links about some good and bad things in libraryland

First off, I’d like to point out this question from Ask MetaFilter which asks the age old question “I am trying to automate my small school/church/club library. What software should I use?” I gave a few answers, as did a few other people, but the short answer is “There’s no good tool for this” as near as I can tell. Please let me know if I’m wrong.

A few more links people sent me over the last week or so.

some interesting reading/commenting from MeFi

I had been holding off on linking to the Web Tech Guy and Angry Staff Person video/blog post because I have mixed feelings about the idea generally even though I know it was a big hit when they showed it off at the conference. Then it hit MetaFilter and I found the discussion there helped me not only flesh out my own feelings about it but gave me a look into how other professionals from different perspectives saw it. Most notably, I was interested in this comment by Larry Cebula who works for Washington State and runs an award-winning northwest history blog.

I work for the Washington State Digital Archives. We have something like 80 million documents, mostly from Washington State counties, online and add millions more per month. After years of resistance the counties are really hopping aboard and have become great fans of our service.

But still we get these complaints and worries. It is even worse with archives than museums because so many county and local archives count on revenues for access to fund their offices. We are about to put up thousands of cases from county courts, some dating back to the late 1800s. But the county insists that we display only the top half of the first page of each record–and charge 25 cents a page for users to even view the records beyond that first half page! It is anti-democratic and eliminates many of the potential advantages of digital history, but there you have it.

Slightly related librarian topic over at AskMetaFilter, a question about questions: What questions do library users most often ask?

hive mind, in Slate

I was interviewed for Slate about Ask MetaFilter. I like the way the article came out. When the hive mind works, it’s a beautiful thing.

where else besides the library can I ask a question online?

Brian has a few suggestions for other places to go online to ask questions or read other people’s answers. As you probably know, I work for Ask MetaFilter and I’m pretty happy with how it all works out, getting people answers to their questions. I’ve asked thirty questions there myself. Here’s a screenshot of what I think is a pretty usual list of questions.

A few links and a talk

I’m wrapping up the end of “talk season” here at I’ll be speaking at the Rhode Island Library Conference on June 6th and the Connecticut Library Consortium on June 9th. Then I’m done except for ALA. Yes, I’ll be going to ALA, giving a presentation with the incredibly talented Louise Alcorn for the MaintainIT people. It will be the first time I’ve been funded to go to a library conference… ever. Exciting times afoot at the Disneyland Hotel.

This afternoon I finished giving a talk online for the Education Institute. It was called Collaborative Information Systems & Reference Service and I’ve put a lot of notes and links online. Basically I talk about the changing nature of how people look for information and “Ask A” type services like Yahoo Answers and, of course, Ask MetaFilter. I have some statistics there that I think are sort of nifty. It’s very strange giving a talk online. I basically sent people to tmy website and then did a talk over the telephone. Except for the convenor, Liz Kerr, I wasn’t really aware of other people being present and it was unnerving. I know that continuing education is important and especially so for people who are too remote to go to standard talks or conferences, but I still feel like we’re trying to find a good delivery mechanism for this sort of content.

Why do so many library catalogs have human names?

A question over on Ask MetaFilter which I don’t really know the answer to: why do so many library catalogs have human names?. It’s gotten some decent responses and I suspect there isn’t really one answer but if you have more information than the hive mind team over there, feel free to drop me a note or, if you’ve already got an account, log in and chime in.

php for librarian

donnagirl asks MetaFilter: “I have two weeks to learn PHP. Help me make a plan! Because my library job is ridiculously awesome, I’m being given two weeks to devote myself to learning php.” Good advice follows from the hive mind.

any welsh speakers who can help with a vocab question?

Rikhei is looking for how to refer to a female librarian in Welsh over at Ask MetaFilter.

I used up my April Fool on MetaFilter

I used up my April Fools energy making an April Fool AskMe page on MetaFilter. Those of you in reference positions may appreciate the jokes even if you’re not closely acquainted with the community. If you reload that page, you’ll get to the main page of AskMe as it usually is. The other site admins and I really tried for something that was mostly funny and not very confusing. I never like feeling that I spend the whole day on the first of April fending off bad jokes at my expense.

weeding and noisy libraries, a community response

Simon Chamberlain’s VALIS blog points to a bunch of responses to the Wall Street Journal piece about what they see as aggressive weeding. He gives two nods to MetaFilter, one for the discussion about the WSJ thread [which I participated in] and one for a related thread in Ask MetaFilter asking when libraries started being so … noisy. One of my favorite things about these discussions is the interactions between librarians and non-librarians in a non-library setting. The other thing I like is that thanks to MetaFilter’s use of the XFN protocol I can link to every library worker I notice in these threads as a “colleague” and then keep track of their posts and comments. Look at all those librarians talking to each other, and to their once and future patrons.