Posts filed under ‘Libraries’

The beauty of libraries

Sansovino’s Library, Rome ItalyMaybe only librarians can appreciate today’s post. Or maybe only people who appreciate grand design and history. On my travels, I’ve wandered into many a dusty old library in search of that awe-inspiring experience. As a librarian (first career), I’ve always been on the prowl for a library straight out of the medieval era – sweeping, arched ceilings covered with colourful Biblical scenes or portraits of Greek philosophers; rich oak-panelled shelves scaling up the walls, groaning with the weight of priceless manuscripts or woodcuts; shards of light piercing through stained glass windows and softly illuminating a bookstand in the middle of the library, displaying one of Gutenberg’s Bibles. I came across such a library in Portugal in 2004 – Biblioteca do Palacio e Convento de Mafra – with marble floors and elaborately carved mezzanine balconies. Very grand. Very Portuguese.

I was looking for a photo of this library the other day (duh, didn’t have my camera with me on that 2004 trip). And I stumbled onto a curious blog with an array of stunning photos of libraries around the world. The curious blog? It’s called Curious Expeditions: Travelling and Exhuming the Extraordinary Past. A welcome addition to my RSS feeds.

But check out some of the breathtaking photos of libraries – click on them to see fuller detail. Here’s the elegant Portuguese library I mentioned:
Portuguese library

And here’s a stunner – the Abbey Library St.Gallen, Switzerland: Abbey Library Switzerland

Not to mention the simply glorious Melk Monastery Library, Melk, Austria – gleaming with gold!

Melk Monastery Library

Go here to see all the wonderful photos on the Curious Expeditions blog – I’ve never seen so many beautiful spaces. It’s enough to make me consider going on a Grand Tour of Libraries in 2008!

Update: ThinkingShift good friend, Patrick Lambe, over at Green Chameleon has reflected on the Library of the Abbey of St Gallen image and posted a thoughtful piece on the sustainability of our digital knowledge world. Indeed, the image of this library (above) almost contains two worlds – the figures seem to be rushing through the library, fleeting, blurred images in the moment; the books are solid, static, preserved in time.


September 17, 2007 at 3:00 am 2 comments

Dewey’s being dumped!

StephaneNot too sure how good old Melvil Dewey would feel about this – the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is being kicked out of some libraries. Maybe Dewey’s had his day – a classification system should reflect how users think about and search for information. This is why folksonomies are so popular.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that a library in Arizona has abandoned the DDC in favour of book spines that carry simple, plain English labels such as “History” and “True Crime”. They refer to these categories as “neighborhoods”. Now, those of us who hang out a lot in libraries would know that the DDC arranges human knowledge into 10 classes, 100 divisions and 1000 sections – so it’s numerical and hierarchical. But now that we have Google and Yahoo!, users are pretty used to finding stuff with their own keywords and subject headings (let’s leave aside the probability that a lot of it is useless stuff and let’s leave aside that they’re searching the world according to Google or Yahoo!). And librarians well know that the DDC has its flaws – the 600s (technology) has no topic area for computers, which have to be classified in the 004-006 section.

But I’m of two minds about this: as someone who also spends a lot of time in bookstores wasting time trying to work out how they classify books, I wonder how a simple label like “History” really helps patrons find things. But it does raise the issue of how libraries and librarians are being asked to become more “relevant” in an age in which Google is perhaps a patron’s preferred information seeking method.

Apparently, the Arizona library used to check-out 100-150 books a day; now that it’s de-Deweyfied (is this a term??) around 900 items a day breeze out the library doors – so there’s some argument in saying that the way this library is choosing to present subject headings to its users is more relevant than the DDC. And apparently the library spoke to its users before the decision was made to dump Dewey and 80% of patrons said they go to the library to browse rather than search for a specific item. So it’s the browsing versus searching debate. So I guess even libraries are now being Googlefied (is this a term too??).

But I’d like to know how many books this library (the Perry Branch in Gilbert, Arizona) actually handles. I don’t know how a large library with say 200,000 books as opposed to say 20,000 would be able to cope with classifying things according to ‘neighorhoods’. But full marks to them for an innovative approach and I wonder how many other libraries will follow?

And on another note: news from Libraries Interact (blog central for Oz libraries). Mark September 10, 2007 in your diaries. Librarians around the world will ‘invade’ various Answer sites (eg Yahoo! Answers, Amazon’s Askville, Wikipedia Reference Desk). It will be a day-long Answerfest, with librarians “marketing their services to an audience that has gone elsewhere”. Great stuff!

August 21, 2007 at 3:00 am 1 comment

Librarians on the red carpet

photo taken by Kim in NamibiaFor the librarians amongst us: the world premiere of the first full-length film to focus on the work and lives of librarians will take place at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference June 21-27 2007. Written and directed by Ann Seidl, the documentary has lots of interviews with real-life librarians interwoven with movie clips of cinematic librarians. Films such as Sophie’s Choice, Philadelphia and It’s a Wonderful Life show librarians as negative stereotypes. The librarians in Lorenzo’s Oil, Desk Set and The Shawshank Redemption, on the other hand, are competent and professional.

Themes covered are censorship, intellectual freedom, pay equity, funding issues and the value of reading. Seidl has an MLIS from the University of Denver and says she is a librarian, not a filmmaker. She adds that the film is a step toward librarians redefining themselves as a cultural imperative, not some dusty old stereotype. Yeah!

For Star Trek fans like me, Ray Bradbury is featured – nothing to do with Star Trek but due to his ongoing support of libraries.

The film is called The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians through Film and you can watch a trailer of the film on YouTube. And the film’s website is here.


June 4, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

ThinkingShift useful resources

photo taken by Kim in NamibiaI’m always on the hunt for useful resources to use in my work or University teaching and I’ve recently come across quite a bit of great stuff. First up, is an Educause ebook entitled Educating the Net Generation. Educause is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. The Net Generation has grown up with the Internet being a natural background of their lives and their learning style revolves around collaborative social and learning spaces, which allow them to learn by doing. Download the ebook here. Educause also has a great resource centre for Libraries and Technology.

Next up, I found Shambles, a site that is designed to support international school communities in 17 countries in South East Asia. The Web 2.0 area is a great central spot categorised into resources and links on social bookmarking and social networks, as well as stuff on mind and concept mapping and virtual learning environments. There’s also links to blogs in Asia; blogs by librarians; Web 2.0 Weird Stuff (ie fun links); and an online validator where you can find out if a site is really Web 2.0.

Over at Seed Wiki, I came across Teaching with Blogs. Really great to see the uptake of blogs in education by students and teachers. Check out the The Fischbowl, which is a blog for high school teachers focusing on 21st Century learning strategies; and here’s an example of a blog for high school journalism students.

Back in the Jurassic Park days of my career (1980s), I was a high school teacher – so seeing how social software is contributing to building networks of teachers and students makes me wish I was back teaching in high school!

Then I stumbled onto Worldprocessor, a multi-coloured microcosmos created by Ingo Gunther. Worldprocessor is a gallery of globes that depict our Earth visually in a socio and geo-political sense starting from 1988. Go here to check out some of the many visually stunning globes that depict current problems or invisible processes like refugee flows. Have a look at the globe showing the dark spread of pollution over our planet; the globe in the 17th Century; or where nuclear explosions have taken place since 1945 (scary). These visual globes are hauntingly beautiful, yet remind us that we occupy multiple worlds that constantly shift and change.

And finally, I came across the Global Ideas Bank, which aims to promote and disseminate good creative ideas to improve society and it encourages the public to generate these ideas and to participate in the problem-solving process. The Bank refers to ideas as social inventions: non-technological, non-product, non-gadget ideas for social change. So basically it’s an ideas network and democratic think-tank. And here’s an interesting idea: the problem is accessiblity of environmental businesses and information; and the social invention is the UK’s Green Search, but the rest of the world require green search engines. There’s also a Global Ideas blog.

Lots of great ideas and resources to keep us all going for awhile.

April 23, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

ThinkingShift Wiki Watch

Cheetah in NamibiaAlways on the prowl for useful wikis, today’s post highlights three: Library Success, Citizendium and Appropedia. With two more thrown in for fun.

I like the way Citizendium is shaping up (aka CZ wiki). It’s an offshoot of Wikipedia spearheaded by Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and is still in beta version. Accused of being elitist, it appears to be trying to overcome some of the governance issues Wikipedia has encountered and is fostering a community of subject experts (called editors), who provide ‘gentle expert oversight’ (always dislike the use of the word ‘oversight’, which has connotations of mistake or unintentional omission). Contributors are required to provide real names.

I like the use of subliminal words and phrases like “Citizendium is like a lively bazaar…doing a vigorous trade in words“; “a citizen’s compendium of everything“; and a person contributing or participating is a “citizen“. Really signals an intentional focus on building a busy bee-hive atmosphere of trading in words, dynamic conversation, gossip, shared trust and epistemic congratulation.

Not so sure about the use of the words “constable” (a person whose main job appears to be to round up new people to participate in CZ wiki development – certainly a word that smacks of putativeness); or “cleaner” (a volunteer for the Big Cleanup project that is correcting mistakes that have crept in from created or borrowed articles). But CZ wiki does appear to be testing a different model, but can it avoid the cat fights over who is or is not an expert? Clay Shirky raised this question in his great critique of CZ wiki. Expenditure of energy may ultimately go to defending a model that is based on faith in “expert authority”, rather than creating a truly open community of knowledge generation. We’ll see.

Next up is Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki, a one-stop-shop for great ideas and information for librarians. Created by Meredith Farkas, a librarian in Vermont, USA, Library Success brings together “best practice” information on topics ranging from management and leadership to technology and marketing library services (I’ll leave aside the temptation I have at this point to say that ‘leading practice” is a preferable term because once something is lauded as ‘best’, it’s basically stale since practices and processes have probably already moved on! talking about “worst practices” would be a better learning opportunity).

The list of members for this network of librarians really highlights an international community that is spanning state and international boundaries. I really like the Online Communities section, which provides links to libraries creating online communities for their patrons.

The third wiki is one of particular interest to me – Appropedia – a wiki that is building a living library around an international community, which is seeking collaborative solutions and knowledge for sustainability, poverty reduction, international development and capacity building. Here is a list of Australian organisations involved in international development, appropriate technology and sustainability. Mmmm…..short list of 2 organisations! but from what I can tell, Appropedia is young, about 1 year old.

The taxonomy for the site clearly shows the topics at the forefront of sustainability and poverty reduction.

And just for fun, for all the Star Trek fans, Memory Alpha - as a Trekkie myself (yep, afraid so!) I thought I knew mostly everything about the TV series and the fictional universe of the Klingons, the Ferengi, Star Trek Command etc but this wiki is a surprise for its sheer depth and breadth. And should you have time to learn another language, go here to learn some Klingonese :)-

For a reverse wiki, check out Uncyclopedia, a parody of Wikipedia. For the knowledge management practitioners, see the entry for knowledge, which is defined as the Root of all Evil and a rare and tragic disease.

April 18, 2007 at 3:00 am 5 comments

libSite launches

Photo taken in PortugalWell, don’t know about anyone else out there, but I find it pretty challenging to keep up to date with who, what, where in the library world. The number of library and library-related websites available to peruse, surf or get lost in is so numerous, I get a headache just contemplating the thought. So….what a great idea the just launched libSite is – a recommendation service for library-related websites.

Seems the fab idea for this site comes from Leo Klein, based in Chicago US. I’ve just started exploring libSite, but I gather it allows you to recommend, rate and save sites to a favourites list. libSite also features a a blog, a wiki, RSS feeds and email alerts. And a LibSite Widget is available for people to place on their own sites. You can check out all the features here.

With users adding their own tags, libSite is yet another exciting example of Library 2.0 creating participatory networks. Great stuff!

April 14, 2007 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

Librarianship 2.0

photo from NicaraguaWell, everything is 2.0 something these days, so why not Librarianship 2.0?! Came across this interesting piece – 7 Great Careers for 2007- and look….Librarianship is right up there as a great career (we librarians have always known it’s a fab profession). Today’s librarian is described as “a high-tech information sleuth” (mmm..explains why I like CSI and NCIS), who is “a master of mining cool databases (well beyond Google) to unearth the desired nuggets.”

Librarians are engaging in patrons’ online social worlds such as MySpace and Facebook. And this has caused me to reflect on just how far a library’s role should extend into cyberspace. Online social networks are spaces where today’s youth hang out and build their profile, chat with friends, link to peers, comment on issues, upload their photos etc. So I wondered to what extent patrons, particularly young library users, would object to librarian’s posting comments on, for example, their MySpace page. Are these social worlds closed off to librarians because young patrons assume a heightened level of privacy that is not to be invaded by the library? Or is it more a case of in today’s online environments, privacy isn’t so important to people: but community is? Maybe librarians and libraries have held themselves back worrying about patrons’ privacy when patrons are not worried at all.

So I decided to have a look at whether there are examples of libraries venturing into social worlds. I found a number of libraries who are building profiles in MySpace and Facebook. The Brooklyn College Library has built its presence on MySpace and offers a blog, links to research tools, and Ask-A-Librarian facility. They also use MySpace’s calendar to display the library’s calendar of events; and a Brooklyn College Library’s Friends Comments area. This library has 3231 friends. The Morrisville College Library also has a MySpace presence, which links back to all sorts of library services.

What a great way of meeting your users in their social networking environment and allowing them to know where to find the library. And have a look at Denver Public Library’s MySpace – very cool.

I wondered if any Australian libraries have put their toes in the proverbial water and launched themselves into MySpace to meet users. There seem to be few: Mosman Library Teen Zone and Playford Library Service. If you know of other libraries in Australia or elsewhere, leave a comment as I’d like to build up a list of libraries with a MySpace or Facebook presence.

I also found some interesting resources: 5 Weeks to a Social Library where librarians can learn all about blogs, social bookmarking, Flickr, MySpace – complete with step-by-step instructions; plus the important traits of a Librarian 2.0 here.

April 8, 2007 at 3:31 am Leave a comment

The social life of books and readers

Lotus - ThailandI’ve been searching around for some good examples of libraries embracing the Library 2.0 movement. Everything at the moment seems to be 2.0 something: Web 2.0; Library 2.0; Knowledge Management 2.0 – but essentially it’s about entering the social world of blogs, wikis, podcasts and various media that allow you to find and join a community of like-minded people.

I came across this great example of the Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis, USA. What I like about its web presence is the Bookspace area – an online community based around books. Bookspace illuminates the social life of books and its readers. Like Del.icio.us, readers can create their own lists of favourite titles and share these with other readers; post comments about what they are reading; listen to audio e-books; pay library fines online; get RSS feeds on new books.

The comments for the upcoming final Harry Potter installment shows a community of 60 excited users collectively buzzing and creating a circle of conversation.

What I can’t find on this site (and maybe I’ve missed it or maybe it will be a future enhancement) is user profiles or user home pages. I also couldn’t see an area for user chat (aside from the comments area). These features would allow for social interaction with identity ie placing a face to a user name.

But it’s a great example of libraries grabbing Web 2.0 social software by the horns and delivering a new model of patron participation. Also a great example of the concept of Functional Requirements of Bibliographic Records (FRBR) – matching how users retrieve with the user perspective – which will be the theme of a future post.

I’m sure Australian libraries are doing similar so I’ll be on the hunt for examples to share. Leave a comment if you know of other examples.

April 4, 2007 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

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