Day 1, Computers in Libraries, Crystal City, VA

Today was a busy and interesting day at the conference, focusing on community and patron participation on the Web. Four sessions, two of which were very informative and useful, two of which were not. It was an all-day gig, except for a quick run over to the mall at Pentagon City to get lunch at the food court and back to the hotel for the next set of sessions.

I felt so low-tech with my paper notebook. In the morning at least half the crowd had their laptops out, furiously typing. However, I noticed that by the afternoon sessions, significantly less people had laptops. Tired of carting them around, maybe? I know I didn’t want to have to sit scrunched between two other people, trying to type. And boy were people packed into the conference rooms like sardines! The “Communities and Collaboration” track was a popular one. So, first impression? “I’m too short to sit in the back of the room!”

The first session, “Going local in the library” was really interesting and brought up a lot of the issues that we are dealing with in Avalon. However, we are also dealing with a second issue: making our website a location of it’s own on the Web. The presenter, Charles Lyons, showed us ways that Google is trying to localize it’s serach engine, to make it more than just phone book listings. However, Lyons pointed out that libraries are the logical choice for building a Local Web, and aggregating all the sites and information about your community into one cohesive unit in one online location. We have started to do that on our website, by putting most of the relevant Borough information in one place. However, according to Lyons, we could be doing more, such as creating a “localpedia” using wiki technology, which would include patron participation.

The concept of patron participation was key in this series, and two of the presentations gave concrete methods of implementation. Blogs, Flickr, Google Maps, My Maps in Google Maps, and specific sites like Zillow.com and LifeAt.com were shown. Ideas like creating a local blog directory using sites like Placeblogger were suggested as ways to start creating a Local Web. There are definitely ideas that we can start implementing on our site. It just makes me wonder if we are going to have to change our site to accomodate these concepts? Something to consider as we add things.

The second seminar was really just a presentation about how a specific organization (NIST) used collaboration with their customers (who seemed to be other employees in different departments) to solve specific research problems. As a public librarian, it didn’t resonate with me, but I’m not even sure the presentation could have helped research librarians much, either. The one thing the pair of presenters talked about was loaning out iPod Nano G3 devices to their customers, preloaded with management books, research papers and podcasts that the librarians wanted them to have. In the Q&A afterward, the iPods were all that people focussed on, so I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who didn’t find much in the presentation to take home.

Third session, “Learning Commons” was marketed toward academic librarians, but was not described as such in the booklet. It was a good presentation, but not relevant to me or really to anyone who is not currently in a position to refurnish a library. Interesting fact presented that caught my attention: 73.5% of male students owned a video game system while only 45.6% of female students owned one. All other stats, like laptop and cell phone ownership, was equal between the men and women. Not really relevant here, but interesting nonetheless.

Finally, the fourth session, “User Generated Content” really got me motivated to check out some new things that users and librarians can use to, again, help foster this sense of online community. One piece of software mentioned was Kete, which is created by the same folks who brought us the open source ILS Koha. Kete allows users within a community (like our Avalon Library community) to put up items of all sorts: artwork, videos, pictures, blogs, etc., all in one location on the site. I want to explore this more as it looks like something we may want to implement. The presenter, Roy Tennant, also showed us the Library of Congress Flickr project, where LC posted some of its historic photos on the photo-sharing site Flickr and invited comments from the public. LC accomplished “higher profile for collections, community engagement, some corrections added to metadata, and discussion and personal recollections about the images.”

I was thinking how great it would be to have a site dedicated to Avalon Memories. People could upload pictures of Avalon from any time period and comment on them, or just blog their individual memories of Avalon at any point in the past. Maybe this is something that falls under the auspices of the museum, but i think that the library could do it as well. Maybe we could even record older residents’ memories and have audio files on the site. The second part of this last presentation was about tagging, which I won’t really go into here. If you are really interested, visit http://steve.museum.

As I said, it was a busy day, and I retired to the 6th floor, quite happy to eat a burger in the comfort of my room. And, even as I locked myself out of my room putting the tray outside and had to go downstairs in my exercise clothes and socks, I was thinking how great it was that I was wearing the ALA mid-winter t-shirt from Brodart, so everyone would know that I’m definitely a librarian! Sigh. There’s always tomorrow…


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