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...

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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.