unvocab debut

I made my debut on Uncontrolled Vocabulary the other evening. Everyone on the call were folks I had met at one point while at Computers in Libraries last week, and it kind of made my heart ache a little less to hear them all again. I called in on the ShoePhone, but it was glitchy, and I probably won’t use it again. Dunno if it was a TalkShoe problem or a ClearWire problem, but I think my cell phone would sound better.

So, go listen to the episode and revel in our memories of CiL!

reflections on CiL 2008

or… Nine Things From CiL That Are Made Of Awesome

9. Meeting a bunch of people I have admired from afar for many years but have never had a chance to talk to in person.

8. Having too many concurrent sessions to choose from.

7. According to the folks who attended the Pecha Kucha, it was an informative and entertaining presentation. I can avow the entertaining bit — at times the laughter and clapping coming from the other side of the divider overwhelmed the session I was attending. I will choose that session next time.

6. Thinking about gaming and libraries in a new way, and pondering how libraries can take ideas from gaming to make our resources more intuitive and rewarding for our users.

5. Learning about an overwhelming number of tools that can help me do my job better.

4. Being inspired to promote the library as a place to solve problems.

3. Learning about studies that contradict the commonly held belief that students go to online search engines first, rather than library resources, when doing research.

2. Getting inspired to un-suck my OPAC in the “Woepac to Wowpac” session.

1. Networking with my tweeps at the Brickskeller. “Best. CiL. Ever.”

CiL 2008: What’s Hot in RSS & Social Software

Speaker: Steven M. “I’m just sayin'” Cohen

[More links to cool stuff that I did not included can be found at the presentation wiki linked above.]

Google Reader is now more popular than Bloglines, which Cohen thinks has to do with the amount of money that Google can sink into it. Both have tools that tell you how many people are subscribed/reading it, which can be helpful in convincing administrators to support the use of RSS feeds from various sources. Offline feed readers don’t make much sense, since so often the things you are reading will direct you to other sources online.

If you’re not using Google Reader, do it now.

No, really. Steven says to do it.

Google + Feedburner = advertisements on your feeds, which means that they are now revenue generating, like the ads on your website. RSS is no longer sucking away your revenue source, so get over it and add feeds for your content! Plus, anyone using Page2RSS can scrape your content and turn it into a feed, so really, you should give them something that benefits you, too.

LibWorm is a site that indexes library-related blogs and news sources, and it provides RSS feeds, so use it for keeping current if you’re not already doing so.

Follow what is been twittered on your topic of choice using TweetScan. Follow all of your friends’ online activities at FriendFeed (notification once a day, which seems possibly even reasonably infrequent enough that I might actually use it).

Go check out his top ten eleven twelve favorite tools. They’re all really cool and worth playing with.

CiL 2008: Staff Tech Training

Speaker: Sarah Houghton-Jan

It’s important to invest in staff training to build staff skills and morale, in addition to improving customer service. It takes time and money, which are not often plentiful. Evaluate where you are and what you need to get to where you want to be: planning & brainstorming to creation to assessment to training to reassessment to planning & brainstorming, etc.

What does your staff need to know how to do with technology to do their jobs well? Using competencies creates equitable expectations for all staff, reveals training needs, accurate job descriptions, helps with performance evaluations, consistent customer service, and helps staff adjust and handle change. Work with your staff to brainstorm on what they want to learn, and be sure to reassure them that they don’t need to know everything right now.

Work with a well-represented taskforce to create competencies and get management buy-in. Oh, and don’t call them competencies! Call them technology skills or anything else with less negative connotations. Break competencies out by categories, and be sure to include a “staying current” category. Best practices: keep it core & task-based, be aware of the different needs of different positions, include competencies in job descriptions, and revise frequently as new technologies are adopted in your library.

Online survey tools are the easiest way to assess competencies, but take care with how the results are presented so that there is less of a negative impact. Self-assessment is best. Review the assessments to track trends and then work with supervisors to create training lists for specific employees.

Training techniques will be determined based on topic and need, and there are plenty of resources out there to help with that. Just make sure you have the budget to do whatever you decide to do. People like rewards, as was noted in this morning’s keynote, so include that in your training budget.

Reassess on a regular basis, and include rewards and consequences to be effective. Celebrate the success of your staff!


Speakers: Maurice Coleman & Annette Gaskins

They are at a public library system with a very diverse population. The library staff wanted to have a technology fair/petting zoo, and there was enough buy-in from administration and the resources to do it. Time was the most crucial factor in planning for this. The topics were picked based on the tools that public service staff would use on a regular basis, as well as hot 2.0 topics that attract patron participation.

If you are planning to do several sessions in one day, make sure you have plenty of trainers so that no one gets burnt out. Also, have people available to direct people traffic. Make sure the facilities you use are sufficient to meet the needs of the training and the attendees.


I found it difficult to find take-away things from this presentation. Houghton-Jan went over the concepts behind the process, and I was hoping that Coleman & Gaskins could go into the applied aspect, which they did, but at such a detailed level that I couldn’t find many things relevant to my own library. Most of what they had to say were basic event planning tips, which are useful, but not what I came into the session expecting to get. Maybe I should have read the description in more detail.

CiL 2008: Speed Searching

Speaker: Greg Notess

His talk summarizes points from his Computers in Libraries articles on the same topic, so go find them if you want more details than what I provide.

It takes time to find the right query/database, and to determine the best terminology to use in order to find what you are seeking. Keystroke economy makes searching faster, like the old OCLC FirstSearch 3-2-2-1 searching. Web searching relevancy is optimized by using only a few unique words rather than long queries. Do spell checking through a web search and then take that back into a reference database. Search suggestions on major search engines help with the spelling problem, and the suggestions are ranked based on the frequency with which they are searched, but they require you to type slowly to use them effectively and increase your search speed. Copy and paste can be enhanced through browser plugins or bookmarklets that allow for searching based on selected text.

The search terms matter. Depending on the source, average query length searches using unique terms perform better over common search terms or long queries. Use multiple databases because it’s fun, you’re a librarian, and there is a lack of overlap between data sources.

Search switching is not good for quick look-ups, but it can be helpful with hard to find answers that require in-depth query. We have a sense that federated searching should be able to do this, but some resources are better searched in their native interfaces in order to find relevant sources. There are several sites that make it easy to switch between web search engines using the same query, including a nifty site that will allow you to easily switch between the various satellite mapping sources for any location you choose.

I must install the Customize Google Firefox plugin. (It’s also available for IE7, but why would you want to use IE7, anyway?)