Monthly Archives: April 2009

Minnesota Book Awards Announced

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has announced the results of the 21st annual Minnesota Book Awards. A panel of judges selected winners in eight categories, and over 2000 online voters from across Minnesota selected the winner of the Readers’ Choice Award. The awards were presented on the evening of April 25, 2009, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul.

I was  on the panel that selected The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang as the winner in the Memoir and Creative Non-Fiction category. It’s a wonderful memoir about the Hmong people and her family’s journey to Minnesota.  I highly recommend the book especially if you, like me, are a little fuzzy on the history of the Hmong people.

 Here’s the complete list of the winners:

Children’s Literature: The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson

General Non-fiction: The Compassionate Carnivore by Catherine Friend

Genre Fiction: Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer

Memoir & Creative Non-fiction: The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang

Minnesota: Hard Work and a Good Deal by Barbara W. Sommer

Novel & Short Story: The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Poetry: National Monuments by Heid E. Erdrich

Young Adult Literature: Twelve Long Months by Brian Malloy

The Latehomecomer also won the Readers’ Choice Award, which is a wonderful tribute.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

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Good customer service?

Good customer service?

Originally uploaded by davidking.

Reasons NOT to have a library Twitter account. Is this really the impression you want your patrons to have of your library?

Hat tip David Lee King.

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We’re doing something wrong, and I’m not sure what it is, exactly.  But more and more applications are being developed that help people choose books, borrow books, recommend books……

The latest in this trend is called BookArmy.  According to KillerStartups, this site:

…is more than likely to provide you with enough information to fill your spare nights with literature worth going through. Essentially, Book Army is a social site that lets its users discuss the authors that they like best and comment on their works.

Hmmm.  Sounds like a library with a good book club.

Both old and new authors are taken into consideration, and after you have created a profile it will be possible for you to receive recommendations based on the books that you included in your list of favorite titles. This virtual bookshelf can also be employed for instant comparison with other members of the community. 

On the other hand, the site lets authors claim their own page and create an online spot where they can connect with their readers and engage into conversation with them. Authors can also lead web-chats and illustrate their readers about any point that is deemed as worthwhile. 

All in all, the site will give you every necessary resource you might need for organizing your reading life. Think of it as a reading club that is wholly web-based, and which can be freely joined.

Good grief.  I’m sure there are libraries doing exactly this.  So, a few questions:

If there are libraries doing this, why don’t we know all about them and their programs?

If there are libraries doing this, why do some people feel compelled to fill a need by creating these applications?

How can we get the word out that this is what libraries do?

Why don’t more libraries have these sorts of online programs?

Since these nice people have written this application, can libraries become involved?

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Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff, Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

Talking as novelty

Things are moving along here at MPOW, which is keeping all of us busy.  Today is Accepted Students Day, and we have a number of students and their parents coming to spend the better part of the morning.

I’m thrilled to be a part of the Learning Lab Experience, teaching with the Biology Guy, the Chemistry Guy, and the Math Woman.  (We should have name tags with those titles.)  Information literacy is being built into the curriculum from the start, and so I’m being woven into classes to talk about its various aspects. 

Now for those of you not in academic libraries, this sounds like a no-brainer.  Of course information literacy should be built into the curriculum, you say.  And you’d be right.  Weirdly, it’s relatively rare that this is actually done.  The library has traditionally been an afterthought, the place where students naturally went to do their research.  Little thought was given as to how they did their research.

To be fair, in years past this was a much simpler equation.  You go to the library, wander through the stacks or the card catalog until you found something that looked close to what you were looking for, and then dove in.  Since this is the model that most of the faculty used as students themselves, it doesn’t occur to many of them that the library has changed considerably, and so has the retrieval of relevant material.

I’ve attended a few conferences in the past few weeks and was amazed at the presentations that informed us, with some wonder, that the librarians were now talking with the faculty.  They would then give tips on how to talk to faculty.  Meanwhile, I’m in the audience thinking, “Huh?”  I guess I didn’t realize quite how unusual our little adventure here in Rochester is in the academic world.

So this morning, on our interdisciplinary campus, the group will be asked to consider global perspectives of disease, with particular attention to drinking water.  (We only have 45 minutes to do this, so it’s scaled down.  A lot.)  Three questions will be posed: What is the distribution of water-related illness across the globe? (That brings math and statistics into play.)  What are some chemicals that can be found in drinking water? (That’s the chemist.)  What are some examples of infections or diseases related to microbes in drinking water? (That’s the biologist.)

The group will all have computers and will be asked to research these questions….and that’s where I come in.  How do you do an effective search?  What are your search parameters?  Where are you doing this search?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.  I think it will be a blast.  Hopefully, the students will, too.    And just maybe we can be an example for the rest of academia on how to not only teach in a more innovative manner, but to actually talk to each other.  What a novel concept.

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Tax Help

From the always helpful Dr. Boli.

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Coolest. Library. Ever.

The Wyoming State Library has done cool things in the past, and I have always enjoyed watching to see what they have up their collective sleeves.  I had the opportunity to meet many of them when I lived in the Wild West, and they’re as cool as you  might imagine.  

Now, they’ve gone and done it again.  Hat tip to Stephen Abram:

Lesley Boughton, State Librarian of Wyoming, sent me the link to this fantastic video from the local CBS affiliate, KGWN.

It’s a must watch!

Libraries, Iraq and Wyoming

What’s it about?

Wyoming has 900 National Guard men and women in the middle east.

The state library made a presentation of 900 Creative Zen MP3 Players along with a special statewide library card to download audiobooks and more.

That is just the coolest thing ever.  I love those guys.

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LoC and YouTube

The Library of Congress now has its own YouTube channel.  From their blog:

We are starting with more than 70 videos, arranged in the following playlists: 2008 National Book Festival author presentations, the Books and Beyond author series, Journeys and Crossings (a series of curator discussions), “Westinghouse” industrial films from 1904 (I defy you to watch some of them without thinking of the Carl Stalling song “Powerhouse”), scholar discussions from the John W. Kluge Center, and the earliest movies made by Thomas Edison, including the first moving image ever made (curiously enough, a sneeze by a man named Fred Ott).

But this is just the beginning. We have made a conscious decision that we’re not just going to upload a bunch of videos and then walk away. As with our popular Flickr pilot project, we intend to keep uploading additional content. We’re modifying some of our work-flows in modest ways to make our content more useful and delivered across platforms with built-in audiences of millions.

Not so incidentally, all of the videos we post on YouTube will also be available at (and many, many more, of course) on American Memory, many of which are newly digitized in much higher resolution by the fine Motion Picture, Broadcast and Recorded Sound conservators in Culpeper, Va.

And now for something completely different: boxing cats!

Love it.  Absolutely love that the Nation’s Library is making itself so available and accessible.

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Darien Statements on the Library

Recently a group of librarians got together and created a library manifesto called the Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians.   

On March 26th, Darien Library hosted an event called “In the Foothills: A Not-Quite-Summit on the Future of Libraries” at which participants were instructed to “come prepared to help sketch out the role librarians should play in defining the future of libraries”. The two speakers, John Berry and Kathryn Greenhill, provoked a conversation among me, Kathryn and Cindi Trainorthat began in my office the next day and spilled out across the ensuing week.

In companion posts, Kathryn and Cindi have beautifully captured the spirit in which this was written. Be sure to read them.

Below is the resulting document (CC License). It’s meant to be grand, optimistic, obvious, and thankful to and for our users, communities, and the tireless librarians who work the front lines every day, upholding the purpose of the Library.

And so, the group came up with a set of principles.  

The Purpose of the Library:  

The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.

The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change.

The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence.

Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.

Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will.

A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library.

While I applaud the group for having a discussion about all of this, I must admit I have a few issues with the resulting statements about the purpose of the library.  “The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.”  Seriously?  Preserve the integrity of civilization??  First of all, what does that mean?  Secondly, it confers a grandiose and superior purpose to an institution that at its core is grounded and  – in the case of public libraries – meant for the common man.  

In my mind, libraries do two main things: 1) collect stuff and 2) organize it so it can be found and used.  A codicil might be that we make stuff available for whomever wants to use it.  

It certainly can be argued that when information in whatever form is sequestered or limited or banned outright, it’s not a good thing.  In fact, the first thing a fascist government will do in order to gain control of its people is restrict access to information.  I’m assuming that it’s this library function that the writers were considering when saying that libraries preserve the integrity of civilization.  But I would argue that to state it in that way clouds the issue and uses the kind of language that sets up an adverse reaction.  

We struggle mightily with our profession.  I’ve written before on how interesting it is that we wring our hands and wonder endlessly whether we’re being taken seriously enough.  Unfortunately, I think statements such as these are more likely to elicit eye-rolling from the general public rather than a serious understanding of what we’re about and why we’re essential.

The group concludes with the librarians:

As librarians, we must:

  • Promote openness, kindness, and transparency among libraries and users.
  • Eliminate barriers to cooperation between the Library and any person, institution, or entity within or outside the Library.
  • Choose wisely what to stop doing.
  • Preserve and foster the connections between users and the Library.
  • Harness distributed expertise to serve the needs of the local and global community.
  • Help individuals to learn and to use new tools to create a more robust path to knowledge.
  • Engage in activism on behalf of the Library if its integrity is externally threatened.
  • Endorse procedures only if they guide librarians or users to excellence.
  • Identify and implement the most humane and efficient methods, tools, standards and practices.
  • Adopt technology that keeps data open and free, abandon technology that does not.
  • Be willing and have the expertise to make frequent radical changes.
  • Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not.
  • Trust each other and trust the users.

I like these.  Love the elimination of barriers.  

I don’t mean to be disparaging about what this group did, as it’s always a good thing when people get together and hash these things out.  I tend towards the more common rather than the ethereal, hence my issues with some of the language and positions taken.   (I have similar issues with most mission statements. )   Let’s keep talking….

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Dave Fowler and Zach Garbow.

Dave – MS Computer Engineering UM

Zach – UM undergrad in computer science.

Both worked at IBM, which is how they met.

Zach is IBM’s youngest master inventor.

Heard about Y-combinator – startup training program in CA for web-based companies.  600-1,00 apply every year.  Applied for the program and were accepted.  Both quit their IBM jobs and went to CA and trained.  Now back in Rochester.  Name of the company – Socialbrowse.

Newsweek article – “Meet the next billionaires.”  

Felt the web browser itself should be more social.  The future is the browser and all your browsing should be social.  First product was a Firefox extension.  Rather like Twitter – can follow people whether they’re following you or not.  Realized the product was limited to Firefox users and it required an installation.

New version of Socialbrowse is a mini-browser within the browser.  Sidebar shows a real-time list of what friends are doing.  Can click on link, decide whether you like it and can then share it yourself.  Will get links from people you choose to follow.  Can see what other people have said about a particular link – whole comment thread – and either comment or share from a popup window.  If you add a comment, will broadcast out to people following you. If you want to see all of the links that one person has shared, you can click on the person and see.

Will work with any browser.  Will soon be releasing a link with Facebook.  Can log in with your Google account and have an account with Socialbrowse.  Will be doing the same thing with Facebook.  Can invite Facebook friends to be on Socialbrowse.

Next step is to extend into a social browsing platform.  Anyone can create a browsing platform that is created for different interests.  SocialSound finds music on webpages you visit; Dodgeball is still in beta, but allows you to throw a Dodgeball at someone.

Each Socialbrowse user chooses the apps they want to use.  

(Rajeev wants an app that tracks which restaurants in NYC are being used.  )

Question from Dave and Zach about how we could use the app, what they could create that would help.  Chance suggests an app that pushes information to different audiences – researchers, students, etc.  Pick key items and send.  If you’re trying to stay abreast of the field, the terms are changing every day.  Your peers know what the hot stuff is.  If there are researchers in your field that read something that piques theie interest, can be pushed to researchers in that audience.  

Links can be categoried based on subject area.  A possible educational application could be segmented by class or group.  Can segment the network.  

Could potentially use the platform to do interactive, collaborative work.  Could connect online student communities. Could create an application that shares files, though it gets tricky with copyright issues.

The extension version, which is a Firefox extension, could be theoretically installed and would therefore be available whenever you opened a browser.

This product is still being developed and applications are being written all the time.  Dave and Zach were interested in talking with us to see what applications could be developed for higher education, which would potentially be huge.  I also suggested that library applications could be fabulous, as well. 

This is definitely something to watch…..

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