Heading to Internet Librarian!

Internet Librarian

This weekend I head to Monterey, California for Internet Librarian 2012. I’ll be doing a workshop on the WordPress open source content management system with Polly-Alida Farrington on Sunday, speaking about open source trends and issues with Marshall Breeding on Monday, signing copies of the second edition of The Accidental Systems Librarian on Monday night at the opening reception and then participating on a panel Tuesday evening about the transforming roles of systems librarians.

I’ll be pretty busy (as you can see) but if you’ll be there, find me because I’d love to chat! My full schedule is here.

Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets!

I didn’t get to attend this session, but I can keep up because Aaron Schmidt has put the presentation online.

The most confusing (and kind of useful) item – the USB heated gloves (on page 17) – at first I couldn’t figure out why I would have my laptop with me while out in the snow. But Aaron’s description cleared it up for me – I can use these in my icebox of an office at work!!

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Wireless at Internet Librarian

This year I was doing double duty as a conference blogger and a MLS student. This means I needed reliable internet access. I was planning on paying for wireless, but as Sarah has pointed out – wireless was insanely priced at $50 a hour or $300 a day!!!! See the screenshot on Sarah’s blog. Instead I paid $10 a day for wired access in my room.

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The RSS & JavaScript Cookbook

Meredith Farkas & Paul Pival gave a fun presentation on RSS (something I use tons of) & JS (something I don’t use much of).

Using JS and RSS Paul & Meredith showed us how to create a dynamic subject page for your library site. The problem with traditional subject pages is that they aren’t updated often, they’re not easy to update (HTML required), and since no field is static a static page isn’t the right solution. Why not use some of the tools mentioned to create a dynamic page that pulls news, journal updates, and new books from RSS feeds? You can even mix together RSS feeds into one consolidated feed using RSS Mix (doesn’t show the source), KickRSS (registration required), or FeedBlendr (shows the source & no registration).

Another suggestion from Meredith – if you don’t have access to edit your library’s website easily, why not create a blog and put the updates there – then use JS to pull in the RSS feed to your subject guide – that means the webmaster only has to update the page once (to add the JS code) and then you can make updates whenever you want. This works great for people with locked down servers and websites.

One last tool lets you add an RSS feed reader widget on your site. Grazr imports an OPML and lets you put the reader right on your website. Meredith used my IL2006 OPML as an example!

Up until now I have been using PHP to parse RSS feeds for our intranet – I’m going in to work on Monday to switch to JS. Meredith & Paul have provided a nice long list of tools here on their wiki.

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Mashup Applications

So I’m sitting in the presentation about Flickr & Libraries and I realize I wanted to see John Blyberg’s talk on mashups – so I run to the other side of the conference center and sit down right in front. Of course I missed the introduction – so I had to jump in in the middle.

The main reason I wanted to see John was because of his PatREST application.

PatREST (Patron REST) is an XML specification developed at the Ann Arbor District Library for the purpose of providing a simple and easy method of accessing various data and methods. The PatREST service is intended to be used by both professional and amateur programmers as it's data objects are clean, simple and intuitive. The idea behind having a simple interface to online library services is to bring library-oriented development tools into the hands of non-librarians–the library users themselves.

I had skimmed some of the documentation in the past and wasn’t sure I really understood. So John shows us all of the neat things he’s been able to do – like his award winning Google widgets, most popular books in the catalog and the card catalog images.

Then he tells us that you need III’s XMLOPAC “feature” to use this class – and they’re no longer selling it!!

So, my disappointment aside – Why should we create applications like this for our patrons?

  1. Creates a sense of stewardship. It lets the patrons feel like they’re a part of the library and makes them more likely to become library advocates. Also you’re tapping into a community of knowledge you wouldn’t normally have access to. John urges us all to get our our Super Patron – just so long as we don’t take his.
  2. It encourages innovation (and isn’t that what this whole conference has been about so far?)
  3. It has the potential to benefit other libraries – applications that wouldn’t otherwise be developed can be shared across boundaries.
  4. It solicits high quality feedback – when the users feel like you’re listening and care about their input they’re going to give you more valuable information
  5. Most importantly – it’s a promotable service – you’re offering a service to your patrons to let them have access to your data and mash it up the way that bast suits them.

John was followed by Chris Deweese who told us about Google Map Mashups – I was a little disappointed that he didn’t have more time, but he did make me feel like it might be pretty darn easy to add a Google Map to our library’s site – so that’s something I’m going to add to the mile long list I have of projects for the Intranet & library website.

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My Presentation

Well, I’m all done and it went well. I had to provide an intro because 2 of the panel speakers were unable to make it. I didn’t get to show everything I wanted on the Intranet, but that’s okay because I uploaded a bunch of images and they can be found in my Flickr set.

Also as promised the presentation is available here and through my presentations page. It does not include the images I pointed you to above – but it does include a link.

There are also some pictures of me presenting on Flickr – they’re a bit dark – but they’re there.

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Bottom-Up Web Redesign

The description for this talk read:

Web site redesign used to be a chore, but no longer! By using a process that combines evidence-based design, user-driven planning, and extensive user testing, you can create a site that practically designs itself. Wisnewski will map out how a bottom-up design process is both easier, as well as more effective, at producing an attractive and functional Web site that meets user needs.

Sounds promising doesn’t it?? Well if you’re in a public or academic library it probably is – but I’m not so sure how these techniques will work in an environment where time is money for our patrons. Jeff Wisnewski was a great speaker and fun to listen to. He started by defining bottom-up web design for us. Usually when it comes time to redesign a page we start at the top and list the things we want. Jeff says we should start with the users and work our way up to what we think we want.

Some hallmarks of Bottom-Up Design are:

It is evidence based

Using tools like usability.gov, Library Terms That Users Understand, and Yahoo! Pattern Library we can see evidence that certain web designs work and others don’t. The example Jeff used was that drop down menus are not the best design technique and that left menus are better than right. Why should we spend time answering silly questions like “where should the menu be” when they have already been tested and answered? Jeff also reminds us to ask users what they think things should be named – there is no reason for librarians to debate whether it should be called “research” or “reference” because it’s likely the user doesn’t understand either of those terms.

It is user driven

We have to include the users all throughout the process, not just when it comes time for testing. Keep data logs to see what tasks people are completing on your site and how they’re going about doing them. Use affinity mapping to let your users organize the site the way that makes sense to them – trust me it won’t be the same way you think the site should be designed. Ask users questions like “If you could design the site – what would it look like?” Let them draw out a sketch or just talk through it with you.

It is highly credible

How willing are people to trust your site? Jeff includes some results from a report (I didn’t note with one) that lists the impact certain factors have on credibility when people look at a site. The first was Design/Look with 46% saying it was the most important.


As I said before, it’s not quite as easy to get people to stop and talk to you about your website when they have to bill that time to someone, but I’m hoping that we can put some of these practices into play because it sounds like such an obvious (and less painful) way to redesign a site.

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Presenting Today

I know that I’m behind on my reporting – but I’ll catch up on the plane – I hope :)

Today I give my first national conference – and I’ve been up since 4am CA time! Last night I was having too much fun with everyone to come back here and prepare – so now I’m paying for it ;)

Well, I guess I better get back to it – I’ll post again when it’s over.

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