Internet Librarian 2011: Tips on Redesigning Library Sites

Michael Epstein, Virginia Franklyn, Amanda Foust, Anna Jonsson, and Julie Magnus

Michael Epstein (University of San Diego) kicked the session off by talking about collaboration and negotiation in a library website redesign project.  The relationships we build and negotiate are just as important as the tools and technologies we use.  Successful collaboration requires conversations with stakeholders.  You have to be able to communicate the unique needs of a library website to parent agencies.  His university had embarked on a redesign and not involved the library in the redesign conversation.  They got templates (you know the kind—the “put your stuff here” boxed in locked down things).  The library director retired and the CIO was named the interim director,  at which point a new redesign process occurred and the library staff were able to work through the CIO to be involved in the redesign process.  A library website redesign team was formed including both librarians and IT personnel.  Both IT and the library staff were somewhat defensive at first.  Look for opportunities to collaborate with non-library personnel and build relationships through conversations, negotiations, and compromise.  Be sure to communicate the unique needs of library users.  Be willing to give up some control in return for a truly collaborative approach.

Virginia Franklyn (Pikes Peak Library District) spoke about their library’s website redesign.  The site was way too small for the scope of what their library was doing.  The first thing was to read Project Management for Dummies.  This helped her draw up a timeline for the project which kept everything organized and provided for some accountability.  The project plan was made in the staff wiki, easy to update.  All staff could access it.  They looked at WordPress and Joomla but decided on Drupal.  The framework is flexible and robust and the interface allows for easy staff data entry and patron participation.  And it’s free (!) with a supportive community.  They used WAMP (the Windows version of LAMP).  She read Drupal 6 by David Mercer.  She became active with Drupal groups: Drupal Southern Colorado User Group, Drupal Camps, DrupalCon, and Library BoFs (birds of a feather).  But she admits the development process was mostly trial and error (mostly error).  They did a few usability studies—and found that people wanted the catalog and my account predominantly (no surprise), with occasional needs for info on programs, finding a good book, and research.  They also did card sorting with staff and the public to help build the information architecture.  They used OptimalSort to do the card sorting digitally (nice!).   She recommends Steve Krug’s most excellent book Don’t Make Me Think.  She recommends to start testing once the basic infrastructure is built.  Have a Usability Hot Team.  Make sure your users are a combination of different user groups.  They did four different tests; several are optimal.  And their new site is up: http://ppld.org.

Julie, Amanda, and Anna discussed the Marin County Free Library’s new website (where I had my first librarian job!).  They showed the evolution of the library’s website over time (including a few of my designs, talk about a flash from the past!).  They’re launching their new site 11/1/11 (nice!).  They’re incorporating social media with the new site to make it more interactive.  One of their big takeaways is that you need patience, passion, and perseverance for a project of this size…even when there are inevitable little break-downs in the system.  You might have to combat staff burnout—give them a chance to vent and listen to their opinions.  You’ll also be managing people you don’t supervise…so how do you do that?  Rely on the relationships you’ve developed in your organization.  That person to person interaction is critical.  And you will need people who are tenacious and willing to slog through the sometimes boring work necessary to get the project up and running.  Rebranding your library at the same time as developing a new site isn’t a good idea.  Other tips: when evaluating vendor proposals, see if they can provide you with some previous project examples with a similar budget to yours.  Using Google Docs as a central repository for documentation was handy.  Carrying a printout of your wireframes at all time was also helpful for them.  I have to say, without any real bias—their new site looks nice.  Really, really nice.  Good job guys!

Internet Librarian 2011: Developing a Mobile Presence: Mobile Web, Usability, and Devices

Esben Fjord, Nate Hill, and Joel Shields

Esben Fjord works at the Gladsaxe Public Libraries, a suburb of Copenhagen with a population of 64,000 people.  Their annual budget is $8.5 million (uhh, wowsers).  They use $1.2 for materials and have 110 employees, 1 main library, and 4 branches.  They had money to spend, and did a project with iPad 2s.  Esben set up workshops with some of the staff and brainstormed on what to do with the devices.  The idea was that the best people to figure out ways to use them were the staff that has the daily contact with users.  They wanted to use the iPads as a facilitator for interaction in the library’s physical space.  They wanted to train patrons on how to use them too, and basically brand themselves as a tech-savvy library.  The music librarian was interested in using the iPads as a way to work with sounds and music.  He put different music apps on the iPads and worked with the patrons on them.  Another librarian with a book club found info on authors (e.g. Jane Austen) to share with the club members.  So they gave the members of the club iPads. (Sarah’s note: Holy god. I wish I had money to buy our library staff one iPad, much less buy them for our book club members!).  A third project involved news on the iPad – news-related apps that patrons could borrow.  They are having an Angry Bird tournament at the children’s library – already 50 kids signed up.  They’re also lending iPads to patrons and having them video-record themselves doing book reviews.  They’re also having workshops where users exchange info on what they use their iPads for.  They didn’t want to have long chains on the iPads, so they just check them out as ordinary material…they put a chip in every iPad (RFID).

Nate Hill (NATE!!!) talked about San Jose Public Library’s Scan Jose (mobile augmented reality walking tours).  http://scanjose.org  This was a project that I actually wrote the grant for waaaaaay back when I worked at SJPL to make walking tours with our local historic photos.  I was so sad I left before the project was completed L  Nate noted the discrepancy between big ideal plans for usability testing vs. the reality you experience when trying to crank out a project.  He showed screenshots from the tours (they are pretty amazing). They use the Google GeoLocation API to detect where you are and give you walking directions.  The content was also injected as a Layar in the Layar augmented reality app (coolio).  Nate says “Here’s the deal: Do as I say, not as I’ve done.”  Yup.  The technology for this is a moving target, and it’s storytelling.  Nate was also learning the tech on the fly and dealing with staff changes (e.g. me leaving & other staff moving around too – sorry!).  The content is really all about communication with our users.  One tip/trick for others doing mobile web development is that if you use one of these platforms like jquery mobile, it helps make a lot of decision for you – size of buttons, etc. are already recommended so you don’t have to figure it out.  Nate did a lot of storyboarding for interaction prototyping.  You need to think about where your users are – are they trying to use this in the car? Walking? Running?  Give yourself some structure and tell the story…  Give yourself six or eight boxes, and be strict with yourself about putting the experience into that limited space.

Joel Shields (Washington Research Library Consortium) talked about his experiences trying his library’s website on mobile and being crazy frustrated.  He came up with a wish list of what he’d like to have on his library’s homepage – the library catalog, library account information, locations, hours, and it had to look decent.  His development mantra was “get up and go.”  App vs. mobile website?  He decided (and rightly so) on mobile website (cross platform, baby!).  He built his mobile site on LAMP.  He used iWebkit to download a full template of pages that look fantastic.  Download it to a DropBox account and save it to a public folder, and you have a website ready to go (that’s a cool idea!).  How to get the catalog to work on mobile?  They were using Aquabrowser.  He showed us a live demo of their mobile site and it was indeed very, very pretty and quite functional.  Text messaging integration, contact the librarian, e-document-delivery, etc.  They have a checked out items calendar – which integrates with your calendar app and puts your due dates on the calendar.  That’s neat-o.  They pull in book images from LibraryThing. He emphasized the importance of beta testing with an investment in the technology working and an interest in improving the product.  Do a media blitz to let people know about what you developed.  Posters, banner ads on the website/catalog, etc.  Track your statistics and usage (Google Analytics) to prove that it’s actually being used.

Internet Librarian 2011: Best Betas for Learning & Navigating

Gary Price

Gary’s entire presentation is available at: http://j.mp/bestbetas

Snap Bird (http://snap.org): a Twitter archive tool.  Search for someone’s specific timeline, keywords, favorites, search all the people you follow and their Tweets, Tweets mentioning you, DMs sent and received, etc.  Gary’s found Tweets back into April for some of the searches he’s ran.

Microsoft Academic (http://academic.research.microsoft.com/): 36 million publications from 18 million authors.  You can search by author, organization, DOI, conference title, publication title, etc.  Brand new from Microsoft…

BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine from Europe) (http://www.base-search.net/): 31 million documents from over 250,000 content providers, for academic scholarly research.

Quixley (http://quixley/): App discovery for all the different platforms.  Search for keywords and see what’s on which platform (Sarah’s note: This would be a good tool in helping people pick what device/platform to purchase based on which apps they care most about).

Primadesk (http://primadesk.com/): Aggregates all of your cloud services like Box.net, Dropbox, Flickr, Google Docs, Facebook, etc.

Otixo (http://otxio.com/)

Greplin (http://greplin.com/)

Muse (http://mobisocial.stanford.edu/muse/):  Runs locally, java app, once you download it it analyzes any email box you have and shows you visualizations of your communication patterns.

Leafsnap (http://leafsnap.com/about/): Image recognition for iOS from Columbia University, Smithsonian, and University of Maryland.  Electronic field app that lets you snap photos of leaves on the East Coast and get them identified.

Mealsnap (http://mealsnap.com/): Snap photo of your meal and it quantifies what you’re eating and returns a calorie count.

WeBIRD (http://infodocket.com/2011/10/12/coming-spring-12-bird-song-app-identifies-feathered-friends-by-tweets-shazam-for-birds/):

TinEye (http://www.tineye.com):  20 billion images.  Upload your own image and see how people are remixing and manipulating similar images.

Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/blog/announcing-zotero-3-0-beta-release/): Was only available if you were using Firefox, but the 3.0 Beta 1 is now available for Mac, Windows, and Linux and mobile versions too.  Zotero is good for local archiving, personal digital archiving, and is pretty freaking cool (says Sarah…Gary doesn’t say “freaking” :P).

WorldCat Identities and Visualize Relationships (http://www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n79-127769): Identities for content creators.  The “visualize relationships” data is useful to all sorts of organizations. An exciting discovery tool with a visual edge (mind mapping, sort of…kind of like Aquabrowser’s word cloud).

C-SPAN Video Library (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/): Almost anything C-SPAN ever aired.  It’s more than just the senate and house hearings.  All the author talks are in here, political rallies, etc.  Can just embed specific seconds or minutes or video.  So many learning application opportunities here.

Watch, Know, Learn (http://www.watchknowlearn.org/): free educational videos.

New National Archives search (http://www.archives.gov/research/search/): New search with a ton of different advanced search limit options.

Bitcasa (http://www.bitcasa.com/about/): They store the data.  The metadata and connections are stored on your computer.  If the FBI wants to know who has what, they have the 1s and 0s, but that’s it…not the connections (NICE!!!)

Programmable Web (http://www.programmableweb.com/):  Info on over 41 million APIs.

NeedleBase (http://needlebase.com/): integrating and cleaning data.

DuckDuckGo (http://duckduckgo.com/):  One-man web search operation with a no-tracking privacy policy.

SiloBreaker (http://www.silobreaker.com/iphone-4s-11_248629882): gives you visualization, pulls in different sources, comprehensive coverage of different sources you might not find elsewhere like in Google News.

GlueJar (http://gluejar.com/): Eric Hellman (go Eric!). “the social commissioning of eBooks.”  Kind of a kickstarter for authors…  Awesome.

Internet Librarian 2011: Next Big Trends: Near Field Communication & Interactive Picture Books

Gretchen Caserotti, Kristen Yarmey, and Sheli McHugh

Gretchen Caserotti talked about interactive digital picture books.  Just as with print books, with digital books picture books get checked out in huge “stacks” while other books may get checked out one or two at a time.  The pricing for interactive picture books is very competitive – $1.99 for an app.  There are millions of these out there…  Gretchen tried to demonstrate Overdrive’s eBooks but it wouldn’t appear on the screen (!!!).  Hmmm…  What makes a good app?  Are there customizable features?  Can you turn music on and off, resize it?  The Cat in the Hat app offers read it to me, auto-play, or read it myself.  Anything on the screen lets you click on it and get audio and text descriptions—a great way to learn to read, says Gretchen.  Freight Train is great.  The Moo, Baa, La La, La is one of the best preschool apps out there.  You can touch and interact with everything on the screen – and it is an exact representation of the printed book as well,  And when you turn the pages, it looks exactly like turning real pages.  It gives you feedback too – day, and night, are two different colors.  Everything on the page gives you feedback, but it’s an appropriate level of interaction for preschoolers.  Other picture book apps of note: The Monster at the End of the Book, Spot the Dot, and Pat the Bunny.  The book (in print) is a touch interaction book, and has a mirror on one page.  The iPad app uses the camera in the device to simulate the mirror experience.  It’s also non-linear.  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes is another noteworthy book too.  Nurse Rhyme Storytime is a good app – lets you interact using the device’s gyroscope to shake to expose words hidden under illustrations.  The Three Little Pigs story lets you interact with the story by blowing into the microphone to act as the wolf to blow the piggy’s house down.  Awesome!  While there are no industry standards, there are important features that we could agree on – is the story itself good, is it usable, what is the level of vocabulary, etc.  Looking for kids’ app reviews online: Best Kids Apps, Children’s Technology Review, Common Sense Media, Digital Storytime, Lunchbox Reviews, Moms with Apps, and School Library Journal.

Kristen Yarmey and Sheli McHugh talked about near field communication (NFC).  What is NFC?  A way for devices to transmit and receive information wirelessly at close range.  2-10 cm usually.  How does it work?  It’s an evolved, specific form of RFID.  You need an initiator which can emit a radio frequency field and a target that can respond to that field (e.g. a smart phone and a tagged smart poster).  When you get close enough to the target with your initiator, the target responds and establishes a communication pattern so the two devices can exchange data.  They don’t have to be powered—they power themselves off of the radio frequency field the other device is putting out.  They can be read-only or read-write.  They do store significantly more data than QR codes, up to 1mb of data.  They can exchange data too, not just give a one-shot burst of data like QR codes do.  So why does this matter?  Why do we need NFC when we have QR Codes, WiFi, and BlueTooth?  NFC is a much faster connection. There’s a Nokia speaker that lets you just tap your phone to the speaker and the NFC connection then allows the rest of the communication and data to be exchanged via BlueTooth.  To sync your documents, just tap your phone to your computer, etc.  NFC is already being used for mobile payments.  Your phone essentially works as your credit card.  Some of the players here: Google Wallet, and ISIS (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) and Visa Wallet are coming.  Yale Locks will be putting out NFC locks on the market soon (KEyLink smart car keys do this too).  Mobile Marketing with NFC: Proxama, Google Media.  Social Media: FourSquare at Google I/O, Google+, and NFriendConnector is in prototype.  NFC is really usful for gaming too – Angry Birds has been using NFC with what they’re calling Magic Places (go someplace physical and tap your phone to get levels unlocked).  Fruit Ninja gives you access to new blades too.  We’re starting to see this in public transportation, parking, health care, tickets, grocery stores, and more.    Rosetta Stone will embed a computer chip into your gravestone and people visiting your grave can hear all about your life story. (!!!!!!!!!)  In 5 or so years, we expect NFC on all of our phones.  PayPal, Square, and eBay are more naysayers about the NFC technology…  Who to watch?  ISIS and Apple.  What does this mean for libraries?  A mobile collection—NFC tags on books or media resources w/ reviews, bib info, author biographies, using it for self-check-out, social interactions.  Bibliotecha has a prototype app for off-the-shelf self-checkout with NFC & smart phones.  WOW!  It provides a speedy portal between our patrons and our collections.  We need to keep security and privacy in mind as we move forward with NFC as it has proven hackable, and we’re all about patron privacy…so yeah.  Let’s be smart.

Internet Librarian 2011

Understanding Users and Improving Your Website with Google Analytics

SuHui Ho and Jeff Wisniewski

SuHui Ho

Why use web metrics?  The basic hit count is extremely misleading (we’ve known this for a long time).  Looking deeper is essential.  Some of the reports Google Analytics offers that are useful for us are the Top Content Report and the Traffic Source Report.

Top Content Report: The content on your website is a living being.  So you have to keep it updated.  We always have more content we can update.  We have more rooms to clean on our websites than we have people to clean them.  If you know which content is used most, you can prioritize those.  Look at what the top tasks are too – what do people come to your website to do?  Which pages from the homepage are clicked on most often?

Traffic Source Report: How much of your homepage traffic comes from the homepage settings on your in-library computers?  SuHui says “don’t be so proud of your total hit count” because much of that direct traffic is from your own computers.  J  Referring sites are really useful to look at as well…  And look at search engine traffic too – how much of your traffic comes from a search engine query result?  Really pay attention to search engine optimization – make sure that your website appears on the top of the search results you want.  Reviewing the keyword referrals from search engines is useful – you might see a lot of mentions of the word “hours” with variations of different phrases.

Jeff Wisniewski

Jeff talked about the Goals and Funnels feature in Google Analytics.  A Goal is the page a visitor reaches once (s)he has completed a task or an action…an end point of sorts.  A Funnel is the optimized steps that the person should go through to get to that page.  Looking at both of these in conjunction you can see where people get tripped up.

An example: the goal to register for a class on RefWorks.  There may be several steps in your Funnel (e.g. look at calendar, click on class time you like, click on register, etc.).  Per profile, you get to have up to 20 goals.  Jeff says this is a reasonable limit.  Name your goal something intuitive, because this is what shows up in the analytics reports.  You can set the goal’s position, and pick a goal type (URL destination, time on site, pages/visit).  For us, the URL destination is the most relevant to our type of web business.  Be careful about leading or trailing slashes or spaces because Google Analytics will not match up the URL correctly.  Once you set a goal, you get asked to create a Funnel.  Then you set up the different steps—a Funnel can have an unlimited number of steps.

And then you wait to give Google Analytics time to collect data.  Now that they’ve rolled out real time analytics, that’s awesome.  You used to have to wait at least 24 hours, you can now see some data within minutes.  With Jeff’s example, we see that we started with 886 people.  43 people didn’t get past the first step of the process, and it tells you where they went instead.  The next step lost another 36 people, and then the 3rd step (checkout confirmation) resulted in a significant loss of 317 people.  Whoa.  That’s not good.  But it shows you where you need to make changes and improvements, and in that way it’s super awesome useful!  Whoopah!  Jeff recommends looking at trend data over time instead of hanging your hat on a particular number at one specific time.  Good advice!

Internet Librarian 2011:

Opening Keynote (John Seely Brown)

The entrepreneurial learner—people constantly wanting to learn new things in a world full of constant change.  How do we cultivate that kind of spirit in today’s kids and perhaps even ourselves.

Up until the last 5-15 years, the infrastructures we’ve experienced—steam, electrification, etc.—have all had an S curve of development.  Quick innovation and then long periods of stability, which is when we reinvent the new social practices of how to operate.  The digital universe, however, doesn’t follow the S curve pattern…It’s a continuously increasing upswing, with no time of stability to settle down.

We’re experiencing a very strange phenomenon—the half-life of a given skill has shrunk to about 5 years.  Most of us grew up in a time when our skills would be relevant for 20 or more years.  Going back to school is not the solution.  You have to find new ways of constantly picking up new skills.

We know how to deal with stocks (protecting and delivering authoritative knowledge assets).  But we’re moving into flows, from codified knowledge to tacit knowledge, where cultivation is more important than ever.  We have not had time to build institutional warrants.  A new kind of critical reason is important to thought.

And contrary to what people say, librarians are more important than ever.  Are we preparing our students for this new world?

This requires more than just the skill of learning how to learn.  It requires new dispositions.  And dispositions cannot be taught.  But they can be cultivated in the right settings…like libraries.

We have to be able to afford curiosity in a networked age.  Mobile devices are amplifiers – amplifying curiosity.

Dispositions of an Entrepreneurial Learner

  • Curiosity – pulling information on demand
  • Questing – seeking, uncovering, probing
  • Connecting – listening to others, engaging

Perhaps we need new approaches to learning, new practices, and new approaches to thinking and acting.  Maybe we need a new tool set.

Many of us grew up with a Cartesian view of learning – I think and therefore I am.  Pedagogy was viewed as knowledge transfer.  What worked well for the last century is not up to today’s challenges.  We need a social view of learning – we participate and therefore we are.  Understanding is socially constructed.  We see this in study groups.

What is the single best indicator of success at college today?  Is it SAT scores? No.  GPAs? No.  Wealth of your parents? No.  It is your ability to join or form your own study groups—pull people like you together, talk through material.  This idea works digitally too – it doesn’t have to be face to face.  A lot of students do joint problem solving through SMS, Facebook, chat, etc.  So they are building in the virtual world an amazing study room to help them through their learning processes.

Authority vs. timeliness in a rapidly evolving world – good example is Britannica vs. Wikipedia.  Wikipedia has given us the ability to see the back room – the arguments, the disagreements, the kind of knowledge and scholarship that is contested and argued.  For the first time students can see this and be participants and contributors to these discussions.  We as librarians know how to peel back and see what is still being contested – we can help our students cultivate this kind of inquisitiveness and help them make sense of the arguments.

We used to focus on content, assuming context was relatively stable.  But in the world of social media and networked knowledge context is much more fluid.  Blogging and remixing mucks with the content and the context.  Blogging can be joint context creation.

“The blogger is—more than any writer of the past—a node among other nodes, connected but unfinished without the links and the comments and the track-backs that make the blogosphere , at its best, a conversation, rather than a production.” – Andrew Sullivan.  Sullivan compares blogging to jazz—improvisational, intimate, and individual, and collective – and the audience talks over both.

From David Weinberger’s Too Big to Know: “We used to know how to know.  We got our answers from books or experts.  We’d nail down the facts and move on.  We even had Canons. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved into networks.  There’s more knowledge than ever, but it’s different.  Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything.

Collectives—folks who share participation over belonging, they make no demands on users, yet learning happens all the time.  They have almost unlimited scale (unlike social networks) and at their core rest on peer and master mentoring.

How do we bring knowing and making together?  Content and context both.  Given that meaning emerges as much from context as content, new dimensions to the creation of meaning are opened.  This is the essence of remix.

In a world of constant change entrepreneurial learners must be willing to regrind the conceptual lenses with which they make sense of the world.  And for this an essential thing is PLAY.  Play is imagination, poetry.  Play is freedom to fail, and then get it right.  Play leads to epiphanies—everything suddenly falling in place.  Learning leads to a reframing or a re-registering of the world.

We are always faced with riddles that require us to create new lenses to reframe the challenges.  Keep in mind three epistemologies—knowing (homo sapiens), making (homo faber), and playing (homo ludens).  We need to tinker – to embrace change.    We focus too much on knowing in our schools right now – and not enough on playing and making.

We also need to acknowledge the shifts of:

  • Knowing what à Knowing what and where
  • Making things à Making things and context
  • Playing for sense-making à Playing for reframing

This notion of networks of imagination – that turns on emergent collective action.  People don’t just read Harry Potter or play World of Warcraft, then experience it and contribute to it.  Networks of practice and communities of interest come together to create this collective imagination.

#IL2011

I’m headed into Monterey this weekend to attend the Internet Librarian 2011 conference!  I’ll be there Sunday-Wednesday, and have five presentations scheduled (yes, five).

Monday: 20 Steps to Creating Web-Based Library Services

Tuesday: Ebooks: Putting the Issues on the Table (panel discussion with Dick Kaser, Bobbi Newman, Amy Affeft, and Faith Ward)

Wednesday: Talk About: Publishers, Distributors, and Terms of Use (panel discussion); Getting Things Done: Tips & Tricks (with Niccole Westbrook and Colleen Harris); and Digital Content Frustration: Copyright, Licensing, & DRM

I expect that the digital content frustration talk on Wednesday will be, err, let’s just say there will be some pretty radical ranting. *wink*  Come on…you know you want to stay for my talk.  Stick around!

If you are at the conference too, please stop by and say hello!  And pick up one of my new business cards (warning, may be NSFW).

Attendees and distant observers alike can follow the conference through the Twitter hashtag #il2011.  I will be live-blogging the whole conference (well, the sessions I’m not speaking at), so watch for a flurry of posts next week!

Reflections on ageism

September 27, 2011 | Comments (37)

I remember when I was in my early 20s how old, experienced, smart, and amazing I felt.  I could take on the world.  I knew my stuff and was going to show everybody.

Recently I had occasion to meet a 21 year old who seemed, to me, like he was still in grade school.  He’s a smart guy with a world of experiences I’ve never had, but oh…my…gosh.  He seemed so, so young to my mid-30s mind.  Just looking at him I felt like I was looking at a kid I would babysit, not hang with.  And when he said he was born in 1990 I just about spit out my drink.  Sweet baby Jesus, I was in high school in 1990.  And I’m sure many of you were already through grad school or working in 1990.  Scary stuff, the passage of time.

Here’s the good thing that came out of that experience.  I now kind of (just kind of though) understand why all of my colleagues treated me like a child when I got my first librarian job at 24.  I must have looked to them like this person looked to me–too young to work, too young to be good at what I did.  It doesn’t excuse the abhorrent behavior I was subjected to on many occasions (the whole “Why don’t you leave and let the grown-ups talk, Sarah” comment at my first librarian job comes to mind), but it does make a little bit more sense to me now.

Now…twenty-somethings are smart.  I would argue they might actually be smarter than we are, because they’re so much closer to all of that wonderful intensive intellectual exploration we call school.  Most of us have let the learning slip out of our heads and haven’t put a whole lot back in.  We’ve gotten lazy, and probably less smart in the traditional sense.  We have built-up knowledge and experience, which is also profoundly helpful, but I would give credit where credit is due to the super smarts of our young friends.  We need to look past the baby fat on their still smooth faces and actually listen to them.

But we still do look at our young counterparts differently…and for the first time I understand why that happened to me.  It’s a gut instinct, an unconscious reaction to another being so much younger than you that you feel protective instead of on equal footing.  I don’t accept it in myself, and I hereby pledge that I won’t do it ever again to anyone else.  But I understand it now.  And that’s the learning I take with me today in my old codgerly brain.

And I swear, if anyone leaves some “but you’re only 34, you’re still a baby yourself” comments I will throttle you.  Seriously…I’m a librarian.  I can find out where you live.

Selfish Weekend Redux

September 14, 2011 | Comments (7)

If you follow me on the social networks, you might have seen that I decided to dub this past weekend “Crazy, Selfish, Indulgent Weekend.”  I chronicled my activities this weekend on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  I got a lot of questions in all these media about the origin of the weekend, why I was choosing to be public about what I was doing, etc.  I even got an email from a journalist asking me if I was trying to start a meme.

I wasn’t, but that being said, I think everyone needs a “Crazy, Selfish, Indulgent Weekend” every now and again.  So here’s the skinny: I was feeling spent.  I have been giving a lot of myself to others lately, sacrificing a great deal to make others happy, putting myself in a position where I know I’m going to not be happy.  And one can only do that for so long…  I think many of us in public service tend to be like this — give, give, give…until it damages us.

To rectify that, on Friday night I spontaneously planned my weekend to include as many of my favorite things as possible.  There were 13 parts to my two days of awesomeness (and no, I didn’t plan for 13 to be all goth-y and stuff; it just happened).  I decided to be public about it for a number of reasons, chief of which was to encourage others to be selfish too…even if only for a little while.

Here is a chronicle of my self-indulgence, copied from my Google+ posts. Judge me if you will, but you know what?  It was probably the best weekend I’ve ever had in my life.  Feel free to copy and remix! :)

#SelfishWeekend Part 1: This is what a blissed out post-massage-with-hot-guy Sarah looks like. That’s right…I picked the hot guy on purpose. It is #SelfishWeekend, after all.

#SelfishWeekend Part 2: Walking straight past a library branch & not going in to look around.

#SelfishWeekend Part 3: Favorite meal #1 (@ Cha-Ya) – fresh handmade udon noodles w/ vegetable tempura & genmai cha tea.

#SelfishWeekend Part 4: Walking thru the Castro looking at all the beautiful gay boys.

#SelfishWeekend Part 5: Favorite meal #2 (Lilah Belle’s) – organic roasted veggies & hummus (best I’ve ever had).

#SelfishWeekend Part 6: Favorite meal #3 (Herbivore) – soy chicken shawarma.

#SelfishWeekend Part 7: kitten loooooooove

#SelfishWeekend Part 8: Dancing at the Cat Club in SF. Getting my 80s groove on.

 

#SelfishWeekend Part 9: Snuggling in a warm blanket w/ my kitties, eating a vegan hot fudge brownie sundae for brunch, & watching Mad Men.

#SelfishWeekend Part 10: Driving Highway 1 along the West Marin coast, listening to Bon Iver.

#SelfishWeekend Part 11: Hiking in the redwoods of Mt. Tamalpais.

#SelfishWeekend Part 12: Wading in the icy tidepools of Muir Beach.

#SelfishWeekend Part 13: Attending the Marin Shakespeare Company’s steampunk production of The Tempest.

So yes…that’s what I did.  And I’d do it again.  I might, perhaps, do all the hiking and other physical activity first, before staying out until 3am dancing ;)  I think the decadent food day would have made more sense post-drinking-dancing night.  Seriously, though…I think we could all use some more self-love and inward focus.  Nurture yourself so you can nurture others.  Take some time for yourself.  You’ve earned it.

This is the third post in my new Sarah’s Gadget Showcase series. #1 (Audio Gadgets) and #2 (Cooking & Food Gadgets) are also available.

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I started reading at the age of three and haven’t stopped since.  I find power in words, solace in them, pain, despair, joy, inspiration, but most importantly, I find life in words.

I am, believe it or not, traditionally a bookish sort.  I started library school wanting to be a rare books librarian, actually, which is kind of funny when you think about what I do now (high tech and futurist trends are pretty much the polar opposite of old, decaying, dusty books).  Of course, my focus in rare books librarianship was on digitization of the materials for open and free dissemination on this relatively new thing they had back then called “the internet.”  So I guess even then the techie bug had bitten me.  But it was, and is, all about the information not the technology that carries it.

There is a weight to a physical book, and I don’t mean a physical heft.  Books have a meaning, a significance in our culture.  They hold untold promises and infinite possibilities. Books are objects of art.  Carrying or owning books implies that you’re intelligent.  Books = good things.

And for all of the years that I’ve been talking about digital libraries, using technology to improve yourself and your community, and even about eBooks specifically…I privately hated eBooks.  I hated the technology that locked them down, I hated how they worked (or rather didn’t), I hated the thought of reading on a screen, just…hated…them.  I clung to my printed books.  I did not advertise this little love-hate relationship with the eBook; only a few people close to me ever knew.

And then (as is wont to happen) the technology got better and I had to eat my own words.  The consumer-level experience of finding and obtaining an eBook got better (sadly, the library eBook experience is still pretty crap).  E Ink was invented and revolutionized the eReading experience entirely. E Ink is the screen technology that makes the Kindle and other devices work–ultra low power consumption, high resolution, and not back-lit. I don’t know about you, but after reading a lit computer screen all day, I honestly do not think my eyes can stand staring at another one for pleasure.

There is a lot that is still jacked up about the digital reading experience. Don’t get me started on digital rights management or we’ll be here all day and you’ll leave with bleeding ears.  But there are some things that work just fine, at least for me.  Most of these aren’t hardware gadgets per se, but apps/software/services.  So how do I read digitally? Let me count the ways…

The Kindle (& its bouquet of assorted hacks)

Yes, I own a Kindle. And I love it. Hate me later library purists; listen to me now.  The E Ink display is fabulous. The reading interface is good, annotating works, sharing passages is nice, battery life is remarkable…it’s all good.  And you can hack it.  Read on.

To me, the Kindle is like a seductive box of dark chocolates: a tasty, wonderful, yet guilty pleasure that I know I shouldn’t indulge in but want so badly.  I am confident there is something amazing in there to be had; I just have to find a gentle and creative way around existing obstacles (in the case of chocolates, my guilt at eating an entire box in one sitting).  And just as with those very few guilty pleasures that I have desired and couldn’t have right away, I’ve been pretty persistent in trying to get what I want with the Kindle.  I am patient and I try to figure out a way to make things work for me even if at first blush it doesn’t look promising.  My instincts are generally good and I usually end up being right and getting what I want.  Just ask my Kindle.

As you may know, the Kindle is a closed ecosystem and you only “license” books from Amazon–you don’t own them as you would with a printed book (same w/ other eBook vendors too).  Rejecting these principles as complete and utter bullshit, I hacked my Kindle.  I absolutely hate that the Kindle is a locked down system, a completely isolated bubble of content and delivery mechanism (just like the iPad and iPhone ecosystems, which I shun on principle b/c I can’t hack them…yet).  Locking down information goes against everything I stand for as a librarian.  Let me be clear: I do not do anything illegal on my Kindle, other than the hacking itself (which is a grey area, imho, even if you adhere to the DMCA to the letter).  I’m not stealing books or giving away books.  I hacked my Kindle so I could do with my device what I want with the books I paid to “license,” when I want, and in what format I want.  And that is the right of every reader, dammit.

“Hack the Kindle?” you ask.  “Do tell!”  All righty then.  Without getting myself into any more legal difficulties, here are some fabulous resources to get you started on hacking your Kindle into the dirt.  Share these with your co-workers, family members, and (if you’re braver than I am) with your library users.

And for the nerds, a detailed series of posts from an anonymous hacker on the ins and outs of some of the hacks.

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Kindle app on Android
The Kindle app for Android is great.  As long as you have wi-fi enabled on your actual Kindle device, your bookmarked spot is synced up automatically.  I prefer not to read on the small, back-lit screen of my phone (an HTC Thunderbolt), but there are cases when it comes in handy.  Case in point #1: Standing in line at the grocery store.  Instead of being angry and wanting to stab the person in front of me, I whip out my phone and start reading my book.  Case in point #2: In a darkened airplane cabin where turning on the light above you to read might result in you getting stabbed by your seat mate.  You get the idea.  Small screen reading prevents homicides.

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Google Reader
I do a lot of my reading online still–usually on my laptop at home, or my desktop at work.  I’m generally reading blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc. that I find through Google Reader, an RSS aggregator that has stood the test of time and continues to work.  I love the folder system, the interface, the speed, and the app for Android is great.

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Book Sharing
I use both LibraryThing and GoodReads.  I am a member of a science fiction book club on GoodReads, which has me going back there more than to LibraryThing.  I wish I actually remembered to update one or both sites with all the books I’ve been reading.  Anyone have a good trick for that?  Or is it just sheer willpower that I lack?

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Book Discovery

Scout’s honor, I actually do use NoveList to find new books if I’m looking for something in a particular genre.  NoveList is an online resource that many public libraries subscribe to, and I’m glad mine does.  It is a-w-e-s-o-m-e.  From the first time I tried NoveList years ago, it has always made me happy and gives me good recommendations.  Tell it what authors you like, or a book you like, or just keywords you want to read about.  Boom!  Book recommendations.  And I love using it with family members, non-library-world friends, or library users and showing them how to browse around.   You can get lost in there for hours following thread after thread and finding more and more books to put on your “to read” list.  The K-8 version is great for kids too.  I actually found a long-lost-childhood-favorite-book using NoveList after every other method had failed–describing the book to long-time children’s librarians, searching by keywords on search engines and other book sites, no dice.  Love it.
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What do you use?

What do you use to read, to share, to transport, to revel in your bookish nerdiness?  Share with us!
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