Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Managing the consumable collection

Listening to the sirens call, as well as the library director and acquisitions librarian’s request, I am taking time today to work on my remaining resource center budget, specifically the necessary consumable supplies that are a significant part of my spending.

I start each year with a twelve line resource center budget (separate from the library budget); two lines are in place for running the center (phone and postage), ten lines are targeted to the resource center, and one of the ten lines accepts deposits allowing me to run our little store. I mention this because my spending today already totals $500 in laminating film (desk-top and roll-top) and upwards of $300 in basic office supplies (scissors, construction paper, transparencies, etc.). It is a challenge to manage budget lines specifically expended on consumable products, don't get me stared on printer parts and paper (we have free printing on campus). I am lucky that once the initial funds within one supply line are spent, it is possible to be self-sufficient by depositing funds garnered by charging for supplies back into the account. I do not make a profit from laminating and such, but use the funds to my more film.

Within the last few years I have not had to make a decision between copy paper and juvenile books, but budget cuts once or twice have necessitated that decision. I was most unhappy, and sadly pragmatic, to realize I could make a list of things to buy with the next budget year's funding, but had to have toner and copy paper. As I browse through the campus bookstore office supply catalog, I am pleased to note funds also remain for collection items in the form of my February Booklist, Follett half-price textbooks, and maybe a few more activity books!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Here they are ....

Here is the cast for Dancing with the Stars!

Marlee MatlinPenn Jilette
Marissa Jaret Winokur
Adam Carolla
Kristi Yamaguchi
Christian De La Fuente
Monica Seles
Steve Guttenberg
Jason Taylor
Shannon Elizabeth
Priscilla Presley

Dancing with the Stars!

I just learned the new cast of Dancing with the Stars will be announced tonight during the season finale of Dance Wars: Bruno vs Carrie Ann (don't watch it, sorry). The season premiere is scheduled for Monday, March 17th at 8:00 pm. A few rumors include:

Not much to go on at this point; guess I'll have to wait for Dance Wars or check the Dancing site later!

Passing it on

"Be the first on your block to sign up! Each free and non-spam-generating issue of our new monthly newsletter, debuting the first week of March, highlights a small stack of new children's books of particular interest to parents and other adults who just need a little Horn Book help at the library or bookstore. In the March issue I interview Jon Scieszka, review some books about nature, spot some sequels, and answer some totally made-up questions in the advice column. Pass it on." - Read Roger, Notes from the Horn Book, 2/15/08

I signed up for this newsletter on Friday afternoon and already have my confirmation email. It does ask for more regestration informatino than your email address, but nothing I considered not sharing. Sounds like another nice resource from Horn Book. So, Roger, consider it passed ...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I am a comma, know any question marks?

You Are a Comma

You are open minded and extremely optimistic.
You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests. You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to. (But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people

You get along best with: The Question Mark

Made my morning

I just finished helping a student laminate file folder games (it's that time of the semester) and on her way out she said, "I just wanted to tell you how great the new resource center web site looks. It was so nice to be able to find all the information I needed and help on the site in one easy to manage place. It was great!"

I thanked her (somewhat profusely), she definitely made my morning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Meeting aside

One of the discussion points on today's faculty library meeting agenda is "Who's Who" and notification that a request for a trial was submitted on February 12th. My guess is Marquis Who's Who and I will be interested in hearing the discussion; especially since I received an email reminder to fill out my biographical data information by February 18th.

Librarian meeting prep @ Lunch

Creating another post title with "@ lunch" I noticed how many lunch posts there have been lately. Naturally I then added an "at lunch" tag for blog posts and immediately looked through recent posts to apply the tag (10). Regardless, because of my annoyances with blogger from home and my unwillingness to leave the library in nasty weather, I have none the less been spending more of my lunch hour secluded in my office with my computer.

I am getting quite a bit of technology experimentation/playing (chat, calendar, widgets, IM) accomplished while my reading shelf languishes. Earlier in the week it was decision time; renew my shelf of juvenile and YA books (again) or release them back into circulation for others to enjoy. I would like to say I chose the high road and returned them to the collection for the greater good, but the truth will out prompting me to reveal new books are now on the cart downstairs and at least 150 juvenile titles are due to arrive in the next week.

In one hour I will attend a faculty librarian meeting. At this meeting we will be presenting our Meebo chat function and detailing its use to the other librarians. Chat is ready to go; all we need is policy in place regarding operation of the service. Everyone will be interested in seeing the demonstration, knowing it will work, and discussing the different variants in place for customizing the widget. Realizing everyone needs to participate for success, instructing others how the service works from a technology standpoint and agreeing on said policy statements may put a damper on things. As long as the service was in the discussion and experimentation phase all was well. Reality may be a tough sell.

During that same meeting I will be pressing to move forward with the library web site re-design sans template. I had permission to send out an email (ten days ago) discussing how we could move forward and requesting input regarding vocabulary and page layout within the proposed template's editable region. Included within the email message was a link to the site map and gentle reminders that any top level menu vocabulary suggestion and decision would need to flow with existing pages. I did not have the courage to discuss how many pages I think should be eliminated. That proposal is for another day. I am crossing my fingers, trying to stay positive, that serious time and thought was given to the task at hand so we may move forward. If we don't get started soon ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lunchtime snow blogging

When I left work last evening my student workers had snow day, or at least cancelled class, visions dancing in their fevered minds. Unwilling to blithely dash their hopes, I simply mentioned the library rarely closes and I would contact them should hours be affected by the forecasted snow storm. Not helping matters is year anniversary of last February’s snow storm that did indeed close campus on Valentines Day looms.

Today, unwilling to brave the elements, I brought lunch and enjoyed a Mexican Weight Watcher's entree and Valentine's Day Hershey hugs/kisses at my desk while composing this post. Two or three inches of snow are on the ground, nothing spectacular, but snarky comments are abound following web postings of several branch campuses cancelling evening classes. Winter storm warnings issued predict three to five additional inches this evening mixed with freezing rain and sleet. Tomorrow is another day fraught with shining possibilities of a day off.

On to my consistent updates regarding the new web site; I have determined using Google calendar feeds to create a non-Google widget is relatively useless. Instead, yesterday I flirted with the unthinkable. Why not just use Google Calendar as our library calendar? I can link to the calendar from the library web page, or use the Google calendar widget and embed a large version on the library web page (allowing for the templates). The only problem with this proposition is design related specific to entering events on the Google Calendar. After selecting a date, the event box asks "what" the event is and which calendar it belongs on before creating the event. Great in theory, and making quite a bit of sense, this is marred by the fact that if you enter anything in the "what" box even remotely resembling time, it sets your event to start at that time, last an hour, and displays the time next to the event. Great, but if you are entering hours into the "what" box a duplicate of the opening time displays. For example, the image displayed here shows the event box and hours posted below; it says 7:45 7:45 am to Midnight.

Since having hours of operation displayed on every day of the week was desired, this creates a conundrum. Do we ignore the display (NO!) or look further to make it better even if it means the hours are not visible (YES)? I decided to name the event "Library Hours" and set it as an all day event. Then, the "when" displays as the date and I was able to add a time element to the event description (see second image). It is still interactive; patrons can click on any given day and see the hours. Furthermore, we can now add different elements to the calendar; specific reference instruction classes, resource center tours, and library events are all possibilities. This option makes it easy for anyone (with permission) to add an event and expands the aforementioned possibilities into circulation information like electronic reserves due dates. I now have two different uses of the calendar to present to the group and have both of them posted.

The library 2.0 stuff is great, but there definitely comes a time when a decision needs to be made; just because we can add interactive components to the web site does not mean we should not pick and choose what best suits our library needs. In other words, less is more if it means clarification and usability.

Lunch is over.
The snow has stopped.
It's still bloody cold.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Don't Call Me Ishmael

Don't Call Me Ishmael, by Michael Gerard Bauer introduces readers to Ishmael Leseur, a young boy entering year nine in school, a place where people and things more often than not remain the same. Ishmael's nemesis Barry Bagsley, the school bully, starts this year with brilliant repartee and typical bullish behavior. However, the entrance of new student James Scobie and an attractive new first year teacher Miss Tarango ("She actually seemed happy to be there.)," prove to be a much needed impetus for change.

Assigned to be the new student's buddy, Ishmael has a front row seat to James and his odd assertion that he has not fear. As class bully Barry taunts and provokes James, he responds calmly, never rising to the increasing provocation. His demeanor is noted by classmates, friend and foe alike, and when the idea of a school debate panel is broached, Ishmael, James, and a small group of unlikely students join together to make an interesting and diverse team. Throughout year nine, the boys somewhat begrudgingly become friends, sticking up for each other and learning while the opportunity to bully feels good for a time, it is not all it's cracked up to be.

Ishmael's narration and self deprecating humor, often laugh out loud funny, helps move the year along at a brisk pace. Adding to this is the division of the work into five distinct parts over the school year, each interestingly and appropriately introduced by a quote from Melville's Moby Dick. Bauer could have easily given in to the temptation to make James Scobie a caricature; the nerdy, brainy, new student who takes a stand against the school bully. What keeps this from happening is how comfortable this character is in his own skin. He is not trying to prove anything to the other students, he is living as he sees fit and that makes him an interesting and complex character. Though aware of the necessity of Scobie's abrupt departure from the book, other characters grew and developed their own potential, I was a disappointed at how he was in some ways reduced to being an afterthought. Overall an enjoyable read that just might prompt some to check out Ishmael's name sake.

Working Sunday, breaking the bank

Today is the second day of my first weekend to work this lovely spring term. As I scrutinize the large pile of catalogs I brought to the reference area in preparation of making a hefty dent in my budgets (yes budgets, plural), the wind is literally howling in the elevator shafts accompanied by the gentle, slightly hypnotic, sway of the pendulum sculpture outside of the library. Under a severe wind and wind chill advisory with winds gusting to 36 mph, a balmy temperature reading of 8 with wind chill factoring in at -13, we have determined if those blasted winged monkeys fly in the doors - we're out of here. That said, business has been oddly constant during the last three hours.

A natural focus of my money spending efforts is juvenile fiction and literature; the review resource today is the February 2008 edition of School Library Journal. Of specific interest are the regular juvenile reviews, grade 5 and up and preschool to grade 4, an interesting article on widgets - Widgets to the Rescue - I printed and passed along to the librarian web site committee, and a listing of the 2008 Outstanding International Books awarded by USBBY. We had half of the books presented within the article and I emailed four of the children's literature professors asking if they would like me to purchase remaining titles for our collection. A quick response from my favorite professor indicated this was a good idea and half an hour later I ordered twenty juvenile and ya titles for the library. Between my juvenile orders yesterday and today (only 45) and another librarians selections for a juvenile fiction library endowment (99 titles!), we have a nice group of titles on the way.

I am now ready to start through the remainder of today's catalog options with hope I will find reference titles, software titles, materials kits, ellison dies, and even promotional pens (if students are taking pens from the resource center, it is not a bad idea to have them market the center for me). Here's what I am starting with:

I keep saying we don't have room for more Ellision dies, but I always find a way to order additional pieces for the collection. I also have Ishmael with me and hope to finish the review to post at dinner.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Google calendar @ lunch

Today's late lunchtime rant (I spent most of my lunch getting Valentine's day goodies for my student workers and am now multitasking) is brought to you by Google calendar and it's calendar building tool - repeats. When adding an "event," you can choose from a variety of repeat options such as "does not repeat, daily, every week, every weekday, every Mon., Wed, and Fri, every Tues, and Thursday, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Additionally, you can pre-set the repeats to go on infinitely or during specific time periods. When entering big chunks of repetitious library hours notifications repeats saved me a great deal of time. I was enthralled, until the time came to create a widget for the library web page, then - not so much.

First, a review from yesterday afternoon: I do not particularly care for the calendar widgets provided by Google. It's a free service, so I understand the need to brand things with their logo (fair's fair), however the resulting widgets are clunky in appearance and detract from the streamlined page. I determined it would be best to use the calendar feed and a different resource to create a widget. Google makes this easy as well by providing two options for retrieving permanent URL's and feeds for your public calendar. Thank you. I grabbed the address, plugged it into Fee2JS, followed the simple steps enter, adjust, and preview my feed via the javascript they generated. The service worked fine. The feed generated had the information required, along with residual text detailing each date was a continuing event; the repeats had struck.

I adjusted, tweaked, added, subtracted, and generally fiddled with the CSS to make this work. My results were less than spectacular. Googling the question I found an interesting blog post from Duct Tape Marketing.com: A Google Calendar List of Events Feed on Your Web Site:

If you’ve ever wanted to easily publish a schedule of upcoming event, deadlines or even birthdays as a dynamic list rather than a calendar style page here’s an RSS trick for you to use. (This can be done on a public or private page)
  • Create a free Google Calendar account and slug in all the dates on the calendar (Any shareable calendar will do)
  • Google automatically creates an RSS feed for your calender - take this URL and create free Feedburner account
  • Optimize the feed using the Event Feed option from Feedburner
  • Publish the feed using Feedburner’s BuzzBoost option - lots of options for display
  • Paste the code Feedburner produces for you on the page you would like your list to show - 3/17/07

Why didn't I think of that? I have a google calendar, I have a feedburner account, I have the technologoy (sorry). This morning, armed with new tools and purpose, I started the process again. I'll go on record saying this idea does work. I was able to create the Buzz Boost widget after burning the calendar feed. And, since Google bought Feedburner last summer, there were even more options in Feedburner concerning how to utilize their service with Google. Heck, Google even has cheats for customizing your code in the Feedburner Help Center. I used the generated feed with Buzz Boost and the Headline Animator. They all worked as advertised. It was great! At least it was great until the repeat information was more prevalent in the widget than the library hours. So, I tweaked and adjusted some more to get a few usable results. Not to be deterred from the actual goal, a widget to display daily library hours in an uncluttered format, I am still considering my options.

Next? I am going to experiment with adding individual daily events to a month's worth of time on a new calendar and will try again. I also found an interesting web site called RSSCalendar ...

Right now? I need to fill Valentine's day treat bags.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

New day, new widget

In what could be termed a woman verses machine scenario, I am pleased to report victory (of sorts). This morning I completed registration for a library AIM account to utilize in Meebo, but only after succumbing to the software registration demand. After receiving the same error message for creating a screen name - again and again - I determined it would be simpler to let it think it won; I downloaded the IM software, created an account, successfully imported the account information to the library Meebo account, verified it worked, and deleted the IM software from the computer. We now have three IM systems attached to our Meebo account and are ready to demonstrate the 2.0 technology at next weeks librarian meeting.

Next on my agenda is creating different widgets to enhance the library web site re-design. Students have asked for a calendar widget, something to display daily library hours and activities being held in the library (instruction classes, tours, use of the facility). Both Google and Yahoo! have calendar options that could be the basis for a widget fulfilling this request. Creation of library IM accounts in Google and Yahoo! to use with Meebo means we have access to their calendar capabilities as well.

I worked this afternoon with Google calendar and was less than satisfied with the results. After using Google's calendar options for widgets, I determined it would be simpler to use the calendar feed to create a supplementary widget script. As luck would have it, one of the library conference sessions I attended in late October features such a resource: Feed2JS or Feed to JavaScript. Easy to use, the results were not what I anticipated. I need to spend a bit more time with this web tool. I will do tests with both of the calendar functions, create sample widgets from each, and post them on the sample web site for group critique.

I would like to suggest a social bookmarking tool, such as del.icio.us, to create topic clouds for specific Internet resources but wonder if IM, chat, and a bold push for a library news blog will be more than the group can handle.

I realize recent posts have been technology topic heavy. Due mostly to my daily trials and tribulations with the library web site re-design, I spend a lot of time thinking about what has been accomplished and what yet needs to be done, using this blog as a sounding board. My brain is full of text and widgets and IM and chatting. I have been reading and ordering juvenile books, but with the exception of one discussion waiting patiently for days in blog draft format, have not taken the time to digest and post reviews. My ALA midwinter tote bag full of ARC's is sitting in my living room taunting me and my pile of checked out library books is overdue (I did fix that today). I am at an all time low with only four books on my record. This too shall pass. I work this weekend and have planned collection development lists and predict serious damage being made to remaining budgets. It will be a break from the fun, but draining, technology.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Progress: Meebo and me

Early morning discussions with the boss and my IM/chat partner in crime resulted in continued progress and practice using Meebo and the Meebo Me widget and a way to move forward with the library web page redesign as we await delivery of the template. A slight web epiphany, realization that we could move forward with organization and vocabulary for sections within the editable region of the template, led me to ask if it would be appropriate for me to send email designed to promote discussion regarding main page headers and secondary sections contained within the main headers. A verbal "okay" from the boss, a promise to send the email for vetting before it goes to the team from me, and presto; a way to move forward. I asked each librarian to look at current web site headers (there are five of them) and various web sites we targeted as appealing in terms of layout/organization and use of vocabulary. Combined with the current library site map listing (updated as of 10 am this morning), use these tools to compile a list of potential main page information headers and secondary resources. We do not meet again until a week from Wednesday. This provides over ten days of rumination time. I might be able to start creating pages now and apply the template when it arrives.

Naturally I updated the webliography pages charting a history of the redesign progress; this included additional testing of the Meebo Me widget and screen shots to show the rest of the web committee how Meebo interface appears from the both the librarian and patron perspective. This meant screen shots with live users. Before starting I checked with the other chat librarian to be sure she did not want to save the visuals for our demonstration during next week's librarian meeting. We were both relatively sure chances of anyone other than us (and maybe the director) looking at the project were slim (no sarcasm intended, just a statement) and moved forward. I am going to ask her to look over the text and let me know what might need to be added.

It is exciting to get everything in place. I would still like to add one more IM service to our Meebo account, but today AIM was giving me fits. Looking this evening it appears they have done a site re-design as well and, fingers crossed, I may be able to accomplish the last objective after all.

Tomorrow after the Mock Caldecott session, I hope to work a bit on the graphics for our web site help button.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More Meebo & IM

Late Friday afternoon marked the success of adding a Meebo Me widget to my personal web site, the same place I am housing all of the web design discussion, changes, and samples. This is the perfect place for practice because the page is directly on university server space and no ftp or staging server is needed; once I hit save everything on the page is live. A short celebratory exclamation was appropriate (woo-hoo) and I contacted two other librarians, via IM, to test out the page. It was fun, informative, and we learned a few interesting things:
  • If one or more patrons types in a question at the same time, simultaneous IM windows open. The person answering IM questions will do double duty.
  • It helps if users close out of/leave the page featuring chat when they finish. Otherwise the next person may need to refresh or clean out their cache to open a "new" session.
  • The widget does indeed make an annoying sound (it can be turned off) when the IM window is activiated and when the patron answers your query. On the plus side, this does make it easier to keep more than one window open for IM/chat.
  • The active IM window is highlighted, again making it easier to distinguish when a new session is opened.
  • It is possible to put up more than one widget. This will allow us to create different size feature widgets for different pages. Some pages easily facilitate larger windows while others have less available real estate for the feature.
  • From a design standpoint, we were able to customize both the title of the IM/chat window on the Meebo Me widget and the colors.
After the initial thrill of "it works" wore off, we spent a few minutes conference chatting with Yahoo! Messenger discussing how the widget looked from both the user and patron end. All in all it was a very successful, and fun, afternoon. Monday I want to take time to finesse the colors and widget title some on the internal page. I also need to add text description of what widget feature entails as far as providing reference may be concerned.

With a bit of luck, the sell will not be as difficult as imagined ... one can only hope.

Odd stats note

This morning I was looking at the StatCounter account for this blog and noted over a dozen unique hits from five different locations (four states and another country) with the same google search landing on the same blog post within an hour.

Coincidence? Who knows?
Weird? Well, to me, yes.
I found it interesting that each search used kiddie lit and not children's literature. I don't know if they found what they were looking for here, especially since the occurence of "kiddie lit" in that particular post directed people to other blogs and 1931 was simply in reference to Hugo, but it was fodder for a quick Sunday morning post.

Update, later that same day...

Ask and you shall receive; thanks to a comment from Puzzler I now know that one of the crossword clues in today's Washington Post was "Kiddie lit creation of 1931." I looked around a bit and found that the children's literature character Babar the Elephant was first published in 1931. It's probably too late in the day to be of any help, plus I have no clue if it is correct, but just in case:

"Babar made his debut in "The Story of Babar" published in 1931 by Jean de Brunhoff. Jean created and illustrated seven Babar titles before dying in 1937. Laurent de Brunhoff, son of Jean, continues his father's work and is still writing Babar books." - Treehouse TV

"The complexity of King Babar's world, and some of its contradictions, are partly the result of the fact that his long life has been chronicled by two different biographers. Babar's history began in Paris in 1931, when the pianist Cecile de Brunhoff invented a bedtime story about a baby elephant for her sons, who were then five and six years old. The next day the boys repeated the tale to their father, the artist Jean de Brunhoff, who was inspired to write it down, expand it, illustrate it, and publish it in 1931 as The Story of Babar." - by Alison Lurie, 12/16/2004, NYT Book Review of The Royal Family.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Quiet! I'm reading

Jayne Ann Krentz's newest novel, Sizzle and Burn, hit stores on Tuesday, January 29th. With a spring in my step and umbrella in hand, I rushed out to buy it and found only displays of Grisham and King. How could that be? On the off chance that some hapless shelf stocker had not yet pulled them from the back, I tried again on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after work to no avail. Today I went to Target and gleefully picked up my copy of Sizzle and Burn from the shelf (and yes, I paid for it).

Be it fate, dumb luck, or serendipity, I noticed Target's new book display banner featuring books to be released in the upcoming weeks. There it was, prominently displayed with two other titles that escape me now, a new J.D. Robb, title Strangers in Death. I don't know how the publication of the newest "In Death" entry escaped my notice, there is an excerpt on Nora's site, but had I not gone into Target today I may have missed it!

Sorry, no cover images to endorse the titles ... blame it on Blogger.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Playing to learn

For anyone who wondered about peer pressure ending after high school, though as adults we prefer to call it healthy competition, scrap that idea. After chatting amongst ourselves for a day, my IM co-hort in crime suddenly had an avatar pictured in her IM box. Being a visual person, it automatically caught my attention and being a tech nerd and healthily competitive, I determined I had to have one.

Yahoo! Messengar has a very cool option within their requisite email account where users can design avatars called Yahoo Avatars. Choose, dress, acessorize, and place their into IM. I spent a good half hour picking clothes, hair, eye color, accessories (glasses, scarf, and earrings), and a location for my avatar (pictured above). No, we will not be using avatars in Meebo chat. But, the more we play with the Yahoo IM/chat, the more comfortable we become in the environment. Already the merry band of chatters has increased from two to four. And after being chastized for having an avatar, I was soon contated via IM for help on how to create one (see, peer pressure - er - healthy competition, feeding off of each other's enthusiasm).

This morning I updated our progress on the web page I created for that purpose. While the chat leader invites everyone to a conference chat later this afternoon, I will be busily adding library accounts with Yahoo, Aim, and MSN in preparation for our Meebo chat test page. If we can get this much ready today, early next week we will be able to test the IM client and have not only something to report at the staff meeting, but also something to demonstrate. So, if anyone walked by my open office door today they were likely to see me working on web pages, researching academic libraries that use Meebo, and happily chatting with librarians; playing to learn.

You know what? I'm really liking my little librarian avatar and may replace my photo with her ...