Saturday, May 5, 2007

Pub Quiz!

On Thursday night, MLA President Michael Gannon emceed a Pub Quiz. Imagine, if you will, a room full of about 150 librarians - and a cash bar. The quiz was conducted in rounds. For each round, the teams of six (or so - we had about nine) were given identical lists of trivia questions. The rounds lasted about 10 or 15 minutes each. The team that could answer the most questions on the page got to pick a goofy prize (or a beer).

I cannot, for the life of me, recall the questions - must have been the beer.

Update: I was kidding about the beer! Here are a few examples:
1. Name the seven wonders of the ancient world. (like the Egyptian pyramids)
2. Who (of a an unlikely list of three) was actually a librarian (one was Cassanova - they actually ALL were librarians.
3. What is an ailurophile? (cat lover)

In the case of a tie, the teams that tied were given a tiebreaker.

I am proud to say that our team, "The Wild Wallflowers" (we were sitting against the wall), won one prize, and tied twice. I am the proud owner of one sheet of 3-dimensional Spongebob stickers.

Michael - as usual - had us all in stitches throughout the evening. We had difficulty hearing through all the beer, I guess, so he was courteous enough to repeat the questions really slowly for us. Of course, we had to pay a price for that courtesy, by being renamed "The Wallpapers." Anyway, a great time was had by all, even the slow, the dim-witted, the Wallpapers...

Blogging and Podcasting for Everyone

This three-hour session was presented by Michael Shochet and Andrea Bartelstein.

Michael Shochet is the Systems/Reference Librarian at the Langsdale Library at University of Baltimore. His portion of this seminar presented the benefits and some basic how-tos of blogging. Blogging is easy, and I think that after hearing his talk, anyone would agree with that idea.

Shocut provided a list of resources both within his lecture and as a handout. Here is an even more up-to-date list of blogging resources. One of the many valuable ideas that Mr. Shochet expressed was how easy it really is to keep abreast of the blogs that you read by using an RSS reader and subscribing to the blogs. This elimiates the need to navigate to all of "your" blogs by placing all of the new content from the blogs you like to read in one place. You simply need to subscribe to a blog, and when you have the time, you can read everything that is new, mark those articles as read, and get on with your life. No more hunting around and guessing. I've been using an RSS reader that seems not to work - I'm excited about trying one of the ones that Mr. Shochet recommended, and getting more efficient at blog-reading. Also - I'm totally sold on tagging - you get to be your own personal cataloger of your own content.
Andrea Bartelstein is currently the Instructional Services Coordinator and Librarian for Education and Counseling at the Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University. She has recently relocated (Vermont, I believe), and is a telecommuter for the moment while JHU is replacing her. Ms. Bartelstein came all the way back to Maryland to share her podcasting project with us!

Podcasting is when an audio or visual file is produced and presented via the Internet, which can be downloaded to a computer or portable device, and viewed at will by the end user. Ms. Bartelstein defines podcasting further as something that is done on an episodic basis (regularly presented at intervals, rather than a one-time event)

Podcasts can be subscribed to just as easily as blogs. There are many possible applications for podcasting technology. Several ideas for how to use podcasting were suggested unit of library instruction, or a tour of a library museum. Some museums now actually provide podcasts of tours that can be downloaded to one's MP3 player, and used later in the museum, rather than forcing visitors to rent one of those little recorders, or strain their ears to hear the docent.

Podcasting is really easy. Ms. Bartelstein explained exactly how she did it for her project, and it turns out to be far easier than I expected. This is because there are special codes that are used in blogs or as part of regular html that do a lot of the work for you. Here is a page of the Sheridan Libraries Podcasts.

A list of resources was also provided for podcasting. Also, please click here for more information: Podcasting - Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki.

Here is a podcast file - one participant's comments after attending this session - which I borrowed from the MLA Conference Wiki:


Friday, May 4, 2007

Navigating the Cereal Aisle of Life - Irmgarde Brown

I didn't get to blog this yesterday: Harford County's own Irmgarde Brown provided a rigorous training session; Navigating the Cereal Aisle of Life: How to Build a Personal Mission Statement.

Irmgarde explored the paradox of "too many choices, and explained how the overabundance of choice in today's society makes it more and more difficult for people to decide what they are about and to develop a mission statement that suits their own lives.

She then explained developing some sort of personal mission statement is essential to have a meaningful life, make our lives more productive, and give you more control over your own life, among several other benefits.

The workshop consisted of a series of exercises designed to get us to think about who we think we are, based our gifts, talents, passions, and core values. Finally, we had to work out who or what cause we would choose to serve in life. These probably sound like really whopper concepts and ideas. They ARE.

One of the key benefits of this workshop was that Irmgarde provided WORD LISTS of possibilities, with similar types of possibilites all provided in one place. (At first, I was reminded of playing "Mad Lib" - remember Mad Libs, where you fill in the blanks and get a goofy statement at the end?) But no - these lists were provided some help to someone like yours truly. I didn't get overwhelmed because "the-possibilites-were-endless-but-I couldn't-think-of-a-single-one." I had examples right in front of me, and I could use those examples, or think of similar related ideas of my own to use.

The workshop was 2.5 hours. Naturally, something like a personal mission statement couldn't possibly come together in this amount of time. Irmgarde provided us with a good solid start and imparted some pretty healthy thoughts and tools to get us moving along the road towards developing our mission statements.

I don't know if Irmgarde plans to do this workshop again in the future, but if she does, I recommend it highly!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Division of Library Development and Services 2007 Update

After introducing their members and offering a description of their responsibilities and mission statement, DLDS gave a presentation of their current and upcoming projects.

Irene Padilla, the current Assistant State Superintendent for Libraries (head of DLDS) was once the director of Harford County Public Library.

DLDS is actually a division of the Maryland State Department of Education. Did you know that DLDS is responsible for administering the Federal LSTA Grant Program? This means that federal grants to libraries must be requested through DLDS, and the grants are distributed from DLDS. Every year, library associates from all over the state attend LATI - yet another program governed by DLDS.

Did you also know that the training programs that many of us attend, such as "Leading From Any Position" are coordinated by DLDS? Maryland AskUsNow, is another program that DLDS oversees. Some of the staff from my library system attended the Spanish Language Outreach Trainings.

Some exciting activities are coming down the pike, too. The Gates Grant computers that many libraries received over the past few years are getting old, and now there are plans to sustain these computers by upgrading hardware so that access does not decline. The Maryland Learning Libraries 2.0 - 23 things project is already underway, and will be fully supported by DLDS. Summer Reading programs will be going national - but don't worry, "Sneaks" is still alive and well.


General Session - The Long Tail - Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is Wired Magazine's editor in chief. He came to speak with us today about his concept of "The Long Tail."

The concept of the "long tail" describes statistically that while only a few examples of media (like blockbuster movies) draw the majority of interest, the rest of everything else that is "out there" garner the interest of a few people each, but collectively, garner the interest of just as many people.

Example: Movie theatres usually try to show all of the top hits - the movies which will gross the highest amount of ticket sales. However, there are many more independent films that may never be seen, because it isn't "worth it" to market a film that relatively few people will want to see. But if all those independent films could be shown at no cost, just as many people would view those independent films collectively as those who would view the few hot movies.

Traditionally, the commercial world has done what is economically more sound by providing products that are one-size-fits-all. Fewer choices have been marketed to us, because our commerce is driven by how much space is actually available to house products. We can't possibly house every possible book in any one library, for example.

The Internet, and other technologies make it easier to cater to the "long tail," which represents the interests of the many who are interested in the less popular content collectively. Bloggers and users who review products and services provide free advertising and recommendations. Digitized information that can be downloaded and read, printed, or viewed, or otherwise requested on demand reduce overhead to zero.

Anderson's address provided several eye-opening examples that illustrated the concepts quite nicely.