teen Skyler Keough not only sees the program as a great idea, but the library as a great place to do it.

"I think that if the word gets out, then as more teens come together we can make more friends and become more accepting of others. There are many great opportunities, and I hope to become involved in as many as possible. … I think the program will be a huge success."

"The idea was to have one all-encompassing program where we try to incorporate all the different things we know teens are interested in and want to do into one big program where we do something for them every Tuesday night," Wright said. "So they know at the library every Tuesday night there's going to be some kind of program. And the different kinds of programs appeal to different kinds of personalities of teens. The goal is to let teens know there is a place they can come hang out. They are welcome."

The first Tuesday of the month is game break night, a drop-in chance to play Wii or Playstation 2, board games or cards.

"We've had lots of requests by teens to do some kind of gaming program, and the Wii and the Playstation 2 aren't available to all teens," Wright said.

As part of the Outagamie Waupaca Library System, a Wii, Playstation 2 and games were purchased and made available to member libraries interesting in offering a gaming program for children, teens or adults.

Under the guidance of library assistant Diana Sandberg, week two of the program gives the crafty teen a chance to create anything from a juice pouch handbag to Amigurumi (Japanese art of crocheting small stuffed animals) to magnetic poetry.

Anime will be shown on the third Tuesday of the month. Anime is essentially animation and a popular form of entertainment in Japan. Many times, anime comes from a manga, or Japanese comic book.

Music will fill the atrium on the last Tuesday of the month with the Jungle Jive Concert venue featuring local teen and young adult bands.

"It's an opportunity for teens to play their music in a safe open environment that is extremely casual," Wright said. "It is hard for teens to find a forum in which they can play. They have to play 50 minutes to an hour, and all musical styles are welcome."

Plus, bands get paid.

For participating teens, however, Teens Take a Break doesn't cost a dime, thanks to the Appleton Library Foundation.

Cheryl Sherry: 920-993-1000, ext. 249, or

More info

Teen bands interested in playing at the library's Jungle Jive Concert venue are asked to e-mail Paul Wright at or call 920-832-6177.
A Program Extra! pizza and book discussion will be offered from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 15 in the lower-level meeting rooms of the Appleton Public Library. The Community Reads books, "Green Angel" and "Blackbird House," will be discussed.
Upcoming schedule:
Jan. 15: "Go Green Scrap Art" drop-in between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. in the lower-level Young Adult room
Jan. 22: "Slayers Next," Anime for Teens film series, 6:30 p.m. lower-level meeting room
Jan. 29: Jungle Jive Concert, 7 to 8 p.m. in the Library Atrium
Feb. 5: Game Break, 7 to 8:45 p.m. in lower-level meeting room
Feb. 12: Valentine/Un-Valentine Altered Cans craft drop-in between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. in the lower-level Young Adult room
Feb. 19: "Suzuka," Amime for Teens film series, 6:30 p.m. lower-level meeting room
Feb. 26: Jungle Jive Concert, 7 to 8 p.m. in the Library Atrium

For the rest of the schedule, go to

Friday, January 11, 2008

Acknowledging our staff

Steppin' out: 2008 honorees Elizabeth, Kathleen, Kay, Jeanette, Pat

Once a year, we have a small get-together for staff and honor those who reached milestone anniversaries the year before. For my part, I wish we could do more every day to express appreciation for the caring hard-working folks that make up the library.

Lots more people go to libraries than go to professional sports events -- though we sell fewer ads. The people that provide service in our building are touching many hundreds of lives every day: inspiring children, helping businesses, providing resources for life-long learners, and giving access to an incredible range of cultural and information resources. Whether working at a service desk or a story hour, checking out, shelving, cleaning bathrooms, or slogging though committee meetings, our people make up a team that makes a difference.

So every year, we have some cake and hand out thanks and gift certificates to those who hit those service milestones (5, 10, 15, etc. years as benefited staff). Our "Kudos & Kares" and "Staff Development" committees do a good job of putting on a nice event. It's a humbling experience and a privilege to be part of this company.

Thank you!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


This week the Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards announced their 2007 finalists. As an open process for awards, it provides a good cross-section of titles. Just going through the list has made me check a bunch of things in our catalog and add to my hold queue.

Kudos to all the organizers and judges -- just reviewing the list of contributors and following some of their blog links is an education in itself.

About the Cybils:
...The Newbery Awards seemed too elitist and the Quills, well, not enough so. Was there a middle ground, an annual award that would recognize both a book's merits and popularity?

The Cybils found that middle ground. The public nominates their favorite children's books from 2007 in seven categories: Picture Books; Non-fiction Picture Books; Middle Grade fiction; Poetry; Young Adult fiction; Non-fiction (YA/MG); and Graphic Novels. Nominations open on October 1.

When we say "the public," we mean it. Anyone with an e-mail address may nominate one book per category. Then groups of bloggers get to work. First, a nominating committee reads ALL the titles in a given category. After nearly two arduous months, this committee winnows the nominees to five finalists. A second committee of bloggers considers the shortlist and, after much debate, chooses the best of the best for 2007.

Because The Cybils is a blogger-run, blogger-inspired awards process, we operate with the expectation of openness and transparency.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

We be playing!

No, wait -- this is serious business. We're answerable to the taxpayers -- we shouldn't be playing!


Sure we're serious and accountable, but that doesn't preclude fun. Playfulness has come into our library workplace in several respects, and in a very mindful way. We're trying some new things; we'll keep what's valuable and let go of what isn't, but I'm glad we're not afraid to try. We're "playing" in several respects:
  1. Adult programming - a recent local newspaper article was titled "Board games bring families together" and it's true. But they bring other people together as well -- you don't have to be family to enjoy playing games. Consistent with the library's role in recreation and as a place for people to gather, we're having a board game session for adults. It will probably be mostly Monopoly and Scrabble, but if it takes off, I may have to bring in Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne -- the favorites at my house.
  2. Young adult programming - with video-games. Like many other libraries, we're trying video games for YA programming. Though controversial in some quarters, there's considerable evidence about the value of gaming for learning and socialization. We're fortunate that our system, OWLS, has purchased some game systems for member libraries to try, so we can test this for our community without capitalizing the equipment. Of course, the staff had to try it out -- tennis on the Wii is great exercise, and I actually won a few games (before younger, fitter, librarians learned the hardware and trounced me) -- w00t! Will we try the games with the adults? Maybe not guitar hero...
  3. Project Play - is Wisconsin's multi-system implementation of the widespread "Learning 2.0" curriculum. Several of our staff participated in the first semester, which I missed as the registration rolls were filled, but I've been reading along for the last several months and was able to join the second semester. As I pick up some 2.0 pointers, I'll discuss them here, but I like the motto: "Play more. Learn more. Fear less."
I won't think we're too playful until we start throwing books around -- it's not like throwing fish, after all.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Survey: Generation Y Biggest Users of Libraries

(Reuters News Service, 12/30/07)

More than half of Americans visited a library in the past year with many of them drawn in by the computers rather than the books, according to a survey released on Sunday. Of the 53 percent of adults who said they visited a library in 2007, the biggest users were young adults aged 18 to 30 in the tech-loving group known as Generation Y, the survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said. "These findings turn our thinking about libraries upside down," said Leigh Estabrook, a professor emerita at the University of Illinois and co-author of a report on the survey results. "Internet use seems to create an information hunger and it is information-savvy young people who are most likely to visit libraries," she said.

Internet users were more than twice as likely to patronize libraries as non-Internet users, according to the survey. More than two-thirds of library visitors in all age groups said they used computers while at the library. Sixty-five percent of them looked up information on the Internet while 62 percent used computers to check into the library's resources. Public libraries now offer virtual homework help, special gaming software programs, and some librarians even have created characters in the Second Life virtual world, Estabrook said. Libraries also remain a community hub or gathering place in many neighborhoods, she said.

The survey showed 62 percent of Generation Y respondents said they visited a public library in the past year, with a steady decline in usage according to age. Some 57 percent of adults aged 43 to 52 said they visited a library in 2007, followed by 46 percent of adults aged 53 to 61; 42 percent of adults aged 62 to 71; and just 32 percent of adults over 72. "We were surprised by these findings, particularly in relation to Generation Y," said Lee Rainie, co-author of the study and director of the Pew project. In 1996 a survey by the Benton Foundation found young adults saw libraries becoming less relevant in the future. "Scroll forward 10 years and their younger brothers and sisters are now the most avid library users," Rainie said.

The survey of 2,796 Americans was conducted by telephone from late June through early September and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. It was funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, an agency that offers federal support for U.S. libraries and museums.