Ten Tech Tools

making technology work for your library
not vice versa

Jessamyn West
Rutland Free Library



« preface - helpful tech vs. helpless tech »

It's like spelling... bad spellers just don't know how to fix the problem.

  • comparison shop incl. online vendors
  • implementation w/ technology plan
  • "I'll look it up" [useful in so many ways]
  • tech lion tamer
  • buy what's at the local retailer
  • reactive technology. change happens when things break
  • "I don't know" [dead end]
  • tech victim

We don't want our patrons thinking "Technology is hard, even the librarian doesn't get it."
We want to think carefully about every subscription-based endeavor that nets us ownership of nothing.
We want to understand what we offer and help patrons understand technology just like we help them understand our other offerings.
There will be new things to understand and new ways to understand them.

« software - email me  »

ftml - no ads for people who have one account
gmail - google's mail solution in beta [email me if you want to try it]
guide for more options
email basics
what my class looks like [more basic than you might think]

« software - message me  »

We use the phone for everything interoffice. The immediacy of the phone is tough at the reference desk and encourages the chained-to-desk approach. Instant Messaging allows quick targeted chat without disrupting other communication lines. Popular with teens. references:
librarians discuss AOLs IM survey
Tame the Web blog posts about chat & IM in libraries
clients: AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber, iChat, Gaim, Trillian, Fire, more...
IM 101 - the basics

« software - blogs & wikis  »

a few blog search engines: daypop, technorati
wikipedia - a collaborative free-content encylopedia
sacred texts wiki, Koha wiki
definitions of "blog" - from Google
LIS blogsource the library weblog about library weblogs
libraries doing good things with blogs
Weblogs and Public Libraries ePub article from PLA

« software - rss [really SIMPLE syndication, really!]  »

It's getting so that point-n-click is too slow for just "scanning" news & blogs.
what is RSS? [tons of good links]
rss for non-techie librarians by Steven Cohen from LibraryStuff
search for feeds with feedster, waypath, bloglines
LISFeeds interface rss feed of checked out library books
RSS readers: NetNewsWire for Mac, more options from blogspace, from the weblogs compendium

« hardware - various media "books"  »

Books take many forms. We're comfy with books on tape/CD. What about books in Using books in these formats involves not just knowing about technology but also knowing about licensing.

ebooks and digital rights management
project gutenberg has free ebooks
the wikibooks project is building more
teleread is a site with a blog tracking ebook developments
listen ohio & listen illinois are offering an opac and MP3 players & books for libraries, at a price

« hardware - WiFi & PDAs  »

The reference desk is one of the few places at the library that isn't near the books. PDAs + wireless = reference from anywhere in the library.

Wifi could mean a roving reference desk & unlimited BYO computers on your network. Authentication is possible. Users can choose filtered or unfiltered access. Easy to limit to authorized users.

While low-end Wifi is inexpensive to implement, larger scale projects will require infrastructure and some trained staff. Tablet PCs are sexy, but not cheap.

Bill Drew's Wireless Librarian pages
Tablet PC possibilities for libraries
some example library wifi pages: King County, Boston Public, Juneau Public

« concepts - social software  »

An updated way to network. Where we once had email discussion lists, now we can have "tribes", groups, forums and interest groups. Trusted friends-of-friends and colleagues-of-colleagues can share information in an easier fashion than by waiting to meet up at conferences.

Status: still in "flavor of the month" stages. Different sites are good for different things

some sites: tribe.net, linkedin.com, friendster.com, flickr.com, orkut.com
some examples: my library's pictures at flickr, progressive librarian group at tribe.net

« concepts - open source »

Open Source means free and redistributable, with an open code base [read more]
"The money we spent on getting Koha MARC compliant will never need to be spent again (as opposed to every library using a given proprietary system having to purchase the same module from a vendor multiple times--sometimes even yearly)."
Many standard applications have open source equivalents. For example OpenOffice is a Microsoft Office equivalent in most major ways.

what is open source?
oss4lib - open source systems for libraries with project page
some examples: ibiblio.org archives, Koha opac system, rakim virtref tool
Georgia Public Library Service is developing an open source integrated library system
Linux in action: A public library's success story

« concepts - in-house developers  »

Why not spend some staffing money on people to solve tech problems, not the other way around? Why not send your librarians to tech classes for continuing ed?
"Used to be the average IT geek maintained and fixed. Now libraries called on IT geeks to make things for the library, even if it requires coding from scratch.... Take our library, we wanted something that rolled out a cover sheet on the printer when patrons printed from our internet stations. Sure, there's probably a product out there to do that. But we found it much easier to just have a couple IT folks make it. So they did, we tested, it worked, we use it."
"Our network administrator/programmer recently developed an electronic sign-on system for our public PCs. Patrons create a totally anonymous username and password, then reserve up to 2 hours of computer time per day."
Tacoma Public's homegrown Unsettling Events database
library lookup bookmarklet
The Accidental Systems Librarian

« synthesis »

The good news and the bad news about technology is that it is what you make out of it. Some things you can do with our very low-end tech skills... For what it's worth, I'm not totally sold on references:

« credits »

Jessamyn West is the outreach librarian at Rutland Free Library the editor of the weblog librarian.net and the co-editor of Revolting Librarians Redux.

Her latest writing about technology appears on the WebJunction site in an article entitled Those Darned Users!. IM her at iamthebestartist [home] or rutlandfree [work].

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