Monthly Archives: May 2008

Finally – I’m in Jamaica

I’ve finally made it to the lovely island of Jamaica – but the trip here wasn’t without it’s glitches. I got to my hotel room in St. Louis last night (plane took off for Miami this morning at 6:10 – I wasn’t driving all that way at 3am!) and realized I had *everything* – except my passport. So, I called my Dad (yep, I’m an adult) and had him meet me in Kingdom City (1/2 hour from JC, 1 hour from St. Louis airport) and bring it to me. By the time I got back to my room in St. Louis it was almost 11:30 and I went straight to bed.
I got up this morning at 4:15 and onto my plane to Miami without issue. Once I landed in Miami, I continued reading my book, “An Absolute Gentleman” until the very end. I started rooting around in my carryon, trying to find the book that I *intended* to pack in that bag and realized that at 4:30am, I wasn’t thinking very clearly and I put all my extra reading material into my checked luggage. I had to go buy another book to get me through the second half of my trip – especially since the plane to Jamaica was delayed – but only by 20 minutes… (I picked up Lisa Gardner’s “Hide” – a perfectly fine choice, I’m enjoying it). I landed in Jamaica and picked up my baggage and headed outside. While enjoying a smoke, I was approached by several men wanting to give me a taxi ride. I politely said no – I did end up taking a taxi to the hotel, but I wasn’t using anything but the official service, just to be on the safe side. One of the men, after I refused a ride in his taxi continued chatting with me and ended up asking me if I would call him if he gave me his card. I smiled, said no and he accepted it and we went on talking about the things to do in Jamaica – other than him, of course. I have the sort of figure that goes over well in poorer countries – I look wealthy (who else could afford to pack on so much *extra* onto her hips and butt?), but that still caught me by surprise.
I finally got to the hotel, only to find out that there was no reservation for me. Ooops! I went ahead and put part of the bill on my card (hey! I just got back from a vacation in England and a trip to Chicago that hasn’t been reimbursed yet – and I work in a library. I’m poor, despite what my hips have to say about it) and talked to one of the guys setting up for the conference. He said it would be cleared up tomorrow. I imagine it will be, so I’m not worried – yet.
After all that, my room wasn’t ready, so I hung about the area, checking out all the people from all over the world who are here at this resort. That was great fun. Then I found an ATM and tried to withdraw money. It wouldn’t let me have any – that was not fun. I asked at the desk and they said it was out of money. I got my room, went up and logged online. I checked – I’m not out of money. That was slightly more reassuring (especially since I just got paid yesterday!). Once I was settled in my room,
Middle of my room looking toward the door From the middle of the room looking in The ocean from my balcony
I went downstairs and got my “welcome” drink – something fruity and yummy – and went out to the outdoor bar area to sit, relax and finally enjoy being in Jamaica, looking at the Caribbean and the pool and the amazing views from the patio area.
The ocean from the patio bar

RSS & Databases Workshop

I spent the last few days in Chicago, first being a tourist with my SO who had never been to Chicago before, then giving a workshop for the Metropolitan Library System (MLS) on the use of Database RSS feeds in library websites. I have few pictures from the tourist part of the trip – I took a BUNCH on Sunday, while we were at the Field Museum, but then managed, due to tiredness and wonky wi-fi, lose the entire batch. That irritated me enough that I kept my camera in my purse for the rest of the trip! We did the Field Museum, the Magnificent Mile and the Navy Pier while we were touring – it was fun, but pretty much exhausting…
The reason for the trip, however, was to lead the workshop on how to use RSS alerts to create dynamic web pages that change regularly with no ongoing updating work from the webmaster! I’ve stuck my “virtual handout” on my newest PBWiki page, but that may be moving – I can’t seem to figure out how to allow anonymous comments to the page, and I’d really like to be able to do that. The presentation, stored at Slideshare, is available on that page as well.
The workshop went very well – there were 8 attendees and it was a hands-on, talk about it and try it, kind of session. We covered the basics of the RSS standard, how to get at the RSS alerts in Ebsco and a couple of other database and web providers, and how to use incorporate those RSS files in a web page. The participants used an RSS feed from the MLS site, ran it through a Javascript RSS parser and copied the text into a basic web page to find out just how easy the process is and how much control you can have over the output. We also discussed PHP, ASP, ColdFusion and Ruby on Rails options and what sort of access you have to have to the server to make use of the many libraries available in each language to parse RSS.
There were lots of questions during the session and I stayed for about 45 minutes after the workshop answering questions from attendees who wanted more one-on-one help. I haven’t received any evaluations yet (they do electronic evaluations of their workshops and classes and I should be getting them in about 2 weeks – while I’m in Jamaica), but the general “feeling” I got from the class was very positive. The attendees got information they needed, understood and will be able to use in their jobs. Which, actually, is one of the reasons I wanted public commenting on the virtual handout page – I’d love for them to link to the results of their attendance at this workshop on that handout! Oh well…
The MLS offices & laptop lab was REALLY nice and made the mechanics of presenting a breeze! I loved giving the workshop and hope that I can go back sometime and do it (or anther one) again!

My .02 cents on the library speaking gigs issue

I’ve been reading Meredith Farkas‘ comments on speaking gigs in libraryland and the compensation that speakers at library conferences & events receive. I thought about commenting on her blog, but I have a lot to say about more than just her post, so I’ll just throw my comments out here and let ‘em stand on their own!
There has been the occasional bit of information about library speaking gigs that comes out, there is some discussion about it, then it dies down again. Rachel Singer Gordon did a survey about library conference speaking and posted her results in two blog posts. The first describes the results of the survey in numerical form, the second goes deeper into the comments left by the survey respondents. The comments are, for me, the most interesting part of the survey. As someone who speaks at conferences occasionally, I’m always interested to know what others are getting in compensation for the same kind of work (if any, really). One of the things I noticed in all of these conversations is that another regular library-world speaker who is also going to be in Jamaica in June is getting a different deal than I’m getting for the same conference. Without some openness in this topic (which is touchy because it involves money), we’ll never know how to evaluate the opportunities that come our way!
I’m speaking this year at several different events and conferences for several different fee structures. Two of the conferences I’m speaking at I’m paying for travel, some part of the conference registration and all incidentals – out of my own pocket. MPOW (My Place Of Work) is economizing on conferences this year (can anyone say gas prices?) and they can’t afford to pay for all of the things *I* want to do – so I pay for some of them myself. I see it as paying my dues, honestly. Other conferences are paying all of my travel, hotel, registration and food costs – but nothing more. A few are paying all travel expenses as well as an honorarium beyond that. I’m just about going to come out even this year (if you don’t count the 8 day vacation in London – that was freakin’ expensive!!) between the conferences I’m paying to speak at and the ones that are paying me to speak, but as I said earlier – I like to travel, I love to present and I feel that I’m just starting out in this area of my career and I need to pay some dues before I can reasonably expect to make money off this. I did the same thing with my web design work – I did some free and some really deeply discounted sites before I got to the point where I was comfortable asking for real money to design a site.
Because this topic is one that I’m interested in (and I’ve been known to just ask library-land speakers what they charge for particular gigs – cause I’m classy that way…) I wanted to post this here to both get my .02 cents out and to get out some links to some of the discussions that are going on now. Meredith just posted (or rather I just saw – I’m getting so behind on my RSS reading…) a followup to her post I linked to above about compensation for speakers. I’ll be following the comments on this post, too and I’ll be keeping an eye on the wiki that she’s linking to in that post as well that will, hopefully, give some transparency and clarity to the issue of speaker compensation in libraryland.

Find me!

Hey – I figured I’d take this opportunity (and give myself a bit of a break in the heavy-duty “thinking” posts I’ve been writing) to let you all know where I’ll be for the next couple of months. I’ve just finished reading Walt Crawford’s post on meeting up with people at conferences (in bars! Can it get any better than that?) and I really wanted to let you all know where I’ll be so that I can get some meetings set up!

  • May 17 – 21 Chicago, IL – giving a workshop on RSS & Library Databases for the Metropolitan Library System on the 20th (9:30 – 12:30)
  • May 31 – June 6th Montego Bay, Jamaica – giving two presentations and attending at least one meeting (times to be announced)
  • June 26 – July 2 Anaheim, CA – on a panel to discuss the role of IT departments in libraries on the 28th (4 – 5:30pm)

And then I get to rest until August, when we’re doing a “reprise” of the Web 2.0 class that Bobbi and I did in February of this year. We’re expanding it to a 4 day workshop in Columbia, MO. If you can make it to the Summer Institute this year, stop by and see me there, too!
If you will be around any of those areas on any of those dates, drop me a line or send me a DM on twitter and we’ll set up a time to chat. I’m pretty easy to get into a bar…

4. Flickr

Flickr is a social photo sharing site and it has lots of uses for libraries and librarians. With Flickr, you can upload, do basic editing and share pictures in a multitude of ways. Flickr has several different uploading options, one of them a bit of software that you can install on your computer to make uploading pictures really easy. It also has a “basic uploader” that works on the Flickr webpage and requires no downloading or installation of programs. Once you’ve uploaded your images to Flickr, then you can do some basic editing (red-eye removal, cropping and some image manipulation with the included PicNik features), organize them into sets and/or collections (collections are pro – $$ – accounts only) and tag them until they make sense to you and will be easily re-findable. After you’ve done all that, you can then share them. Flickr has built-in “add to your blog” capabilities as well as a way to get a bit of HTML to add to a web page. It has badges and slideshows and unique URLs for each size of each picture you upload as well as for each set, collection and tag you use to organize your pictures. It was built to make sharing your images as easy as possible.
With all of that in mind, how can libraries use this tool? First, the pro account is $25 a year and gives you unlimited uploads and storage. Get it. Second, it’s a really great way to share pictures of your programs, events, book displays, staff members, parties and your building(s) in general. Once you upload those images, remember, they are really easy to then add to your website. One thing that people love is images of themselves. If you post some pictures of a recent event and some of the people pictured attending that event start emailing out links to your website, you’ve just created free, word-of-mouth, viral marketing. Also, those pictures are there for your publicity folks to use in future mailings, fliers and web announcements.
Other ways to use Flickr are:

  • use your pictures to create inexpensive marketing materials (business cards, calendars, books, etc.)
  • Use some of the thousands of 3rd party applications to make fun stuff to post to your blog, website or to a community website (custom movie posters, jigsaw puzzles or trading cards).
  • Find other people’s photos to use in your marketing or creative materials (but don’t forget to respect the creative commons copyrights on each photo in Flickr).
  • Create a badge that is limited to a single tag and put that badge on your internal, more specifically focused web pages.

Flickr, more than many Web 2.0 applications, offers a ton of really fun things to do with your images (and those of others, too)! I’ve just scratched the surface of “things to do with Flickr” – do you all have any creative uses for Flickr at your library?

3. Facebook/MySpace

Facebook seems like an odd application for library use. It’s totally a social “utility” – as they say on the log-in page – and doesn’t seem to have many obvious library uses, beyond advertising programs and such. MySpace is much the same – it is intended for individuals (and bands – it started as a home page for bands to upload and share their music) and there aren’t many compelling reasons for libraries to “be” there… Unless you consider that part of the “philosophy” of Web/Library 2.0 is to be where your users are – whether that is in your library or in their browser (or cell phone text messaging application…).
Facebook has made it easier for organizations to use the service recently. People get profiles, just like in all the other social networking sites, but organizations get “pages”. From those pages, libraries can post information about their services, events and just about anything else that they want to advertise. Facebook also provides an application platform that allows 3rd party developers to create their own facebook applications. Because of this, Facebook has a lot of cool stuff to do while you are logged on. Many libraries have jumped on this application platform and created ways for their “fans” (people who friend the organization) to add a catalog search onto their own profiles. I modified a previously created catalog search for use at MRRL, and posted the code, with instructions, on the application’s page for other libraries to use.
Besides another platform for application programming, there are lots of other uses for it in libraries, too. Obviously, it is another way for patrons to contact us – opening a new line of communication, as it were. It’s a way to get your name out there – one public library in Edmonton, Canada, is doing tests on the effectiveness of highly targeted ads – and they are pretty pleased with the cost of getting in front of all of those eyeballs! It can also be used as a replacement for expensive “special use” software. One gentleman who attended the UKSG conference last month mentioned that his academic library is using Facebook in place of the very expensive VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) that they purchased and subsequently grew to hate.
MySpace has many of the same features and abilities – although it is sometimes difficult to stray away from the social aspects (friending, commenting, etc.), it can be done. One of the coolest interactions I’ve experienced was when I made our local radio stations friends of my library. One of the DJs for one of the stations left a comment on our page that basically asked if we had any poetry by Charles Bukowski. I left a comment on his radio’s MySpace page with a link to the catalog page that listed all the works we had by that author. He responded on the library’s page with a note saying thanks, but he owned everything we did. I finished the reference interview via MySpace with a final comment on his page asking him if he was familiar with Interlibrary Loan. That sort of interaction with the public – a real, not forced, natural conversation that was held on both of our MySpace pages – is the best way to get folks who may not be aware of your collection, programs or services to take a look at their public library.
Besides reference interviews via comments, you can republish all of your library’s content onto your MySpace page as well, making it much more likely that patrons (and soon-to-be patrons) find your “stuff”. I was recently asked by our Digital Librarian, Bobbi Newman to add the MySpace Crossposter plugin to our WordPress blog installation to allow automatic posting of all blog posts to our MySpace blog as well – no more duplication of effort!