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.

13 Must-See Google Maps Mashups

Seems grey lit continues to build momentum. Do libraries even catalogue this think tank stuff?

Funding problem in a nutshell

Our funding problem in a nutshell is perception in the community.

"In the future, faculty expect to be less dependent on the library and increasingly dependent on electronic materials."

Changing Information Services Needs of Faculty, Ithaka.org.

Who pays for your access? The Library. Somehow electronic resources are not seem as part of the "library". Houston, we have a problem.....

This is too unbelievable, it must be true.

"The future for California libraries' statewide chat reference
By librarianinblack@gmail.com

Here in California, we're in limbo. We don't really know what the fate of our statewide chat (QuestionPoint) reference service is. Being on the State Advisory Board for the service, one would think I know (and people have assumed that), but I don't. So, back to the limbo. All funding for coordinators for our QuestionPoint statewide chat service has been slowly taken away since the first year of the project. From 1 1/2, to 1/2, to no staff at all.

As a result of the lack of a coordinator, there is no coordinated PR for the project. Most libraries do something like a bookmark and leave it at that due to a lack of enthusiasm. There is also no staff training and there is no staff support. There is no question-follow up coordination (well, not by us--QuestionPoint has taken it on in a gesture of goodwill).

The project has never really been adequately funded, in my opinion. There seems to be copious amounts of money for the stuff (the software) but no money being dedicated to staff to run, support, and publicize the stuff. Until now, though. Now we're not even sure about the software.

For this year, which we're already two weeks into, we don't really know if we'll even have state funding for the software. If not, and CA libraries are forced for the first time to pay for their QuestionPoint subscriptions, I predict that at least 70% will cancel their subscriptions. There's no way I could recommend forking out that amount of money for a service that has no coordinator or PR. And unfortunately, so many of us have seen such low usage as a result of the lack of funds dedicated to the project over the years, that we're now convinced that it won't be used -- no matter what. And other states have proven that that is not the case. Get a coordinator in place and all of a sudden usage increases. Surprise? No.

We also have to look at this in the light of the recent state library's report about the future of statewide reference, which recommends folding all reference services in to QuestionPoint's software (including an IM module that doesn't even exist). So--we were told funding would probably be taken away, but now a report came out that says all of our reference should stick with QuestionPoint, so, uh, now what? And this is the question that California library staff keep asking me. I don't have the answer, unfortunately.

I think we can all intellectually agree that a lack of staff dedicated to a project equals a floundering project--not an efficient project. In fact, if you're not going to fund staff to deal with a project--just don't fund the project at all, because for almost every project I can think of, if you don't have staff, you fail. And I'd rather have nothing than something junky. We all know this, and yet, these things happen repeatedly in libraries. Is it because we'd rather have two sorta-okay projects than one good one? Trying to give staff all the new projects they want, so we halfway do some of them to meet that goal? Gotta look good to the funding body? What is it?

John Blyberg wrote a while ago about the atrophy of some Web 2.0 projects in libraries--that blogs, Flickr accounts, and podcast feeds have been set up--but are floundering, empty, abandoned. How does that look to the public? I think it looks even worse than not having these projects in place. As John says:

These technical elements of L2 must be aligned along our institutions' field of influence and expertise so that the seams don't show. Seams send the wrong message, they say we're being disingenuous and sloppy. In effect, poorly implemented technology amounts to spamming our users and staff with "new features."

Why implement something if you're going to let it die? Why throw money at something if you're only going to throw half the amount the project requires to succeed?

This approach has always puzzled me--and yet, I see it in libraries all the time. I simply don't understand the logic. Perhaps someday, when I'm in the retirement home sipping my peach smoothie through a straw and watching Law & Order reruns on the wireless television implant in my brain, a revelation will suddenly come to me about why we do this to ourselves and our users. But until then, I will remain in this state of puzzlement, I suppose.

I've heard from a large number of California librarians on this issue, and a discussion at my consortium's meeting this morning actually drove this post. I am very interested to hear from other California library staff about what they feel about this project, the lack of funding, and the overall pending reference changes in the state. What have you heard? What do you know? What do you want? What will work? What won't? And please say these things to your supervisor or to the state library too (they did put out a call for feedback, you know).

Update: I have just received word that the California State Library has chosen to fund the AskNow program one more year. Just like last year, though, there is only funding for the software. There is no coordinator for another year. The project continues its slow death with a lack of organization, training, and PR."

Sometimes nothing is better than something.

SnagIt Screen Captures

Thanks Librarianinblack

"Check out SnagIt, a screen capture and image editing tool that lets you capture what you're seeing on your screen, edit it, and share it with others. You can capture text that you can't copy and paste easily, a video of your screen activity (like Camtasia), menus, the contents of scrolling windows, and more. You can then add colors, effects, shapes and lines, text, you name it. Then you can email it, IM it, upload it, whatever you like.

I tried it for a while and found that its video capture was pretty darn good--good enough to create some quick screen tutorials for staff on certain aspects of our online resources. Check it out--what harm can it do?!? You can get a free 30-day trial and individual copies cost around $40 after that."

Facebook Growth in Canada

Check out this nice graph.

Blog That Tracks "Generators"

Like to generate stuff?

Check this tracker out here.

One example is posters.

Stephen Abram has more charts to annoy me.

The answer is simple. Consumption is not down, it is just not being measured correctly. I see more in library use of books than circulation. Easliy by 5 to 1. If I teach a class of 30 students, that is 30 less transactions at the reference desk. I always tell management, want more folks to visit the reference desk? Stop giving research classes, stop training faculty. But that won't make us successful, will it?

Bottom line Stephen, take two institutions, one with the best library, one with the worst. They both graduate students at similar rates, who go one to get jobs and some are even stars in their field. Library quality does not seem to matter. People cope.

The paper analyzes trends in ILL activity in US academic and research libraries over the past two decades. ILL activity has increased over this period, primarily due to growing requests for returnable items (e.g., books, audiovisual items, microfilms) as opposed to non-returnables (e.g., copies of journal articles, conference papers). The author finds that ILL transactions have increased due to several factors, including a growth in Web-based discovery tools as well as efforts by libraries to simplify the ILL process and improve delivery options, thus decreasing the turn-around time for requests. Additionally, many research and academic libraries have been hard-pressed to maintain adequate collections budgets in the face of skyrocketing prices, so they must rely more on ILL for little-used materials.

Read it here.

Mobile Internet Pricing in Canada

Michael Geist agrees with me. Telecommunication costs are out of control in Canada.

"Canadian carriers have treated mobile internet use as a business product, establishing pricing plans that force most consumers to frugally conserve their time online." Rogers offers 500MB for $210 per month. AT&T in the USA has unlimited for $20 a month. "Unlimited is becoming common around the globe."

Yup, we get screwed. Look at our voice plans. USA 39.95 for 2000 minutes weekday and unlimited evening and weekend and long distance. BEll/Rogers/Telus 200 minutes.

Nuff said.

"Read and Return" Bookstores in Airports

Libraries watch out!

Paradies Shops and newsstands in hundreds of airports are using read and return programs to grab shoppers. Books bought can be returned in 6 months for reinbursement of 50% of the purchase price. The used books are then resold on site.

Seems lots of airports are sprouting used books stores. In Milwaukee for example, Renaissance Book Shop stocks 50 000 used books and back copies of magazines.

Shoppers are tiring of seeing the same bestsellers in all those stores that only sell new books.

Why do I care? We're in the read and return business. Like bottled water, people are willing to pay for convenience.

Gift Card Fencing

Have a gift card you don't care to use? Fence it!

ebay ($500 or less per week)

Seems wrong on so many levels...


Want a YouTube like travel website? Check out Travelistic.

Making Experts

Harvard Business Review has a nice piece on developing experts.

"Outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching not of any inate talent or skill"

HBR July/August 2007 pg 115+.

Haines Borough Public Library has deployed the Aquabrowser, so...

"Users can subscribe to RSS feeds, either of their search results or of newly added library materials."

Cool. Feeds are like cable tv to me, without them, I'd use the computer less, because, like, what would be the point?

Thanks Alaskan Librarian

Freakonomics plays around with the idea that if libraries were only though up today there would be all kinds of legal challenges and barriers and licensing.

Like I keep saying, this is our biggest future problem on the horizon, being cut off from content. we're seeing it today with VOD, music, images, ebooks and many othe rtypes of content that publishers and distributors want to ssell direct to our end users cutting out the middle man, us.

Seems MIt is causing quite the stir by using Del.icio.us for virtaul reference. Read more at librariesinteract.info.

and MIT News.

Fan Developed Bibliographies

Fantastic Toronto: A Survey of Toronto in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Publishers used to do these types of things, now it is fans.

Bring on more labours of love...

Wikipedia Continues to Grow

"In May 2007, Wikipedia had 46.8 million unique visitors, up 72 per cent from June 2006, NetRatings said."

Australian IT

"A leading online measurement service will scrap rankings based on the longtime industry yardstick of page views and begin tracking how long visitors spend at the sites.

The move by Nielsen/NetRatings, expected to be announced today, comes as online video and new technologies increasingly make page views less meaningful.

Although Nielsen already measures average time spent and average number of sessions of each visitor to a site, it will start reporting total time spent and sessions for all visitors to give advertisers, investors and analysts a broader picture of what sites are most popular.

Currently, sites and advertisers often use page views, a figure that reflects the number of Web pages a visitor pulls from a site.

Yahoo and others, however, are increasingly using a software trick called Ajax that allows sites to update data automatically and continually, without users needing to pull up new pages. Page views decline as a result.

Page views also drop as people spend more time watching online video at sites like YouTube, owned by Google.

“Based on everything that’s going on with the influx of Ajax and streaming, we feel total minutes is the best gauge for site traffic,” said Scott Ross, director of product marketing at Nielsen."

Associated Press

Psychologist Saqib Saddiq says library folks are the most stressed. LOL

"Librarians complained about their physical environment, saying they were sick of being stuck between book shelves all day, as well as claiming their skills were not used and how little control they felt they had over their career.

They were also more likely than other professions to be absent from work. "

Twittergrams - Audio Twitters

First we had twitter for the energy drink crowd, now we have Twittergrams.

What next, "IshotMyself" grams?
(if you don't know the reference Google it, but it is NSFW)

Willitblend.com recently videoed what happens when you put an iPhone in a blender. They blend all kinds of things, and the videos are almost Zen like, but I'm not sure why.

Not quite bassomatic, there's something deeeper going on here.

MIT Technology Review reports that:

"In the last two years, Google estimates more than 50,000 mashups have been built on its maps to highlight information about gas prices, running routes, earthquakes, apartment vacancies, home prices and a wide range of other information.

Google is hoping to unite the information mishmash by encouraging mashup developers to package the creations into mini-applications called ''mapplets'' that will be posted under the ''My Maps'' section of Google's Web site.

Multiple mapplets can be laid over Google's map simultaneously, meaning a user theoretically could get a glimpse at where homes are being sold in a specific neighborhood while also analyzing the area's recent crime patterns."

Bring it on!

Sicko Burns Books Because They Aren't Loved

Prospero's Books is destroying its cache of used books because they will not sell. Supposedly it is a protest against the lack of love for books today.

"During these ten years we have seen reading decline dramatically. The National endowment of the Arts study on literary literacy in America painfully highlighted the rapid decline of reading in America. In our own community, we've watched as bookstore after bookstore has folded. During these ten years we have seen reading decline dramatically. The in America which painfully highlighted the rapid decline of reading in America. In our own community, we’ve watched as bookstore after bookstore has folded. "

"Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered a way to enlist people across the globe to help digitize books every time they solve the simple distorted word puzzles commonly used to register at websites or buy things online."

Check out this Associated Press Story.

"Sacramento (Calif.) Public Library Authority Board on May 24, speaking out against centralized purchasing of materials that they claim has led to a dumbing-down of collections. The board was presented with a petition containing 600 signatures from library workers, former librarians, and patrons protesting selection practices exemplified by the purchase of 30 DVDs of the film Jackass Number Two...."

AL Direct

Okay but what about approval plans? These vendors use data mining to track what sells, and stock a limited collection. As collection budgets get cut or pressured by "e", the shush fund bibliographers use to acquire off approval plan titles is also pared down. Cut to tech services are pressuring bibliographers to spend their money cost effectively, namely through approval plans. Next thing you no, nobody in worldcat has the title you want. Yeah, yeah, this began with conference proceedings, but now it effects books and video material too. Before long library collections will be like shopping at the gap, no matter which store you go to, the stock all looks the same.

Do we have standrads for ratios between mass market materials and rare stuff? Pareto are they trying to wack you?

On another note, if Jackass 2 gets borrowed alot, why not stock it, if librares live and die by their circulation numbers. But then the government is undermining legitimate businesses, like NetFlix and Blockbuster, surely Jackass 2 serves no social good or supports democracy in no way?

eBook Dissent Continues

Another report attacking ebooks.

"While ebooks have become more popular, growth is being slowed by several issues, including complicated interfaces, business models, and a general lack of awareness among students and faculty."

Personally, there are too many platforms, too much DRM. I'd like to see one english langauge provider with reach, similiar to iTunes. Until publishers start to cooperate and listen to libraries, they're not going to get our money in the magnitude we can pay. We spend billions on books.

Look at the textbook industry mess. 50% of cost for 4 months of access, students stop buying print and electronic textbooks. Forget about digital gold, the future entails smaller not larger revenue streams. I'm guessing 60% of the glory days. Folks want prices falling annually not increasing. Find a way to make that happen.

Seems every conference I've been at in the last 5 years has this theme come up:
What have you stopped doing?

The basic idea is if we want to go Web 2.0 we have to give up some traditional activities to free up time.

Most common refrains are: Stop checking in journals. Cut print whenever possible. Buy metadata whenever possible, metadata quality downgrades to speed up activities...to name a few.

Here's another list:

  • canceling thousands of dollars worth of subscriptions to primary resources (such as regional reporters, state codes, foreign law reports) and secondary resources (including replacing print law reviews with HeinOnline access)

  • not subscribing to new law reviews

  • eliminating ILL requests for print copies to cite-check when online copies are available

  • downsizing the reference staff

  • leaving weekend reference to the circulation staff

  • stopping all telephone reference

  • giving up library tours, offering mini-research courses and more ALR courses

  • scaling back computer labs

  • no longer creating exhibits

  • no longer binding serials

"Companies, cities, school districts and other organizations can submit proposals this week outlining how they would run the Bedford Texas public library. If Bedford officials decide to outsource library management, another entity would run day-to-day operations; the city would still own the building and collection and set policy. The deadline for proposals is Aug. 1"


Websites for Toddlers

Seems there is a rush to get toddlers into using the internet to learn how to read and spell. Not that they already don't watch too much TV!


Michael Geist recently mused about how sports teams and sports associations are using legal tactics to stiffle reporting and broadcasting competition. You can;t get multi-billion dollar TV deals if Joe blogger is blogging the game live on his fan-site in real-time. also under treat are usage of recoreded material from the event whether you made the recording in person or you use their recordings.

Unbeknownst to me, athletes from the 2006 Winter Olympics risked disqualification if they blogged during the games.

Protecting corporate sponsors seems to be behind the rising legal action against fans, undermining freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Silence is the New No

Murray Whyte in the Toronto Star on the weekend, had a nice little ditty about passive refusal in the online age. Seems that rather than say no in email, to facebook requests, etc. folks are just choosing not to answer. There's less guilt and more comfort in ignoring someone than engaging them negatively.

I for one will be keeping an eye out for this decline in civility.

Booksfree.com is like “Netflix for books.”

Booksforfree.com has 96 000 titles you can borrow by mail for a monthly subscription fee. Keep titles as long as you want.

New on the block is Bookswim with 150 000 titles.

Is your public library doomed? Maybe. if they loose the fiction folks.

But the library is free you say. So what, people pay for cable, water, etc. If the service is good and any title you want is available when you want it, and the local library is starved for cash, maybe the folks who fund the library will say "see, we don't need to provide this service anymore".

I'll be watching this closely.

Newbie's Guide to Twitter

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check this out.

Law Enforcement Uses Wikipedia

Check out this unbelievable story on the CBC. Seems pranking someone on Wikipedia can ruin their life.

Data Mining Gone Evil

Seems the mobile phone companies are tracking how much "customer service time" you use. If you use too much, they can cut you off as a "cost containment" action. From BoingBoing:

"Our records indicate that over the past year, we have received frequent calls from you regarding your billing or other general account information," the letter reads. "While we have worked to resolve your issues and questions to the best of our ability, the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs."
"Therefore after careful consideration, the decision has been made to terminate your wireless service agreement effective July 30, 2007."

Subscribers who have gotten letters from Sprint terminating their service won't have to pay the early termination fee. Their account balances will also be set to zero. But subscribers will have to sign up with a new wireless provider by July 30 if they want to keep their phone numbers. Otherwise, the numbers won't be available after the Sprint service ends, the letter states." News.com

I guess they learned from the insurance companies...we want your funds but don't expect much in return. What is next? being charged for customer service?

Imagine we gave students a set number of reference question tokens, each semester, and if they used them up, they'd have to buy more? Maybe they'd take our service more seriously, or value it more.

U Windsor's ILS Assessment Doc

Top 100 Webware Sites for 2007

Nice little ditty about the publishing game.

Franck, G. (1999). Scientific Communication--A Vanity Fair? Science, 286(5437), 53-55. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/286/5437/53

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