Friday, April 28, 2006

Getting buy-in

The TechEssence blog has a terrific new post on how to get staff members to buy into new technology. Great advice, not only for a technology project, but for any change that you're looking to implement.

Her points are:
Do not decide things unilaterally
Involve staff in planning
Involve IT in planning
Encourage staff to "kick the tires"
Offer training
Don't rush it

Good stuff. Take a look.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


So, DH and I are having some remodeling work done in our kitchen. It's the first time I've worked with a builder, and Dear Best Friend is amused at my naivete. You see, it makes me absolutely crazy when our builder tells us he will be at the house tomorrow to do whatever, and he doesn't show up.

And there's no explanation.



Now, if anyone else in any other business acted like this, there would be hell to pay. But apparently, with builders, DBF assures me this is business as usual.

So last night, the dogs alerted me to the builder's presence in our yard. Turns out, he's on the phone to the electrician. The electrician had told him he would be at our house that day to do his stuff, and he neither showed up nor called to tell him that he wasn't coming that day. And the builder was upset.


Video killed the radio star...

For some reason, I've gotten semi-hooked on American Idol this season. I don't watch every week, though I seem to be catching most of the results shows, so I'm keeping up with who has been voted out and who is still around.

One of the men in the group has arguably the best voice amongst them. Beautiful tone, rich and full. Most of the time he's on pitch. (Something that can't be said for many.) But he won't win. Why?

He's homely.

Now, he's not terribly unattractive. But there are a few in the remaining five who are. One woman is strikingly beautiful. One man is the epitome of hip rock guy. There's a guy who's greying early, and has some quirky appeal. There's a young woman who probably will be voted out next week, since she's not nearly as pretty as the other. (She's quite young - 17, if I remember correctly - and has a great voice. A bit of coaching, and she'd be someone to watch for in a few years.)

When, exactly, did we get so hung up on physical appearance? Is this a hallmark of our generation? Think of the movie stars and vocal talents of a few decades ago. The men weren't pretty. Some of the women weren't, either. But they were talented. When Ella Fitzgerald sang, the angels quieted so they could listen. But Ella was heavyset, and a bit plain. Not pretty. I wonder if she would make it today. Forget that she had one of the most spectacular voices in modern memory. It apparently wouldn't matter.

I think of Ann Wilson, who has a fabulous voice. Heart was one of the bands of my generation, and her vocals were amazing. Unfortunately, Ann has a bit of a weight problem. And so, when MTV came to be the powerhouse it is, her career was effectively over. Not because she could no longer sing. But they couldn't figure out how to make a video with a fat chick.

And so, we're left with what passes for musical talent. Pretty people, who all sound alike. Most of them even look alike. Britney. Jessica. Justin. Lightweights, all. Ella and Ann would outsing this group without even trying. But, gosh...aren't they pretty? I guess video really did kill the radio star.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Creating community

Being a librarian in a small, rural town can feel a bit lonely, if you're looking for input from other librarians. More often than not, you're it. Google searches can be problematic, and while you may come up with a nugget of information whilst plodding through a zillion results, it would be nice to have a place to confer with other librarians.

Enter WebJunction. I assume many of you have discovered this resource, but for those of you who haven't, I encourage you to wander over and take a look. I'm becoming more and more involved with the WebJunction folks, first as a trainer for the Spanish Language Outreach Program, and now as a Rural Watch Committee member for the Rural Library Sustainability Project. In both cases, I've been impressed with the WebJunction staff members who are coordinating these projects, with their willingness to listen to concerns and suggestions, and the speed with which they implement those changes.

WebJunction is a community place. There are discussion boards where librarians can elicit information and suggestions from other librarians, on a plethora of subjects. There are training opportunities. There are helpful articles, advice on purchasing technology, and best-practices examples. Need a new policy? Check WebJunction. Looking for advice on how to handle an aspect of library management? Check WebJunction. Interested in just wandering around a site that could trigger an epiphany? Check WebJunction.

Go. Bookmark it. Get involved. Really, go now.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Blogging good for your career?

The Boston Globe thinks so. In a recent article, they insist that a well-executed blog will set you apart as an expert, and give eight reasons why blogging helps your career:
1. Blogging creates a network.
2. Blogging can get you a job.
3. Blogging is great training.
4. Blogging helps you move up quickly.
5. Blogging makes self-employment easier.
6. Blogging provides more opportunities.
7. Blogging could be your big break.
8. Blogging makes the world a better place.

Read the whole thing....and if you haven't already done so, start a blog, already!

Nifty sites

The ever-helpful folks on Lifehacker have gathered a few jewels worth noting...

For those of us chomping at the bit for our IRS refund, there's a site to check on its status.

For those of us who are sick and tired of wading through endless voice prompt hell when calling for customer service, this delightful site has a list of firms and instructions on how to actually get a human.

Love both of these.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Google and collaboration

I'm a big fan of collaboration. When I was a library director, I enlisted the help of local business folks to be presenters at the library's program series. They got free advertising, we got a presenter that knew what they were talking about, everybody won. When you've got someone who does something really well, take advantage of that fact and see if you can enlist their help.

There has been rather continuous grumbling about Google, which seems to grow with each new innovation. While they do some things that I find disturbing (i.e., censoring web pages in China) they do others that are incredible. Enter the Google Librarian.

They say in their site:
Librarians and Google share a similar mission: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. We support librarians who work each day to further that mission. This site is a first step toward improving and expanding that support.
Librarians can sign up for updates, news of new features, and get their newsletter.

I got the latest issue of the newsletter this morning. It has a number of links that are definitely worth exploring. There's a link to a blogger who wrote a program to determine whether a book in Google Book Search is available in your library.

Another great link is to a PDF that Google has created, with very simple search instructions, to help searchers get better results. (Ahem. We could take a page from their book and do this with our own library search software.)

So. Google is creating helpful tools, discovering folks who are linking to their work and telling people about it, and are reaching out to librarians so that we can work together to help people find information. I say, let's quit vilifying Google and start taking advantage of the stuff they have to offer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I had sent an email to the Comedy Central folks with regard to the episode, and how appalled I was that they had censored it. To their credit, I received a reply:

Dear Viewer,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the "South Park" episodes entitled "Cartoon Wars." We appreciate your concerns about censorship and the destructive influence of outside groups on the media, entertainment industry and particularly Comedy Central.

To reiterate, as satirists, we believe that it is our First Amendment right to poke fun at any and all people, groups, organizations and religions and we will continue to defend that right. Our goal is to make people laugh and perhaps, if we're lucky, even make them think in the process.

Comedy Central's belief in the First Amendment has not wavered, despite our decision not to air an image of Muhammad. Our decision was made not to mute the voices of Trey and Matt or because we value one religion over any other. This decision was based solely on concern for public safety in light of recent world events.

With the power of freedom of speech and expression also comes the obligation to use that power in a responsible way. Much as we wish it weren't the case, times have changed and, as witnessed by the intense and deadly reaction to the publication of the Danish cartoons, decisions cannot be made in a vacuum without considering what impact they may have on innocent individuals around the globe.

It was with this in mind we decided not to air the image of Muhammad, a decision similar to that made by virtually every single media outlet across the country earlier this year when they each determined that it was not prudent or in the interest of safety to reproduce the controversial Danish cartoons. Injuries occurred and lives were lost in the riots set off by the original publication of these cartoons. The American media made a decision then, as we did now, not to put the safety and well being of the public at risk, here or abroad.

As a viewer of "South Park," you know that over the course of ten seasons and almost 150 episodes the series has addressed all types of sensitive, hot-button issues, religious and political, and has done so with Comedy Central's full support in every instance, including this one. "Cartoon Wars" contained a very important message, one that Trey and Matt felt strongly about, as did we at the network, which is why we gave them carte blanche in every facet but one: we would not broadcast a portrayal of Muhammad.

In that regard, did we censor the show? Yes, we did. But if you hold Comedy Central's 15-year track record up against any other network out there, you'll find that we afford our talent the most creative freedom and provide a nurturing atmosphere that challenges them to be bold and daring and places them in a position to constantly break barriers and push the envelope. The result has been some of the most provocative television ever produced.

We would like nothing more than to be able to look back at this in a few years and think that perhaps we overreacted. Unfortunately, to have made a different decision and to look back and see that we completely underestimated the damage that resulted was a risk we were not willing to take.

Our pledge to you, our loyal viewers, is that Comedy Central will continue to produce and provide the best comedy available and we will continue to push it right to the edge, using and defending the First Amendment in the most responsible way we know how.

Comedy Central Viewer Services

I'm not sure I agree with them, but I give them lots of props for actually replying.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I don't normally jump into the political fray, but I'm going to put my two cents' worth in on this one.

I watch South Park sporadically. DH loves it. And the writers do have a rather refreshing way of lampooning everyone. Very equal-opportunity.

The episodes of the last two weeks have dealt with terrorist reprisals for media images of the Prophet Mohammed. The episode last night, when Mohammed was supposed to appear, had two black screens, explaining that Comedy Central had refused to show an image of Mohammed. I had initially assumed that those two screens were part of the original writing.

It now appears that Comedy Central did, in fact, censor the images. I'm appalled. Michelle Malkin explains the whole thing. As The Anchoress notes, "All in all, pretty funny in some places, dumb in others...the message was clear: either it'’s all fair game, or nothing is, and to appease is to concede valuable liberties. I concur."

So do I.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Audio Description

When I lived in Milwaukee, I became involved in a volunteer program - Audio Description. Audio Description is for the blind and visually impaired what Signing is for the deaf and hard of hearing. An Audio Describer will be in the light booth or some other out-of-the-way place in the theatre, talking to the audience member through a headset, describing what’s going on onstage. “He’s creeping towards her with a knife in his left hand. She is looking in another direction, and doesn't see him behind her. He raises the knife…” You get the idea.

It's a more complicated process than you might think, and took a fair amount of training. For instance, your job as a describer was to simply describe what you were seeing - not to make interpretive judgements. For instance, I would tell you that someone is smiling - not that they're happy. Physical descriptions were interesting, too, since politically correct terms like African-American mean little to nothing to someone who has been blind since birth. However, if I tell you that he's a tall man, of slender build, with short, curly black hair, brown eyes, and medium brown skin, you can get a mental picture of the actor.

We actually had to audition to be a volunteer, since they wanted to make sure that you had a decent vocabulary and a pleasant speaking voice. A new employee at the sponsoring organization, having met the group of us for the first time, commented that she had never met a group of women with such low voices. (We all have rather deep, throaty voices, which I suppose is easier to listen to for two hours than someone with a high, squeaky voice.)

It was a wonderful experience and something I’d like to do again. (I haven’t been able to do so since we left Milwaukee.) Segue to this month’s issue of Computers in Libraries.

The Alliance Library System in Illinois has decided to have audio descriptions added to their historical photographs, making them accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The Illinois Alive website has a few lovely photographs, which seem to come alive when described. This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while, and I’m thrilled that someone thought to combine the wonders of digitization and the access of Audio Description.

It makes me wonder what else we could describe.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


There's a new blogger on the library scene - the Liminal Librarian. The blog is written by Rachel Singer Gordon, and her posts are thoughtful and interesting. Today's was particularly entertaining, since it contained within a link to a story that had me laughing out loud at my desk. Check it out for yourself.

What a great way to end a work day. With a good laugh. Thanks, Rachel.

Monday, April 10, 2006

iPod, youPod, weallPod....

I was a bit late in coming to the iPod users group, thinking I would have no use for the thing. I bought one for DH (who adores all things techie) and figured one in the family would be sufficient.

I was wrong.

I have one and love it. I inadvertently left mine at work on Friday, and wished for it all weekend. DSD is dropping not-so-subtle hints about getting one of her own. And I'm finding myself wishing at least one of the family iPods was one of the video iPods. (We have older versions.)

In addition to the coolness of being able to haul your entire music library around with you, there are lots of swell new tools you can add to your iPod. It's really becoming an amazing little toy.

Lifehacker, as usual, regularly reports on the newest and hippest. The Mirriam Webster Dictionary is now available on an iPod. How handy would that have been in college? (How handy would that be now?)

National Geographic Traveler lists a bunch of iPod uses on a trip. Audiobooks, of course, along with playlists. But there are other neato things you can add, such as various guidebooks, subway maps, and podcast tours of various venues. (See? I need one of the video iPods!)

Now, for a library....if the size of some of these swell tools is small enough, perhaps we could consider purchasing a slew of those wee little iPods - the Shuffle. They start at just $69 now. What if an enterprising library chose to buy a few and load them with, say, tourist information...or a book....or a song genre?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Attention? What attention?

From Lifehacker, a head's up on a wonderful article in C/Net. Dr. Edward Hallowell discusses ADT, or Attention Deficit Trait. It sounds like virtually everyone I know...
It may be the greatest irony of the information age.

All of that data flying at you by e-mail, instant message, cell phone, voice mail and BlackBerry--it could actually be making you dumber.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who's studied attention deficit disorder for more than a decade, has identified a related disorder he calls attention deficit trait, and he says it's reaching epidemic proportions in the corporate world. Unlike attention deficit disorder, or ADD, people aren't born with ADT. It's the result, he contends, of the modern workplace, where the constant and relentless chatter coming from our computers, phones and other high-tech devices is diluting our mental powers.

His solution? Take time off to think. Read the whole thing. It's definitely food for thought.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Previews of coming attractions

Michael has a great post on his blog, with a presentation he recently gave to folks at the Metropolitan Library System on Barriers in Libraries. Terrific insights, as usual.

Can't wait to have him come to Minnesota!

In a somewhat similar vein, there's a wonderful post from Aaron Schmidt on staplers. Thought-provoking and funny - my favorite combination. Jenny's response (quoted by Aaron) is too true...and hilarious.

So the question is, what barriers are we putting up at our libraries? Are there ridiculous "rules" that exist only because "we've always done it that way"?? Have we been possessed by some Evil Librarian of Days Past and are assuming that (fill in the blank - teens, seniors, kids...) are up to no good and should be treated accordingly?

Are we guilty of the being "Eat Your Peas Librarian" (thanks, Susan!) You know, the "I don't care if you like it, it's good for you. Eat your peas!" (Or, read this book! Or, search that way!)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


An article caught my ear this morning on NPR. It seems a local realty firm has purchased the rights to keywords on Google and Yahoo, which make their realty firm's page show up at the top of the list whenever someone does a search for these keywords - which happen to be the actual names of other realty firms. Not surprisingly, there's a lawsuit. Eric Goldman, a professor at Marquette University, discusses the suit on his blog.

Now, this seems to be a bad idea. It's slightly shady business, and takes advantage of a new technology by misdirecting consumers. Maybe I'm behind the curve on this one, and it's been happening behind our backs for a while. But, really.

As a librarian, I'm horrified that one can purchase a keyword. Search terms are there to assist users in accessing information accurately. The idea that someone can skew the results of a search by obtaining "rights" to a keyword goes against everything libraries stand for.

Frankly, I think the ALA should sit up and take notice of this, and perhaps take up the issue of purchasing keywords at all. Heaven forbid some marketing guy gets the bright idea to purchase a keyword for a library's computer search!

Monday, April 03, 2006


From GM's Corner, via Shrinkwrapped:

According to a news report, a certain school in Garden City, MI was
recently faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the washroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Every night, the maintenance man would remove them and the next day, the girls would put them back.

Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. He called all the girls to the washroom and met them there with the maintenance man. He explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night.

To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, he asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.

He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it. Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.


There are teachers, and then there are Educators.

Love this.