Pen and Paper

I have been avoiding spending too much non-work time at the computer; I’ve been writing and drawing with pen on paper instead. Consequently, this blog has been– and will continue to be– rarely updated. I do occasionally post things to, though.


Barcelona Photos

I posted just a few photos from my trip to Barcelona on flickr.

Fest Major de Gracia

Speaking at Internet Librarian in October

How exciting! I received an email confirming that I’ll be speaking at the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey this October. I’ll be talking about using emerging technologies to teach information skills. The talk will be based on Beyond Google, a credit-bearing class I teach through our library.

Monkey Delight

Last night I went to Monkeybook 2 at Monkey Town to hear Brad Paley give a fascinating talk about TextArc and a few other projects. I’m still sorting out all of the ideas Brad offered us, but the major concept he seemed to want us to grasp was this: if you want someone to absorb information, offer it to them in a form that lets them find the patterns in it. He repeatedly mentioned that humans delight in finding patterns and pulling together threads of information, which, of course, sent me down a path thinking about the ways library catalogs, article databases and other digital tools don’t delight researchers. Which in turn sent me down one of my favorite paths, which is thinking about how these tools could delight researchers. So many of the aha! moments I see students and other faculty reaching when I’m working with them are moments of “Aha! I finally understand how this crazy database thing works!” rather than moments of engagement with the actual information they’re finding. Shouldn’t the database or catalog be disappearing in that moment? Or, even better, complementing the information in a way that makes it easier to understand? These seem like such simple questions, but I’m frustrated by how few resource providers in the library world even begin to address them.

Annotating the Web with Stickis

I just signed up for a Stickis account, hoping that it might be useful as we’re planning for our new OPAC. I’d like to be able to share annotations of other libraries’ OPACs across the project group. Another possibility would have been to go with Fleck, but Stickis allows for private groups, which seems more useful for this particular project. I’m still trying to understand how all the Stickis features work. Look me up if you want to play along.

ShiftSpace was another possible candidate, but it didn’t seem quite right for this project. Of the annotation tools I looked at, it’s the most interesting to me conceptually– it’s open source, and it’s geared toward reopening the web as a public space. I’m looking forward to trying it out just for fun.

UPDATE: So, Stickis looks like it might be really good for the OPAC review project if the other team members are into it, but my heart belongs to ShiftSpace. So far it looks like people are just playing with it in a really simple way, like kids with crayons on walls, but the implications for it could be so incredible. In a way, it’s sort of like adding comments for any web page where viewers opt in, but it can be so much more than that. While comments sort of sit on top of a page and maybe even create a little dialog around it, eventually spinning out into a broader dialog, they don’t deeply affect the original version of the page unless the author edits in response to the comments. What’s really powerful about ShiftSpace is that it lets the original stand, comments on it, but at the same time allows people to deeply alter the original via the image swap feature and the source shift feature. Theoretically, there could be tons of versions of the same page available at the same time. This is the first project I’ve seen in a long time that actually makes the Internet feel like a public space. Totally beautiful.

Roy Tennant & Tim Spalding on OPACs

Notes from the session at CIL…

Tim Spalding: The Fun OPAC

Quote from Casey Bisson re: searchability, findability, usability

He wants more: “funability.” Serendipity is part of it. So are findability and usability.

We expect the web to be quick, easy, fun, and “the library is the most fun you can have with your pants on.” So, how can you make your current opac fun?

  • Bring it front and center—make it part of the website, not separate.
  • Make it dynamic. A site that doesn’t change isn’t fun.
  • Allow inbound links (increase search engine hits, make linking and sharing easy) can do by providing permalinks likeupper right-hand side of google maps
  • Link outwards—the more you link out, the more people will come to you. Link not just from website, but from catalog, too (useful links in records, etc. why not link out to local bookstore, amazon—why not? Patrons know about it already—if a book’s out they’re going there anyway, why not use as affiliate?)
  • Link around within your catalog and without—in librarything, everything is clickable (fun! increases serendipity, lets users get entertainingly lost)
  • Dress up your opac—if you use amazon covers, you’re supposed to link to amazon on your page (according to their terms)
  • Somebody needs to create open database of covers—someone is working on this?
  • Link to Wikipedia—students are going anyway, why not link to it? Or, even better, link to it but wrap some education about evaluating information around that link.
  • Get your data out there so superusers can use it—let people get involved, people will think of fun things to do with your data. Where are the ILS APIs?
  • RSS feeds (new books, searches) push things out from libraries. Patrons want to tell people what they’re reading, not just find out what’s available—how about widgets? No privacy issues when someone says “I want a widget that lists what I read.” The random-book-from-my-library librarything widget is really popular.

Librarything for libraries—add librarything data to opac (tags, similar books, other editions based on librarything user input) tagbrowser to look at library catalog through lens of librarything tags.currently tags are supplied by librarything tags—ultimately, libraries should be sharing tags, the more people tagging, the more successful



Roy Tennant: Catalogs for the Future

  • Won’t use “the o word”
  • Catalogs don’t have a future (at least as we know and hate them).
  • Discovery happens at network level, not necessarily at local level (i.e. people look for resources all over the place, not just in your library at a workstation).
  • Even at local level, people want to find more than books.
  • New finding tools are making catalogs obsolete.
  • By catalog, he doesn’t mean ILS—still need to manage collections, but need different tools for finding content.
  • Discovery needs to happen outside the ils (data needs to get out there).
  • Finding options available at network level—google, worldcat, worldcat local, primo (from ex libris).
  • Users want any useful info—format isn’t necessarily important.
  • Users want to search in one spot, not ten.
  • Most ils’s don’t offer the features users expect—openworldcat is doing some cool stuff (faceted browsing, clean display, relevance ranking, integrated article indexes, worldcat identities, fictionfinder)
  • Emphasize idea of finding tool (vs. library catalog)
  • Search box at top of penn library homepage—metasearch (e-resources, faq’s, books, video, research guides)


Predictions for successful future…

Integrated Library Systems:

  • Will refocus on library operations—getting the work done
  • Will be constructed with discrete components, able to work with other systems, exposed APIs, inexpensive, scalable, easy to maintain
  • Evergreen is doing these things

Finding tools:

  • Will integrate access to a variety of sources
  • APIs will be available
  • Will allow for relevance ranking, faceted browsing, etc.
  • Will be larger than library catalog, integrate library catalog




thinking about rss

I subscribe to a lot of rss feeds, and I check my aggregator pretty often. The Bloglines interface has become so familiar to me that I’m lulled by it’s design, easily skimming over stories, marking some to save for later, barely glancing at others. I didn’t really realize how personal a feed reader can seem, though, until the past few weeks. And I’m still trying to figure out how it can feel so much more intimate than visiting a web page, how it can feel almost invasive when something troubling keeps showing up in your feeds, over and over.

I subscribe to about 12 blogs and news sites about New York and Brooklyn, and lately they’ve included a bunch of coverage of a really gruesome rape and torture that happened to a Columbia University student. Of course the story needs to get reported, but what I question is the level of detail that needs to appear, and the way in which it’s framed. Each story mentions that she went against her father’s wishes by moving into what he viewed as an unsafe neighborhood, setting up a sort of she-deserved-it-scenario, which is generally what I expect from the news. But then there is a such an obsessive detailing of everything the attacker used and did to hurt this woman, and I just don’t understand what need it serves to lay every last detail out. It creeps me out that maybe there’s some sort of voyeuristic pleasure derived from it– maybe it’s like a car crash? Maybe people are looking so closely because then they can reassure themselves that it didn’t happen to them? I can’t really believe that’s the whole scenario in this case, though. I think maybe in this story it has something to do with our society’s deep-seated, trying-to-be-hidden, shameful pleasure in seeing the methods used to take this young woman down.

So, back to my aggregator– It’s weird to get these details pushed to me every day, to have them slip quietly into a space that I had lulled myself into thinking of as my own. This certainly isn’t the only disturbing story I’ve read via rss– news about war and abuse fill the New York Times feed every day. But maybe because this one is local and so disturbingly detailed, it feels that much closer. I’m not drawing any pithy conclusions from this, just thinking about the ways my emotions and perceptions of information affect and are affected by my use of technology. It looks like I’m not alone in wanting some way to easily filter the news that comes my way (the comments  and Dave Winer’s follow-up posts are worth reading, too).