LibraryThing for Libraries

I blogged about LibraryThing a couple of years ago as a great tool for readers. But it’s also a great tool for libraries.

One of the very popular programs presented at the library where I work is a series called Brown Bag Book Reviews. Staff members review some of their latest finds while the audience snacks on cookies or eats their lunch. It’s a great way for patrons to pick up some new titles and authors, and they love to hear the reviews.

In our last web incarnation, I had put the lists of the books reviewed on our site – basically, a separate list for each date we did the reviews. Books were listed alphabetically by author – not an easy way to find something you’re looking for, but better than nothing as I worked on building a searchable database. The idea was to come up with a way for patrons who, for example, loved everything reviewed by Carol, to easily find all Carol’s titles. Or if they missed last January’s review program, they could sort the data to find everything reviewed that date.

It occurred to me recently that everything I was trying to put into the database (title, author, reviewer’s name, review date) was able to be done easily on LibraryThing, with no need for me to try to become a master at MySQL or PHP. I had one of those “D’oh!” moments.

I brought this up at a meeting and one of our new librarians enthusiastically jumped at the chance to create our Brown Bag LibraryThing catalog, and tagged the items for easy sorting.

Take a look at our catalog and see what we’ve all been reading. If your library maintains lists of titles for various things, this is a great way to put it out there for the public.

Banned Books and Censorship: Big Read Event at Webster Public Library

Tonight: Wednesday, May 21 at 7 p.m.

Webster Public Library
980 Ridge Road West
Webster, NY 14580

This evening of lively discussion features three wonderful speakers on the topic of banned books and censorship. This program will be an intriguing look at thought control appropriate for adults and teens.

Red Star: Science Fiction Under Soviet Dictatorship
Censorship usually means destroying books and their writers. But presenting ideologically correct views is as much a part of dictatorial societies as suppressing dissident ones.
David Pascal discusses how Soviet Science Fiction was used to foster and advance the views of one totalitarian state, how some Soviet authors used the form to question and transcend state policies, and why writing produced under Soviet rule has continuing relevance for writers and readers today.

Burning Books and Bodies in the Middle Ages: Peter Abelard and Johannes Trithemius
Sarah Higley is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Rochester, New York. Her primary interests lie in northern medieval literatures with an early emphasis on language, linguistics, and poetic structure. Her later work in fantasy and science fiction led her to explore medieval and modern notions of magic, machinery, monstrosity, and artifice. Her recent publications investigate the early origins of the werewolf, the medieval concept of the “robot,” and manifestations throughout time of “simulacra”– lately, miniatures and constructed languages. This last interest has inspired her book on Hildegard of Bingen’s “Lingua Ignota” (Unknown Language). She is also a published author of fantasy and science fiction and a Teleplay for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a member of the writing group: “Rochester Speculative Literature.”

Censorship in Communist Romania: An Uncensored View
Gabriel Prajitura will give an insider’s view on the suppression of literature in communist Romania. Dr. Prajitura will bring along a book that was edited by communist censors. He will give a first-hand account of what happens when a work is deemed “unacceptable” by the government, as well as the repercussions of thinking independantly in a land where thought is governed by the Party.

One Big Library

This came in my email today:

Announcing the One Big Library Unconference


When: Friday 27 June 2008, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Where: The Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

It seems like there are lot of different kinds of libraries:
public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, college
libraries, law libraries, medical libraries, corporate libraries,
special libraries, private libraries. But really there’s just One Big
Library, with branches all over the world.

The One Big Library Unconference is a one-day gathering of
librarians, technologists, and other interested people, talking about
the present and future of libraries.

It’s organized and sponsored by York University Libraries and
members of the YUL Emerging Technologies Interest Group: Stacy Allison-
Cassin, William Denton, and John Dupuis.

In an interconnected world, all physical and virtual libraries can
really be thought of as branches of One Big Library. We would like to
get together and explore that concept. Areas of interest:

* The future of libraries
* Collaboration on building One Big Library collections and
* Uses of social software in libraries
* Tools to support and extend the One Big Library

Our goals are:

* Bringing people interested in the future of libraries
together with the hope of sparking collaboration and cooperation
* Starting conversations between people in different kinds of
libraries, and people inside and outside libraries

Librarians Using Technology to Make the World a Better Place

Recently, librarians Rosa Diaz from the Lincoln Branch of Rochester Public Library and Marcia Thor from the Maplewood Branch of RPL came up with a fantastic new library service.

They brought video cameras out to Fairport Public Library to record the “Babies Love Books” story time which is a program for newborns through 18 months (and their caregivers.)

Rosa and Marcia will be taking the video into the city schools for a program for teen moms on reading with their babies.

We all know how important it is to read to babies, and these librarians have come up with a fun way to spread the idea to young mothers. How cool is that?

Online Community for Library Staff

Lori Bell from Alliance Library System forwarded this notice to the SL Library groups today. Rachel Singer Gordon has created an online community for librarians and other library staff. Here’s the post: Launches Online Community

New discussion forums now open, the largest free library career portal on the Internet, is pleased to announce the launch of its new online community for librarians. Devoted entirely to career development and job hunting, these forums provide a space for librarians, LIS students, library workers, and information professionals to discuss professional development issues:

“I’m excited to be able to offer this space for collaboration and discussion,” says Rachel Singer Gordon, webmaster, “As librarians, we know that we work and learn best in community — I look forward to watching the forums grow.” Current forum moderators include:

  • Michael Stephens, LIS schools
  • Jess Bruckner, Jumpstart your career
  • Meredith Farkas, Professional development and participation
  • Susanne Markgren, Talking tenure
  • Kim Dority, Professional writing
  • Sophie Brookover, Work/life balance

In recent related developments, Info Career Trends,’s professional development newsletter, has moved to the WordPress platform to better serve its subscribers. Its long-time career Q&A columnists, Tiffany Allen and Susanne Markgren, have moved to their own blog, and author/entrepreneur Kim Dority joins in with her new monthly column on “Rethinking Information Careers.”

Info Career Trends continues to fill an underserved niche, devoted entirely to career and professional development issues for librarians and information professionals. The newsletter and column content are accessible at: Rachel Singer Gordon shares: “I’m so pleased to bring Kim on board, and to watch the Library Career People column evolve in its new blog format. I look forward to hearing others’ opinions across the online community.”, launched in 1996, provides free library-related job listings to both employers and job seekers, as well as related services from resume postings to career development blogs.


Online community:

Info Career Trends newsletter:

Contact: Rachel Singer Gordon,

SLA Seminar

As expected, Stephen Abram’s talk today was informative and stimulating. He’s an extremely dynamic speaker and a guy who has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in libraries, sciences, and society in general. He’s very sharp, quite good at predicting trends, knows where his research needs to be, and has a great sense of humor.

Here are a couple of the interesting pieces from my notes…

An important statistic to keep in mind: 80% of librarians are text-based learners; 20% of the general population are text-based learners. What does this mean? Rethink your website, for one thing. Convey information with images. An example provided: take a look at USA Today’s (printed) weather page. What’s more useful? The long list of cities and their temperatures? Or the map that shows where it’s hot or cold based on color? Can your patrons find the information you’re providing with a quick glance? Or do they need to read long paragraphs to find it? Visual constructs are powerful.

Another key take-away: Google is very good at finding facts. But the How and Why questions require human interaction. The “Purple Cow” of the library is it’s people and the personal relationships one builds with it’s users. Information is easy to obtain. Use the library to support learning.

Take the time to research user needs. They are not the same as librarian needs.

Millenials differ from their parents’ cohort. On average, their IQ is 20 points higher than the average Boomer IQ. Do not expect their needs to be anything like yours. They seek information differently and use it differently. They’ve been taught to work in groups to solve problems, rather than to memorize facts and take a test.  They’re skeptical. They also have no problem asking questions — not only will they walk up to a librarian and state their needs, they also fully expect to engage in online interaction with politicians before deciding how they will vote. In other words, they know what they want and are assertive about getting it.

Lastly, for both fun and customer service, get yourself and your co-workers some librarian trading cards! They’re fun to share with colleagues, but they’re also a useful tool to hand out to patrons. Let them get to know you on a personal level by listing your hobbies, interests, and special knowledge you might have. Creating community is important, and this is a fun way to do it. (See examples of what others are doing here.)

There was a LOT more to this conference, but it’s late so I’ve only pulled out a few of the highlights. More info coming. Stay tuned…

: )

SLA Dinner

I attended a pre-conference dinner tonight at the Rochester Hyatt. Tomorrow the Special Libraries Association will present a talk given by Stephen Abram on Library 2.0. I heard him speak last October and my entire outlook on my job as library IT person was changed. I’m very excited about the direction libraries are headed.

Tonight’s dinner was terrific — really good food and great conversation with people I have not met before. As a public library employee, I enjoyed the opportunity to hear about the special libraries — science, academic, government, etc. — and to hear what goes on there.

Our guest of honor arrived late, due to plane issues in Pittsburgh. He arrived just as I was getting ready to leave so I stayed a bit longer. A handful of us had a glass of wine and an informal chat. We talked quite a bit about Second Life. One of the issues I’ve been grappling with is how to decide on what information my SL library will provide. Obviously, I can’t duplicate our real life library. That would be monumental and would also be unnecessary. Stephen didn’t give me the answer. What he did was give me what I needed to make that decision. His statement created one of those “Aha!” moments with it’s simplicity: Do one thing, and do it very well.

Of course I knew this. But like so many things, I had to hear it to realize I knew it.

Social Networking at RRLC

Tonight I’ll be giving a presentation for Rochester Regional Library Council on social networking. I’m really looking forward to this, as there is so much potential for creating new ways to reach library patrons. Static websites are great for storing information, but as tools progress we need to use them to improve communication and interaction with our users.

Webmasters Group

I just got back from the first meeting of the newly formed Library Webmasters Group held at Rochester Regional Library Council. There was a good-sized group of us from a number of different libraries, both public and academic. The group formation was the brainchild of Linda Hacker, webmaster for the Drake Library at SUNY Brockport, who thought it would be a great idea for all of us working on library websites to get together and discuss what we’re doing and what we’d like to be doing.

We talked about various resources we can use to make our jobs easier and our websites more interesting. Christopher Harris discussed content management systems in general, and Drupal in particular, as a way to allow library staff to focus on content rather than site construction.

(A little poking around on the web led me to discover that  the creators of SecondLife use Drupal to manage content on and I’ll be talking about SecondLife in the very near future; I’ve been having some fun exploring this world and have found a ton of interesting things going on at the SL Library.)

Personally, I find this kind of interaction very useful. Like-minded people getting together to discuss what we’re all working on helps all of us. Whether we’ve been doing this for 10 years or 10 days, we all benefit. I’m looking forward to the next session with this group!

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.

Blogroll additions

I’ve added a few blogs to my blogroll today.

I will be attending the Technology Leadership Institute presented by the Monroe County Library System in a few weeks. They’ve put up a blog of their own:

with links to the blogs of the presenters:
I’ve added those blogs to my site for those of you who may be interested to see what the “Library technology experts/trend watchers/prognosticators” are talking about.

There’s quite a bit of interesting reading material contained in the MCLS blog. Definitely worth taking a look!

Also, I’ve added Hidden Peanuts to my blogroll. It’s written by Chad Haefele, a former co-worker who is now at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He’s been working on some interesting things at his library. (Be sure to look at his browser tools for a great example of how to meet the needs of your patrons.)