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:

Open Source & the Letter of the Law

I’ve stayed mostly quiet on the issues that have been rearing their head regarding the newest LibLime software offering because of my connection to the company in the past. That said, I had to comment on Josh Hadro’s most recent post about the community uproar over LibLime’s Enterprise Koha. Josh starts his article by saying

Typically, a revamped vendor product line doesn’t result in a flurry of open letters to the community and lengthy message threads on mailing lists and blogs. But LibLime’s recent announcement of Enterprise Koha has generated just such a response, prompting many to reexamine the sometimes fluid roles that vendors, customers, and code contributors play in the open source software community.

He goes on to mention several of the more popular threads/posts/emails that are floating around on the issue. But what I think Josh is missing in his article is the real heart of what open source is – and that’s the community around it. Now, don’t get me wrong as an active member in the Koha community (both because ByWater wants me to be and because I love it!) – I sometimes want to reach through my computer screen and wring someone’s neck – but that’s just because everyone loves Koha so much and wants to see what’s best for the software and the community.

So, as I said, I had to reply to the article and my reply can be read on that article itself or right here:

To follow up on Owen’s comment I had a friend explain it in a great way – I hope he doesn’t mind me stealing his words :)

“The easiest way to explain this is, you know in word processing there is a feature you can see the changes someone made? Well if I can see the changes I made, and the changes you made, then combining the two is much easier. Imagine now you and I take a half finished novel, that we have been working collaboratively on, I keep publishing my changes incrementally, but you instead go away and work for a year and then hand back a book, with 300 new pages, and edits to almost all the other pages.”

As an author myself this was a great way to explain the situation to me – like Owen said there is no if about it – eventually the two versions of Koha will be so out of sync that it will be too much work for anyone to merge them back together.

That is why a call was made on the Koha mailing list for LibLime to share their code in a public Git repository – allowing developers who have time to make the merges incrementally instead of trying to do it a month or two or twelve down the road.

All that aside – open source is not just about software or licensing or code – it’s about community and an open source application developed in isolation isn’t really an open source application. It’s the community that drives open source, it’s the community that keeps open source alive, and it’s the community that took Koha to where it is 10 years after a small library trust in NZ decided to share their ILS with the world.

This last note is very important to repeat – it’s one I say over and over when I teach open source to librarians. Open source isn’t just about the software – it isn’t just about getting things for free – it’s about being part of a community of software users and developers and fans who all pour their heart and soul into the project to make it its very best. And that is why there is so much uproar and that is why there is so much being written about this topic – because people love Koha and want to see what’s best of it.

Just my 2 cents – take it or leave it.

[update] The official company opinion from ByWater Solutions was added after I posted my comment on my own. I want to add that here:

Since the release of Enterprise Koha, ByWater Solutions has done its best to stay neutral with the hopes that a quickly deteriorating situation would eventually turn around for the better. We held this hope not for the sake of the Koha community, for its stability is not under question, but for a fellow support vendor that seemed to be going through somewhat of an identity crisis. Unfortunately for all involved, this vendor chose a path that has stirred up much controversy, mainly surrounding the fact that their version of our community software is no longer open source. Some say it is; most say it is not. The very simple question we pose is this: Can one obtain Enterprise Koha without paying a vendor to install and support it. If the answer is no, then the software is very clearly and undeniably proprietary; and those who use it are a victims of vendor lock in. Unfortunately many of these customers chose Koha to avoid exactly that.

Regardless of the fundamental wrongs surrounding this idea, ByWater Solutions has seen it as inevitable growing pains for a developing software community and has continued with business as usual. However, there is one trend we are beginning to see that has inspired the writing of this post, and that is the growing vilification of the community and the martyrdom of the vendor who has left it. We have been recently compared to religious extremists, hell bent on banishing anyone who is less than pure from our rigid society. This is an unjust picture to be painting because in actuality, we are comprised of very passionate people, some of whom have poured their heart and soul into this project in many cases without compensation.

We think it is important when reporting on a topic such as this that elicits such strong emotions to research all areas surrounding it. An important fact not yet discussed is that the developers of Koha are not the only ones having issues with Koha being forked. Customers of the company that has forked the code are also feeling the pain. Many customers are furious that they are not getting what they signed on for and are having a hard time getting the patches they want implemented in their systems. In one instance, a customer was taken off of the company’s user list for voicing their concerns about the numerous “process changes” even though they were still under contract with the company.

The recent change in policies and participation from this vendor has prompted us to make it clear to librarians that ByWater Solutions is in complete alignment with the true ideas and values of open source. Open source is about so much more than the source code and the license; it is about the community around it. It is for this reason that the community is in an uproar. It is a real shame this major contributor has pulled away from all community participation, communication and general niceties, but thanks to the community model we will only grow stronger from these growing pains. That being said, ByWater Solutions will continue to contribute 100% of their development, continue to participate in as many community activities, meetings, and day to day chats, and continue to deliver the best service to those seeking support from a company that has built its business model around our customer’s and the community’s needs.


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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 :)

WordPress is for more than blogging

When people approach me about content management systems such as Drupal and Joomla I ask if they have considered WordPress – I almost always get a blank stare. This is because WordPress has a reputation of being for blogging – and just for blogging.

I use WordPress for my book sites and for any other sites I’m asked to work on. I love using WordPress as a CMS, it’s so much less clunky than some of the other options – and doesn’t take a lot to learn (even when they upgrade and move things around). This fall I’ll be teaching a few classes on how to use WordPress for your entire library website – but for now I found this awesome list that can help you get started if you want to go it alone. The post entitled 300+ Resources to Help You Become a WordPress Expert has so many awesome resources – including a section on using WordPress as your CMS.

If you’re using WordPress for your library site already, let me know and I’ll be sure to feature you in my class :)

WordPress Hacks

I’m a huge fan of WordPress – it’s what I tell everyone to use for their websites if possible. Now, Smashing Magazine has an awesome post with 10 WordPress Hacks to try out on the comments section of your WordPress blog.

Comments sections are neglected on many blogs. That is definitely a bad thing, because comments represent interaction between you and your readers. In this article, we’ll have a look at 10 great tips and hacks to enhance your blog’s comments section and give it the quality it deserves.

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My delicious bookmarks for 2009-05-26

    Create a cached copy of any url!
  • Life Hacking – PaLA Event
    Tips for making your life easier on the web.
  • compfight + a flickr? search tool
    Here?s how to get your blog (or any other RSS or Atom feed) sent to popular microblogging platforms
  • ConvoTrack
    Ever wanted to see the entire conversation surrounding a post? Now you can! This simple bookmarklet will load comments from Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, Reddit, HackerNews and any blog mentioning the article and will load it in a handy sidebar.
  • – deepest sender
    Deepest Sender is a blogging client for Firefox. Instead of having to go to the Update page on LiveJournal/WordPress/Blogger/whatever, or loading up a separate client program, all you have to do is hit Ctrl+\, or click the button in your toolbar, and you can start posting.
  • CoolPreviews by Cooliris, Inc.
    CoolPreviews is a free browser add-on that lets you preview links and rich media without leaving your current page. Simply mouseover any link or our CoolPreviews icon, and a preview window instantly appears with your content. No more clicking back and forth! Speed through search results, news, and just about any website.
  • Addictomatic: Inhale the Web

More of my links

Why WordPress?

I taught a class earlier this week where I told the participants that we were going to use WordPress to create a website. One question I got way why WordPress over Blogger? My answer was personal preference – but now I have some really great reasons for why WordPress over Blogger.

If you’re using a blogging package to create your entire website – then you can’t use Blogger because Blogger doesn’t have the ability to add pages. Blogger is purely for blogging and nothing else. WordPress on the other hand has a lot of CMS functionality and can easily be used to create a website around a blog.

The other reason I like WordPress is because you can switch from a hosted version to a version on your own server with minimal effort.

And the last and most important reason … WordPress is open source!!

I have just one problem with the site – I wanted to use it in my class where we were creating websites with mashups – and we couldn’t use JavaScript :( I understand the reasoning and appreciate that the people at WordPress are just trying to keep their sites secure, but it means that I had to use Blogger in my class and we couldn’t create a website – but just a blog with a bunch of posts by the attendees with snippets of JS from various sites we used to create our mashups.

Overall, I’m still recommending WordPress to students in my classes – and to everyone I talk to – but I have to find a viable alternative for my hands-on mashups class.