Wednesday, August 08, 2007

451 Degrees Flatscreened

I'm reading again. The paper variety. Books. This is good. I'm starting with Fahrenheit 451, a book I never read, though have heard about many times. It's the book chosen by Attleboro for One Town One Book. And I can see why. But also, it's really surreal to read old science fiction, because those authors DID get some of the things right. Like little earbuds of sound to help us sleep. Televisions to "entertain us but and omit thought. In some ways I think we're close to all of this.

Bradbury writes,
"Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. They they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving."
p. 54 Great Books of the 20th C edition. Sounds like reality TV, sounds like Singing Bee on NBC, sounds like the News. Sounds like Google. Years later, it seems this is still the crux for Bradbury, as he explains here.

Isn't this what some say about the Internet? The Information age? Even the rise of search engines and OPACs, all this computer data spitting out the answers without enough time for people to think about what's in front of them, or what they really want.

To our credit of course, we're not burning the books. And there are many, I think who believe that going paperless does not have to equate with becoming mindless drones. I suppose there will be always be something about the feel of a book in the hand. (A book in the hand is worth two on the screen? I don't know...) The way some fall asleep with it still in their hand or covering over their face.

In a sense, librarians are information gatekeepers. I don't want to forget that information isn't the same as knowledge. Vibration isn't the same as action. We are moving, but we can't forget to bring our books, our opinions, our challenges, our minds.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Only 7 weeks later

And I finally figure out how to make it possible to post from my gmail account! Duh! There was a lot of confusion for me about this during the class, but now I think I'm more sorted out. Thank you very much.

Speaking of sorted, here's the long awaited picture of the newly shifted library space. Actually I'm posting a few. And more are available via Flickr (which is where these are from).

The light purplish carpet patch under the tables is where the 5th stack of shelving used to be. Now only a quarter is being used, and it's in the back left corner of the center pic. All the computer monitors have another home, and will be moved before the beginning of the school year. This isn't a gigantic change for the space, but I am hoping it will make a difference. And did I mention there will now be sunlight? Ahhh...

Friday, July 27, 2007

do I have to??

Over these 6 weeks I really feel like I've become a better blogger. I've had items to blog about and have linked to various posts by others. I would like to keep this blog going. I'd like to keep reaching out to the invisible world and share the news about being a High School Library teacher. I hope I can maintain this. I don't know that anyone will read it of find it as fascinating as I do (except my mom), but it seems right to write about technology via technology. I can handle that. At the very least, I want to add some pics of the library space post shifting. And I certainly have more that will happen in the upcoming weeks and months. Even today I used Google txt to find out the times for The Simpsons Movie. Then I told my friend how to do it and made her text the exact same message. It was strangely satisfying.

I kind of wanted to do a cool top ten list countdown today, since it's the last blog specifically for class, but I'm finding myself uninspired. I blame The Park Bench because of this great top ten list. Those girls have destroyed me...

but I'm not leaving. Not on a jet plane, not on a Homer donut. Not if I can help it. Maybe, if people send me a few random techie type assignments every once in a while, I'll have that to report on. Please?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

my summer project

All summer long I've been going in to my library and trying to do some rearranging. I had this great idea of condensing the shelves and removing one of the large stacks so that the books would be more visible AND there could be seating by the only windows in the library.

Well, on Monday, the facilities guys came, and I (minorly) helped while they took this whole structure down that I spent days de-booking. Then they moved one half over to the wall so that it's like a wall bookshelf. We jammed a lot of the other shelves behind it. It meant that I lost 9 bookshelves instead of 12. Then I had this long patch of old carpet, but even better I had all this space.

Yesterday and today I filled the three bookshelves up with biographies and then added to tables, and moved the copier to that area too. It's like it's been there for forever. I can't believe it. And now I have books and tables in the same place!

It makes me so happy!!!
(I'll have to take pictures.)
Now if I can just log in to the card catalog, and also get the computer tables that would AMAZE me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

OPAC, AquaBrowser, Library Thing,...just get me the book!

I have the distinct privilege of working in a library with a generic OPAC system. This means that any time I order books from a vendor, the processing I get will be rather minimal--there's only so much that is clear with the system we use. I did not choose this software, and after one year, am considering shifting softwares since the yearly upkeep cost is close to $1800 (a good part of any budget) and we don't get that many bells and whistles for that price.

I LOVE looking at what other schools find. I LovE looking at the Open Source products from LibLime, like YakPak. I love seeing how other libraries make their cataloging work. It makes me believe that such a thing is possible, even if it doesn't happen in our school (at the moment). Joyce Valenza's virtual school page is certainly made for the user, though the actual OPAC seems a bit more confusing in its access... Queens Library is so...pretty please can I have that instead? I'd be much happier if mine looked anything like that. During the next year, the library work in is scheduled to move, I hope that when that happens I will also be able to change the OPAC to one that is more accessible and user friendly. This may be a larger goal that I hope for, but perhaps something better can come of it. I want to get the book in the students' hands, with as few roadblocks as possible.

I'm a closet cataloger, I really like a lot of this things about it. So I often get caught, when looking at OPACs at the cataloging side of things...can I organize sets of users? How do I export or import files into the program. In our class discussion, this isn't the stuff we talked about. And Linda even warns us to steer clear of thinking about us as the user. To an certain extent, she is totally right. To another extent, as a librarian, the OPAC holds lots of information, and users (in this case the librarian) should be able to easily access information like circulation for the month or recent acquisitions. Again, the OPAC we use is filled with logic statements, the support staff I call always seem a bit befuddled themselves. I guess I just want to put in my two sense for the ability for the Librarians to use the program as well. Perhaps there is a correlation between usability for Librarians and accessibility for patrons.

As a final thought, I don't know if sites like LibraryThing, GoodReads, and Shelfari are the answers for libraries and their users. They have their own set of problems, including the social aspect and tagging,though perhaps those problems are also assets and are certainly refreshing. In the virtual world they help some see the books, but do they help on actually GET the book? On this part, I think I need to think more...

Sunday, July 22, 2007


When writing a draft of a story or poem, it's really important to keep writing and not look back on the work and start editing. Once the editing begins, it's possible for a person to lose the real story to the turn of a phrase or the flip of a sentence. The idea should be the primary goal during the draft process, the process of discovery. I haven’t always perceived my role as a learner similarly, but as I write this, the goal of this class becomes clearer. This is a class for discovery and for experimentation. It is about the possibilities.
Once we are actually working in libraries, however, we move from the draft phase to the editing. The reality of editing makes it hard for me to embrace the exploration of technological possibility. In my head, I keep hearing the voices of my school’s Tech Chair and administrators. I am taken aback by my naturally skeptical nature and my own hesitations about technology and change.

I want to be enthusiastic and optimistic, but I find myself focused on the ways in which things can’t work. I think about the physical roadblocks: the cables that aren’t movable, the tables that just won’t fit anywhere else, the computers that HAVE to be somewhere else. I remember the logistical issues that make adding software or updating the card catalog long, difficult processes. In my position, I have not been given the privileges that would make these tasks under my immediate control. I have to put my requests to others and justify every decision. I have to decide what is truly worth entering the bureaucratic maze.

I also face additional human roadblocks in the form of teachers who are too overworked or old-fashioned or scared to embrace new technology. So, in this class, when I should be charging forward, dazzled by the prospect of new ways of teaching and learning, I find myself imagining the glazed over faces of the teachers to whom I’ll be introducing ANOTHER new way of doing things.

Some of these roadblocks are just plain out of my control, others require a little bit of patience and perseverance, and still others reflect my own insecurities, perspective, and understanding that there is only so much that can be accomplished in a day or week or year. As I challenge the editor within myself who keeps trying to revise the draft before it’s done, I realize part of my frustration is because I LOVE some of the things I’ve been learning. I can see the potential of where we can take students—if the conditions are just right. I have to remember to keep being the writer, the learner, the explorer. I wish my mind didn’t echo “roadblock” each time I hear a new idea because I really want to put some of these ideas into action. I want to be more open to the ideas, to push my library work and myself.

I’m hoping that I’m making at least a baby step with my innovative project. I could really see it working, and hope it does. I’m starting with something small and focusing on a perceived need which might be resolved via Since none of the school computers can hold bookmarks on their computers, I can use technology to help teachers and students easily access the items they often refer back to. Enter It's a start at turning roadblocks into speedbumps.

I think my realistic (okay, and somewhat skeptical) nature has a place in library science and particularly in terms of technology. I just have to be sure to use it to a positive end. I need to ask questions such as: What is the greatest need in my academic setting? Where can I make a positive difference? What is possible within the given constraints? If I ask the right questions and don’t let myself become overwhelmed with thoughts of “this will be more trouble than it's worth”, I think I can make the process of learning more powerful and efficient for the students and teachers at my school. Who knows? We could all be surprised.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My library and facebook?

Among our classmates, there have been discussions about how facebook pages link in with Twitter and other aps. I don't have a Facebook or a MySpace page, and I'm not sure I want one or need one. It is interesting to me, though, to think that libraries could use these tools to advocate for themselves.

Apparently some bookstores already do it, according to this article from the New York Time about MySpaces pages for City Lights and Square Books. The article ends up focusing more on how the stores are described in the profile (are bookstores male or female?, etc.) than what it means for bookstores to have a face on MySpace (in this case). Sadly, the comments for the NYT article follow this same train of thought, no debate of necessity for their presence on social networking sites, only their question of a bookstore's gender. Yes, world, this is the important stuff. The comments on the MySpace pages are filled with buy my book and thanks for adding me comments, and again, I think I must be missing something. City Lights has a website, though it doesn't seem to acknowledge the MySpace presence. I find it all very confusing. So confusing, in fact, I can't really articulate myself well.

I guess I'm just asking: what are your thoughts on stores or places (or ideas even) having a "face" on Facebook or MySpace? In what way does their presence there fill a need of the user that another resource couldn't?