Monday, September 24, 2007


Whoops, I'm Training Again

While I'm talking about ITI in general, and Internet Librarian in particular, I want to mention a new fantastic resource for anyone who does (or might get sucked into doing!) technology training in their libraries. Stephanie Gerding's The Accidental Technology Trainer also debuts at Internet Librarian -- I'd love this book, even if I weren't her editor! I know I could have used this title when I was thrown into planning and teaching technology training classes way back when, and recommend it without reservation to anyone in a similar situation.

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Meet Me in Monterey

I'm heading to the Internet Librarian conference in beautiful Monterey next month, wearing my ITI consulting acquisitions editor hat. If you'll be there too, look me up!

You can find me at the ITI booth, where I'll be signing Information Tomorrow with a bunch of the chapter authors from 2:30-3:15 Tuesday during the no-conflict exhibit time.


You can e-mail me at should you have a book idea, want to chat about the publishing process at ITI, or otherwise talk book publishing, meet up, have coffee.

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"Ice Cream"

It's "funny" because it's "true" -- the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks. Not to be confused with Apostrophe Abuse...

(You don't have any of this going on in your library's signage, right?)

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To wiki or not to wiki

As part of reorganizing and redesigning, I'll be adding more info on the LIS career process as a whole, including choosing a library school. I'd like to add some kind of scholarship database, because the information on LIS scholarships is currently so fragmented and hard to find. Logistically, though, I'm not sure how well this would work as a database (tracking down this info and keeping it current), so am thinking that perhaps a wiki where people could add and update scholarship info might be in order, and would also serve well for other content.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions for the semi-wikilliterate?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007



Via Reading the Past, a bunch of LOL fantasy cover art. If that doesn't do it for you, try LOLTHULHU. Now, back to work with me...


Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Got Netflix?

I have 4 "friends and family" codes for a free trial month of Netflix. Since those of my friends and family that want Netflix already have it, the first 4 people who comment on this post with a valid e-mail address get these.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Search WHERE, Now?

Here's some inadvertent "product placement" on Amazon. Careful, I almost spit out my coffee at this one (via Smart Bitches).

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Toe duly taped and iced, I woke up this morning to an e-mailed answer to my virtual reference question from my local library. I'll leave them alone now...

(And, to the person that e-mailed with concerns about whether I'd ever be able to get a job in an Illinois library now, I think I'll be all right, thanks!)


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Tuesday Brain Twister

Wrap your head around this little NPR video: A Four-Dimensional Tribute to the Late Madeleine L'Engle.

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Here's an interesting take on the wisdom of crowds: Slush Pile Reader:
At Slush Pile Reader authors' manuscripts will be showcased to an audience of on-line readers. The readers then get their say by answering a simple question: Should this manuscript be published?

If enough readers agree that, yes, it should be published, Slush Pile Reader will do just that. We will publish the most popular manuscripts.
This may be an interesting alternative to self-publication, if nothing else...

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Then Again...

I cracked my toe pretty good in the middle of the night and now it's bruised, swollen, & painful. Trying to decide if I should call the doctor, I found some fun Yahoo! Answers results. My favorite answer to "how can you tell if your toe is broken?"

"Um, an x-ray, moron."

Yeah, a librarian could probably do better than that -- or at least skip the "moron" part. Although, there is my second favorite:

"if it is black and blue i broke my toe and my father said it was broken but not all the time mean the if it's black and blue all the time but if u put ur finger right were it hurts o n ur toe and feel a space and get bend it and the other one can't."

I'll shut up about QuestionPoint now. (Hmm, maybe the toe thing is bad karma?)

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Monday, September 10, 2007


Sweating the Small Stuff

So today I received a very nice message in my Hotmail account (aka, all-purpose-spam-catcher that I use to sign up for things like virtual reference services) from a very nice virtual reference coordinator at the state library regarding my recent post about my Ask a Librarian experience. She apologized, said they're reviewing the interaction, that a "technical difficulty" caused Librarian Bruce to disconnect, and that:
When a technical difficulty occurs or if the chatting librarian believes that the patron's home library can be of better assistance the question is sent to shared follow-up. Your question, for example, can be found in shared follow-up for Downer's Grove Public to complete the answer. This prevents a question and patron from being "lost", so that the home library can answer the question.
My question is still showing "pending" in my QuestionPoint account; today is day 8.

While I do appreciate the personal response from the state library -- and the original question isn't even particularly relevant at this point -- my point still remains: what impressions do patrons get about librarians and library services from their online interactions? I have yet to hear from Bruce or my home library, even with a note saying that my question is taking long than expected, sorry, or that they need more clarification, or even an autoresponse that says it's been kicked back to my home library. Nothing in my online account indicates it's been kicked back to my own library. In Internet time, 8 days is an eternity.

I wonder about what good it really does us to "slam the boards" if, as K.G. Schneider comments, we're engaging in "half-right reference." If expertise and personal service is what we're marketing, then we should do a bit better than that.

I don't mean to single out QuestionPoint or my state's virtual reference in particular -- I've had both abysmal and fantastic experiences in person at library reference desks, too, and know you can't judge a service from a single interaction. I think it goes back, though, to the need to "sweat the small stuff." I have years of positive library interactions and work experience behind me, so one negative interaction is negligible. To someone who doesn't visit libraries, who doesn't love libraries, who never worked in a library, one negative experience might be all they are judging us by.

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Ads for Doctors

The New York Times reports today that Reed Elsevier just launched a new online portal for oncologists. Register with personal information, and get free access to the latest articles from 100 medical journals, including The Lancet and Surgical Oncology. The catch? Ads, sponsorships, and sale of their direct mail list to advertisers, especially "pharmaceutical companies with cancer drugs to sell."

I'm not sure how I feel about this, and need to let it settle for a bit. On the one hand, this is an interesting way to get around astronomical journal prices. On the other, should oncologists be bombarded with ads from pharmaceutical companies (OK, yes, like this doesn't already happen), and is it possible that sponsorship could affect content?

The article mentions the potential for additional future portals in other specialties -- definitely a model worth watching to see how it develops.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007


ING Direct Cafes

The ALA Editions blog a couple of weeks ago mentioned ING Direct Cafes, which they say "could be mistaken for library branches." I'm not so sure about that, but I bet they're giving free wireless at Panera a run for its money. It'd be interesting to know how many cafe visitors convert into customers -- if I lived or worked near one of these I might be inclined to check them out. More enticing than a free toaster, anyway!

(By the way, the ING site has a printable free beverage coupon, on the off-chance there's one of these in your neighborhood and you want to check it out.)

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What if I were a regular patron?

About a week ago, I was helping someone write a business plan and needed a couple of statistics to which we didn't have ready access. Poking around my local library's web site, I spied the link to our statewide virtual reference service, and thought I'd give it a try. Suffice it to say, I'm less than impressed.

After getting past the slow Java load, "Librarian Bruce" popped in. Librarian Bruce not only disappeared abruptly from chat (hey QuestionPoint, how about a little netiquette training?), he has yet to get back to us via e-mail as promised, even with a "hey, sorry, this is taking a little longer than anticipated."

This isn't necessarily indicative of the quality of Illinois virtual reference in general (and Bruce may yet come through), but, as I've talked about before, little things can make a huge difference in how we are perceived. If my experience with Librarian Bruce were my first experience with reference, with the resources on my local library's web site, or with a librarian, I'd probably be over at Yahoo! Answers right now and never look back. Every patron encounter, on- or offline, offers the chance to make an impression, and we need to pay attention to each of these interactions.

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I couldn't but mention that Madeline L'Engle passed away yesterday -- because (I know, go figure) Wrinkle in Time is right up there on the list of books that changed my life as a kid. I think I now have some re-reading to do...

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Rapleaf has posted something of a public apology (and it's quite nice to see them admitting straight out that they were wrong to message people searched in Upscoop), but they only backed off so far:
A few people also asked us to stop sending the been-searched emails on We debated the merits of that request internally and came to the conclusion that this is a good feature (the vast majority of the feedback on this have been very positive). People should know if their information is available for others to see. But we’ll limit these emails to maximum of once a quarter.
Now, I'm also getting bombarded with e-mails about Shelfari. This nonsense is getting old -- I don't need to wake up to see 15 messages about Shelfari, Quechup, yoName, or any of these services spread across my e-mail accounts. There's a big difference between this automatic notification business and the way a more professional service like LinkedIn handles things -- I think I'm sticking with them. (And, for those of y'all I know, feel free to add me as a contact over there.)

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It's Not Just Us

Full Telescope One of the things we did on our trip to Lake Geneva last weekend was visit the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay. Built in 1897, its 40-inch refracting telescope was the largest telescope in the world at the time, and still the largest refracting telescope ever used. Our tour was about evenly divided between discussion of the site's amazing architecture and history and talk about the observatory's uncertain future -- sitting, as it is, on the last good chunk of undeveloped lakefront property. The last couple of years of articles make fascinating reading; the University of Chicago has backed off of its original plans to sell off the land to a developer (to build a luxury resort and homes) due to a huge outcry from the local and astronomical community. (Also of interest from a preservation standpoint: what to do with 100,000 glass plates that can't yet be effectively digitized.)

Yerkes is working to transform its mission into becoming a center for science education in the region; currently doing tours, outreach to Chicago-area students, star parties, telescope observation, etc. A UC study group is working on the plan to best use the site as a regional science education center.

Yerkes Entrance PillarGargoyle Guy Gargoyle on Yerkes

It's useful sometimes to step outside of our little library world and look at the larger issues of what we as a society value and how we can ensure that our institutions remain both faithful to their roots and viable in the 21st century.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Walking the Line

While we're complaining about social software spam, here's another one:


Dear Rachel,

Someone researched your reputation on Rapleaf by searching "".

To view (or update) your profile, check out:

Even though your profile is incomplete, the person who searched you found some basic reputational information on you. At Rapleaf, you can find such information as age, location, history, social network links, and more on over 60 million people.

-Your friends at


I got a strikingly similar message last week from as well. To me, this completely crosses the line -- the fact that someone else has searched for my e-mail address doesn't give these sites permission to spam me in a thinly veiled attempt to drive traffic. Even though the idea behind these services is interesting, I won't be using them -- especially now that I know they will e-mail whoever I search for.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007


No Quechup, Please

So, I went to Lake Geneva for a few days (more on that later), and came back to an inbox full of invites to Apparently I'm not the only one, there's some crossing-the-line address book spamming going on. Not only that, they're all worded along the lines of "Join BETH and HIS friends today." I guess they don't figure girls belong on social networks, even if they're really, really trying to grab new users. Duh, people.

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The Family That Reads Together...

Reading Guys
Originally uploaded by lib_rachel
Just to say that: these are the times that warm a librarian's heart :).