Quiet in Libraries

Feel free to disagree with me – I know many of you will – but I miss the days that libraries were quiet places :(

I spent the entire day in the library yesterday because I kept getting interrupted by running children and talking adults and the various combinations in between. A patron asked the librarian if they could have a quiet room for a meeting so as not to disturb others and the librarian said we don’t have a shushing policy, you can use any table – or wait until a room is available. So the man then sat down with his group at my table! I know I could have requested a quiet room, but as I just said the room(s) was being used and I wanted to be out in the library surrounded by books filled with knowledge … not locked in a room – I can do that at home. I think it should be the other way around – there should be rooms for the gaming and rooms for the noisy people – the library is a sacred and quiet place!!

Okay, rant over – I eventually got a lot done, but I could have gotten everything done if it was quiet – as I think libraries should be – or at least as I think a part of the library should be.

[update] There is an interesting piece on The New York Times site on this very topic. [/update]

The T is for Training Challenge

You may have noticed that the T is for Training group has been posting 27 things about themselves. Well somehow I missed that email (as I am a member of the group – but get way way way too many emails in general). Here are my answers – better late than never :)

1) Your One Sentence Bio

I am a librarian, open source evangelist, blogger, writer, teacher, dog lover and overall technology enthusiast.

2) Do you blog? If yes, how did you come up with your blog name?

Yes! I’m terrible at coming up with titles, so I figured what I’d be writing about was what I was learning so the title simply had to be ‘What I Learned Today…’

3) What is your professional background?

I started as a web assistant at the Jenkins Law Library in Philadelphia right out of undergrad. My years there made me want to learn more about librarianship and so I went to get my masters while there and finished it while working as the metadata librarian at the Princeton Theological Seminary. It was my work in these two roles and my online ramblings that moved me from working in libraries to working toward getting libraries to learn more about open source!

4) What training do you do? staff? patrons? types of classes?

I train librarians in all walks of life. At work I train librarians how to use Koha after they finish their migration. In my spare time (ha ha) I train librarians around the world how to use various technologies to make their lives easier, their work more efficient and their budgets less scary. An archive of my training can be found on my Publications & Presentations page.

5) What training do you think is most important to libraries right now?

All of it!! Libraries are filled with people of such varying skill sets and backgrounds. No one can know everything about the library and so I find that the librarians who are constantly learning are the most valuable and I’m happy to help them keep learning.

6 ) Where do you get your training?

Mostly one on one. I find a problem I can’t solve and I ask my fellow trainers ;) I also attend conferences and webinars when possible.

7 ) How do you keep up?

I have to admit – I have been falling behind lately. My key is to watch my colleagues’ blogs, microblogs, and Facebook pages for new links and tools.

8 ) What do you think are the biggest challenges libraries are facing right now?

Budget cuts!! In my state (PA) our budgets for public libraries were cut so much that we’re probably going to lose access to our state-wide database subscriptions :( I think that while libraries are facing the challenge of changing technologies – the budget crisis is so much more pressing at this moment.

9) What are biggest challenges for trainers?

Keeping the class interested. Topics that we find interesting aren’t always interesting to our trainees – I’ve had people dose off in class!! So, doing whatever you can to make every topic exciting – or at least worth staying awake for ;)

10) What exciting things are you doing training wise?

I’ve just started teaching hands-on workshops on using WordPress for your entire library site – this has to be one of my new favorite classes.

11) What do you wish were you doing?


12) What would you do with a badger?

Absolutely no clue … why do I have a badger??

13) What’s your favorite food?

Mac & Cheese!

14) If you were stranded on an island, what one thing would you want to have with you?

My laptop with a portable wifi network of some sort – can’t live without my Internet :)

15) Do you know what happens when a grasshopper kicks all the seeds out of a pickle?

It makes a mess.

16) Post it notes or the back of your hand?

Post it notes – Mom always said no writing on yourself.

17) Windows or Mac?


18) Talk about one training moment you’d like to forget?

In general I’d like to forget my whole first year of speaking/training – I was so nervous that I’m sure I looked totally clueless to those attending.

19) What’s your take on handshakes?

They’re okay for first meetings.

20) Global warming: yes or no

Feels more like global freezing right now …

21) How did you get into this line of work?

Fell into it. As I said my writing online got me noticed and all of the sudden people were asking me to teach them what I knew.

22) What is the best part of your job?

Getting to work with librarians all over without belonging to any one library!

23) Why should someone else follow in your shoes?

It’s a rewarding job. I love to have people contact me after hearing me speak or attending one of my classes to share a success story!

24) Sushi or hamburger?

Sushi – haven’t eaten a hamburger in over 10 years.

25) LSW or ALA?


26) What one person in the world do you want to have lunch with and why?

I’ll take any of the big open source names – so I can pick their brain and learn how they handle educating others about what open source is really all about.

27) What cell phone do you have and why?

Droid Eris baby!! Why? Because it’s open source! And it’s not the Blackberry Storm.

Responses from some of the rest of the group:

Explain the Silence to Me

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how very passive many librarians are and I need an explanation. Passive and I have never met :) When I have something to say – I say it. When I pay for something I don’t get I do something about it. This is why it’s so confusing to me that librarians just sit back and take what they’re given and say ‘that’s just how it is.’

I’ve seen this attitude in all different settings and situations – but today this post is brought on by several emails I’ve received from librarians who are upset about the decision that their ILS vendor has made to change the product they signed up for. Change is good right? Well, I understand why this change is no where near ‘good’ – the change I’m talking about is the decision by LibLime to offer their new company specific version of Koha.

When these libraries signed their contracts they were signing up for all that open source entailed – community, freedom, no vendor lock in, sharing, etc. Now they are being forced (not my word – from emails I’m receiving) into using an application that limits all of these things for them.

So why are these librarians taking it? Why are they being quiet? I don’t have an answer for you – and so I’m hoping someone out there can answer this for me. If you signed a contract for one product and then are told you have to use another – do you just say okay? or do you move on or demand the product you originally wanted. I think that the result of the Queens Library law suit will be very interesting – but I’m shocked that this is the first!! Librarians have been just taking these hits and coming back for more.

On the same topic, I have been accused of picking fights and making derogatory comments – but I want to make it perfectly clear – I am not trying to pick fights or be derogatory – I am trying to keep the facts straight and push librarians to stand up for themselves!!! I can’t stand seeing my colleagues – such nice people – being walked all over. Unlike my good friend Chris, I can’t step back – I can’t take a break – I won’t go the way of my colleagues – instead I’m going to keep standing up and speaking and correcting facts – and of course educating!! So if you want to email me and complain about your situation – go right ahead, but I’m going to say the same thing to you all – ‘Do something about it!’

One last note – of course I know that not all librarians are like this – I am a vocal librarian :) and I know there are plenty of you out there – I’m only talking about those quiet librarians who are complaining behind the scenes to each other and to me – but not doing a darn thing about their situation!

Okay – morning rant done, time to get back to work documenting the upcoming release of the completely open source Koha :)

What I Learned in Europe

As many of you know I just returned from a trip to Europe. My first stop was in Bergen, Norway to meet some librarian friends and give a talk about open source at a conference. What I learned was that Bergen isn’t always freezing and that heavy coat I lugged around 2 airports was not necessary :) What I learned is that the friends we make online can be so very awesome. We talk to these people daily and keep up with their lives via their blogs, twitter, facebook, email – whatever – and never really realize how very awesome they are. I also learned that the confidence I have when speaking in the US does not carry over to other countries – something I need to work on before the next international speaking engagement.

I then moved on to Venice, Italy followed by Rome, Italy where I met another librarian friend – another awesome friend who took time out of her day to take us around town and see the sights with us.

Now all of this is great, but most of you read this blog because you want to know about the new tools I learned about – and so – here we go.

While abroad I paid for everything out of my bank account but needed to keep track of what was spent so my mother and I could split the expenses when we returned home. To do this I used Xpenser.

For most of my trip I was without wifi access, but I did have my mobile phone. Xpenser allows me to send receipts and/or details about my expenses via various different media (phone, email, IM, SMS). It also has built in conversion tools – like currency conversion and mileage conversion. This means I was able to send an email to Xpenser with a subject like this ‘2 EUR rome metro to hotel” and it would convert that to $2.98 with a detail type that says “rome metro to hotel” and a note that includes the currency conversion

Xpenser Line Item

This tool is great for those who travel a lot for work and don’t want to keep all of their receipts (or frequently lose them). Simply use your phone to take a picture of the receipt and then email it to Xpenser and it will record the expense along with the image of the receipt. In addition to all I’ve said there are many more features I have yet to explore, but I wanted to share this tool with you all anyway so that you can all start using it to make your lives easier :)

I’m still here

Wow, how did 10 days go by since my last post? Anyway, I’m still here. It’s not that life has taken me away from my blog, it’s that writing my book and all of my presentations has taken me away from blogging.

So a quick update. I’m doing great. The new job is great, the book is coming along, the Library Mashups book is selling great and the book signing is coming up at Internet Librarian in Monterey later this month. For those who will be going, I can’t wait to hang out with some librarian friends! Working from home is great, but it can get lonely some times ;)

Now, I must run and give a webinar on open source software for libraries for the Tampa Bay Library Consortium.

My new career

On Thursday I started work with ByWater Solutions as the Director of Open Source Education. In my role I’m going to be working with the open source library world doing a little bit of everything. As mentioned a month ago I will be working with both ByWater Solutions and BibLibre on Koha. I’ll retain my role as documentation manager and hopefully will find a way to improve the accessibility of the documentation for everyone. I will also get a chance to learn more about Evergreen and help ByWater customers migrate from proprietary systems to an open source ILS.

Keep an eye out for news from me as I learn the ropes :)

Moving Up and Remaining Open

Many of you have already seen this announcement via other media, but I wanted to share here anyway ;) Yesterday I sent the following email to the Koha Mailing List:

Hello everyone,

I wanted to write to you all before news started spreading and let you know that I have taken a position with ByWater Solutions and BibLibre that will start on October 1st. These two amazing companies have come together to offer me a role that will allow me to not only help libraries understand open source but to stay active in the community.

This means that I will remain your document manager – as I was informed at KohaCon – until I drop :) I have also been learning more and more about the software and participating more in submitting patches – something I hope to start doing more often.

Lastly, I read the comments in the most recent IRC meeting and wanted to thank all of you who said such kind things about me :) I enjoy being documentation manager and helping other learn about Koha and open source in general and would never have stopped doing that.

Nicole C. Engard
Koha Documentation Manager

I am very excited about this move and I have to say that my new job title is as cool as my last (maybe cooler) – I will be the Director of Open Source Education. Keep an eye out for more news throughout the month with details about the job and my future responsibilities.

[update] Press Release announcing my move. [/update]

My Online Persona

Helene just pointed me to Personas from MIT Media Lab

Personas is a component of the Metropath(ologies) exhibit, currently on display at the MIT Museum by the Sociable Media Group from the MIT Media Lab. It uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one’s aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you.

It was kind of fun watching it run through all the data to generate my online DNA/Persona.


The two biggest areas on my profile at Online and Education – sounds just about right.