Summer Series

Interested in an Internship at Library of Congress This Summer?

Here's an opportunity for talented college-age students headed for the field of LIS:

This summer the Library of Congress once again is offering special 10-week paid internships to college students. For a stipend of $3,000, the 2011 class of Junior Fellows Summer Interns will work full-time from May 29 through Aug. 3, 2012, with Library specialists and curators to inventory, describe and explore collection holdings and to assist with digital-preservation outreach activities throughout the Library.

In addition to the stipend (paid in bi-weekly segments), interns will be eligible to take part in programs offered at the Library. Applications will be accepted online only at usajobs.gov , keyword: 308129000, from Friday, Jan. 27 through midnight, Monday, Feb. 27. For more details about the program and information on how to apply, visit www.loc.gov/hr/jrfellows/. Questions about the program may be sent to interns2012@loc.gov.

The Library of Congress is an equal-opportunity employer. Women, minorities and persons with disabilities who meet eligibility requirements are strongly encouraged to apply. [ed. note: not positive about transgendered individuals, see previous story on LISNews.] -- Read More

Back to Basics in Columbus Ohio

Readers of all ages will dig out their red capes at the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library as they dive into adventure during this year's summer reading program, "Be a Hero -- Read."

From easy-to-master magic to teen gaming and turtles, children will find a litany of fun activities to help them get excited about reading.
Just look around the library -- Captain Read is everywhere.

Kris Hickey, the Whitehall branch children's manager, said this year's summer reading program is going back to its roots and focusing solely on reading. "We've just gone back to the literacy part of it," she said, "and this is a very literacy-based program."

No longer can participants earn credit for playing an online activity or attending one of the branch's many programs. What they will get credit for, though, is tackling a good book.

"I think as an organization, we decided literacy is really our main focus," said Hickey. "We look at getting everyone to read, then we work at keeping them focused and interested so they are ready for the next level when school starts."

More from Columbus Local News.

The Desk Setup: A Look At Librarian Computers

The Desk Setup

Like many technologists, I may have had some vague notion that librarians had something to contribute to discussions about information and metadata and standards and access, but my concept of what librarians did and what they knew probably had more to do with stereotypes and anecdote than on an understanding of reality. Which is a shame. Although in the last few years I think we’ve done a really good job of making clearer connections between libraries and technology, I don’t think anyone is surprised when librarians are omitted from discussions about and between prominent technologists, such as the one facilitated by the Setup. (Note: by “librarians” I mean anyone who works in, with, or for libraries. Hat tip to Eli Neiburger for saying what I’d been thinking, only less clearly, for some time before he said those words out loud.)

LISNews Summer Series Book

When the LISNews Summer Series started, it was stated that the essays would be collected in book form. After an interesting variety of technical problems, that has now happened.

The book is available in print form at cost here. While a downloadable version is also available via Lulu, it is priced with purpose. The digital version via Lulu sends a portion of the price back to Erie Looking Productions to put towards equipment repairs & replacement. The preference is to get out in the world the print version that is available at cost as we prefer print holdings.

The text has also been lodged with The Internet Archive and E-LIS.

BookMatch

An Essay of the LISNews Summer Series

Ok, I didn’t plan on writing about BookMatch for LISNews. It isn’t very philosophically inspiring or technically amazing. However, it is a patron pleaser and service that any public library can implement in one form or another and enhances participants “Library Experience.” So, the question I kept asking myself when considering what to write was, “should I present an interesting but quickly forgotten bit of library philosophy or should I explain and walk through a well loved service?” The latter is what I would prefer to read.

BookMatch is the Skokie Public Library bringing readers advisory online.

The Mechanics

BookMatch is put together by using SurveyMonkey, Wikispaces, and a Microsoft Word form. This process is in continuous flux as questions are rewritten, deleted, or added.

SurveyMonkey was used because of familiarity with the product and the ease of customization. More importantly SurveyMonkey provides the option of form logic, which is a pain to code… I hear. The BookMatch survey has nine paths depending on a patron’s answer to questions. For example, “Do you read romances?” The answer yes takes the patron to questions about romance and answering no skips that section. “Do you read fiction only or fiction and nonfiction or nonfiction only?” This question offers three different question paths. Form logic avoids patrons having to answer or even look at questions that do not apply to their reading tastes, essential if you do not want strictly nonfiction readers being faced with questions about Sword and Sorcery tastes.

Once the survey is received, it is transferred to a private wiki hosted by Wikispaces. A link to the survey and the date it was received is added to the Surveys Awaiting Response page. It is then reviewed by around twenty-five reader advisors with wildly divergent reading tastes. Suggested items are added to the discussion area of the wiki. Each suggestion entry has the title of the book, author, call number and a review/summary usually from a professional journal such as Booklist or the Library Journal.

Once the twenty to twenty-five titles have been suggested, the manager of that particular BookMatch adds them to a Microsoft Word form. The form is turned in to a PDF using an open source Word to PDF converter and emailed/mailed/left at a desk for the patron. The link on the wiki is then transferred to the completed area.

Training the reader services staff to work with the wiki and the Microsoft form took a little time. Interestingly enough, suggesting books, the most important and arguably most difficult aspect of working on a BookMatch, caused almost no issues. Suggesting titles has been universally agreed to be fun. An added benefit to using a wiki is that the entire RS staff is now more than proficient in using wikis. This will make implementing other projects that call for online collaboration through wikis easier to implement.

Without advertising, programs such BookMatch would wither on the vine. We used the traditional public library advertising methods. It was announced on the front page of the website and described in the quarterly update. We have placed Moo Cards at the reader services desk with a short description and the URL.

Value

Patrons of all ages love this service. It has been surprising to us how many teens and college age patrons have submitted surveys. Here are a few quotes excerpted from emails sent to Ricki Nordmeyer (the brains behind BookMatch).

“I LOVE my BookMatch list. I used to have a hard time finding books, and it is so helpful.”
“I LOVE LOVE LOVE the BookMatch service. I have found new authors that I probably wouldn't have found.”
“I am a huge fan of the service you provide through BookMatch. Finding a good read has been a challenge for me. I enjoy reading, yet couldn't find the right books for me. While the survey was rather thorough, it was simple to complete.”

An added benefit is that it has made the entire RS department better at their jobs. If a patron comes to the desk and tells me they like Jodi Picoult and Stephanie Meyer (two authors I have never read) I can use previous BookMatches to easily suggest other authors.

So BookMatch is beloved by patrons and makes our RS staff stronger at suggesting books, what is not to love about it? -- Read More

Using Splash Pages

An Essay of the LISNews Summer Series

The Library Experience, including events, is gaining in importance as content becomes ubiquitous. Word of mouth and posters in the library will only take us so far, especially for one time event/programs. A little over a year ago I decided to try something new and exciting to advertise programs online at the small Franklin Park Public Library, IL (my employer at the time).

Advertisements for upcoming programs/events on public library websites usually consist of a title, a short description, and maybe a small image. In the flashy, colorful World Wide Web these advertisements are easily overlooked or ignored in the few seconds that the patron spends on the front page of a library website. This is even more true if learning about library programs isn’t the original goal of the visit to the website. In fact, the experiment that originated this blog post came about solely because of the use of Google Analytics website analytic service. I discovered that a large portion of the visits to the Franklin Park Public Library website consisted of only viewing the front page (79%) and lasted less than 10 seconds (82%). These statistics are fairly standard among public libraries according to the data I was provided by the some of the wonderful librarians of the Web4lib listserv.

The statistics gathered from Google Analytics may be caused by public libraries increasingly becoming the physical gateway to the internet for many patrons with a quick stop at the homepage of the browsers, usually the library’s front page. Another potential reason to help explain these statistics is that patrons are briefly using the library’s front page as a portal to the OPAC and databases. So we have a captive audience coming to the library website and then moving on. How many for profit agencies would kill to have the same opportunity? However the usage statistics are generated, it does quickly bring two glaring truths to the forefront. Library websites have a relatively large local audience and also a very short time span to catch a website user’s eye. So the question I wanted to answer was how to convert these website visitors to library program participants? I decided to try splash pages. I had not heard of, read about, or found any libraries that were using splash pages to market their events/programs, yet I continuously came across them in for-profit websites. I also hoped making them would be fun.

Splash Pages
A splash page is an introductory webpage specifically designed to quickly grab a visitor’s attention. It usually does not conform to the parental structure of the website. It can have a different color scheme, menu structure, content division, header, footer, and anything and everything else. For-profit website splash pages are used as prime real estate for advertising.

I needed my splash pages to be eye catching, designed for a single purpose, and load quickly in order to entice the patron in to reading about the program/event. In order to keep the splash pages fresh, it was important not to leave one up for longer than a week and to use the technique only once a month. It was also important to have a clear and easily found link to the library’s normal frontpage.

The Experiment (click links to see screenshots of the splash pages)

  1. Journal Writing Workshop for adults. I used this program as a jumping off point simply because it was the right time (I had finished designing the Franklin Park Library website using Drupal 5 and discovered the Front Page module http://drupal.org/project/front). 12.5% (1 in 8) of participants responded to a survey that they learned about the program from the splash page. A success.
  2. Making Anklets and Bracelets for teens and tweens. 100% (6 of 6) of participants responded that they learned about the program through the splash page. A success.
  3. Lapsit Storytime. This program had no attendees. A failure.
  4. Cirque du Soleil ticket giveaway. This event had the same amount of participants as a like giveaway the previous year, which wasn’t advertised by splash page. A failure.
  5. National Library Week. Patron participation doubled. No surveys were handed out on why patrons participated. A success.
  6. Summer Reader Club for youth, teens, and adults. Participation doubled for each group. No statistics were gathered on why individuals participated. A success.
  7. A Teen and Tween Gaming event. 10% (4 of 40) of participants came because of the splash page with 30% not responding. A success.
  8. Reader Appreciation Party. No surveys were handed out but according to staff observation many more showed up than previous years. This was the only splash page to use Flash animation style effects (Sprout Builder). A success.

Findings Summary
Admittedly this experiment is not scientific since it is dealing with a real library which makes laboratory single variable settings impossible. Some intriguing conclusions are still reached. In my experience, splash pages increased participation in most library events and programs, sometimes dramatically. Teens and adult programs benefited the most while youth programs were not helped. The impact of using splash pages will likely vary from library to library from year to year.

It is interesting to note that the library never had even one complaint about adding an extra click to getting to the library content.

I would love to know if, when, and how other libraries are using splash pages.

Mikael "Mick" Jacobsen is an Adult Services Librarian at the Skokie Public Library, IL. He received his Masters in Library and Information Science from Dominican University in January of 2008. He is a collaborating blogger at Tame the Web. -- Read More

Libraries and Linux: The Strange Parallels of Stacks and Software

An Essay of the LISNews Summer Series

There are some obvious similarities between the quintessential Linux user and the classical image of the librarian, covering the gamut of good, bad and indifferent. Librarians foster the curiosity and intellectual growth of diverse patrons, connecting them with reliable sources of information and suggesting entertaining books, music and movies. The Linux community encourages users to examine, change, and take the operating system further -- regardless of whether "further" works out as modifying a kernel module or creating a new scalable vector graphic icon set for the desktop.

Linux users, when faced with a question that's been asked millions of times throughout the ages -- one with an easily discovered answer, if the soul asking had only taken a few seconds -- often respond with a resounding "RTFM" (read the f****** manual). Sometimes this response will be shaken up with a stray "Google is your friend." Librarians, by matter of course, prefer to teach a man to fish rather than feed him -- and sometimes patrons, quite capable of fishing when pointed towards the appropriate body of water, would really prefer to be fed their fish, with a couple side dishes, butter, lemon, dessert, and valet parking for good measure. That's when they tend to be greeted with the response, "Look it up." And yes, sometimes this response will be shaken up with a stray "Google is your friend."

By and large, the quintessential Linux user and classical librarian persona are stereotypes. Stereotypes generally have a grain of truth buried in there somewhere. I think what's most awe-inspiring about these two demographics -- similar, yet simultaneously so utterly different -- isn't the kindred philosophies or the occasionally pointed terms used to encourage others to seek answers on their own. It's the shocking way that skills learned in one setting (librarianship, fooling around with Linux in nearly any capacity) are so complementary and transferable.

In its elemental form: These settings are complementary because neither places high value on knowing the answer right from the start -- the value, the knowledge, the ability arises from understanding what question actually needs an answer, and then knowing how to track that answer down.

Think of troubleshooting an error as a reference interview. Think of a reference interview as troubleshooting an error. It works reasonably well both ways.

I've not transformed any Linux users I know into librarians, but I've found there's a healthy appreciation of the skills required in the stacks. The library just isn't where they see themselves seeking employment. That's fine. I know many librarians who use Linux in some capacity -- to play around and learn, to develop applications, or some mix of the two. I know many librarians who appreciate the skills required in software development (or general system maintenance). They don't pursue it, it's not their thing. And that, too, is fine. But there's a response encountered just a little too frequently to sit right, "I could never do that. It's too [insert phrase that thinly veils the notion that computers are magical and completely undocumented creations]."

Troubleshooting is a reference interview. In many ways, it's the easiest reference interview you'll ever conduct. While Linux error messages and logs seem cryptic, or complete to the point of superfluity, it doesn't take long to narrow down the log files and specific lines that'll help identify the source of the problem. Yes, you'll likely get more information than you need from this interview, but you're going to get the information needed to find an answer and believe me, the system won't question why the hell you're asking all these follow up questions and not just providing a solution to the question raised.

The best part is, of course, you don't have to know what the error really means. In a general sense, perhaps, but that can also be rooted out fairly quickly by searching help files. Not knowing exactly what wlan0: disassociating by local choice (reason=3) means isn't a problem. If the time of a system glitch (say, a lost wireless connection) corresponds to the message, it's a fine place to start searching the most suspect looking phrases. We're librarians. We do this all the time.

And by the way, my wireless card doesn't have a superiority complex. The error was the product of a dodgy driver update.

Kristin Shoemaker ("shoe") is the collective effort of the Simmons GSLIS development project. Constantly in need of either a warm reboot (or at least a Ctrl-Alt-Bksp and restart of the graphical server), she is a contributor at OStatic, the GigaOM network's open source portal.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

We've Built a Library -- Now Let's Open It

An Essay of the LISNews Summer Series

I'm a conflicted person, it would seem. I regularly use, and encourage the use of, open source software. In some settings -- public computing, thin client, and cloud environments -- there isn't, in my mind, any closed system that comes close to delivering what an open platform offers.

I believe heartily that open source code benefits both developers and end-users -- in perpetuity. Open source development efforts can (and do) die -- but the application, the code, the vital organs that sustained it during development live on. An abandoned open source software project is much like what the medical profession calls a beating heart cadaver. I learned this from Mary Roach's book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

The fact that I read books about corpses that have more of a life than I do isn't what makes me a conflicted soul. The fact that I read it on my second generation Kindle most certainly does. -- Read More

Some Considerations When Proposing a Digital Project

An Essay of the LISNews Summer Series -- Read More

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