September 25, 2008

A Plug for Marriotts Because They Plugged Me In

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — tsladmin @ 8:21 am

Earlier this week, I stayed at the Marriott Metairie hotel in New Orleans, because I was in town to give a presentation for SOLINET. I’ve been staying in Hampton Inn hotels whenever possible lately, because they have very comfortable beds, offer free wifi, and provide free breakfast (all at a great price), so I haven’t been in an upgraded Marriott lately. Let me tell you, though, that if more Marriotts are upgrading to be like the Metairie, I may just be switching, because this was the most awesome, techno room I’ve ever stayed in.
At first, I was just thrilled to see the reading lights on the headboard and the easily-accessible outlets near the bed. And of course there was a nicely-largish LCD TV. These touches are much appreciated, but what actually made me gasp out loud was the A/V panel. Yes, you read that right, the A/V panel.

picture of the A/V panel

Apparently this is part of a service called Plug into Marriott, and it’s a traveling geek’s dream come true. In fact, I’d love to have one of these in every room in my house! The panel has four surge-protected outlets, an ethernet port, an audio-in port, RCA jacks, an S-Video port, a computer video port, and even a memory card reader. This means you can plug in your laptop (to do work or watch a DVD), an MP3 player to listen to music, a digital camera to view pictures, or a camcorder to watch videos. You can even plug in a game console, and in fact they actually encourage this by including this information in the documentation. Equally important, the hotel provides all of the cables, since most of us don’t carry these things around.

picture of the cables

The documentation could use a little help (it tells you to use the TV/video button to get to the different options, but the old remote in my room only had a “function” button that I correctly guessed would do the trick), and the split-screen for working/watching never kicked in, but I was able to watch TV shows on Hulu and listen to music from my iPod through the television set.

picture of the TV screen

This whole concept is a great example of saying “yes” and making things easier for customers, as opposed to saying “no,” which is what most hotels do by disabling the ports on the back of the TV in the room. It’s a good lesson for libraries how easy it is to make the user experience better.

Plug into Marriott screenshot

There’s a directory of “plugged-in” Marriotts on the site, and it looks like there are quite a few of them. I’ll definitely be looking at these as I travel, although realistically, if the rooms cost substantially more and I then still have to pay for internet access on top of that price, I’m likely to stay with my Hampton Inns. Still, this appeals to the geek in me, and I think it shows how digital our media is becoming, as well as how expectations around using that media continue to march forward.

September 24, 2008

September 22, 2008

Celebrate Bleeped Books Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — tsladmin @ 2:53 pm

Banned Books Week: I’d Like To Find *BLEEP*

Find more info about Banned Books Week here.

September 17, 2008

The New Book Shelf (Not on the Library's Website)

Filed under: Uncategorized — tsladmin @ 10:08 pm

Granted, only a handful of the world’s library users have Superpatron to advise them, but I still think it’s pretty cool that Kate is displaying a list of knitting books recently added to the Ann Arbor District Library’s catalog. It’s not just a text list, though – it’s a series of book covers with the title as a link into the catalog record.
It’s a great example of how RSS lets libraries, and more importantly library users, interact with library content in places other than on the library’s website.
A Return to Fiber

“And I figure I really should get going on it since there are a bevy of new knitting books at the library that I’ve requested and will be receiving in the near future. Thanks to Ed, who taught me how to create an RSS feed for any new knitting book that my library enters into its catalog, I get first notice on acquisitions and can get my request in at the front of the line. I usually get the books within a month or two of them being added to the collection.” [Four Obsessions: Reading, Writing, Cooking and Crafting]

AADL knitting books on patron blog

September 15, 2008

The Back Nine Stacks

Filed under: Uncategorized — tsladmin @ 12:24 pm

At the beginning of the year, I highlighted a library fundraiser that raised $10,000 by putting a mini golf course in the stacks. Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Rick Bolton, the guy behind the fundraiser, which is when I learned that he’s taken his original idea and expanded on it to create a 501(c)(3) organization that can work with libraries across the country.

“Yes, we really will turn your library into an amazing miniature golf course for a day. We work with public, school, and academic libraries seeking a fundraising event that will also draw new patrons to the library and provide for a fun community event. We have hosted several events in Connecticut and Massachusetts over the last few years and have inspired and coached other events across the country.”

I think it’s a fascinating idea, especially when you hear Rick talk about it. In fact, the one thing that’s missing from the website is Rick’s passion and enthusiasm for this project, which is really just a labor of love for him (it’s not his primary business).
The basic idea is that the Library Mini Golf nonprofit group will create a miniature golf course for a library, 80% of which is a standard course. The individual holes are created in such a way that they can be set up and taken down quickly, and they can be folded down for easy storage. LMG plans to work with college design school students to create the other, unique 20% of the course, which might include replicas of local buildings or other items of interest to the community. For example, t’s easy to imagine a Chicago version with a mini Sears Tower and Hancock Building. (Myself, I’d love to see a hole with kitchen utensils as obstacles in the 641.5 stacks.)
The library can then schedule an event and solicit local sponsors for each hole. On the big day, LMG will help the library set up the course around the stacks or wherever else you want it, and then people come in and play. Ultimately, Rick would like to see additional sponsors put money towards a college scholarship for the kid that wins a high school tournament held in the library. He estimates a library can raise a minimum of $10,000 in just one day for this type of event.
I can see towns competing against each other for best golf score, and maybe we could even have a national tournament the way we’re doing a videogame one for National Gaming Day on November 15. Rick told me he can make some specialty course holes, too. For example, he can have the hole start on one level and finish on another or start in one row of stacks and finish in another. I can’t wait to see one of these setups for myself, but the possibilities are intriguing, and I’m sure librarians will come up with other great ideas.
The LMG is currently working with other libraries on the east coast, but they’ve already done this with midwestern libraries and even an academic one. I think we’ll start seeing some testimonials appear on the LMG site as it evolves (it just launched and they’re still adding content), but there are also several articles about the fundraisers, such as this one that took place at Washburn University in Kansas and the positive response from the community.
My hope is to arrange for one of Rick’s courses to be set up at the Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium in November so that attendees can play for themselves and learn more about the service. In the meantime, interested libraries can contact Rick to learn more or discuss holding an event. Personally, I’d love to see my home library do one of these (hint, hint).

September 12, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — tsladmin @ 12:44 pm

This is partially archival for me so that I can easily get back to this quote for future presentations and partially promotional because I think it highlights just a couple of the benefits of implementing gaming in the library. The quote below is from Monica Harris, Young Adult Librarian at the Oak Park Public Library in Illinois.
OPPL is just getting started offering gaming, and they’re diving in with a tournament. They didn’t committee the idea to death, and I like that they recognize they’ll be learning a lot along the way. Already, though, they’re seeing benefits both internally and externally. Emphasis is mine.

“The players we have attracted are, by and large, a completely new group of kids for us. Their parents come in baffled that their children are SO EXCITED for a library program, and this has facilitated a historic collaboration between myself and the IT department. Before this program, our IT department had never been a part of any library program, and now there are at least two of them attending every time we do a tournament – and they like it! This has been a wonderful learning process for all of us – and we still have a long way to go before it will reach the high programming standard we hope it will eventually achieve.”

September 8, 2008

Ignorance, the Ultimate Boss

Filed under: Uncategorized — tsladmin @ 10:18 pm

How Videogames Blind Us with Science

“A few years ago, Constance Steinkuehler — a game academic at the University of Wisconsin — was spending 12 hours a day playing Lineage, the online world game. She was, as she puts it, a ‘siege princess,’ running 150-person raids on hellishly difficult bosses. Most of her guild members were teenage boys.
But they were pretty good at figuring out how to defeat the bosses. One day she found out why. A group of them were building Excel spreadsheets into which they’d dump all the information they’d gathered about how each boss behaved: What potions affected it, what attacks it would use, with what damage, and when. Then they’d develop a mathematical model to explain how the boss worked — and to predict how to beat it.
Often, the first model wouldn’t work very well, so the group would argue about how to strengthen it. Some would offer up new data they’d collected, and suggest tweaks to the model. ‘They’d be sitting around arguing about what model was the best, which was most predictive,’ Steinkuehler recalls.
That’s when it hit her: The kids were practicing science.
They were using the scientific method. They’d think of a hypothesis — This boss is really susceptible to fire spells — and then collect evidence to see if the hypothesis was correct. If it wasn’t, they’d improve it until it accounted for the observed data.
This led Steinkuehler to a fascinating and provocative conclusion: Videogames are becoming the new hotbed of scientific thinking for kids today….
This is what Steinkuehler reports in a research paper — ‘Scientific Habits of Mind in Virtual Worlds‘ (.pdf) — that she will publish in this spring’s Journal of Science Education and Technology. She and her co-author, Sean Duncan, downloaded the content of 1,984 posts in 85 threads in a discussion board for players of World of Warcraft.” [Games without Frontiers]

Fascinating stuff. We had Constance speak at the first (non-ALA) Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium back in 2005 (sadly, MLS has taken down all of the materials that were online about that event, so I can’t point you to anything about it). You can read my notes from her session here, though..

September 3, 2008

Unique GLLS2008 Presentations

Filed under: Uncategorized — tsladmin @ 7:40 am

There’s an interesting post on Future-making Serious Games titled Retro Remakes Competition: Serious Gaming For Accessibility that includes a call for “entrants to create accessible updated counterparts of real or imagined arcade games from the 1920’s to date.” This is a topic I hadn’t really considered before, and I’ve been learning more about it as I’ve been planning the program for the 2008 ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium. There’s that saying that you know you’re old when you insist that your generation’s music is better than that of the current generation, right? Well, I apply that to videogames, too – my favorites will probably always be the ones I grew up with (although Mario Kart Wii and Boom Blox are pretty great), so I love the idea of making retro games accessible for everyone.
All of which is also a segue to note that we have a session dedicated to Integrating Non-Visual Access Into A Library’s Gaming Experience at the Symposium, as well as some other unique content I don’t think you’ll get anywhere else. Here are just a few of those types of sessions that I’m really looking forward to attending:

  • Gender and Gaming
    “Beth Gallaway shares an overview of research and statistics on gender and gaming; Ph D candidate Beth King discusses how World of Warcraft develops literacy skills and creates community for teen boys and how The Sims develops literacy skills and creates community for teen girls; librarian Alison Angell facilitates a discussion on gender and gaming and teases out potential best practices for libraries seeking to serve each gender to their best ability.”
  • H4cking ur Library for the Gaming Industry
    “This session will present collection development and promotional ideas for creating a materials collection that supports users interested in the gaming industry as a rapidly growing career choice, including a look at how gaming is cross-pollinating with several other industries, including movies and music.”
  • Subject Access to Videogames: Beyond LCSH
    “The Library of Congress Subject Headings are useful for nonfiction print materials, but the options for subject access to video games are limited. Learn how to provide improved access to your library’s video game collection based on your community’s needs with locally-developed genre and subject headings.”
  • What Every Librarian Needs to Know about Videogames and the Law
    “This session will cover two topics that I know a lot of people in the industry have questions about: video games in the library and machinima, movies made using rendered engines. First, the question of what to do about having a video game tournament in the library will be addressed. The discussion will include specific discussion on the legality of the tournament, the possible penalties, and the remedies to make a tournament in the library compliant with both copyright law and the End User License Agreement for the games played.
    Second, as more and more groups wish to offer machinima contests, we will discuss the basics of the law as it relates to machinima. The session will cover both the concerns for the movie makers and the contest host. By the end of the session, all those in attendance should be armed with the knowledge they need to take on some of these new, innovative programs at their own facility.”

If you have questions about these kinds of topics, then GLLS2008 is where you want to be to get them answered. Register today!

September 2, 2008

Four Months, Two Books, and a Weekly Magazine

Filed under: Uncategorized — tsladmin @ 9:12 pm

Turning on the Kindle I’ve had my Kindle ebook reader for just about four months now, and as I suspected, the amount of book reading I’m doing is going up. I know two books doesn’t sound like a lot and some people read that in a week, but for me, this is a big difference. Before the Kindle, I think I’d finished two books in two years, both when I was away on vacation. And even though most people may read books more during the summer, I tend to read fewer, as I’m working and playing outside a lot more. In fact, during the summer I tend to start multiple books and finish none of them.
But the Kindle is changing this, mainly because I’m using my daily commute and other travel times to integrate reading books back into my routine. I’m reading less online and more on the Kindle. I’ve tried carrying books back and forth, but the awkwardness and weight just hasn’t worked well for me. Plus, I like options, so I like to alternate between books and magazines, which just adds to the weight. On the Kindle, I have fiction, nonfiction, and Newsweek, so I always have something to match my mood. And when I needed (okay, wanted) a new title last week, I was able to add it to the Kindle in about one minute. I do take advantage of free ebooks, too. It’s like having the stack of reading material that normally piles up by the bed with me all the time.
Kindle I especially like having Newsweek automagically appear on the device at the beginning of each week. I stopped subscribing to the print version years ago because I couldn’t keep up with it, but for the grand total of $18 per year, I can get this eco-friendly, text-only version every week. I do miss the pictures, but I read it much faster and more often now. In fact, having a weekly current events magazine on the Kindle is changing my expectations of what I should be able to do with an ezine. I’ve found myself routinely disappointed that I can’t email snippets to friends directly from my highlights on the device. It makes no sense to me that something that has a keyboard and is already on the celullar network can’t do this, but I’m sure this will change in the future. I certainly expect it to.
Overall, I’m really enjoying carrying around a library of current reading with me, but there are a few things I really dislike about the Kindle. The biggest issue is the placement of the navigation buttons. It’s just too damn easy to accidentally hit the “next page” or “previous page” buttons. And there have been a few times I’ve missed having a backlit screen, although the clarity of the screen in the sun is still one of the biggest advantages. There’s a slight flicker of the screen when I “turn pages,” but I’ve gotten used to it pretty quickly. My one concern is how well I’ll be able to find text I “highlighted” six months or a year from now. Only time will tell.
I’m torn about the proprietary nature of the device, even as I want more content for it. A few of the titles I’ve thought about buying recently didn’t have Kindle versions, so I didn’t get them. That’s not to say I didn’t order other titles as physical items since they’d work better in that format anyway. And luckily, a lot of the new titles I want to read are available for the Kindle, whereas they’re not available in other ebook formats. Still, I would much rather do without the DRM, and I’d still happily pay for my ebooks (“Dear Publishers and Amazon…”).
I’m ticked that I can’t check out Kindle titles from my library, but then I don’t use my library much for print books, either (partially due to the weight factors I mentioned earlier, but also because of some arcane policies they have on new titles).
So overall, I give the Kindle a B+. Rumor has it that some of the problems will be fixed in version 2, although I doubt I’ll upgrade. For my needs (and YMMV), the revolutionary content delivery system (titles just magically appear) and the convenience far outweigh the annoyances. I can really sense the future of on-demand content with this device, and I think we’re only a few years away from a viable system that lets the user pick and choose granular content from disparate resources that can be downloaded from the cloud to a mobile device instantaneously.
Once in a while I miss the paper, but I’m looking forward to taking the Kindle with me on international trips, and I hope it makes it that much easier for me to read multiple titles while away. I also hope to delve into some of the hacks to make my Kindle do more, but I haven’t had time for that yet. I’ll report back again at the beginning of the year to see if I’m still happy with the device and if my book reading is still increasing.

Powered by WordPress