A few podcasts I’ve been in recently

marconi company radiophone set
Image from Radio Telephony, in the public domain

I was interviewed by Steve Thomas for his Circulating ideas podcast a few weeks ago and interviewed by Kayhan B., Erin Anderson and Doug Mirams for their Bibliotech podcast a week earlier. I don’t listen to many professional-type podcasts but both of these conversations were a really good chance to talk over some of the issues facing the profession today in addition to just me going “bla bla…” about myself. Both shows have had a host of other guests and I’ve been digging around in the archives finding other stuff to listen to. If you’re podcast-oriented, these are two shows to put in regular rotation.

cloudsourcing – NELA-ITS program about the cloud

I was in Worcester yesterday at their lovely public library at a NELA-ITS event with the amusing title “Cloudy with a Chance of Connecting to the Future!” I gave a pretty straightforward talk about what libraries need to think about when they think about cloud technologies. And, for a meta aspect, I asked folks on Twitter for suggestions and advice about how to limit the large amount of stuff cloud-related that I wanted to talk about. I skipped my usual “Web page with list of relevant links” format, but you can see my slides and notes via this pdf if you’re interested. More to the point I wanted to link to the sources that I used that I found really helpful.

Making it Happen – Iowa City Public Library licenses local music for patrons

File this one under “why I still read press releases even though 95% of them are junk” Got a nice email from John Hiett of Iowa City Public Library letting me know about their local music project which is launching today. Hiett explains: “We’re offering local cardholders free, DRM-less downloads of records by local musicians. We’ve leased the rights for a two year period at $100 per record. We launch this beast June 8 at music.icpl.org. We have over 30 albums locked down, but the list is growing and we expect to top out at around 50. This includes most of the best known Iowa City bands over the last couple decades.”

I thought this was a pretty cool sounding project and one that I’m surprised more libraries haven’t already been doing for years. I emailed John back to ask him a few questions about it.

1. You say in your FAQ that you think this is a replicable model for other libraries. What would you suggest for other libraries who want to try something like this?

You’d need a budget, some web expertise and some authentication software to keep it local, none of which should be too much of a barrier. Feel free to adopt our contract, available at http://music.icpl.org/music_licensing_agreement.pdf

Just get bands signed up, collect W-9 forms for tax purposes, rip the disc, scan the cover, post, and let people know.

2. What was the most challenging part of this project?

Apparently, nobody starts a band to fill out paperwork. While musicians almost unanimously responded enthusiastically to our initial pitch, getting them to actually sign the contract often took quite a bit of follow-up. I tried not to beg, but in a few cases . . .

Having a good team makes a big difference. When I took this idea to our director, Susan Craig, I asked for enough money to lease 20 albums at $50 each. She said to get 50 and offer $100. Our webmaster James Clark’s work recalls that old Arthur C. Clarke quote, ” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Mara Cole’s artwork moves me in ways that commercial art shouldn’t. Other people have coordinated publicity, kept track of the financial details, and done original cataloging.

The challenging part may be yet to come. If we don’t generate some threshold of downloads, it’s only been a fun experiment. Also, I’m already hearing from musicians who want to be included, tho the money’s gone for now. Letting them down gently might be hard.

3. What inspired you to decide to do the legwork on a project like this instead of going with one of the off-the-shelf music options?

I was watching Dave Zollo play late one night (definitely a Talent Deserving Wider Recognition) and wondered why we sent all our music money out of town, when he was as good as anyone we bought (and he uses our library). I may have had a few at that point, but emailed myself. The more I thought about it, the more I saw how it could work. Plus, it gave me a chance to meet some cool people.

The origin story of Mousercise

It started simply enough. I gave a talk in Missouri and went out for pizza with library school students afterwards and one of them came up to me and said “Hey you mentioned Mousercise in your talk… I know the guy who made that!” He put me in touch and I got to email a bit with Chris Rippel who now works for the Central Kansas Library System and talk a little bit about Mousercise (originally called Mouserobics until Disney found out) , what I think is one of the best sites on the internet. He agreed to answer a few questions for me.

1. Did you make your original Mouserobics/Mousercise as a thing for work? Is it something you used at your job at the library?

When I taught my first basic computer class in Prairie View, Kansas, I lectured on how a computer worked and how to use a mouse. Eyes glazed over. Soon after I made Mousercise.

2. Do you still work at the library?

I still work for the Central Kansas Library System. CKLS has member libraries, not patrons. I was teaching classes in member libraries, not at CKLS.

3. Did you make any other similar tutorials?

Sort of. Here is one about keyboarding. And I played with Word, etc., but none are as successful as Mousercise.

4. What are your go-to sites for people who are looking to teach people computer basics?

I have no one place. Over the years I have made a number of Web sites with links to online tutorials. My first and biggest was a delicious page called Computer Training Tutorials, or something like that. Now I use blogger Web sites to provide links to more training after specific classes, but they don’t get used. Here is one example. I intended to do a Web page for each software, but I didn’t.

I recently gave one of our computer people, Maribeth Turner, my list of Blogger Web sites and she has incorporated the links into a Web site she is creating.

5. What do you think the biggest challenges are in this day and age for teaching technology skills to novice users?


Lecturing too much to novices. Novices understand little of what you say and, therefore, remember less. So, for me, the main lesson of mousercise is more work, less talk, and be there to show students how to correct their mistakes. Teaching people how to correct mistakes is as important, sometimes more important, than teaching how to do something correctly. So, in my classes, I generally hand out exercises and tell them to type this. When needed, I give them one- to three-minute explanations of what to do, then let them do it. When that part is done, we go to the next part, i.e., short explanations followed by lots of work.

Covering too much in each class. We often pack in so many topics that novice students can’t remember and learn them. Covering less and giving students time to absorb a few basic things works better for me. This has an additional advantage for teaching librarians. Having to cover less allows librarians who may not be experts to also teach classes. Librarians knowing how to type a letter in Word know enough to teach a novice class on it even when they don’t know all the ins and outs of this program. When people ask about something you don’t know how to do. Then you have a topic for the next class.

6. Anything else you’d like to add?

I was going by myself with a mobile computer lab out to teach patron classes in libraries. I had no teaching assistant. I am not a good multi-tasker. I can’t run the teaching computer and effectively watch and help students at the same time. So I have one of the students run the teaching computer. I tell the student what to do. This requires me to clearly explain each step and ensures that at least one student is understanding what is being said and can do it. In hundreds of classes, I have only swapped students twice. They were glad to switch.

I suppose most computer teachers would be uneasy having students with unknown skill levels running the teaching computer. So I am not recommending it. However, I would recommend letting the assistant run the teaching computer to free the more knowledgeable teacher to spend more time helping students.

By the way, I am now exploring the idea of building little Web sites around a Webinar by another speaker. Here is my first.