We live in a world full of data and it is part of the job of the librarian to make sense of it, among other professions that work continually with data. I think about data and information a lot, as I’m sure many of you do too. And I have a couple of tools today for your enjoyment that make data way more fun to play with than just a bunch of numbers in an Excel spreadsheet.


6 easy ways to graph your life

Another Post Inspired by Back to School Time

I’m still completely in the back-to-school mode of thought and this post reflects it. Think of it as a continuation of Friday’s post: two parts fun and one part seriousness.

I was reflecting on one of my favorite quotes yesterday, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” (Don Swartz). I thought that it was very appropriate in our roles both as librarians and as teachers. We know a lot about a whole lot of things, but no one really does care unless we can help them. Like the best teachers always say about the classes they teach: the class isn’t about the teacher, s/he already knows the content, it is about the students and what we can learn from each other. This concept works with marketing the library as well, but that is another day’s post.

Want proof of the power of caring? Check out Rate My Professor. Do you see your name there? If you check out professors, the ones that actually help their students and care about their students’ learning are the ones who most often get the highest ratings. Caring, not being an easy grader, is the key to becoming a great professor. It is fun to look at the professors responses to their students ratings too.

Here is one of the great interactive sites on the web Free Rice. Here you can improve your vocabulary while getting sponsors who advertise on the site to donate rice to the UN World Hunger Program. For every answer you get right, 20 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Hunger Program. It’s easy, it stretches your brain and you get to help people without ever leaving your computer. And to think that some say interactive web has no good uses!

Do you love music? Do you want a soundtrack to play at work so you aren’t distracted by everyone coming in and out of your office all day? Check out Pandora from the Music Genome Project. You get to design your own radio stations that only play the music you like. You can choose one of their already made stations or create your own station around your favorite artists, songs, genres, etc. Just follow the really simple instructions for creating a free account and start making stations. You can make a station to listen to when writing articles, another for when you need some energy, etc. Go have some fun on Pandora.

I promise the next post will be less about back-to-school and more about diving into the fray of Web2.0 and libraries. Happy Monday!

Fun on a Friday

Today’s post is mostly about having fun with a little bit of food-for-thought thrown in along the way. I think we need some fun because it is a hot Friday and school has started!

Do you know what your sound is? Really-there is a site called Sound Badge that lets you create your own sound badge that you can use on your mobile phone, with Skype or on your blog if it allows JavaScript. I found this cool resource through Librarian in Black blog. While I’m not thrilled that there is no rock option for starting as the base of a sound badge (it will make more sense once you have been to the site, trust me), it is still fun and you could have all your students make a sound badge and compare them online. Mine’s here.

Did you know that many books have teaser trailers that are available on YouTube? Well, it was news to me. Some of the trailers were hilarious while others were very serious. Many were quite professionally done. I think this is a great way to publicize books. I think we need a trailer for our library on YouTube.

Here is the food-for-thought article on Jakob Nielsen’s findings of online literacy. If his name sounds familiar, it is not surprising as he is the big name in usability testing, among other research areas. He makes the case that online reading is not a replacement for reading in print based on his extensive research. This has profound implications for online teaching and online campuses. If students, and people in general, do not process or even read blocks of text online, how do we deliver online classes that require reading long passages of complicated text such as philosophy, history or English? What does this tell us about the whole push of buying ebooks (I’m not thinking of Kindle, etc. here but of ebooks that are read through online platforms such as ebrary, etc.)? Do students use them? Do they retain the information? Like I said, profound implications for online learning and for those of us who are trying to do what is best for our students in this increasingly online environment.

Now, I couldn’t end on such a heavy note for this Friday, so I have for you an article (with photographs) of a completely envy-inspiring library. I want Jay Walker’s library–enough said.

Have a great Friday and a terrific weekend. Comments always welcomed.

A Couple of Thoughts for the Weekend

Like the title says, I only have a few thoughts for you to ponder this weekend. (This is probably due to the fact that my brain is a little overloaded from the conference I just attended and thinking about the start of the quarter.) So, in no particular order, here are some resources for the weekend:

From Times Online here is an article on “10 Books Not to Read Before You Die.” I always like reading these kinds of lists. I think it is fascinating to see what other people read and what they like. I have to say, as full disclosure, that I don’t agree with the list as several of my favorite books made the list.

Speaking of books and recommendations (or non-recommendations), have you checked out GoodReads Think of it as an alternate to LibraryThing. You can add books you’ve read, compare them to your friends, get recommendations from other people–it’s like a giant book club. And it’s fun. I think it is a nice way to keep track of books you want to read and, if you are like me, it keeps you from forgetting books what books you’ve read and what you still need to read!

So, still confused about Web 2.0 stuff? Want some more information? Check out Becoming 2.0 wiki from the Summer Institute by MORENet and the Missouri State Library. Lots of great information on the PowerPoints that have been embedded on the wiki. It was amazing to me how much information I could glean from the slides even without having heard the talk. One word: awesome. I hope to get some workshops like this going just as soon as I know my fall quarter schedule.

Last, but certainly not least, check out 2008 Metaverse Tour. It is a YouTube video of over 40 different virtual worlds online. I was floored that there are that many worlds. Just goes to show that libraries and librarians can’t afford to not look into these social universes and figure out just where we fit in this new world.

Have a great weekend!

The Library in a Social World

Today’s topic is broadly about changes in how we interact with information and more narrowly about three interrelated (at least in my mind) topics: social learning, popularity versus authority online, and changing library spaces.

But before we get into that, I got a great comment from Luna Yang of Cooliris, Inc. who alerted me that the Lewis and Clark Library is already using Cooliris to show off their new books. It looks fabulous. Just thought I would share that in case you didn’t see the comment on the last post.

Beginning with popularity versus authority of online resources, we have Seth Finkelstein’s chapter “Google, Links, and Popularity versus Authority” from the book The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age. The entire book, along with New Media World’s other books are available for free online. This is a very relevant issue, especially as we try to teach our students evaluation skills in information literacy courses. I am going to have my students read this chapter. I think it could stimulate great discussion about search engines and democracy online.

The Engaged Learning Blog has 15 Objections to Social Learning post. It makes for interesting reading, especially in the context of the library, because so many of these objections we often here more generally as objections to change and using Web2.0 technologies in the library. So what do you think about this issue? Let’s start a discussion about this topic. Because social learning and social networking isn’t going away, so we need to figure out where we fit in this new landscape.

Finally, just another article about changing library spaces. But check out the comments, they are really interesting. As we re-imagine the library, what do we want to see the physical space become? How can we brand the library and stay relevant through all of the coming changes?

As always, I welcome your opinions and thoughts about anything related to libraries and learning.

Reimagining the Library Visually

Okay, so I’m not good with coming up with post titles, but this is a seriously important post and a seriously fun post. Because, as Niels Bohr supposedly said, “there are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.” I think we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and go out on a limb as we reimagine what the library can become. So I have just two resources today to share that I think are just so fabulously cool and really useful too.

The Conversation Prism is without a doubt one of the coolest graphics I’ve seen. I love the fact that it is on Flickr, is freely available for use under the Creative Commons Attribute License and that people have already commented on it in Flickr. So what is The Conversation Prism? It is a color wheel that breaks up different online social networking and collaboration tools into groups. It is a handy way to see all the ways that we could be communicating, sharing and collaborating with each other online. So how many of these web 2.0 tools are we using in the library? What could we add that would benefit our users? How can we harness the living social network online to keep the library relevant and in the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to searching and using information? What studies have been done on using these different technologies? And, by the way, the graphic prints out fabulously well. You can see it on my office wall if you drop by. Let’s get the library into the center of this conversation–right where we belong!

Since this is about reimagining the library visually, I couldn’t help but put in a plug for Cooliris, Inc. formerly known as PicLens. I love this add-on to my web browser. It works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, but alas not for Google Chrome, yet. This add-on allows you to display images as a moving image wall, select an image and blow it up to full screen. It only works on certain sites (like Flickr, deviantART, Amazon, etc.), but when it is enabled-wow! Its interface is reminiscent of the iPhone. It is absolutely beautiful.

So other than it being beautiful, why do I mention Cooliris? Think of the library catalog applications! If your catalog had book covers that displayed along with the books’ records and the website was enabled for Cooliris, your patrons could have a moving wall of book covers that they could quickly scan visually. This would make going through search results very easy, especially if you are more of a visual person and remember book covers better than author names. Not only would it look beautiful, it would be a great browsing technique too, as we are all visual creatures and can form a search image very readily. I used this feature when searching Amazon and it was fantastic. What other ways could we use Cooliris? Is it feasible to use it in the catalog? Well, anything is feasible if we put our minds to it.

So I leave you with the following question: how would you use some of these tools to make your work easier or make the library more central to this new digital world? Don’t be too serious, playing and daydreaming contribute to the great epiphanies and ideas of the world just as much as more serious endeavors. So let’s all figure out together. I’m sure that together, through lots of collaboration, we can harness this cool technology and go from reimagining the library into actually changing the library for the better.

Changing Perceptions of Reference and Librarians

I thought the topic of change was particularly relevant as we try to re-envision and re-imagine the library as place. There are so many resources out there now about all the changes occurring in libraries. From reference to space design, web 2.0 to library 2.0 and online teaching to learning commons, there doesn’t seem to be an area where the library is not in a liminal state as we adapt to new learning environments.

So I want to share two great resources today that have to do with change in the library. And, hopefully, these resources stimulate conversation, thought and a desire for those involved in the library world to become active participants in this change.

Ithaka Report

If you have not read the Ithaka Report, you must read it. Results of the 2006 survey of librarian and faculty perceptions of the library’s future and place in research are reported in the Ithaka Report. While I am a little suspicious that the survey’s response rate was not reported (I’ve not checked the raw data links yet), this is an eye-opening read and a confirmation of what many have feared–that the faculty see the library as becoming less and less relevant and necessary with the increase of digital resources (such as databases, full-text journals, online data sets, etc.). Responses vary by discipline and while no one sees the library completely going away, there is a definite decrease in status of the library as a major information player. However, this is a wake-up call for re-imagining what we can do to become not only relevant but essential to faculty and the rest of our community.

“Evolution to Revolution to Chaos? Reference in Transition”

Stephen Abram’s article Evolution to Revolution to Chaos? Reference in Transition is a must read article. He puts forth a baker’s dozen of possible future library reference situations. The diversity of possible futures is interesting and thought-provoking. How can we best serve our library patrons? How does reference change in a world of mobile devices, social networking sites, and IM? Should we be providing reference in all of these platforms? How do we integrate others into our library–both the physical space and the digital domain of the library? And how do we know what we are doing is best practice?

What do we want the library to be? We have the opportunity to be agents of change–let’s not waste that opportunity. As always, comments are appreciated. Let’s get the dialog going today so that we can meet our community’s needs now and into the future.

Taming Technology Anxiety

Before we go further into the wide and wonderful world of technology and its application to the library, we should first take a moment to consider information overload and technology anxiety. It is very easy to get overloaded and overwhelmed by the all the new information and technological developments. But just take a deep breath. This post has some resources on how to reclaim control over the information onslaught and make technology work for you.

Sarah Houghton-Jan, otherwise known as the LibrarianInBlack, from her blog of the same name, wrote a great article in Ariadne called, Being Wired or Being Tired: 10 Ways to Cope with Information Overload. Read it! Seriously, it has great tips and techniques for organizing and using the information that enters your sphere without being controlled by it.

Also, check out PC World’s article 20 Tech Habits to Improve Your Life. It gives more good tips and suggests lots of free programs you can use to organize your workflow, manage your passwords, encrypt your data and have some fun with music and movies on the Internet.

One of the easiest, fastest ways to organize your life is by putting your bookmarks online, if you haven’t already. Ever want something you’ve bookmarked on your home computer at work but you didn’t have it bookmarked on your work computer? With online bookmarks, this will never be a problem again! Check out Not only can you import all your bookmarks online after signing up (it’s free!), you can share bookmarks with friends, check out other people’s bookmarks, and more. You can also keep your bookmarks private if you want. Want an example? Check out which has bookmarks of science resources available online. Also, has recently redone its interface, so if you didn’t like how it looked before, you might like it better now. I think it is great.

Last, but certainly not least, check out Google’s new web browser, Chrome. It is in Beta, but definitely worth a look. Download it here: Google Chrome. It has a super clean interface which means you can see more of the webpage. I think this would be great for making screencaps for presentations and classes because you can see more of the webpage! I hate it when I can’t screencap the whole webpage, and this makes it so easy. How cool is that?

These resources should help you tame technology anxiety. And if all else fails, do what I do, and just schedule time away from the computer. You’ll come back refreshed and better able to work.

Please share other tools and techniques you use in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Why it's better to share

We all remember being told to share right? And that two heads are better than one? Well, just because we are in the library world now, and not in kindergarten, doesn’t mean these lessons don’t apply. In fact, it is even more important to share because there is just too much to do every day and way too much information out there for us to get it all.

But what particularly should we be sharing? Well, just about everything. Take a look at this piece from Library Journal by Michael Casey and Michael Stephens, The Transparent Library: Let’s All Lighten Up. In fact, if you like this, take a look at Michael Stephens’ blog, Tame the Web. Subscribe to his blog too–great stuff, I’ll probably be linking to some of his great posts here.

But you don’t care about other blogs, you just want a concrete example of why sharing is better than going it alone? Well, look no further than these databases of online learning objects. Creating new learning objects or modules takes a lot of time. So why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to? Just make sure the modules you use are accessible, lots are but some aren’t, and link away to your heart’s content! Yes, some of these modules won’t be applicable for your course, but trust me, there are some great resources out there. Some resources to try:
OER: Open Educational Resources
MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching
Online Learning Object Repository

And, as always, ask your colleagues what they are creating or have already created that you can use in your instructional sessions and classes. Remember it is better to share!

In the beginning…there was the RSS feed

So while I hope this blog reaches a large audience, its primary audience at present are the librarians and awesome staff at CSUEB libraries. Why? Because we all need to share what we find out and this is way better than bombarding people with emails about all the stuff I think is cool and handy. And also, blogs have RSS feeds and wikis don’t.

What’s an RSS feed? I’m glad you asked. That is why we are starting at the beginning and bringing everyone up to speed so we can go forth together to improve and implement online services and resources for everyone.

Back to RSS feeds, these feeds allow you to collect from many blogs and newsources and read them in one place–your blog reader. Watch this short video below on RSS feeds to get a better idea about them and then subscribe to my blog by using the link that says Entries RSS or use one of the RSS buttons near the bottom of the page on the right side of the screen.

Really, I wasn’t joking. Subscribe to this blog!