People Are Doin’ It For Themselves

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Looks like I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s a (dare I use the word?) zeitgeist thing*.

On the very same day, Skagirlie laments that her OPAC sucks because it doesn’t do what Amazon, iTunes and LibraryThing do and Libraryman wonders why libraries don’t do what Pandora does. In the comments of her post, Maire says, “It’s just a bummer that a 3rd party has to offer something that should be intuitive.” I absolutely agree, it’s a bummer. Heck, I think it’s even worse than that.

On YouTube, people can upload and share their own videos with others. They can also collect other people’s videos, catalog videos, rate videos, and comment on videos. On del.icio.us, people can collect web pages, catalog them, and share them with others. On LibraryThing, people can organize and catalog their libraries, share them with others, start and join book discussion groups, and get recommendations for other reads. These are all free to use…just like libraries.

I’m usually not much of an alarmist, and I really hate to sound like Chicken Little, but…if libraries aren’t asking themselves “What do we provide that these other services don’t?”, we’re just begging to be kicked in the Higher Power of Lucky. If people can create and organize their own libraries and share them with each other–and do all sorts of other things to boot!–then asking them to use sucky OPACs and expecting them to learn the Dewey Decimal System isn’t just mean, it’s shooting ourselves in the collective foot. If a library’s best bet is the digital divide (“Don’t have a computer? This is the place for you!”), then when the digital divide disappears (Think it won’t? How many people do you know who don’t have a telephone or a TV?), libraries will be screwed. It’s well past the time for libraries to be dipping their toes in the water. It’s high time we dove right into this stuff. When one joe in Maine starts a killer library site, that’s the sign that the time for exploratory committees has come and gone. It’s time for action. Let’s not waste any more time talking about the great services we could be providing for people, let’s actually provide them. Forget about jam tomorrow, I want my jam today.

* That one’s for Maire.

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Don’t Gimme No Lip!

Michelle Boule brilliantly sums up Roy Tennant, John Blyberg, and Nicole Engard:

Lip service is not the same as service!

In other words, actions speak louder than words. Don’t talk the talk if you’re not willing to walk the walk.

And y’know, as far as I’m concerned, that goes for ILS vendors and libraries. It goes for the way you treat your customers and the way you treat your employees.

So, put that in your pipes and smoke it!

Bloglines and Google Reader in the Thunderdome

I gave Google Reader a shot when it first came out, and I wasn’t all that impressed. But people I respect have been complaining that Bloglines is sometimes tardy in updating some feeds (and I’ve noticed it myself) and singing Google Reader’s praises. So, I decided to give it another shot.

I’m still not all that impressed.

I like the way Google Reader keeps posts, so that you can go back and reread something, as opposed to Bloglines’ “read it and it’s gone” method. But I hate that you have to scroll past a new post or actually mark it as read for it to stop showing up on your feeds list as unread. Google Reader’s feed categories are actually tags, and you can give feeds or individual posts multiple tags, which is great–in theory. In practice, I’ve found that I don’t want my feeds in multiple places. I want a feed in one category so that I know where to find it. That’s why I’ve put my feeds in categories in the first place, to make them easier to find, not to get confused when they show up in two of three different places. I like how you can share posts and make them public on Google Reader, but I can’t publish my blogroll like I can with Bloglines. And I can’t see how many people have subscribed to a feed, which is one of the things I love about Bloglines (for very vain reasons).

But most importantly, my feeds on Google Reader weren’t updating any faster or more currently than on Bloglines. Some feeds weren’t updating at all on Google Reader, but were on Bloglines.

Sorry, Google, but you’ve lost me in this round. Bloglines is far from perfect, but it’s also awfully far from “so FUBARed I need to drop it like a rotten egg.”

OPAC Sesame!

A couple of days ago, Tim Spalding linked to an announcement that Simon Spero has released a nearly-complete copy of the Library of Congress Authority Files. This data wasn’t exactly hiding, but it hasn’t been easily accessible before, not in this way.

Caveat One: In the announcement, Simon makes it clear that the records aren’t necessarily usable for cataloging right out of the box.

Caveat Two: Due to my limited cataloging knowledge, I’m not entirely sure I fully understand what all of the implications of this are.

But Simon did a lot of tedious work to get this information out, and it looks as if it could lead to more open and accessible cataloging in and out of Libraryland. I think this is a very good thing. As I’ve said before, I fail to see what the World of Libraries has to gain by hording or encumbering information.

My Current Place of Work shares a catalog with my Future Place of Work. I am not all that happy with our current OPAC situation. Linking to a particular page in the catalog is problematic. The social, Web 2.0 aspects of the catalog aren’t there. In general usage, it functions just fine, but it could be so much more. I agree with Tim, library catalogs should be Google-friendly at the very least. It looks like my libraries will be looking into the possibility of new software for our OPAC in the not-to-distant future. Boy, wouldn’t it be something if we could jetpack forward from our current OPAC 1.0 to an OPAC 2.0 (or, heck, 3.0!)? And wouldn’t it be something if we saw a tsunami of free information flooding through LibraryLand, and it led to even better services for us and our users?