No Quiet on the Western Front

My library was busy this afternoon. Mondays are usually busy, and today was no exception. The circulation desk had a crowd massed around it, and every station was staffed. Our regular middle schoolers were congregating around the computers and study tables, laughing and chatting. Little kids were milling around with their parents, who were conversing with each other at top volume. Computers were beeping. Cell phones were ringing. It was loud, it was chaotic, it was crazy.

And I loved it. I really loved it. I loved that people were having conversations and enjoying each other’s company. I loved that people were in the library and they were having fun. It wasn’t an unruly mob of inconsiderate people, it was a celebration of the library.

If I knew they were comin’, I’d’ve baked a cake. And put candles on it. And sung a song. Yes, I’m worn out and slightly headachey now, but it’s a good kind of worn out and headachey. People should enjoy the library this much everyday. Everyday should be Crazy Loud Fun Day at the library.

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I’ll Show You Mine, If You Show Me Yours

“If only every library had a John.” So said Sarah Houghton-Jan, talking about John Blyberg and the SOPAC features he designed for AADL. (Although it does sort of sound like she’s talking about something else, taken out of context. There are some days I wish my library had 4 or 5 johns. But no one consulted me when the building was being designed.)

Wouldn’t that be swell? I would love to have a John Blyberg at MPOW. But my library doesn’t have someone like him right now, and I don’t see us getting someone like that anytime soon. And what about those smaller libraries, with a staff of one? How are they supposed to get someone with John’s imagination and mad coding skillz?

John has made the source code for the SOPAC available, and I think this is really the most significant aspect of the AADL SOPAC. (Richard Wallis of Talis seems to agree.) Because not every library can have a John Blyberg, and every library shouldn’t have to hire a John Blyberg to get access to innovations like this. And we shouldn’t have to sit around and wait for ILS vendors to start releasing these kinds of innovations for free. Are we not librarians? Are we not all about the free flow of information? John giving out his source code for free shouldn’t be remarkable, because we librarians should be doing this all the time, as a matter of course. Isn’t sharing information and innovation the most cost-effective way of improving our systems and services? What do we have to lose?

Sucking the Suck out of OPACs

To make a long, long rant much shorter, I’ll just say this: I think OPACs have a long way to go before they stop sucking. To be more precise, I think we need to throw out the whole concept of the “Online Public Access Catalog.” But that’s not going to happen today or tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll happily settle for OPACs that don’t suck so much. Casey Bisson’s WPopac is one such OPAC idea, and I’ve raved about it before.

John Blyberg has just announced another one: AADL’s “SOPAC.” Check this puppy out: users can rate, review, comment on and tag items. And John has released the source code, in case anyone else wants to do the same to their OPAC.

‘Scuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

I’m just all kinds of impressed. Ann Arbor’s SOPAC, like Casey’s WPopac, is seriously cool. These are major steps towards making the OPAC fun, and y’know, I’m all about the fun. Vive l’amusement!

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Folks have been showing a liking for the phrase “charitable reading” and citing me for the phrase. Which tickles me to no end. Except I didn’t invent the phrase or the concept (not that anyone has actually accused me of being so clever) and I feel that for honesty’s sake, I should point to where I got it from.

I got it from the Forge.

I used to spend a lot of time on the Forge, but these days I mostly just skim a small amount of the threads there. I’m still friends with the daredevils who run the Forge, Ron Edwards and Clinton Nixon. They’ve made a serious and strong effort to keep the level of discussion on the Forge above most internet free-for-alls and flamefests. They’ve enforced a fairly high level of civility and decorum, as well as calling out intellectual dishonesty and petty social dysfunction when they see it. In my experience with internet forums and discussions, the Forge stands out for me as something better, something to aim for.

One member on the Forge wrote a post about “charitable reading,” and the moderators liked it so much, they made it required reading for participating in discussions there. It has since become an important concept in the blogs and web forums that have splintered off from the Forge. I think it’s important when dealing with any kind of written communication, particularly with the high-speed exchange of voices on the internet. So, here is where I got the phrase and concept from: “On Charitable Reading.”