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!