Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here and There

I am still enjoying exploring the biblioblogosphere (!) so will probably continue to post random links here, as well as making some more permanent in the lists to the right of the page.

I came across Level 1 Librarian today, which seems worth a browse (and I have even visited Turku in Finland, so it doesn't feel nearly as remote or distant as it might - indeed, I even went to a public library there and found a small selection of books in English, which was the first time I read Lawrence Durrell's Monsieur...)

She reminded me of Ten Facebook Apps for Librarians... which I came across last year...but still haven't explored every gizmo (sigh).

And here's the Librarian in Black

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pontificating about e-learning

Gulp - I have only tentatively suggested my ongoing experiment in library staff training (using the Learning Pool technology that Cardiff are using for their ILM delivery) but I do find the Moodle environment interesting, and can see how it might be a benefit to us eventually.

Meanwhile, I was contacted by HR to offer a few words about the product's usefulness - which I assumed was just for Learning Pool's own publicity - but I just got a Google Alert to my name (vanity, vanity) to indicate that my quote had turned up on the Public Technology site!

I stand by the words, but don't know if I should have asked permission to 'speak on behalf of the libraries', which was not my intention, but is how it seems to have come out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking Good

A few of us had a walk around the new building this morning, and overall the first impressions are good.

I am not sure about the unpainted concrete pillars and beams, even if they are polished to smooth, it seems a bit industrial (underground car park chic), but where there are colours they are cheerful and there's lots of daylight (my room even has a window!)

The technology means we almost need a lighting and sound engineer - cctv, plasma screens, etc.

So, no furniture yet, but it looks as though we could have a bit of fun making it 'lived in'.

Nice to get a glimpse - just a shame that I didn't have my camera with me!  I carry it 300 days a year, but just last night was looking through clips of Eno and Hassell lecturing in Norway, and forgot to put it all back in my briefcase.  And I turned down a camera on the Blackberry, choosing GPS instead, for some reason.

Hey ho.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

RFID Tagging

This wonderful new toy will read all the tags in our stock, for taking inventories, etc.
A whole new image for library staff!
Now all we have to do is get it working...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dave Pattern's Slideshow

Dave Pattern opened his talk to a motley crew of Cardiff Librarians (schools, higher education, public, etc) at the last CLIC meeting (Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation) with this slide sequence - to see how involved some of us might already a show of hands...

Found on SlideShare, a place to post Powerpoint Presentations, and even add audio to make a webinar.

WiFi in public places

The whole issue of offering free internet access in public places seems fascinating to me.

I already get (limited) access almost everywhere, because I use a Blackberry, and that gets a signal from satellites or transmitter towers or something (!)

Since the libraries started to offer free internet service the number of cybercafes seems to have shrunk.  Still, here and there in the city you can get free wireless connections, just as you can get connections you pay for in Starbucks (say).

If the Central Library goes ahead, and offers WiFi to all library members (and it is free and easy to join), we may end up with a very different library culture from the current one, with static PCs at desks we control.

One university library (and they are admittedly different) came up with these suggestions from students to increase laptop useability in the uni library, a fairly stimulating list:
  • Recliners and more ottomans
  • More outlets
  • More headphones for check out
  • Power strips
  • Extension cords
  • Book stands / paper stands
  • More small cubical-like spaces
  • Wireless keyboards
  • Wireless mice
  • Laptop docking stations
  • Comfortable chairs with tables and power outlets attached
  • Live chat with IT Help Desk
  • A bunch of common chargers available for checkout
  • Power outlets in all of the furniture
  • Laptop friendly tables and chairs (everything adjustable)
  • Swirling desk chairs
  • External drives
  • Flash jump drives
  • More laptops for check out
  • MacBooks for checkout, not just Dells
Above list found at The Ubiquitous Librarian

Should your library go wireless? Resources for Deciding.    Karin Wikoff [2001]
Wireless Networking in Libraries Wiki  [2007]
Wireless Libraries blog       [no new posts since May 2008]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hawk Eye

What a delightful story!

The new library has two hawks, guarding the roof against seagulls!

Complete story here at BBC Wales (where the picture of Folly the Harris Hawk came from)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Twopointopians and beyond

Web 2.0

I did read (OK, OK, speed-read, or skim) Andrew Keen's book, and it certainly covers some interesting ground, but little you haven't heard / thought or discussed before, about the internet - from addiction to online porn or gambling, to Hollywood not being able to afford to make films due to piracy (gasp!), because of the amateurs and pirates, etc.

When someone has taken the moral high ground like that 'arguments against' always sound naive or subversive and irresponsible, I suppose. 

"Thirteen year olds should be playing soccer or riding bikes, not sitting in locked bedrooms looking at hardcore pornography."

(a neat 'should' - followed by irrefutable nostalgia, and then an undeniable truth - pretty sneaky).

I would tend to steer the discussion towards educating yer citizenry - 'don't believe everything you read' and so on.  Easier said than done, of course.

I just resist the idea that an elite of 'clever' people do it better.  That'll be the economists who got us into this current mess, and yet whose predictions about the coming recession, and the ways out of it, we still supposedly trust?   And 'amateurs' shouldn't put in their five-cent's worth about, maybe we should just tighten our belts, and start paying off all the money we borrowed? Oh no, the experts recommend we all go shopping to save the economy, and borrow some more, while you're at it?  Um.

No, no, you don't understand, that's far too simplistic you naive amateur - the same experts who got us here, will now supposedly steer us out.  The 'amateurs' certainly affected the stock market, since getting tempting into 'investing' (it sounds so much better than 'gambling'), but they shouldn't attempt to fix it, just believe the greedy dream of the professionals, who can never admit they don't understand either.  Um.

So, yes, this book reads like a stimulating source and ground for discussion, but finally doesn't seem to look further than 'where we are now'.    If Hollywood can no longer get millions of dollars to make movies for us, are we so sure we will only end up with homemade YouTube videos?  What about small indie film-makers, using a social networking system to raise funding?  Apologies for adopting the jargon, but what of Web 3.0, once we all get bored?

Anyway, you can read more by the same man on his blog (heh heh - they may be empty worthless opinions, of course, so read at your own risk).  I love a good paradox.  You can even comment on a thread about the book, so he doesn't seem entirely against the idea of feedback, and user-generated comments.

As ever, I seem late to the argument, and doubt anyone reads this.  Blogs, to me, remain handy places to store links and ideas and themes, and to practice clear writing (not to say typing). Vanity doesn't really enter into my equation.

[The new edition of the book has an afterword about Web 3.0 - and references the UK's Byron Review  (with PDFs of the full report, executive summaries, etc)      "Safer Children in a Digital World" - emphasising 'media literacy' (assessment of content, etc) and collaborative work between the various organisations and authorities.  Good Stuff. Thanks, Mr Keen, for pointing me that way.]

Library 2.0

Reverting to the Library aspect of this 2.0 nonsense:  I like both the Annoyed Librarian's rants about the enthusiastic converts - or Twopointopians, as she delightfully labels them - and the considered responses of some people who still see value in the trend, if not the jargon.

The Annoyed Librarian:  Twopointopians and the New Faith
The Annoyed Librarian:  The Cult of Twopointopia

Revenge of the Twopointopians
Free Range Librarian
David Lee King: the Annoyed Librarian is annoyed with me

The Librarian 2.0 Manifesto

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Who does the library serve?

Although I enjoy books myself (more non-fiction than non-fiction) I am an early uptaker for the fun of internet research. That doesn't mean I don't like traditional resources. I loved it in the old Reading Room at the British Museum (it wasn't the same when it moved, and then I moved, and the relationship faded).

We're all doomed!
So, for balance, I will read Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur", which appears to hate the evolution of blogs, wikis, and other Web 2.0 projects, which he (judging by the blurb) thinks is leading to a lack of respect for 'authorities' and a narcissistic love of one's own feeble output, rather than savouring the joys of the 'great artists', etc. This does sound a rather conservative position to me, but we need some conservatives in the world.

I don't have a great attraction to Facebook and such, myself, as I am too old to flirt, too 'clever' to spend much time in idle chit-chat, too introverted to need the approval of a new circle of friends (I already have wide circles of friends, thanks) - but I like the possibilities of how people might use them, eventually. And I obviously like blogs! I don't want to become all McLuhan about it, but the internet seems to me a neutral tool, like the telephone, and you may use it idly chat, for business, to hustle and spam people, to call emergency services, to offer Samaritan support, to prevent wasted journeys, etc.

The snobbery implicit (a position still held by many in libraries) in preferring Britannica to Wikipedia arises from some weird kind of ignorance.

Of course, a user-created reference will contain differences of opinion, (otherwise known as 'inaccuracies') as opposed to one single authoritative 'fact' - but in the modern world, where do you find an expert who just 'knows' what 'is' true? Dr House is portrayed as an expert, but he doesn't know anything for sure, and uses a think-tank of others to hone his ideas.

Comparing for myself

The first thing I did was pick an area of expertise of my own, and then look it up in each. Curiously enough, mine was 'juggling'. When I started, back in the 70s, the OED still had that defined like a magician, only more recently has it included 'throwing and catching objects', although that's the way everyone I knew thought of a juggler as being/doing.

Britannica? 289 words (OK, OK, I am using the online edition, but that's how much space is apportioned to the subject.) Now try Wikipedia on Juggling - and you find close to 3000 words, which I read with an expert eye and couldn't fault. (Well, I corrected one number, for an event I happened to be at).

• 1 Origins and history
o 1.1 Ancient to 20th century
o 1.2 20th Century
• 2 Popular forms of juggling
• 3 Juggling world records
• 4 Venues
o 4.1 Circus
o 4.2 Variety Theatres
o 4.3 Renaissance and Medieval Fairs
o 4.4 Street Performance
• 5 Juggling notation
• 6 See also
• 7 References
• 8 External links
o 8.1 Organizations
o 8.2 Resources
o 8.3 References

Now, for authoritative histories of kings, and political events, etc - you might still want some 'authority' to tell you with a degree of certainty - but for specialist interests, niche markets, etc - Wikipedia wins hands-down.

Quality Control?

Having recently completed my second novel (written in a month's marathon, along with thousands of others at NaNoWriMo) and knowing full well it isn't very good, I resent the idea that I shouldn't try. That I mustn't enjoy my own fantasies and creativity. 120,000 of us wrote one and a half billion words in November, and about a fifth of us completed the 50k target.

"[expletive deleted] you, Mr Keen!"

The arts, I imagine, he sees as only for people who like Beethoven, opera, and Shakespeare, or whatever (When I have actually read it, I might post a review on Amazon, and on this blog, just to annoy him, even if it turns out a positive review!) heh heh

Does he think that people with 'no talent' shouldn't try (I kind of agree when it comes to Pop Idol, and other attempts at celebrity without apparent talent - however, they do seem IMMENSELY popular).

The truth remains that the British public love Dan Brown, and Mills & Boon romances. After WWII and the paper shortages a huge industry arose of cheap, hastily-written, paperback novels which were consumed in their millions - "The mushroom jungle : a history of postwar paperback publishing" Steve Holland - but reference to which hardly appear in any books on English literature. Sheer snobbery...without the American equivalent we might never have heard of Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K Dick, to name but two.

Are libraries educational? Do they merely entertain? Should we just have 5000 copies of Harry Potter, so any child can get their hands on one? A complete range of Mills & Boon? Do we steer quality towards people? Who judges that quality - those unreadable people at the Times Literary Supplement?

Friday, November 28, 2008

e-learning, training opportunities, etc

The Library Service rarely has money for training (which is why I think we should go the e-learning route IMHO) - so although some of us non-professionals looked at NVQ 3 last year, it just didn't seem like something I wanted to spend my own money on, if it was not going to be subsidised by our employer.

Deciding I did want to learn, I researched and ended up taking the Sheffield College Net Trainers course, aimed at both tutors (learning to use technology) and also course designers and implementers. This suited me perfectly, and I have learned a lot.

I also found my way back-stage of the Cardiff Council pilot scheme in e-learning, using the Learning Pool resources. Although it has a low profile with staff right now, it is in place and functioning, and I have used it to manifest some of the things that would otherwise have remained theoretical on the course.

It is good to feel the different approaches merging. As I have studied online for over four years now, did tutoring for NOF schemes back in 2000, and have explored and used blogs, wikis, social networking, web sites, etc - I feel in a good place to really offer something useful to the libraries. After 33 years of self-employment, working in a hierarchical day-job didn't really suit my temperament, so the creative position I find myself in (Human-Computer Interface, thanks to Siôn Lewis) seems perfect. In spite of low pay, if I am learning new stuff I am happy, and if I can pass it on, too, I feel even better!

Looking to go on a Web 2.0 and Libraries course in Newport next year. You can find something similar online at the UKOLN site, where all the notes, briefing sheets, exercises, etc are still online from a course run by Brian Kelly in September - Sharing Made Simple: an Introduction to the Social Web.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The rules of the librarians of time and space:

1. Silence.
2. Books must be returned no later than the date shown.
3. Do not meddle with the nature of causality.

from the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett

"You see, I don't believe that libraries
should be drab places where people
sit in silence, and that's been the main reason
for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians. ......."

from the Monty Python skit Gorilla Librarian

Central Library upgrade

The first library on The Hayes

Cardiff branches will carry on much the same (although we will roll out a self-service facility soon).

the oldish library - the previous one is still on The Hayes

The Central Library, however (which has been in temporary accomodation for a couple of years, awaiting re-housing like some sad old homeless person) is about to migrate into a posh new "State-of-the-art" library.

Our temporary home in John St
More on that, as time goes by.

The new place becoming visible

Monday, November 24, 2008

This is a Frappr Map of blogging librarians

Fun links about Library 2.0

Although I added some notes for a CLIC meeting to the Knowledge Bank on the Intranet (which only staff can access) I liked some of the links that emerged from the talks, mostly from Dave Pattern (Univ of Huddersfield) - to whom, much thanks. They are fairly self explanatory.

Dave Pattern's Blog

Some resources mentioned:

The Register
25 Things at Huddersfield on Flickr
learning 2.0 blog
Sirsi on Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and Librarian 2.0
Librarian 2.0
Libraries as ‘The Third Place’
WikiHow (user edited help on writing wikis)
[edit] Glossary
folksonomies - Folksonomy
tag cloud
Example of library tag cloud at Pattern Recognition
LibraryThing's tag cloud
What is Second Life?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Copyright, Copyleft, and Conan

Of course, working in a library means you become aware of the legal aspect of copyright.

The fact that people borrow our music CDs for one night now (instead of 3 weeks, as before) indicates that they simply upload it to their PC. We don't approve, but have no control over that.

These problems will not go away, but they are far too big for a brief blog post.

As a user of blogs for years, and a friend to hip-hop and DJ mixers and other samplers, and a fan of William Burroughs and the cut-up method, I know that every time I grab an image from Google Images I should check if I am entitled to use it, but I don't have a whole team of researchers on the payroll, and would willingly acknowledge and credit (or remove) wrongly posted images, but the whole trend of the Web remains in the opposite direction, of 'information wants to be free!'

I know we have to find a way to pay our artists, authors and musicians. Of course, anything they do live is still within their control (Banksy, Will Self writing in a gallery, any live music gig), but recordings have become contentious ever since the means of re-production fell into the hands of the consumers.

So, just because I was echoing Conan the Librarian when I named this blog, I will put the original image here. After all, I found it easily enough. Or should I just point you to Flickr, and make you click through once? Um.

According to Wikipedia:

Probably the first printed Conan the Librarian reference is in a 1987 Mother Goose and Grimm comic. A pig returning a book to the "Overdue Books" section faces across the desk a scowling and muscle-bound librarian, in typical Conan the Barbarian dress, who from the placard on the desk we know is "Conan the Librarian."

Full Entry in Wikipedia - now, I know some people still sneer at the fallibility of Wikipedia, but you won't find any of that information in The Encyclopedia Britannica

And anyway, as Robert Anton Wilson pointed out, even printed Encyclopedias do not all agree on facts...

"Certitude belongs exclusively to those who only own one encyclopedia."

Library 2.0, too?

Having enjoyed a recent conference about Library 2.0, I would like to collect here some resources for library staff who are interested in the future development of library services, and the way they are likely to grow.

I will add blogs of note, and resources I find interesting, to try to make a one-stop shop for staff.

Of course, (certainly in the USA) you may already find plenty of 'one-stop shops' - as each wants to be definitive, but they are loaded away from Europe and the UK, and Wales in particular, so I think the market could stand just one more 'one-stop shop'. :-)

Librarians like making lists...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welsh Public Library Standards 2008 - 11

Library services have current and future guidelines.

In relation to public computer use WPLS 4 Appropriate access to resources and facilities provided by means of Information and Communicaton Technologies
suggests this as a minimum provision expected of all library authorities in Wales by March 2011:

  • Provision of laptop use by members of the public, both as a stand alone and a networked facility (will be available at Central Library in 2009, not in branches)
  • Scanning and Printing facilities (no scanning available)
  • Plug-in facilities for digital medai sources and portable devices - such as iPods, MP3, MP4 and digital cameras. (umm, not really. You can get your camera images if you're lucky)
  • Facilities on public access PCs for Office Software (Yes! we have that!)
  • Free email facilities for users (Yes, as long as you use one of the main providers, oh, and Yahoo attachments don't work now - something to do with integrating chat, which ICT block)
  • Free basic support to users in the use of the above range of ICT facilities (defined as introduction to the use of the facilities and problem solving during use). This is true at a very basic level, given that staff receive no specific training, so any who do not use such things at home are unlikely to be much help at problem-solving. A Training Issue!
  • Information literacy sessions for users (defined as formal or informal assistance to users in developing or enhancing their use of library services and facilities). Informal, maybe, but we run very few 'starter packs' for public users.

Curious state of transition

Libraries have still got a very old-fashioned image for many people (the ones who don't use them), and yet attempts to
  • modernise them
  • attract new users
  • make them a more relevant resource for the modern world

also run into difficulties.

This quote comes from the website (full story here)

Four-fifths (80%) of adults have no interest in publishing media – including blogs, podcasts, videos, own web pages or photographs in a public album - on the internet. The most popular for those who are interested is publishing their own web pages.

However while three-quarters (75%) of adults have never published media on the internet, one in five (20%) have. The most popular activity is uploading photographs to a public album. The least popular (1%) is creating and uploading a podcast, and contributing to a Wiki.

So the need for Library 2.0 (genuinely interactive users and staff) still seems some way into the future.

And I doubt if I can ask many of my fellow staff to contribute to a Wiki!

Well, I need somewhere to rant

Working in a library for over ten years, I know quite a lot about the environment, although strictly speaking I am not a 'librarian'.

Within the service that is generally used to refer to someone with a qualification, a degree.

The rest of us (and it is mostly women) are support staff, for these great beings.

Recently, posts that would once have only gone to people with degrees have been filled by people without degrees (gasp!) or at least without degrees in Library and Information Studies.

Whether this is a welcome acknowledgement of the changing nature of libraries, and the skills needed to manage them, it is hard to say. It may simply indicate de-skilling of tasks.
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