Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thing #18.5 Online Productivity Tools

I created an account in Zoho writer and I like what I see. All of the typical Windows/MS Word commands/icons are present in a cleanly presented toolbar of options. Sorry, I couldn't resist playing around here a little bit. I suspect most people could manage this software quite well after a bit of exploring.

I did post the above directly from Zoho--it is so easy that in my case I will call it idiotproof!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thing: 16: Wikis

Collaborative, Communitarian, Distributed, Informative, Easy!

At the beginning of 2007, I talked with some of my staff about ideas for the new year. One proposal I offered was the creation of a community wiki focusing on the history of our immediate service area, which is unincorporated but has defined geographical boundaries. We thought we could begin posting titles of books and pamphlets in the library collection that are used when answering local history questions. FAQs and pointers to websites would be added along with some non-copyrighted text passages from other online sources. Questions we could never completely answer, such as "Was there a golf course at XYZ intersection?" would be added, along with replies from community people who can add their knowledge. The wiki content would still be under staff editing control but it would provide information with the solicitation for everyone to "help grow it" collaboratively. And of course we reserve the right to change the process depending on the successes and failures experienced along the way. Ultimately it would be nice envisioning a transformation into a community wiki as described by Meredith Farkas.

In fact this project didn't make it beyond our discussions, but now that more of us have exploredwWikis, I'll revive the idea. Staff who were not involved in the initial conversations BUT who have completed the "23 Things" can participate and support the project now too! And the more help we have, the better we can support updates and maintenance. There is something really gratifying about seeing work product out there on the Internet where others can add, suggest, criticize, discuss--whatever. The project will succeed and I feel energized!

After looking at the wiki products of other public libraries, I am more inspired to do this. The potential to publicize information and help our knowledge base grow is there but as so often happens, other work-related tasks with higher priorities alter plans and expectations.

I have used other St. Joseph's Co PL resources before and they consistently set a high standard in their products. I explored the section on Business,as in the 1980s our Central library had a reputation for being an excellent business information resource and I worked in that area. Their wiki is like a combination of service desk FAQs, recommended reading and pathfinders, only with the advantages of being available 24/7 in or out of the building. That some links lead to live forms or other online tools is efficient! It's the paper based approach converted to live Internet format.

I was already familiar with Chad Boeninger's Biz Wiki at Ohio University from his presentations at "Computers in Libraries" over the past two years. I only wish that I had more occasion to use it OTJ as it's a polished comprehensive and very informative resource.

One basic question still--how do you actually start a wiki--who hosts it and is it free??? Is it as easy as starting a blog.........Apparently so unless I missed some small type at

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thing #15: Web 2.0 and the Future

Thing #15: Libraries 2.0.
Exciting, collaborative, variety, free, challenging in a FUN way.

It's here and now and it ain't going away. And that's good. My wish is that we--the public funded library as an apparatus of county government--could be more instantly responsive in utilizing 2.0 tools, allowing us to capitalize on the opportunities offered by a Libraries 2.0 approach. And I prefer the plural because we are in a sense--all in this one together.

Michael Stephens wrote: "Does it create a useful service for putting users together with the information and experience they seek?" And he goes on to state that libraries need to be quickly responsive and move at the time an opportunity arises, rather than take a traditionalist approach with lengthy project time lines. I could not agree more.

I've accumulated 20 years of experience in libraries, which qualifies me for nothing more than keeping an open mind, learning to adapt, and trying to inspire staff. Technology will change us but it will not push a savvy person out of the picture. At times, I could feel like the blacksmith who watches a new Model T pass his shop, but really libraries are not that one-dimensional. I think we have already let go of notion that all meaningful library-related activity only takes place in the building. Having customers in the building today is icing on a cake and an opportunity, not an end product. Information services takes place very efficiently via e-mail and chat sessions,and that doesn't factor in 2.0 tools. Having the opportunity to work one on one with customers in the building is a time to forputting the best face on having a conversation about what they needed, what they found, and adding a "Did you know about this service?" That last step empowers them to accomplish something library related without having to travel to the building. Talk about encouraging people to "Go green," as in saving fuel! Working in and supporting a Libraries 2.0 framework does not automatically imply creating an impersonal environment.

It is encouraging to read things such as this in the Library 2.0 essays:
Quality customer service is another key to success for our library. Our goal is to make the total customer experience satisfying, pleasurable and resulting in an end-product that meets or exceeds their expectations. Students should always feel welcome.

As a manager, I need not pretend to have all the technological answers--I couldn't do that anyway and besides there is no need. I have the collective knowledge of my staff, who are never short of ideas, and who have in some cases already been using 2.o tools to enhance library experiences for targeted customers. Now I want to turn them loose...

Thing #17: Learning 2.0 SandBox wiki.

This exercise was really fun and I enjoyed all of it, from reading other participant's comments, to creating links after adding my own material. I added a link to my Phil's 2.0 "23 Things" blog at "Favorite Blogs" right underneath one of my staff's links. Nice going Ashley B.! You finished before the manager and your blog looks much more interesting than mine!

I next created a favorite, which you will find under "American Football." It is my testimony to the positive aspects of high school football and why I would rather attend a game on Friday night than watch a pro game in a huge impersonal stadium where everything COST$ big bucks! Here is the link.

Finally, I added a comment to "The War" so I could make a shameless plug for another older but first rate World War II documentary. Which one? Go to where you can still buy it!

I am really hooked on the text based communication and the ease of adding link thanks to the creative code-writers. What I want now is to learn more about adding other cool features to a site.

Thing #21: Podcasts

Useful, lots of training potential, entertaining, express yourself!

I started at, did a search on "public library" and then "public libraries" and found a podcast for teen librarians about use of graphic novels and anime resources. And that is as far as I got. Even after tweaking my firewall, I could not get further than the opening music and 1-2 sentences before everything stopped. I'm working at home so there is a glitch somewhere.

Because we have two PCs, I used the second machine which has an iTunes account installed.
I looked at the iTunes podcast directory and got a good sense of what is available in the many categories.

This is the first techno-challenge, outside of the Meez catastrophe, that has plagued my efforts. However, I can still use a library PC to explore podcasts further

Thing #18: Online Applications & Tools

Our library system uses an open source clone of Microsoft Office called Open Office. While I fully respect the cost savings and distributed nature of that product (it is available on every public PC in our system!), I think it is overly complicated for what most users need to accomplish. Based on my own daily observations, the usual task customers need word processing for is creating a one to three page document or resume that they may or may not save permanently after printing it.

I think linking to an online productivity site that affords saving of documents and is accessible from any Internet linked PC is a better idea. The interface is simpler, but hardly incomplete,and it is less software to maintain on our machines. There are no incompatibility issues, and a student with Internet access can go to school and recover their documents online. That is efficiency.

I won't dwell on the obvious benefits of sharing documents across a group and communal editing. We have tried that over the past year and it works. Ya gotta love this stuff!

See the post for "Thing 18.5" that concludes my first Zoho experience after I created my account.

Thing #19: Web 2.0 Awards

Web 2.0 Awards:
Eye-opening, Smorgasboard, Potential, Useful.

Looking at the variety in the nominees list was in some ways more helpful than reading the list of award winners, some of which were tools used in "23 Things" exercises. Just as interesting was clicking on a link and finding text such as this example:

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. As of November 22, 2007,
Findory has shut down. It was a wonderful experiment building Findory. Information personalization is in our future.

Life on the Internet is not permanent and if there is a fear, it is that I might invest beaucoup time and work to create something personalized, only to return one day and find the above text. That's a legitimate concern, yes?

My Favorite: YELP
Have something positive or negative to say about an experience with alocal business or service? Yelp is where you can go to either praise or bury the restaurant that provided superlative service or cold coffee served by uncaring staff. It is a grassroots review site that affords an opportunity to rave or condemn. Creating an account only requires name, e-mail address, password and zip code. Gender and birthdate are optional. Once you arein, you can be the food critic and more.

I'm a believer in reading posts from other consumers for items I'm considering purchasing. For example comments on the MSN car pages helped me determine that the car I wanted to buy was well constructed, reliable, and powerful enough to keep up on the highway, despite having one of the smallest engines (1.5L). And for over a year, we have been delighted with our Scion xB!

Well, as you can tell, not everyone is 100% sold on the design........

You use Yelp by finding your geographical location by place name, (the default is to the largest nearby city) and then choosing a category from a list ranging from food to financial services to public services and government. Yep--the library could be in there--Howard County locations are listed but as of yet, there are no postings. Yelp has the potential for making every customer a secret shopper.

Once you rule out the whiners or petty complainers, there is useful information that typically will not be available to consumers elsewhere. Of course, you have to build a knowledge base of more than one or two opinions/reviews to make any category useful and from what I found, the Howard County community needs to sign up and contribute.

Yelp was selected as #1 in the "City Guides and Reviews" class and while I'd heard of it and used it previously, this exercise helped me analyze its benefits and shortcomings more closely.

Other sites of note:
Clipmarks: My knowledgable and curious Assistant manager saw this and installed it on selected service desk PCs at work--months ago. A lot of the examples in the left margin ogf their homepage are a bit frivolous but it is a powerful too.

Furl: Find out what others are looking at and utilizing. "Share and save your online discoveries"
Looks like a good way of recording serendipitous "ah ha moments" as you surf.

Omnidrive: I love the idea of online storage sites and this one offers a free gig along with collaborative document editing via Zoho. Other storage options range from $40 to $199.My only concern? See the two italicized lines in the second paragraph.

Guess the Google: Finally for fun, this one was in the games category. You have a few seconds to guess the search term used to retrieve a montage of images relating to a common theme. I got a 264 on my try, flubbing the last two questions. It's a nice brain tease and I didn't end up feeling too stupid!