Ramblings, citations and "brainwaves" of a college librarian in Toronto. 475 square feet refers to the size of my home, not the size of my office or library.

Silly Video on How Hard It Is to Find a Magazine at Penn State

How to find Time Magazine at Penn State

Thanks Darlene Fichter for keying me in...

Rami Tabello, in Toronto, is obsessed with illegal signs (nice google map mashup) in Toronto. He is photographing them, publishing them, and putting pressure on the sign owners and city hall to address the visual pollution. Vigilante, maybe, but cities and businesses can definitely tap into people's obsessions to increase their productivity, given limited resources. We should even pay them a stipend, at least to learn how they collect and manage the information they collect. We do it for potholes, why not expand to other things that the masses can help us with?

"Here are some of the key points StevenB made in affirmation of the resolution that we should eliminate the desk by 2012:

- A reference deskless model that can work owing to mobile technology; several libraries have already done away with the traditional desk or are no longer putting subject specialists at desks (UC Merced, Colorado State U)
- Having students or paraprofessionals at desks may mean an occasional missed opportunity for a teachable moment or even a mishandled question; but are librarians perfect – and think about how many students already go to the circulation desk or never come in at all; look not at what we have to lose but what we have to gain by getting out from behind the desk
- Advanced technology like the Vocera device can allow librarians to be connected with users at any point in the building; why sit behind desk “just-in-case” when we could be putting our professional skills to better use elsewhere; move to a “pre-emptive” just-in-time model of reference service
- We’re not getting real reference questions anymore; we are getting lots of printer and computer questions (you call that reference?); we are getting more questions that require time consuming consultations and those should be managed at locations other than reference desks
- The reference desk is just a symbol for reference service; getting rid of the desk does not mean getting rid of the service
- Leveraging new technologies to eliminate reference desks will not eliminate the human touch; it will only mean it migrates to other service points such as classrooms, consultation rooms, residence halls, academic departments and all those other places on campus where we can personally connect with our user community

Here are some of the key points Sarah Watstein, AUL for Research and Instructional Services at UCLA and a co-editor of RSR/Reference Services Review made in opposing the resolution:

- The reference desk is a powerful symbol and essential to the mission and purpose of academic reference service, but also to the culture of our academic libraries in general; an academic library without a reference desk is unthinkable
- In our increasingly impersonal world, the value of personal service has never been higher. Think “automated attendants.” It’s critical to maintain the human touch in delivering reference service; if we do it all by mobile phone, video and computers (txt, IM, chat, email, etc.), we will lose the ability to connect with our users
- Transactions may be down but academic library reference desks are still incredibly busy; our reference desks are symbols of our service in action.
- Search and discovery in our complex information environs is not getting any easier. Think formats and interfaces. Think bells and whistles. Today more than ever users need an intermediary; reference librarians can perform more efficient, more precise and more knowledgeable searches
- A teachable moment in person is not equal to a teachable moment online; if we remove the desk we remove vast opportunities for teachable moments to happen; information literacy can help but it’s not producing nearly the level of self-capable student researcher we desire
- What about Brodart? Gaylord? Thos. Moser? The library furniture business is alive and well. Product options abound! Today’s desks are designed to serve not just a purpose, but also our audience. They are more durable, have greater aesthetic appeal, are more customizable, and truly complement the versatile learning environments that increasingly define our academic libraries. Our trusted sources for library furniture will see us well into the 21st century."

"By StevenB from ACRL Blog

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from an academic librarian who asked to remain anonymous owing to his or her current job hunting status, and who wishes not to be judged by potential employers on the content of this post alone.

As a new member of the profession, I sometimes come across things on library web sites that leave me puzzled about how academic librarians are approaching their work, especially the important task of user education. For example, I recently discovered the podcasting site at the Fairfield University Library.

The intent is certainly laudable—to teach underclassmen to distinguish among various databases. Obviously, much energy, talent, and time had been invested. The layout was pleasing, the information perfectly accurate. But here is what I question: Why are they designing the site and their podcasts to appeal to a young adolescent rather than a college undergraduate. Is it just me, or does the approach seem reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon?

Why have the designers taken this approach? One answer may be that Millenials seem more child-like, more playful than previous generations. The designers might also argue that we must go wherever the students are in order to engage them. If the students learn the concepts we want them to master, then we have succeeded, right? Why worry about anything else? The end justifies the means.

But I see another crucial issue at stake. For one thing, some students will see through the ruse, realize they are being talked down to, and resent it. Perhaps a slim minority? What about the students who find the approach fun, cute, charming? They are being served, are they not? What’s the harm?

Perhaps some readers will say that I need to loosen up or that I’m too new to realize that traditional approaches will be perceived by today’s students as dull or boring. Nevertheless, I would argue that we are not just delivering user education, any more than a composition instructor is just teaching English. Everyone who teaches undergraduates is engaged in the process of transforming young people into critically reflective, fully mature, responsible citizens. Fairfield University’s own mission statement makes this point: “In its fullest sense liberal education initiates students at a mature level into the culture, its past, its present, its future.” When I treat students as adults, accord them that dignity, I am helping them become so. For me, that’s more important than anything I could teach them about databases."


Staffing Issues in Libraries

Libraries today are chock full of staff that were hired before the rise of the World Wide Web and as a consequence many are unable to keep up with ever increasing IT mediated task loads. This reality holds us back in several ways: new staff are overburdened with new mission critical work, management is unable to change direction or course easily due to a lack of technical capacity to deliver, to name two.

What did Bell Canada do in the late 1980's when faced with the same problem on a bigger scale? They forced 10's of thousands into early retirement. Strategically, I think libraries need to begin to do the same before it is too late and our institution is dammaged beyond repair. Nobody is entitled to a position for life if they are unable to do what is demanded of them.

"Random House and HarperCollins have launched web-services that provide snippets of their books, trying to compete with Amazon and Google Books and to advertise their own titles a bit more directly. It doesn't surprise me that the publishers are trying to get into this line of content provision, but it does surprise me that they seem to be willing to invest a significant amount of staff time and resources to do so. Users do not think to go to individual publishers websites to find book snippets or previews. Most people don't even know who published their favorite books--they don't care. Instead, they go to aggregators to find what they can all in one place."


Steven Bell was written two nice ditties on the focus by companies on improving the user experience.

Part 1
Part 2

Cute Index Card Picture Diagram Blog

Lots of warm and fuzzy wishes to Indexed

A Georgia Tech professor has been running an informal experiment to test whether students who listen before class to lectures via their laptops or personal digital assistants perform better on tests. Jim Foley found that students using iPods or laptops scored grades about 10 percent better than the in class lecture section. Foley says he thinks that’s because there is more time for meaningful discussion in the classroom once the lecture out of the way. Read more at:

"Brooklyn Public Library and Netflix are considering a partnership to bring DVDs and videos into the homes of library card holders, Business Week reports. This initiative "would involve creating a list of movies that Netflix would provide for library patrons for free, the paper said, which would save the library system the cost of buying the expensive DVDs. In return, the system would pay Netflix for the service." This service would be part of the library's plans to increase customer service by incorporating more home delivery of library items. While a Netflix representative quoted in the article was unaware of any possible partnership, John Vitali, chief fiscal officer for Brooklyn PL, is quoted as expressing a desire to "work with Netflix and really get that inventory together, really use Netflix as the delivery mechanism."


Wow! What a great idea. I especially like the idea of acccess to thousands of non-Hollywood titles.


McDonald's Wants to Take "McJob" Out of the Dictionary

"McDonald's is taking action to get the word "McJob" taken out of the Oxford English Dictionary. Let's be clear: the job of a dictionary is to record language as it is spoken, and people clearly say "McJob" to mean a crummy job.
McDonald's argues that jobs at McDonald's aren't crummy, so people are wrong to call crummy jobs McJobs."


Collecting the Vig From Online Advertising

Folks are data warehousing you and selling it to the highest bidder. Do you get a cut? No! AttentionTrust.org is trying to turn the tables. Users amass their own traffic patterns and preferences using a plug-in, the profile is deposited in an online vault, where interested parties pay to see it. Depositors get a cut of the action. Ditto Boxbe (email)

Blinkx.com, Metadata Drawn from Speech Recognition

Blinkx.com uses speech recognition technology to index online videos, something that is much stronger than folksonomie tagging. Check it out.


"These days, when anyone can run a virtual media empire out of a dorm room, student-generated sex magazines, some with the imprimatur of university financing and faculty advisers, are becoming a fact of campus life. Their subjects and contributors are the gals — and guys — down the hall; their target audience is male, female, straight, gay and everything in between."

NYTimes 4 Mar. 2007

I guess its not practical to bring the laptop when throned on the potty?


FlickR Collections

"A collection is a container into which you can place either sets or other collections, allowing you to create a hierarchy as deep as 5 collections. You can place as many of your sets into a collection as you like, and a set can be in as many different collections as you like."



Web Based Photo Editing Tools


Fauxto is a Flash-based Photoshop look-alike. It is the only layer-based online tool that we know of, and is by far the best of the bunch. But if all you are looking for is photo editing, and you aren’t familiar with Photoshop, Fauxto will frustrate you with its complexity. And if you are already familiar with Photoshop, chances are you have a copy already. Fauxto is lovely to look at and it is a really nice example of Flash in action, but I’m not sure who their target market is.


Picnik is the new kid on the block, and they’re the best so far. It is also Flash based, it is the fastest of the bunch and the user interface is the most intuitive. Once you are done editing, you can transfer your photos directly to Flickr. Picnik has replaced Ajax-based PXN8 as our favorite online photo editing tool.


Picture2life is an Ajax based photo editor. It’s focused on grabbing and editing images that are already online. The tool selection is average, and the user interface is poor. There are some bugs on the site. Photos can be transferred to Flickr, 23 and Imageshack after editing.


Preloadr is a Flickr-specific tool that uses the Flickr API, even for account sign-in. The service includes basic cropping, sharpening, color correction and other tools to enhance images. The fact that Preloadr is designed specifically to work with Flickr may not be an advantage - some of the other services are just as good or better and also offer Flickr integration.


PXN8 is the best of the Ajax based editors (and the best overall until Picnik launched) and has a great user interface with the main features highlighted on large icons. The basic “enhance” feature does a very good job of fixing the obvious problems with pictures. Edited photos can be transferred to Flickr or Webshots’ AllYouCanUpload service.


Snipshot, previously called Pixoh, is another very-good Ajax-based editing tool that stands out because of its above average design and the fact that they have an API into their service. We prefer the features and UI of PXN8, but just barely.

Thanks TechCrunch

Cascada-Everytime We Touch.

Spontaneous chaos in the library....If only that were true...

Google Maps Mania

If only I had the time to play with this stuff...

MIT Technology Review Reports:

"With new software for mobile phones, citizens of the burgeoning online universe Second Life will never have to leave their cozy virtual world, even when they're away from their computers. The new software is a program that lets cellular users with Java-based, Internet-capable phones log in to Second Life remotely, see who else is "in-world," and communicate with them via text messaging."


Trailfire lets you leave "marks" for other visitors to read on web pages that you visit. You can join a series of marks together into a trail and share them via sending email or publishing it on the Trailfire site. You can also add a link to a trail on your web page or blog or even to a particular "mark" on the trail.

Creating a trail is easy. Sign up at Trailfire. Download the extension for Firefox or the IE7 add-on Watch the screencast that shows you how to drag the sticky note bubble from the toolbar to the page where you'd like to leave a mark.

Trails may be private or public.

Thanks to Darlene and Lee at LGR Blog for pointing out Trailfire.

Tea Birds and Single Speed Gallery are examples of new types of image consuming addictions that are arising as people build collections of images of interest. The possibilities are endless.

Entitlement Generation

CBS News reported that: "Today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

"We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back," said the study's lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Kids are self-centered enough already."

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006."

"The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the "self-esteem movement" that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far. "

How impossible is it to fail a student today? The "educational system" resists it.

"As online journal access becomes the norm, the expectation has been that e-books will follow suit. But the reality is patchy provision of e-books as publishers withhold core titles, especially textbooks, for fear of catastrophic print revenue losses.

Publishers are still experimenting with e-books, aggregators are coming under pressure from publishers and users on price, sales models and licensing structures, while information professionals and users are demanding more core titles and better prices."

I think the big problem is the belief that anything digital should cost more than print when the opposite should be true.

Tired of the LIBERAL BIAS every time you search on Google and a Wikipedia page appears? Here's a project to counter the liberal bias. I guess the encyclopedia model was bound to break up into niche products.

Don't like what you read, find something else or start your own. Credentials not required. Is this what you had in mind Jane Jacobs? (Dark Age Ahead).

80/20 Rules Dooms Traditional DVD Retailers

The 80/20 rule, that is 20% of DVD titles get 80% of the business, is forcing niche and obscure DVDs off the shrinking retail shelf. Though not a problem for providers like Netflix, old style retailers, libraries included, don't have the space and funding to keep comprehensive collections anymore as the number of titles released into the marketplace explodes.


Get Color Schemes from Pictures

Ever seen a picture from which you wanted to extract the colors? There’s a nifty tool for doing so at http://www.pic2color.com/.

Is very simple. Go to the site and enter the URL of an image.

After a few moments you get a page with a smaller version of the picture and a color palette underneath. Click on a color for the color’s hex value. Clicking on the Finetune button gives you a popup with palette suggestions and tools for adjusting the color.


Evidence Based Librarianship Wiki

"The Evidence Based Librarianship Interest Group (EBLIG) of the Canadian Library Association has just launched a new EBL wiki. It's hoped that the wiki will become a place for all things evidence-based. Check it out: http://eblibrarianship.pbwiki.com/."


Toronto Google Map Mashups

Neat list of what folks in TO are doing with Google maps.


Feral Library Staff

"James G. Neal, university librarian at Columbia University, invented the phrase "feral professionals" to describe individuals in new library positions. Feral professionals, he wrote in a February 15, 2006, article in LibraryJournal.com, work in jobs that don't require them to have a background in library education, and so "bring to the academic library a 'feral' set of values, outlooks, styles, and expectations."


Colbert Puts Libraries on Notice

Textbook Politics

"A Miami Dade College professor took a trip to San Francisco, paid for by a textbook publisher.

Weeks later, his three-member committee selected the publisher's book as required reading for all anatomy students at Miami Dade Community College's Kendall campus and the department chairman approved.

Retail cost at the college bookstore - $178.50."

Corruption? Maybe. An easy fix would be for institutions to set a policy setting a maximum textbook price. Multiply that over 1000's of institutions and the market would correct itself.

Wanna nip copyright infringement in the butt (textbook photocopying)? Just roll the textbook fee into course registrqation costs and give out vouchers to claim textbooks from the bookstore. So simple, but nobody's willing to take the heat to "make it so".


"In an unannounced policy change that already has librarians fuming, Sports Illustrated (SI) decided this year to withhold copies of its risque annual swimsuit issue from classrooms and libraries. SI spokesman Rick McCabe acknowledged to LJ that publisher TIME, Inc., neither offered to let libraries opt out of receiving the issue nor announced it beforehand." LJ

Hundreds of messages on LISTSERVs proclaimed how wrong it was to deny libraries their swimsuit issue. I loved reading on how users we harmed...LOL


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