My first meeting in the Second Life Library

I am right now attending my very first meeting in the Library 2.0 in Second Life. It’s a meeting about what we want the library to be and how we can make it that.

The discussion started with the wish for us to be able to co-browse in SL so that we can show people where to find resources online – which makes sense – but isn’t possible yet.

Now we’re talking (well everyone else is – I’m just reading for now) about offering classes and renting out spaces for other in world groups to house their meetings.

Anyway, if you haven’t signed up yet – I recommend you do – if for no other reason than to meet up with other librarians in a new setting. For now you can check out my set on Flickr.

Learn about other events by keeping up with the Second Life Library 2.0 Blog.

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My Second Life Avatar

My Second Life Avatar
Originally uploaded by talia679.

I finally signed up for Second Life. I wanted to check out the Library 2.0 in the game. It was really amazing!

I was part of the beta testing for Second Life when the game first came out – after the beta was over I didn’t play anymore – I had my own property and had a bunch of money – but I gave it all away :(

Anyway, I joined up today and was a bit annoyed that to verify my account I had to either give them my PayPal info, CC info, or accept a text message – I don’t pay the extra for text messaging on my cell phone package – so I had to accept the charge – but I guess it’s less than most only games.

It took me a little while to find my inventory of clothing – so I’m still in the outfit they started me in – I’ll work on it.

There is an orientation on Weds the 31st, but I may not be able to attend because it’s right at the time I’ll be on my comute home :( Hopefully they offer another one soon.

[update]I forgot to tell you – my name in Second Life is Talia Nicholas[/update]

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More on Second Life

A little while ago I posted about how I wasn’t sure how Second Life could be used by libraries – apparently OPAL and the Alliance Library System have come up with a way:

Alliance Library System and OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) are pleased to announce that selected OPAL programs will soon be offered in the online virtual reality game Second Life. Book discussions, training sessions, and other programs will be offered to current virtual residents. The goal of the project is to promote the real library and online library services to adults who might not otherwise use the library.

This from the Alliance Library System site.

What an interesting idea! I might just join back up for Second Life and see how this works out.

The first event is today:

Getting Along with IT staff for Librarians and Educators
Date: Friday, April 21, 2006 Time: 8:00AM – 9:00AM (60 minutes) Pacific time, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Central time 11:00-12:00 am Eastern time
Location: Juanita (217,241)

Keep up with this project at the Second Life Library 2.0 Blog.

Thanks Library TechBytes for pointing this out.

More on the Web 2.0 Challenge

Paul Miller has posted a follow up to his presentation at CIL last week. He commented on our (the biblioblogosphere’s) doubts that vendors will ever live up to the dream he presented to us.

Change is hard. Change can hurt. Given where we are now, and where the wider world is going, change is essential. We need to work with libraries in order to ensure that they can project themselves and their services (both from the individual library and in various aggregate forms that will inevitably cross multiple vendors) outside their walls and beyond their web sites and into the lives of our users, whether actual or potential.

Rather than assume that your vendor will never change, why not incentivise that change (by asking for APIs, web services, etc, again and again and again), assist that change (by showing them what’s possible, and by locating and supporting the free thinkers who do exist within your vendor), and even help to force that change (by writing appropriate clauses into your specifications for new system procurements, and meaning it)?

He calls for us to discuss possiblities in the TDN, he asks that we point our vendors there and have like minded librarians join in as well.

“Small voices loosely coupled can be incredibly powerful.” – what a nice quote.

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Us vs Them – Why??

It makes me sad. Well it makes me angry first, but then when that passes I’m sad. I was debating whether to say anything or not – considering how upset my last (seemingly innocent) post made people, but no one is in the library yet – so I only have you guys to share with.

Steven has a post on Library Stuff titled Back To Boolean? A Call to…Goodness Sake! – seemingly harmless title right? I just read through all of the comments on this post (which by the way are in reverse chronological order – if you’re like me and started reading at the top only to find you have no idea what people are talking about :) ) and that’s what made me sad.

There is such a us versus them mentality when it comes to Library 2.0 topics. Sarah from LibrarianInBlack comments:

You have created an “us vs. them” where there is no us or them, just a bunch of library folks trying to make things better for our users. That’s what we’re all after.


You talk about “sides” to Library 2.0. There shouldn’t be sides. There are some great ideas in Library 2.0. Take what you can from it, but don’t unnecessarily turn it into a polarizing issue.

Now, I have no idea when this mentality started – or who might have started it – but the sentiment is what I want to get across. Why are we arguing? Why are we nitpicking? Like Meredith says:

I’m sick of bloggers attacking people over 1 little tiny word they said while ignoring their actual message.

It makes me wish that a name was never given to these ideas. Because like Amanda Etches-Johnson pointed out in her presentation at the DigiTech forum at CIL these ideas have been around for ages – I think the oldest quote she showed us was from 1995 (I may be wrong) – so all we’ve done is take these ideas, lump them together and give them a name and now we’re split down the middle.

Anyone here watch Gilmore Girls? (no I’m not going off topic – bear with me here) I feel like the townspeople when Like Luke & Lorelai broke up – some of us should be wearing blue ribbons and the rest pink ribbons – that way we know who’s on what side and we don’t have to talk to each other. Maybe that’s extreme, but it’s that same sort of frustration and fear of upsetting someone that makes me so upset (sad upset – not mad upset).

Postscript: Now – to the people who are upset with me (although that was not my intent) please be aware that my spam blocker stops all comments – it is not a reflection on my feelings about what you have to say – I will approve all comments in good time.

It’s all in the name

Dave Hook has a good post over on his site about the controversy around the name “Library 2.0″.

If we’re going to come up with a name for these ideas, I’d prefer a name along the lines of ‘The Library 2.0 Movement’ or something else that implies continous improvement.

I think that’s a great idea – when I talked to Dave last week about this he said he didn’t like the idea of the name Library 2.0 because it means you’re either there or you’re not – and I can see how that would upset some people. So let’s say it’s a movement – which it is – and get moving :)

The Web 2.0 Challenge

I know that you’ve been wondering since I posted about the Future of Catalogs what my favorite session was at CIL this year – well, here it is!

Paul Miller is the Technology Evangelist for Talis – how fun does that sound?? Paul said “One day I’ll have a normal job” but why would you want a normal job? Not only is Paul’s job title fun – he was fun – it was a great presentation and I loved every minute of it. My hand was hurting at the end because I was trying to take notes as fast as he talked.

To start, Paul wanted to bring us back to reality – We need to reach out of the library to reach people wherever they happen to be – he said “I have really bad news for you. The library isn’t necessarily the place they think they want to go everyday.” So we need to reach out to where they actually are and help them do what they want to do better. It’s not just about vendors – it’s about all of us too.

He asked “How do people find stuff?” We all answered Google – he then asked “How else?” and there was a series of other answers that came from the audience and Paul told them they were wrong. The correct answer was Google, Google and Google – accessed in different ways – Google desktop, Google toolbar, etc. So how do we compete? And should we compete?

He pointed us to a few publications that may be of interest.

  • Johnson, O’Doherty. Vines, Eds. Mori. Understanding The Audience, CIE, 2005. (CIE, pub 2005). (not linked because the link is broken – if you can find it let me know)
  • Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources from OCLC
  • another title that was cut off in his presentation about Library Stats in the UK

I could go into the stats that Paul shared with us, but you can see the graphs yourself on his presentation. In short people are still visiting the library and they trust us – so where did we go wrong online? Why are people still turning to Google first? According to the stats, a much lower number of people have visited the library website than those who have visited the building – and Paul thinks that most “were probably put off by what they saw”. He gave us an example from the Edinburgh University Library – look at this page – look at the length of this page – and the information on this page. It’s a list of databases – and we’re saying to the average user – “pick one”. The users do not need to know the names of all of the databases you have available – in fact they are probably overwhelmed and totally confused by this list.

So who – other than Google – are we up against? Paul put up the widely used image of Web 2.0 logos and let it scroll by. And he defined them as:

  • Relevant
  • Innovative
  • Participative
  • User-centric
  • Nimble
  • Responsive

Isn’t that what we want to be? How many of these things can we apply to ourselves at this point in time? The thing is – we can be all of these things, we can do it just as well if not better than these companies if we work together. Paul pointed us to the Talis whitepaper on Library 2.0 – it was in our conference packs, but you can read it online.

So how do we respond to this trend? Library 2.0 is about opening the library up and delivering content to our users where they are when they want it. We need to engage our users – which we are doing, but we need to do even more. Paul called for us to “disaggregate our monolithic library systems…”. He explained this to us like this: Imagine a great big black box which a vendor sells you and instead of taking everything the vendor offers you take only the bits you need. Plugging in bits of other applications – maybe from other vendors – or that you have written yourself. Which is what I have the hardest time with – we have this ILS that was written for primarily academic libraries and we’re forced to buy the whole package and use only 1/3 of this – then out comes an add on that makes more sense for us – but we have to pay extra to get it – why not let us pay for the core and then pick and choose the other pieces we’ll need – customizing our catalogs to our specific institution? Paul says library systems should be like Lego, you can build the picture on the box or you can build something new and different.

Sidenote: Keep an eye on Talking with Talis for a podcast from the Library 2.0 gang on the “Future of the OPAC”.

Some people don’t like the idea of Library 2.0 because it implies a need for technology that some libraries can’t afford – a need for a programmer – and not just any programmer – a programmer who understands libraries – but what if we all worked together instead of individually – what if libraries with programmers shared their skills and code so that libraries without could still have new innovations? Paul called this “shared innovation” – we need to work together to fill in the gaps and make all of our libraries better.

He then went on to show us what libraries are already doing like the wpOPAC and greasemonkey plugins for Amazon that show the status of a book in the library. It’s not about black or white – library or Amazon – it’s about bringing things together and letting the user choose. Maybe the library can’t get the book for 5 days, but Amazon can deliver tomorrow – or vice versa – it’s about empowering the user to make informed decisions. He also showed the new book covers from the Ann Arbor Superpatron Edward Vielmetti and John Blyberg’s card catalog images. Paul says “It’s about letting people to take ownership and feel a connection to the items in the library. It’s a little bit gimmicky – it’s not what we’re going to replace the OPAC with. But it’s about reaching out in different ways and leveraging the data you already have. Making the data work harder does not always have to be for some worthy cause.” (maybe not an exact quote – but close enough).

The problem with these examples is that everyone has a different vendor, a different library system so we’d have to start over and program it ourselves – we need to work together – “By working together we can do better” – and I agree 100%. We need a shared platform – something that crosses vendor divides.

Now the next part of Paul’s talk was very hopeful – but knowing what I know about our vendors – it’s probably never going to happen – unless we (librarians) refuse to work any other way – and that won’t happen either – maybe I’m being pessimistic – I sure hope I am, because I want what Paul is offering – I want to work on a shared platform, I want to be able to share information with other libraries and use what they have to share.

So here we go – what is the “platform”? It’s a set of core pieces that every library system will have – built as a collaborative effort to make our lives easier. Everybody doesn’t need to start from scratch every time – instead we can build on shared pools of data. An example that he used was recommendation services. An individual library probably doesn’t have enough data to do this effectively. A lawyer may have taken out a NJ law journal and a book of business forms – they’re not necessarily related, but because we only have 9000 members and so many books, we can’t give effective recommendations – but what if we could access the data from all of the other law libraries in the world?? In aggregate we have more data than Amazon does.

The platform breaks down barriers – it has to cross the divide between vendors – it doesn’t make any sense for us to not be able to work together because we have different ILS packages provided by different vendors. It is much easier now for us to do something about this. The vendors need to work together and define the areas where they’re going to work together – and where they’re going to compete. Why should they all invest their time and money in building the core infrastructure? Why not all build it together? If we all have the same core in our ILS packages we’ll be able to communicate. Our role in this is to push our vendors to cooperate.

The platform will also allow us to expose the data to others – Amazon, a CMS – thought a similar API. The API will be the same across vendors so that changing won’t require as much changing – consistent access to data and exposure of content will allow us to build off of the core to make what’s best for our library.

Talis has built such an application called Whisper – and you can demo it online. Paul went through how it works and it was pretty darn impressive. It includes plugins to Amazon, Map mashups and desktop widgets.

So where do we start? Well first off we need to tell our vendors what we want – and we need to tell them in the right way. We need to include IT staff in the decision making and discussion with vendors so that our requests are put in a way they understand – like Roy Tennant said – it is partly our faults that things are the way they are. We need to visit Talis’ Shared Innovation site:

This resource exists to support innovators across the global library domain. It is open to all and it is free.

Content includes advice, documentation, scripts, APIs, Web Services, SDKs and other relevant resources. It is applicable to users of any library automation solution.

We encourage all contributors to join us in sharing their contributions under a Creative Commons licence and providing any source code under the GNU General Public License.

So, this is your space. Please get involved and help to shape a community that meets your needs.

And participate. We need to join together and work together and share together to get the people into the library and if not – then at least get them to use our resources online.

What a wonderful presentation – I hope that someone in your library attended and bought the recording so you can listen to it – it was well worth it!

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Share your code

John Blyberg has a post about Library 2.0 Websites (worth a looksie) in which he calls for us to share our code with one another (among many other things):

We ought to be developing on open-source then turning around and making our work freely available to one another. We are libraries after all, we ought to act like it, not just in the stacks and at the circulation desks, but in the server rooms and IT departments as well.

It was this that caught my attention. I whole heartedly agree that we should be sharing our code – but my problem is that I write my code for my library and when you look at it, it may give you ideas, but I can’t see you being able to easily port my code into your library’s site without some major work – so in addition to sharing our code, we have to learn how to write sharable code – by “we” I mean “I” :)

Anyway, if anyone wants me to share code that we’re using on our Intranet or our site, I’d love to – just keep in mind that I don’t know if it’s in sharable condition.

Uh Oh!

Looks like I ruffled a few feathers with my most recent L2 post. The problem with communicating in this way (via the web) is that people don’t really know you, your personality, or your tones. First, I want to apologize for making people think I was telling them to “shut up” … in fact my mother would probably call me up to ground me right this second for even typing that … Steve Lawson (who commented on Walt’s thread) interpreted me correctly

I do not read that as “make them shut up and sit down” I read it as “make them stop ripping on Library 2.0 long enough to think about what Abram is saying.”

And I didn’t mean that just because Stephen Abram said something it must be true – I just meant that his post was really well written, made some excellent points, and had an impact on me.

Update 8:56am:

I just wanted to add this postscript because I’ve been sitting here perplexed for the last hour or so – why is there any controversy at all surrounding such a little idea – the idea that it’s time for libraries to re-evaluate, learn new things and give the patrons more control? Is it the control issue? Is it the change issue? Is it the learning issue? I just don’t get it – and maybe that’s why I had such a “spunky” (to use Stephen Cohen’s word) post. Maybe the problem is because L2 has been used in conjunction with words like bandwagon – which I agree gives it a negative feel – but can’t we look past that and see that all we all want is to offer better services to our patrons? So what if I call it L2 and you don’t want to give it a label? I’d like to think we all want the same thing in the end.

Okay rant over – I’m done – for today :)

Library 2.0 Explained

Stephen Abram has a great post about The Library 2.0 ‘Bandwagon’ on his blog. If you’re on the wall about Library 2.0 then this is the post to read. Stephen makes some great points that (I hope) will shut the mouths of the people debunking Library 2.0 and make them go “hmmmm”. make the people debunking Library 2.0 sit back and go “hmmmm”.

2.0 is ‘smoke and mirrors’? I think not. It’s a great title for a conversation about how Libraryland needs to adapt to the wider changes happening in our communities.

Stephen also says that “The users are moving into the control position. Libraries are no longer able to drive the good bus ‘library’ alone.” and then provides a bunch of great examples of how the users are taking control (LibraryElf, LibraryThing, Amazon, etc).

The fact is that the users want self service – and more control! Of course he also brings up a good point and one the reoccurring arguments I see – can we trust the user? What happens if we open up commenting on our blog and the users post something inappropriate? What if we allow users to review books and they use curse words? Well, these are things we need to come up with solutions to – they are not reasons to decide not to upgrade, just hurdles to get over.

[3/1/06 10:04AM – Edit made to better express what I was trying to say]