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A brain dump of recent posts I’m seeing about e-reader devices.  Full disclosure:  I totally lean toward the iPod Touch.  It’s small.  It serves many, many other functions.  And it doesn’t seem nearly as clumsy as a Kindle.   But I also like the Sony Reader.  In fact, it’s the Sony Reader that I’ve seen a couple times on my city bus.  I have yet to see a Kindle *anywhere*.  But don’t listen to me, see what other folks are saying …

Roy Tennant

Sony Reader

iPhone / Touch app Instapaper:

iPhone as eReader:

It’s my last term in library school.  It will be a term full of job hunting, packing, pre-moving, farewell-ing stress.  With that in mind, I’m conflicted about which classes to take in my last semester.  I will only take 2 in order to spare myself any sort of pre-graduation melt down.  But …

But …

But … which two classes?  This is where your outsider / experienced / ironic perspective comes in handy.

Class:  Understanding Multimedia Information: Concepts and Practices

Designed for those with an interest exploiting multimedia information in web and electronic publishing projects, students will be introduced to the theory behind, and the tools associated with, a wide variety of audio (e.g., MP3, WAV, WM9, RealAudio), graphic (JPEG, GIF, PNG, etc.), music (MIDI, GUIDO, etc.) and text information formats (e.g., PS, PDF, etc.). After completing this course students should be empowered to make intelligent choices in selecting appropriate multimedia formats to match particular design requirements. A mix of lectures, demos and hands-on work. Students should have access to a personal computer upon which they can experiment on their own with downloaded multimedia software tools. Students must be competent in basic computing including the installation and configuration of software packages. Must understand basic HTML and simple web site construction tools (e.g., FTP, text editing, etc.).

It’s on-campus!  (as opposed to online classes, which drive me nuts.)
It will give lots of hands-on experience with cool stuff.
It’s visual.  I definitely think visually, that’s something I’ve learned in grad school.
Seems like it would be pretty good for any future job.

It’s on-campus.  If I get a great job that starts before May, and I need to move early … what do I do?
I’m a little worried about downloading lots of programs to my computer.  My sole computer.  My must-last-for-a-couple-more-years-at-least computer.

Class: Administration & Management of Libraries & Information Centers

Designed to explore the principles that govern how organizations and institutions work, this course provides a foundation for and introduction to the theories, practices and procedures involved in the management and administration of libraries and information centers.

It’s online, so I could move before the end of the semester if need be.
Administration is a necessary evil in libraries, apparently, so I suppose it would be good to know about it.
Other students have told me there is a grant-writing exercise involved, and that would be really, REALLY good to know, me thinks.

It’s online.  Someone shoot me.
The very terms “administration” and “management” make me twitch.

Class:  Document Processing

An introduction to XML-based document processing technologies and standards appropriate to electronic publishing. Leveraging descriptive encoding in standard formats (XML, SGML, HTML), industry-standard styling and transformation technologies (XSLT, CSS) can be deployed within layered systems to create and maintain formatted publications on and off the web (in HTML, PDF and print). Course participants will build such a system on an open-source platform. Issues to be covered include processing architectures (batch, server-and client-side processing); “vertical” publishing formats such as Docbook, DITA, NLM/NCBI, TEI; validation and quality-assurance methods and technologies; ancillary production pipelines (SVG graphics, RSS/Atom feeds, “galley proof” versions); document metadata and aggregation; and the role of proprietary publishing applications.

It’s online, so I could move before the end of the semester if need be.
Lot’s of techie acronyms, which come in handy for impressing people.
I’m even interested in these acronyms!  I took a weekend TEI workshop and loved it, so many of these things sound really interesting and useful.

It’s online. Someone shoot me.
I know myself well enough to know that I bore easily with techie acronyms. Especially if I’m just doing the same thing with them over and over again.  But if the activities in the class are varied and challenging, I’ll have a better chance of staying engaged.  But I won’t know till I’m in the class, of course.
I want to work with training people more than training programs, so is a class like this really up my alley?

Class: Library Buildings

Studies the library’s physical plant in the light of changing concepts and patterns of library service; analyzes present-day library buildings (both new and remodeled) and their comparison with each other as well as with buildings of the past; examines the interrelationship of staff, collections, users, and physical plant; discussion supplemented by visits to new libraries and conference with their staffs. A two-day field trip is required.

It’s on-campus!
I’ve been interested in this class since my first semester but never fit it in.  I could feasibly fit in next semester.
Architecture! It doesn’t get much more visual than that.  I love, love, love the nuances of buildings.

It’s on-campus.  If I get a great job that starts before May, and I need to move early … what do I do?
Will I really have a need for this kind of information?  I’m going into special libraries, not public or academic.  Is that short-sighted of me?

poster session

poster session

Tuesday, 8 August 2008

The morning was spent at the GSLIS booth in the Exhibition Hall.  UIUC and San Jose State were the only schools represented, that we knew of.  Unlike the vendors, we didn’t have a lot of flashy stuff to give away … none, really, besides the light-up pens that were all given away within the first two days.  We didn’t have bags or posters or cute pins.  Yet we still managed to have our fair share of visitors.  Many were alumni, some were friends of UIUC people, and many others had questions about our programs.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many visitors had questions about the Mortenson Center, or knew of it in some way or other.

The Cataloging Librarian stopped by to say hi, and we chatted a bit about the conference.  It’s wonderful to hear about the conference from a completely different perspective, with a different emphasis.  We were both planning to visit the New Professionals Discussion Group, and decided to meet up then.

I went from the GSLIS booth to the Poster Sessions.  Several poster slots were blank – indicating that those presenters were not able to make it to the congress for some reason.  Nevertheless, there were more than enough posters to make the session a crowded cacophony of conversation.  I haven’t attended a true Pecha Kucha myself, but the poster session looked to me like a Pecha Kucha (each speaker has 20 slides, 20 seconds for each slide), but in this case, all the speakers present simultaneously and the audience is able to follow-up immediately with more questions.  Having all these visual presentations of various library projects was also a wonderful way to check the pulse of the library world, in a way.  And some posters clearly garnered more attention than others.  Sure, much of that can be the poster’s design, but I noticed people really reading the titles, not just quickly glancing over the pictures.  Posters about new libraries, or rural library projects seemed very popular from my observations.

Next up: the New Professionals Discussion Group.  This was the description in the IFLA program:

New Professionals Discussion Group

Mind the gap: bridging the inter-generational divide

Panel discussion with the following panellists:

    (Australian Library and Information Association, Australia)
    (German Library Association, Germany)
    (American Library Association, USA)

From this description, many so-called “new professionals” thought this would be a session for us, with us, and we filled up the room fairly well — this assumption is based on my own look around the room, scanning for young faces, so who knows how many “new professionals” there really were, across all ages.

But the session was a huge disappointment for me.  Even though we – the new professionals – were a clear presence in the room, the speakers had, apparently, been instructed to talk about recruitment.  So most of the presentations were not directed to us at all, but were about us, talking about us in the 3rd person as though we weren’t there.  And a couple were pretty darn patronizing to boot.   The presentation from ALIA (Austrailian Library and Information Association) was the only one to openly acknowledge that new professionals could be from any generation, often on their 2nd or 3rd career.  But that point seemed to be completely ignored by the following presenters.  Keith Fiels actually had advice for new library professionals (I think he might have been the only one to offer us any advice, in fact):

1. go to committee meetings

2. take on work

3. do the work

Between the speeches and the questions, the conversation of the session seemed to constantly go between an inclusive dialogue, in which new professionals were “us” and “you”, to an exclusive conversation where new professionals were “them”.  I very much wanted to ask “who is this session for?” but other questions were ahead of mine and no one else seemed to have the same frustration I did. In fact, the questions just emphasized the empty rhetorical nature of the session.  I left early.

library rave

library rave

That evening was the Cocktail Reception – which was enormous.  I imagine the largest of mafia weddings would look something like this reception.  A few other GSLIS folks and I went out for dessert instead.  As I’ve often found before, these simple small group conversations are often the most enlightening parts of a conference like this.  We had a long talk (over delicious sweets and lattes) about i-schools and library-schools.  One of the women from GSLIS knew some of the history behind the i-school migration in the U.S. and hearing that background was eye-opening for me.

round-table discussions

round-table discussions

Monday, 11 August 2008 – p.m.

The Library Association session continued in the afternoon with a round-table discussion.  Each of the earlier speakers sat at a table and we – the participants – were able to go around the room, sitting at different tables as often as we wished and engaging with the various conversations.  I really enjoyed the two tables I sat at, but I wish there had been time to visit with more of the speakers.

First, I sat at Stephen Abram‘s table, where we talked about the myth of bandwidth hogs, the innovation in diversity, and the handicap of legacy technologies.  Stephen’s emphasis seemed to be on the individual, the librarian.  He wants librarians to create Facebook pages with their photos, their subject specialties and maybe even some of their favorite projects or reference questions.  He stresses that we’ve been anonymous public servants too long, it’s time to be recognizable experts and specialists.

In contrast, the talk at Keith Fiel‘s table was about mentoring at the broader level of library association or even the library itself.  This is about institution mentoring institution.  Keith was fairly candid about the challenges ALA is facing in setting up the website for GLAD and figuring out how to get library associations involved.  But I noticed that the folks around his table responded to him as employees of their *library* not as members of any *library association* … but in order for ALA’s website to work, they will need people to really identify with their particular library associations.

One of the other speakers that morning was Dr. Trishanjit Kaur of Punjabi University in India.  Her presentation was not about a glowing success story, but about the rocky, difficult journey of REFSALA, the Regional Federation of South Asian Library Associations.  She listed the main barriers they faced in bringing REFSALA into existence and maintaining activity:

  • apathy
  • lack of comitment
  • lack of cooperation & communication
  • lack of leadership and empathy
  • local politics, no gov’t support
  • lack of follow-up and sustainable vision

I fear that ALA’s GLAD program and the Twinning initiative will face the exact same challenges.  But the institutions are made up of individuals, and I think this is where Stephen Abram’s push for putting personality back on the library map will make a difference.  If librarians feel personally responsible for the success of these library associations, we might see sustainable, active projects to come to fruition.

statue in a churchyard beside the convention center

statue in a churchyard beside the convention center

Monday, 11 August 2008 – a.m.

Started the day at a session on Library Associations.

I take that back. I started the day on a bus ride to the convention center with Claudia, another GSLIS student who is also one of my roommates at the conference. Claudia is from Romania and she’s very motivated to see improvements in Romanian libraries, but she has seen roadblocks and stubborn administrations that we, as Americans, can’t even imagine. She’s been telling me about some of the frustrations she has in both GSLIS classes and in the sessions / speakers we see at conferences like this. In this North American context, change is trumpeted as The Way, The Hope, The Light. And we assume that change is a given, that everyone knows it should be embraced. But Claudia has to then process the recommendations and ideas from these sessions and think of a way to incorporate them into a library culture where change is not embraced at all, and the role of libraries is seen very differently… especially by the librarians themselves. Talking with Claudia has been very good for me — reminding me of the huge assumptions that are made in these speeches, posters, and presentations.

Okay, so the session on Library Associations. This topic holds a special interest for me, in fact I’m considering pursuing library associations or consortia when I’m on the job market (in May… gulp). Keith Feils of ALA spoke briefly about the Global Library Association Development (GLAD) Program of IFLA’s Management of Library Associations Section (MLAS).  Keith talked about the purpose of library associations, such as mentoring (between individuals *and* institutions), advocacy, and library development.  The mentoring issue was an important topic and it really intrigued me, this idea of an entire library mentoring another library, shifting the perspective of the whole level at which mentoring takes place.  I wonder, how does that affect individual development?  Is there a tricle-down training for staff skills?  Or is it a blanket improvement?  Hm.

Next up was Stephen Abram, of SirsiDynix and current president of SLA.  After Stephen’s talk, I was *really* kicking myself for missing the SLA Conference in Seattle this past June.  He highlighted several training and staff development tools introduced on the SLA Innovation Laboratory site.  His slides should be up on his blog soon.  He was motivating, entertaining, and seemed to get people engaged.  I found very interesting his emphasis on encouraging librarians to work together across generations.  He said something along the lines of taking the strengths of experienced librarians and combining them with the skill sets of new librarians, but that all of us, young and old need to “pull the pickle out of our butts and build a sandbox”  and play.

Update: Stephen Abram’s slides are up.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

[Click the photo to see the whole set of IFLA photos… ]

20080810 IFLA

Sunday was a whirlwind yet felt impossibly long, too, due to being so very, very tired. The highlights were:
1. Lunch – I found Le Commensal (the awesome vegetarian buffet that Ellen told me about!) by accident while walking around the streets neighboring the convention center. Then Eve, Claudia, a LIS student from UW and I went back there for lunch after the Opening Ceremony. It was beyond my original expectations! Le Commensal is already one of the best parts of the trip. But even better than that was just sitting at the table and talking about libraries, library education, the library love/hate of Google, and so on. It was a great lunch.
2. The Exhibition Opening – each attendee was given two drink tickets in their IFLA bag to use at the Exhibition Opening and it was a mad house. A well-behaved, collegial mad house. I think GSLIS is the only booth that isn’t a product vendor. The other educational institutions present are there as book presses, not as academic programs. It’s an odd situation to be surrounded by business folks. But several people came by to say “Is so-and-so here?” or “How is so-and-so doing?” or the occasional alum to get their badge ribbon. A few people even asked about the Mortenson Center! I’m hoping this means we’ll have plenty of visitors during the poster sessions on Tuesday & Wednesday.

I fly out today at 2:30, heading to Quebec City – land of vegetarian buffet restaurants and wacky festivals.

Yesterday I almost thought I’d be going empty-handed.  The conference poster I’m supposed to be bringing was originally delivered Wednesday, but … it wasn’t our conference poster.  That was returned to the printers Thursday morning and then I waited … and waited… and waited.  I called Friday morning, went back and forth with the printing office, got the news that the correct poster had been printed Thursday but the printer didn’t like how it looked so pitched it, but he wasn’t in today (Friday).

Thankfully, they did print it again and laminate it and deliver it that afternoon.  At that point I immediately ran out the door since I still needed to pack.

So all is well now.  I have the poster.  I have the hand outs.  And sure, our hotel overbooked itself and bumped many of us off to a place twenty minutes away from downtown and the convention center (when we had been *connected* to the convention center) but it’s all good.  Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’.

Wednesday was relatively quiet.  Everything I needed to do, I could do in the Center and there were no meetings scheduled.  I started the morning with some troubleshooting on the Google Calendars we were setting up for the office.  I had already created a Google account for the office and set up the calendars under that account, then made it “shared” with my own Google account and everyone else in the office.  I filled in more of the events that we had already discussed and left many of them as “all day” with lots of question marks in the titles since we still have a lot of details to confirm.

I worked through lunch proofreading a grant proposal for more library training.  Usually, when I get something to proofread, I also pretty it up.  In this case, there were a lot of tables full of budget figures in the proposal so I added very small touches like lightly shading the header rows, giving a thicker border above the “Total” rows and things like that, making the tables a bit easier to read.

I spent the last couple hours converting more of our webpages to the content management system that the entire library is switching to.  The office I work in is just one small unit of many, many departments within the University Library, thus we get pulled into the big, overarching decisions with everyone else.

After I left the Center, I spent a couple hours working on LibGuides stuff.  I added my notes from Tuesday’s training session to my outline and searched for video tutorials that I could add to our training guides.

Thursday was full of experimentation, which is something I truly love… most of the time.  I synced Thunderbird with the office Google Calendars (via Lightning and Provider) and installed a couple extensions in order to get a customized print-out of the schedules we needed for the programs in the Fall.  It was quickly apparent that tweaking this work-around would require a little more time than I could give it right then, so I moved on to other projects.

One of our international librarians has spent the past year with us and she is leaving soon to go back to Pakistan.  I have learned *so* much from her and had such a wonderful time getting to know her.  She stopped by my desk and we had a good talk about file management practices… or the lack thereof.  We both bemoaned the messy, duplicated, frustrating nature of shared network drives.  Every place I’ve worked at for the past 10 years has had such a feature yet not a single one of them has used them well.  People still email drafts back and forth to each other, which are then saved on desktops or in personal folders of the network drive and pretty soon there are a dozen different versions of the same document.  We talked about the search limitations and clunky interface involved in trying to find the right file in the right folder.  Mused on the potential of tagging for file systems. But even information professionals don’t know what exactly to do with their information.  Alas.

In the afternoon I had a one-on-one LibGuide training session, which went really well.  We focussed on the “Books from the Catalog” box and created RSS feeds from UIUC’s New Titles page as well.  I realized I need to add a blurb to the handout about the difference between “copying” a box and “linking” a box.

Friday hit me with the revelation that the IFLA conference is only three weeks away!  We got the schedule for our GSLIS booth coverage at IFLA in Quebec — I’ll be one of the volunteers.  I’m also going as part of the Mortenson Center crew to present a poster there, which was one of the projects I worked on today.  The Center has a pretty clever approach to conference posters — they create slides in PowerPoint (like a lot of people do) BUT! they make several slides instead of one big slide.  They get these slides printed out as 11 x 17 laminated mini-posters, which lay in the bottom of a carry-on very conveniently and without the need to be rolled up.  At the conference, they arrange the mini-posters however they’ll fit with the poster board provided, sometimes they leave a couple slides off.  It’s all very flexible, easy to pack, easy to set up and take down.  So I’ve been formatting the slides for this year’s poster, adding images from our archive and getting it ready for our last proofing next week before it’s sent to the printers.

I also worked on an excel spreadsheet for our program participants; the spreadsheet will link to several mail merge documents in Word for things like name badges, contact lists, introductions for speakers and so on.  We’ve never done this before with this program.  In years past, the list of participants was simply repeated from one Word document to another, with various information added and left off and reformatted and so on.  In an effort to make our documents more centralized and efficient, we’re trying out the mail merge approach this year.  Hopefully it works smoothly.

The day ended with the beginning of another project – I started proofreading a publication that will be coming out this fall on international library leadership institutes, which sorta started here.  This publication is also the basis for our IFLA poster and – lucky me – it’s actually a very interesting read!

And now it’s Saturday.  I’m at home.  I’m going to have a couple chocolate chip cookies and work on home projects rather than work projects for a while.   🙂

I am a late-comer to the “Day in the Life of a Librarian” theme running through Librariana lately, and I’m not yet officially a librarian but a library student.  Nevertheless,  there were a few reasons I wanted to chime in:

1. For all the folks who don’t know why we go to school for this.
2. For all the folks in library school who have really boring library student jobs — have hope!
3. For all the folks interested in “library stuff” but not necessarily the idea of working in a “library”… have hope!

I have two of the best jobs a library student like me could ever want.  For starters, I work for an office (the Mortenson Center) that handles international library programs — helping librarians from all over the world learn from each other, increase their professional skills, and pass the knowledge along to their colleagues at home.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this job.  I never sit at a “service desk” or catalog items or do anything traditionally library-like, yet I’m working with librarians every day from all walks of life.   My other job is working with the university library’s LibGuides team – lots of training, pushing technology to see how much it can do, and idea recycling (search and share).

So… this week in my life:

Monday started at a storage unit.  The Mortenson Center hosts visiting librarians from other countries each year for a couple months to several months.  The librarians usually stay in campus residences, which means they need some basic house things while they’re here.  We keep a few things for them in an un-air-conditioned, dusty, crowded storage unit.  And Monday was one of the hottest, most humid days of the year.  Three of us worked in there for a few hours, mostly throwing away old, worn-out things.  I had to leave before my poor co-workers so I could finish up a training outline for a meeting that afternoon.

The training is for LibGuides, and we want to focus on demonstrating how LibGuides allows for a more dynamic, interactive apporach to the tired old static subject guide.  To that end, I’ve been collecting good examples from other institutions.

The rest of the day was spent in a frenzy of preparation for several meetings on Tuesday.

Tuesday was a frenzy.  I started out early at the Center finishing some demonstration pieces for a presentation on Web 2.0 tools for the office.  Then I dashed off to give the LibGuides training.  I love training librarians!  They ask wonderful questions, they think about things from lots of amazing angles, and they’re friendly to boot.  I came away from the session with several notes for things to add to the next session.  Sometimes giving a training session like that reminds me of Eddie Izzard’s stand-up comedy — the way he pretends to write notes to himself about jokes that don’t work.  Each training session shows me what needs to be fine-tuned for the next one.  I really do write notes to myself.

I went straight from that to a scheduling meeting for this Fall’s international librarian program.  We’re going to have a BIG group this year and with travel costs going up, we’re trying to make every penny stretch.  Details, details, details!  Truly well-organized events are all about the details, as my bosses say.  Five of us sit around a table for two hours with calendars and lists spread out in front of us, like a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  We have to line up everything just right — the speakers, the room reservations, the catering, the transportation, the hand outs, the paperwork, the fees, and so on.  Fortunately, we have an incredible little family of staff in the office and everyone attacks their part of the puzzle with gusto.  Probably a big reason I love my job is the fact that I work with wonderful people.

Once the scheduling stuff was done, I gave a very brief overview of some online tools we could use for productivity in the office.  I focused on free tools that would allow for plenty of collaboration and – of course – Google products were the stars of the show.  I did a quick look at Google Reader’s “share” tools and showed how we could have a folder just for all the search alerts on our office name — from Blog Search, News, and the Web.  From there I brought up Google Docs and had an example of a presentation we’d been working on already uploaded.  I also went through Gmail’s filters and labels, but had to rush through it so I don’t know if that was actually helpful at all.  The presentation ended with Google Calendar, which is the most intriguing and controversial tool for our office.  On one hand, half the staff have to use Oracle because the rest of the library uses Oracle.  On the other hand, we will eventually want our visitors to be able to access events on the calendar and they will not have Oracle accounts, nor do the temporary staff in the office (such as a student like me).  Another benefit of Google Calendar is the “Discuss” function, which would allow us to leave comments on a particular event as the various elements are confirmed (room, meals, speaker).  This would give us a mini-history on the event that all of us could see and keep track of.

The conclustion was to start using Google Calendar for the program events.  The staff using Oracle will continue using Oracle for their own meetings and individual schedules, but will check on the Google Calendar to see how the program events are shaping up.

Wednesday and Thursday to follow.

To see some other interesting library people do their thing (in addition to the wiki) check out:




(Okay, I’m mentioning Google a lot lately because I’m using it at work to build a community space type thing and I’m also making a map for all the participants in a big program for this Fall. )

I am so naive.  I have just assumed that any county’s basic information … you know, cities? major roads? … could be found in Google Maps.  Now, I knew GMaps has limited information about certain areas because I thought I lived in one of them.  Now I know better.

One of my current projects is to make a map for the place where I work of all the libraries where librarians have participated in our programs.  Easy enough, yes?  We have the library addresses, look them up online, save the markers to “My Maps” and … voila… we’ll have a searchable, zoomable map in no time.

Oh ho ho.

I started alphabetically by country – Argentina.  Buenos Aires, to be exact.  So I type “Buenos Aires, Argentina” in Google Maps and what do I find?  An empty grey blob where a metropolitan area of 13 million people should be, one of the top 20 metro areas by population.  (This is in Map view, mind you.)  I zoom out … the entire country of Argentina is an empty grey blob.
40 million people?

Bolivia and Peru don’t have any roads marked either, but at least they have a few cities.  Argentina – along with Paraguay, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana – has nada.  Zilch. I think the emptiness of these countries is particularly shocking because of the way Brazil is so nicely filled in with highways, roads, and towns.  Zoom in on Rio de Janeiro and you see all sorts of detail.  Add to that weirdness — Google has a domain for Argentina at … but in the Argentinian equivalent of “More services” (click on “Más” at the top of the screen) Maps is noticebly absent.

So (in Google Maps) I zoomed out to see the whole world then went in closer region by region and found that, according to Google, there is absolutely nothing of interest in the following countries:


Google Maps

Dominican Republic
Equatorial Guinea
French Guiana
North Korea
South Korea
Western Sahara

It’s bad enough they’re using something like a Mercator projection, which shows Greenland almost equivalent to Africa in land mass when Africa is 14 times larger.  But why would these countries be absolutely blank? According to Wikipedia, there are about 220 countries.  Some of Google’s missing countries are ranked in the top 50 countries by population:  South Korea (#25), North Korea (#47)  and, as I said, Argentina (#30).

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