The Blog of Frankenstein

I’ve been working on proposals to my library on how we could use blogging in our daily operations. It started because I thought we should have a blog on our website for the public to read and comment on. My supervisor started asking me questions that led to me realizing that yes, we could use an internal staff blog as a better way of archiving important informations, cutting down on mass emails, paper memos and word-of-mouth info chains.

But it hadn’t occured to me use blogging as a library OPAC. Until I read Jenny Levine’s ALA Techsource post “Library 2.0 in the Real World.” Jumpin’ Jupiter! What a brilliant idea! An OPAC that allows for folksonomy tags, comments, easy revisions and updates! An OPAC with pages that can be permalinked! An OPAC that easily incorporates other Web 2.0 techniques! Librarians blogging reference questions that make searching the OPAC easier!

My mind is blown. I feel like a halfwit lab assistant watching the mad scientists at work.

Building Blocks

If I’m going to talk about Library 2.0, I’m going to have to start by talking about libraries and technology.

In the fast-paced, wireless, microwave, Flash-animated, rocket-to-Pluto world of today, when people use the word “technology,” what they usually mean is: computers, cars, clones, jets, PDAs, cell phones, stem cell research. But when we talk about “technology,” we’re really just talking about tools.

Librarians are all about technology, using the best tools for the job. Aren’t we? A couple of weeks ago, Stephen Abram made light of Bill Gates’ claim,

Within four or five years, instead of spending money on textbooks…they’ll spend a mere $400 or so buying that tablet device and the material they hook up to will all be on the wireless internet with animations, timelines and links to deep information. But they’ll be spending less than they would have on textbooks and have a dramatically better experience.

And well he should have, because it’s an absurd claim. Books are a fantastic technological tool, much better than anything Bill Gates’ megacorp has developed. I’ve never had a book suddenly “crash” on me. I’ve never turned a page to find “the Blue Screen of Death.” Books don’t require a particular “operating system” to function. They’re more portable than computers, they’re more nonlinear (it’s easier to flip open a book to a random page than it is to jump from webpage to random webpage), they take less time to “load up” and they survive being dropped in the tub better (and you survive it better, too). The internet doesn’t replace books, and it won’t until it does what books do better–and that won’t happen for a good long while.

However, new information-communication technologies do some pretty interesting things. Data can be transmitted from one hemisphere of the planet to another faster than you can say “Microsoft bites.” People all over the world can interact more easily. People can quickly and simply share their ideas, their dreams, their misspelled and rambling thoughts about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with friends, family and complete strangers. Information-communication technologies are becoming more portable, more flexible, more modular, more interactive. This isn’t an American thing, this isn’t a “First World” thing, and this isn’t even a “rich” thing. If anyone thinks computers and cell phones and related information-communication technologies aren’t changing the way people interact, they’re either not paying attention or they’re in denial.

Librarians are all about using the best tools for the job, but I know a whole slew of librarians who have never heard of a blog, who don’t know what RSS feeds are, who haven’t noticed the implications of modular, interactive Web technologies. These are technologies that our children are growing up with. Ignoring these new technologies is basically saying, “I don’t care if we get new people into the library.”

Imagine if librarians had never bothered to put record albums in their collection. “Records?” they asked. “I’m not even sure what they are! They’re no substitute for hearing music performed live by a real orchestra, that’s for sure.” Imagine how many library patrons might never have been exposed to Beethoven, Vivaldi, Aaron Copeland, Duke Ellington, Woody Guthrie, Thelonious Monk. Imagine if librarians had ignored microfiche, CDs, video tapes and DVDs. Imagine if libraries were designed with no thought to wheelchairs. Imagine if libraries were designed with no thought to people driving in cars to get there.

What is Library 2.0? At its base, it’s really just a continuation of what librarians have always done: using the best tool for the job.

The Yo-Yo Man

Today was one of those back-and-forth, one-the-road-again days. From home to the Main library for a meeting, then straight to a restaurant for a lunch meeting (by the way, just so’s ya know, Red Robin makes a tasty burger), then home again, then to the Branch to do a bit of work, then back to Main for another meeting, then home again for dinner, then back to the Branch to be the Person In Charge for the rest of the night.

I’m working at the Branch all day tomorrow, but I have a meeting at Main in the afternoon. Just call me “Walk the Dog.”

The Library of Babble-On

Chad Haefele has a short but stuffed-with-potential post about Library 2.0. His statement “much has been said by others…” really sums up how I feel. I have a lot to say about Library 2.0 (or maybe I’m just really excited and want to rant and rave a bit), but so many others have said such good things that I frequently feel like I should just post a bunch of links and say, “Read those!”

I’m not really supposed to blog while at work (and I rarely have time anyway), and I often have other things to do at home (like be a husband and father), so I don’t feel like I blog as much as I’d like, particularly about the future (and present) of libraries.

But I’ll give it the good ol’ college try. Um…later.

Paraskavedekatriamania

People seem to think I’m a dream-addled romantic, my feet in the clouds and my head up amongst the stars. Maybe it’s because I’m frequently looking ahead at what could be, talking exitedly about tomorrow’s potential. Maybe it’s because I hold on to the past like a kid holding onto his teddy bear, talking wistfully of eras I never actually lived through. Maybe it’s because the wallpaper on my computer at work is a picture of Superman. Well, okay then, I guess I am a romantic. But that doesn’t mean I’ll fall for any old hooey that comes along. I try to be (and you’ll have to pardon the paradox here) rational and discerning about my romantic notions.

Which is why I don’t fall for the superstitions about Friday the 13th.

But boy oh boy did yesterday put me to the test. Holy Jumpin’ Catfish, if yesterday wasn’t a shining, wild-eyed, disheveled example of Friday the 13th, I don’t know what else could be.

It started just before we opened our doors to the public. Our Sirsi system, both the library system and the OPAC, kept crashing. We called our main library and were told to close Sirsi completely. For the first hour or so at work we were flying blind: we couldn’t look items up in our catalog, we couldn’t access patron information (so if you needed your password to access the library computers, you were out of luck), and we couldn’t actually check items out to patrons (no, we just wrote down the patron’s number and the item record numbers, to be entered into the system later). And then the system suddenly came back up. Funny, we never did hear what the problem with Sirsi was in the first place.

The day seemed to go smoothly after that, but it was just a ruse. The last few hours of the day were busy as all get-out. I was the only person staffing the adult reference desk and the only supervisor in the library. I had a fairly constant stream of patrons with vague and complicated reference questions. The lines at the checkout desk filled the front of the library, and every computer at the desk was in use. It was Librarypalooza. It was a madhouse, a madhouse.

Despite the wackiness of the day, I still don’t buy into the Friday the 13th nonsense. No, I blame yesterday on the full moon. That thing will make you crazy!