Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Life is more exciting when you work with other people

This week is my week to work during the day at the library. Hooray for dinner at home! Hooray for going to bed before midnight!

And hooray for interaction with co-workers!

Things I have learned since Monday:
  • Mergent Online (business database) is releasing a new version of their database starting in January, with all sorts of cool new features. We had our representative from Mergent come to teach us about the new site, so I also learned more about using Mergent in general and (frequent reference question topic that I had no clue about) that there are two kinds of bonds: corporate and municipal.
  • I will be working with 138 first year students who are in a pilot program as a result of the SACS review and our college's new QEP (quality enhancement plan). Basically, the program is exploring ways to help our students become better speakers and writers during their four years here. One way they are doing that is by offering special resources and programs, first to a small group of students and eventually (the italics are important) to all. With the pilot students, they are tying in QEP programs with their English and History required courses this semester, and I am going to get to do three workshops with them over the course of the semester! I'm very excited to work with a group over the whole semester and hopefully get them to become regular library users.
  • I'm also going to get to work with a task group for the consortium we are a part of on designing online tutorials that can be used at all consortium schools. (OK, I knew about this last week, but our group had a conference call to get started, so I know a little more about what we'll be doing.)
  • Our online catalog is getting a facelift (actually via a project from the consortium) that will make it more user-friendly!
It's kind of amazing what working at the same time as everyone else can teach you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Predicting busy-ness (extremely boring post!)

There is some pattern about how library use goes. The end of the semester tends to be busier than the beginning; Sunday and Monday nights tend to be busier than Thursdays.

Still, there's no real predicting how busy any given night will be. The Thursday night with all the Public Health students was super busy for me, more so than most Sundays. This week seems to be defying end-of-semester normalcy. Saturday is the last day of classes, yet the library is very quiet tonight, and was last night as well.

I guess most of the major projects have already come due...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Silent screaming

The rest of this post will be in all CAPS. You have been warned.




Ah, I feel better now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

First chat reference session!

This past Tuesday, I had the chance to sub for a shift on our statewide chat reference service. This was my first "live" experience of providing virtual reference. It went quite well.

I manned the computer from 6-8, sitting in my office (a mostly-transparent cubicle adjacent to the reference desk) while our student worker manned the reference desk. She sent reference questions on to me, but this allowed me to pay the most attention to any incoming chats, and to explain to students who came in that I might have to shift gears at a moment's notice.

I had 3 chat questions over the two hour period, which was good for a first shift (not trying to balance several questions at once, for example). They were all fairly simple to answer; the most nerve-wracking part was accessing the patron's home library information (each patron that signs in comes from a particular library's portal--the librarian staffing the service can get information about that library, including how to access the catalog, how to get the patron access to databases, etc.). It went very smoothly, but I was nervous about messing that part up. All 3 patrons were community college students, so their questions were similar to the questions my regular students have (I need articles/books to do a paper on x, I need to cite x source in MLA/APA style).

I was also happy not to have any "emergency" questions. On a fairly regular basis, (public) librarians will get medical or legal questions, to which we can offer sources or referrals, but not advice. Every now and then, one of these questions will be more urgent--I brushed up on some state emergency referral services/hotlines just in case, and was happy not to have to use them!

Overall, it was a good experience, that I hope will help pave the way for offering our own virtual reference. One challenge will really be staffing levels--when there aren't any incoming chat questions, I can help in-person patrons just fine, but once the computer dings, I have to give it all my attention. This means we may often need "double coverage" for the chat reference and the reference desk--maybe a good chance to pull in library students?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nights that make me love my job

Last Thursday was one of them.

I had about 10 public administration grad students, who all had papers due Friday, in the reference area. Now, it would have been BETTER if they had not waited until Thursday to do their research. But that did not stop me from reveling in finding articles and books for them, helping them use their sources as support for their arguments, and teaching them APA style. And giving them peppermints and encouragement. I was definitely on a high at the end of Thursday evening (but was out of time to blog, and didn't get around to it until now).

Part of what made this experience so satisfying for me was that the students didn't have unrealistic expectations. They KNEW they were late, and they were ready to make due with whatever information we could find in a limited time. They also understood that they were all in the same boat, and were very patient as I went back and forth between them to help.

Hooray for 11th hour reference triumphs! :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Library H3lp is back! (maybe)

I scheduled a LibraryH3lp practice Monday, and actually had 3 participants who had not used it before (yea!). It went fairly well--we actually spent most of the time practicing adding buddies and chatting across the librarian interfaces rather than fielding practice questions. However, it was very useful for giving the staff practice to how chatting works.

Unfortunately, we've just had a few major projects come up, and I think virtual reference is going to be placed on a burner that's even further back than the one it was already on. Part of the problem is that it's just hard to coordinate schedules enough (especially among public service people, who are the ones who will be on the front lines chatting!) to get in practice. And it's pretty clear that we all need more chatting practice. The other part is that I'm just not sure how many people are really interested in offering the service, at least to the point of helping to make it happen. Our best bet may be taking a staged approach--offering a couple hours a week of the service until it catches on.

An additional update is that the coordinator of the state virtual reference program has created LibraryH3lp accounts for us so that it will be easier for us to integrate with the program when and if we are ready. This is great both for that reason and because it gives me an automatic back-up person who I can call for help.

I'm trying to keep this more on my personal front burner than I have before (another reason why it's so far back!), and I will try to continue to update!

Student workers

I've personally experienced 4 student workers at this point in my academic library career. There are several more who have worked when I work, but if they are stationed downstairs, I don't get to know them as well.

It's kind of rough for the students, because they are stuck in a fairly quiet--as in less frequented--part of the library (serials), often without any particular assignment except to be present at the desk. I think this led to some students being unreliable in showing up to work on a regular basis, which created trouble for them both in terms of how much they were paid and in being re-hired.

We have more work assignments for our evening students this semester, but not enough to fill a four hour shift. Over the past week, I had a student filling out book order cards, which is tedious, but still doesn't last very long (I think she spent 3-4 hours total to go through a whole review journals worth of orders). I think if we had a more standardized, comprehensive training program for students, we could assign more work to them (which would be great considering how short staffed we are!). As it is, we train them as we have assignments for them, but it seems that finding work for the students almost creates more work.

Ideas for student worker projects? Did any of you spend work-study or just plain student employment time at a library desk?

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Leaving the Ego" vs. "Pride in Your Work"

Egos definitely play a bigger role in the world of work than I would have guessed in my innocent (that's actually pretty much true) high school days. Even in college, the few one crazy job experiences I had, I chalked up to the fact that summer jobs are supposed to be crazy.

Really, though, I think the American workplace has set itself up for failure in this regard. You're supposed to "check your ego at the door," and be a team player, but there's also an ideal of self-made business-men and -women clawing their ways to the top. On a less dramatic note, part of the quality of our work is supposed to come from taking pride in our work--it's not very far from pride to ego.

Generally, I feel like I am pretty good at working in groups and putting the good of the library above my own ego. Still, there are times when I catch myself on an ego trip--such as when a project I've been working on suddenly has a portion replaced with work from someone else.

I have experience jobs where egos seem to be a non-issue, and jobs where they are the elephant in the closet, and I'm trying to figure out how this happens. I'm sure that ego-less workplaces partially arise due to how an organization is managed, but I think there's also a concerted effort from the hoi polloi to be nice and make sure everyone else is nice, too!

Do any of you have insight into how this works?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two amazing recent reads

Two YA books that I got to read this week. The first is the last (really the last one!) in John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began/Ellie Chronicles series, the second is the sequel (with I believe just one more to come) to Suzanne Collins' fabulous The Hunger Games. Both of these titles were high on action and emotional investment!

Circle of Flight (The Ellie Chronicles #3) Circle of Flight by John Marsden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amazing end to the series--ends on a much more hopeful note than "The Other Side of Dawn," so while I would love to continue to read about Ellie and company, I can accept this as the last book in the series.

Ellie almost loses foster-brother Gavin, first to terrorist kidnappers, then to social services. As always, she relies on her friends as she makes her way through impossibly tough situations and struggles with figuring out the right thing to do.

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I thought this second installment in the Hunger Games series was amazing--Katniss moves from having battled other tributes, technologically created hazards, and her feelings for her co-tribute, Peeta, to battling the Capital's machinations and use of her and her loved ones as a pawn.

She tries to sort out the relationships that have grown with Peeta and their mentor, Haymitch, as a result of the Hunger Games with those from her childhood--with her mother, her sister, and her best friend, Gale. At the same time, she has to try to convince the Capital that she's not organizing a rebellion while she wonders if she should be trying to rebel.

Then, she finds out that she's not even safe from the Games...

View all my reviews >>

I realize that I use the word "amazing" in each review, as well as in the title. Obviously, I liked the books, but I'll try to vary my vocabulary a bit the next time I post book reviews!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the library, with the lead pipe...

I think it's no coincidence that the library was considered a possible setting for murder in the game "Clue." Libraries can be downright creepy, sometimes.

Especially at 1 in the morning.

The library I work in is fairly small, for an academic library. Still, we have two floors worth of mostly bookshelves, with tables and carrels interspersed along the walls. Each night, before we close, we have to check to make sure everyone is out. I usually check the second and third floors, both because I work up on the second floor, while my coworkers work on the first floor, and because they usually have more last-minute things to do ("encouraging" students to leave the computer lab on time, handling last minute book check-outs, etc.).

Usually this is not a problem. I try to walk around upstairs a couple times during the evening, to get an idea of who's in the library and what's going on. One more walk-around at 12:30/12:45 is no big deal, until my imagination gets the better of me.

The rows of shelves and nooks and crannies inherent to a library make it very easy to imagine someone hiding in said nooks and crannies. From there, it doesn't take long to jump to the person hiding jumping out and scaring you, kidnapping you, or murdering you. The first semester I was here, I was still haunted from having gone to see "The Dark Knight" in theaters, and was sure I would one evening meet the Joker waiting behind a shelf. The other night, while gathering up books to place on shelving carts, I saw that one book was about photographing ghosts. I didn't go up to the third floor that night, relying on the fact that no one had been up there on my last walk-around.

Somewhat amusingly, I become much less nervous when I actually run into students on my last walk-around. I guess I figure that if an evil being is waiting to attack, I will now have back-up.

When my imagination really gets going, I can actually feel my heart start to beat faster. If I could bottle my flights of terror into workable stories, I could be the next Stephen King.

Luckily, no bad guys have actually been lurking in the shelves to date. Still, I'm happy that a side job ala Batgirl is not an actual requirement for being a librarian. I would never make it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Busy students, busy library

Well, I didn't update as quickly as I thought I would.

Here are some current goings-on in the library:
  • Students are here! They've been on campus for awhile, but there has been a definite increase in library use since coming back from Labor Day: assignments have started to be due, students are settling into their study patterns, and computers continue to be in short supply. The reference desk seems busier to me than it did at the beginning of last semester, but I can't make a complete comparison, since I wasn't here at the beginning of the last school year.
  • Classes have been coming to the library. I've taught two sessions for professors, and given one open workshop (only one student; sigh). Our daytime information literacy/instruction librarian has been even busier with classes. These are great chances to form a more direct connection with students.
  • Everyone who's interested, or just part of the Reference Department, has been trained in our state's virtual reference system. Now we have to practice and start answering chat questions! Hopefully this is a step towards offering our own virtual reference service.
All in all, it's business as usual, but I like it when business is really busy-ness around here!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A few reviews

I spent a lovely 4-day Labor Day weekend (don't worry, I'll pay for it this coming weekend--getting up to be at work at 8:00 on Friday after having worked until 1:00 Friday morning, then only having Saturday off before returning to my usual Sunday-Thursday night schedule--the joys and sorrows of working a different shift!), and finished 2 books! Granted, 1 of them was a young adult book, but this is still quite an accomplishment for me. Here are those two reviews, plus one extra that I finished late last week. I'll update with a real post tomorrow.

Things Not Seen Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For the first few chapters, I wasn't sure I was going to buy the premise (kid wakes up invisible, adventures ensue), but once Bobby met Alicia, everything seemed to both pick up and become more thoughtful. Loved it!

Things Hoped For Things Hoped For by Andrew Clements

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An excellent companion to Things Not Seen. I liked the music element, and was completely taken surprise by the whereabouts of Gwen's grandfather. In the course of reading these two books (and from my previous Clements' experiences, such as Frindle, The School Story, and The Landry News), I realized that he has a gift for focusing a story on kids/teens without removing them from the routine adult world.

The Other Side of the Sun The Other Side of the Sun by Madeleine L'Engle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. The same feeling and emphases that characterize all her books are here (importance of love, trust that good will triumph even in the darkest times, good vs. evil battle that stretches beyond humans). Naivete seems to be both an element in the story and part of the storytelling. At points, I feel like L'Engle sometimes treats the issue of racism with too much naivete (particularly in the idea of Nyssa--a plantation run by a white family, still worked largely by its freed slaves), but she describes lynchings with unflinching realism and a decision related to lynching is made with full understanding. I do feel like many characters are stereotypes. Still, I like the book and I like that L'Engle was wrestling with the issues that make up the story.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I was excused from serving on a 3 week jury because of childcare issues. Whew! It would have been very interesting, but finding someone to watch Nathaniel all day would not have been fun.

I hope to be excused in another way, too: I had a serious reference desk blooper last night.

A very nice patron came in trying to find out if we had a book by a specific author (we didn't). I was able to find out that the local public library had 1 copy of the particular book she cited, and gave her instructions on getting a card (as a university student) and requesting the book from a branch that was a little further out. Then I found out that she just wanted something fun (preferably a western romance) to read that night.

Well, if I were at a public library, I would have shown her the romance section, shown her the western section, and let her have at it. I am not at a public library, and I have to say that our collection is very light on the genre fiction books.

I tried searching for the author. I tried searching for a couple other authors that popped into my head. I tried to find one western book and then copy the LC subject headings from its catalog record. I tried to find some suggestions on Novelist (this link just goes to their advertising site--see if your local library subscribes to this super database!). None of these worked.

I had a brainwave about halfway through and sent her upstairs to the library school's library, where they have an actual fiction collection. However, I don't know whether or not she found anything.

The most frustrating part? These are the kinds of questions I LOVE! I love it when people come it to a library looking for something good to read. This is why I'm a librarian, for crying out loud!

Today, in order to try to learn from my mistake, I did two things. First, I went and played with Novelist some more to get a few more of their features under my belt (I used to rely mostly on the "read-alike" feature, but you need a specific book for that to work). I've learned both about their genre search and the really fabulous "feature articles" that highlight a genre and/or topic. There was one on western/frontier romance, too!

Next, I got on ACRL's "collib" (college libraries) listserv and asked for advice on doing RA (reader's advisory--the fiction side of reference) in an academic library. One librarian sent a list of official subject headings for some genres, which I have duly printed off and highlighted, to be ready to grab next time.

I just hope the same patron comes back...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Praying and Jury Duty

Two notes:
  1. I'm off to jury duty tomorrow, with mixed feelings. On the up side, I believe in serving as a juror (I always figure that if I were on trial, I'd want someone like me in the jury!), it's a change of pace from the usual schedule, I will likely have lots of time to work on getting through my huge Australia book, and I will be even more likely to get to see my husband tomorrow evening. On the downside, child care could get hairy if I have to serve for more than a couple of days (we have a retired friend from church helping us out tomorrow), I suddenly (as of this afternoon) have 3 instruction sessions scheduled for next Tuesday that need planning, and I will have to get up around 7 AM after going home at 1 AM. I think this works out to hoping for either non-selection or a 1-2 day trial.

  2. I spend most of my blogging time discussing library-related matters, and so it may seem a little out of place to have a "praying for" button on the blog. While I use this blog to discuss professional life, it is my own personal blog and represents my opinions and nobody else's. My opinion is that I am a Christian and a mom before I am a librarian, and that Jonah and his family can use all the prayers they can get (He has a rare genetic disease that makes his skin blister very easily. It also affects his mucous membranes, so things like eating can get quite painful for him). Discussions about the personal/professional divide came up in my public library class during library school, too. Maybe I'll post more about it in the future...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle again

As some may already know, Madeleine L'Engle is my all-time favorite writer. (Because I'm sure you're dying of curiosity, some others are Robin McKinley, Sharon Creech, J. K. Rowling, Orson Scott Card, Tolkien, Austen, and often any author I happen to be reading).

Anyway, Ms. L'Engle passed away in the fall of 2007, but I haven't read all of her books yet, so I still get to have new encounters with her. Toward the end of the summer (and to provide a break from an interesting, but long, book about Australia), I started The Other Side of the Sun, which I found at a used bookstore sometime in the last 3 years.

I always find it interesting to see how Madeleine L'Engle's books fit together. Even though there are defined series (The Time Quartet/Quintet, the Austin family), even her stand-alone books often fit in with other books she had written. Several characters (Zachary Gray, Adam Eddington, Polly O'Keefe) appear in different storylines, and it seems like almost all of her books have a similar feel to them. L'Engle always recognizes the presence of evil in the world, but affirms the greater presence of good. Many of her characters are much too innocent for the "real world" (although, having found myself being embarrassingly naive many times during my life, I find them real), but she creates situations that include all the nasty messiness of reality.

The Other Side of the Sun takes place on the southeast coast of the U.S. (something of a departure from her frequent New England settings), and it's not a contemporary novel--it takes place in 1910. Still, it has the same feel as the other books I've read and loved, and some of the characters are delightfully quirky. One thing I'll be interested in is seeing how L'Engle handles the issues of race and racism, which are prominent in the book.

I'll post my review once I've finished!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Making haste slowly

We have some progress on the virtual reference front!

As I mentioned after our big presentation meeting, our library director would like us to get our feet wet in the virtual reference world by working through our statewide, co-op like virtual reference service. We now have two training sessions set up with the NC Knows coordinator, so all the reference librarians will get trained. This involved a little bit of eating crow on my part, as our group originally set up a date for those of us who presented the idea to begin with. Our idea is now "out there," and we have to remember to work with everyone! Thankfully, it was a relatively easy situation to solve.

Once we're all trained, we'll be able to take on some hours of monitoring the service. After that, who knows...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Yikes, need to update...

The "yikes" is because my last post was so completely devoted to tooting my own horn, and then I LEFT it there for over a week.

There is not very much to report in library land. The summer lull continues, even though it's the last week of summer classes (apparently the computer lab downstairs is slightly fuller, but that's the only sign we've had).

There's also very little news on the chat reference service. We will hopefully have a conference call with the coordinator of our state chat reference service, which our director would like us to work with before completely setting out on our own. I haven't played with LibraryH3lp much recently, due in equal parts to other work, lack of motivation and diligence, and lack of possible further steps until we are ready to actually try out some chatting with more staff, if not with patrons.

Otherwise, all is quiet on the reference desk front. Students begin their fall semester in two weeks, and hopefully more stories will abound!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vanity, vanity...

Yep, that's what this post is about. Mostly.

I follow the Blue Skunk Blog, which is an awesome technology/school library/education blog. I especially like keeping in touch with the K-12 world, since I hope to work there again someday. Additionally, the blog's author, Doug Johnson, often touches on issues that are just as relevant to higher ed as to K-12. I find that Mr. Johnson is adept at balancing an exploratory mindset toward how technology can help students with healthy skepticism about "the next big thing."

I have occasionally commented on his posts, and I sent an e-mail to him about a recent series of posts that imagined the school library of the future. He shared my e-mail (with permission!) on a recent post and I have a thrill of excitement over this.

So I am being vain and sharing that fact here.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Having a little more distance on my Skype conference call class, here are some points I noticed for making possible future distance classes (just now noticing that the first use of "distance" could have been a clever pun; unfortunately, it wasn't!) better.

Things that went well:
  • The technology worked!
    • At least, mostly. There were a few technological glitches. Various callers were inexplicably put on hold at times (including me)--but that's better than a total cut-off. Several people didn't have microphones, so mostly had to listen, but the messaging aspect of Skype minimized the difficulty that caused. Finally, toward the end, sound kept cutting out a lot--I eventually reverted to messaging. Still, for my first ever use of Skype, and the additional complications of doing a conference call, I think the technology side of things went quite well.
  • I did remember to keep pausing (and waiting) for questions and student input.
    • I could have waited even longer and figured out where I was going to do this more, but I was able to get some input, and definitely questions when we were walking through a database.
  • I successfully attended to both spoken and typed comments.
    • I was able to answer questions coming in both ways, although I think this made my talking a bit disjointed (more so than it was already with nervousness).
Things that didn't go well:
  • I tried to do too much. I do this often with face to face classes, too, but the mechanics of doing it via Skype amplified the effect.
  • I relied too much on students being able to access databases from their computers.
    • I knew some were having trouble getting in, but didn't really have other options. I don't think this is something where anyone was at fault (we didn't know exactly what platform we'd be using until last week), but I need to learn more about tools that allow for co-browsing. Or prepare slides and load those (blah!).
  • I didn't get someone to cover the desk!! Bad!
    • In my defense, Sunday nights in the summer have been very quiet. When I mentioned this excuse to my husband however, he reminded me of Murphy's Law with nothing more than an eyebrow raise.
    • I must remember to treat online classes like in-person classes in this case.
  • I'm sure I spoke too fast. I was quite nervous.
Other observations:
  • I was WAY more nervous than I usually am in face to face classes. This was partly because of the technology, but also because of the subject matter.
  • I should have geared more of my information toward public librarians.
    • For this, I take no blame, because based on the syllabus and information I had, it was a class centered on science research in academia. I did notice that many students were working in/interested in public libraries when I read their class introductions on Blackboard, but it didn't also occur to me that the class was being tailored toward those interests. Still, it's a good reminder about knowing my audience.
Overall, I'm pretty pleased that I got through the class semi-successfully. I would really appreciate any input from those who teach or otherwise work with distance ed.

My last reflection is that I am able to reflect. During my undergrad study, I minored in elementary education at McDaniel College, and the first part of the education department's mission was to develop "knowledgeable, caring, and reflective practitioners." I was definitely taught how to reflect there, but working in libraries gives me the time and space to use reflection in practice.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Hi Laura! Hi Astra! Hi Ellen!

This has to be a super-short post, but WHOA, I just had a major tech learning experience. My science and technology resources class visit was this evening. We used Skype (oh, and I just signed up for a Skype account for the very first time this afternoon, thank you!) and, for the most part, it went ok. I had bought a brand-new, shiny (but cheap) microphone for the occasion, and it worked well. I relied on my computer speakers, which was fine for me, but not so good for all the students using the reference room (I closed my office door, but since our offices are mostly glorified cubicles, I'm sure they could all hear). I spoke a lot and then listened to long silences, then some peeps of talking with lots of static in between. I posted a "please interrupt me" sign on my door, and someone DID. I ended up reverting to Skype's chat function near the end because the talk was breaking up so much. It was exciting and terrifying and, mostly in retrospect, fun. My stomach is still churning a little.

Reflection for another day, since I have to get ready to close the library!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Obviously, I haven't been motivated to post recently. Partly because there hasn't been much to post recently...because I haven't been motivated very much at work.

Issues with motivation I've noticed lately (because a list always helps me feel slightly more motivated):
  • Boring work.
    • This is really the least of the issues--most of my work is not boring (occasionally not having work to do is boring, but that is also less of an issue as I get better acquainted with the job). Even tasks that are in themselves boring (barcoding items, shelving reference books, coming up with a list of books to weed) can be fulfilling in small doses ("I did a shelf today!"), and, since they are rarely tasks that can be completed in one go, often naturally lend themselves to being split up into bits.
  • Assignments that are over my head.
    • I don't think of librarianship as a particularly difficult field. Yes, there are things you have to know and skills you have to have to do it well, but most of these are easy to learn the basics of, and fall into place with practice. But recently, I've had two assignments that really are hard to me: preparing to present to a library class on science and technology resources (eek!) and getting a clear picture of southern American collections (in all different disciplines) at my library. The problem with these is not just their difficulty but my difficulty in figuring out where to start. The first is, thankfully, done (I "chat" with the class on Sunday evening, so I am crossing my fingers and will report back--unfortunately, I am not chatting with them in LibraryH3lp). For the second, I luckily have a team of people from other libraries gathering the same data (people who know what they are doing with collections) and have helpfully suggested sources of information.
  • Lack of external motivators.
    • I know, I know, internal motivation is supposed to be better. I'm not even talking pats on the back, though (but I do like them). I'm talking deadlines. In both of the cases above, deadlines have been nebulous up until this week. I like hard deadlines.
  • My own tendency to procrastination.
    • This is probably the big one that tips all the others from lack of motivation to lack of productivity. Lists help, to some extent, as do self-proclaimed deadlines. It's getting myself to believe those deadlines that is difficult.
Anyway, the last few days seem to have improved, but I'm not quite sure what I can do to keep it up. For those few of you who are reading, do you have any motivation-inspiring tips?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Busy day!

What I've done today:
  • Attended a "webinar" (online FREE seminar) about using web 2.0 tools (like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) in academic libraries. It was excellent, and it was co-led by one of my classmates/Christian fellowship colleagues from library school!
  • Responded to e-mails from psychology professors and a patron looking for a bit of history/biography about {My university} (patron was directed to the university archives department).
  • Read a really informative e-mail from a library school colleague who is also a science librarian. I am NOT a science librarian but am going to be helping with a class period for an online Science and Technology Resources course because I am somewhat familiar with online/distance ed. resources. I am excited but nervous! I know next to nothing about helping with science questions!
  • Typed up the information I have gathered thus far about what we collect related to the American South for a meeting with a consortium group I'm working with. Discovered areas that I still need to investigate.
  • Helped some patrons (mostly visiting high school students).
  • E-mailed a few other people I know who are either scientists or science librarians to ask for help on above-mentioned assignment.
  • Read some blogs and am updating this one.
I feel like a real librarian today!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quiet week

It's been a full week since my last post, and there's not too much going on in {my academic} library land.

Here are a few tidbits:
  • As the liaison to the history department, I've been working on updating various history guides on the website. I was dismayed to find out that I would have to get them all reapproved by my supervisor before sending them to our systems librarian for posting, which is a very lengthy process. Luckily, I found out yesterday that this is not the case (only for new pages or pages that are not just my responsibility), so that makes the update work more worthwhile to do. Does anyone know of research on the basics of how effective library websites work--specifically how regularly they need to be updated?
  • I got a account for use while Tweeting--because I had a long url I wanted to send someone. It only took 5 minutes, but felt like a major "techie" step.
  • Gave some freshman a tour of the library. I need to spruce up my tour presentation, but it really seems that "short and to the point" is the best way to go with 20-30 freshman at 5:00 PM, just before dinner.
  • Despite a quiet reference week (it's the last week of the first summer session, and it seems like exams are the norm rather than projects), I had a doozy of a ref question today--finding detailed literary criticism on Maya Angelou's poetry. It seemed like it should be a snap but most criticism is on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and her other prose. Finally found a few short (but specifically critical and analytical) articles on specific poems and two dissertations (thank you, Proquest!). The patron then had to create a new free online e-mail account, as his first e-mail account couldn't hold the huge files (he was from a cooperating institution, so couldn't access the dissertations online from home). Phew!
No new LibraryH3lp testing, but I will hopefully get back on that bandwagon next week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sweet success

The {My Local} Public Library is going to purchase the Marsden books! Hooray!!

In celebration (and because I like to have book covers on my blog, since I don't really post pictures), I am posting my review of the first book in the Ellie Chronicles:

While I Live (The Ellie Chronicles #1) While I Live by John Marsden

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Amazing continuation of Ellie's story after the Tomorrow series--good balance of the day-to-day struggles and adrenaline-pumping action. Definitely made me cry. Waiting for the next one on ILL and feeling inspired to read about Australian history just to know more about Ellie's home country!

Also, I WON a free book from Goodreads:

Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure by Jennifer Taggart

And finally, here are two upcoming books to look forward to:

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Book 2)
Coming out September 2009.

Hamlet: A Novel
Coming out August 2009.

Happy reading! Happy weekend!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When the library fails...

I asked my husband last week if I was melodramatic. Ok, I actually said something like, "I'm not that melodramatic, am I?" Obviously, the answer should have been no. It was more like, "sometimes." So I followed up by saying, "I'm not as melodramatic as N!" (our son). My husband replied, "You're also not 1 year old."

This is all to say...the title to this post may have been a little melodramatic.

As you may recall, once I finished the John Marsden Tomorrow series, I decided that I absolutely had to read the follow-up trilogy, the Ellie Chronicles. I checked the first in the series, While I Live, out from my local library and devoured it in two days. For me, this is very fast, even with a YA novel. I knew going into this that our local library had no copies of the second two books in the series. No problem--I would just ILL them (order them through InterLibrary Loan, for those of you who don't speak librarian) through work. Our ILL person can get ANYTHING!

Except, unfortunately, she can't. I requested the series' second book, Incurable, and today was told that she couldn't get it. (I hadn't ordered the third book yet--I wanted to wait until I had the second in my hot little hands, since I know that sometimes later books in series arrive sooner than earlier books--and you don't get an extended loan to wait for the earlier book to arrive.) Apparently, of all the libraries in the world (or at least the U.S.) that own the book (and there aren't that many of them), only 2 of them are possible lenders to us, and neither would fill the request! Boo, hiss!

After despairing for about a minute, then thinking that I'd better go order them on Amazon (and actually looking them up; $7.50 each, which isn't bad, but I'd want to buy the first one, too, and would also be tempted by the first seven books--and we're buying an organ soon, so I need to cut back on book buying to make some room!), I decided to try one other library option. I filled out a suggestion form to ask my local public library to buy these two books.

Keep your fingers crossed...and tell your local legislators to support funding for libraries!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Today is a good day to work!

  • I had enough work to keep me busy for the whole day, but not so much that I couldn't steal a few minutes to read.
  • I resolved a scheduling conundrum without making anyone mad (ok, so it turns out that in the end there was no real conflict of interests, but still!).
  • I got the librarian who I least expected to have any interest in LibraryH3lp to practice chat with me, simply by providing her with log-in information and the information that I'd be online for several hours...AND she said it was FUN!!
And if you like the Star Trek reference, you should totally buy this shirt from

(I am putting it on my Christmas list--which I start compiling not long after my birthday in's scary how materialistic I sometimes am.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Annual Goals

I meant to post today and couldn't think of anything post-worthy until now, when I have about 5 minutes before I need to start herding patrons out of the building (ok, I only actually herd when it's ALREADY closing time and they are doing "one more thing" on their computers).

My post-worthy thought: I had to complete an annual report (this sounds very official, but the actual drafting of the report felt much less official, since I don't have to provide statistics or fill out a specific form), and as part of that, had to set goals for the next year. Here they are (mostly verbatim, although I changed them from a narrative paragraph--admittedly not a very good one--to a numbered list, because I think lists are more readable on blogs):
  1. Increase program offerings during evening hours, by planning, marketing, and implementing at least three open workshops each semester, including introduction to such tools as databases, RefWorks, and InterLibrary Loan.
  2. Continue learning LibraryH3lp and assist with the possible implementation of this service at {My} Library.
  3. Find additional ways to work with psychology faculty; thus far, I have found offering services that are helpful to history faculty quite easy but learning what the psychology faculty needs to be more of a challenge.
  4. Continue keeping up with trends in academic librarianship through both reading and trying out new technologies.
I will also use this opportunity to list some of the steps I see arising for the next stage of getting virtual reference here:
  1. Give other staff members accounts and get them to start chatting, just to get used to the feel of chat conversation.
  2. Receive training for, and begin working with, NC Knows chat service (this is at the request of our supervisor, who wants us to have this training before we strike out on our own--actually a pretty good idea since few of us have really done chat reference before. My own chat reference experience involves 1 reference class--thanks, Pam and Tommy!--and conversations with myself when testing LibraryH3lp).
  3. Have as many test conversations as possible to figure out "bugs" in our use of LibraryH3lp.
Admittedly, these steps are not very nice and concrete, so it will take some creativity on my part. Any ideas for getting regular chats going? Any ideas for other goals I should pursue in the next fiscal/academic year?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Family Friendly Libraries

... and I don't mean this group, whose website I am linking to ONLY out of a librarian's decision not to censor a viewpoint I disagree with. I feel that the organization Family Friendly Libraries has shown by its actions that it would like to set standards not only for the families of members but for other people's families, too, and that they don't take into account needs of minority (in all senses) groups in the community.

But back to my original post.

I am stepping away from my tech learning focus for a post in order to talk about an issue that is now by default an interest of mine. When I talk about family friendly libraries, I mean libraries that are family friendly for employees. This is important to me, first of all, because I have a 1 year old and hope to have more children at some point. While my current job has been great, it's not perfect. I would rather work part-time than full, but part-time professional positions are few and far between. I was able to pump milk with support from both my supervisors when I started my position with a 6 month old...but the place I could find to pump was behind some shelves in our closed reference stacks area. Plus, I had to ask one of my (male) coworkers from downstairs to cover the reference desk each time I pumped, which wasn't always easy for them, since the first floor of our library is always busier than the second.

I certainly understand that the balance between work and family involves certain choices. We chose for my husband to pursue a graduate degree, and so, for the time being, I have to work. We chose to find a way to raise our son as much as possible ourselves, and so I chose I job that is not in the area of librarianship that is my first interest (children's/school librarianship), and I also chose a job in which spending time with my husband is difficult. And yes, we chose to have a child, although I find myself repelled by those who say that having children is a choice and so, therefore, all parents should be left alone to the consequences of childbearing. (Full disclosure: I am pro-life. I am also pro-available/affordable birth control, anti-war, and pro-socialized--or at least more-socialized--healthcare. I am not a political activist, but these are my opinions on these select few subjects. I still question what I would do when presented with logical-extreme scenarios for many of these issues.)

Anyway, the reason I mention LIBRARIES in particular is that librarianship has traditionally been, and still in many ways is, a female-dominated profession. And, yes, family issues affect fathers, too (as my husband can attribute), but when it comes down to it, women have the babies. And if you want to feed babies breastmilk for the first six months-year of their lives (which I believe is recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics, but I couldn't find the actual recommendation, so I'll update if/when I do), a women is necessary. I am all for women having the right to work, but I don't think we can, or should, completely ignore biology.

Since so much of child-raising from the prenatal period through infancy has to do with women, then, I would like to think that women-dominated professions would make child-bearing easier on careers, with such benefits as paid maternity leave, or at least longer unpaid maternity leave, that allows for a guaranteed position upon return. Alas, it is not so. Teachers, another female-dominated profession, have rotten maternity options, and while I don't feel like libraries are especially unfriendly to employees having children, they certainly don't win any family-friendly awards.

I'm now treading on shaky ground, having not done extensive research on this subject. However, at my own institution, I would be eligible for Family and Medical Leave (the twelve-week unpaid leave mandated by the government, see here for more information--and I am shocked--as a pro-life, anti-war person--to see that they have added twenty-six weeks to care for a military family member!! But only twelve for a new baby or non-military ill family member!!), and I could ask to take a longer leave of absence. But my understanding is that this would all be unpaid. Not optimal. Less optimal for those who are single mothers.

Then there is the child-care juggle once maternity leave ends. Staffing a library desk is inherently harder to be flexible about than creating online presentations, making sales calls, or many other types of work. But libraries do have to be open at odd hours--evenings, weekends--so why aren't there more positions created to try to accommodate parents who'd like to work those odd hours? (And in that case, those employees who like to work the M-F daytime shift would win, too, with fewer evenings and weekends to cover.) And why aren't their more part-time professional positions, or positions that are shared?

My final word on the subject for now (since I've realized that I need to do more research before I speak more extensively) is that, however women chose to do their child-bearing, there seems to be a professional cost. Even if a woman could afford to take several years off, have kids, nurse them all, send them to kindergarten, she would then face the challenge of re-entering the workforce with a gap in her employment history. Why can't raising kids go on the resume?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The meeting...

...went fairly well.

On the downside, our chat "demonstration" didn't go so well--partly because LibraryH3lp was having an emergency fix-it day, but also because I don't think we practiced quite enough. And I think I should have left off the gateways and just shown the service with the widget. We were also presenting information about doing coursepages, and got more bogged down than we expected explaining the purpose and mechanics of these.

On the upside, it seems like there is agreement that we need these services. I think implementation will be slow--our director indicated an interest in starting by fall, but also wanted us to start by using the state-wide service. This will really slow things down, because we'd all have to get state training and sign up for question-answering time, which will take more time away from learning the LibraryH3lp system.

But it's a start.

I don't know exactly what my next LibraryH3lp steps will be. I think I'll need to create some more accounts and set up some practice chats--first just keep it librarian to librarian to get people used to chatting at all, then introduce some "patron" chats. I've also realized that I very much need a GoogleTalk gateway, since our students' e-mail accounts have recently been converted to Google Apps.

I've been remiss in posting lately, but will make up for it by adding 2 posts tonight--I have one that's been in draft format for awhile and just needs to be finished and posted!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fun series finales

Last week, I was on vacation, and I got to read two books that finished young adult series I've been going through. The first is from a series that's been around awhile (I actually read the first book when I was in high school and didn't manage to track down the rest of the series), the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. Beginning with Tomorrow, When the War Began, it follows a group of Australian teenagers who go camping in the bush for a week and come back to find that their country has been invaded. I have found some of these books to be more compelling than others (for the first five, I like the odd numbered ones best, but the last two were both great), but they all have heavy action sequences and lots of blowing things up, interspersed with teenage romance and reflections on life, particularly ethics during war.

I spent the rest of the evening that I finished this book, and much of the next morning, moping in my head about how life was not "happily ever after" for Ellie and her friends. I also decided that, contrary to my earlier beliefs, I could not stop with this series and needed to track down the continuing trilogy that focuses on Ellie's life after the war.

The Other Side Of Dawn (The Tomorrow Series, Book 7) The Other Side Of Dawn by John Marsden

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an amazing end to the series,particularly in the realistic portrayal of how life can't go back to how it was before the war. My only criticism is that some of the close-knit friendships and relationships got cut off too quickly, which may be realistic but was still disappointing. I definitely need to track down the three books in the Ellie Chronicles to read, too.

The other series finisher (we think...) was the newly published The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. Continues in the fun, action-filled Percy Jackson and the Olympians series that I particularly like for Percy's self-deprecatory heroism and the Greek mythology references flying left and right.

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5) The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Awesome end to the series; does an especially nice job of bringing Percy back together with Annabeth and Grover in a way that hasn't been the same since The Lightning Thief. Probably (but unsurprisingly) the most action packed of the books, less running into gods in out-of-the-way places. Nicely concluded, but there could definitely be more on the way...

View all my reviews.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gearing up and gateways

Well, we have a date to present LibraryH3lp (and other project ideas) to our library director...June 4, 2009 at 2:30. Exciting! Of course, this now means I need to hurry up and get what I know about LibraryH3lp organized into presentable format (especially since I'm going on vacation all next week).

So, today, I created a handout detailing what LibraryH3lp is, how cheap it is (I figure given our current budget status, this needs to be a big point), how it works, what the challenges of implementing it are (best lesson of my 9th grade English class was that when making a persuasive argument, concede the opposition's best point and then go from there), and why we should do it. Next up is to figure out the best way to demonstrate the service during our meeting.

In line with demonstrating, I set up two new gateways today--Yahoo! Messenger and Meebo. They both seem to work fine (especially after I belatedly read the instructions to toggle your queue's online/offline status once setting up a gateway before continuing), except for one thing. From the "librarian side" of chatting, I can't see the patron going offline when I sign out of the "patron" account. I need to find out if this is because I'm exclusively using web-based chat widgets for testing, because I'm testing on just one computer, or what. Obviously, more testing is needed. I don't think I'm going to set up many more gateways before the meeting (maybe MSN if someone has an MSN account to test with--I'm slightly weary of setting up extraneous accounts for testing purposes), but this should give a picture of the range.

That's all the news for now! I will probably post again tomorrow, but after that I will be silent for a week as I travel to Maryland to visit family. Hooray! (And Astra Libris, this last line was just for you, my dear audience of 1!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last week, I crashed a system...

Ok, I actually think I only crashed a couple user accounts on the part of the LibraryH3lp system that our school is using, but it's still an impressive accomplishment, n'est-ce pas?

Luckily, Pam and Eric, LibraryH3lp developers extraordinaire, had fixed the damage I'd done within a day and fixed the underlying issue that caused the crash over the weekend. So if you are a librarian who's thinking about switching VR services, I recommend LibraryH3lp even more!!

Otherwise, there is not a whole lot else to report. Testing so far has gone well, but we (that would be my fellow reference librarians/virtual reference enthusiasts) haven't taken it to another level yet. I am trying to read through documentation because we are hoping to present the service to our reference head and library director in early June, and I want to have done as much background research as possible by then. I should also mention that we are going to present a couple other service ideas, headed up by my colleagues. We are excited, but still unsure if we have enough staff to make it work. Keep your fingers crossed!

If we have any more exciting test situations, I'll let you know! (This means you, A.L.; that is, after you return from all your traveling and if you have time with your exhausting job.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Testing with a REAL person!

Today, for the first time, I was able to do some practice chats with someone ELSE on the other end of the chat. It went quite well! I first set up two of my fellow reference librarians with accounts, and then one of them and I practiced chatting back and forth. We both took a turn as the patron (using the handy-dandy, school spirited widget!), and also practiced sending files and web pages.

I hope to do some tests with someone off-campus at some point, because I want to see how accessing protected materials (i.e. databases) will go. Will the librarian be able to send a patron directly to an article? Will they have to describe the process of remote access (shivers run down my spine--it's already complex enough via phone!!)?

Also, I'd like to try to figure out if the librarian chat client has any allowances for increasing text size--we don't want to make all our librarians go blind!!

I've started systematically reading through the documentation on the Google Group, and that has been interesting and informative. Hopefully the time expended doing this will both prevent me from repeating questions and give me some background knowledge to apply as needed.

On an unrelated note, another piece of "technology" (really it's content, but quintessentially online) that I've decided I need to explore more is Wikipedia. I came across an awesome blog post about an assignment to write and follow a Wikipedia article that makes me realize how little I understand Wikipedia myself. It may take a few weeks to get around to looking at it, so I wanted to record the intention as a reminder to myself (I have to write down everything in order to remember it).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Back to chatting

I worked with LibraryH3lp again today, and was able to do the following things:
  • Use the customized widgets (the chat boxes with school colors) on a different computer, so the "patron" was chatting directly through the widgets instead of through AIM or another chat service.
  • Send files using that function.
  • Successfully transfer a patron from one librarian to another.
Here are some things I'm still confused about:
  • Sending webpages/links.
  • How the different web browsers affect the LibraryH3lp functions.
Tomorrow (end of semester crunch is basically over, now that we are in exams week, and students need to study, but not so much to research). I need to spend more time with documentation--less exciting, but important for getting up to speed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If your fancy is different, you can try this:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

Thanks for telling me about this, Karen!

In the spring, a librarian's fancy lightly turns to Jane Austen...

Pride and Prejudice Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
First read this in my senior year of high school for English class and LOVED it. Rereading 5/09 because it's spring, which for some reason makes me want to read this book. I've loved it since I read it, and am especially partial to the use of letters both as regular communication and as a way to correct mistaken understandings about personal character and motives. I also like that the good guys are definitely good and the bad guys definitely bad (unlike Sense and Sensibility).

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ten Ways to Make a Reference Librarian Cringe

It's the end of the semester...

All of the suggestions below have actually happened, and amuse me enough in retrospect to post. I'm sure there are much more exciting ways to make librarians shudder, but I haven't been on the job all that long. They are listed from activities that prompt an internal head shake to those that elicit an irrepressible cringe:
  1. Shush your friends more loudly than they were speaking.
  2. Try to check out books without your student ID.
  3. Bring no writing utensils or paper to the library--when you are coming to do research for a 5 (or 1o or 20) page paper.
  4. Hide behind a reference shelf to talk on your cell phone in the "cell phones prohibited" area.
  5. Save your work only on the library computer desktop. Walk away from the computer for a longer period (at least half an hour). Freak out when you return and someone has taken your computer and lost your work.
  6. Nod when the librarian asks you to turn down the volume on your iPod. Fiddle with the dials without actually changing any settings.
  7. Say, "This is my first time at the library," at the end of the semester.
  8. Take a brand new reference book that you've just been shown, thank the librarian for helping you find the information, then dog-ear your page as you close the book.
  9. Say, "This is my first time at the library," at the end of your senior year.
  10. Say, "I've already written the paper, now I just need 3 sources to cite.
On the other hand, here are 5 ways to make librarians smile that happened just in the past week:
  1. Ask for help with a research project.
  2. Come back to tell the librarian about the project she (or he) helped you with.
  3. Tell the librarian about your life outside school.
  4. Give a hoarse librarian suggestions for curing sore throats.
  5. Come up to the librarian, after having been asked to turn your music down, and ask for forgiveness for getting an attitude about it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Documentation, Test Chat, and Excuses

I'm going to go with the excuses first (as in, excuses for why I have neither posted to this blog nor Twitter'ed nor really played with LibraryH3lp for 2 weeks). My excuses are:

3. Accreditation--our school had our on-site accreditation visit last week, so everyone's
attention was focused on that.

2. End of semester workshop! I planned and gave a workshop on research tips for the end of
the semester, along with someone from our writing center. We had 2 participants, which I say
is better than 0, and I learned a little bit about marketing on campus (and that I need to learn
MORE about it for next semester).


1. End of semester CRUNCH. This is actually the real excuse, and I think it's a pretty good one. With the end of the semester looming near, students are coming in droves (well, at least in much higher numbers than they were before) to use the reference desk. Hooray! This is what I especially like about my job, so I am not sorry that it leaves me less time for playing with technology. However, it does, so I will be playing a lot less for the next 2-3 weeks. Just so all you pretend readers out there won't be worried.

Ok, now onto the other two topics.

I found a wealth of documentation on using LibraryH3lp, at both the LibraryH3lp blog ( and at the LibraryH3lp Google group ( They each have different strengths--the blog comes straight from the developers, and is also the place where new features are announced. The Google group is great because it consists of librarians from all over, many of whom are actively using LibraryH3lp. They also have archives, although I haven't figured out if the search feature works well (yes, it's Google, but then again, it's Google). I will likely be consulting the group soon, because...

I conducted my first multi-computer test chat today! Overall, it went pretty well. I did not use the LibraryH3lp widget for the patron end (I will try that next time), but the AIM gateway worked fine (now that there is an AIM account to link to the gateway...). I did encounter a couple problems/question areas:
  1. I was able to send a link from one of our databases to the "patron," but I don't know if this would work to an off-campus computer. I also don't know if this is the same as "pushing" pages, and if LibraryH3lp does the latter. The other problem with this is that, when I sent a second link and then (as the patron) clicked on that link, the new address took the place of the old one in the pop-up window. A new window didn't pop up, and I couldn't open a new tab even manually, I was using Internet Explorer to access AIM online, if this makes any difference.

  2. I had trouble with the librarian on Firefox (my set up was two "librarians" on Firefox and Internet Explorer on one computer, with the "patron" on a second computer, also on Internet Explorer) getting booted out of the webchat client. I don't know if it was because this computer does not have Adobe Flash installed in Firefox (and I can't get it installed without going through our systems librarian, and maybe the IT department) or for some other reason. It happened whenever I left the computer, or even just that tab in Firefox, for any length of time.
The next time I have "technology exploration" time, I will contact the Google group with these issues, unless I figure out how to resolve them on my own. I've already shown LibraryH3lp to one of my fellow reference librarians, and hopefully I'll show it to another later this week or early next. In the meantime, I will play and post as much as the end of semester crunch will allow!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I learned something important today... create a gateway to an IM provider from LibraryH3lp, you first have to create an IM account in that provider, under the name you want shown. Otherwise there's nothing to link up to.

I realize that that should be fairly obvious, but since we don't already have IM chat, I didn't think about that. So, with this major breakthrough, I'm going to call it a day in the virtual reference world. Tomorrow I will be back to learn enough to make it a comprehensible explanation for my fellow reference librarians.

The Graveyard Book

Because I still love books more than technology:

The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wonderful! Described as "The Jungle Book" set in a graveyard, and that's pretty accurate, but it also has a lot of lovely thoughts on life, death, friendship, and growing up. You know it's a good book when you rush through it and are then sad when you finish.

View all my reviews.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Library H3lp Take 2

I am very excited. I have learned several things this evening:
  • I figured out how to customize a "skin" for an embedded chat widget. Here's what I made (with school colors!):

  • I learned how to save said widget for future use. This was, for me, more complicated than it probably needed to be.

  • I was stumped with how to practice the code, since I don't have access to any web servers. Thankfully, a library school friend responded to my Twitter/Facebook plea for help by pointing out that I could save the html document on my local computer, then just open it with a browser to see how it looks. Brilliant!

  • At that point, I generated the document, but only got the html "Chat is offline" message, and was thinking, "But I'm signed in! A librarian is available! What's wrong?" Due to this conundrum, I also finally learned that

  • You have to sign into the webchat client to be online as a librarian--not just the administrative functions. I now have a better understanding of the different "faces" of Library H3lp.
My next goal is to figure out how to set up the different "roll-over" service possibilities so that, after we (hopefully) get the service up, no patrons will see the "Chat is offline" message.

I'm meeting with some of the other librarians later this week; hopefully what I've learned so far will help convince them of the feasibility of this service!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Off to a start!!

I've spent my first night trying out LibraryH3lp, and I'm very excited! I was able to create 2 users, a queue, an AIM gateway (although I'm not sure how to make that work yet) AND use the LibraryH3lp webchat feature to have a practice chat with myself:

My main problem is that my "30 minutes" easily turned into 45-50. I'm glad I waited until I finished other work, and I think that will have to be my M.O. until this becomes an "official" project.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New attempt...learning 2.0 technologies!

Well, I am going to try blogging once more, as I've come up with a way that it might possibly be useful in my work life. I'm currently working as an evening librarian at a medium-sized state university, and like everyone else, we are facing budget cuts. Our website and electronic access in general could use some updating, and the only way I think that can realistically happen is using open source/2.0 technologies.

I am NOT a techie, and I am not good at learning new technologies on my own. However, I think I need to get a basic working knowledge with many of these technologies before I present them to the rest of the library staff as ideas for our use. I'm therefore going to try to spend a short amount of time each evening trying to learn some of the 2.0 tools that I think we can use and both chronicle my attempts and ask for help here. I've already gotten some ideas from friends using Facebook and Twitter on how to better use Twitter, so we'll see where I can go from there.

My first two priorities will be Twitter, which seems to be in use all over library circles and non-library circles, and LibraryH3lp, a virtual reference open source software for libraries.

I'll try to update every few days on how my experimentation with these tools is going.