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ALA Conference – Sunday, June 24th, 2007 July 2, 2007

Filed under: ALA 2007,Conferences — ellie @ 10:54 pm
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Sunday morning I was up bright and early to the RUSA-MARS all committee meeting. The MARS chair described MARS as the intersection of technology and people – both patrons and librarians. I thought there might be some form of presentation, but it really was just committee business meetings. That was fine though. As they pointed out, an all committee meeting allows visitors to check out multiple committees. I sat in with the Virtual Reference committee (a joint committee with RSS) and joined in their discussions. It was a nice group, and well organized. The Virtual Reference committee has two subcommittees and a committee listserv. Of particular note is the Virtual Reference Adventure a self paced VR tutorial with notes for trainers. (ACC Staff Development and IM teams – we should take a look through this.) The prior training program was Anytime Anywhere Answers. There is a book available in the ALA store and an associated web site. The creator encouraged cherry picking from both programs. One issue left for next time was the plans for the revision of the Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.

Sorry I missed:

It’s Showtime for Instruction Librarians: The Making of Short Films for Marketing and Instruction (ALA LIRT)
Noah Wyle may be The Librarian, but he’s not the only one who can make a movie! Join us as librarians from Valdosta State University and Indiana University South Bend present their experiences as creators and directors of library instruction “videos.” They will also discuss the collaboration with faculty, students, and the community that is essential in the making of these short films. Speakers: Apryl Price, Valdosta State Univ., Odum Library; Yolanda Hood, Assistant Professor, Valdosta State Univ., Odum Library; Deborah VanPetten Reference Librarian, Reference Librarian, Valdosta State Univ., Odum Library; Emily Rogers, Assistant Professor, Valdosta State Univ., Odum Library; Nancy Colborn, Associate Librarian, Indiana University; Vincci Kwong, Indiana University

Next up I was off to:

Harnessing the Hive: Social Networks and Libraries (RUSA MARS)
Social networking such as YouTube, the Facebook, flickr, cell texting, and podcasting are second nature to youth, who integrate these technologies into daily life in unexpected ways. Bibliofiles tag and share their favorite books on LibraryThing, while librarians communicate using blogs and wikis such as Library Success. Our experienced panel will discuss this rapidly growing phenomenon and present examples of innovative outreach and reference services that utilize social software such as tagging, blogging and wikis to reach online users. Speakers: Matthew Bejune, Digital Reference Services Coordinator, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; Meredith Farkas, Distance Learning Librarian, Norwich University, Northfield, VT; Tim Spalding, Founder and Developer, LibraryThing, Portland, MN

I kept going back and forth on whether I was going to attend this session. I had been trying to avoid the sessions with too many buzzwords that I didn’t think were really going to cover anything new. That first sentence really turned me off, but then I saw Tim Spalding at the bottom and I was sold. I’m infatuated with the concept of LibraryThing. I don’t actually use LibraryThing with any regularity, but I did put in some of my cookbooks and craft books to show my weaving guild what we could do with the service if we chose to use it to catalog our weaving library. If you’re unfamiliar with LibraryThing, feel free to take a look through my library.

Matthew Bejune started us off with 25 perspectives on social networking. (There’s also a follow up – part II). He shared the results of his research into social networking software in libraries. One of the ways he collected data was through the archives of listservs (digref, web4lib, and libref-L). He found 35 libraries at that time, but is sure there are far more now. (Including us!) He broke the results into four types: library with other libraries; staff with self; library with patrons; patrons with self. He found most examples fell into the first two categories, to work professionally with ourselves. While his study focused on wikis, he believes the results would hold true for other types of social networks (IM, blogs, etc.).

He gave examples of St. Joe’s Public Library in Indiana, which made its subject guides a wiki (editable only by librarians), and The Biz Wiki at Ohio University where patrons are allowed to contribute.

He suggested four questions to ponder:

  • Where are the wikis used in categories three and four? What’s stopping us?
  • How might we enable users to build/modify library information? (risky, uncomfortable, change in thinking)
  • In what ways will libraries next utilize wikis and other social networking technology?
  • How long before your library implements some form of social networking?

More information, including his slides and more examples of how libraries are using wikis, is available at his wiki. He encourages you to add your library to the examples.

Next up was Meredith Farkas. She talked about knowledge management. All organizations want to make the best use of institutional knowledge. All librarians have different areas of expertise. Patrons have lots of knowledge that would be useful to other patrons. And yet we’re terrible at collecting this knowledge.

How do we collect info?

  • one on one conversations
  • staff meetings
  • scraps of paper on the ref desk
  • IM
  • email
  • blogs

Meredith talked about adding amazon.com functionality to the catalog by collecting knowledge from our patrons:

  • users who checked out also checked out (scraping identifying info)
  • user tags
  • lists allow users to do readers advisory
  • allow comments in the catalog

She gave the example of Rocwiki – a guide to Rochester, created by locals. Sense of created community.

Another example: PennTags – videogames and violence bibliography – Bibliography created by a student researcher. PennTags is limited access to current UPenn students, faculty and staff, so I do wonder – does that bibliography go away when the student graduates?

Collecting institutional knowledge, wikis as intranet

  • share policy and procedures
  • basic info
  • knowledge about reference resources, assignments, sources in subject area
  • like having all your colleagues with you at the desk when you have a question

She pointed out that it can take time to build knowledge management behavior into the organizational workflow. You have to get buy-in and provide real/formal trainings. See Meredith’s presentations wiki for more info.

Last up was Tim Spalding from LibraryThing. (Tim also presented at the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase.) He explained that in traditional social networking sites users are linked by friends. In LibraryThing they are linked by shared books, library data and tags. It’s social cataloging.

He talked about learning as a conversation. You move from books of facts to form your own arguments -> journals (complexity) -> conferences -> knowledge as conversation. The card catalog is not the conversation, it’s like an encyclopedia – facts, directional. LibraryThing is catalog as conversation.

He posted the full text of his introduction at the LibraryThing blog. I believe he used live examples rather than slides, so you’ll forgive me for not finding them all, but feel free to play around with LibraryThing to illustrate the examples.

He showed an author page – included author photo, links, variations of name (like an authority file).

He showed how you can combine works. xISBN v. ThingISBN and said that FRBR people say that LibraryThing and OCLC are both doing pretty well.

He showed us the cooking tag as an example. You could see cooking, related tags, and related LC subjects (cookery – so very intuitive, no?). He also used chicklit and cyberpunk as examples, saying these were not in OCLC. However he was corrected by some very indignant catalogers at the end of the presentation.

He said that recommendations are different on LibraryThing than Amazon because it’s not about what’s hot or what’s selling now, but pushes people into the stacks because it’s what people own and love.

Another example was the subject headings for Tales of the City in LC vs. LibraryThing. He said that tags can get at identity and perspective.

OCLC Subjects:

  • City and town life — Fiction.
  • Humorous fiction.
  • San Francisco (Calif.) — Fiction.

Here’s the tag cloud at LibraryThing:


Another example was Darwin’s Black Box. In OCLC it is cataloged as evolutionary biology. In library thing it’s intelligent design.

He also talked about some of the problem with tags. The Diary of Anne Frank could be tagged with antisemitic tags. It hasn’t been (more on that later), but it has been tagged with the fairly useless “historyish”. He said that it washes out statistically, but only if you have a lot of tags. He went on to show how PennTags had been hijacked with pfdoctype_newspapers_articles_&_reviews as the most popular tag. LibraryThing adds more tags every day than PennTags has total.

He showed that WWII hierarchy is harder to get in tags (though he’s working on a solution). And that the tag “leather” mixes leather working, books that are bound in leather, and erotica.

Another problem with tagging is who is doing the tagging. The #1 result for “Ireland”? Angela’s Ashes. Probably not the result the Irish would want.

He showed how Flickr does clusters to disambiguate. Look at the cluster for bows to see how they distinguish between Christmas ornaments, boats, etc.

LibraryThing is working on a Tag Mash feature so that you can combine tags such as: France + WWII + fiction, or chicklit + Greece.

The Danbury Library in CT is currently using LibraryThing with its catalog. Read about it at LibraryThing and do a search yourself. Added functionality includes other editions and translations, related books, and of course, tags. Tim pointed out that this works with any OPAC and the advantage is that it has a lot of information – all of LibraryThing not just a few participants.

I’m very excited about allowing some of these social networking features into the catalog. I am looking forward to our Encore demo later this month. But Tim’s presentation made me realize that Encore might not be enough – if no one tags anything, tags won’t be very useful. At the same time, I want to be able to tag things – especially if they are relevant to a particular assignment. So when it was time for audience questions I asked whether LibraryThing for Libraries would allow patrons to add tags. That is not a current priority and he suggested using list features to mark things that would be good for a particular assignment. This also ties in to something he mentioned later in the Q&A section – that LibraryThing users can only tag books they own. There is more of an incentive “not to write on your own bathroom wall.” (This is why Anne Frank’s diary hasn’t been tagged with antisemitic comments, likewise for politicians, etc.) I still want to combine the massive data of LibraryThing with the localized access of PennTags. Cut to the vendor hall where I asked the Encore people whether there was talk of combining data for more functionality and they said they’re in talks with LibraryThing.

OK, back to the Q&A. Tim also said that there may be a need for some moderation but not so much that users don’t have control. WorldCat has very few reviews because there are so many hoops to jump through.

There was also a plug from the audience for using del.icio.us in the library.

You can read another blogger’s take on the session at Tracking Changes/Changing Tracks.

Sorry I missed:

Build-a-Librarian: Build-a-Librarian: Training Issues and Continuing Education for the Reference Staff (RUSA -RSS)
The RUSA/RSS Reference Services in Small and Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group is sponsoring a session on the training and continuing education of reference personnel. The training of recent library school graduates and other newly hired (or new to reference work) personnel will be discussed within the context of overall library staff training and continuing education. There are unique challenges in training reference personnel in small and medium-sized libraries, and we will be discussing libraries’ training and continuing education programs and sharing experiences in integrating new staff members into reference service.

Swap & Shop-Celebrate PR! (LAMA PRMS)
A showcase of PR materials (event promotions, newsletters, calendars, reading clubs and so much more); including winners of the “Best of Show” competition. Attendees can pick up free samples of promotional materials from libraries of all sizes and types across the country (and beyond). The “PR Docs” will be available for consultation and discussion of the “PR Makeovers”-professionally redesigned examples of how to improve publicity materials. Speakers: Troy Rumpf, Chair, LAMA PRMS Swap & Shop Committee; Sherrill Smith, Chair, LAMA PRMS John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards Committee; Peggy Barber, Library Communication Strategies; Linda Wallace, Library Communication Strategies

After lunch at Spy City Cafe (surprisingly good veggie lasagna for a museum cafe) I went to:

Crossing the K-12/College Divide: Practical Tips for Collaboration (AASL/ACRL)
Track: Administration & Leadership; New Models for Collaboration
Speakers involved in collaborative K-12/college partnerships will provide practical tips about initiating such relationships and discuss their project’s goals and objectives, planning process, student activities, resources, and evaluation. Participants will then engage in table discussions and develop their own plans for pursuing a relationship with a local school or college to strengthen the teaching of information literacy. Documents from the Toolkit for K-12 Collaboration will be introduced.

I have to say it was not very engaging. They explained that we were supposed to get a toolkit, but that it was not ready yet. The first part of the program discussed dual enrollment – high school students taking classes at their high school, but getting college credit for them. The speaker holds workshops for adjunct faculty. She hones in on the English department in particular because they are doing research. She focuses on outreach, goes to their summer workshops, and follows up with letters, phone calls and, email. She likes to use a pre-session worksheet to get students to the library website before they get to the class. She does the instruction in person, covering the basics: location, login, search strategies, and she stresses followup – phone, email, and virtual.

She showed a conference software called Elluminate which she used in a pilot program, but decided it would be better used as a follow up. At about this point I realized I had lost my sweater and quietly dipped out to call the Spy City Cafe and check the lost and found.

The presentation slides are available at Rio Salado College’s website (pdf).

Sorry I missed:

Training Showcase: Best Practices for Continuing Library Education (ALA CLENERT)
The Training Showcase is a poster session type of program celebrating innovative continuing education, staff development, training initiatives and programs in all types of libraries across the country. Come meet this unique group of trainers, staff development coordinators, and librarians who are sharing the exceptional staff learning opportunities they developed. Periodic door prizes drawings will be held throughout the program.

After giving my sweater up as a goner I decided to wander the vendors. I stopped by the Google booth and found out that ALA has made library gadgets for Google Gadgets and I was reminded about Google’s SMS service – text your query to googl. I met Jenny Levine at the TechSource booth, (though I declined to play the Wii) and I was tickled to see that the Vegetarian Resource Group had a booth.

Then I was off to the

Third Annual Bookcart Drill Team World Championship
The Third Annual Bookcart Drill Team World Championship will take place during the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The event is always a good time!

I can’t believe there were only four teams. There were way more at TLA. They also need to work on some stadium seating so we can see. I loved Texas’ Rosie the Riveter theme!

Sorry I missed:

Blogs & Related Technologies Panel (ACRL LPSS)
Presenters, chosen through competitive peer-review, will discuss their original research, expertise, and/or best practices about blogs and related technologies.

After the bookcart drill team competition I met up with some friends from high school and library school and we headed over to the:

It’s a great opportunity to network with friends and colleagues, and to meet new ones. The social is open to everyone, and non-members are always welcome. Join us at DC’s premiere GLBT Country/Western bar. We’ll have bars 1, 2, and 4 (including the dance floor). Appetizers and desserts will be served. The bar will be open, and we did promise that our members would buy at least $450 in drinks! The owner is very excited to have us so look forward to a really great time.

There was a nice sized group and I pulled out my notebook more than once. I had another recommendation to use a del.icio.us account for the reference desk. And my favorite – a suggestion to use part part of our Second Life island to allow people to try out code.


One Response to “ALA Conference – Sunday, June 24th, 2007”

  1. Jenny Levine Says:

    Maybe next time we can Wii 🙂

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