Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Content has left the Container.....

A group of librarians gathered this morning in St. Paul to listen to Cathy DeRosa of OCLC discuss the recent study, Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources. It was a terrific blend of librarians from all types of libraries, and there was a lively discussion afterwards.

Cathy is engaging and entertaining, and brought up some thoughtful questions about our libraries. How long does it take to be served? How many touches does the patron get from us when they're outside the institution? How many of us incorporate news feeds? If you had a dollar, would you put it in content or service? (Our patrons would prefer we put it in service, by the way.)

Cathy's background is in marketing, so it's not surprising that she's passionate about the idea that we do a terrible job of marketing ourselves. (Not a newsflash.) She insisted that we need to do a better job of branding the library.

People are fond of libraries, but the libraries are those of their youth. What are we doing to make ourselves current and relevant? Do we make any effort to reinvent ourselves when necessary, while keeping our primary mission in mind?

To that end, the group was walking back to the parking garage when we were stopped short by a store we passed. We were confused by what we were seeing - the Geek Squad, a salon, chocolates, health items, a pharmacy, computers for public use, books....what was this place?

The place is EQ-Life. They're a wholly-owned subsidiary of Best Buy, though you don't find reference to that on either web site. But apparently the Best Buy folks did some research, found a market they weren't reaching, and decided to fill it. According to a story on MPR,
"Eq-life president Mike Marolt says the idea behind that formula is to provide a resource center for customers, and supply them with a wide array of products and services to address their health issues.

The store's technology offerings are geared toward this philosophy. They include such items as diabetes monitors, heart rate monitors, laptop computers and portable music players. "

This place was seriously cool. The staff was delightful, one and all. Tami, a stylist ("The Stylist", according to Tami) gave us a tour of the salon, tried to talk two of the group into massages (they'd never had one!) and was enthusiastic and welcoming. If we didn't live over an hour away, I'd be there daily. As it is, I may make a point of making the drive.

The ultimate guy store has made an effort to reach out to women. If this place is any indication, I can't imagine that it won't be successful.

So here's the connection, at least in my mind. We keep hearing that libraries may be in trouble, that people don't find us relevant, that we're nice and all that, but I can Google what I need, thank you. And presented with this information we....pout. Deny. Excuse.

Perhaps....just perhaps....we should take a serious look at reinventing ourselves. I'm not exactly sure what that would mean. Perhaps allowing and even embracing (gasp!) IM in the library. Perhaps it would be allowing the patrons to lead the collection development. Perhaps it would mean reaching out past our own little library boxes, connecting with other library boxes, and offering the world to our patrons. As Cathy reminded us, the world's libraries have over 16 Billion items to offer. That makes places like Amazon and Best Buy look like tiny operations.

If we ever decided to really join resources and work together, we'd be a force to be reckoned with. So why don't we?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Oh, for the love of....

There's a reason why lawyer jokes are so prevalent. And, occasionally, vicious.

From Denver, this lovely little story.

Yes, folks, you can be sued for bathing too early for your neighbors' taste.As noted by the aptly-named blog Overlawyered,
Shannon Peterson, a special education teacher in the Arvada. Colo. public schools, "can't believe she's being sued for bathing before leaving for work." But the elderly couple who lives upstairs from her Denver condo unit have been complaining about noisy pipes, and unfortunately for Ms. Peterson they happen to have a son, Sheldon Smith, who's an attorney at the large law firm of Holland and Hart. Represented by their son, the Smiths "sued Peterson just before Christmas, citing the 'reckless and negligent use of her bathtub.'" Before that, the younger Smith had fired off a letter to Peterson, saying her "intransigence ... and tortuous conduct have resulted in incredible sleep deprivation for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Your obstinacy has ruled the day. That will now cease." According to the Denver Post, his demand letter insisted that Peterson not run water in her bathtub before 8 a.m. Peterson says she can't afford steep legal fees on a schoolteacher's salary; a judge has scheduled a hearing on the suit for March 22.

I hope the judge throws the book at the attorney. Sheesh.

H/T American Spectator.

Education as Recreation

We watched two wonderful flicks this weekend, and attended a terrific series being sponsored by one of our regional libraries. It's lovely when a weekend can feel like it was entertaining and educational all at the same time.

The first flick was North Country, about women miners in Northern Minnesota. Terrific performance by the amazing Charlize Theron. Riveting.

The second flick was Rent. I absolutely loved it. And it make me yearn to be treading the baords again, actually performing a musical like this. The songs ran through my head all night long.

Sunday we visited the Lanesboro Public Library, for another in their series on World War I. Both DH and I are history buffs, and DSD came along for the ride. I think she enjoyed the afternoon as much as DH and I did.

Lanesboro is a lovely, picturesque hamlet in southeastern Minnesota, deep in a river valley. The Lanesboro Public Library was one of only 50 libraries in the country to have been chosen to host this series, and is by far the smallest library to be doing so. If you have a chance to attend one of these, by all means. The series continues through March.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Great idea!

There's a firm out there who has taken the audio book/MP3 player conundrum and set it on its ear. The firm is PlayAway and they're marketing audio books that are the player. How cool is that? The whole thing is about the size of a pack of cards, and has eight easy buttons on the back, large enough so that someone with reduced dexterity will have no problem.

If I were still a library director, I would definitely be looking into purchasing these for my library! Not only audio books, but audio books with their own player! Seriously cool. They don't have a huge number of titles from which to choose just yet, but here's hoping they'll grow and add lots more.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cool site

There's a site that allows you to see where your surname is concentrated, geographically. Fun.

DH's surname looks like the map on the right:

While mine, on the other hand, is below:

And I wonder why doing genealogical research on my name is so much easier than on his.

Oh. Dear.

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario has decided to rule out campus-wide wireless Internet access. Why?
"The jury is still out on the impact that electromagnetic forces have on human physiology," [University President Fred] Gilbert told a university meeting last month, insisting that university policy would not change while he remained president.

"Some studies have indicated that there are links to carcinogenetic occurrences in animals, including humans, that are related to energy fields associated with wireless hotspots, whether those hotspots are transmissions lines, whether they're outlets, plasma screens, or microwave ovens that leak."

Yikes. At MPOW we're promoting wireless access at our libraries. DH has installed a wireless network at our home. I'm at the point where I expect wireless access at hotels. DSD has taken to hanging out at Burger King locally and doing her homework, because they're a Wi-Fi site.

Meanwhile, back on the Canadian ranch, this guy is in the tin-foil hat crowd, having decided that wireless networks are health hazards. There's no scientific evidence to support this, of course. And the students are clamoring for wireless access, only to have their university president nix the idea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pinin' for the fiords

They're back! Much to my delight, Monty Python is bringing the best of the Flying Circus to PBS.

I love these guys. So does DH. As a matter of fact, our mutual admiration for Monty Python and the Holy Grail was one of the factors that brought us together. Wednesday nights will be delightful for a few weeks. Lumberjacks. Spanish Inquisitions. Silly walks. Fish slapping. Dead parrots. And, of course, Spam.

Monty Python is an interesting social yardstick. It seems people line up in one of two camps: those who think they're hilarious, and those who simply don't understand why people find them hilarious. I've occasionally found myself in a room with someone else who, unbeknownst to me, is a Python fan. At some point in the conversation, a Python reference will occur. Python lines will begin to be tossed out with gleeful abandon, usually to the bewilderment of the rest of the assembled group.

It says something about the way your mind works, being a Python fan. I'm not sure exactly what it says, but it definitely says something. As for me, I can't wait for Wednesday nights.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Of Presidents and Eagles

It's Saturday morning and I'm in bed, reading. DH is watching Headline News and drinking coffee. From the living room, I hear the query, "Do you want to go to Red Wing today?"

Now, Red Wing is a lovely town, on the Mississippi River about 45 minutes due north. But where did this idea come from? Turns out, Headline News was reporting that the Mississippi doesn't usually freeze over completely near Red Wing, which tends to draw a fairly sizable population of Bald Eagles, especially in very cold weather. One local reported having counted 150 of them in one day.

So, we were off, cameras in hand, appropriately layered for the sub-zero weather. After wandering aimlessly about town, we got smart and stopped at the public library. They're apparently used to tourists stopping in, though they were unaware of their recent national news status. We were given a map of the town and directions to the park where we were most likely to spot eagles, along with a few suggestions for lunch spots.

We did see about eight eagles, hanging around in trees near the river and annoying the local ravens. Not as many as we had hoped, but lovely and majestic nonetheless. It was incredible to see them gliding about, to hear their shrieks, and to watch the interplay. We didn't hang around long, since the wind chill was brutal. We're planning to go back soon, when it's a bit warmer.

Somehow, visiting the local Bald Eagle population seems appropriate on a weekend celebrating the nation's leaders. Presidents' Day was a day off for me, since I work for a government agency. DH had to work, poor dear. Another lovely day spent reading in the bright sunlight that infuses our living room, watching the birds ride the wind currents outside the window.

Other than a day off and the obligatory store sales, there wasn't much to commemorate the day. Or the men. A shame, that. No media events, no special television shows. No parades or proclamations. DSD wasn't even sure what holiday it was we were observing. And we wonder why our children are unfamiliar with out nation's history.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Winter returns

Just when we thought there might be an early spring, winter has returned to Minnesota with a vengeance. Eight inches of snow yesterday, followed by sub-zero temperatures today. The sub-sero stuff is forecasted to continue through the weekend.

DH is not a happy camper. I think it's beautiful. Granted, it could be 25 degrees warmer, but as far as I'm concerned it's a terrific excuse to sit in front of the roaring fireplace with a good book and a dog. Or two. Or three.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Program Idea - or, Why didn't I think of that?

From intrepid co-worker Ann, this just in....

Belgian librarians use love to get readers.

What a great idea! And since MPOW sponsors an annual "Hot Reads for Cold Nights" reading series for adults, what a fun tie-in!


For as much as we occasionally deplore the muddle that the Internet and technology has brought to our lives, there are sites out there that are so wonderful that they redeem the whole thing.

I have an undergraduate degree in History. I love it, despite the plethora of droning, mind-numbing history teachers I suffered in school. (Ben Stein's economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off comes to mind.)

Just think if something like this was around when we were in school:

From the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania comes the site The Renaissance Connection. As the folks at the Librarian's Internet Index state,
"This educational website for middle school students focuses on art and history of the Renaissance. It features activities that explore aspects of Renaissance art and scientific innovations, art patronage, and the life of an artist. Includes images, maps, a timeline, glossary, lesson plans, and related links."

I am a fan of this time period, and middle school audience or no, this site is seriously cool. It's this sort of marriage between technology and education that is so incredible. What a fabulous teaching tool! What a painless way to learn history!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Kudos to Michael

Congratulations to Michael Stephens on his wonderful new job! We're looking forward to having him wander through the Great North, touring Minnesota and imparting his wisdom before starting his new life in Illinois.

Now the question is - will be become a Bears fan?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

St. Valentine

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (you know, to this day I type that word with Jiminy Cricket singing the spelling in my ear. I know, I'm dating myself. But I digress....)

Ahem. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were three St. Valentines: a bishop in Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and a third in Africa. None of them seems to have done anything to inspire the current Hallmark Holiday.


The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers' tokens.

I guess we can correctly state, then, that Valentine's Day is for the birds.

DH and I will share a lovely dinner, but are saving the gifties in lieu of kitchen remodeling. Maybe putting up another bird feeder would be a fitting tribute!

Monday, February 13, 2006


My Darling Friend has been tempting me this afternoon with ridiculously low airfares to Ireland from AerLingus. DH and I have long wanted to travel to the Auld Sod, but haven't found the time or money to do so, but at these prices....

But this spring there are college courses for DH, and (hopefully!) kitchen remodeling. So, it won't be St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.

Perhaps my birthday?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cool tool!

I've just discovered Answers.com. This is the coolest thing ever.

It's a site for "fast facts" and is a free reference site. Type in "Milwaukee" and you'll get a dictionary entry, encyclopedia entry, weather information, information from WordNet, a Wikipedia entry, and geographical information.

The coolest tool available is a one-click tool. Download this to your PC and you can alt-click on any word in a web page and a page will pop up to tell you about it. I've only used it for 10 minutes and already I'm hooked.

Isn't technology wonderful?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Grammy night

Watched the Grammys last night with my Darling Step-Daughter. First time I've watched the Grammys in I don't know how long, and I was surprised how enjoyable it was. Of course, it helped immensely to have someone DSD's age with me, so she could explain who half of those people were. (Yes, I'm offically old.)

It was amusing, though, to see how many of the performers I had to explain to her. The whole Sly and the Family Stone tribute was pretty much new music to her, and I noted at one point that Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were probably the only ones on stage who were alive when Sly was at his peak.

It was disconcerting when Sir Paul joined the singers onstage (who I needed help identifying...still can't tell you who they were) and DSD wondered why he was singing that song. He didn't do that, did he? The song was Yesterday. I assured her that, yes, Sir Paul did indeed do that one first. Wrote it, in fact. News to her. Sigh.

All in all, though, it was nice to see some of the new performers and recognize that music is coming back. John Legend, in particular, impressed me. Good musician, good singing voice, and he wasn't over-embellishing each note to the point that you completely lose the melody. I may actually step out of the box musically and purchase a CD of other than Dead Guys - as DH calls my classical music collection.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Militant Librarian alert

My friend Charlie notes this incident in his blog:

After a credible terror threat to Brandeis University (in neighboring Waltham, Mass.) was traced to a public computer at the Newton Free Library on January 18th, the FBI and local police, eager to prevent a deadly criminal act and hoping to apprehend the perpetrator, rushed to the Newton Free Library to secure the computer on which the threats had been sent, with the possibility of identifying the nature of the threat and the person behind it.

Several buildings at Brandeis had been cleared, including an adjacent Waltham elementary school. So law enforcement officials were eager to make speedy headway in identifying both the perpetrator and the threat's credibility, and had quickly moved to secure evidence at the Newton library.

What they had not anticipated, however, was that their search would be abruptly sidetracked when Kathy Glick-Weil, the library's director, informed them that no one was searching anything without a warrant from a judge -- this, despite the obvious urgency to act in an instance when a perpetrator was fleeing, time was passing, and a potentially catastrophic incident became more imminent by the minute.

So while it's very tempting to acquiesce in the instance of law enforcement declaring the situation to be an emergency and demand information without a warrant, that's a very slippery slope, indeed. What constitutes an emergency that would waive the laws guarding confidentiality? Whose judgment call is that? And do we trust that person implicitly?

As this same friend has pointed out, we don't have to worry about a foreign power invading and taking away our civil rights. We'll do that all by ourselves.

Be glad there's a feisty librarian protecting your rights.

Friday, February 03, 2006


meme (mēm) n.

A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

Actually, once you really delve into the definition, it's pretty interesting stuff. But the meme to which I'm referring is the practice of sending a list to a blogger for posting on their blog. It's the blog equivalent of those emails you get, asking what your middle name is, your favorite food, etc.

It's interesting that since most of us have migrated from snail mail to email (and now blogs, to some extent) we managed to take the most irritating stuff with us. Like chain letters. (You must send this email to 15 people in the next ten minutes or your feet will smell and your dog will contract mange.)

All that being said, I now present the meme I've been seeing in the last week or so. Do other bloggers a favor and don't send it to them - if they want to do it, they will - but it is fun to read this stuff. Thanks to the Happy Villain/Librarian Extraordinare for the idea.

Four Jobs I've Had
1. clerk at a Walgreens
2. Certified Optician
3. Stockbroker
4. Admissions Director

Four movies I can watch over and over
1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
2. Singin' in the Rain
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. The Princess Bride

Four movies I can't stand the sight of
1. Ace Ventura
2. Deuce Bigalow: Anything Gigolo
3. Citizen Kane (I know, I know...it's a classic, blah, blah. I thought it was terminal.)
4. Eyes Wide Shut

Four places I've lived
1. New Berlin, WI
2. West Bend, WI
3. Sidney, NE
4. Rochester, MN

Four places I'm avoiding
1. Anywhere hot and humid
2. Prison
3. Mega-malls
4. Smoky places

Four TV shows I love
1. CSI
2. Medium
3. Gilmore Girls
4. Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition (which DH calls "The Crying Show.")

Four places I've vacationed
1. London
2. New Orleans
3. Yellowstone National Park
4. San Francisco

Some of my favortite dishes
1. Chicken Fricassee
2. Chicken Marsala
3. Really good pizza
4. Pretty much anything Italian

Four sites I visit daily
1. Charlie Sykes
2. Happyville
3. Go Fug Yourself
4. Tame the Web

Four places I'd rather be right now
1. Ireland
2. Yellowstone National Park
3. At home in front of the fireplace with a book
4. In bed with DH.

Four bloggers I'm tagging with this meme
Not gonna do it. (See above.) But feel free to go for it, and let me know, so I can read yours, too!

Fun and functional

I've had this site on my radar for some time now, but I got my first chance to play with it yesterday, and I'm hooked. The site is Library Thing, and it's an automated card catalog. With this, you can catalog your home collection. It's searchable by title, author, publication date, and by tags that you've entered. There's even a "card" that you can pull up with info on the book, including LC Subjects (coming soon, it says.) How cool is that?!?

I've started entering books, and I have a feeling I won't stop until I've got the whole collection (which is rather substantial) cataloged. I guess I'm officially a librarian, if I'm digging stuff like this.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Never let the box win

The above title is my Darling Husband's mantra. DH is a tech guy, and an IT Director with an interesting hatred (or so he says) of computers. His particular nemesis - the programs of a certain Mr. Gates. Which brings me to my issue today.

I have a co-worker who is trying to review a Publisher document which was e-mailed to him. Since I have the only computer in our organization with that program, he's trying to do so from my computer, which has given me a front row seat to the ensuing frustrations.

My version is Publisher 2000. Every time we try to access the document, my program says it can't open other versions of Publisher. We've asked the author to save the document in Pub 2000. No luck. Same message.

Now, I would imagine there would be some way to get this to work, but my main question is this: Why on earth would you not have two versions of the software YOUR COMPANY MANUFACTURES be able to talk to each other???!???? It's stuff like this that has DH declaring nasty stuff about Mr. Gates.