Libraries and our changing world

Over the weekend I was in Perth with my husband and had the opportunity to meet up with people involved in blogging and Web 2.0 thanks to the organisational efforts of the remarkable Sue WatersJane Lowe, Tomas Lasic, Kathryn Greenhill  and Jo Hart and her husband were there also. There were others but I didn’t catch everyone’s names so I apologise for not mentioning you if you happen to be reading this. Thanks Sue Waters for making the effort for me – I very much appreciated it.     

The discussion was lively and my husband was very tolerant. (He was surprised that he could keep up with the discussion; that comes from him listening and being interested in what it is I’m doing. I’m very thankful for that.) It was wonderful that Kathryn Greenhill was there. She is a Librarian working at Murdoch University and she has a great job  working as their Emerging Technologies Specialist.  Towards the end of the afternoon we shared some ideas about the future of libraries and I was very interested to hear her thoughts.  I’ve been mining her blog since my return and am very impressed with her insights. This to do list of Kathryn’s echoes some of the things I have been planning to investigate this holiday break;

WHAT TO DO?

On my own “to do” list?

  1. Find out more about new publishing models and licensing structures.
  2. Find out more about reading-dedicated devices – kindles and illiads and Sony readers and screen technologies that make it easy to read in bright sunlight.
  3. Find out more about the “reading” functions on converged devices (like the iPhone and mobile phones). Is it really possible to comfortably read a whole book on one?
  4. Educate myself more about Digital Rights Management and which e-books can be read with which e-book reader software on which machines.
  5. Investigate models for academic texts that involve library-provided materials that can be read off-line.
  6. Find out more about what the University of Michigan Library is doing with their Espresso Book Machine.
  7. Think even harder about “last copy storage” projects  and whether they make sense for Australian academic libraries.
  8. Think about preservation / archive vs accessibility issues with e-books.
  9. Ask some people under 30 what they think about books vs e-formats.  (If you are under 30, please let me know in the comments ).
  10. Try reading a fiction e-book from start to finish. (I have bought two that use the Mobipocket, and have been irritated that I can’t flip the screen to portrait so I can hold my eee 1000h like a “real” book. Fuddy Duddy me. )

There are things on that list I know very little about -obviously I need to know more! I can see Kathryn’s blog is going to be a must read for me, especially considering she has received funding to visit the United States and Canada  in April and investigate alternative discovery layers and open source library management systems. Open source library management systems are very interesting and I’d love to know the viability of having them replace the systems we are using today.  Looking at Kathryn’s blog she seems to share so I will be watching with interest.

Thank you Kathryn. Already I am learning from you. That’s the wonderful thing about this network. Connections are formed that impact on your ability to understand new ideas. You don’t need to learn in isolation and you can help one another navigate new territory. As far as Libraries go, the new territory has been laid open. Time to discover what lies within. 

Mahalo Answers – new feature with a twist.

Jason Calacanis has been active on Twitter promoting Mahalo Answers, the newest string to the Mahalo bow.  It’s a question and answer service with an added twist. You can earn some virtual dollars that can be converted into real dollars with Mahalo taking a 25% cut. Techcrunch have written about this:

Mahalo Answers throws in a twist. If someone really wants to encourage the best answers, they can offer a tip in “Mahalo Dollars,” which can be funded through PayPal and are convertible into real dollars once a member has earned at least 40 of them. For those of you who remember Google Answers, it paired questioners with vetted researchers who found answers for a fee. This is slightly different in that questions are not assigned to a specific researcher. As many people can answer it as they want and all compete for the tip. Furthermore, the tip can be rescinded by the questioner if he or she is not satisfied with any of the answers.   

Their thinking is if questioners rescind on too many tips no-one will answer their questions in future. They also offer points to people who ask and answer questions. If you provide the best answers,  add links or find friends who can better the service you get more points and can earn yourself a coloured belt, much like the system used in Karate. The higher you go the more of an ‘expert’ you are considered. The thinking is that people who accrue points and attain ‘expert’ status will be able to charge higher fees for their services. Techcrunch quotes Calacanis as saying;

If you can make knowledge into a game and help people make living, it is very powerful.

I’m sure appealing to people’s egos won’t hurt all that much either.

The clever thing about all this for Mahalo will be that they will be watching this closely and using the information accrued here to bolster the information they provide on their search pages. (Mahalo is a human powered search engine- people construct the pages you get when you search for a topic.) This can only help them to grow stronger in the search engine market. I know that I am always happy when a topic I’m searching has a page on Mahalo. I can guarantee the results are going to be worth my while.

It’s just gone live and some of the questions are a bit feeble, but others are interesting. Take a look. Maybe you can provide some answers and start earning yourself some Mahalo dollars. If I was a stay at home Mum instead of a full time employee, I know what I’d be doing. I’d give daytime TV the flick (not that that would be hard!) and I’d be extending my mind and income by contributing to this idea.  

 

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School’s out Friday

Yay!! I really am out from school this week. Holidays are here in Australia for some of us. Sorry Govt. school teachers- I know how hard that last week is – you have my sympathy although I don’t think that will count for all that much! 

And yes, I realise it is Saturday and I am late getting this up. I’m in Perth with my husband and we’re having a great time in this wonderful city. We’re meeting up with Sue Waters and Jane Lowe and possibly others this afternoon. I met Sue last week in Melbourne but I’ve never met Jane. Both of them have provided me with a lot of help this year- if not for them I wouldn’t have been posting from China. They both directed me to Posterous and Jane suggested Blogger as the platform that would be accessible in China for the blog I wrote for parents while I was there.   

Anyway, enjoy Charlie Todd and the improveverywhere crew as they entertain us once more. I’m looking forward to a Christmas extravaganza from them – hope they have something planned.

Enjoy your weekend.

Working together 2 make a difference – growing legs.

I’ve written before about the ning site Working together 2 make a difference that I set up with Angela and Laura Stockman. It’s been slow to get started but is starting to grow some legs. Originally we had decided that we would run it until mid December, but we now feel it is worthy of continuation. We see it as a place where educators and students can come together and share what they are doing in their community to make some sort of difference. Our hope is that it will become a place where community can form and links across classrooms can be made.

A friend of mine from a neighbouring school has joined and I was thrilled to see one of her students  create a page. Here is what she posted;  

I love animals and since you are all such wonderful people I was wondering if you could help? The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily and they don’t have enough food to donate to abused and neglected animals. It takes less than a minute (about 20 seconds) to go to their site and click on the purple box ‘fund food for animals’ for free. This doesn’t cost you a thing. Their advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising.

Here’s the web site! Pass it along to people you know.
http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/

 

Here’s a student who can recognise the potential of this medium to effect change. Did I click the link and click the purple box? You betcha. I encourage you to do the same. Better still, visit her page , click the link and leave an encouraging comment.

You should also visit Laura’s blog and follow her as she tells us who she is grateful and thankful for in the lead up to Christmas. We should take a leaf out of her book and do the same for those who support us.

So readers, I am thankful for you. Thanks for taking the time to stick around and comment occasionally. My life is enriched as a result.

The Alexandrine Dilemma – Mark Pesce’s message for Librarians.

I’ve just finished reading Mark Pesce‘s latest post, The Alexandrine Dilemma, his keynote for the New Librarians Symposium that he delivered on Friday. As I was reading I was nodding my head in agreement. In it, he identifies the issues facing the library profession. How do we adapt to a changing landscape when information will be online and not available in print form and how do we make this vast repository of information accessible and manageable to the population, many of whom are going to be overwhelmed.

Mark discusses the growth of Wikipedia and the future for paid subscription encylopedias like Brittanica. I’ve been saying something similar in my school environment as we analyse useage and question the need for expensive databases.

Watch carefully: over the next decade we’ll see the somewhat drawn out death of Britannica as it becomes ever less relevant in a Wikipedia-dominated landscape.

I couldn’t agree more. I wonder if it will even take a decade.

He provides us with the focus we need to adopt for the world that is evolving;

All of which puts you in a key position for the transformation already underway. You get to be the “life coaches” for our digital lifestyle, because, as these digital artifacts start to weigh us down (like Jacob Marley’s lockboxes), you will provide the guidance that will free us from these weights. Now that we’ve got it, it’s up to you to tell us how we find it. Now that we’ve captured it, it’s up to you to tell us how we index it.

He goes on to discuss how we respond to a world where information is located on the web but needs to be ordered in some way to make it accessible.

Without a common, public taxonomy (a cataloging system), tagging systems will not scale into universality. That universality has value, because it allows us to extend our searches, our view, and our capability.

This taxonomy is the part that I am struggling with right now. How do we tag websites with a common system that makes them accessible to all. The subject heading system that accompanied the Dewey Decimal System of operation is not flexible enough to meet the needs of a population that will be used to the tagging system of folksonimies operational in Delicious and Flickr and various other applications.

So how do we do this? I don’t know just yet.  Right now I’m wondering what we as a library are going to do? How do we introduce a  tagging system into the systems that our libraries run with and are these organisations that we pay to support our collections even thinking about this yet? I hope so.  

If you are a Teacher-Librarian and even if you’re not, you should visit Mark’s blog and read this post. There is much more in it than what I’ve drawn on here. Lots to contemplate.     

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School’s out Friday

Couldn’t resist. Today was the last day for students from my school. They have now headed off for the holiday and Christmas break. I had a wonderful Yr 7 group who I am going to miss- they really gave me a lot of joy this year.

So this video from YouTube is for them because I know this is something they would enjoy. Have a great weekend. I intend to!

Meetsee for collaboration

In the Oz/NZ flashmeeting the other night, Dean Groom took us into his Meetsee virtual office space. I found it very interesting and have been thinking about how appealing it would be for use with secondary school students.

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I could see my students finding this kind of meeting space meaningful. It’s probably suited for collaborative work across schools or even perhaps year levels. At the moment I’m struggling to find suitable times for teams of teachers to meet -perhaps we could arrange meetings in a Meetsee space and we’d have more success. I need to play around with it more, but I love the fact that you can use the television screens in the room to upload presentations or YouTube videos.

The best thing I can do is direct you to Dean Groom’s blog where he has written a post about the features Meetsee has. I laughed when I read this;

Of course you can fiddle with your avatar (though one niggle, I hit the girl button by mistake and can’t switch it). You can upload a photo of your own head, which is cool too.  

I have to admit I was wondering why Dean was wandering around the space as a female avatar with his head uploaded. I thought it was another manifestation of his sense of humour!

I think Meetsee looks really promising. You can sign up for free and get an office space that can host up to 15 participants. I saw in a comment on Dean’s post that they are looking at developing an education version and would be interested in receiving feedback. Could be even more promising if this pans out.