Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
In New Hampshire, at the end of the calendar year any unused public library allocations are supposed to go back to the city, town, or other taxing authority from whence they came. (In reality, I don't think they actually seize your checking account, but ...) Because our director position was vacant for nearly 6 months, we have some money left over, so the end of year spending spree is on. Today I ordered a video camera and all the fixins' (spare SDHC cards, camera bag, 72" tripod, USB adapter for the SD cards), and a blu-ray DVD player. I've already bought a Windows application called ConvertXtoDVD, which converts from many video formats (the X in the name) to a format suitable for burning to a video DVD that the typical home DVD player will recognize. I'm also buying a still camera, but there are so many choices in the $200 range that I will probably just go to Staples and Target and see what's on sale.
The new director is getting quotes to set me up with a real workbench down in the basement, complete with bench-level power outlets and additional network drops. (Right now there is only one network drop. Yeah. And that's for the OPAC server.) And he's going to get some quotes to double the number of network drops all over the building. Ten years ago I guess it must have seemed perfectly adequate to have two network drops in the staff room, two at the circ desk, one at the children's desk, a couple for OPACs, and a scattering of singletons in the public areas. Sort of like the way Intel thought that no one would ever need more than 640K of address space.
I've also gotten a go-ahead to start getting quotes for a website re-design, but I don't see how that can happen before December 31st. And we're going to do something for the Youth Computer Room; I don't have a dollar amount for that yet, but I'd like to see what we can do with Linux and our existing equipment, with help from a company like Userful.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
"Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries, because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years." Ray Bradbury, 2008.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I love technology. I wouldn't be the Technology Librarian if I didn't. But I also like helping people solve problems, and sometimes the "low tech" solution is best.
A couple came in this week, he on Monday and she on Tuesday. They wanted to make a purchase from a certain retailer that has both an online and a brick'n'mortar presence. They don't have a computer at home, don't have an email address, and have no need of either, except for this one transaction. He insisted that I had helped him with a previous online purchase, but I have no memory of this and would have given the same answer then as I did this week. I certainly would not have let him use my own email address, as he suggested I had done.
I started to explain to him that it is still possible to begin purchases online and then complete them by phone. Many online retailers do this for customers who are understandably reluctant to entrust their credit card numbers to the dangers of the Internet. But to find out if we could do that with this particular retailer, we might have to go through the steps of starting the transaction, putting items into a virtual shopping cart, and saving the contents of the cart. Then we could find out what information was required to complete the transaction and what our options were. But before I could finish, he waved me off and left the library, clearly unsatisfied and convinced that I was "not willing to help him."
On Tuesday, she came in, clearly more experienced with using a computer and the Internet, but still without an email address. When she got to the screen for billing and shipping information, she asked for my help.
"Do I have to give them an email address?" Yes.
"Why?" It's a required field. It has a red asterisk next to it.
"What do they need that for?" They'll send you an order confirmation and, when your order ships, a shipping notification.
"Can't they just call me?" It doesn't work that way.
It looked like we had once again reached an impasse, but she at least recognized that there was no point in opening an email account if this is all she was going to use it for. She allowed me to help her locate a phone number for customer service, then she pulled out her cellphone and started calling the retailer, at which point I retreated to my desk. I didn't see her leave, but the staff member who was at the Circulation Desk told me she appeared to leave satisfied.
I hope she went home and told her husband that those mean old librarians were very helpful after all, and I hope that a Christmas surprise was not spoiled by the recipient having to purchase her own gift.
(photo of old-fashioned phone dial by Leo Reynolds, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/)
Monday, December 7, 2009
"Librarians at Woodrow Wilson provided an excuse note for 15-year-old Juan Henriquez after he lost an eight-page paper on the Bill of Rights because his computer session timed out before he'd saved his work."
Please, please, PLEASE, can we get the word to these kids and these librarians about using Google Docs, or Zoho, or some other web-based productivity tools, so no one ever loses hours of work again?
Gowen, Annie. Lack of computer access hampers some students. Washingtonpost.com, Sunday, December 6, 2009.
(Photo By Susan Biddle For The Washington Post)
Friday, December 4, 2009
"Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes, and - all of this - all of this - was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars." ~Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, "Infection," Season 1, Episode 4 http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0012584/quotes
"I remember him saying something like this: 'Here on Earth we live on a planet that is in orbit around the Sun. The Sun itself is a star that is on fire and will someday burn up, leaving our solar system uninhabitable. Therefore we must build a bridge to the stars, because as far as we know, we are the only sentient creatures in the entire universe. When do we start building that bridge to the stars? We begin as soon as we are able, and this is that time. We must not fail in this obligation we have to keep alive the only meaningful life we know of.'" ~Wernher von Braun, as recalled by Tom Wolfe http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/opinion/19wolfe.html
If we really believed that this precious Earth is the only place in the entire universe that supports sentient life, would we continue to treat it the way we have been doing?
I wrote a paper on censorship back in my first year of library school, using as examples Dalton Trumbo's "Johnny Got His Gun" and Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5."
http://www.vsa-software.com/mlsportfolio/ils503/censorship.doc (Word 2003)
And here are some books on the McCarthy hearings from our collection:
Nurse: Do you use a seatbelt?
Nurse: Bicycle helmet?
Nurse: Is there a smoke detector in the home?
Nurse: Is there a carbon monoxide detector?
Patient: Not sure about that. I rent.
Nurse: Are all fire alarms secured?
Patient: Excuse me?
Nurse: Fire alarms.
Patient: I'm sorry, I .....
Nurse: Fire. Arms. Are there any firearms in the home?
Patient: Oh. No. No, there aren't.
Note to self: Find out the annual rate, by state, of death or injury due to firearms in the home.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It was another Learning Experience, but a satisfying one. Now we have a DVD of the event that we can loan out to people who couldn't be there, and we can start to build up a little library of these. Maybe we can start an oral history project and interview some of the old-timers before they're gone.
Monday, November 30, 2009
I'll start with some figures from the Statistical Abstract, aka The National Data Book, a publication I discovered a few years ago at the Ruth Haas Library at Western Connecticut State University. Of course, it's all online now, but it was so much fun to flip through the pages of the Abstract from 20 years ago and discover a table of the employment figures for various professions, including engineers. That's the kind of serendipity that's hard to duplicate in an online database.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
But for once I am looking forward to trying out a new Windows operating system. Windows 7 could solve all my problems with the three wired public computers; they're running Windows XP but, as is so frequently the case these days, we have no media for them. Lenovo has a pretty neat setup by which they store an installable image on the hard drive, accessible only by a key combination and optional password. It provides a time-consuming but reliable recovery for a computer that has been hopelessly compromised by malware. A couple of our public computers have the security password set; I've tried all our standard passwords, but none of them work, so I'm pretty sure a patron must have set it, whether accidentally or deliberately I can't say. Both these machines have problems that make a reinstall necessary, but without media and without the password I can't do much. Buying Windows 7, with the media, solves two problems at once.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The camera has two outputs: Firewire, and A/V (red/yellow/white, aka video plus left and right audio). I don't have easy access to a device that accepts either output. I could connect the A/V cable to the television, but I don't want to just watch it again, I want to get the tapes into a digital file on a computer so that I can edit it and burn it to a DVD. So one of my co-workers agreed to bring in her MacBook which, of course, has a Firewire connector built-in. I plugged the camera into the MacBook, started iMovie, connected iMovie to the camera, and off we go. I would have been awfully disappointed if I'd had to consult a user's guide for either the camera or the Mac. Say what you will about Apple--it's more expensive, it's a closed, proprietary system, etc.--but the out-of-the-box experience is great for most of the things that most people want to do with a computer. I had to give my co-worker back her computer for the weekend--I know how I'd be if someone took away my computer for a whole weekend--so the editing and burning will have to wait until next week.
Sony is having a sale today--right now--on the current generation video camera, the HDR-CX100. It's only $499, down from $599. I don't know how long the sale will last, but I will call the Friends president first thing tomorrow and see if she can release $500 now instead of $600 or $700 later.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
We're going to jump on the video bandwagon tonight and record a program being put on by the local Historical Society on the history of farming in this community. That's assuming that all the participants will consent. My goal is to produce a DVD of the event that we can then put into circulation. If it goes well, this could turn into a local history project. I've been wanting to do something like that ever since I started working in public libraries four years ago, and especially when I was taking Digital Libraries, but no one ever wanted to take me up on the offer. Maybe they thought it would take up too much staff time to support.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Houston Public Library has started a trial program where books are carried out to patrons' cars at two of the system's more parking-challenged branches. At least one public library in CT has had a drive-through window for some time now, similar to the drive-through window at a bank. In fact, the building may have been a bank in a former life.
Friday, August 21, 2009
On June 6th, I started a new job as the Technology Librarian at Rye Public Library in Rye, New Hampshire. This blog started out as my contribution to the 23 Things/Learning Library 2.0 program at New Canaan Library in Connecticut, but now that I'm a "dropout" from that program, I'm hijacking this blog (can you hijack your own blog?) to become a log of my adventures in managing the technology needs of this small, rural library.
We only have 12 public access computers, but they're a challenge in that they are all Windows machines (or were until a few weeks ago, when I installed Ubuntu on 2 of them) and we have no domain server to enforce group policies or serve up other means of locking them down. Five of the public computers are actually laptops, because we don't have enough space to set up permanent stations for them. We also have a number of staff computers, of course, but my primary focus for the last 10 weeks has of necessity been the public computers.
All of the laptops were running Windows XP, which is astonishing when I tell you that 3 of them--the cute little ThinkPad R40 pictured here--only had 128MB of RAM each. After adding an additional 512MB of RAM to each, disabling all the background programs that run at Startup, canceling all Scheduled Tasks, and installing and running Malwarebytes, Spybot Search & Destroy, and Spyware Blaster, all three are running a lot better now. More on this next time.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The New York Times reports that the problem of pirated books has ballooned in recent months on file-sharing sites such as Scribd. Author Ursula K. Le Guin was browsing the Web one day and was surprised to find a complete copy of her 1969 Nebula and Hugo award-winning classic, The Left Hand of Darkness.
Authors Cory Doctorow and Harlan Ellison expressed two opposing views. Doctorow, author of the 2009 Hugo-finalist novel Little Brother, has long been a vocal opponent of DRM and has routinely, with his publisher's blessing, released his new novels onto the Web under a Creative Commons license, on the belief that free versions will entice new readers.
Ellison, also an award-winning science/speculative fiction author, has seen his work routinely pirated in print in many languages, and has spent a lifetime defending his copyrights. Ellison is 74, Doctorow is 37. Ellison just wants to get paid for his work. Doctorow says that obscurity is more to be feared than piracy.
Question 1: Who do you agree with and why?
Question 2: Why is it always science fiction authors?
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Suzie Gilbert, author of "Flyaway: How a Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings," and Melanie Pearson, Director of Animal Care at the New Canaan Nature Center, with Topper and Socrates. New Canaan Library, Sunday, April 26, 2009.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Dallas TX, 1961: That young fella in the striped shirt in the center of the front row is Stevie Ray Vaughan, future electric blues guitarist extraordinaire. Also on the front row, third from the left, is my sister, and to her immediate right is her best friend who is still her best friend today.
Stevie Ray died far too young. Decades later I visited this memorial to him in Austin, TX, where he made his name as one of the finest blues guitarists of all time.
Click on either photo to see the full-size original.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Here are some libraries that are using WordPress to build their websites. No FrontPage, Dreamweaver, Contribute, or other applications to buy and learn. Just "type in the box and publish."
Library Sites That Use WordPress
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I've been using an RSS reader for about 3 years now, ever since I got my first Gmail account. RSS is the only sane way to keep up with the amount of information coming from the "biblioblogosphere"—the legions of librarian bloggers: Jessamyn West, the Librarian in Black, Michael Stephens, Jennie Levine, and Meredith Farkas, just to name a handful of the many who write about Library 2.0, Web 2.0, and other technology issues. Then there are all the libraries that are blogging: Danbury Public Library, New Canaan Library, Cheshire Public Library, just to mention three that are of particular interest to me. If it weren't for RSS, I would have to visit a dozen websites each morning, besides the New York Times, to find out everything that's happening.
Libraries that have blogs, like New Canaan, already have RSS feeds for their blogs—that's usually built into the blogging platform. Blogs like Events of the Week are a great way to publicize events at little or no cost. One of the challenges is making patrons in that intermediate level—the ones who are comfortable with email and using a browser—aware of RSS feeds and showing them how to use them.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
A website that documents the Carnegie-funded libraries in New England—maintained by a librarian, of course—has been updated to include academic libraries. Of the 95 public and academic libraries that Carnegie money helped to build in New England, all but 3 are still standing. If we add in the Carnegie-era libraries that have preserved the original building even as they have been added on to—like New Canaan, Ridgefield, and many others—the number would be even higher. That says something about the enduring value of libraries. Think about it the next time you see a 20-year-old strip mall being torn down to build a new strip mall.