Durst's blog

Competitive Intelligence

Wow - last entry November 2006? Guess I must not have had a lot to say the past couple of months!

The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence by Leonard M. Fuld is currently on my desk for lunchtime reading - and whenever it slows down at the reference desk. What I've learned so far:
1)Intelligence is an art form
2)Loss of perspective can confuse the information you already have in front of you
3)Intelligence has a short shelf-life
4)You need to escape your desk to see the competitive landscape

And that's just in the first 2 chapters!

Anyway, I'd highly recommend this book if you've any interest at all in the CI field or if you just want to get a better idea of how many businesses are trying to think.

I do find myself wondering how CI would apply in the library world. We can see that changes are happening, but are we reacting in such a way as to keep us and our services on the "competitive edge?"

Dang computers

Happy bleepin' Thanksgiving Charlie Brown! Yup - that's about what I felt like when my computer died last week. Oh, we've purchased a new one and are still waiting to get the data off of the old one. If it's not one thing, it's another. Drop a bundle of cash on the car, drop another bundle on the furnace, drop another on the computer. It never ends!

(Sigh) Well, enough of the venting. I DID get a cool new silver keyboard out of the deal. That's actually pretty neat! It also got me thinking about how I DON'T currently have a decent back-up plan for my home files. Living on the edge finally caught up with me. I back my computer up every other week at work. Why not at home?

ooh - totally unrelated but definitely library stuff: I trialled Euromonitor's Global Marketing Information Database product this month. LOVE IT! Don't have the $$ for it, but LOVE IT!

Public library vs. academic library - a child's view

"Mom, can I use my library card?"

"Yes, you can use your library card. That's why we got it for you."

"No, Mom (exasperation because Mom is so dense). Can I use my library card to check out books?"

"Yes! I'll take you to the library after school this week and you can check out whatever appeals to you."

"NO! MOM! Can I USE my CARD to check out BOOKS where you WORK?"

"Oh! Well, actually, honey...no, you can't. But I can use my library card to check them out for you. Is there something in particular you wanted?"

"No. Well, yeah. I wanted to use MY card."


Solution in search of a problem?

I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of the "bleeding edge" when it comes to knowing about emerging technologies and what they can do. Even better, I'd like to be able to adopt some of those technologies and really see if they are as useful as some proclaim.

Take the blog, for instance. This community here I think realizes the potential and need for information sharing. I use LISNEWS for some current awareness in the profession, and I get to blab here on my journal, but I'd like to experiment on a more educational bent with either a blog or wiki. Unfortunately, the prevailing thought I am encountering is that these two tools are "a solution in search of a problem" in terms of presenting library-related information to students.

Please, I'd really appreciate some feedback of both successful and unsuccessful attempts at using either blogs or wikis in an educational setting - it makes no difference at this point what the subject matter is.

Life as a series of song snippets - part II, III?

I think I've said before that my life is really just a series of song snippets. Here lately, groups like The Killers, Blue October, Hinder and others of their ilk are speaking to me.

Well, with the proliferation of YouTube and the ability of some really creative people to make their own videos with clips of movies added to songs, I've just about done in my poor cable modem watching vids of Phantom of the Opera!

Of course, the original musical by Weber is tres fabu, and I've seen it twice in person. But the film adaption was exquisitely done and makes me cry every time I watch it. (yeah, I had to buy it)

Anyway, here's one version of Phantom done to a song by Ben Jelen (oy! could we have another Dr. Scholl's reference please?) and I never would have guessed I liked it.


It's amazing how time flies when you're busy!

Hello again. It's been awhile - almost 3 months in fact, since I last posted here. I didn't realize how long I'd been away until a friend who DOESN'T read blogs told me she'd been to mine and found it hadn't been updated.

GASP! This semester has been flying by. New faculty have challenged me to learn about marketing research. New students have challenged me to find refereed articles on RNA viruses (oh yes, even had one that was interested in ebola).

Volunteered to be on the Christmas committee. Small committees are much easier to work with, don't you think?

I'm pursuing an interest in taxonomies - primarily in deploying them as part of an enterprise-wide content management system or portal solution. I love trying to find the relationships between the words and the concepts. There are some really great resources out there and I appreciate being in a place that lets me explore all the avenues of librarianship.

Why am I appalled?

It's Monday. I'm reading a report - maybe you've heard of it - The 2006 Horizon Report. It's a collaborative report put together by the New Media Consortium and Educause Learning Initiative. My job: distill 32 pages into a precis of 3 minutes.

I'm several pages into this thing now, and one of the front-runners in new technologies for academe is social computing. Well, it's come into its own. Probably everyone in LISNEWS land knew that in some fashion. One of the biggest "trends" within this social computing phenomenon is the creation of the folksonomies. I know there's been discussion of this here before. But I want to know one thing:

What happens to the issue of AUTHORITY when one is doing research using RSS feeds rather than academic sources like Gale's Encyclopedia of Genetics or the journals of the American Society of Civil Engineers? What criteria does one use to gauge the veracity of the information in a social computing setting? (OK - that's more than one thing)

I don't want to be a staid, stodgy person that can't learn anything else new. I do see value in the social computing/social networking. Heck, that's the primary way I earned my degree! But I think it's going to take some heavy-duty "experience" to convince me that authority isn't necessary. How do I meet students "where they are" and still convey the basic tenets of information literacy?

Always questioning, Durst

At long last...

After 3+ months, we have succeeded in revamping the user interface for our website. YEA!!! HOpefully, this will be a boon for our clientele. Early comments have been positive. Then again, we've only been "live" for 2 days! :-)

In other news, my interest in taxonomies has been reinvigorated for no reason whatsoever. I've gotten half-way through Hostile Takeover by David Sirota. This one is going faster than usual - mainly because I know all the cruddy stuff - I want to see what he proposes as solutions.

Oh, and we got a new dog. I don't know that we NEEDED a new dog. Not in the way you need new shoes or a new haircut. The old dog has been dead for several years. It just seemed like the right time to get one. And who can resist a fine Irish name like Devan anyway? :-)

Cheerio, D.

Time to get back in the groove

I can't believe it's been almost 2 months since last I wrote here in LISNEWZTER-land. Web design - even just layout - takes a lot of concentration! But 'tis all worthwhile. Our usability studies reflect we are headed in the right direction. This is much-needed validation.

We are now solidly in the throes of summer sessions. At least one colleague will be going to ALA.

I am disturbed to see more instances of information security breaches in our federal government. First the VA and now the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration. Unfortunately, the theft of social security numbers and corresponding personal information was not reported for 9 months! The affected personnel had not been notified either.

Why do I care? What does it have to do with libraries? I have a soft spot for gov't agencies and as someone who has a foot in the world of IT, I care about issues like privacy, identity theft, information security, etc.

Finally, we have a new Domestic Policy Advisor, (see the story here), who seems to personify "equal opportunity hatred." But, "he's got a great intellect." oy vey!

My $0.02, Durst

EGAD! Durst didn't make it to Minneapolis

Yes, the satirist made it. The fan(atic) didn't. You know how life just kind of creeps up on you when you least expect it? Easter weekend, that's what happened. Here I was, all ready to plunk down whatever amount of moola it would take to get tix, have a meal, and get a hotel room.

What happens? Catastrophic car failure. One can not go a constant velocity without a constant velocity joint. Actually, you need two of them.

It's fixed now, but that doesn't really soothe my psyche. Well, maybe next year.

President of Poland Lecture

I had one of the most amazing opportunities! I got to hear the first democratically elected president of Poland speak to a crowd of several hundred people. He may have been Time Magazine's 1982 Man of the Year, but to listen to him (via an interpreter) one would think you were having coffee with your grandfather at the dining room table.

Lech Walensa, this former electrician from Gadansk, received a standing ovation reception before he even started to speak. He began with a small history lesson, and to show how much I paid attention in World Civ., I never knew Poland didn't exist on world maps for 120 years. He said that when Communism came to Poland, the country tried to tell other world leaders that this system would not endure. "And then we were granted a gift from Heaven. The Vatican elected a Polish Pope!" Oh, how the audience chortled!

He told of how 90% of the world's wealth is held by 10% of its population and of how he watched the U.S. presidential elections and was sure we would have two presidents at the same time! Presidential job-sharing...what a concept. He also stated what many of us already know: the Chinese are starved for democracy. As recently as 25 years ago, the U.S. provided hope to the rest of the world that they, too, could have democracy...could have democratic elections and representatives. One cannot provide hope when keeping the rest of the world in order.

When asked if he ever had any doubts about the outcome of the Solidarity movement he said "a leader cannot have doubts. I KNEW we had a chance." What the Polish people didn't count on was economic implosion as a result of bringing down the communist rule in their country.

Now, in an age of globalization, President Walesa said territories need larger organizational structures. He cited the European Union as one such structure to keep an eye on. "First we have the United States of AMerica, then we will see the United States of Europe. LAter we may have the United States of Asia....everyone is going to need to adopt a global approach to ecology." And again, the crowd erupted with applause. These are things we know have to happen but haven't any idea how to get from here to there. He did say there should be some aspects of life that are not globalized...his wife was on that list! :-)

He attributed much of his and his country's success to his faith and had no end of praise for Pope John Paul II, with whom he had a great friendship. He called on everyone to participate in their governance because everyone matters. Toward the end, and I will remember this statement always, he said, "When fighting is no longer profitable, what matters then is the business." The transactions - the relationships - between countries, companies, individuals...those are sustainable.

CIL2006 Wrap -up

Library 1.0 vs. Library 2.0 (and Web 2.0, etc) Basically this is the "geek-i-fied" OLD vs. NEW so, what's in and what's out?

IN: the concept of "Radical Trust", OUT: Tinfoil Hats
IN: Multiplayer Blogs, OUT: Whogivesacrap.net
IN: Free Mobile TV (Korea), OUT: RAZR

Other concepts to seriously consider are the effects of SOCIAL NETWORKING in terms of the amount of people "gathering" in sites like MySpace and Facebook. On the other hand, after discussion with some colleagues, evaluate whether there is an adequate ROI for libraries being "in that space." When students are in a SOCIAL atmosphere like that, are they really "IN THE MARKET" for library services at that time? How will we know if we are successful in that venue?

ACCEPT IT: We cannot compete with Google!

IN: Cambria - New font, optimized for small touch screens for the mobile computing world, OUT: Times New Roman

Digital Preservation- I really felt like some of this was more of a sales pitch than an accounting of what some of the hurdles are and how you select for preservation.

Delivering Individualized Library Content via Campus Portal - This was a VERY INFORMATIVE presentation and very timely in the sense that we are currently awaiting the announcement of a campus-wide portal solution. KEY POINT: The library has fully 50% (or more) of the information available on campus. Avoid "empty portal syndrome" and make sure the library (ies) get full representation on the implementation team. Create your own channels and work with IT to ensure the library is using the portal to its fullest advantage.

Bottom-line: If you have the means, attend next year's CIL2007 in DC. The programming is fantastic, there truly is something for everyone in the library world (however you define its scope), and there's just something about being in the capital city.Respectfully reported, Durst

Day 2 - Lots of Learning at CIL2006

One of the themes I've noticed over the past two days is that of learning: - collaborative learning, e-learning, virtual learning, distance education, life-long learning. Surprisingly, it's not all focused on students or patrons, but rather, how do we (librarians) learn? What does it take for us to "keep up with technology?" Who do we go to for assistance? Moreover, are we all GOOD TEACHERS?

Companies like WebJunction are providing learning communities for librarians (specifically in Washington State, but thinking nationally) that meets librarians "where they live." In fact, one of the phrases I heard most often was "point of need." So, the mission of continuing education becomes not just learning something new, but learning something relevant, making it personal, and delivering it in such a context that the knowledge becomes intimately connected with what one does on a regular basis.

I think of my LEEP experience at UIUC and find that the "blended learning" phenomenon is not so new. The way people are talking about it might be. And there are challenges to pulling off a successful blended learning environment.

  • creation of instructional materials
  • managing roles and responsibilities of students and instructor
  • meeting learner expectations
  • controlling costs and controlling time

In an online environment, you can't just wing it.

Whether learning is "blended" with a combination of distance ed. technology and face-to-face interactions or strictly e-based, instructors cannot assume that everyone is at the same comfort level with the technology being used. As Missy Harvey of Carnegie Mellon said, "Be organized and communicate with your students. Respect your students and never be condescending."

Actually, that sounds like pretty good advice in general.

I am positive there are some things that just shouldn't be repeated in their entirety, so I will paraphrase something that was said at the Dead Technology session on Wednesday night.

If I remember the context correctly, the speaker was commenting on some librarians' reluctance to adopt new technologies in favor of whining about what they were going to do to maintain relevance. (Other attendees, please feel free to correct me) The statement was (moderately paraphrased) "take the free corkscrew from your hotel room and pull the pickle out of your [orifice]"

I know the intimation was for drastic effect and it must have worked because I CANNOT get that phrase out of my head!!! Along those same lines, here is a definition of END-USER ABUSE:
having to search 450 databases sequentially

What are we doing to make the experience better?--Durst

CIL2006 - Day 1 Momentous occasions of levity

First of all, there are lots of attendees here that are blogging this conference or at the very least blogging while they are attending the conference. A subtle, yet very important difference. If you are interested in what others are saying, check out the Information Today blog site or the CIL2006 wiki.

Search Engine Report by Chris Sherman (of Invisible Web fame) momentous levity: Threats to privacy and individual liberties are happening in the U.S., while ironically, China's information space is opening up. I don't really think this is funny in any ha-ha sense, but it does really focus our attention on the ironies of our own situations as well as the global perspective we have to take in how we provide services to our users. The other momentous levity I found in this presentation (mind you I had not had my fill of java yet) was the idea that Google is no longer king of search, but rather a "print and radio advertising company." And all the while the voice of Obi-wan Kenobi was whispering in my ear, "Durst, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly upon our own
point of view."

WIKIS!!!By far, this was the most useful and relevant session for me today. I must pay homage to the business reference librarian at Ohio University, Chad Boeninger. You can find his photo here at the Ohio U. library research guides index if you click on the BizWiki link.

What got my attention was how he used the wiki to compile all of his business-related subject guides together and managed to lose the redundancies!!! HOW INCREDIBLY COOL IS THAT?!?! I even like his organizational style. No more handouts for instruction, it's adaptable in scope, and content can be created on the fly. In fact, I can see using this to integrate Business Ethics resources across the Business College curriculum rather than singling them out. First year experience programs? BRING THEM ON WITH WIKI for threaded discussions and multidisciplinary campus collaboration. (E and E, are you getting this?)

Momentous levity for this session: the realization that no matter what format in which you create content, no matter how easy it is to do it, once it's populated you still have to maintain it. Be careful what you wish for...

Time for sustenance, brb, --Durst

Momentous decadence: NY-style cheesecake at 11:00PM with strawberry sauce. Sometimes one just has to succumb to temptation.

Federated Search Lessons Learned - three examples here, two of which were pretty gung-ho supporters of the technology, one which still finds it a bit difficult to deal with. What gets me is that the usability studies done in each case provide such clear evidence of users actually demonstrating the "principle of least effort" in their search strategies. In using a federated/meta search technology, university students felt their searches were more successful. Even supposed "advanced searchers" like the federated search better than database-specific search interfaces. All I could say was, "DANG!"

Dubious momentous levity: the advanced search feature was made available but the people that use it are librarians! The students and faculty don't even touch it. Moving forward with this technology - in essence trying to be more like Google - seems in direct conflict with the earlier presentation today citing the search giant as nothing more than a print and t.v. advertising company.

I once read - and I forget where - that the key to getting better search results was NOT creating better search engines, but rather getting the users to create better searches. I fail to see how federated search, popular as it might be, moves us toward that goal of creating better searches. I also found it slightly amusing that searchers are disappointed to find federated searching is not as speedy as Google, yet fail to listen to the explanation. It seems, just like faster computers, it doesn't matter how fast it goes, you always want it to go faster.

Next edition: Cool Tools for web masters and I SWEAR there was something mentioned about corkscrews...

CIL2006 - Web Manager's Academy Workshop

How do you take your website to the next level? That's what I and many others were here to find out in today's Web Manager's Academy workshop. First, our illustrious presenters: Frank Cervone (Northwestern U), Jeff Wisniewski (U of Pitt), Marshall Breeding (Vanderbilt U), and Darlene Fichter(U of Saskatchewan). All did a terrific job (IMHO) of taking a complicated topic and breaking it down into understandable (and by association, do-able) chunks.

The big thing in library website design/functionality seems to be database-driven applications. Sites that do more than present static content are more effective (if done correctly) at presenting information. If I understand the connection correctly, providing a database-driven site within a content management system is the favored flavor. One need not be an expert to get started. However, to paraphrase Mr. Breeding, "Learning scripting and programming languages will pay big dividends in the long run."

We discussed open source solutions as well as commercial applications. In terms of content management, especially in the case of multiple web authors, using a CMS was considered a "no brainer." Pros were support for versioning/rollback (in case somebody hoses up a page or deletes something they didn't mean to), the ability to control permissions, operate with standards and templates, and elimination of any publishing bottlenecks. For a control freak like myself, it gives me the willies.

Designing with web standards including W3C-compliant code and CSS - I think my team is doing this pretty well. I added a task to my TO-DO list because of this part of the course. I'll need to go through my web logs and determine which browsers are being used to access the site. It could be that we can do some things differently. If nothing else, this section confirmed my thinking that we should be trying to move to CSS positioning/layouts in addition to using CSS for "styling." A couple of resources that were referenced: Glish.com and The Layout Reservoir.

Throughout today's workshop, the theme of "mythbusting" was very evident. In terms of CSS, the reality is that you don't have to learn a whole new "language". Layouts and style sheets are "free for the taking" at several sites other than the ones I mentioned above. Using CSS doesn't mean being boring. If anything, it means being able to provide access to your site for users with differing capabilties - desktops to cell phones. (Why someone would want to search a full-text database with a cell phone is a bit beyond me...)MOVING ON

We also explored search visualization tools - engines that cluster search results for greater understanding by the user. Two of these are Endeca and Aquabrowser (I'll provide links later). Some of you may have seen the announcement of EBSCO's visual search tool last week. It is apparently using some of the same technology as the Aquabrowser product.

User surveys have demonstrated that students and faculty don't like having to use/learn multiple search interfaces - one of the reasons Google Scholar is becoming so popular. What many of the new tools do is take silos of information and illustrate the "complex relationships in interdisciplinary fields" for the searcher.

SO, "because people aren't going to get religion and search the way we would like them to," we (librarians, info scientists, etc) need to give them tools to make their search strategies more effective. Hence, federated search, openURL resolvers, and visualization. If you'd like a tool to play with and are a person who prides himself on your grasp of the English language, you might have fun with VisualThesaurus.com.

Finally, we discussed usability and what some of the latest research in the field has uncovered. Contrary to what I thought, usability aspects are considered guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. So following conventions is a good idea; being ordinary is considered a good thing. DESIGNING FOR YOUR AUDIENCE is paramount. What was disturbing to me (and I should have realized this after reading "Ambient Findability") was that credibility of a website is not based on the ethos of WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE rather, users evaluate a site's credibility base on DESIGN LOOK! *Look of incredulity*

So, those who advocate "content is king" may not be getting the traffic they desire if their site doesn't convey credibility to the user. Huh.

Well, those are the highlights from my perspective. There are other blogs over at the Information Today site. Stay tuned...--Durst

St. Patrick's Jokes - not library related

Oh come on! Join in the fun, break out yer brogue, will-o'the-wisp, and shillelagh and post yer favorite Celtic cleverness here!

Like this:
What's green all over and stays out all night?

A: Paddy O'Furniture

To all at LISNEWS: "As you slide down the bannister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way and may the newell post always be flush." --Anon. Irish Blessing

Erin Go Bragh! --Durst

More Awards and a New Blog

I did sit and watch the Academy Awards last week for one reason: the host. I thought Jon Stewart, besides being incredibly funny, did an admirable job of NOT ragging on the Administration at every opportunity. On the other hand, my favorite satirist Will Durst has once again published his Thank God I'm a Comic Awards.

And in another vein, if you are interested in economics, I ran across a rather new blog called Economic Trends. It seems to be a nice collaboration and addresses issues of economics, law, and policy as they relate to economic growth. Well-reasoned discourse.

Durst Goes to Minneapolis?

OH! YES! My favorite satirist Will Durst not only writes for Working for Change but is going to be performing in Minneapolis in April!

Will Durst (ha, not-so-punny) get to travel to the big city?

What sorts of topics will be covered during the performance?

Is the price of tickets even affordable?

Tune in to next week's episode when Durst proclaims, "EGAD!"

Tuning In

It's been awhile since I've visited Slacker Manager, so I decided to stop by there today and catch up. I found this post Management Hack: that really made me think about how I interact with others.

He's spot-on about a lot of things: 1)we have trained ourselves to multi-task because that's what is required in most of our waking hours. 2)taking time to really pay attention to what someone is actually saying allows us to slow down and "be" in the presence of that person. 3)one has to consciously practice "paying attention" or focusing.

He uses the analogy of the old dial radio tuners...and I can remember having a shortwave radio in the mid-80's that was powerful enough on cloudy days to grab music from the Carribean even though I was in the middle of the U.S. So what? What does any of this have to do with libraries or librarians and what we do all day?

I think that there is so much "static" out there in the world that we are (or should be) the "tuners" or the "dials" for our constituents. But I also think many of our clients don't quite know how to "turn us on"...to continue with the analogy. If we practice this active listening and employ it as a tool ... I was trying to make a connection to information literacy, but don't seem to be doing a very good job of it.

If anyone else has an inkling of how to make that leap, feel free to chime in here. Please! (Apparently, I need to practice listening to myself :-)

I know it's an accident...

...growing up around hunters in the family, I know these things happen. Perhaps hunting ought to be viewed through the same lens as driver's licenses for the elderly? At what point (and I don't want to debate the "gun control issue") does it become too dangerous for a hunter to hunt? Is it when he shoots one of his comrades, detaches one of his own digits?

Granted, the analogy of elderly driving vs. elderly hunting crumbles when one starts talking about the "necessity" of transportation vs. hunting for sport. What to do, what to do...

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