Awesome Somerville Public Library

Harvard Library and the Somerville Public Library:

Innovation and Collaboration

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Best of Publib received the following press release from the Somerville Public Library in Somerville, Massachusetts:

Matt Phillips and Annie Cain

Matt Phillips and Annie Cain – Creators of the Awesome Box

The Somerville Public Library, in a partnership with the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, launched the “Awesome Box” project at all three SPL branches in early February. This endeavor will allow patrons to give fellow users suggestions on what book/CD/DVD they found to be “awesome.”

“Somerville is the first public library to get on board with the ‘Awesome Box’ project,” says Maria Carpenter, Somerville’s library director. “We are always looking for dynamic, innovative and creative approaches to library service, and this was certainly one of those.”

Awesome Box

Awesome Box

Here’s how it will work: When a patron particularly enjoys an item, he or she will return the book into the “Awesome Box,” which will be clearly labeled with appropriate signage. Then, a library staff member will scan the book twice – once, checking the book in as usual, then another time to list that item on the “awesome” page, which can be found here: http://somerville.awesomebox.io/.

Patrons can then visit the page and see what others have found notably enlightening, mind-blowing or helpful recently. There is also a “most awesome” section, which shows the items that were most thought to be awesome. Users can also search for items that are listed as awesome. When patrons click on the media’s icon, it takes them to the item’s listing on the Minuteman Library Network catalog, so that they can read more about the item and its availability or place it on hold.

For more information about this project, call Maria Carpenter at 617.623.5000 or email her at  mcarpenter@somervillema.gov.

Awesome Somerville

Awesome Somerville

Somerville’s commitment to innovation and collaboration can be emulated by any other public library.  The Harvard Innovation Lab provides excellent documentation along with step-by-step instruction.   The Awesome Box project is just one direction they are exploring.

The great thing about this sort of project is that it capitalizes on patron momentum.  Whenever a patron returns a book or media, they either put it in the regular book drop or express their approval by putting it in the Awesome Box. Either way, the same energy is expended with an added value to the library as a book or media review.

There is an added value to the patron with their likes and preferences registered and noted. There is also an added value to all of the other patrons who might not otherwise know what gems the library contains. The only extra step is checking it in – scanning a second time  to register in the Awesome database.

Awesome Box - a simple, elegant idea.

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Best of Publib – January 2013 in Review

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Best of PubLib – January 2013 in Review

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Best of Publib January 2013

Best of Publib Word Cloud
January 2013

This edition of Best of Publib covers the month of January 2013.  Hot topics for the month of January included:

  • Cataloging Local Textbooks ~
    • Debra Bashaw of the McMullen Memorial Library in Huntington, TX asked:
    • How do you catalog cookbooks from local organizations?
  • Lending E-reader devices ~
    • Lucien Kress of the Multnomah County Library asked regarding the DOJ settlements over e-reader accessibility queried:
    • Are you loaning only accessible e-readers, which readers do you loan and other pertinent questions.
  • List Problems ~
    • Amy Mullin of the Austin Public Library wanted to know:
    • Are there technical problems with the list?
  • Playaways ~
    • John Richmond of the Alpha Park Public Libray District in Bartonville, IL pondered and ruminated:
    • “I’m wondering if anyone Out There has changed policies re: what they/you provide with Playaways. And if you took something away, did people holler? (Which, of course, they shouldn’t do, because they’re in a *library*.)”
  • Surveys for the Public ~
    • Elizabeth Thorson of the Laramie County Library System in Cheyenne, WY asked:
    • “Has anyone surveyed the public when facing budget cuts?”
  • Requests by Parents for in loco parentis services ~
    • Beth Hudson of the Walla Walla Public Library in Walla Walla, Washington wondered :
    • Does anyone have a written statement which they provide when a parents asks that you not check out certain items to their child?”.
  • Worst Marketing Idea(s) Ever ~
    • Dierdre Conkling of the Lincoln County Library District reported on ALA OIF’s plan for a sweater vest day to support intellectual freedom:
    • “I think this sounds like fun but I don’t own a sweater vest. Just shows once again that I am not cool. ;-)”

On January 10th The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom announced their ‘Wear a sweater vest on Sunday, Jan. 27, in support of intellectual freedom!‘ campaign.  If librarians attending Mid-Winter ALA would wear a sweater vest on that day, it would demonstrate their commitment and support of intellectual freedom.

In jaw-dropping, dumbfounded awe I asked:

I am trying to imagine how Judith Krug would have reacted to perhaps the worst marketing idea I have ever seen and the dynamics of a meeting where this idea was proposed and validated. Did no one dare to speak truth to power?

What does a ‘sweater vest’ represent? How the heck does a sweater vest  correlate to *any* form of ‘intellectual freedom’? Perhaps what is most appalling is the obvious lack of intellectual effort it takes to say you *support* intellectual freedom by wearing a sweater vest.

Maybe this will take off along the same lines as ‘Geek the Library’, which seriously detracts from the library mission. Bad ideas, once they are validated, tend to gain their own momentum.

The Emperor's New Clothes

Emperor’s New Clothes

This touched off two discussions on the list – one about the efficacy of sweater vests as statements of intellectual freedom and the other about the importance or impotence of the Geek the Library campaign administered by OCLC.  And, there were the anticipated reactions from some readers who were simply aghast that I would question poorly made decisions by established bureaucracies. :)

Emily Weak who had been promoting a librarian employment site/ blog on Publib asked:

Somewhat off your topic, but I am curious as to how “Geek the Library” detracts  from the library’s mission? Isn’t it about the diversity of resources one can find at the library (i.e. whatever you have a crazy passion for, you can find  materials about it at the library)? Is it that you feel geek has negative connotations?

The Side Show Honoré Daumier

The Side Show
Honoré Daumier

The Geek the Library campaign has evolved into its own bureaucracy supported by grants by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by OCLC.  I have found no empirical evidence that Geek the Library is more effective than any other course of advertising or promotion. In fact, there may be many, much more effective methods.  Anna Cangialosi with the Chelsea District Library did provide a link to an anecdotal case study on Publib.  However, there appears to be no clear data regarding effectiveness. The press release branded by OCLC seems to be yet another self-serving validation for people who self-identify as being a ‘geek’.

Professional librarians have spent years trying to separate themselves from the stereotype of anti-social professional clerks.  The movement to create a new stereotype by branding librarians as Geeks may result in many more years of trying to live down that stereotype.  Why not continue what we were working towards => a stereotype representing professionalism along with informational and intellectual excellence?

Saving Our Public Libraries

Saving Our Public Lbraries

Rather than blindly accepting that a terrible marketing campaign is in your interest and the interest of your library – why not read a book about how you can promote your library? Why not do a critical assessment of what works and what doesn’t? Why not re-engage in library science as a fundamental set of skills?

Janet Jai has written an excellent book that investigates success stories, expert advice and innovative ideas that support library marketing. If you haven’t ordered it yet,  you should order it for your library today: Saving Our Public Libraries  Why We Should. How We Can.

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Virtualization of the Patron Experience

Virtualization of the Patron Experience

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This very interesting article in USAToday about the future of retail and virtualization of the customer experience demonstrates how big data can affect and effect virtualized experiences for their patrons:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-08-05/future-retail-tech/56880626/1

Libraries compete with online information resources in much the same way the traditional retailers compete with online sellers.

Question ~ How will libraries adapt over the next ten years?

Robert Balliot for https://bestofpublib.wordpress.com

Discussion ~ My work in managing/developing online catalogs – with 20,000+ medical equipment / supply products and 7,000+ multi-website display products exceeded what library catalogs do and from an SEO standpoint would beat out Amazon for Google placement.  Traditional retail could not compete because of delivery and cost.  BestBuy is a great place to put your hands on tech, but the prices are much higher.  As e-commerce websites become more and more user-friendly – where you have good photos of products and good descriptions, the whole process ends up making all products into commodities with the lowest cost determining purchase.

With libraries, the focus has generally been on maintaining the status quo and keeping current bureaucracies in place until they can retire. This is not any different for any other bureaucracy – it is a natural inclination - not library specific to simply maintain.  With the focus on cost of maintaining services though, without innovation the perception of value diminishes.  One of the best things I have seen recently in libraries is the introduction of Makerbots as a library resource.  It is those sorts of high-priced shared resources that extend the value and bring people inside the library systems.

But, the issue does become lowest cost.  As we see transportation cost rise, the casual trip to the library could cost $10 in gas. What would $10 purchase virtually?  The associated costs of operating libraries – broken down between the people who continue to use them and the disproportionate number of people who don’t would add additional cost to each real visit.  As information becomes a commodity the lowest cost will determine where we purchase.  That does not mean that the value of libraries as a sense of place and source of inspiration does not add a real value to information consumption.

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Hacking Gmail, Amazon, and Apple

Hacking Gmail, Amazon, and Apple – Problems with Humans and Cloud Security

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Re-posted from SEC4Lib:

On Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 8:41 AM, Blake Carver <btcarver@lisnews.com> wrote:

Here’s a follow up on that story from yesterday. It’s a good, short, read and has some really good lessons. I know I need to make some changes now.

“How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking” http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/all/

“I should have been regularly backing up my MacBook. I shouldn’t have daisy-chained two such vital accounts I shouldn’t have used the same e-mail prefix across multiple accounts I should have had a recovery address that’s only used for recovery without being tied to core services. I shouldn’t have used Find My Mac.” –

To me, this is the result of short-term profit maximization at the corporate level mixed with the path of least resistance at the user level.  Companies can operate cheaper, more efficiently up to the point of the hack in the cloud and maximize profits.  Users don’t have to do too much to enjoy the convenience of the cloud up to the point of the hack.  Yet, with each successful hack, the knowledge of how to hack becomes known globally – greatly increasing risk to all users and all companies using the cloud.

When I did a quick security review of Ocean State LIbraries, Sacramento Public Library, and The Library Connection last year, even fundamental security measures were not being taken:  https://bestofpublib.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/pubic-library-security-insecurity/

Library Fight Club

Fortunately, OSL did step up their security a bit with pins, but it created inconvenience to the administrators and the users.  One of the librarians who witnessed the events leading to the change told me that the battle for security over short-term convenience was ugly but she did not want to speak about it publicly. I can understand that - given the justifiable paranoia over having the circulation records used for identity theft and no one wanting to take responsibility.   But, all it takes is just a bit of laziness at the top levels and bad policy to put everyone at risk. And, unfortunately, the first rule of Library Fight Club is not to talk about Library Fight Club so everyone does not know of the risk. Knowledge of risk is limited to insiders who may not know how to manage risk and insure accountability.

I think the real point of the Mat Honan article  is that the writer was not dumb – he is most likely in the top 2% of people who understand technology.  So, every ‘error’ he made – which would not be considered errors by the other 98% of us - is a risk.

The people working in libraries most likely represent the upper 30 or 40% of people who understand technology simply by being surrounded by books and publicly paid for technology.  But, as gatekeepers to those resources they create the impression of expertise.  Some are experts, but really most are not.  Standing next to a pile of books does not mean you read them.  Being able to turn on a computer does not mean you know how it works.  Being responsible for information security does not mean that the information is secure.

What we can take from the Mat Honan article is the humility of the author in showing that he failed himself and should have known better.  There are many, many people in administrative positions including libraries that are responsible for information security who would never admit that they know not what they do.  There are many, many people in corporations that will never admit or may not even know that their systems have been or are compromised.  All we can hope for is strong laws that mandate reporting and at least a few people such as the author of the Wired article to own up to what they do not know as an example for the other 98% of us.

It used to be that you would need to be able to configure Satan and really have a strong grasp of command line interfaces and operating systems to be a hacker.  You really would need advanced knowledge and some fairly sophisticated resources to hack. Not any more.

Backtrack : http://www.backtrack-linux.org/  can be installed very easily and used by novice hackers with ill intent utilizing easy to follow step-by-step instructions on Youtube.  Just using one of my high gain antennas with a little laptop, I can war drive or sit in my house and see many, many exploitable WIFI services locally with little or no protection. I could crack a WEP in about 2 minutes, but so many people now rarely even bother to protect their WIFI. They are just happy that it works out of the box.  As an ethical hacker, I will never exploit those vulnerabilities.  But, the time when exploitation was limited to those with wilful intent, advanced knowledge of computer systems along with strong social engineering skills has passed. We are now in an era where a hack can be easily accomplished with a bit of simple social engineering (SPOKEO anyone?), the intent and common access to a computer. In fact, with very little knowledge about computer systems it would be very easy to inadvertently exploit a system using Backtrack without intent.

I think one of the upsides of less need for advanced knowledge is that we are now seeing powerful cases being built against companies from the digital forensic side where they are doing some pretty sleazy things at the highest level:  http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/Standard-Chartered-Falls-Most-in-24-Years-on-N-Y-3769142.php  In the paper age, the information about these sorts of activities was much easier to control and compartmentalize.  Automated computer forensic tools can greatly simplify investigation without requiring advanced degrees in computer science to operate.

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Robert L. Balliot

http://linkedin.com/in/robertballiot

https://bestofpublib.wordpress.com

http://www.facebook.com/robert.balliot

http://oceanstatelibrarian.com/contact.htm

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Publib Topics – A Graphic Retrospective – November 2011

Beware Graphic Content Ahead!

 
This graphic image  or word cloud was created using Wordle. It is derived from the subjects and authors of postings in PubLib for November 2011. The size of the graphics is directly related to the number of un-weighted unique occurrences each month of the individual words represented. Most automated graphic processes that generate these types of word clouds use additional weight for H1 – H6 tags through feeds. These graphics are not processed with H1 – H6 tags. The titles and authors were copied to Notepad and stripped of all HTML before being run through the Wordle Java platform. The process is case-sensitive so Library is not the same thing as library.
 
The most prominent word without employing filters would have been PublibPublib and Fwd were deleted from the plaintext files before processing. In addition, the Wordle program automatically disregards articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.
 
 
Publib Topics November 2011

Publib Topics November 2011

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halloPublib Topics – A Graphic Retrospective – October 2011

Beware Graphic Content Ahead!

 
This graphic image  or word cloud was created using Wordle. It is derived from the subjects and authors of postings in PubLib for October 2011. The size of the graphics is directly related to the number of un-weighted unique occurrences each month of the individual words represented. Most automated graphic processes that generate these types of word clouds use additional weight for H1 – H6 tags through feeds. These graphics are not processed with H1 – H6 tags. The titles and authors were copied to Notepad and stripped of all HTML before being run through the Wordle Java platform. The process is case-sensitive so Library is not the same thing as library.
 
The most prominent word without employing filters would have been Publib.  Publib and Fwd were deleted from the plaintext files before processing. In addition, the Wordle program automatically disregards articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.
 
Some of the more viral discussions included: Public Library Halloween Celebrations,   Ethical Question  regarding employee time at conferences,  Self-Published Titles Study Room Polices , Maximum Fines ,  and Unwelcome Patrons in Children’s Area .
Publib Topics October 2011

Publib Topics October 2011

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Archives compiled after Dec. 7, 2011 are available here: Archives

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Publib Topics – A Graphic Retrospective – September 2011

Beware Graphic Content Ahead!

 
 This graphic image  or word cloud was created using Wordle. It is derived from the subjects and authors of postings in PubLib for September 2011. The size of the graphics is directly related to the number of un-weighted unique occurrences each month of the individual words represented. Most automated graphic processes that generate these types of word clouds use additional weight for H1 – H6 tags through feeds. These graphics are not processed with H1 – H6 tags. The titles and authors were copied to Notepad and stripped of all HTML before being run through the Wordle Java platform. The process is case-sensitive so Library is not the same thing as library.
 
The most prominent word without employing filters would have been PublibPublib and Fwd were deleted from the plaintext files before processing. In addition, the Wordle program automatically disregards articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.
 
Some of the more active threads include: a continued discussion of LSSI from August , Amazon in Competition with Libraries ,  Book or E-bookBedbugs ,  and an assortment of DVD Issues.
 
Publib Topics September 2011

Publib Topics September 2011

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Archives compiled after Dec. 7, 2011 are available here: Archives

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Publib Topics – A Graphic Retrospective – August 2011

Beware Graphic Content Ahead!

 
 This graphic image  or word cloud was created using Wordle. It is derived from the subjects and authors of postings in PubLib for August 2011. The size of the graphics is directly related to the number of un-weighted unique occurrences each month of the individual words represented. Most automated graphic processes that generate these types of word clouds use additional weight for H1 – H6 tags through feeds. These graphics are not processed with H1 – H6 tags. The titles and authors were copied to Notepad and stripped of all HTML before being run through the Wordle Java platform. The process is case-sensitive so Library is not the same thing as library.
 
The most prominent word without employing filters would have been Publib. Publib and Fwd were deleted from the plaintext files before processing. In addition, the Wordle program automatically disregards articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.
 
 
Publib Topics August 2011

Publib Topics August 2011

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Archives compiled after Dec. 7, 2011 are available here: Archives

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Publib Topics – A Graphic Retrospective – July 2011

Beware Graphic Content Ahead!

 
This graphic image or word cloud was created using Wordle. It is derived from the subjects and authors of postings in PubLib for July 2011. The size of the graphics is directly related to the number of un-weighted unique occurrences each month of the individual words represented. Most automated graphic processes that generate these types of word clouds use additional weight for H1 – H6 tags through feeds. These graphics are not processed with H1 – H6 tags. The titles and authors were copied to Notepad and stripped of all HTML before being run through the Wordle Java platform. The process is case-sensitive so Library is not the same thing as library.
 
The most prominent word without employing filters would have been PublibPublib and Fwd were deleted from the plaintext files before processing. In addition, the Wordle program automatically disregards articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.
 
 
Publib Topics - July 2011

Publib Topics - July 2011

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Archives compiled after Dec. 7, 2011 are available here: Archives

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Publib Topics – A Graphic Retrospective – June 2011

Beware Graphic Content Ahead!

 
This graphic image  or word cloud was created using Wordle. It is derived from the subjects and authors of postings in PubLib for June 2011. The size of the graphics is directly related to the number of un-weighted unique occurrences each month of the individual words represented. Most automated graphic processes that generate these types of word clouds use additional weight for H1 – H6 tags through feeds. These graphics are not processed with H1 – H6 tags. The titles and authors were copied to Notepad and stripped of all HTML before being run through the Wordle Java platform. The process is case-sensitive so Library is not the same thing as library.
 
The most prominent word without employing filters would have been Publib.  Publib and Fwd were deleted from the plaintext files before processing. In addition, the Wordle program automatically disregards articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.
 
This month and the month of May featured lively discussions of concealed carry of guns by library staff and others in libraries, Save the Libraries, Fire the Librarians, and Farting Patrons.
 
Publib Topics June 2011

Publib Topics June 2011

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