Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels

Indeed, you might ask, what did I most enjoy while doing the 23 Things? It was fun looking at the blogs of the fine folks at PBCL. They often gave insight into the interests, hobbies, and pets of coworkers.

I'm glad I took another look at YouTube. It puts some good stuff right at your fingertips. Without it, I never would have had the chance to hear that British salesman/opera singer in his stunning tv debut. I like Bloglines, and plan to take another look at Delicious. While trying the various tools I came across a lot of serendipitous fun.

Overall, working through the 23 Things gave me the confidence and motivation to learn a bit about what everyone else (under fifty) is doing on the internet. Completing it took more time than I expected, certainly more than 60-90 minutes a week, but I'm glad I had that opportunity. Would I participate in another such program in the future? You betcha.

With so very much available online, and with so many new ways to access it, are we in danger of becoming a world of bloated, content-sucking blobs? (There are those who would say I'm close to that goal even now.) Will there be anyone left to generate content, or manufacture computers, or keep us fed??? Stay tuned, or better yet, back away from the computer and cook dinner.

Counting Our Blessings, with a Wimper, not a Bang

I've had several "lessons" in using OverDrive. Fortunately I have early-onset Alzheimer's, so I was still able to view this exercise as someone new to the process. Like most people, after creating an account I ignored the help screens and checked out a book. Next I downloaded it without too much trouble. Then I tried to play it on Media Player 11.0, without success. Then I thought, oh yeah, maybe I need something from OverDrive. Downloaded it. Still no success. And the error screens weren't that helpful. Finally, oh yean, that update for license management. Bingo! Success in downloading Jon Stewart's America. If I get up the nerve, I will try to download it to my mp3 player, which came with 45 pages of instructions, about one page per dollar I spent on it.

Actually, the Help screen, Help videos, etc. seemed useful once I looked at them. But who has that kind of time?

I searched for some audiobooks as a test. Author searches for Ruby Mae Brown, Andrew Holleran, Edmund White, Proust, Annie Proulx, Alan Hollinghurst, and E. Lynn Harris yielded zero hits. After several keyword searches yielded equally poor results I did some checking, and found that there are fewer than 700 titles in our library's audiobook collection! But, before getting all huffy I did some checking on and found that lots and lots of books are not readily available in an audio format. At least we have one audiobook by Ray Bradbury, and one by Kurt Vonnegut.

I think our downloadable audio collection is best considered as a browsing collection. In browsing the nonfiction I came across Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present, by Cynthia Stokes Brown. I listened to the excerpt (which was too short) and read the synopsis ("An epic history of human civilization and of the universe that we inhabit, stretching back to the limits of what is scientifically knowable."). I might enjoy listening to this book as a relatively painless way to update my knowledge on this subject.

Casting a Broad Net

I used Podcast Alley to look at some podcasts. Doing a search for "librarian" I ran across several, one of which, The Mr. Nice Guy Show, featured a radio personality turned reference librarian. His topics were mainly pop culture and news of the day, his approach a bit corny. Still, I did learn more about platypi than I ever expected. I subscribed to this weekly podcast on my Bloglines page, though don't expect that I'll listen to a whole lot of his shows.

It actually took me several days to remember my Bloglines password, but when I finally got to my page, I was pleased to see lots of new episodes of Fresh Air (on NPR) that I could listen to. Now if I could only teach the radio in my car to automatically archive these, so they would be ready whenever I want to listen to them...... But then I guess that's why God created mp3 players.

I also tried the suggestion of doing a search for a topic (in my case, using Google) adding the word "podcast". That yielded an interesting podcast on legal issues related to regulating offensive behavior by patrons. It was produced by a lawyer turned librarian turned library law consultant, so should be fairly authoritative. We as librarians tend to avoid dealing with offensive or illegal behavior by patrons because we aren't sure what our policies are, whether they are legally enforceable, and whether we will be supported by administration when the DVD thief or the urine-soaked patron complains to a higher authority.

In looking at what other libraries have done with podcasts, I saw that some are quite tech-savvy. The Kankakee Public Library has many podcasts available on their web site, with options for subscribing and for immediate listening to a streaming version. (Incidentally, many of the podcast sites I looked at made it easy to subscribe, but not so easy to just listen to one or more podcasts.) KPL has featured some well known authors and public figures, so I think their podcasts would have some lasting value.

The Denver Public Library offers podcasts of storytimes for children. I listened to small parts of several and found the quality of the narration to vary a bit. Without the presence of the story teller, children might lose interest unless the narrator is fairly skilled. Still, it's not a bad idea. My fourth grade teacher read A Wrinkle in Time to us, and I would be happy to hear that again while on a road trip.

In checking out the Library of Congress podcast site, I found some of author talks at the annual National Book Festival. Take a look at this utterly charming, witty webcast of Alexander McCall Smith from 2006.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Series of Tubes

When I first became aware of YouTube, I thought (with my usual lack of imagination), why on earth would people post their home movies, or watch videos of other people's vacations?

But, of course, YouTube is kind of cool. Many videos are rather well done. Some are amusing, poignant, or educational.

I'm surprised at how many clips from classic tv programs are available. If you want to relive the magic moment when Keith Olbermann made Ann Coulter a new one, there it is on YouTube. If you aren't sure if the Chuckles the Clown episode of Mary Tyler Moore was as funny as you remember, yes, it was.

Linking to a video on YouTube can be a useful addition to one's web site or blog. I noticed on the PBCL web an imbedded video from YouTube on how to use the self-serve checkout service. That was clever, and I can see many similar uses. I bet there are patron service videos available too, as well as examples of "the patron from Heck".

While trying some searches, I came across a music clip from 1975. I had never seen this performance of The Way We Were.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lots of noodles

I spent some time looking through winners of the Web 2.0 Awards. Overall it was a bit disappointing. I enjoyed looking through the widgets, but didn't find any that really grabbed me.

My favorite site is I've used Craigslist a fair amount, and oodle is similar in listing classified advertisements for jobs, pets, cars, etc. The interface is easy to use. Since I had never heard of oodle, I assumed it would not have many listings. However, it collects listings from other web sites to expand its reach. For example, a search for pets pulled listings from the Palm Beach Post as well as some breed rescue organizations. A search for a riding lawn mower pulled an item being auctioned on ebay. There were thousands of personal ads pulled from various sites I was not familiar with. I don't have any idea how effective oodle is at aggregating these listings from other sites, but it's a nice idea.

I don't see many library applications for this site. Sometimes patrons ask for suggestions for web sites for finding employment, romance, etc. would be a site I could recommend.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Zulu Rider

I think Zoho Writer is a bit quirky.  I chose a font size and color several times, but my choices were "lost" when I started typing.  Did I wait too long?  There are disturbing flashes of tool bar buttons while I'm typing.  What's with that?  And I don't get capital letters in my document unless I hold the shift key down for a couple seconds before I type the letter that I want capitalized.  This may be a function of our wireless connection, which is kind of slow and weak.


Still, the Zoho suite of tools seems quite useful, and you can't beat the price.  I wonder if Zoho or similar tools were online back before we had Microsoft Office on our public computers.  It could have helped some patrons, I believe.  My laptop is not connected to a printer, so I can't test whether this document, when printed, would have a web address printed at the bottom, which is typical of web-generated prints.


I'm going to explore Zoho notebook a bit also.  Years ago I tried some software that allowed one to keep a kind of free-form database on the fly.  I could highlight anything on a web page that I wanted to save and with one click zap it into the database.  The database was keyword searchable.  This was an easy way to keep little scraps of information that I might want to reference later. cool   Will Notebook be as convenient?


Well, it's time to see if I can publish this Zoho document to my blog.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Sandbox, not just for kids any more

The PBCLS wiki is kind of fun. I enjoyed seeing fellow employees write about favored movies, books, and restaurants. I added my blog to the Favorite Blog list, though I was appropriately chagrined at my hubris in doing so.
Also contributed to a couple lists of favorites, most notably Favorite Mangos. In doing so, I found someone working at another branch who shares my affection for the king of fruits. Sadly she was unable to accept my posted offer of a free mango tree.