iCONN News

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Back to School

The Connecticut PTA has included iCONN in its September newsletter, found at http://www.ctpta.org/bulletin/Sep-2005.pdf and mailed out to Connecticut PTA members. There are 4 columns of detail about the iCONN databases, beginning on page 5. The bulletin goes out to approximately 1,000 members, as well as being handed out at various community events and to PTA office visitors. We're very happy about getting this level of coverage & look forward to working with the PTA in the future.

I'm also busily revising the learning activities available at the iCONN website. The steps in the learning activities are outdated due to the change in technology/interfaces, so I'm going through each one and revising accordingly. Ultimately, (by the end of this week), we should be able to update the website and to create a prototype CDROM of all content. Then we'll reproduce & distribute those CDs to the schools.

Friday, August 26, 2005

XML and libraries

While we're busily preparing for the back-to-school crowd (with a 4-column article in the CT PTA newsletter coming out this month) and the fair season, I took a little time out for professional development this week. I took Patrick Yott's excellent 2-day XML course at the MLSC. We've got a lot of "balls in the air", but this breather really helped me to understand ways in which data could be packaged for infinite transformability. I mean, you may be asking, what good is XML to me? It just sounds like geek-speak doesn't it?

But let me paint a blue-sky scenario, brought to you courtesy XML. Imagine a world in which data -- say, for example, the articles in our iCONN databases -- were packaged solely as content... that they didn't have a single interface controlled by a vendor. If you didn't care for the front-end of one of those databases, you could make your own. Then you could funnel all information into that one easy-to-use front end. You'd never be beholden to someone else's idea of what you wanted to do with the data, it would all be there for you to play with. To see only the grade-appropriate articles for an elementary school child - currently we need to purchase a specialized database, like Kids' InfoBits. But maybe that's not the answer we want. With standardized, portable, and readable data (from the information being input in XML format), we could ourselves specify what we wanted at any given moment in time. That is the power of XML.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Forbes.com - Magazine Article on What your library has to offer above & beyond Google

Check out the article at Forbes.com - Magazine Article on "Google Isn't Everything" by Stephen Manes. It extols the virtues of the online databases available through libraries and the quality olf data found within these little treasure troves. If you don't want to register to see the article, you can always use bugmenot to get a quick username and password. It's also - of course - available in iCONN through InfoTrac OneFile.

I'm going to excerpt the article for you to give you a feel for the work. It's just an excerpt, in order to try and ensure that I'm respecting "fair use" copyright rules, so I encourage you to follow up at Forbes' website. BTW, I've bolded one paragraph of salient interest to this blog (emphasis added is mine):

Google Isn't Everything
Stephen Manes, 08.15.05, 12:00 AM ET
In the mood for beach reading, an audiobook, homework help or stock research? Your public library offers them free via the Net right now.

In the age of Google, when we wonder about stuff we want instant answers. I happened to wonder about the first recorded use of the term "personal computer," so I Googled around and ended up at Wikipedia, the hit-or-miss user-developed encyclopedia, whose "personal computer" entry declared authoritatively that "The earliest known use of the term was in New Scientist magazine in 1964, in a series of articles called ‘The World in 1984.'"

I still don't know the answer to my question, but I do know--no thanks to Google--that Wikipedia got it wrong. That's because I found an earlier citation with the help of an even older purveyor of information: my public library. And I didn't have to move an inch to do it...

Like its counterparts across the country, my Seattle Public Library offers Net access to an increasingly wide range of databases that don't exist on the open Web and, because they reside behind a fee-based gate, don't get indexed by the likes of Google (exception:the academic and scientific works uncovered by the new Google Scholar project). Since libraries license the info in bulk, it typically costs individual users not a penny. Which is a lot less than it can go for on the open Web...

The New York Times charges from $1.60 to $3.95 for most articles eight days or older, depending on how many you buy at once....

None of these databases is perfect, since most were initially designed for trained librarians rather than mere flailing mortals, so the user interfaces can be daunting until you get the hang of them. But libraries increasingly have online chat services that let you consult with live experts if you get stuck. Even if your community's library is not in the vanguard, all may not be lost:States such as Michigan offer similar services in exchange for your driver's license number....

My biggest complaint is that some libraries' Web sites don't detail the amazing range of services they offer online until you cough up a card number. Memo to those insular institutions: Put the info in the shop windows out front and I bet you'll see a lot more card-carrying customers walking through the electronic doors.

Stephen Manes (steve@cranky.com) is cohost of PC World's Digital Duo, which appears weekly on public television. Visit his home page at www.forbes.com/manes.

Library Marketing-Thinking Outside the Book

Take a look at this blog: Library Marketing-Thinking Outside the Book... Because ours is neither the first nor the only blog concentrating on using blogs to communicate about marketing library services. Ours is the only iCONN oriented blog, however!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Small & Minority Business Showcase

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I should’ve brought gold stars to give to the many people who dug into their wallets and showed me their public library cards on August 9th! That was just part of the overwhelmingly positive response that Steve Cauffman and I got from an estimated 700 attendees while exhibiting iCONN at the Small & Minority Business Showcase in Waterbury. When I explained to passersby that all of the iCONN resources were free and that all they needed to use iCONN was their library card, people would not only tell me – but insisted on showing me – that they had their library cards.

The showcase is run by the Secretary of State’s office twice a year. Members of the public can attend the showcase for free and vendors can get a booth at the low cost of $99, making it an attractive venue for both. When we noticed the promotions for the Small & Minority Business Showcase, in the CT Calendar of Events at http://www.ctcalendar.com/ and in Waterbury’s Republican-American newspaper, we realized that it would be a great opportunity for us to get in touch with the public and, in particular, with small business owners.

There were over 105 exhibitors present at the showcase. The sponsorship of such entities as the Greater Waterbury Black Business Association and the nationally renowned Black Enterprise magazine, of course, helped. We connected with a number of representatives from various state departments (the Department of Economic and Community Development, for example), nonprofit organizations, and community colleges. We were surprised to see how many people weren’t aware of iCONN or didn’t realize how much the service could do for them (even people representing our fellow state agencies), but we were glad that we were there to tell them about it.

We’re grateful to the Secretary of State’s Director of Community Outreach and Business Development (Mr. Harland O. Henry), who gave us booth space for the Connecticut Digital Library and free wi-fi access to show the service off live. Due to the positive response at this conference, we hope to continue attending these business showcases. We hope to further the partnership with the Secretary of State’s office by providing links from the Connecticut Business Showcase’s website (http://www.ctshowcase.biz/) to iCONN’s high-quality business resources.

Submitted by: Sharon Clapp, Outreach Coordinator
Date: August 11, 2005

P.S. To read more about the event, check out the Waterbury Republican-American for an 8/10/05 article by Marc Silvestrini (http://www.rep-am.com).

What is an outreach coordinator anyway? And what does she do?

One of the great challenges an outreach coordinator faces is to explain to everyone what they've been doing. The soft art of p.r. requires a certain amout of time spent on building relationships, attending events, and such. So you may have heard that iCONN has an Outreach Coordinator - yes, that's me - but you may be wondering what I'm doing and what it all means to you.

The Connecticut Digital Library - iCONN - has been doing p.r. since before its "go live" in 2001. Only now has iCONN been able to devote resources to a concerted effort to raise public awareness of iCONN. Fine and well, but what does that do for me and my library, you might be asking.

As you already realize, the Connecticut Digital Library project provides you with thousands of dollars worth of free resources. Our work in public outreach reminds Connecticut residents of the value of their library card!

That's where the community outreach coordinator comes in. We have big plans - plans to plan (yes, that's consultant-speak), to create metrics to measure effectiveness of our efforts, to get more community involvement, feedback, and, of course, to increase public awareness of iCONN. Moreover, we'll be working (with the help of our public and librarian constituencies) to tailor our messages for specific audiences. There's a lot of exciting work to be done.

This blog is an easy way for me to keep you up-to-date on iCONN's development and my efforts in public relations. There will even be an RSS feed should you want to have the blog entries aggregated for your perusal at your convenience (and yes, you can skip the overly long ones if you desire... no need to clog up that overflowing inbox on your email program any more!)
- Sharon Clapp, iCONN's new Outreach Coordinator