Accessibility and Useless Gadgets

It is Friday and, like always, my brain feels about fried so I think that it will come as no surprise that today’s ramblings and resources are a little off the wall. But really it makes sense, really! I’ll explain.

Yesterday was the fourth in a series of five technology brown bags that I have been hosting at my library. The topic was on accessibility and online resources. The CSU system is one of the great systems that is actually forcing compliance with Section 508. However, lots of people are confused about what they need to do to make, retrofit and use accessible resources. It was a great workshop and of course, lots of excellent questions raised. One major question was: how do we code accessible JavaScript and AJAX? I really need this as I want to make Google Gadgets for the library. So of course, I went digging.

Here are two resources that I am still reading, but look awesome, on accessible coding. First is Reading up on WAI-ARIA from 456 Berea Street. It links to a ton of resources on creating Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA).

The other great resource is this Accessible JavaScript post from Enpresiv Developers blog. I really need to work through this because accessible JavaScript is the only way to go.

And, because it wouldn’t be Friday without a slightly random article. Here is a Wired article on Five Useless Gadgets You Should Throw in the Trash Right Now. And can I just say, I am completely for getting rid of fax machines–those things hate me! And printer ink, don’t even get me started! So have a read, or at least a laugh at the photograph in the article.

Have a great weekend!


Alright, first off, a little bit on the elections before we get into the nitty-gritty library stuff. I promise I won’t get too into politics (but Rock on Obama!); I just wanted to share this great xkcd cartoon with you today. Seriously, go check out Election.

Now that you are back, let’s just admit it–everything we do is to further collaboration and connection. Humans are social creatures, no matter what people claim about being introverted. Yes, we differ on the level of social networking and interaction we want, but we are at our base social creatures. We want to connect and collaborate and this is where Web 2.0 tools come in so handy.

I found this blog post through Tame the Web and I too am hearting this post. Really, go check it out. Technology is just the means to connect and to reach out to others. We are using technology to recreate and re-invent public meeting spaces that are rapidly disappearing.

And last, but not least, here is an article from Educause about a phenomenon that fanfic writers have known about for years–collaborative work. These stories live online and many people contribute to them, respond, and comment on these stories. Storytelling is no longer limited to a few authors, but expanded to anyone who has an idea. Anyone can create something and post it on the web. And, no, I am not against everyone having a voice and I don’t think it is a crisis of quality of writing, reading, or any of that other stuff. Remixing, creativity, and passion live in this new world and if educators could harness the work that students do in this environment and transfer it to lessons and assignments in school, I think the results would be amazing.

Yes, I am unrepentant in my optimism about Web 2.0 applications, teaching and creative work. I believe that we can collaborate and connect online and in person because that is what we do. And as librarians, educators and blog readers we can all take part in these creative endeavors. Happy November 5th and rock on!

Thoughts for a Foggy Monday

Hi! I hope everyone had a great weekend. I don’t know if it is because it is a Monday, or because it is foggy, but I seem to be in a bit of a brain fog this morning. Or it might just be because we are in the 5th week of the quarter (ack! where did the time go?) or because my head is exploding from all the information I took in at Internet Librarian 2008!

Anyway, that is a long way of saying that today’s post is going to be a little bit random (but what’s new?) and will be some tips and thoughts I had mulling over in my brain this weekend.

First, how do the Michaels do it? They always have such relevant Transparent Library columns. I was just thinking about implementing some of the tips that I got out of the digital marketing session from IL2008 and then read Library Journal and there was this column talking about PR 2.0. I think this is fantastic, as usual, writing about how to open up the lines of communication and get us connecting with library patrons. We need to get out there and be visible and how easy is that now that we can use free resources such as RSS, blogs, wikis and YouTube for promoting the library and friends of the library? Love it, want to implement, and hopefully my fellow librarians will be down with it.

Okay, so speaking of all things 2.0–are you twittering yet? Are your patrons? I sometimes feel we are out in front of the tech curve, but lots of people are using twitter as yet another social network. You can sign up for a free account at and get a network of followers and those you are following. It is a fun way of keeping up with people and you can use it to network too as a lot of librarians are on twitter. If you want some more applications to make twitter more fun look at this article. Oh, and remember you can get Firefox widgets for twitter and many social network sites, like Facebook, have twitter widgets.

So if microblogging is too much, and I admit that sometimes it is, what can you do keep in touch with people in a meaningful way? To borrow from the great Lifehacker, ungeek to live! I have a friend who we almost exclusively keep in touch through handwritten cards. Yup, through the post. It is great to have a correspondence in the 0.0 world and be able to look back over these cards. So just remember, just because it doesn’t come with bits and bytes doesn’t mean it might not be the best tool for the job.

Have a happy Monday.

Streaming Media & Re-Tooling Library Services for Online Learners: IL2008

by Dale David, Anthony Bernier, Barbara Stillwell and Robin Lockerby

First part of the presentation: Barbara Stillwell and Robin Lockerby from National University Library

Because of increase in online education they created:
Centralized services
Added Multimedia Department

New Collaborative Spaces:
Email, IM service didn’t work for them, also VoIP

Library Instruction to Multimedia
Already had in-class instruction, added VoIP, recorded VoIP sessions so students could use them as National University has 1 month intensive classes

What’s next: want to increase quality of audio/video, increase production quality
What’s it great for: outreach, reaching more students

National University’s Multimedia Department
has graphic designer, multimedia designer and one librarian (QA librarian)
learned that it takes much longer to create products than most think, because of learning curve
Uses Adobe flash–takes a long time
Always see something more that could be done after you create a new module
Sometimes, it is better to have smaller videos, serialize information so the videos aren’t super-long

Be choosy about what format you use, not one format is the best for all uses (I would add, also always ask about accessibility before starting to use a new product. There is no point making something that isn’t accessible, IMHO)

Strength: professional design team (who can actually afford this, though?)
Weakness: professional design team has limited library exposure, different jargon
Opportunities: refining production workflows–have a sytle guide
Threats: conflicting goals and objectives

Take Home Message:
Online instruction through tutorials/modules are great, especially if you have a dedicated design team. But definitely remember that simpler is better if you are like most who don’t have a design team.

Streaming Media nad Distance Education: The SJSU SLIS Model
by: Dale David and Anthony Bernier from SJSU’s SLIS

Colloquial Series (extra-curricular) aka CS
Produced through a team
began in fall 2006
between 40-60minutes
available in many different accessible formats

Vision of CS
Broaden exposure to LIS world and community, outreach and marketing
Expose others to the cutting edge technology
Offers opportunity for continuing education

Filmed on-campus at SJ and at Fullerton
Include: faculty presenting research, part-time faculty, librarians, etc.

All is online, including listserv
Also through SJSU website

Can come in if you are in the area
Get undergrads come to the presentation
Usually between 12-25 people in physical audience
Online audience is quite large: around 275 unique hits on presentations

Technology used:
Digital Camera and mic set-up
Record in classroom on campus

Video editing
Incorporate any PowerPoint slides used, screencaps of websites go to during the presentation

Disseminate in different formats on the web
Including closed captioning (using SMILE)
Using RealPlayer because it was the legacy format
Offered in podcast, RSS feed, iTunes, (no time limits unlike YouTube)

Have an archive–everything is indexed, it is searchable, very nice

Take Home Message:
Great idea to have a colloquial series and even better idea to encode into many different formats. Many props for also making these accessible. I am so checking these out.

2.0 Learning & 1.8 Users: Bridging the Gap: IL2008

2.0 Learning and 1.8 Users

by Rudy Leon, and Colleen Harris

Google generation aka Digital Generation

Myths about the Google Generation:
Skilled online searchers
Ease with new gadgets
Always connected
Effective multi-taskers
Require constant stimulation
Must be entertained
Learn by doing

The do use the stuff, but not generating content, don’t understand the backend of the technology
Don’t have a mental map of the technology, little transferable skills, ramifications for new services, they don’t fit into student’s understandings of what they already know
We need to build the map that allows the students to transfer skills
We can’t build services and resources built on the myths

Digital Divide
Still very real
only about 62% of US homes have a computer in the home
99% of US schools have computers and Internet, but it varies widely in hardware and access
Differential training and use of the technology, very different skill sets

Fault lines:
Number 1 line is still race: 65% white, 45% African American, 30% Latino households have computers
Also fault line via class

Persistent effects:
Students get their information and do groupwork online, students do not get training in universities and therefore self-select out of certain majors that use a lot of technology, creates a divide in education

Students put a lot of weight on what their faculty say

Challenges: Faculty
What Faculty Know or Don’t: learn how to do research from their instructors through Ph.d, have informal networks
Expect students to figure it out on their own, but students need context and help
Equipment: need to think of technology as part of a skill set
Faculty not highly trained in teaching: learn to teach through sitting through classes, how can we help professors with their teaching?

Think of technology as Education Technology and do training to show how to use technology to make the teaching better. How do you integrate technology into teaching? Have library step in and help with the training.

Getting faculty on Board:
Owning our own expertise–help faculty use the content effectively, because hey, librarians rock! We need to own our librarianship.
Competitive processes for course development–give faculty stipends and workshops
Make connections–get out there and network and make connections, “let’s have coffee,” need to have relationships in order to then get people to use the library
Classroom instruction–have faculty attend the session with their students, the faculty will learn stuff too
Leveraging reaccreditation process–include technology outcomes as part of this process

Campus IT
Scarce resources–go if something is not working
IT can’t implement everything–librarians have to do it
Lots of open source software–free, but requires a lot of time to implement and maintain, so consider what you do
What is the model for teaching and training–librarians are great and are a link among students, faculty and technology

Learning Spaces
Library is a safe learning space–students can fail without consequence of grades
How to strategies for engaging students/faculty
Workshops–great to have face to face contact
Making equipment available–can check out laptops, cameras, etc. from the library
Actionable assignments–use technology in an assignment, eg. make a documentary, photojournalism, etc.
Partnerships–again, network!

Moving Forward–Learning Spaces
Libraries are a unique spaces on campus, safe learning spaces
Technology is fun and libraries are for learning, technology should help or enable learning
Critical thinking and metal maps–learning should be fun and technology should support learning

Building the Bridge
Build the workshops that help build skills
Gadgets support learning
We are the adults and students need to have a voice, but what they want is not always what they need, we don’t need to entertain the students 24/7
Have space and structure to play
Be skeptical about what the media says about the Digital Generation

Great presentation, love the LOL cats photos, wonderful energy!

Take Home Message: It’s all about community. Technology supports learning and is the means to the end, which is having faculty and students understand how technology helps.

LOL @ Your Library: Live Online Learning: IL 2008

LOL @ Your Library: Live Online Learning
Paul DeVillo, Tom Cole and Dale Musselman
(all from PLCMC–Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenbury County)

Tool to meet changing needs of staff and customers

Demands of training and costs of training increasing. Always something new for technology, but patrons want us to show them everything and it is becoming impossible to keep up. New channel of communication needed. Librarians have to wear many hats and have many skills–reference, instruction, access, systems, etc.

If you have to go to different venues to train, it takes a lot of time and money. So if you learn online then less driving and we help the environment.

Videoconferencing and the library
Easy to see benefits
Reduced travel time, fuel use, and emissions, could reach out to people who didn’t use the library or couldn’t come to training that was far away
Costs: telepresence was out of their league, IT staff time, and bandwidth

Online conferencing was the solution for their library: space to share ideas, best for informing, little additional hardware needed. They bought software, but remember you can use free open source that Connie Crosby talked about yesterday. Got to love open source. 🙂

How you can use online conferencing:
Staff training, then meetings, then roll out to public offerings

Need high bandwidth
Need headsets with headphones and mic
Need a space that is fairly quiet for presenters
Recommended: VoIP enabled telephones

Always need to consider the needs of your audience! If you are pushing this to the public, do the patrons have the bandwidth to use the service? Do you make different presentations for different bandwidths? There will always be issues with any service, no matter how well you test and plan.

Consider the needs of your trainers and presenters
Hardware and software needs–sometimes different than for the audience
Needed versus actual skills–how do you overcome the skills gap
Producer role–handles technology, helps attendees, frees up trainer/presenter: aka the troubleshooter

VoIP: for webinars, large audience and low interaction
Phone Conference: meetings, small group, high interaction
VoIP & phone: flexible for webinars or training, beware of expense for large groups

Have people check out technology configuration before the session

Yes! Finally someone mentioned Section 508 compliance! Everyone should try to be 508 compliant–it is horrible to have library services and resources that are not accessible to everyone. (I am stepping off my soapbox now)

Remember to market your new online training services.

Take Home Message:
Online training can save travel time and cost, plus get to people that can’t physically get to a training site. But you need people (trainers, presenters and producers) that understand and have the skills to be training in the online environment.

Mashing Up and Remixing the Library Website

Mashing up and Remixing the Library Website

Karen Coombs

Theory and demo system from University of Houston

Problems with traditional content management systems:
Different skill levels which leads to problems
Many different systems
Problems of repetition of information
Patrons just want to get into information quickly
Need to integrate into classroom CMS/curriculum

Traditional Solutions:
Used database system
Install CMS (proprietary or open source)
Distribute content creation throughout the library= shared responsibility

New Solution:
Build your own system or use mash-ups
Need easy to use system
Have remixable site
Incorporate other systems

Drupal: can be complicated with tons of modules
iGoogle: customize with gadgets, widgets
Wordpress: blogging software

Web 2.0 Pillars
Radical decentralized control of information
Perpetual beta: some people have a problem with this, but I love it!
User as Contributer
Rich user experience (interactivity)

Systems that University of Houston is using:
All systems working together

Microformat: way to encode part of a webpage as an event
Make content portable
Embedable code to put on different sites

API: interface that is programmable, use object metadata into other places, using OpenSearch, outputs different formats

Take Home Message:
You want to give power to more than a small group of people for creating content and editing the website. It is important to have remixable content and modules. Web 2.0 rocks!

Cool Tools for Library Webmasters: IL2008

Cool Tools for Library Webmasters

Frank Cervone and Darlene Fichter

Tools for everyone: free tools

VisCheck: simulation of human vision, shows what things look like to someone who is color blind, online services and downloadable version (very similar to Vizu)

Links to presentation up on ITI website, on too

Thumbalizer: takes an image and makes a thumbnail for you

ImageFlow: can imbed in website, very like Cooliris, same look, but one stream and not a moving wall of images color palette generator, takes an image and suggests colors to use for design

Widgenie: creates widgets, connect to data, charts created, creates online charts

Call graph: records skype calls

Freemind: mind-mapping software, export in a number of formats

Firefox tools:
SafeCache– defends cache-based techniques, protects your privacy, safe browsing
SafeHistory– protects your browsing history, can’t have different sites looking at each other’s data
FoxMarks–automatically synchronizes bookmarks, access (use this if you still insist on using Firefox’s bookmark function instead of just bookmarking everything to
FEBE– Firefox Environment Backup Extension, backups your Firefox extension, synchs your office and home browsers, may specify user defined items, can backup other parts of your browser and browser history

LinkBunch: put multiple links into one small link, good for Twitter, Firefox extension creates a bunch from your open tabs

DocSyncer (don’t need if Google docs) automatically finds and syncs your documents to Google Docs, automatically backup everything

TrueCrypt– can encrypt your flash drive, part of your hard drive

File Hamster: real-time backup and archiving of your files while you work, monitors files or directories

Synchback Freeware: backup all files, good for server-level, open source product

FreeUndelete: puts directory entry back in so you can recover the file you deleted

Browsershots: creates screenshots in different browsers, sends requests to machine running that browser, online tool, lots of browser platforms

Feng GUI: automatic alternative to eye-tracking, creates heat maps based on an algorithm that predicts what a real human would be most likely to look at

FavIcon from Pics: icon for the URL box, creates it from your logo, picture, etc.

SuggestionBox: link to your site, manage your suggestions

DamnIT: JavaScript, put on your webpage, captures errors and sends you an email about what happened

.htaccess password generator: cut and paste code

Cropper in C#: crops images, screenshots and captures screenshots

Steal from the best:
For best web design: web design, free layouts, open source web design, open web design, themesbase (all free sources of layouts, CSS, templates)

ZUG: missing page fun/404 error page, create funny error pages

Take Home Message: Tons of great open source stuff that you can use in the library and for your own personal use.

Search Widgets adn Gadgets for Libraries: IL 2008

Search Widgets and Gadgets for Libraries

Jason Clark and Tim Donahue able to do 23 things learn web 2.0 technologies in 15 minutes a day

Networked research environment and search-push technologies

New technologies, widget, gadget, and Flash animated finding tools

Where are Users are: personal-learning environment (PLE), users in all types of areas on the web, work in flickr, facebook, blogs

How to do research through: iGoogle, and other portals

Want users to use our resources, stuff moves quickly, technology moves quickly

What do we do/play?
“broadcast our signals” more widely, need to work in distributed environments

OpenSearch browser plugins–widgets
Google Gadgets–JavaScript applications, can link into library resources/catalog
Hook people and bring back to library resources

Montana State University: has page that has widget page to promote them to users

Widget to enter library catalog through the browser, very cool application, don’t have to come into the library catalog, can do it for databases too, very easy to set up, very small XML file to create this widget

Google Gadgets: can build, quick search functionality, allow people to search in their own environment, users can drop this gadget into iGoogle page, Google has text editors (Google Gadget Editor) and can copy and paste code so not difficult to do, gives you the embed code after you make the gadget

Google Gadgets: there is the ability to have tabbed widgets–how cool is that?

All is done to allow users access to library resources through the environment they are comfortable with

Multiple Endpoints:
Facebook, MySpace, web portals, etc.
Can have library widgets that work in many different environments

What’s  next?
Promotion of the widgets and gadgets through education, videos, marketing
Figure out more opportunities–go where the users are instead of forcing one size fits all way of searching the library

Interplay between physical and digital resources/services in libraries

Apply new technology to books

Flash–animate the web! J
Example: library map, animate a map, mouse over the stacks to see what subjects/call number ranges in the stacks

Simplicity is key in visual design

Flash works through frames: drawing, animating through time and space, way to get around doing coding (ex. Took about 200 hours to create the example map)

Trying to integrate the map into the catalog, nice idea ex. Search catalog, find record, click link to see where it is in the library through the map

Flash is scalable so it is possible to work it into a widget, you don’t use resolution and can maximize widget/gadget to see larger version of the map

Arizona State University and Montana State University moving towards Google Application platform, have students use iGoogle pages as home portal and access resources through there

Take home message:
Widgets and Gadgets have the ability to bring the library to the users’ environment and push people to the library’s online resources/services, great ideas!

Packing, Goal Setting and YouTube

Okay, so it is Friday and we all need a little something fun and some tips to help us through the day as the weekend is fast approaching.

First the really awesome YouTube video from CSU Long Beach. CSULB had students give a tour of the reference services at the library–it is a great video. Again, marketing is so much better if students get in on it. I think my library should start a YouTube station. It definitely solves the problem with hosting streaming videos and with Overstream, we can even close caption the videos. Just a thought. Enjoy this video, I did!

Now from one of my favorite technology blogs, Lifehacker, here is an article on “Goal Setting for Skeptics”. I think goal setting is important, whether you write down your goals or not. I fine setting goals helps me from becoming bogged down in the day-to-day chores that have to get done and allow me to focus on longer-term projects, both at work and at home. But then, I’m the kind of person who also keeps journals to track project progress, keeps books of inspiring quotations and am always looking to learn. I know people that hate writing down goals and they get things accomplished just fine. I’m just saying, give the article a chance and see if it works for you. Who knows, maybe you could make one of your goals to adapt a Web 2.0 application to use in your library!

And last tip for the day, check out Wired’s article, Pack Light for Geek Travel. Great article to read for those of us who travel with a lot of tech gear and are getting ready to head out to conferences.

Speaking of conferences, I’ll be at the Internet Librarian Conference this coming week. So if you are going to be there, say hi.