Archive for June 2007

Another Librarian Music Video

The road to…

So, my best of getting-things-done intentions went awry… of all the stupid things, I’ve ended up with a paronychia on my little finger, and typing is somewhat impaired. Mine wasn’t as bad as this pic, but was well on its way, and I’ve been futzing with it for a week until finally giving in and going to the dr. today.

Maybe this will help stop me from e-mailing people and forgetting they’re probably at ALA — it’s just so far off my radar at the moment that I was feeling ignored and unloved until figuring that one out.

(And, this is the last gross thing I’ll blog about for a while!)

Tiny Twitterer

I’m still no twitterer, but this is cute and random.


My non-librarian lists are abuzz with the OTC release of alli. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a new FDA-approved lower-strength dose of Xenical, a prescription weight-loss drug that prevents the absorption of some of the fat in your diet. I think we could take a marketing lesson from these people — check out what they list under “treatment effects:”

alliâ„¢ works by preventing the absorption of some of the fat you eat. The fat passes out of your body, so you may have bowel changes, known as treatment effects. You may get:

  • gas with oily spotting
  • loose stools
  • more frequent stools that may be hard to control

What to expect

The excess fat that passes out of your body is not harmful. In fact, you may recognize it as something that looks like the oil on top of a pizza. Eating a low-fat diet lowers the chance of these bowel changes. Limit fat intake in your meals to an average of 15 grams.

  • You may feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work
  • You may not usually get gassy, but it’s a possibility when you take alli. The bathroom is really the best place to go when that happens

Leaving aside the fact that delving too deeply into these effects might put you off eating to the point where you don’t need drugs, people are excited about taking this stuff. What can we learn from this, aside from the importance of wearing dark pants?

1) The power of positive spin. Alli suggests users might appreciate these “treatment effects” because they act like a “security guard,” making you think twice before eating something you shouldn’t — kind of the Antabuse approach to diet.

2) If people want what you have to offer badly enough, they’ll put up with a heck of a lot to get it. Alli’s work is mostly done in advance, given our cultural obsession with weight. How do we get to the point where our services are seen as being this essential?

3) The power of community. When users buy alli, they’re not just buying pills, they’re buying into a customized weight loss plan, an online community where dieters receive personalized feedback and support, and the idea that they are “partnering” with alli in their weight loss efforts. Even the name — pronounced “ally” — implies partnership.

4) People are willing to pay for what they value. A 60-pill alli starter pack costs about $49.99, and you’re supposed to take about 3 a day. Its manufacturer expects to sell about $1.5 billion worth this year.

5) There are companion books out — if you work in a public library, you might anticipate demand, or might anticipate a little run on weight-loss and nutrition books in general. Make a display!

6) People love a quick fix. Again, where here can we show that we add value and quickly meet people’s needs?

7) People, apparently, appreciate candor. The manufacturer is pretty upfront about alli’s effects, positive spin or no, and puts the information right out there. How about that for embracing transparency?

Some of these may be more of a stretch than others — but there really are marketing lessons to be learned here. Check out alli’s slick little web site; look at the language and images they use; think about the implications.

Florida Librarians Rock

FLAMINGOVANSo I went to Florida for three days to do a couple of workshops at FHSLA and SEFLIN on writing for publication. Apparently, at around the same time, Hell froze over, as Michael Gorman started blogging. I thought that perhaps my inability to make heads or tails of his posts stemmed from trying to read some lengthy arguments on a smallish laptop screen, but apparently not, as they’re not any more coherent from home. (Not that the mental Gorman-as-Cartman image helps!) I think that in my absence enough has been said about that, but it does occur to me that some people’s fanatical insistence on the importance of gatekeepers and editors might stem from their own clear need for this kind of help.

My first night in Florida was remarkable in two ways: I got whisked off to dinner at a Polynesian restaurant that involved dinner and a show, and the hotel wireless failed to play nicely with my laptop, leading to an unintentional 29 hours of being unplugged, which led to over 100 new messages in my main inbox alone. I think if I did this intentionally for more than a day or so, the anticipated stress of returning to an unmanageable flood would do more harm than any good I’d gain from being unplugged. But I’m OK with this — in the same way I don’t travel without reading material, I also try to avoid traveling without net access, and I’m not so sure that’s a negative.

Sideview My second day in Florida was again all about the food, involving lunch at Rattlesnake Jake’s Tex-Mex — which, of course, this being Florida, was oddly decorated with various sea creatures. I did get to meet and eat with J. Dale Prince, which partially made up for having to miss his “Geeks Bearing Gifts” workshop that was scheduled directly opposite mine.

On Friday, I got to ride in the classy Flamingovan to the main Broward County Library, which is very large and looks like something a toddler stacked out of blocks, but is quite nice on the inside. And, since again it’s about the food, it does have a cafe, which serves a so-so Greek salad, and where I ate with several librarians who kindly gave me a ride back to the airport after lunch.

Now that I’m back, I should have more time to get back to work on the book, the blog, and the long-postponed web site redesign.

Cascade of books

I don’t remember how I came across this photo, since it’s just been sitting in an open Firefox tab since before my trip… but it speaks to me!

Life, The Universe, and Google

So, all my Google Reader subscriptions just disappeared. Deep. Breath. From their message boards, this seems to be a fairly widespread problem, starting today, so I’m hopeful they’ll make a reappearance… although I think the universe is trying to tell me something about backups. Last week, my PC refused to boot for 30 harrowing minutes (til I thought to unplug the USB cable from the UPS — go figure). Now, ask me if I’ve backed up YET? Or when I last exported my subscriptions? Am I alone in being the world’s worst back-upper?

This weekend, comcastic in this area had some kind of weird network outage where we could get to some web sites, but not others. Among the disappeared? Yes, Google. And Amazon. And eBay. And Yahoo. This caused a fascinating little lesson in dependence; I didn’t realize how conditioned I was to just Google any old thing all day long until about the 5th unsuccessful attempt. Oh, and this being a Googleoutage, I couldn’t get to Reader, Blogger, Gmail, Google Docs… maybe there’s some message in there about getting too dependent on one ubercompany, too!

When I read bloggers who go off somewhere for a week to unplug, I’m semi-jealous, yet baffled. For one thing, I can’t fathom how many pressing e-mail messages I’d come back to. Then there’s the issue of dealing with the nagging sensation of not being able to find things out. One of the reasons I went into librarianship in the first place was that I liked to find things out and look stuff up. Google (yes, I know, there are alternatives…) just feeds that little addiction, but the ability to answer any stray question or expand on any stray thought that comes to mind is incredibly energizing — and I think all these little stray bits of information come together to make me a better writer.

(Darn, they’re still gone. I figured if I typed long enough maybe my feeds would reappear. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Rachel vs. technology…)


So, I’ve been tagged by La Flor (who are you?). These are the rules:

1. Go to the Billboard #1 Hits listings (scroll down and you’ll see them separated by decades on the left in the sidebar)
2. Pick the year you turned 18
3. Get yourself nostalgic over the songs of the year
4. Pick 5 songs and write something about how these songs affected you
5. Pass it on to 5 more people

Slight problem. I turned 18 in 1988, and the hits of that year trend toward 80s luminaries like George Michael (“Faith” and “Father Figure”), Guns ‘n Roses (“Sweet Child ‘o Mine”), Billy Ocean (“Get Out of My Dreams… and Into My Car’) and Poison (“Every Rose Has Its Thorn”).

What I’m feeling right now isn’t exactly nostalgia…. It’s hard to pick the five worst, so the ones above will do. How did these songs affect me? Hmm. Let’s say this: they gave me a greater appreciation for leaving the 80s far, far behind. I can’t bring myself to do this to anyone else, so, if you want to be tagged, just consider it done!


While you’re waiting for a more substantive post, why not wax nostalgic by converting some photos into ASCII art at

Alternative Careers Survey: Reminder

If you’d planned on responding to my survey from a while back on alternative careers, but it kind of slipped your mind, here’s your chance! I’m still looking for responses, and would love to hear from librarians and info pros who have: moved into any sort of nontraditional career, are combining alternative work with library work, are working in nontraditional positions in libraries, are working in positions that utilize library skills but aren’t seen as or called a “librarian” by their institution, have taken IT or other skills picked up on the job and brought them to another environment… if you think you might in any way be following an alternative path, I want to hear about it — there’s still time!

And, thank you to everyone who’s already shared their experiences — it’s been fascinating to see people’s varied paths.