Beyond Print: Presentation December 4

On Tuesday, December 4th Dana Paxson and I will be giving a presentation for the Rochester Speculative Literature Writers Association on the future of fiction. We will be discussing emerging technology and it’s impact on writers. Dana will demonstrate his Electronic Literary Macrame, I will give a tour of Second Life, and we will both discuss how writers can take advantage of social networking tools to promote their writing.

R-Spec meets the first Tuesday of every month at Barnes & Noble in Pittsford Plaza, in Pittsford, New York at 7 pm. Meetings are free and open to the public. Anyone with an interest in speculative fiction is welcome to join us.

Visual Medical Dictionary

Guus van den Brekel, a medical librarian in the Netherlands, recently posted this resource to his Facebook page. It’s a visual medical dictionary that works like AquaBrowser:

Besides providing a visual connection between resources, it also does a great job of helping me find something if I spell it wrong. Example: Is it acetaminophen or acetominophen? Doesn’t matter. Either way, the correct spelling comes up, along with the appropriate links. Nice.

Another nice feature: when you type in a term (disease, drug, body part, etc.) the results are color-coded, depending on whether the link is a drug, a related disease, a therapy, or a bio-agent.

A very bookmark-worthy site.

“It’s A YouTube for Nerds”

That was the response I got from an inventor friend when I sent him this link:

and he’s right: it is just like youtube, only the videos are for scientists or those with extremely nerdy tendencies. This sort of information sharing needs to be on the radar screen of librarians.

The Journal of Visualized Experiments is a site where scientists can upload videos of their experiments. It’s a great resource and definitely worth a look, even if science isn’t your thing, because we’re going to see more and more of this in the near future.

The Library of the Future

Take a look at this video:

It’s a fascinating look at “user as co-creator” of future library space. While I’m fairly certain that my public library will not resemble this anytime soon, I’m sure there is a lot here that is worth discussing and incorporating into the way we do business. I’d love some feedback on this.

Also, here’s a link to the report, in English:

And here’s one in which children aged 6-14 created models, pictures and stories with new ideas and visions for libraries of the future:

Technology is changing the way we interact with information. If libraries are going to continue to be vital resources, the way we provide information and allow our users to interact with it will have to grow to include some of the ideas presented here.

Justifying my Playtime

I’m having a blast in Second Life. Working, collaborating, meeting interesting people. Flying, building, exploring. But am I just playing? Is Second Life just another video game?

I’ve created a list of reasons to justify my time spent in this alternate world:

I’m watching technology trends.
Second Life is essentially the next version of the internet. Remember when the net was text-based? And how exciting it was when our computers finally had enough memory and processing speed to start including pictures on our websites? In the early days, you had to be a Photoshop god to put graphics on your site. Later, we added sound and video. As our machines get better, the web becomes more and more like real life, and Second Life is the obvious next step toward putting usable content online and creating a life-like way for users to find that information.

I’m learning to work in a 3D environment.
Maneuvering in 3D takes some practice. At first I was walking into walls, falling off stairs, and having a difficult time reading signs. It gets easier with practice. As library staff, being able to help newbies get around in this world is a key factor in getting these new users to come back and see what we have to offer. We ourselves need to be comfortable in virtual reality if we want to be able to provide service here.

I’m helping to create “what’s next” in terms of library (or web) services.
Putting information into a virtual environment is quite different from putting it on a 2D website. You have an opportunity to communicate with your users in a new way. Thinking through the possibilities of how to present information has changed the way I look at my static website. We don’t need to create an environment that is identical to real life (i.e. brick and mortar library building); we can use the endless possibilities in VR to enhance real life, not copy it. It’s a valuable thought experiment.

I’m creating relationships in my field.
I’m enjoying this part of Second Life most of all. I’ve been working with library people from all over the world and from all kinds of libraries: public libraries, academic libraries, medical libraries, engineering libraries, arts libraries… We collaborate and build friendships. We work with museums. We work with astronomers. We work with historians. Second Life has taken down the walls between information providers and has given us a place where we can all meet and share ideas.

Am I playing in Second Life? Yes. Am I having fun? Yes. Am I positioning myself for the future of information sharing? Yes. It is real-life work; but it’s work that is extremely enjoyable and rewarding.

Are You Ready for Library 2.0?

Library 2.0 is the latest thing in all the library-related magazines and blogs. Hurry! Get on board with all the really cool stuff! Get your staff up to speed with 23 Things!

But in reality, is your staff ready for this yet? Are you?

My library held it’s annual Staff Training Day today. It’s a day where we close the library and spend a day together teambuilding and learning. One of the sessions was a wonderful presentation by Barbara Moore called “Gadgets.” Her intent was to show staff members the various items our patrons might be bringing into the library — just a brief overview so staff would know a PDA from an iPod.  We took a quick online peek at the upcoming iPhone from Apple. We talked about downloadable ebooks.

And we discovered that well over half the staff was baffled by their own cell phones.

All but two staff members own cell phones, but most of those who have them only know how to answer it when it rings and how to dial out. Some said they have no idea how to get their voice mail. Most said they don’t know what text messaging is. Some did not know whether or not they had a camera, and many do not use their contacts.

Clearly, some training is necessary to teach staff these basic technical skills before we send them off to create MySpace accounts and blogs or expect them to load their latest videos onto youtube. We could use a “Ten Things to Learn Before 23 Things” type of training. : )

Second Life Library

I’ve been spending some time during the past couple of months in Second Life. For those who haven’t heard yet, Second Life is an online virtual world where people create avatars and wander around this second universe, interacting with other people from all over the world.

Many organizations have set up shop in this world — businesses, educational institutions, government, etc. There is a cluster of “islands” where real-life librarians are doing real reference work and promoting books and programs, just as they do at their day jobs. This is where I spend most of my SL time, but I do wander out and explore a lot. If you’re ever “in-world”, look me up. My avatar’s name is Rebekah Cavan.

Take a look at to get an idea of the kind of work people are doing here. It’s a fantastic group of dedicated people who are working toward bringing library resources to the millions of SL inhabitants. I’ll be doing a couple of tours of Second Life for Rochester Regional Library Council. The first session (February 26th) is completely booked, so I’ll be doing a repeat session (no need to attend both — they’ll be identical) on March 6, 2007 from 4 – 6 pm. You can register at the RRLC website.

These will be hands-on, beginner classes. We’ll download and install the SL software, create an account and an avatar, and then tour InfoIsland. I’m expecting these classes to be a lot of fun!


Technology Leadership Institute

I attended an extremely invigorating seminar yesterday! The Monroe County Library System presented it’s Technology Leadership Institute in downtown Rochester. The presenters — Stephen Abram, Michael Stephens, and Ed Vielmetti — were excellent. It was a great opportunity to hear about what others are doing to take advantage of new technology to provide better library service. And it was also nice to have some of my own ideas validated. : )

Stephen Abram is very knowledgeable on all sorts of technology topics, and he’s also funny and irreverent. His talk was delightful. Two key points he brought up early on were that libraries need to shift marketing toward what patrons need, not what we have (they already know we have books), and also that we need to think about how our users Feel in our library. We need to provide a positive, comfortable experience.

Michael Stephens echoed this idea as he talked about “stories.” What are the stories our libraries are telling? Are we a welcoming place? Or do we have too many barriers that keep patrons from having a rich user experience? Michael provided specific examples of services we can provide — easily and cheaply — to positively impact the user experience. I’ll talk about these more when I’ve had a chance to look through my notes.

Ed Vielmetti, the Superpatron, provided a nice balance to the seminar by talking about library service from the patron’s point of view.

And during the break I drew up some sketches for a website prototype! This was an incredibly productive day for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll be writing more, like I said, when I’ve had a chance to go over my notes and digest it all.


Being the “techie” person in a library has it’s own unique challenges. Some of us are support staff and some of us are librarians, and all of us have an interest in technology that may or may not be shared with our co-workers. In fact, many of us are in an environment where we are quite isolated. Nobody “gets” us. Sure, they’ll come and get us when they need something, but they don’t understand what we do.

Fortunately for me, my direct supervisor is also a techie. I have someone I can bounce ideas around with or work through technical problems with. That may not be the case for many library tech people, so this blog is intended to communicate with others who are dealing with the same issues in the library world.

One of the projects I’m working on now is a complete redesign of our website. I’ll be blogging about that as I go through the process of figuring out who our customers are (everybody?) and what our products are (information? books?) and how best to market what we have to offer.

I’m also working on a database to better track our equipment, with plenty of bumps along the way as I learn MySQL and PHP. I’ll be discussing those from time to time, as well as network issues when they arise.

And trends. I like to talk about trends. I’ll restrict it to library trends here, but will likely put up another site to explore non-library trends in technology. I’m sure there will be some overlap.

Keep in mind that this is an invitation to open dialog. I would love to know what others are working on so please feel free to add comments or bring up any library-related tech ideas for discussion.