Users Creating for the Library AND Each Other

It is exciting to see all the ways libraries are collecting and utilizing content from users/patrons. When you think about it, gathering user-created content means that libraries are not only adding value and interest to their online presence and collection for themselves and their users, but the users are adding value for their fellows as well. In a lecture for the class I take from Meredith Farkas‘s, I learned about Penn Tags and how it can be used as a “treasure map” (Meredith’s term) for students doing research. If another student has already created a tagged, “annotated bibliography” on the same or a similar topic, there will be a beautifully laid out list of resources for them to start with and, perhaps, build upon. What an interesting way to help fill out the research guides reference librarians already create! I think it would be interesting to have students within a major or a specific class create subject guides for classmates or future students via wiki or Libguides. It would be a collaborative assignment that librarians and professors could put together as an ongoing user instruction/information literacy initiative. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people already doing this, it’s not a terribly original idea, and it could be a fruitful undertaking if it were done right.

I also learned about what Danbury Library and Bedford Public Library did with their catalogs and LibraryThing. I linked here to the record in each for Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood. It’s interesting to see how patrons tagged them, and I really like that “similar books” are provided (I’m not completely sure these are generated by LibraryThing and, therefore, the “crowd” – anyone know?). It’s neat to see the published review blurbs on Bedford’s site as well, but it would be REALLY cool to see reviews from actual patrons of those libraries and to see what books those in your community would recommend having read that book – readers’ advisory from your users themselves! Again, I bet there are libraries doing this that I have missed. Certainly, other libraries have places on their sites where patrons can write reviews of books (e.g. Denver Public Library’s Evolver site’s reviews by teens). But it would be great to see reviews integrated into catalog records as well.

At Emerson College’s Library (full disclosure: I work there) they have started an outreach/marketing campaign for National Library Week so that people visiting the library’s website can submit their own stories on the subject “How the Library Saved My Life”. (Submission happens via LibGuide widget.) The stories will be moderated, similar to the way blog comments are moderated in that the story will need to be approved before it gets officially “published” – I think on the library website, but since it’s a new thing I’m not totally sure where it will be published yet. This is such an interesting way to get students to participate and “sell” the library to their peers. You might also enjoy checking out the superhero-style posters they’ve created in conjunction with this campaign introducing each librarian and their “lifesaving” superpower!

I realize some of my suggestions might be a bit technically naive if they haven’t been done already – maybe pie-in-the-sky. But it’s fun and interesting to think about the new and collaborative ways users can be induced to create content for the library and, ultimately, themselves and their fellow patrons. From what one is always reading about the characteristics of the Millennial generation, collaborative creation with the library could be on the upswing – or at least welcome.

Tweetlove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Twitter

Social software tools have really surprised me. I have used a lot of them without thinking of them as social software over the years (email, Amazon, Yelp, etc). But I was a lot more indifferent to and suspicious of the more “obvious” examples of social software tools only a year and a half ago. I think of myself as a late adopter of Facebook (joined in 2008) and Twitter (joined in March 2009). But now I am incredibly enthusiastic and curious about these and other social software tools. I use them often and enjoy them immensely. It’s at the point where I want to explore their informational and educational use in a professional way.

My interest in social software blossomed when I joined Facebook, but it exploded when I joined Twitter. I loved how Facebook put me in better touch with far-away friends and connected me with people I hadn’t seen in a long time. It also was a place for fun and some light self-expression. This was great, but a very contained experience for me. It wasn’t really expanding my world much. The real expansion came with Twitter. This may sound over the top, but stay with me. I’ve found it to be fun, sure, but it’s also proving to be quite a professional development tool. There are SO many librarians, authors, writers, publishers, and other “book people” who participate and I’ve been able to communicate with and learn from so many of them. For instance, I’ve communicated frequently with a policy advisor for “technology enhanced learning” in the UK, the staff at American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith radio program (okay, not library-related but still pretty neat), and a celebrated librarian in genre fiction and reader’s advisory. I don’t know if I ever would have had easy access to such a range of interesting people otherwise and I know I’m more on top of what’s going on in the field because of it. It’s like a personal, human RSS feed. As long as I’m following people who post interesting articles and insights at least half the time and I’m doing the same, I think I get a lot out of it. Recently, I was following some librarians attending an EDUCAUSE conference event who were live tweeting what was happening in their sessions and I got very interested in what they were saying on the subject of their conference, natch,: “Learning Environments for a Web 2.0 World”. Speaking of conferences, I just read a great article from another librarian (P.C. Sweeney) proclaiming his love for Twitter, mainly by explaining how he’s gotten more out of conferences because of his Twitter participation and interaction.

Most people probably think I’m a little “off” when I tell them how much I’ve gotten out of Twitter. It might help to know that I can be a somewhat introverted person, so professional networking has sometimes been a challenge for me. Twitter is a place where I have managed to get over that and interact with people I might have been a bit nervous to approach in real life. And I find it to be particularly enriching when they interact back! Twitter may not be forever, as few applications are, but I feel it is a stepping stone that has helped me to get really comfortable with and interested in the social networking and applications universe. Twitter is a stream I can dip in and out of — or just let wash over me — to help keep me informed on what’s going on out there. It does take some cultivation of following “quality” feeds, but if you are interested (which I am) there are rewards to be reaped. It’s good professional development and also experiential research, in a way, since these are things we should be considering integrating into our practices for outreach and information access and dissemination.

It’s probably clear that I’m a little in love with Twitter since I’ve waxed rhapsodic here. But, truly, I joined knowing nothing about it, and it ended up exposing me to a lot once I threw myself in and participated. I feel I’m a better informed and connected librarian for it.

P.S. — If you’re new to Twitter or haven’t tried it yet, check out this great Slideshare tutorial created by my aforementioned librarian friend in the U.K. It’ll help you get started!

Back in Blog

Hello all! I just wanted to announce my return to blogging with a bit of an explanation of what you’ll be seeing over the next few weeks. I’ve been taking a class on Web 2.0 and its use in libraries with the wonderful Meredith Farkas, blogger and librarian extraordinaire. Meredith has had us writing blog posts on different Web 2.0 applications and communities every week and I thought I’d start cross posting some of them here. Soon, you will learn of my love for Twitter and some of my thoughts on online subject research guides. So keep an eye out! I will also probably send out a notice on my Twitter feed when I’ve updated the blog so feel free to follow me there. More soon!

An Embarrassment of Literature

This was quite a landmark weekend for anyone in the greater Boston area interested in books, writing, and authors (it’s part of the reason I am fortunate to live where I do). The very first Boston Book Festival was held in Copley Square on Saturday and the great Margaret Atwood came to Cambridge to promote her book, “The Year of the Flood” and also, it seemed, to promote environmental awareness. I was lucky enough to attend both of these events.

Sadly, I did not get to as much of the Boston Book Fest as I could or probably should have, but I did attend a great workshop called “Jumpstart Your Writing!” put on by Grub Street and hosted by Grub Street instructor, writer, and professor Stace Budzko. I really liked that the workshop focused on character. We were asked to really delve into our characters’ likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, favorite foods, scars, tattoos, the works. It made me think of the way I’m told “Method” actors get into character. It was just nice to be around other folks trying to write and to all be focused on that as a group. Stace was very encouraging and it was over too soon, but I did feel I came away with strategies on how to learn more about my character(s) and how to move forward a bit. I am hoping to be reporting on my attendance at Grub Street workshops in a year when I’m finally out of grad school (w00t!). Aside from the workshop I got to wander around a bit on what was a strangely warm and blustery day. There were some hearty-souled book people outside under tents hawking their book-wares. 826 Boston was there selling Bigfoot and cryptozoology paraphernalia and, oh yeah, also talking about their tutoring and writing center. It was great to just wander around inside Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library and check out all the book fans. Two of the events I wish I had gotten to were actually centered around 2.0 social media and digital books, especially because I’m planning a blog post on digital books and digital reading in the future once I sort out my thoughts and feelings on them (it’s surprisingly complicated). If any of my readers got to those sessions, I’d love to know how they were.

Then of course, tonight, there was Margaret Atwood. We all gathered at the First Parish Church Meetinghouse in Harvard Square to hear about “The Year of the Flood”, which is a parallel story to “Oryx and Crake” (beware of spoilers in that second link!). As she said, it’s not a sequel or prequel—she called it something like a “simultaneous-quel”. There’s a sort of communal, ecologically-minded, religious group in the book called “God’s Gardeners” who raise bees and gardens on urban rooftops and are on the lookout for the impending ecological apocalypse. And where there’s religion, there are hymns. Margaret Atwood wrote several hymns in the book that her agent’s partner put to music. She played some of these hymns for us and even SANG one of them for us—I believe it was the Mole hymn, or Mole song, I can’t quite remember the name. I wasn’t expecting Ms. Atwood to sing, though I had hoped we would get one of the full-on choral and dramatic performances that she and others have been staging in the U.S. and abroad (we didn’t, but you can see one of the dramatic readings staged in London in this Art Beat broadcast from PBS). At any rate, she was intelligent and funny. And though I don’t need much convincing on the point of doing what we can to turn things around (or at least slow things down) for our warming planet, she and her books make an excellent case for doing so. Ms. Atwood said something interesting when asked by an audience member if she herself held the dystopian vision of the world that her books portray. I can’t remember what she said word-for-word, but she basically said that she feels her books are very optimistic in the sense that, well, they are books. It’s all in the book in hopes that it will STAY in the book and that we’ll do something so that what’s in the book doesn’t happen to us. She also said that, though she bases many of her futuristic novels on what could actually happen in the world, there’s no way anyone can predict the future. There are too many variables. I can certainly say I enjoyed “Oryx and Crake” for its characters, story, and cutting-yet-whimsical wordplay, though it was a supremely chilling vision of the future. I expect “The Year of the Flood” will be similar though, full disclosure, I haven’t yet read it. Here’s a good review/essay I read on the book from The Nation for a bit more about the book.

Well, that was my weekend, saturated with rain and literature. And that was fine by me.

Posting at My Own Risk

Welcome to the first post from Lisa 2.0. It’s been a long time coming. Just to give you an idea of what you’re going to see here, I’m mostly going to write, link to, and post about things related to books, libraries, and writing since these are my personal and professional interests.

I’m obviously quite late to the game, blog-wise. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for years. What’s held me back? Fear. Risk. Risk has been a theme that’s crossed my radar several times over the past few months. I am a masters student in a library science program and belong to an organization called YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association). Their major initiative this year has to do with risk-taking, mainly as it pertains to service to young adults in libraries (you can read about it here). When I first heard about it at the American Library Association annual conference this summer, it scared me. I balked. I hate taking risks and am very unpracticed at it. Plus, I’m not a fully-ordained librarian, or a fully-ordained anything for that matter, so what kinds of risks could I take that would matter? Then I realized I had this empty blog space sitting here that I’ve been hesitant to use.

“But what could possibly be risky about starting a blog?” you ask.

Well, okay, it might not be life or death, but that doesn’t mean there’s not still fear. Here, in glorious 21st Century digital-confessional mode, are my fears:

  1. My words will be public. People will actually know what I’m thinking about. I might express opinions and people might respond. Perhaps unfavorably. You see, I can’t stand conflict. I am not one of those people who enjoys debate. But I do enjoy writing. This is one way of practicing that. So this is the risk I’m taking: putting my words out there with the chance of being rejected.
  2. No one’s going to read it anyway. There’s so much out there, my words will go unnoticed as insignificant. That’s pretty probable and perhaps justified. But hey, I guess I won’t have to worry about fear #1 in that case. And I guess the real risk of insignificance is expressing nothing at all.
  3. My experiences and opinions are so meager and mundane, they’re of little interest and folks will just roll their eyes and say “Sheesh, another boring blog”. Well, okay. They might. But many interesting blogs have to do with the everyday lives and challenges of people who are not experienced, seasoned professionals. The great Mur Lafferty of the awesome and award-winning I Should Be Writing blog and podcast called herself a “wannabe” when she first started out. Sure, she’s more seasoned and popular now than she was, but her podcasts and blog posts were useful and interesting even before she shed the “wannabe” tag (Incidentally, Mur has several excellent podcasts on fear and taking risks, the most recent of which was #130 in her ISBW “Lite” series appropriately titled “Fear”). And, hey, isn’t this what blogs are for? It could be argued that blogs are a good place for information exchange amongst wannabes, seasoned professionals, and in-betweens. So what if people roll their eyes? I don’t have to see it. I’m behind my computer!

So I convinced myself this was a risk worth taking. And, if you’re reading this, I’ve taken it. We’ll see if this is the last time I do this or the first post of many. Heck, maybe I’ll even be able to report on further risks I’ve taken. I just started a job at a university library as a reference librarian, mainly to undergrads. It simply feels risky to stand behind the reference desk at this point. But it also feels good. And it feels good to step up and take the small, faceless, digital risk of posting this. I hope you, dear reader, will be relatively kind and constructive. Maybe this will get you thinking about successful risks you’ve taken or risks you want to take. Maybe not. Either way, thanks for stopping by—and for not rolling your eyes so I can see it.