Monday, March 28, 2011

Computers in Libraries 2011

Last week, I attended & presented at Computers in Libraries 2011 here in Washington, DC.

Keynote Speakers
On the first day of the conference, the first keynote speaker – James Crawford - was delayed arriving, so a few CIL “veterans” joined in an Impromptu panel on e-books.  James did give his talk at lunchtime later that day.

I enjoyed Michelle’s talk on the second day.  She gave a nice shout-out to NPR Social Media within her talk.  Lee Rainie is always a source of good stats and information about what the trends are “on the ground”.

James Crawford – Engineering Director – Google Books
            Archived talk – part 1
            Archived talk – part 2

Michelle Manafy – Director of Content – Free Pint and author of Dancing with Digital Natives
            Archived talk

Lee Rainie – Director – Pew Internet & American Life Project
            Archived talk

Website Design & Usability

Since the new Digital Archive project I'm on at work includes a redesigned search interface, I went to a few presentations that were about dos & don’ts of web design & usability.

How to build a great website - Aaron Schmidt, DCPL, and Amanda Etches-Johnson, University of Guelph  My favorite analogy they used is that a library website is like your spice cabinet – you have lots of choices that are useful, but you don’t remember how they got there in the first place.  Aaron & Amanda pointed out that library websites are not the first place that users go to when starting their library search and that libraries have no control over how their catalog or electronic database interfaces look.  Libraries should focus on what their users want to do on their sites.  Focus on the frequently asked questions and actions. 

They created a template for a library website that utilizes all the best practices they shared.  They challenged us to move library websites from just basic functional pages to become a participatory and community driven space allowing for interacts from the library users and user driven content.

Usability Express: Recipe for Libraries – Bohyun Kim, Florida International University Medical Library, and Marissa Ball, Florida International University Green Library
I initially went to this session because Bohyun is a fellow NMRT colleague and I wanted to support her.  But I ended up learning about different usability test methods and seeing some examples of what not to do on a library website.  Their full presentation is posted here.

Search & Providing Value

I’m always looking for new search techniques or examples of how to present search results in new ways.

Search Engine Update – Greg Notess, Search Engine Showdown
I must admit that I went into this presentation expecting to learn about some new search engines, but was surprised to see that 80% of the presentation was spent on Google and its latest features.  Content farming and social searching seem to be the hottest trends right now.  He did demonstrate Microsoft’s Academic Search which is starting to rival Google Scholar. 

Search: Quick Tips for Adding Value – multiple panelists
I was excited to see what tidbits this panel could provide regarding search and adding value to your results. 

Ran Hock focused on Real-Time Search, which according to him is dead, and Google tips.
Marcy Phelps gave tips on how to present research to executives and other stakeholders.
Tamas Doszkocs talked about the latest news on the semantic web.

The panelist I was most impressed with was Tasha Bergson-Michelson.  She is a Google Education fellow and teaches users how to search.  Her presentation focused on switching the search strategy from searching for the question to searching for the answer.  Instead of entering “How fast can a ford mustang svt cobra accelerate” into a search engine, try “ford mustang svt cobra “0 to 60 in * seconds”.  Entering the second search phrase, brings back the answer within the first couple of hits within the search results.

Another example: I’m looking for that pink book on Rosa Parks.  Within Google Images, search for Rosa Parks.  At the bottom left-hand panel, click on the box representing pink to see the results be limited to pink images.  There are only 3 books within the results and the user can review those quickly.

You can do a range of dates within Google by typing {year}…{year}, which I thought might be helpful for the search requests we get when the user says the speech happened in the 70’s.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

February Reading Summary & Challenge Update

I'm a little late in posting last month's summary because of a busy schedule at work and outside of work.

Anyway, I read 6 books and had to give up on 2 books (Mr Chartwell & I Is an Other)
I also started to read Guns, Germs & Steel (March Book Club Pick) by Jared. Diamond.

Reading Challenges Progress
Cannonball Read III: 13 of 52 complete
Off the Shelf: 2 of 15 complete
Heroines Bookshelf: haven't started
Outdo Yourself: 13 of 70 complete

I picked some ARCs from Harper Collins this past month specifically for my fiance to read.  I was joking with him that he could be a guest blogger and review them if he wanted too.  He laughed, but seemed interested.

    CBR3-13: Angel with Two Faces - Nicola Upson

    No classic detective fiction aficionado will want to miss Upson's compelling sequel to 2008's An Expert in Murder, which introduced mystery author Josephine Tey (1896–1952) as sleuth. In 1935, Tey's close friend, Scotland Yard Inspector Archie Penrose, has returned on holiday to Cornwall, his childhood home, where he ends up attending the funeral of estate worker Harry Pinching, who drowned in Loe Pool, rumored to take a life every seven years. Most locals believe Pinching's death was an accident, but Penrose and Tey, who joins the inspector in Cornwall, soon pick up on ominous undercurrents in the community that suggest otherwise. As the pair attempt to uncover the truth, Penrose witnesses another death that's unquestionably murder. The subtle prose succeeds both at evoking the quiet splendor of the Cornish landscape and in capturing the tragedy and torment that plague many of the characters. The psychological sophistication will resonate with Charles Todd fans. - Publisher's Weekly
    I found this book on the giveaway shelf at work and was drawn in by the setting of the book - Cornwall, England.  When I studied abroad in England back in 1999, I spent a weekend exploring the main towns & villages of Cornwall and fell in love with their charm & quaintness. I was hoping this book would capture that and transport me back to that weekend.

    This book did describe the lovely landscape that is in Cornwall, but most of the action took place on a family estate.  One of the reviews on the book states that Upson captures the Agatha Christie spirit with the book.  I agree with that reviewer, this book kept me guessing about what was going to happen next.  I did have an aha moment and figured out who one murderer was based on some small details.  This book is a quick read and I definitely want to read more by this author.

    CBR3-12: All Facts Considered - Kee Malesky

    For the bestselling miscellany market, an NPR librarian's compendium of fascinating facts on history, science, and the arts
    How much water do the Great Lakes contain? Who were the first and last men killed in the Civil War? How long is a New York minute? What are the lost plays of Shakespeare? What building did Elvis leave last? Get the answers to these and countless other vexing questions in a All Facts Considered. Guaranteed to enlighten even the most seasoned trivia buff, this treasure trove of "who knew?" factoids spans a wide range of intriguing subjects.
    • Written by noted NPR librarian Kee Malesky, whom Scott Simon has called the "source of all human knowledge"
    • Answers questions on history, natural history, science, religion, language, and the arts
    • Packed with valuable nuggets of information, from the useful to the downright bizarre
    The perfect gift for every inquiring mind that wants to know, All Facts Considered will put you at the center of the conversation as you show off your essential store of inessential yet irresistible knowledge. -

    This book is written by my colleague Kee Malesky who patiently answered my question about 'how the book writing was going' every time I saw her at work. I really enjoyed reading the introduction to the book.  Kee highlights main reasons on why us librarians are librarians.  Often times Kee's name is the librarian named on the air, but she was gracious in the introduction and acknowledgments to recognize the team of librarians that NPR has.

    Instead of pulling out facts included in the book that I found interesting, I'm going to post some questions that were asked of Kee for the DC/SLA chapter newsletter.  Read the book - it's witty and interesting and you'll learn something.  But I want to share more about the great librarian and person behind the book as well.

    You’ve been a librarian at NPR for over 20 years can you tell us how NPR has changed over the decades and how that’s affected your job?

    I've seen NPR evolve from land lines and typewriters to satellites and computers. NPR has always been on the cutting edge of technological developments, and the library has been an integral part of that -- creating in-house databases to document our programs and make the material easily available, providing desktop research tools to the staff, maintaining current awareness of changes in commercial and primary sources so we are constantly improving the service we provide. 
    In all your years at NPR what’s the assignment or accomplishment you’re most proud of?
    I would probably say I'm most proud of the briefing books we produce for national elections and other events. They used to be massive 800+ page volumes, and now we can provide the same info on our News Wiki in ways that are even more flexible and useful than the print editions. I'm currently starting a project that could make me very proud -- creating an Audio Pronunciation Guide.
    Can you walk us through the process of writing the book? After you thought of writing it what happened next? What was the most challenging part of the process?
    I wrote a brief proposal, which included an essay about facts and what they mean and how they change (that became the Introduction to the book). Once it was accepted by the publisher, I arranged to take some time off from NPR and started on the research. Most of the facts in the book are not from actual questions I have answered at the NPR Reference Desk, but I did look through dozens of my old reference desk notebooks for queries that involved interesting facts. I carried a little notebook and pencil everywhere I went, to write down ideas as I found them. Much of the research was done online -- using commercial databases; government, academic and association websites; and online library resources. I also made several visits to the DC Public Library and to the Library of Congress. I collected as many reputable sources as I needed to compile the essential details of each fact, then I tried to tell its story in a couple of paragraphs. It took about six months to research and write. Once the editor accepted the manuscript, I worked with production and copy-editors until we were all satisfied with the final product. I turned in the final Index at the beginning of September.
    Check out Kee's website for more interviews and listings of her sources for the book as well.

    CBR3-11: The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan

    In his first book for adults, popular young-adult novelist David Levithan creates a beautifully crafted exploration of the insecurities, tenderness, anger, and contented comfort that make romantic relationships so compelling (or devastating). Through sparingly written, alphabetical entries that defy chronology in defining a love affair, The Lover’s Dictionary packs an emotional wallop. For "breathtaking (adj.)," the unnamed narrator explains, "Those moments when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word." For "exacerbate (v.)," he notes, "I believe your exact words were: 'You’re getting too emotional.'" Ranging from over a page to as short as "celibacy (n.), n/a," the definitions-as-storyline alternate between heart-wrenching and humorous--certainly an achievement for a book structured more like Webster’s than a traditional novel. Proving that enduring characters and conflict trump word count, Levithan’s poignant vignettes and emotional candor will remind readers that sometimes in both fiction and life, less is truly more--and the personal details of love can be remarkably universal -

    I got to hear David Levithan speak in January at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.  I've heard of his previous books, but have not read any of them. I just happened to be walking by the Macmillian booth on the exhibit hall when David was signing copies of this book.  I thought the concept for this book was interesting and decided to get a signed copy while I had the chance.

    As vocab is not one of my strengths, I read about 50 pages of this book without a dictionary next to me and realized that if I was going to "get" the definitions as written by Levithan, I needed to understand the main definition of the word.  The reader is not given any background on the couple featured in the definitions, so it felt like you are reading someone else's diary. It was hard to follow the "happenings" within the couple's relationship because the events weren't chronological due to the alphabetical listing of the words and definitions. I was surprised that some of the definitions overlapped for multiple words. I'm curious how Levithan came up with the words for the entries. 

    Here are some of my favorite entries from the book:

    blemish, n
    The slight acne scars.  The penny-sized, penny-shaped birthmark right above your knee.  The dot below your shoulder that must have been from when you had chicken pox in third grade.  The scratch on your neck - did I do that?
    This brief transcript of moments, written on the body, is so deeply satisfying to read.
    dissonance, n
    Nights when I need to sleep and you can't.  Days when I want to talk and you won't.  Hours when every noise you make interferes with my silence.  Weeks when there is a buzzing in the air, and we both pretend we don't hear it. 
    punctuate, v
    Cue the imaginary interviewer:
    Q: So when all is said and done, what have you learned here?
    A: The key to a successful relationship isn't just in the words, it's in the choice of punctuation. When you're in love with someone, a well-placed question mark can be the difference between bliss and disaster, and a deeply respected period or a cleverly inserted ellipsis can prevent all kinds of exclamations. 


    CBR3-10: The Three Weissmanns of Westport - Cathleen Schine

    A geriatric stepfather falls in love with a scheming woman half his age in Schine's Sense and Sensibility–flecked and compulsively readable follow-up to The New Yorkers. Betty Weissman is 75 when Joseph, her husband of nearly 50 years, announces he's divorcing her. Soon, Betty moves out of their grand Central Park West apartment and Joseph's conniving girlfriend, Felicity, moves in. Betty lands in a rundown Westport, Conn., beach cottage, but things quickly get more complicated when Betty's daughters run into their own problems. Literary agent Miranda is sued into bankruptcy after it's revealed that some of her authors made up their lurid memoirs, and Annie, drowning in debt, can no longer afford her apartment. Once they relocate to Westport, both girls fall in love—Annie rather awkwardly with the brother of her stepfather's paramour, and Miranda with a younger actor who has a young son. An Austen-esque mischief hovers over these romantic relationships as the three women figure out how to survive and thrive. It's a smart crowd pleaser with lovably flawed leads and the best tearjerker finale you're likely to read this year.  - Publisher's Weekly

    I found this book on the giveaway shelf at work and was drawn to it because it was set in Westport, CT. I lived near Westport right out of college.  Then I read a review of the book on Beth Fish Reads blog and was excited to hear that this book incorporated themes from Sense and Sensibility with a modern twist.

    At first I thought the book was sweet and a little quirky.  But as I kept reading I had a hard time relating to Miranda or Annie.  I always enjoying reading books that have a character who is a librarian.  I was disappointed to see that Annie was portrayed as a stereotypical librarian.

    Definitely some plot lines were very soap opera like which is ironic because one of the characters runs away to California to star in a soap opera and quickly becomes engaged to his co-star. Miranda's fascination with the little boy Henry was borderline creepy. I was let down by Josie finally giving in on the divorce terms as well.  The ending seemed to wrap up all the loose ends on the plot very neatly.

    If you are an Austin fan, this book is an interesting read because of the Sense and Sensibility themes.  But I really struggled to get through the end of this book.