Xperimentarium - Exciting new library redesign by children

This came from a post through Helene Blowers's LibraryBytes blog. What a cool idea for making a new type of kid-friendly library. Sign me up!


Anagrams for Sudoku

My link for the little Sudoku generator went dead yesterday, so I replaced it with an Anagram generator. It's in the spot previously occupied by the Sudoku generator. Have fun wasting time!


Thing 23 - Summary

"This is the end, the end my friend" - not (sorry Jim Morrison!)

This is the last post for these discovery exercises, but definitely not the last time I will use the skills obtained. I've been happy to discover that even I can do these things that are increasingly part of Web 2.0. I've always been one to want to learn new things, and this was a natural extension of my inherent curiosity.

My favorite, in terms of sheer fun, was creating an avatar on Meez. I was surprized to see how much time I would willinging spend on exercises that captured my imagination. If a similar offering was presented in the future, I'd certainly be inclined to try it.

Succinctly, my learning experience was: fun, profound, enlivening, and unexpected - even when I got frustrated.

Thanks for offering the opportunity to us be stay relevant to our customers and to enrich ourselves!

Thing 22 - Overdrive, Project Gutenberg

I've had an Overdrive account for well over a year now, ever since I got a (non-iPod) mp3 player. Back in the days before July 31, I also used NetLibrary. Both are good as far as they go; I always find myself wishing they could go further, but much is out of their control.

The major advantage I find with Overdrive is that you can find a title, download it and sync it to your mp3 player. In some cases you can burn the mp3 file to a CD, essentially letting you keep a title forever, something you can't do with a library's talking CD. Realistically, most folks aren't so into their talking books they want to keep them, but this feature allows them to play the title in their car CD if they can't play their mp3 player through the car stereo system. Me - I use a FM transmitter with my mp3 player when I take long trips if I want to listen to those mp3 (or .wav) files on the car stereo.

The major disadvantages are twofold. One, the list of titles is small and usually not filled with truly available recent releases. A search of Overdrive's "What's New" section reveals more Adobe eBooks than Overdrive audio books, and there wasn't a single audio book available for immediate download, only for placing a hold on one. Those items available for download were not remotely new books. So it's good if you're in the mood for an older title you've missed. Also, the list of authors is necessarily limited (I'm being kind using the word "limited"), which is not the fault of Overdrive itself, but reflects which publishers and authors are available to them in these formats, based on their deals with these sources. Customers, frankly, could care less about these details, only whether or not a title they'd like is available. My 10 title searches yielded 0 (as in zero) titles owned - if I weren't a librarian, I would have concluded by the 3rd or 4th search that Overdrive had nothing to offer me and would have written them off as of no use for my needs. Hopefully the range and number of titles will increase with time. I couldn't find a single title I wanted to download this time through.

Secondly, the requirements in terms of technical skills on the end user are high. Overdrive makes you download and install additional software to get the audio book (or video) you want. Introducing another layer to the process that the customer must go through can and will deter customers from using this service. And I'm not even considering that you then have to be skilled enough to sync your choice through Windows Media Player onto your mp3 player. Granted, after doing it 2-3 times you get familiar enough to stop sweating the details, but a greater transparency to the process (or rather invisibility of the process) would, I suspect, greatly increase the use of this and other downloading systems. Which would you be more likely to do - spend 20-30 minutes figuring out how to install additional software, then obtain, download and sync one audio book (think of the first time you did it), or just go to the library and pick up 3 talking CD's in 10 minutes?

I believe these services will grow over time, that they are in their infancy and experiencing the usual growing pains of any new technology. They will get larger lists of titles and downloading them to your mp3 player will get easier. My suggestion: make it possible to plug your mp3 player into the computer, select your audio book, answer a few questions about your computer and mp3 player, then have the website automate the rest of the process. Plug, Download, Sync, Go!

Project Gutenberg, long predating Google's attempt to digitize the world's books, is the repository for literature that's out of copyright protection. What this means in practice is that, given current copyright law, you'll not see anything written after the 1920's that's available. If you need a copy of Dicken's A Christmas Carol, however, it's right there and yours for the reading or even printing. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this project, limited though it may be as to what it can actually offer.


Thing 21 - Podcasts

I looked at all 3 podcasting resources, Podcast.net, Podcastalley.com, and Yahoo Podcasts. Not surprisingly, I found Yahoo's offering to be the easiest to use with the slickest layout. It did find my podcast of choice, NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, and did so with great speed. The other services also found the podcast, with Podcastalley being the next easiest and Podcast.net the hardest. Podcast.net was harder only because its pulldown tool next to the search bar offers the widest selection of options for searching, so you have to be careful how you do your search. Looking for the Wait, Wait podcast under "Keyword" returned no hits, but it came right up searching under "Titles". In all three I left out the NPR portion, which is how NPR lists this show (as "NPR: Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me").

All three shows a ton of available episodes. Yahoo's offering gives the option to listen immediately or download, as well as offering the feed for your aggregator. The other two seemed content to offer the feeds first. In any case, the simple availability of these audio (and in some cases video) feeds opens up the same possibilities as "books on demand" offers for out-of-print books. You don't have to miss information from sources like radio because they're kept as audio files and are searchable. That's why I chose "Wait, Wait...", because I never seem to be near my radio at 11 am on Saturdays to catch the broadcast live, but I can always go back to my computer and relive the fun. It's now got a spot on my Bloglines feeds.

Thing 20 - YouTube

The quintessential social site, YouTube, has created such a stir as it rose from cult status to mainstream acceptance. You can literally find videos on just about anything here, from the inane to the profound. For example, there are whole courses given on playing guitar, educational offerings, and shots of folks getting whacked by grocery shopping carts traveling at 40 mph. And currently YouTube is being used as a forum for national presidential debates. For libraries, this can be a great tool for promotional purposes or posting videos of seminars and speakers so that a wider audience can view them. For example, if you missed Staff Day, an LVN video recording could be edited or broken into segments and posted, allowing those who missed it to view the day's events.

For my post, I thought a little frivolity was in order, so below you can enjoy a video entitled, "Crazy Cats". Enjoy!

Thing 19 - Web 2.0 Awards

And the envelope please...

Of all the applications and sites, 2 stand out for me as incredibly useful, so much so that I couldn't choose one. So we have co-winners: Google Docs and Bloglines.

Google Docs is hands down the neatest app I've run across this year. It truly facilitates collaboration in a way that enables everyone to win. You don't need to own Brother Bill's bloatware to be able to work across the world on projects. All you need is an Internet capable computer. It handles the 3 most frequently used document types (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), effortlessly shuffling them between multiple users, who can make and view changes. Simply a beautiful idea made real.

Bloglines, as a feed aggregator, is useful for it's time saving ability in gathering information in one spot. No more searching your 50 favorite sites to see if something's new - you can know in one site. It's easy to set up an account, and equally easy to add and delete feeds as necessary. You can keep especially interesting items from feeds new, so they're easy to return to. The interface is straightforward and a pleasure to use. I'm a big fan of easy, good, and very useful.

Libraries obviously can use Google Docs on projects of any sort - I did exactly that back in April to share Excel spreadsheet data between work and home. As for Bloglines, any library could create a list of its own blogs that were relevant to its users and make the list of feeds available to its customers, either internal or external.


Thing 18 - Online Applications & Tools

I have to be honest - I investigated Google Docs because I've used it extensively already and am trying to finish by Oct. 2! I promise to go back at a later date and examine ZohoWriter!

Google Docs is tops in my book. Why? - you don't have to have Word or Excel or PowerPoint on your computer in order to share the documents! This allows you to work anywhere you have a computer that has Net access. On my main computer at home I eschew Brother Bill's Office suite, instead using OpenOffice for my office productivity needs. It's powerful, open source, plays well with Microsoft, and is completely free. This leads to some conflicts when I have to bring work home, as was true in the spring when I had to work on preparing data from some lengthy spreadsheets for a major project in a short amount of time. Google Docs to the rescue! I was able to load my docs, make the necessary new docs from them, and save the new docs back to Google. I could also email the documents to all the people who needed them, both for comments and for final review. This is one of my Top 5 web-based tools!

Thing 17 - Learning 2.0 Sandbox Wiki

I have to say this was one of the more frustrating discovery assignments. Not because of the assignment itself, but because of the balkiness of the Sandbox and Favorites, run on PBWiki. It locked up my browser twice, gave numerous error messages about cookies (they're enabled for these sites). Additionally, the directions on how to use them were about as clear as mud. Also, when listing my favorites, the editor doesn't keep your selected font choice and size from line to line, even when you simply press Return to skip a line, so for each one I had to re-select the font and size before typing.

Rant over! ;-)

Otherwise, a nice way to share and share some more (common theme emerging in Web 2.0). I remember that for the MLA conference in Ocean City this past May, they posted most of the handouts from the sessions to the conference wiki, which was very handy, as well as recording podcasts that were posted, too.

Thing 16 - Wikis

Wikis are the ultimate collaborative tool for things other than Mocrosoft Office products (Word, Excel, etc.). They are completely egalitarian, open, and invite engaged particapation from collaborators. I liked the idea of book group/book list wikis, as in the Princeton model. I also think that for things like branch or systemwide workplans, wikis can be a viable option for generating discussion, authoring policies, visions, etc. Care does need to be exercised when opening wikis to external customers of the library, I think, in the same way Wikipedia exercised due vigilance on its site. I'd wager that any library running teen programs would love to make use of wikis in conjunction with Flickr, MySpace, and other blogging opportunities.

If you want a laugh, one wiki I visited had a link to a hilarious definition of a "librarian", authored (I think) by Stephen Colbert (of the Colbert Report). You can find it at the Uncyclopedia, at http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Librarian.