So last week I helped one of the small libraries I worked with get their in-house library catalog actually online, like on the web. They use Follett and had to pay some ungodly amount of money for the “web connector” software to make this happen. The process involves installing a fairly non-standard web server onto whatever your server is and then using it as the interface to your existing Follett install. The manual says you need to have a static IP address to make this work and the cable company they use for Internet won’t give them one. So, we had to do a little haxie magic using DynDNS, a special port redirect in the router, and a little app that lives on the server and broadcasts its current IP address to the DNS server. I had an idea that this would work but wasn’t totally sure, so we tried it. Other than that, my basic approach was “I am not a good cook but I can follow a decent recipe” which is what we did for the install.
When I say “we”, I mean me and my friend Stan who is a local IT guy who comes with me on some of these more complicated projects for the cost of lunch and does all the typing while I answer questions and explain what’s going on. The software install took all of fifteen minutes but the Q and A session took nearly an hour. As it stands they’re probably still going to use the local version of the OPAC in-house just in case the Internet goes down. I’m not sure I understand this reasoning and told them so. I’m as cautious as the next person as far as having a Plan B for most catastrophic situations, but I worry that if you only roll out the most bulletproof solutions, you wind up never trying new things and you live in fear that you haven’t tested everything rigorously enough. This sort of fear, uncertainty and doubt means going with large-scale tried and true solutions and is a definite impediment to getting libraries to work with open source. Additionally, with the perpetual betaness of a lot of 2.0 tools, anyone can muster up a reason to say no to them. I’m still always looking for the angle that will make people say “yes.”
This is loosely related to libraries, but it is related to FOSS [free and open source software] which many libraries are using or contemplating. One of the things that is consistently stressed as a benefit of open source stuff is that when you pay for people to work on your software, you are hiring talent, not paying for licenses at giant megacorporations. For some of us, this is an unqualified good thing. However, compared to megacorporation software projects, there are many fewer women working on open source projects.
Some of this has to do with the nature of the open source community, some of it has to do with technology generally. When my little video got a ton of views on YouTube, I sort of made a joke that I would know it was a success when the marriage proposals started trickling in. Other non-techies looked at me strangely when I said this, but sure enough when you look at the comments, you’ll see it. I find it all pretty amusing and not some sort of “evidence” of any sort of sexism, but I do think it points out that a woman with even a passing competency in this areana [and I’m techie but nothing like, say, Karen Coombs] is such an anomaly that people just stop and stare. I’d like more nerdy lady friends who do this sort of stuff, so I’ve been reading up on it. I found a few good things to read and I’d like to share them with you.
I have very very mixed feelings about this library staffer no-confidence petition. On the one hand, it’s a pain when management moves in and shakes things up with no regard for staff or patron input or impressions. On the other hand, who cares if the library has a lot of copies of Jackass 2? I hear it’s funny. And, if people want to watch it, what is wrong with that? We get into big big trouble when we start talking about “good books” versus “other books” especially if we think the library should only have the former and not the latter. I think instead of an “I read banned books” I need an “I read trashy genre fiction and USA Today and I’m a librarian” t-shirt. John Blyberg has more to say.
This is one of those misheard lyrics things that we deal with on the reference desk frequently, but this particular treatment of it made me laugh.
Me and the nice people from MetaFilter are starting an ambitious back-tagging project where a team of volunteers will be adding tags to the 42,000 posts that were on the website before we added the tagging functionality. We’re hoping that this will make it easier to track down double-posts and related posts and make browsing the site via tags a little more thorough. I envy sites like Flickr that have had tags since the beginning, doing it this way is hard and not at all optimal. In any case, if you have a MetaFilter login and would like to do a little volunteer tagging, please drop me an email or (preferably) an IM with your usernumber and I can get you set up.