Hello Chronicle of Higher Ed readers/listeners

I knew something was up when I got an email from the President of the Vermont Library Association this morning saying “Wow nice podcast!”

I was pretty sure she wasn’t referring to the MetaFilter Podcast — though those are quite nice — so I emailed her back asking wtf as politely as I could. That’s how I learned that the interview I did with the Chronicle of Higher Education from a hotel room in Halifax (setting the alarm so I could be alert at 9:30, do I sound like I just woke up?) was part of the CHE podcast and was excerpted, along with the succinct commentary from many other “young librarians” (oh gosh, I laugh and laugh) including my pal Casey and other names you’ll recognize. I’m not entirely sure how to link to CHE articles for non-subscribers, but you can maybe see the article and the amusing iphone photo here. Apologies, as always, for swearing.

not my iphone…

librarian.net on the iphone

…but thought you might like to see this anyhow. This is how my website looks on an iPhone. Their browser is really interesting looking. I hung out with Casey today as he waited to get an iPhone. As you know, I live in Vermont where they’re not for sale and can’t be activated. Hello digital divide, my old friend.

some end of the week short links

It’s been a busy week this week. I had eight people come to computer drop-in time on Tuesday which was a tech frenzy of PayPal and email and inserting graphics and Yahoo mail address books. I’ve had a few of these links hanging around for a while waiting to find time to write proper posts, but I figured I’ll drop them in here. I see a lot of blogging as playing hot potato with a bunch of web content. You find it, you pass it on, the next person passes it on. The more content you shift, the easier it is to quickly ascertain which things you need to save for longer perusal and which need to just get passed on for the next person. I’ve read and absorbed these and thought you might like them.

The really great thing about WPopac

I’ve been a bit scarce lately. The days are shorter and I’m doing a little less “rah rah library” work and a little more staying warm and insulating the house. I’ve got a few little posts to make, but the main one is this. The thing about Casey’s grant that is so amazing is this.

The revolutionary part of the announcement, however, was that Plymouth State University would use the $50,000 to purchase Library of Congress catalog records and redistribute them free under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license or GNU. OCLC has been the source for catalog records for libraries, and its license restrictions do not permit reuse or distribution. However, catalog records have been shared via Z39.50 for several years without incident.

“Libraries’ online presence is broken. We are more than study halls in the digital age. For too long, libraries have have been coming up with unique solutions for common problems,” Bisson said. “Users are looking for an online presence that serves them in the way they expect.” He said “The intention is to bring together the free or nearly-free services available to the user.

Bisson said Plymouth State University is committed to supporting it, and will be offering it as a free download from its site, likely in the form of sample records plus WordPress with WP-OPAC included. “With nearly 140,000 registered users of Amazon Web Services, it’s time to use common solutions for our unique problems,” Bisson said.

Read it twice if you’re not sure you got it. Think how having that sort of data available to you (or your library, or your open source OPAC) could really, seriously change things.

Library Camp!

I’m in Connecticut and going to be heading over to Library Camp East tomorrow. I didn’t mention this before because there’s been a lot going on in my life lately and it was sort of a last minute decision. I drove down with Casey and Lichen and I’ll be seeing Michael Golrick later on today. Head on over to his blog and say Happy Birthday to him today.

truer words have rarely been spoken

Why is it so hard to say that some things simply suck? I’ll quote Casey Bisson, quoting himself.

Please, stand with me now and repeat:

When something sucks I will say so. When vendors spout crap I will call them on it. My staff deserve good tools, my users need good tools, and I can’t afford to buy stuff that sucks.

Together, we’ll fix the world one product at a time.

Related story: State of our ILS

It’s a new world and building onto a system that is more than 15 years old isn’t going to cut it anymore – there needs to be a new system, one that allows for more freedom, and it has to come soon, because more and more libraries are going to turn to open-source.

OPACs old and new, Ms. Jessamyn goes to Washington

I’m at the Calef Library in Washington today doing some computer maintenance and just all around tech chit-chat with the librarian. She’s involved in a discussion with the board of trustees about whether she can get health insurance this year and it’s not going particularly well. Her husband is a farmer, he doesn’t have health insurance either. It’s ineresting how many librarians in my region have farmer husbands. The library here is open 19 hours a week and she works ten of them, the other nine are staffed by a volunteer. You’ve probably seen the pictures of this library on Flickr, it’s a really lovely space. The librarian is a real can-do gal. She’s working with a nice space, a teeny budget, and a moderately supportive board. Her and I talk about technology and the things I explain to her stick with her.

We were talking about wireless today — the library has broadband on two computers via cable modem, the librarian shares her computer with the public when it’s busy — and she said “You just buy some hardware and set it up and you’re done?” I said yes, mostly. Next thing you know, we bought a wireless router with a wireless PCMCIA card for under $30, delivered. Next week when it arrives I’ll show her how to set it up, help her make some configuration handouts for her patrons, and we’re done. It will be the first wireless hotspot in Washington Vermont and probably the only one within 10-15 miles. When we were through talking about wireless, the Town Clerk called, she was having trouble with her email and couldn’t get the librarian’s report from her email in order to put in the town report. I walked over there and showed her how to enter her username and password into her dial-up configuration, and also how to use Word’s “recover text from any document” feature to get the librarian’s Word Perfect report into the clerk’s Word document. I got back to the library and tol the librarian she didn’t have to retype the report and this made her pretty happy.

I’ve been talking to the librarian here about getting her catalog online. ILS software is sort of expensive, though she could probably get the funding. For a library that for all intents and purposes is going to stay small, major feature-rich ILSes are not as important as things such as an easy interface and a simple and cheap data input mechanism. I’d been talking to Timothy over at LibraryThing about whether he’d consider rolling out a version of his super software for teeny libraries. His encouraging answer was “not yet” but we’ve been talking about it.

This brings me to my next topic, sparked by Jenny Levine’s TechSource post about Library 2.0 in the Real World and my new pal Casey who maybe you’ve heard of. Casey Bisson built an OPAC prototype that runs on WordPress. No, seriously, look. It will run with any vendor’s ILS. He talked about it at ALA well before I got there, and people were buzzing about it all week. Not only is it a clever hack, it’s clean, simple, unbranded and highly functional in ways that seem pretty obvious to bloghappy me. I’d love to see a prototype running publicly so that he could get some feedback from folks who maybe don’t come from the born-with-the-chip generation.

In my neck of the woods, small ILS vendors are charging $1500 for this level of functionality, the ability to put an OPAC on the web. Non-tech savvy librarians who don’t have the ability to code these features themselves find ways to pay it. And, bringing this post full-circle, then they find other ways to get health insurance for the year. I think you know the moral of this story. I’m happy to have some good news to report from here in the hinterlands.