Monthly Archives: April 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.

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Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff

Payback

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.

AND EVERYONE ACTS LIKE THIS IS NORMAL BEHAVIOR.

Ahem.

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.

Heh.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship

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!

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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.

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Techie stuff

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.

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Reply

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.

Sincerely,
Comedy Central Viewer Services

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

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Filed under Miscellaneous

Appalled

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.

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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, wearing…now 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.

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