Category Archives: Computers in Libraries 2008

New project

Quick Note: using some of the RSS stuff I learned at CIL 2008 to create some new services at work. Will report on them in more detail later, but I am using Google Reader’s sharing capability/page along with some other tools to push out information relevant to my organization.

RSS Readers: Google Reader vs. Bloglines

I’ve had a account for some time now. Honestly, I haven’t used it that much, but I do think it is useful from time to time. For those who don’t know, among other things, allows you to aggregate posts from any site with an RSS feed, and read/link to the posted items from, rather than having to check lots of sites every day.  In other words, if you read lots of news sites, blogs, etc., you check one spot instead of dozens.

At the Computers In Libraries conference last week, Steven Cohen sung the praises of the Google Reader — Google’s RSS reader. Since I’ve seen him speak at several conferences and he’s never given me bad advice, I checked out Google Reader.

As usual, Steven is right. Google Reader is cool. But first, let me tell you what is STILL good about :

  • When you set up an account with bloglines, you are not only automatically set up to subscribe to RSS feeds, but you are also immediately able to start your own blog. Is it pretty? No. It is a simple blog, with from what I can tell no options for different themes, layouts, etc. But it is a blog, and is right there.
  • I still think bloglines has a nice page layout. It isn’t fancy, but it is functional. The majority of the page is the window in which posts are displayed — nice and wide. Looks good. Displays images from the posts.
  • When you are reading a post on bloglines, you can click a link to see who else subscribes to that feed. Nice feature for finding other interested in the same stuff. Not sure if Google Reader does this — I’ll check.

 So, what is so great about Google Reader?

  • Well, if you have gmail account you an just go right into Google Reader with no sign up.
  • You can import your subscription list from another reader. Don’t have to re-enter all your info.
  • Since it is part of the Google system, you have easy access to all the other Google tools.
  • Most important: Google Reader allows you to click a link and share items to a public page that it creates for you. For example, here’s my public page. As you will notice, there is an RSS stream for your public page, which allows other people to subscribe to it. Yes, you can create an RSS stream of what you are reading. Sort of cool.
  • There’s also a “friends” function in Google Reader. Haven’t played with it much.

As you can see, Google has included a lot of social networking tools within Reader. I think this is what bloglines was missing.  They both allow you to aggregate information for your own use, but Google Reader has added the ability to share that info with the group.

Anyway, pretty cool.

Do I want the extra functionality? Probably. Do I want to sign over more of my online activities to Google? Maybe not. Will I continue to ask questions like this and then answer them? Most definately.


UPDATE: I added a link to my shared matrial from Google Reader over in the sidebar, under bibliosk8 stuff.

CIL2008 – Day 2 – Tech Tools for effectively managing information – 30 new software tools

Not even going to try to comment much — here are my very quick notes of a fast-paced presentation. Good presentation. Just realized I’m not giving these entries standardized titles. Oh well, thats what tagging is for.

See CIL wiki for slides.

RSS without reader: — create our own RSS feed for sites without a feed. Can deliver to Outlook. Works with Mobile. Might be good for city execs. good for lunch and learn. There is a better solution — depends on page.


Color palettes.

Adobe Kuler — color generator. A nice flash application. Looks like a great tool. There’s an adobe widget that can run these kind of adobe tools. — download app. Remote viewing and control of your computer. 

Branding delivered to your users. RSS.  .  Create a toolbar for your site.  Custom toolbar. Requires an installation — could be a problem for us. — allows you to edit PDF files. Allows you to pull particular pages and save as new document. Server-based and free. No install required.

Webdeveloper toolbar for FireFox — creates RSS feeds for your site. You can, for example, then use this RSS feed with bloglines. — downloadable widget. For easy access to tagging sites. — helps you find out what, for instance, a particular DLL is.

Fantastico — installs script — puts a variety of CMSs on your server/host.

Rollyo — group sites together — and creates a search engine for only those sites. Google custom search also does this.

Browsershots: how does my site look in other browsers.

Snagit — screenshots. About $40. More flexible than screenshot. don’t have to go into photoshop.

Firebug: web dev tool. Firefox plugin. hack stylesheets. Live code editing — how would little changes look. Nice tool.

Zotero — organize and cite research, online, for free. Alternative to Endnotes or Refworks. It is a FF addon. Might be very useful for Toni. Works with jstor.

Camtasia — creating video productions. Tell Brent about this — $299.


Just attended Woepacs to Wowpacs.

It is good to know that everyone thinks their OPACs are bad.  Can’t wait to get back and start customizing ours now that I have access to the test server.

Roy, from OCLC, noted the differences between Integrated Library Systems (ILS) and Discovery Systems (which are essentially a public face/overlay for the ILS). Wondering if there is a better Discovery System that we might use at home. He mentioned a number of open source systems, which I’ve made notes about and will check into when I get home. 

Had lunch with a coworker from my system, which was nice.

Still not sure what I’m doing after the conference today. 

More later.



Well, not that much more to report about today’s session. They were good, and I saw some good tools for possible use, but nothing really blew me away. The Wednesday sessions look pretty promising.


Computers in Libraries – Day 1

OK, the conference has been good.

I’m going to get a few complaints out of the way first — none directed at the conference really.

First – the weather sucks. Doesn’t exactly make me want to go out and see anything after the conference tonight.

Second — OK — there is seriously nothing worth a darn around here. “Crystal City” is simply devoid of anything interesting as far as I can tell. Spread out around the area are the “Shops at Crystal City” – and indoor mall of sorts. Anyway, I want to buy a simple jacket and maybe a pair of jeans. No luck. A more pathetic collection of shops I have never encountered, haha. Tomorrow night I’ll sign up for a dine-around and be social. Maybe I’ll figure out where to go get some clothes. At least I know how to take the Metro up to Chinatown and find my way back, which is cool. Anybody know where there’s a Target close by?

But really I’m just a bit tired from the conference, which was good, and I’m on information overload as I expected. I attended 5 sessions today — the most I could physically do without the power of bilocation. Here they be:

  • Going Local in the Library — interesting talk about local info on the web and the role/possible role of libraries in that area. While search engines like Google are great with the information of the earth/solar system/known universe, they are not great with delivering relevant local information.
  • Digital Convergence & People Apps — discussion of the roles of various cross-platform technologies to serve library users regardless of their access device — computer, PDA, cell phone, etc. I’m not a big fan of Twitter, and I must expose myself as also not a fan of Second Life. So I must admit that when people start talking about interacting with patrons on SL, I tend to tune out. I realize that its essentially the same as helping them via Instant Messenger or an online message forum, but there’s something about it that just makes me want to beat up the Dungeon Master, or at least steal and hide his/her polyhedral dice. Still, the speaker had some very valid and interesting points.
  • Library Web Presence: engaging the audience: 4 academic librarians discussed projects they have been involved in to get their patrons — in this case students — more engaged. The first two speakers had used widgets to provide simplified pages for novice searchers. Interesting and cool. One had used to create custom widgets, and idea that I like, but I have a few concerns about, which I’ll write about in just a bit. The other 2 speakers worked together, and described their use of LibGuides software — a 3rd party service from SpringShare (not free) to create highly interactive subject guides for their university library. The software appears to be very flexible and powerful. I was impressed with their work, and I’m going to investigate this product further. It appears to be something our public library system could use to really provide some great services while simultaneously improving our website. Best of all, since it is hosted by the vendor, we wouldn’t have to deal much with any software/hardware installs — just sign up and start creating great content.
  • Learning Commons: the “In” in CIL — I actually didn’t mean to go to this. I was in the wrong room, at the very back, and didn’t want to get up and leave, only to go to another room and not have a seat. It was actually a happy accident, as Tom Ipri talked about Learning Commons, also known as library commons, learning spaces, etc. Not coming from an academic library, this is something I’ve seriously never given any thought. And sometimes it is nice to learn about something you’ve never paid attention to before.
  • User Generated Content — Roy Tennant, of OCLC, gave a very interesting presentation on user generated content. He covered both “real” content — you know — youtube videos, blog entries, etc, etc, but differentiated such material from “Descriptive Contributions” (social tagging, commenting) and a couple of other notions, like “Contributions to Discovery”. He noted that “tagging” has been found to be a very good way of classifying material IF enough people participate. There is power in numbers, and when many people describe an item, chance are their aggregated description (after you weed out the nutcases) is pretty good.

So a few trends I’m seeing so far.

First, widgets are becoming very popular and perhaps the preferred way to build web pages. They allow great flexibility in page design, typically no software installs on the part of the user, and can be used across multiple kinds of devices.

Second, 3rd party applications seem to be gaining ground. Free apps, like Flickr, have been coming on strong for several years. But products like Librarything, LibGuides, and WidgetBox are providing massive functionality. A product like WidgetBox allows a non-programmer to create widgets easily — powerful. I have some concern about free 3rd party apps. In particular, their business model. If you can sign up for WidgetBox and use it for free, what happens to your page if they go belly up, their grant money dries up, or whatever? Since the widgets actually require that company’s servers to function, it seems to me that may be in a less-than-great position.

However, I think that for non-mission critical functions, these kinds of sites are great. They allow rapid prototyping of new services, require practically no monetary investment, and if they go belly-up you have at least had a great service for a while.

Oh yes, forgot to mention the excellent opening keynote by Lee Rainie, of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Lee did a great keynote, and talked about some of their recent findings. Too much to really describe — just good. Look over their site.

A lot to think about.

Conference update

Computers in Libraries is going well. Getting some good ideas. I’m not even trying to blog in real time. I’ll write some stuff up tonight.

On a more nut-and-bolts level, I need some clothes. It is colder here than in Texas. A simple jacket and some new jeans would do. I’ll see if there is some reasonable shopping around here tonight. My guess is “no”.


In the DC area

OK, I flew into the DC/Arlington area this morning. Checked in to the hotel (the fabulous Hampton in which seems to have a screaming broadband connection), and my old college roommate came over. We went to the International Spy Museum. It was way cool. Ring-guns, rectal capsules for hiding cyanide pills, lock picking, and various other forms of skullduggery — lots of fun.

Rode up there on the Metro. Very cool subway train system. The stations look like something from Logan’s Run meets Escape from the Planet of the Apes (the one with the underground mutants).

Afterward we ate at a beer and burger place across the street from the museum – Gordon Beircsch Brewery Restaurant. Good Burger. German-ish beer. Good time hanging with MB.

Now I’m back at the Hampton, getting ready to chill and read. Get some rest of a day of conferencing. The schedule looks really good. Hopefully there’ll be some tours set up. If not I’ll try to take on anyway.