There’s an app for that – ask a librarian

“The [Washington] state library says it’s the first in the nation to offer an app for online reference service, although technically the app switches users to the phone’s browser for the online chat). The Ask-WA service, also available through a traditional web browser, makes use of more than 60 libraries and hundreds of librarians. A national cooperative of librarian helps answer questions after hours.” I like how the “other services” page that you get to if you’re not coming from a WA state IP address (I’m not) shows the Library Success Wiki, one of my favorite “stuff that works” wikis. [thanks david!]

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?

wrap-up before the wrap-up

As you know, I usually post the list of what I’ve read at around this time, but I haven’t read enough this year by my own admission so I will be adding a few more leftover links in this space and posting a “best of” list in a day or two. First of all check out what I saw in Boston.

sexy librarian?

It’s an ad for Sony’s “Reader Digital Book,” one of a zillion plastered all over the subway and train stations of Boston. I find it vaguely annoying, mostly because I find the commodifcation of reading annoying. The implication that some stupid computer is sexier than a real live person to help you with all your information needs? Stupid. Here are some other things left over from my inbox.

  • Well this was in my literal mailbox… I never renewed my ALA membership after 2006. Last week I got a “Hey former member, maybe you’d like to reconsider?” piece of junk mail from them. I’ve been very happy with my VLA contributions and interactions, moreso than I ever was with ALA. While I’m happy to see the good things that ALA is doing, the fact that I basically did everything I could to get off of spammy mailing lists and emailing lists only to continue to hear from them is a bit disheartening. That said, my ALA website logins still work despite me not having paid them a thing. It all balances.
  • The Michigan University Librarian has a blog. Not a lot there but I really enjoyed the first post: Being in Bed with Google.
  • Washington state is the latest battlefield in the “let’s cut library positions in schools to save money” debacle. There is a very organized group called Fund Our Future Washington that is trying to stop this problem before it starts. Here’s an LA Times article with more information and a good recent supportive editorial from the Seattle Times.
  • I am revising my review policy. People mostly don’t read it anyhow. In short, I am reading less and have less time for unsolicited books. While I still like to receive books that people think I may like, I do not want to set expectations inappropriately. The short form is: if you will be upset if I do not read your book, please do not send it to me.

That’s it until the booklist. Happy New Year!

quickie Ubuntu update

printer + internet success!

So it’s been a while since I checked in from the Ubuntu installs at the library. Life intervened in a ton of ways. I went back over to the library today. I spent most of my time helping a Ukranian artist woman wade through the 250 emails in her inbox spanning almost two years. Every time she’d see a lost job opportunity or a note from a friend from eight months ago she’d say "see, this is why I have to know this, I lose work not knowing this…" I had to agree to a point but also mentioned that checking her email — however that needed to happen — more than once every 18 months was probably part of it.

So, I was in prime form when I went downstairs to check on the Ubuntu machines. The handyman had installed the ethernet drop from upstairs and I had limited time. This is what I did in about 20 minutes.

- made basic user accounts on each machine and changed the password on the admin accounts from the one I put on the YouTube video
- Set up the desktop for that account to have Firefox and OpenOffice on it (for now, we’ll move to games and IM once this is established as working)
- Plugged both computers into the switch I got. Hey check that out, they’re on the Internet. That was simple.
- Plugged the printer into one of them (HP 6100 series all on one blah) and went through the install printer routine. Hey look IT JUST WORKS, and prints.

Now one of the machines prints, both of them are on the internet, they’ve got a non-admin account on both of them and a locked down admin account with a new password. Next time I’ll do software updates and get the other printer working via the network, flesh out the desktops some and write some documentation. Woo! (crossposted from Flickr)