Mashup the Library

December 5, 2007

Librarians are pretty hip and cutting edge after all, it seems. The latest indication is the wealth of material you find by googling ‘mashup library’ and poking around. One thing that caught my was the evaluation criteria for success in a recent competition:

Entries will be evaluated on the following broad criteria. These are deliberately loosely defined, in order not to constrain innovative and wide-ranging entries.

ease of use
ease of deployment
portability/ relevance to other libraries

Additionally, judges will be able to award red or green flags to entries they consider particularly undeserving or deserving of winning. These criteria are only provided as a guide to entrants and to judges. The decision of judges will be final, and they will be encouraged to recognise entries of particular excellence. We are interested in entries that genuinely improve the utility of one or more library functions for their users, and in those entries that raise awareness of issues associated with extending the reach of the library.



A Wiki-less Wiki?

November 29, 2007

I had to laugh when I saw this pop-up in my gmail ads. What’s next? A blog without the blog?




Tags Make Libraries: Web 2.0 and the Profression

September 16, 2007

This article about social bookmarking and libraries from LibraryJournal.com is an excellent example of the approach we focused on during the recent workshop in Kazakhstan. What does it look like in practice?

Libraries like the Thunder Bay Public Library, Ont., and the Nashville Public Library have del.icio.us tag clouds rolled on their web site, so patrons can find information on any number of topics just by clicking on a tag. Other libraries like the College of New Jersey Library and University of Alberta Libraries experiment with del.icio.us link rolls to replace or supplement traditional subject guides and pathfinders.

But why is using social bookmarking tools better than traditional pathfinders and subject guides? It lowers barriers for participation, both for library patrons and staff. Tasha Saecker, director of the Menasha Public Library, WI, notes that del.icio.us helps “less tech-savvy librarians have an equal voice in the collection,” instead of having one or two librarians editing a static web page.

This bottom-up revolution for the catalogues may be just what librarians need to bring the patrons back into the libraries, or at least library web sites. Though better still would be to take the best of old and new. While Web 2.0 harnesses heretofore untapped power of users distributed throughout a network, there remains an integrative role for expert information professionals. The challenge will be to find bridge applications and platforms that hybridize the best of expert and lay opinion in a seamless, flexible and usable manner.



The Full Picassa-based Kazakhstan Slideshow

September 15, 2007

I am home from the trip and immensely gratified. A future post will cover the Day 3 report and another will touch on my last meeting, which was with about 15 representatives of diverse NGOs at the US Consulate in Almaty. For now, let me share with you a slide show with some captions, presented via a ‘Picassa Web Album,’ which is another example the ‘cloud’ computing era mentioned in class. I hope you like the pictures!

Kazakhstan 2007



Workshop Day 2: A Wiki Takes a First Big Step

September 12, 2007

workshop2 workshop1 I feel a bit like a doctor having watched over the birth of a fiesty baby. A national association of Kazakh librarians in fact ‘delivered’ today. With very little instruction, 2 and 3 to a computer, they launched headlong into creating accounts, new pages, content, links and a more or less unified style for their new wiki-based index (my somewhat controversial word) of Kazakstani libraries. It is in fact a very elaborate, careful and thoughtful stub; it promises to grow quickly and usefully throughout Kazakhstan and perhaps more or all of Central Asia. I predict it will fundamentally change the way these librarians think about collaboration, communication, and the organization of information. You can visit the wiki at: http://kt3.exp.sis.pitt.edu/wiki/index.php/

BTW: It helps if you can speak Russian or read it through a web translation page like: http://www.online-translator.com/srvurl.asp, which actually translates some of the key words pretty effectively.

Let me just say, this was one of the best days of my life. I woke up a bit groggy and homesick, almost lamenting my presence here. The session, however, was really invigorating. The librarians are a dedicated and focused group. They like to laugh while they work. They are quick learners and extremely fluent with information technology. You can find old & new video on my travelogue “channel” at: http://www.youtube.com/docsfluency.

We had a jolly good time arriving at a consistent approach for the ‘list’ of Kazakh libraries they built. My translator Amir was key; he was indispensible on the projected lap top!




Snippet from the Opening Session of the Workshop

September 11, 2007

We started our 10-4:30 session Day 1 of the workshop by listening to each participant describe their library, its computing facilities, access to the Internet, and other assorted details.

It was fascinating as a pattern emerged early on.

“We have x computers [where x = anywhere from 2-90] and y% of x [where y = 5-50] are connected to the Internet.”

It was only the exceptional library, such as the one serving the ‘young university’ educating oil industry workers and managers, where y = 100. Many of the librarians explained the fees for Internet access were simply beyond their means. One library did have Soros money; a rarity for these libraries, it also had wireless.

Once we had gone all around and talked as a group about my observations and questions, we were ready for a break. The group was large, but very attentive, forthcoming and patient. After the break for coffee and tea, I took a shot at fully introducing myself and the goals for the workshop. Before I knew it we, we had a great teaching moment or two once they had their first look at the wiki we created for the consortium. The questions were flying and they were really good ones! We laughed and joked, though this picture doesn’t actually capture that sequence. This must have been when I was droning on.


The Web 2.0 introduction went really well. They knew little or nothing about much of what we discussed before today. Tomorrow they will be designing and editing pages on their new wiki in a computer lab. Olga asked if this would replace her existing web page. I said, by no means, mistakenly assuming the new wiki might be seen as an impostion and a presumptuous one at that. She was, however, disappointed with my answer. Maintaing the consortium web site alone was too much for her; she wanted to give it up and move to a bottom-up managed wiki for the entire consortium. This is when we turned to the issues of wiki governance, and all the related concerns they so aptly and energetically raised.

Early on, I learned that my translator Amir was extremely talented at relating my intonation and inflections. He really cared about conveying the message in an effective way; you could tell it was more than just work. Exhausted, at the 4:30 close, he commented to me that his parents, grandparents and beyond were all teachers, so he know how tiring it was. I had to aree, I was wiped out. It took me about 15 second to fall asleep in a chair in the Director’s office at 4:31.

Early on, Amir very carefully whispered translations as we listened to the opening introductions.




Web Album #1: Photos from Kazakhstan

September 10, 2007

I really like the ability to post web albums with captions via Picassa. Here is Web Album #1.