November 11, 2009

Return of the Cybrary

Filed under: blog — tsladmin @ 10:01 pm

It’s blast from the past day for me. During various server moves, somewhere along the way we lost my first site, Jenny’s Cybrary to the Stars, which I ran from 1995-1999. The main highlight of the site was The Librarians’ Site du Jour, the original library blog.

Jenny's Cybrary to the Stars

So when a reader alerted me that the site was missing, I had to start looking through backups to find the original files. Because I hadn’t worked with the files in a decade, they weren’t on any of my recent backup drives. I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to recover them but in the end, I found them on my old Zip drive. Yep, that’s right – remember Zip drives? Backup 1.0 FTW!

Zip drive FTW!

Some fun pages from the Cybrary:

Sorry in advance for the yellow background – it was the early days. :-p

November 9, 2009

Interactive Learning Experiences in Libraries

Filed under: blog,precat — Tags: , , , — tsladmin @ 10:43 pm

I was happy to see some new faces presenting at last month’s Internet Librarian conference, with one of them being Will Kurt. While I had a bad cold and couldn’t attend all of the sessions I wanted to, I’m glad I was able to make it to his session because it represented what I hope is one growing trend.
Will’s first presentation at #il2009 was about the anatomy application he’s developed for medical students at the University of Nevada Reno, using a Microsoft Surface table. Both DOK and the Darien Public Library are using Surface tables to present information visually (and Gretchen Hams gave a great talk after Will’s about Darien’s experience), but Will’s app is the first learning application that I’ve seen that was created by a library. Students are responding positively, and usage statistics are going up. It sounds like a win-win situation all the way around, assuming you can afford a Surface table ($12,000+).

In addition, you can watch a video of Will’s presentation.
I also saw a presentation about an interesting project at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County about “interactive learning rooms” they’ve created for students, which are essentially study rooms with interactive whiteboard walls. The whiteboards are added for the incredibly low cost of one Wiimote (about $40) using Johnny Chung Lee’s Wiimote hacks. If you don’t have a Surface table, this is an interesting and much less expensive step in that direction. I love the idea of interactive spaces in libraries, and I hope this trend grows, too.
Libraries are all about enhancing learning, and this seems to me like another step towards getting away from pure lecture or text-based instruction. Along with technology/gadget “petting zoos,” instruction that incorporates gaming principles, and the recent crop of “23 Things” programs for the public, I have hope for more experiential learning experiences created by libraries, not just using technology and tools as new ways of presenting information and maps.
I’d love to hear about anything your library is doing to implement interactive learning experiences and environments.
My notes from Will’s talk:

Ubiquitous Computing and the Microsoft Surface at UNR – Will Kurt, Applications Development Librarian
Computers should plug in to us, not the other way around
MIT’s Sixth Sense project
We bring our computer with us now (smartphones), not go to it
Microsoft Surface table – okay for coffee and even changing babies on it
Playing with pictures has been relatively popular on their Surface
Their admissions office really likes the concierge application that gives you campus information
have 5 minutes to impress prospective students and their parents
Kids *love* this and they always rush to it
Shows how intuitive the interface is
Most people thought this was a ridiculous expense
Had to go in to creating in-house applications
“successful new technologies need to be perceived as valuable, not novel”
Put The Tree of Life game on it
people didn’t like it at first because it’s not a traditional game but then they got into it, experimenting with the rules and playing with their friends
Then Microsoft released a second set of apps
Checkers, chess – Surface lets you visualize the rules on the board
Don’t try to emulate web browsers on a Surface because it has one tiny screen as your whole world and one touch point
You can bring all kinds of content from the net into the Surface environment
They built an app of high-resolution anatomy images
Surfaces are multi-touch *and* multi-user
Add something to where the students already are, working together, in a natural way
They can put their lab on the table and it has data about it
This has been hugely successful – have 2 units available and it got more than 70 hours of usage in just the first two weeks
Every student he’s talked to absolutely love it – it’s useful, so it transcends just novelty

My notes from The Wiimote IWB and Library Instruction – May Chang, Shu Qian, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC):

All they need to do this on the cheap is a wiimote, Bluetooth download, and interactive pen – that’s it!
Wiimotes cover a 45 degree angle, so if you have two, you can pretty much cover the whole area
This type of setup is portable, too, whereas an Interactive White Board isn’t
Created “active learning rooms” – auto logins when they book the room
Chemistry and art students love it – drawing with a pen is much more natural than using a mouse
2 options for instructional software for Wiimote Interactive Whiteboard
– Activeinspire studio version
– can also use Microsoft tools like OneNote and Powerpoint with the sharing tools
Did pilot instruction sessions for the international students at the English Language Center

October 7, 2009

A Future Library Service?

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , , , — tsladmin @ 5:50 am

This would be pretty cool, which is good since we’re headed in this direction already.
Take this story: Entire Cities Recreated Using Thousands of Flickr Photos

“A group of researchers with University of Washington’s graphics and imaging laboratory (GRAIL) wanted to see if they could build a piece of software that would search the web for images of a particular place and recreate that place in 3D in under a day.
They succeeded, and the team, lead by Sameer Agarwal, created a simulation of Rome using 150,000 images harvested from photo-sharing website Flickr, and build a virtual model within a day.
The team also tested the software on the Croatian city of Dubrovnic and were able to recreate the entire old city, including all the buildings and streets, within 22 hours.”>

Mix in local, digitized history from the library and archives, the way DOK does with their Surface table app that reads your library card and retrieves historical images of your neighborhood.

Multitouch Microsoft Surface: Cultural Heritage Browser from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Top off with the coming wave of augmented reality apps for mobile devices, led by the “it’s already here” Yelp app for local reviews.

“Yelp’s new iPhone app is now the first iPhone App with Augmented Reality. It takes Yelp information and overlays it into the real-world. It’s actually a secret easter egg (discovered by Robert Scoble), which may be why Apple didn’t reject Yelp’s augmented reality app. We have screenshots and a demo video to show you what this is all about.” [Mashable]

And you get a glimpse of where virtual worlds, ubiquitous information, and mobile broadband access will converge. I can imagine walking through Chicago neighborhoods (like Pullman), around the Mall in Washington DC, and other places where libraries can add value to this type of experience.
If you feel information overload now, just wait until that information flow magically appears all around you in the real world and not just on a screen. Can librarians become part of users’ networks and help filter out some of the noise? Will libraries make their archives open and available for these types of uses?

September 15, 2009

September 9, 2009

September 1, 2009

Become a Ninja Phone Warrior with the Pre

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , , — tsladmin @ 5:49 am

I’m still getting questions about my Palm Pre phone and since I still love it, I thought I’d do another update about my experience so far (see my initial review here).
The first thing I want to note is that the Pre lived up to my expectations during ALA’s Annual Conference last month, making me a mobile ninja warrior during while I was there. How? By acting like a computer, matching my workflow, and letting me track what was happening in real-time.

  • One of the phone’s best features is its ability to multitask, which makes it more like a laptop than the Treo and Centro, and that really comes in handy at a conference where so much is happening online. The fact that I could always have my email, text messages, and a web browser running at the same time – all the time – made me incredibly efficient. Being able to swipe between all of the open cards without having to wait for one to close and another to open was literally a joy. I finally have a phone that works like I do.
  • All of the Pre’s Twitter clients are pretty good, but they’re all made better by the fact that they can be open in multiple cards at once. So in addition to having my email and text messages open at all times, I also tended to have Tweed open in three cards at any given time – one for my personal shifted account, one for the alaannual account, and one for the #ala2009 hashtag. I could easily favorite tweets and switch between accounts to manage replies.
  • The combination of GPS, Google Maps, and Sprint Navigation was a godsend for someone like me who’s geopositionally-challenged on a campus as large as Chicago. If only the GPS could have helped me navigate around McCormick Place, I would have been a punctual ninja phone warrior.
  • Push email and wireless sync for Exchange are phenomenal on the Pre. I usually saw new messages on my Pre before they appeared in Outlook on my laptop, and not having to plug in to sync my calendar or contacts was great on the go.

Despite all of these benefits, there were a few disappointments.

  • The biggest issue I encountered was battery life, although I was very careful to recharge every possible chance I could get so it was rare for me to fully drain the battery. In the future, I may try one of the extended batteries during conferences, but I’m going to track usage a little more before investing in a second battery.
  • From an organizational standpoint, I need the folks making Twitter clients to recognize the need to add an option to the standard reply/favorite/retweet menu for email so that I can forward tweets to get help answering them. This isn’t really a knock on the Pre, as I need this functionality on my desktop, too, but it would really enhance the mobile experience since email can be open at the same time as a Twitter client.
  • The lack of Flash support is still a problem, so I’m glad this will be resolved by the end of the year.
  • My Sprint reception was nonexistent in parts of the convention center, but I think that’s to be expected in a concrete structure like McCormick Place. My friends who were on AT&T and Verizon seemed to have problems, too, so I don’t think this issue was limited to Sprint. It made me even more grateful for the addition of wifi, though.

Despite the fact that many of the annoyances I noted in my initial review still remain, I don’t regret buying the Pre at all, and my enthusiasm continues to grow now that I’ve hacked my phone to install homebrew apps. It’s great to be able to install programs from any developer again, the way apps used to be. (If you have a Pre and you haven’t done this yet, it’s very easy!)
Using the homebrew list, I’ve already been able to restore a version of text snippets (P2snippets, although I wish it had an automatic keyword trigger), the Shoutcast catalog of streaming radio stations, shopping lists, picture dialing, Solitaire, and Word Whirl, among other things. Of course, the problem with this is that my productivity level has dipped because I have Word Whirl again (I was addicted to Text Twist on the Treo/Centro). 😉
After almost three months of use, I still stand by my original recommendation that Treo and Centro owners should upgrade if they can. I really don’t think you’ll regret it, as long as you can afford one of the unlimited data plans. I’m still having good luck on the Sprint network, far more so than the people I hear complaining about AT&T. The Pre is a great upgrade for past Palm users because it continues the tradition of focusing on substance, not just style (although, there’s plenty of that in this Palm product for a change).
Feel free to keep sending me your questions or asking them in the comments.

August 26, 2009

Mississippi Valley Library District Selling Magnetic Library Ribbons for Cars, etc.

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , — tsladmin @ 4:35 pm

I don’t see this anywhere on the web (either on the ILA site or the MVLD one), so I’m posting this to help publicize the effort. It appeared in the most recent of the Illinois Library Association’s e-News.

“The magnetic library ribbons measure 8” and say, “Support Illinois Libraries.” They sell for $1 each for amounts of 100 or more. $1.25 each for smaller amounts. Shipping will be extra or you can pick them up at the Mississippi Valley Library District (408 West Main, Collinsville, IL 62234; phone: 618.344.1112 ex. 113; fax: 618.345.6401).
Please contact Barbara Rhodes (barbarar at and send her your name, library (if applicable), address, and phone number. Indicate if you would like the ribbons shipped or if you will pick them up.
The Mississippi Valley Library District will be selling these ribbons to the public for $2.00 each as a fundraiser.”

I’ll admit that when these magnetic ribbons first started appearing everywhere, I wasn’t a fan. But a few years ago, MFPOW started offering ones the ones that Mississippi Valley is using, so I put one on my car. It’s still there today, and I confess that every time I look at it, it gives me a twinge of pride. YMMV (no pun intended).

Support Illinois Libraries

August 23, 2009

The Blog and Just the Blog, Ma'am

Filed under: blog — Tags: , — tsladmin @ 9:09 pm

I just wanted to note that I’ve tied up some of the loose ends of converting the TSL home page to display my lifestream. If you’re not interested in my lifestream, I won’t be offended, and you can just skip it altogether and go directly to the “blog” category, as that’s essentially my blog now.
You can also subscribe to just the blog posts via RSS if that’s your preferred method. If you’re subscribed via email, you should only be seeing the blog posts, so please let me know if you’re getting a daily “stream” update.
The last thing I’ve done is remove the calendar on the site, since now something will get posted pretty much every day. Obviously I’ll still leave the link to the archives, though.
At some point, I want to write about the library lifestream and how the WordPress plugin I’ve installed can be used to easily aggregate that, but it’s a topic that will have to wait for another day.

August 21, 2009

Another Reason for Libraries to Make Their Sites Social

Filed under: blog — Tags: , , , , , , , — tsladmin @ 11:17 am

Now that I’m on a smartphone that has a real web browser and is capable of multitasking (the Palm Pre), In fact, I find myself expecting it to act like my laptop. I’ve stopped carrying my laptop or my netbook to work each day because I can do so much on my phone, but I’m still noticing where decisions made by web designers make my mobile life easier.
So here’s mobile developer tip #1, my two cents: use plugins and widgets that let users automatically share your content on sites like Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, etc., because you’ll make the user’s life easier. Granted, not all phones support the Javascript that powers this type of service on a web page, but more and more will, so consider getting ahead of the curve and adding it now.
The alternative for me as the reader (acknowledging each person’s situation is different) is to:

  1. Leave the site up in a card until I get home in the evening and can manually bookmark it on my laptop. This works about 50% of the time.
  2. Email the site to myself so I can bookmark it later on my laptop. This works about 80% of the time but is annoying.
  3. Try remembering to revisit the site later on my laptop to bookmark it. This works 0% of the time.

As a result, I’m finding that I’m far more likely to bookmark something if there’s a direct link to post it to Delicious, and that workflow will continue for me until there’s a Pre app that makes this easier, which means I really appreciate sites that offer this. Even better is if you can add it so that it appears in your RSS feed so that it shows up in places like Google Reader and Bloglines, too.
Here are some options to consider for adding this functionality to your site.

  • For WordPress blogs, you can use the Sociable plugin (I’m sure there are others, but this is what I use so I know it works). I have another blog post brewing on this topic, but this is yet another reason I encourage libraries to make their “what’s new” page a blog – you can then use the wealth of plugins out there to improve the user’s experience.

    Sociable WordPress plugin

  • For Drupal sites, you can use something like the Share module (I’m going to look into this for ALA Connect. If you’re using a different CMS, check to see if there’s a similar module for it.
  • Failing that, or even for use on general web pages, check out something like the Add This widget, although I have to admit I’m not sure how accessible it is.

Regardless, this can be a relatively easy way to help meet the needs of your mobile users, a group that’s just going to grow in the future. Food for thought. Nom nom nom.

August 20, 2009

You Can Still Help LFPL

Filed under: blog — Tags: , — tsladmin @ 9:11 pm

The Louisville Free Public Library might no longer be flooded, but it can still use your help. Steve Lawson began this effort with a goal of raising $5,000 for LFPL, and he’s more than halfway there. Please consider donating if you can.

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