iCONN News

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ALA | Download free photos

ALA | Download free photos

In the realm of improving marketing materials, be they flyers, posters, brochures, or web pages, one thing can make a major difference - quality photos. I was poking around the ALA site for other reasons & ran across this page, which offers some beautiful downloadable pictures that were obtained through a photo contest sponsored by ALA. The terms of the contest, of course, were that the photos could be used in any way that ALA deemed. There are 17 downloadable pictures appropriate for libraries at the website. You should remember to attribute the images to the photographer who took the given picture and cite them to The Beyond Words: Celebrating America's Libraries Photo Contest.

Connecticut Local Politics: Researching Connecticut

Connecticut Local Politics: Researching Connecticut

Hey, there's some buzz going on about us - yay, that's we want - get the word out there that we're available free to ALL of the state's residents -- up that usage! Anyhow, this entry is from a blog about Connecticut politics - haven't looked at the profile of the blogger, yet, but it looks pretty interesting, so take a gander for yourself!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

TechCrunch � Google Pages Released

TechCrunch - Google Pages Released

Speaking of websites - free, easy to create webpages, anyone? Google has a new product in beta called "Google Page Creator" and it allows users to create webpages through a web interface (say goodbye to FrontPage, Dreamweaver, Contribute, GoLive, etc., folks!)

"Google Pages allows you to upload files, create many pages that you can link up, and select from a smorgasbord of templates. The website which you can then push out to publish can then be found at username.googlepages.com... Google Pages does let you upload any file though, and gives you 100MB of space, which some may find more useful for sharing files or distributing SNL video’s... For instance, this is not going to be a threat to the younger crowd who are all creating pages on MySpace, nor to the audience of millions of bloggers who already have their online presence, nor to the players in the CMS space who offer a whole lot more in functionality and power."

OK, so the lack of domain mapping is indeed a problem in this beta phase and yes, it's true that if you try to make a page creator account right now, you'll get denied, as they've had too much of a traffic hit, but this could indeed be a good answer for our under-webpresented libraries out there in Connecticut. Check it out.

And, yes, I admit it, there's a tiny little territorial part of me that hesitates to share this tidbit with you all. Besides, if Google's creating this system for everyone, it sort of knocks my theory of most/all libraries needing web-fluent staff on its knees. Overall, however, I still believe that our profession needs programmers. With programmers, maybe libraries would be offering something like the services Google offers. Just an idle dream?

Web Librarians' Roundtable - Redesigning library websites

Maria Miranda, of Miranda Creative, spoke at yesterday's Web Librarians Roundtable (don't forget to check out the web librarians' blog at http://weblibrarians.blogspot.com) about redesigning your library's website. Since so many people attended, I'm guessing a lot of us are interested in the topic these days and - for those of you who didn't get a chance to be there- I figured I'd give you a rundown of the presentation with my own spin on it all!

The most important point - one that you'd think we'd all sort of get by now, but then again, it never hurts to hear it again - is that the website is your new "front door"! (I would add to that - and the side door, back door, and emergency exits!) With hyperlinking, we can't control the usage of our sites and the path that our audiences take through our sites, but that shouldn't matter - every page should be as clearly presented as the home page, with salient information, such as the address and phone number of your organization being in the footer.

It was clear from her presentation, in which she reviewed many of the CLC members' sites in a cursory fashion, that we're not all at the best possible front door stage yet. (Think about what our iCONN Marketing Survey told us - only 20% of the general public in CT has gone to their library's website! And don't you think that disappointing experiences with library websites have led patrons to underestimate the technology and services they can access through the library... heck, how many people who finally get to our websites ever come back?)

Another key point that I think I should note before anyone gets too upset is that websites are always evolving, so redesign is a constant and does not mean that there's anything inherently wrong in what you've developed in the past - it just means that it's not meeting your audience's current needs. (Heck, I see that Miranda's website is undergoing some evolution itself!)

Oh, and here's a great insight, I might add - a quote from Maria Miranda:
"You know what a camel is, right? ... a camel is a horse designed by a committee." So if you're working on site redesign, you do want to be somewhat inclusive in the process, but don't let compromises and too many opinions turn your site into a camel. User-centered design is a good key to avoiding this problem. Work with your key audiences to develop something that meets their needs. Don't just go off of your own "instincts" as to what makes sense to you or your committee &/or looks good to you or your committee. Don't just talk to fellow library staff members - talk to the audience that you want to use the website to get ideas about terminology, what's intuitive for navigation, and what the most important information is to the user. Then get them there quickly. It doesn't all have to be on the first page, however -- in fact, too busy (particularly too text-heavy) a home page will be an immediate turnoff & frustration to audiences.

Text-heaviness was a common problem noted by Ms. Miranda in the webpages she showed from various CT libraries' websites. She talked about the power of photography and images. She even suggested that it would be worthwhile for libraries to spend the approx. $300 / annually (I haven't fact checked, but I think that I transcribed this info correctly) it takes to subscribe to a great stock photo outlet, such as photos.com. A professional photographer could be expensive, but might be a worthwhile investment for many institutions. If it's not possible, take photos with a good quality digital camera around the library. I'm sure that you'd have to work out how to get permission to use images of your patrons for the website, but I'm equally sure that it's quite doable.

Though there's a lot more "meat" to the presentation than I can cover here, including some interesting ideas about how to promote your redesigned website once it's nearly complete/readied for the "go live" date, there's one really important footnote to the presentation - throughout her talk, Maria said that she'd visited many Ct. libraries' websites of late and that she'd rarely found a "welcoming" home page. She strongly suggested a "Welcome to xxx Library" statement on the home page, ideally with current photos of the library or library use by patrons or staff. It's part of the friendly, warm, welcoming atmosphere public libraries should be offering patrons.

Finally, I wanted to raise the issue of why we don't prioritize web work in a professional way in the library world. Instead, it seems like libraries throughout the state (actually, that's not fair, it's throughout the nation, probably the world) just add web work as one more assignment (as though it's a simple project to build, maintain, and evolve web services for libraries) for people whose expertise is in information retrieval, circulation, and/or cataloging? It's as if library administrators all too often don't respect the world of web technology in all of its fast-evolving complexity. It's not simple html, Dreamweaver, or Front Page. Web development and web services encompass a set of programming languages and concepts that are as complex as AACR2 and MARC formats.

I know that there's a basic economic issue governing this lack of web professionalism, and I do think that we want to move more librarians into web professionals, rather than somehow getting our field out of web work, but I think we have to acknowledge that it is a specialty unto itself. It's not just a "fun" assignment (though I agree that web work can be extremely satisfying!) - ultimately, web development is a crucial means of communicating with, and providing services, to our patrons. So take your web-literate librarians, or those who can & want to be, and move them to the next level - give them tools to move them further into web programming, content preparation, and/or web design (the primary tools being time and training!). Might I suggest that it would be good to reduce their other duties, as well, and to prioritize this aspect of their work? Also, consider which pieces of your web development should be outsourced to specialists.

We also need to get our MLIS programs up to snuff. There's no reason why anyone graduating Library School should fail to know HTML (not just how to use WYSIWYG editors, though that's a good start). Ideally, MLS programs would even require you to take other programming/systems courses... XML, Javascript, MySQL, PHP, Apache, Linux, for example, could be part of the web librarian "track".

So there's a lot to think about as we engage with our library websites. Still, I'd hate to have anyone who was at the roundtable (or who's reading this) feel badly because their site was pointed out as needing improvement or for them to feel overwhelmed because there's so much work that needs to be done to improve it. Instead, I'd suggest that librarians concentrate on how this web development work will better serve their patrons. Remember, redesign=evolution.

And, for those libraries that realize that they're too small to devote time to website work, think about doing something to reduce the programming/design burden and just concentrate your limited web time & expertise to customizing (adding content to) existing products/systems. For example, Miranda Creative is creating a set of Dreamweaver-based website templates for libraries. Libraries can then customize them using nothing more than Macromedia's Contribute (or DW, if you already have it, but if you don't DW is so expensive and Contribute is much less $ & easier to learn). Think about buying into something like that. Or a content management system. More on that another time.

[BTW, if you're doing a site redesign, I want to remind you that you can hyperlink to individual iCONN databases, as well as the whole kit-and-kaboodle. For the individual URLs, go to our page http://www.iconn.org/staff/urltable.aspx.]

Don't forget, there will be another webmasters' roundtable coming up in about month(?), so keep an eye on the Connecticut Library Consortium's website for more information (meeting notices are usually published on CONNTECH, too). Get involved & good luck with your own web efforts. Remember, even Miranda's website could use some work - all of ours could!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Elder Wisdom Circle. Advice From Those Who Care.

Elder Wisdom Circle. Advice From Those Who Care.

I heard about this on NPR this AM and - while it's not library-related, per se, I thought I'd share the site and the concept. I think it's a very touching idea - to use the internet to hook up elders and people seeking advice. The story can be read at National Public Radio's website.

Is there a place for libraries in expanding the Elder Wisdom Circle? I'll leave that to library-land, but it's definitely something to think about.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Library Grants Blog

There's a new Library Grants Blog available from librarians Pam MacKellar and Stephanie Gerding, who also wrote the news book and CD Grants for Libraries. Worth a look-see, if you're looking for funding (and who isn't, really?)

The Cluetrain Manifesto - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cluetrain Manifesto - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. If you never saw the so-called "Cluetrain Manifesto", take a look, it's got a lot of ideas that informed the dot com boom, and even Web 2.0 (and perhaps the Web 3.0 that's forming in people's minds right now). The ideas in the manifesto are crucial to the evolution of libraries & their digital offerings, I believe. You can read the manifesto (which became a book) online for free at the Cluetrain site - http://www.cluetrain.com/.

Use of Specialized, Subject or Project-oriented Blogs to lead users to library resources

An interesting post by the Undergraduate Services Librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University about their Black History Month specialized blog project: Library Marketing-Thinking Outside the Book: Short-term blog for long-term marketing gain

This is one of the marketing-esque ideas I had for iCONN -- do themed blog entries and subject-oriented webpages to guide users into the iCONN databases in ways alternative to (but in addition to) leading those users solely through the overwhelming federated/all-in-one search front door -- maybe what we need to think about, though, is doing themed iCONN blogs on various subject areas!

Woman's Day Initiative Asks Readers to Share Stories on How the Library Has Changed Their Life

For Immediate Release Contact: Megan Humphrey
February 16, 2006 312-280-4020

New Woman's Day initiative asks readers to share
stories on how the library has changed their life

Woman's Day magazine wants to learn how the library has changed lives.

The magazine announced the editorial initiative in its March 7 issue, which reached subscribers last week. In the issue, the magazine declares that "libraries are magical places" and asks readers to submit their stories in 700 words or less. Stories can be sent to womansday@ala.org from now until May 10, 2006, when the promotion closes. Four of the submissions will be featured in an upcoming issue of Woman's Day.

Librarians can promote the initiative in their library by downloading free promotional tools from the ALA @ your library® Web site, http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/campaign/sponsorship/wdchangelives.htm Tools include a sample press release, downloadable logos, sample newsletter copy and flyer.

In the same issue, Woman's Day highlights the two winners from last year's editorial initiative, which asked people why they would want to research their family trees at the library. The four-page article features librarians Howard Grueneberg from the Urbana (Ill.) Free Library and Shellie Cocking from the San Francisco Public Library guiding the winners through library resources to help them discover new parts of their family history. It also includes a sidebar with tips on plotting family history from ALA member Stephen C. Young of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Young is chair of the genealogy committee for the Reference and User Services Association's (RUSA) history section.

The ALA partnership with Woman's Day began in 2002 with a series of workshops for aspiring writers led by writers from the magazine. It has developed into a multi-program partnership that has resulted in approximately $4 million in library-related editorial coverage in five issues of the magazine, donated ad space and an online book club featuring ALA members.

The writing workshops will kick off again this year during National Library Week at 10 community college and public libraries throughout the country. Currently, the Woman's Day online book club features YALSA members' book recommendations for young adults, and beginning this summer, the book club will highlight RUSA members. The book club is available by visiting www.womansday.com/community.

Woman's Day is a Founding Partner of The Campaign for America's Libraries, the ALA's multi-year public awareness and advocacy campaign to promote the value of libraries and librarians in the 21st century.

Mark Gould
Public Information Office @ your library

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rollyo Again

For those who shared their day hearing about "Emerging Metadata Topics" at the MLSC yesterday, here's a link of interest... most of you didn't know about Rollyo, so I've created a little personal Rollyo search engine that indexes the iCONN website (doesn't go into the Gale, Proquest, AP Photo, or Wilson databases themselves, but does allow you to search the title lists and documentation for those databases that we have posted at iconn.org) as an example. Just type in a term, like a subject area that iCONN databases include (e.g., I did "math") and choose the Rollyo search engine labelled "Connecticut libraries" from the drop-down box that sits below the search box. Again, there are lots of ways to improve this, but this gives you a feel for the power of Rollyo:

Hartford Courant Historical Collection on the CT.gov Portal

The new Hartford Courant Historical Collection is the latest addition to the CT.gov portal's "News" section!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Black History Month Ideas

A recent announcement from Thomson Gale:
Gale - Free Resources - Black History - Home Thomson Gale is providing some ideas for curriculum support for Black History Month, using free web resources. Take a look if you have some extra time and haven't figured out anything on your own.

But I found that their offerings were a little anemic. And there are so many worthwhile resources, both in the iCONN databases and on the web, in general. For example, wouldn't it be great to go into our new Hartford Courant Historical Collection, which features editions of the newspaper from 1764-1922, to see what the people of that era were saying about slavery? (abolition and slavery were big topics in Connecticut in the 19th-century). The Encyclopedia of Connecticut History, is available at iCONN, just go to www.iconn.org and choose "Select iCONN resources". Here, for example, is an entry about slavery from this resource (and I feel fairly certain that other topics appropos to Black History Month can be found there).

There are, of course, our many other databases with biographical, subject, and even timeline-based resources (e.g., History Resource Center - U.S. & Discovering Collection) that could be mined.
There's also the AP Photo Archive for the multimedia effect of images of civil rights leaders and marches.

ON the web, I'd also go to sites such as: Library of Congress' American Memory Project. Or to one of their many classroom projects, such as "From Jim Crow to Linda Brown: A Retrospective of the African-American Experience from 1897 to 1953".

And there are, of course, online slave narratives, which are a fascinating insight -- the very words of the people who survived slavery: North American Slave Narratives from the "Documenting the American South" website at UNC. There are even
African-American History Lesson Plans from the "Documenting the American South" website at UNC.

Rebranding librarianship

The Shifted Librarian: 20060120 OCLC Symposium: Extreme Makeover - Rebranding an Industry

OCLC's findings about the world's perception of librarians and libraries have led to discussions and articles on the concept of rebranding our industry, something worth taking a further look at. OCLC's new newsletter NextSpace ran its first issue with the headline "Extreme Makeover: How legacy brands reinvent themselves, and what libraries can learn from them".

It's not just iCONN with a lack of awareness issue, it's all library projects, and it's related to the public's perception that ALL we do is books (in the traditional, physical sense).

BBC NEWS | Technology | Libraries fear digital lockdown

BBC NEWS | Technology | Libraries fear digital lockdown

This is a fascinating story - one that you've all heard about before, but the way that they've expressed it in this article has helped me to crystallize my own thinking about DRM. I have to say that on a personal - non-iCONN-related - level, I'm a huge advocate of the free flow of information; the democratization of information access. And I have had concerns about how moving into the digital world affects our ability to provide information to the masses. Think about it (if you haven't already!), the way ebooks and electronic articles are provided online, they are controlled by licensing in a way that restricts their distribution far more than the way physical items are controlled.

For example, in my personal life, if I purchase a book in physical form, I can then hand it around to anybody. I don't get the publishers breathing down my neck about it - I don't get in trouble, even though it means reduced sales of that book. I bought an interesting ebook through Amazon last year, however, and I wanted to give it to a friend after I was done with it. But it was locked up on my pc, under this Microsoft DRM setup and I could not for the life of me get it to her. So unless I gave her my whole laptop, the book was useless - I'd paid the full-price (which normally would get me the endlessly multi-use physical book) for a single use! Further, I can't get to it anymore because the software has been updated and the DRM seems to be locking me out now. If my hard drive had crashed, I also would have lost access to it.

I'm not clueless - I know why publishers are nervous about peer-to-peer, given that peer-to-peer is no longer restricted by the physical, as an actual book (paper-based) would have been, but don't you think that we - consumers and libraries - are getting a raw deal on this thing? Fair use allowed libraries to exist. In the new world, fair use doesn't seem to protect us. We are unable to purchase permanent collections, only transient access. Who controls the access at all times? the database or ebook vendors... It's as though the publishers set up camp in our libraries and made sure that everyone who came to borrow books from us was - to their eyes - using the items appropriately (that they were residents of our town, etc., etc.). And we're facilitating this by agreeing to the terms - not that we have a choice, but maybe we should be a little more vocal about protecting our readers' rights and a little less concerned about protecting the vendors' rights.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Day 2006

Well, he saw his shadow - I found some pictures for Groundhog Day on the AP photo archive, so thought I'd share one to give you a little nudge to use this fun and helpful resource. There's a link below, though I'm not sure if you'll be able to enter the AP Archive directly that way - if not, you can always go to www.iconn.org, then choose "Select iCONN resources" or "Link to Individual Databases" to get listings of the databases available to you - the AP Photo Archive will be an option. Enjoy!

AP Preserver accuweather.ap.org [ iconn20231 - AWAPTwav ] Search/Browse

CAPTION: In this photo provided by Vaseline, Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil gets a reaction from Vaseline employees Laurel Johnson, left, and Margaret Baker, center, as he emerges from a box after handler Bill Deeley, right, placed him there while visiting Vaseline's exhibit tent in Barclay Square in the center of Punxsutawney, PA, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2006. When throngs of people descend upon Punxsutawney to celebrate Groundhog Day on Thursday, businesses and other groups will try to ride the coattails of the cute and cuddly Punxsutawney Phil to gain publicity. (AP Photo/Vaseline, Ray Stubblebine)
Database: Intl_Photos Docid/ImageId: 9353807 / 5KHFZ Server: accuweather.ap.org:80