Archive for June, 2009

A few years ago (it must have been early this decade) I entered a virtual online world out of curiosity. This 3D world seemed pretty sparse until I ventured into a populated area. There were other ‘avatars’ around with whom I could chat if I so desired – text would appear in little speech bubbles. I could go into a building and furnish an apartment and explore the virtual world from there.

I didn’t really see the point so didn’t go back. I can’t remember what it was called.

Second Life is one such virtual world that I’d heard a lot about. I’ve read articles about the virtual lives of those seemingly addicted to this world. People have residences, businesses, jobs, love affairs, even weddings. I still don’t get the point. I suppose it’s a way of meeting people and finding information through a game-like 3D environment. I’d rather do that in a text format. Call me old-fashioned…

However, I thought I’d find out a little more about Second Life.  It was developed by Linden Lab and opened its virtual gates in 2003.  People go about their business in Second Life purchasing things and services using the Linden dollar. The Linden dollar is purchased using the real US dollar. US$1 = approximately L$266 (it fluctuates just like real exchange rates).

Naturally I’d heard of ‘a’ Second Life Library. I, naïvely, thought there was just one Second Life library, but no. There is a whole island devoted to information called, funnily enough, Info Island. This is where the ‘adult’ libraries are (no, not that sort of ‘adult’). The libraries for teens are on a teen info island.

So what does this world look like? Here’s a virtual library tour dating from 2007.

Pictures of Second Life libraries can be found at Flickr.

“What do they do?”, I wondered. Well, they do everything a library in the real world does. There is a website devoted to Second Life Libraries at infoisland.org. On this site are listed library events such as discussions about movies and books, lectures, details of venues for distance classes, career fairs and even conferences.

Another very useful and informative Youtube video explains Second Life library services for distance education.

The main libraries appear to be sponsored by Alliance Library systems and the public library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg.  They are operated, naturally enough, by real librarians.  “How well used are the libraries?”, I also wondered. One librarian devotes a blog to her online world and recently had an interesting post about defining a library in Second Life.  Interesting stuff!  She ends the blog post with questions for which a survey is being planned.  Just like in real life.

“… I think before we can begin to truly define a library in a virtual environment, we need to define information in a virtual environment.  How will it be used?  How will it be found? For are the users looking?  As part of our grant, we will conduct a survey which we hope will if not answer some of these questions, at least shed some light on some possible answers.  I will post a link after the survey is approved.”

I look forward to, hopefully, seeing the results of the survey once it is completed.  This blog, written by assistant professor at New Mexico State University, Tracey Thompson, did more in helping me try to understand Second Life a little better than any other website.

Are there any librarians out there who are “Second Lifers” or who have visited Second Life libraries? I’d love to hear your experiences.


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Tickling the Funny Bone

This week I sat down to bring to you something a little more light hearted than my usual serious fare. 🙂 I wrote a post pointing to three of my favourite comics online; Unshelved my favourite library comic strip, Dilbert so true of office life and Calvin and Hobbs which captures childhood to perfection. But I had a bit of a fail. I wanted to include samples of the strips on the post, but the only way I could get them displaying properly was to break copyright. 😦

However, all three can be viewed via RSS feeds, or delivered straight to your email inbox, and shared on various social networking sites…

So keeping to the youtube theme, here is Austin Public Library Bibliofiles, a book cart drill team, which won the silver at the ALA Book Cart Drill Team Championships in Anaheim.

I am also going to inflict upon you bad Librarian Jokes.

First the infamous Chicken in the Library Joke

A chicken walks into the library. It goes up to the circulation desk and says: “book, bok, bok, boook”.

The librarian hands the chicken a book. It tucks it under his wing and runs out. A while later, the chicken runs back in, throws the first book into the return bin and goes back to the librarian saying: “book, bok, bok, bok, boook”. Again the librarian gives it a book, and the chicken runs out.

The librarian shakes her head. Within a few minutes, the chicken is back, returns the book and starts all over again: “boook, book, bok bok boook”. The librarian gives him yet a third book, but this time as the chicken is running out the door, she follows it.

The chicken runs down the street, through the park and down to the riverbank. There, sitting on a lily pad is a big, green frog. The chicken holds up the book and shows it to the frog, saying: “Book, bok, bok, boook”. The frog blinks, and croaks: “read-it, read-it, read-it”.

And don’t forget to change the light bulb!

How many academic librarians does it take to change a light bulb? Just five. One changes the light bulb while the other four form a committee and write a letter of protest to the Dean, because after all, changing light bulbs IS NOT professional work!

How many catalogers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one, but they have to wait to see how AACR2 does it first.

How many reference librarians does it take to change a light-bulb? (with a perky smile) “Well, I don’t know right off-hand, but I know where we can look it up!”

How many library system managers does it take to change a lightbulb? All of them as the manual was lost in the last move (or flood).

How many library technicians does it take to change a lightbulb? Seven. One to follow approved procedure, and six to review the procedure. (8 if you count the librarian they all report to)

And a number of miscellaneous jokes, just because

Why did the librarian slip and fall on the library floor?

Because she was in the non-friction section.

Q. Why is that library book you’re trying to find always in the last place you look?

A. Because once you find it, you stop looking. 

Q. What building has the most stories?

A. The library, of course!

Q. If a student goes to a seven-story library and checks out seven books, how many are left?

A. None. The library had only seven stories

Q. What does the skeleton do when she goes to the library?

A. She likes to “bone up” on her favorite subject (and we’re not ribbing you, either).

Q. What does the Mummy do when he goes to the library?

A. He gets all wrapped up in a good book

And try here for more!

And for a completely random link, why wouldn’t you want to stay at the Library Hotel if travelling to New York!

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In Auckland on June 24-25, publishers and other interested parties attended a conference called “The Future of the Book.”  It was run by the Digital Publishing Forum.   The agenda featured keynotes from application developers, academics and e-book publishers.  John Garraway represented the National Digital Forum on a panel discussion.

I didn’t attend the conference although I wish I had.  From what I’ve (briefly) heard the conference was an exciting exploration of  the following:

  • devices- availability in New Zealand, multiplicity of
  • technologies – languages, protocol, format
  • the experience of ‘the book’ – buying, reading, using, portability
  • opportunities – for publishers, libraries, authors, teachers, students

The colleague who went from my place of work came back fizzing with information and ideas to think over.  (She also told a heartwarming story about a suggestion that libraries charge for ebooks.  Very few of the people in the room put their hands up in agreement.   e-books then are just another format.)

I admit that I had completely missed that there was nothing on the agenda  about Google Books until someone pointed it out to me.   I can only assume that was because Google Books is seen as something quite separate to publishers concerns about the publication of future works and/or the potential in moving from print based to digital based presentation.  I’m not sure that a conference run by a group with the aim  “to accelerate the development of a digital publishing industry in New Zealand”  should be expected to address copyright and privacy issues at the same time.

What’s it about then?  Well,  it’s complicated.

The goal of the Google Books Library Project is to “make it easier for people to find relevant books – specifically, books they wouldn’t find any other way such as those that are out of print – while carefully respecting authors’ and publishers’ copyrights. ”  An arrangement between library partners and Google saw mass scanning of certain library collections.  This included items that were in copyright and items that were in the public domain (or out of copyright).   In 2005 two lawsuits were bought against Google contending that authors and publishers rights weren’t being respected and that authors and publishers weren’t being properly compensated.   The situation was partially resolved late last year when a settlement was reached between all parties.  This involved compensation for publishers and authors in exchange for Google to have the right to “make many of these out-of-print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.” ( Internationally, searching won’t change because the “agreement resolves a United States lawsuit, it directly affects only those users who access Book Search in the U.S.” The agreement however does cover works by international authors that have been released in the US.) Authors can opt out of the settlement via the Google Book Settlement administration website.  The settlement will also allow Google to display and/or sell orphan works.  These are works that are out-of-print, still in copyright but unclaimed by a copyright holder.   The U.S. Justice Department is making some inquiries into whether this gives them an unfair advantage although at this stage it hasn’t been announced as a formal investigation.  The US Authors Guild President thinks this is nothing to worry about.   He’s convinced that the Books Rights Registry will actually help to unearth copyright holders as Google starts paying out.  Some organisations are also concerned about privacy issues.  The Auckland Libraries blogger Scooper has written about this under Google Books opposition increasing.  There seem to be two main concerns.  One is the ability of technology to track where you’ve been and how long you’ve been there.  The other is about the privatisation  of information.

Where does that leave us?  To be honest I’m not entirely sure.  I’m all in favour of being able to access the full text of books online.  I’m happy to pay for that privilege.  I hope that New Zealand publishers and authors are looking carefully at the agreement and considering their options, both with regards to Google Books and any future digital publication.  I think that one thing is for certain – the future of the book is assured (even if we’re not quite sure what format it will be in.)

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A tool, according to my favourite cheap and cheerful reference source is “an entity used to interface between two or more domains that facilitates more effective action of one domain upon the other.”


Here’s a clarifying example:

“A hammer typically interfaces between the operator’s hand and the nail the operator wishes to strike.”

OK, I get that.

I’ve always had an interesting relationship to the world of entities-created-to-facilitiate-action-between-domains, and for a very basic reason – I’m left handed. Many tools are designed for an orientation to the world that is simply less natural for me.

It gets even more complicated than that. I’ve largely adapted to this aspect of the world, so that in most cases I’ll use a right-handed tool in a right handed way if that’s required, and not if not. As I said to a musician friend recently, it’s possible to get your guitar strung left handed, not so easy to do so with a piano. I make do, I adapt and I’m generally not conscious about those times when I’m being a left hander or being a right hander.

This has backfired on me historically. I clearly remember being young and struggling with setting the table – my mother suggested I should put the utensils as I used them, and then swap them around because I was left handed. I did so – and got them the wrong way round. I eat the same way as a right hander does, so using “the opposite to what I do” as a guide to setting a table just didn’t work. I still have to sometimes think the double step through that one…

This may or may not have been a formative moment, but now I am somewhat more grown up I often look at how we relate to our tools, particularly this wonderful tool called the internet. (Or is it a collection of tools?)

I look at libraries who run a blog. I see a lot of blogs that get updated with news about the library, with events and so on, but one think I’ve rarely seen (and I’ve looked at a fair few library blogs in my time) with an active community of responders. (Let’s not mention the NZ library blogs I know of whose comments are populated by responses from their own staff… most amusing…)

It’s very hip and cool to have a blog – but what’s the difference between a blog with no comments and a news page, which we’ve had on our websites for years?

I look at libraries putting out content with feeds, and I (who adore them) wonder if a wide enough sector of the population is engaged with managing feeds to make it worthwhile. Admittedly here I am thinking as a public librarian.

I look at our flickr accounts and wonder if we’re connecting directly through them, or if they’re simply taking the place of local hosting – not that I think secure remote hosting is a bad thing at all.

When we are looking for a hammer, we are concerned with our intent (to insert a nail) and the object of our intent (the nail). Once we have located the hammer, we’re only conscious of it if we hit our thumb.

I’d like to see more library professionals using social media think about their intent (to communicate with an audience) and the object of their intent (the audience) rather than become preoccupied, as we sometimes seem to be, with the tools.

To go back to handedness – we’re a natural profession for left-brain (right-handed) thinkers. Orderly, organised, procedure oriented. Let’s actively work on being librarians from the right side of the brain. The tool that is the internet is most efficiently intuited because it’s too big to be structured. If us lefties can adapt to a world of right handers, you guys can take on this challenge.

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And another interlude

It must be a week for it.  I’m afraid I haven’t had time this week to think clearly so I provide some visual lightheartedness for you.

’til next week – have a good one.

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An interlude

Sorry folks, but I’m struggling to write anything intelligent tonight so here is a light-hearted story to make you smile, and because I told Kris I would tell her one day about it.  Please feel free to share your own!

Some years ago I worked for a large tertiary institution known to you all but which shall remain anonymous to protect the innocent.  Our students were a lively bunch, more so around graduation time when capping stunts were de rigeur.

Picture the scene…

Librarian (me) at the desk, student approaches.

Me: Hi. *smiles*

Student: Have you got a box I could have?

Me: Sure, we’ve usually got boxes floating around, hold on. [goes out the back to get one]

Me: Here you are – is this big enough for your books?

Student: Um.. it’s not for books, it’s for the chicken.

Me: *thinks frozen chicken & groceries* Right.

Student looks at librarian sheepishly.

Student: The chicken in the library.

Me: * having surreal experience where you stand outside yourself and tell yourself, there is a person telling you there is a chicken in the library* There is a chicken in the library?

Student: There is a chicken in the library.  It went that way.

Me: Um.. ok. *hysterically thinking, is there a frog too?* Shall we see if it’s still there then?

A chicken hunt ensues.  No chicken is found, but evidence of the chicken’s presence is plainly evident.  Student departs with box to locate chicken.  Librarian descends with cleaning implements to remove chicken deposits.

Apparently there were 6 (I think) chickens in total, all wearing purple capes to represent the graduating discipline.  They were eventually rounded up by the pest control people.  The faculty dean was less than impressed.


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The still empty library slowly darkened, behind the desk stood the librarian, lost in thought, quietly contemplating the days work. He reviewed his day, feeling pleased with his effort and what he had achieved. Yet, he wondered, as he took in the small library where he worked, what next? What more was for him? Were his friend’s right and was he in a dead end job?

Last month a link to the New Zealand Library & Information Management Journal – Nga Pūrongo arrived in my inbox. The first article is A Good Read: Library Management Journals Useful to Managers of New Zealand Public Libraries / Graham Baker.  Below is the abstract for that article:

This study explores the use of journals on the topics of library practice and business/management by managers of public libraries in New Zealand. Previous research on library journals has focused on academic journals published in the USA, ranking them on the basis of their perceived academic “prestige”. This study researches the relative “usefulness” of journals and publications on the topics of library practice and management/business. Using a self administered questionnaire the research probes the perceptions and behaviours of managers of public libraries in New Zealand on the use of academic and practitioner journals in their work. The report concludes that managers of public libraries are active users of journals on the topics of both library practice and business/ management. Those library managers who participated in the research have a preference for practitioner publications over academic journals. Survey respondents ranked APLIS the most useful journal. The highest ranking academic journal in the study was The New Zealand Library & Information Management Journal.

So I sat and had a long think. I then discussed my thinking with my better half, which gave me more things to think about.

I read Graham’s article and thought Ok, that’s useful information for library managers, but what about the professionals in smaller libraries that don’t have access to some of those journals through their institutions? Are they or their libraries going to have the necessary funds to subscribe?   APLIS is not very expensive at $45.00 per year, and most people will receive The New Zealand Library & Information Management Journal through LIANZA membership. And yet in today’s economic climate $45.00 can be a large sum, and the $100.00 for LIANZA might seem a lot too. So how are library professionals going to access literature? There are some resources out there for example INTERNET LIBRARY FOR LIBRARIANS has some links to free full text articles, but many of the links are to databases, where you still need to subscribe.

There is also the question of whether it is useful to read articles? How much relevance is there in academic literature for practising professionals? Also to consider is that we have adopted Professional Registration with the aim of creating a “graduate” profession.  I can see the value of both. Research and the literature it generates gives a range of resources from which the practising professional can draw inspiration from to innovate in their work. At management level it also gives evidence to back up arguments when challenged, especially when challenged about budgets in this fiscally dangerous time.

The following is a snippet of a conversation, or more accurately recollections of several conversations, merged into one, which I have had.

“Why should I join LIANZA”

“Um, it gives you access to a community of professionals, and involvement will help with your career development”

“Yeah that’s all well and good but what else?”

“Cheaper CPD opportunities”

“Work pays for those anyway”

“That’s lucky, but did you know you also get Library Life and NZLIMJ with your membership”

Which leads to this point: Maybe LIANZA should provide access to one of the full text Library Management databases, like Library Literature & Information Science Full Text, for members.

Then the following email came though from NZ-Libs

“I have been interested in the various posting to the NZ Libs listserv about Tui Smith’s article. I read the original article and was quite surprised at her findings and wondered about her sample. I come from a science background where everything has to be peer-reviewed and there is a lot of concern about achieving unbiased results but hadn’t really considered whether the articles in the LIANZA journal were peer-reviewed or not. As a general rule, I think letters debating issues raised in articles should be published and that, where possible, articles should be peer-reviewed. However, this article was written by a student and should be judged on that basis. When it comes to assignments, one is restricted by the parameters set by the tutors. If a research study is required this is usually fairly limited in scope. Students don’t have the knowledge, resources and time to set up large, comprehensive studies. As a student myself, I can imagine how I would feel if one of my assignments, that I wrote using the best of my knowledge and ability, was published and then was the subject of letters of criticism. Obviously this article was published because it won a prize so I am concerned about the awarding of a prize to an article that relies on a study with such a small (and possibly biased) sample without this being acknowledged in the article. Maybe it was the best article that met the criteria of the prize. The terms of the prize state “The winning paper may be published in an appropriate LIANZA publication” (emphasis added). Perhaps this article shouldn’t have been published.”

It made me consider the nature of Library publishing and research in New Zealand. We don’t have a strong history of research and published literature. The MLIS is only thirteen odd years old, and how many Doctoral students have we had, or have currently? If we look back through the copies of NZLIMJ we will find a small group doing the research and publishing. Surely as a burgeoning graduate profession we need to be encouraging research and literature? So yes this article should have been published and so should more. How many useful pieces of research are buried in the vaults of Victoria University read only by the author and marker? I think more student works should be published. I would like to see a piece of student research published in every NZLIMJ, and I think the top ten pieces of research could be published in a separate journal yearly.

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