Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I've Moved!

Hey all (one) of my regular followers!

I've changed addresses!

Come find me at my new home... Shameless Book Addict (again)!

Thanks and see you there!

Wolfram Alpha... and other searches

The big tech/library news lately, it seems, has been asking one basic question: Can anyone beat Google?

My answer: Nope... wait, should I have sugar-coated that one? I'm just confused about why anyone would try, let alone claim that it has been done!

Until you can give the public a search engine that works as well, that builds a niche as well, that fulfills a need as well, you are not going to upset Google.

The latest to try, Wolfram Alpha, is an interesting concept and a nice try, though, ultimately, it does not live up to all the hype. Google gives you everything you could possibly need/want/never want in a link providing search. Wolfram Alpha, on the other hand, sets out to interpret the data and give you only the information you need - often creating a page that never existed before you did the search.

This is great when you have a calculation to make or need some background information. However, I share Farhad Manjoo's concern that Wolfram Alpha is too bug-laden and too narrowly defined to work well as a Google replacement. Some searches work well - like my birthday search (who knew I was born during a full moon?) - but too many others - like my search for the closest QFC to Northwest University - fail.

What does this mean for Librarians?
~ Yet another tool in our arsenal! Though some of the random searches I did failed, I am very refreshed by the ones that worked. The first thing I thought of when I saw its interface was how similar it was to an encyclopedia or a world fact book. If you are looking for specific, concrete data, this is where you should go - hands down. Like Wikipedia, it would be a great electronic resource to use in identifying search terms, figuring out general statistics, or planning a research survey.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cleaning out my Bookmarks

Anyone who has seen my work computer knows how clean and tidy I keep it. I have very few shortcuts, everything is in thematic rows, and that is the way I like it.

However... I have a very dark secret. There is one part of my computer that gets messier by the day - my Firefox toolbar. Anytime I come across an article or site that I want to come back to, I just dump it in that friendly spot... so much so that it overflows into a drop down menu that takes the whole length of my screen.

My personal bookmarks are organized well at home - in tidy folders in my favorites menu, but work is a different story.

What do you use? Delicious does not really fit the bill, and CiteULike is for reference work. Any thoughts?

RESOLVED: To clean out my taskbar... next week! Good plan!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Teaching How to Get the Information

The next article in the "Future of Reading" series, from the New York Times, is out and it is even more applicable than the last: The Digital Librarian.

What role will librarians have in the technological-centered library? That is a question many people, especially people like me, who are just starting out in this field, keep asking ourselves.

The whole article is worth a look, but there are two main points that I am going to take away from it:

1) Librarians have to be the technology pioneers - the first to use, experiment, and learn.
2) Teaching the Internet (including copyright, site evaluation, databases, etc) is one of our most important jobs.

The Librarian is no longer just the gatekeeper of the books (though we have not been just that for a long time), but a tool to guide patrons through the maze of available resources - finding, evaluating, and using book-based and web-based resources.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Have you Heard of This Thing Called Google?

This comes from my favorite Technology Blog - Pogues Post.

I think that would be a big help to the lazy students who seem to think it is easier to have you do their work than to do it themselves... alright, so I would never use it, but it sure sounds like it would be fun! Good for a laugh, at the very least.

Type in your favorite question: mine today was "When was typhoid discovered?" And they get the answer and scolded at the same time... because really, was that so hard?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Check This Out

I am sure that I have tried to help this woman at the bookstore too.

No comment.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Uhh... can we institute this?

I saw this article on the blog Bibliophile Bullpen:

"Unreturned Library Book Leads to Woman's Arrest"

Now... the author of the blog seems to think that there is something wrong with this. I honestly don't see it - I think this should be implemented at NU.

Please, pretty please?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Google Blog: Libraries

The most recent Google Blog Post was about libraries and how they are incorporating Google Apps into their searching.

The part about how Illinois State Library has created a searchable course information search was of particular interest. It reminded me of our syllabus project (a project that I still think is a brilliant idea and something that I have not seen before) - if they were more searchable, would more people use them?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I've never Tweeted before. Never. I really don't get it - and that is coming from someone who successfully downloaded the Windows 7 beta (yeah, it really has nothing to do with tweeting, but I am just so proud of myself!).

However, I just read a blog entry from Collections 2.0 called "Talking or Listening," and I am convinced that I have to finally give in.

In this entry, Steven Harris suggests many different ways Twitter can be an asset to a Library. Personally, one idea stuck out - Twittering the new books we have added to our collection! Something like that would be an easy way to remind our loyal patrons that we are here.

As he is quick and correct to point out, the goal of a library is to get the patrons engaged in a conversation with us. This is not something Twitter can do. Twitter seems more a way to remind people that we are here to talk. The next step of actually coming in is up to them.

But again, I have never Twittered. My goal for the month is to get an account and see what all the fuss is all about so I can judge it more fairly. Maybe, like Steven, my skepticism will change to adoration.

**** UPDATE: Username is HeatherVM - follow me, I have no followers!!!****

Creating a Customer Focused Library

I've had this file sitting on my desk top for a long time, and tonight I got around to reading it. It is a slide show/presentation, called "Best Practices for the Customer-Focused Library" and created by the Metropolitan Library System (Chicago).

Most of the reading was not really applicable to us, meaning that we are not a massive public library system in an urban area (go figure), but one thing did strike me:

"Patrons are utilizing the library as meeting and study space, not just for items, computers or services. Allotting space for study and socializing needs is important when creating an overall atmosphere of service. Patrons using the building are easier to convert to users of library services than those who do not enter."

Even small academic libraries need public space to bring the people in - then, only after they are here, we hook them with books!

This is something that the Hurst Library has mentioned in every single musing about a new library. This seems like old news to us - go team!

New Uses for Kindle

I have been skeptical about the Kindle and other such electronic-book-reading-gizmos, but this article does bring up an interesting new usage: searchable text. In the posting, "A Kindle Trick Changes the Reading Experience," the author uses the search to locate an overused phrase in the book he was reading.

I wonder how/if this will affect the publishing world... if all text is searchable, then you have to be even more careful of what you say. Is this a positive advancement or a step in the wrong direction (to a continually commercialized literary experience)? That I don't know.

As one commenter suggests, it is like a Biblical Concordance but for every book. What would this mean for literature classes?

Honestly, as one may suppose, I have been a long-term supporter of the tactile sensation of a book and the entire reading experience; however, I am intrigued about the potential meaning of the Kindle. This would be a handy function for textbooks, among other things.