10 May 2012

Starting anew with cpd23

Although I have done the Learn 23 Things previously I decided to join the 23 Things for Professional Development with the IFLA group as there are a few new things on the list. Doing this course will help me set time aside to have a good look at the 'things' in the programme.

11 November 2008

Converting files with Google docs and Zoho

I experienced how frustrating our patrons feel when they come to the library to print out files that can't be opened with the Microsoft Word software version installed on our public computers. I sent an OpenOffice.org file, but forgot to convert it to a Word document. Of course I couldn't open it. Then I remembered that you could import files into Zoho. I saved the file to the desktop, opened my Zoho account and imported the file. It worked like a dream. Some of the formatting was lost, but that is a small matter. The important thing is I could access the content. I tested this with Google docs and again it was easily done using the upload function in Google docs. There are other file converters on the web and some time I would like to try them out, For now, I am very satisfied with the results.

01 October 2008

#23 Last thoughts

What a journey! Intense and fast paced, but the immense satisfaction from knowledge and skills gained made all that time spent on this programme worth while. I was aware of many of the things we looked at and have already been using some of it for personal and work purposes - RSS, wikis, Googledocs, Gmail, Flickr, YouTube, etc. are all old favourites. During this programme I discovered new favourites - Zoho, Image generators, a delightful old embroidery ebook on Project Gutenberg. Podcasts were a challenge. I took time to look at what is available and what are the issues/difficulties involved.

Another thing I gained from this programme is the value of blogging to sort out my thoughts. I can just echo what has been written in the last post of Library 2.0: An academic's perspective: "Blogging has turned out to be much more valuable an exercise than I could have imagined when I first started. There's nothing like the process of regular writing, especially public writing, to get a person thinking in ways that thinking alone doesn't do." This is of course part of a life long journey of learning. I think we are lucky to be in a profession which evolves all the time and leads to many learning opportunities - never a boring moment - so much to learn and explore and share.

It was a pleasure to read the other participants' blogs and comments, and listen to all the buzz the programme has created. Sharing the excitement, camaraderie, frustrations and the learning made this a rich experience. Some amazing talents have been show cased - graphic designers, web savvy people, authors with sparkling writing styles and those thought provoking posts.

A big thank you to everyone involved and especially the encouragement and support of the learning team to iron out the glitches. (Also, for reading through my long posts - sorry, but had to get it off my chest.) A high five to you all!

29 September 2008

#22 Social networking and libraries

Social networking sites offer libraries the opportunity to reach out to potential and actual patrons at the places where they gather socially. At present the target group is teenagers to early twenties as is it the group that is most active in online social networks.

What kind of opportunities does a presence in online social networks offer a library?
  • Relationship building - both maintaining relationship with current patrons and reaching out (making contact) with new/potential patrons
  • Publicity and promotion of library events and services
  • Raising the library's profile, enhancing visibility within a particular group who may not otherwise consider the library as a possible contact point or resource
  • Picking up trends relevant to that social group
  • Getting new ideas, new insights and another perspective from interaction with the group
  • It's about connecting with patrons and how we can help them.
A lot is written about networking in the business literature and I think some of the advice on networking in the 'real' world is also applicable in online social networking (or virtual world). Advice that is of use in all networking environments:
  • Listen to your contacts to see where you share interest and goals
  • You need to be clear in what goals you want to achieve with networking
  • You must be able to convey clearly what you (or your organisation) do to find points of common interest
  • Follow up quickly and offer feedback where appropriate
  • Good and effective networking takes time and dedication
I think for libraries to have a meaningful presence in online social networks they should regard their social space as a service delivery point which should receive the same effort and support as the other service delivery points, such as the physical library space and the website.

As the majority of the social network users are individuals, it would make sense to have a 'representative' in the profile. It is always much easier to connect with a person rather than a 'faceless' organisation.

As always, we shouldn't neglect to link our services. I have come across many library blogs with no links to the library website, or vice versa. The same should also happen in social network spaces - links to the website and on the website links to the social network (and other online activities).

What an exciting era for the library - so many ways of communicating with and delivering services to the public. It also presents a challenge to reach our patrons and not get lost in a sea of information and distractions.

24 September 2008

#21 Get social

I have known about social networking for some time, but have not yet used them myself. So with this exercise I had a closer look at social networking.

Both Auckland and Rotorua Libraries' Bebo sites look good - obviously pitched towards the Young Adult library patrons. It is a good place to meet that group because that is where many of them spend their time socialising / keeping in contact. (They are known as the 'connected' generation.) Facebook doesn't allow exploration unless you sign up, though a colleague with a Facebook account has shown me a bit of Facebook. Had a look at MySpace - people's profiles, forums. The conversations seem so meaningless. Maybe if you have an account and develop relationships over time the nature of the conversations will change. Or, maybe the public profiles have parts they keep private. It would, of course, be a different story if you know that person in 'real' life, which makes sense to me. I know of a few people who keep in contact with family and friends through social networking sites.

Generally, I found these sites looking busy/cluttered. There is a whole culture in using social networking sites - came across this blog that is about Facebook etiquette - but at this stage I still feel reluctant to join. It looks like a lot of work and time involved. Tristan Louis wrote this article on 5 reasons why social networks fail. The points mentioned makes sense, but I found the comments on the post revealing especially those that relate their personal experiences on social networking:
  • We use these to keep in touch with people we ALREADY know or have met.
  • I have been in several groups over a number of years. It depends on what you put into a group as to what you get back. As my life has changed, I have moved away from some groups and toward others. It can be a lot of work.
  • I’ve yet to visit a network where I don’t think ‘what now?’. Okay, it’s a ‘lean back’ activity for people who want to browse / kill time, but man, I can think of better ways.
  • ... people are much more public in showing their character and have the opportunity to do so, much more easily online.
He also wrote another article on 5 reasons why social networks can succeed - very interesting points we need to take note of if the library wants to get involved in social networking.

There are also social networking sites for older adults: Eons, Rezoom, Multiply, Boomj, Boomertown. These sites have a different look - more uncluttered with articles of general interest to older adults. Will explore them when I have more time after this programme. Topic social networks, like Ning, attracts people interested in a specific topic - some more explorations to do later. Another place to learn more about social networks is this social networking watch site and this Social networking blog. Social networking is, like any web service, developing fast and it will be interesting to watch the emerging trends.

22 September 2008

#20: eBooks

It is wonderful that so many books are available online. As expected there were many of the well-known classics on the Project Gutenberg site. To see how the search engine works, I tried out a quick search, using Advanced Search: house keeping in the full text search box, Language - English, LoCC - Technology Home Economics. Results = 70 books. Here are a few interesting titles:
It would have been helpful if there was an indication of the publication date. Full text searching opens up this collection for research. Downloading is easy and, depending on the file size, done fairly quickly. The site is also easy to navigate. (I was delighted to find this book: Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont. Browsing through it reminded me of my grandmother's embroidery.) Had a look at the audiobooks as well. As expected audio files take a bit longer than text to download. Didn't like the computer generated audiobooks - that emotionless voice is creepy to listen to. It was also interesting to see the links to Wikipedia articles on authors - very useful. Project Gutenberg is definitely a site to keep in mind for reference purposes.

LibriVox was another interesting site. I'm impressed by the choices the site offers. Had a look at a few titles. Many of the classics have links to Wikipedia articles (author and title links), also sometimes links to Gutenberg e-text, gives you a choice to download individual chapters or the entire work in a zip file, also the choice to subscribe to RSS chapter-a-day in iTunes. As with all audiobooks, the reader can play a role in your enjoyment of the book, and the audio files are big, so time is a factor when deciding to download. Although a third of the titles are nonfiction (530 at time of writing), it isn't catalogued according to subjects, which makes it more difficult to find information. I think the way to approach nonfiction at LibriVox is to know the title or author of the work you are looking for and not use LibriVox for subject searching.

Google Book Search is a delight to look through. I was surprised to see books published in 2008 listed, e.g. The book of love by Andrew M. Greeley & Mary G. Durkin. This search engine can be very useful in reference work. For example: I did a search for burial artefacts of an ancient Ahtens priestess' grave (a year 12 Classical studies project) and came across a book that had exactly the information I was looking for - will recommend that book for purchase for our library. As with all Google searches you will have to define your search well to avoid getting a long list of irrelevant items.

While doing this exercise I couldn't help but marvel again at the amount of information available at our fingertips and the possibilities the new media opens up. Though, having said that - it is still easier and more comfortable to read printed text. And it isn't just me and people of my generation that will agree with this, but young people who have grown up with computers and the internet will often ask for a hard copy for that same reason.

17 September 2008

Podcast issues

Since looking at podcasts I have seen quite a few that could be useful for answering reference questions. Often students need different formats of information for their projects. Podcasts can give them both visual and audio formats. I'm thinking about interviews with authors, commentaries on science and technology, social & political commentaries and podcasts on historical events/eras. But, to be able to incorporate podcasts in our arsenal of sources there are a few technical issues to consider.

The first one is content. We are so used to have access to an overwhelming amount of information and recreation sites in text format that podcasts seems a fairly paltry offering in comparison. That means it is harder to find a good podcast that appeals to you or that you will find useful.

The audio/visual format of podcasts makes it harder to search for them. So far the web is primarily geared towards text searching. The full content of the text can be searched and it is much easier to find relevant items. The search for podcast content relies mostly on the description and written reviews. There is a video search engine Blinx that claims it "uses a unique combination of patented conceptual search, speech recognition and video analysis software to efficiently, automatically and accurately find and qualify online video." Will have to play around with the different search engines to compare the results.

Another issue about the text based web is that you can quickly skim through text to get an indication of its relevancy/appeal. That's not the case with audio and video formats. First of all it is much slower to download, then you have to listen/watch it before you really can decide whether this is what you are looking for. So it requires much more in terms of time and patience, which are in short supply at times. That is maybe why a large percentage of podcasts is about music.

Then there is the technical issue of different file formats that need to be played in different podcatchers. And also feeds that may or may not have been created and hunting for the feed link on the page which doesn't use the conventional feed icon - it all caused a lot of confusion. It was so easy to subscribe to some podcasts, others were so difficult to finally be able to subscribe to, and there were quite a few that looked interesting but were impossible to subscribe to for some known/unknown reason(s).

Now that I have subscribed to a few podcasts, it will require a lifestyle change to make use of them. I thought that the best way to do it is to download them once a week from my Bloglines account onto my mp3 player and then listen to the podcasts while driving in the car or doing boring housework. (Learning to use my mp3 player is another skill I still have to master - once I can remember to charge it and take it with me.) These are my thoughts on podcasts written down so now my mind can let it go and concentrate on the next thing.