Plain Kate
Touch Blue
Three Quarters Dead
Brown Rabbit in the City
Girl Parts
One Crazy Summer
Clementine, Friend of the Week
The Birthday Ball
Scarlett Fever
The Monstrumologist
The Irresistible Henry House
A Wrinkle in Time

Kristen's favorite books »

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Week6 - Webinars

I've attended a couple of Webinars and tried to attend a couple more. The most useful one I've attended was training on EVanced (our summer reading program software). I appreciate that the SRP webinars exist and are easy to understand, in part cause they taught me and it meant I didn't have to create new training for my staff.

There are a couple of Webinars from Nebraska that I will definitely be checking out. I've already suggested a Webinar from the list to one of my staff members. I think there's a lot of my staff that would be interested in Webinars specific to children's services. As budgets are being slashed and local professional development opportunities (or the chance to go to one) are dwindling Webinars can be a great tool.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Week6 - Podcasting

I'm starting to feel overwhelmed. Not because I'm finding the challenge particularly difficult, but because the potential for all these tools that we're not utilizing at the library is so great that I don't know where to start. I'm trying to absorb everything, document my ideas and keep in mind that the best way to start is to pick one thing to implement at a time. (The other half of my brain then screams, but we're already behind!)

So, podcasting. . .
I've tried it before. I find I don't listen to them. (I did listen to a Harry Potter one for a little while.) Talk radio puts me to sleep. I need a book on tape or peppy music for my commute. Perhaps I just haven't found any I like enough, yet. But the potential for library use is pretty high. Keeping copyright in mind I can envision using podcasting/vlogging to present storytime to a wider audience or merely demonstrate flannel stories and fingerplays.

I wish there weren't quite so many sticky legal issues with using children's images because I have a ton of programming ideas that would involve podcasting and/or youtube. I also wish there were more time in the day.

Week5 - IM

What would we do without IM? There are a couple of people for whom that's really our only method of communication. Meebo has been my go to IM client for some time now. When I was an emerging leader Meebo was where my team held their meetings.
My local committees are just starting to get in on the action of chat based meetings.

I also like using Meebo as a virtual reference tool. Since you can embed a widget on almost anywhere, when it is front and center on your website visitors have an immediate connection with a real person and don't have to hunt down the service. (See sidebar.) Here's one library using Meebo for virtual reference.

Our kids know Meebo and so there's less of a barrier introducing that reference service to them than there is a more formal service that they have to fill out a form to use.

Week5 - LibraryThing and GoodReads

GoodReads, GoodReads, GoodReads. I love GoodReads and far prefer it to LibraryThing. The main reason: there's no limit on the number of books I can add to my account. Also, I get email updates on what my librarian friends around the country are reading. Shallowly, it has a prettier interface.

Which isn't to say that LibraryThing is without it's benefits. I will turn to LibraryThing occasionally for a hard to find book when the details I have are "it's a blue book about a princess". Thanks to the tag search I've been able to find a few titles this way.

It would be interesting to set up online book groups on one of the sites. (Again, I prefer GoodReads.) I'd recommend it for personal use to teens, but can imagine lowering that age when using the site in conjunction with a book club. If we didn't already have an electronic summer reading program I imagine we could create a group in one of the services that would function in a similar way, at least on the patron's side.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Week 5 - ALA Connect

Ok, I'm going to be honest here. ALA Connect is another service that I really want to like and just don't. I believe the problems I have with it are due in large part to the slow adoption of the service. If the groups I work with used it I would likely find it invaluable.

I'm anxious to find out what other people are doing with ALA Connect, but haven't seen many mentions of it at least not among the challenge members. So, do you use ALA Connect? Do you find it useful or repetitious?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Week 5 - Twitter and Facebook

I've given Twitter a number of tries. I even occasionally tweet. (See sidebar ->) However, I'm still not totally on board. I find having another thing to check to be onerous and to be honest, I haven't found anything/anyone I want frequent updates about. However, I can understand how it could be a great PR and community building tool. Because the information on twitter is so current I imagine one of the best library uses for Twitter would be very local communication, promoting programs and materials.

I really, really want to like and use Twitter. But much like the departed Wave, I have other tools that do most of what Twitter does. My library system talked about using Twitter. I don't know what happened to that plan.

On the other hand, I love Facebook - first and last page I visit everyday. My use of Facebook is mostly personal, but especially like the way I can connect with librarians throughout the county, state and country. My library system does utilize Facebook, at least the YA librarians do. It would benefit the children's librarians to join in before those teens become parents themselves.

So, I have a few goals for myself moving forward with both of these tools.
First, I will try regularly keeping up with Twitter for at least a week. I've already (re)added a Twitter gadget to Google desktop. Secondly, I will advocate for the use of both on a local level.

(Note: Blogger, you really should recognize Facebook as a word.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Week 4 - Flickr and Tagging

rotated horizon
Originally uploaded by Kristen Kirk
This is one of my favorite photos I've ever taken. I edited the photo on Picnik to create a horizon parallel with the edges of the picture.

As much as I'm a fan of tagging, I find I don't often employ the practice much myself. I think it is such an incredibly useful tool, but don't take the time to use it. The only website I reliably use tags on is, where they're called shelves. The reason I tag there when I don't tag anywhere else? I'm obsessive about keeping track of my books and my reading. I tag books with the year I read them in. How else would I know that I'm way off pace for reading this year?

That said, tagging is exceptionally useful in searching and sorting photographs.

Week 4 - Image Generators

Other than using our computers to play games the number one thing kids do is look for photos, be it for school projects or their own interest.

I love all the options at BigHugeLabs. Make a magazine cover, movie poster, pocket photo album, etc. There are months worth of activities for kids right there. Create a literary or news magazine and add designing the cover as part of it. Ditto for a movie poster. The possibilities are endless as long as you have interested kids and access to a couple of computers with internet. I can't wait to present some of these options to our fledgling Tween TAB. (I need a better name for that.)

A couple of other image sites I love are:
1. Picnik - my favorite tool for doing simple adjustments to photos, though there are some more advanced options as well
2. BlockPoster - I made some photo backdrops, so kids could pretend they were at the beach.

(I'm having way too much fun making librarian trading cards for some of my colleagues.)

Week 4 - Photos

For the past couple of weeks we've been discussing the use of the word Tween, it's current use and how much to embrace the terminology ourselves. The day after the initial email came through my email I was shopping for a retirement card at Walmart (they didn't have them, by the way). What they did have was a section of greeting cards marketed for tweens.

Seriously? How many tweens shop for greeting cards? At any rate, this was the first time I saw the use of the word outside of professional literature. Have you seen it out and about?

Furthermore, do you market just to tweens? And do you use the word tween or have you found a suitable replacement? Do you have staff that focus on tween services?

Speaking of tweens, have you seen the new Dora?

Week 3 - Firefox and Addons

I've experimented with any number of browsers. IE, Flock, Chrome, Safari and Firefox. Though I had been using Firefox exclusively about a year ago I settled on using Flock at work and Safari at home. (Because suddenly, every time I had to load a new page in Firefox at work I had to type in my password, and at home it got really slow.)

I'm glad to have an excuse to try Firefox again. I love it. My favorite bits are being able to have multiple rows of tabs open, keywords for searches, determining where tabs open, and control L. I'm big on customization. I'll have to give it an extended preview to see if I run into roadblocks of compatibility like I did the last time I tried to use it at work.

Customization and versatility will become increasingly important in all software we use. The ability to tag bookmarks is fantastic. As the amount of accessible information grows the need for users to organize that information in a way that is meaningful to them becomes vital for success.

Week 3 - Wikis

Apparently, I forgot to blog about week 3.

So, wikis . . . I find some wikis extremely helpful and others nearly pointless (even if they shouldn't be). The key to it all is organization and standardization. Otherwise things end up being a hodgepodge of links and articles that no one can find. There are some library wikis out there like that, but I'm not naming names. The other issue is ease of access.

For the past year I was responsible for migrating information from an independent PBWiki to our state wiki. Before that I had created a wiki for the children's services of our large system using Google Sites. (There's an example of a Google site here.)

The idea for the system wiki was to share information, cut down on those pesky emails asking if anyone had a frog puppet to lend. However, the site is rarely used with the exception of a couple of people. I have a couple of theories as to why. One, it required a Google Account to access. (Even when we provided a general account for everyone to use the matter of remembering the login proved a roadblock.) Additional roadblocks including little to no training for staff and the fact that it was not part of our intranet. I have to admit I've quit using the system wiki for very much, because there's not information there I didn't add.

The use of the children's wiki picked up a bit when we posted our summer sample crafts and program ideas to it. What would you do to promote use of an internal wiki?

Training for wikis is pretty straight forward, after all, if you can write up an email or type a word document you can contribute to a wiki. I find the most difficult step is insuring there's a core architecture to the wiki to facilitate navigation.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Week 2 - Track My Library

I've been using Google Alerts for awhile to track by library system. Most of the hits I get off that are from our own web pages and event calendars, but it's nice to see when other sources pick us up. We were mentioned on professional wrestling site. Also, I once found an self-published author complaining about the difficulty of getting in the library. It's great to know what's being said about us, even if, especially if it is not complimentary. I think everyone should know when their library and library director make the news.

This type of information is crucial to marketing because it shows what information is being disseminated and what isn't. It can inform how to word tweets, blog posts, etc. I can definitely imagine monitoring these results as part of a PR job description.

I will be adding Addict-o-Matic to my toolkit. The results are robust without including very much of the unrelated things that appear in both Google Alerts and socialmention.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week 2 - Delicious

How happy am I that Delicious took all the extra periods out of their name? Very. How happy am I that I finally have a solution to making Delicious work for us? Even more so.

My problem with Delicious has always been that throughout the course of the day I could be on any one of four computers - and so could 6 other people. So how do you use Delicious easily when you have to log in and out constantly?

I just tried setting up an account that could be used on our public service desk to access the sites we use regularly. It sent me on a wild goose chase of logging in and out of Yahoo and Delicious. One of my biggest pet peeves is having to link accounts like Delicious to a Yahoo account, but still have separate log in screens, usernames and passwords. In my experience the multiple account thing has been one of the biggest barriers to learning these new tools.

How can we use delicious? I'd like to have an account that could be active on our public service computers so that bookmarks did not have to be added separately to each computer and so that they would be consistently labeled and organized.

However, I've given up using it personally. I've just found using the service to be too frustrating. One of our IT guys came to fix my computer yesterday while I was in the middle of trying to set up the Delicious account and suggested I try Google Bookmarks instead. I think I'll give it a try.

There's lots of potential for students to collaborate on group projects with Delicious. Just like with a Wiki it would cut back on a lot of email back and forth. I like the idea other people are floating about adding the toolbar to our public computers. I may be adding this to my database and research talks.

Week 2 - Google Reader

Google Reader is one of the 4 websites I visit every day. I tried multiple RSS readers before settling on Google's. If only I had time to catch up on 1000+ unread items I have waiting for me.
One of my favorite features is being able for create folders so I can sort my feeds into work related and just for fun.

Reader has definitely kept me more in the loop in terms of upcoming titles. The flip side is that as my time gets filled with more and more things I no longer have time to read the hundreds of blogs I did a year ago. So what do I do when I face information overload? I just let all those unread posts sit there, unread. I ignore them. Every three months or so, when I can't take it anymore I just mark all posts as read. Eventually I end up feeling even less informed because I've created a mental block that stops all the information. It's time to go in and weed my feeds to a more manageable list.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Yikes, I'm already behind on this challenge. This is one of the side effects of taking vacation smack dab in the middle of summer reading and going somewhere without reliable internet.
Not that that stopped anyone from getting online.

When I started thinking about what I wanted to say about technology I considered talking about equal access and the fact that when I started my current position people were not allowed to access MySpace on the children's computers (but Facebook was ok). Or I was going to talk about how there are often many roadblocks to using the public computers in libraries. How often do you have to update Adobe Flash? Can you do it or does your IT department have to? How many times do you access a cool new tool you've heard would be great to use with kids only to find out it is blocked in incompatible with your computers? And still technology and internet access is number one on many of our customers needs at the library.

Because, even when on vacation when a family of 11 is relying on the neighbor's spotty wifi there were 3 laptops, 5 iPhones/iPad touches and 1 iPad in heavy use. (Ok, so clearly I could have used vacation to catch up on the challenge and didn't. ) What does it say that a for a family that proudly doesn't have a tv on vacation has replaced it with all these other screens? I think that one's too scary to answer.

What about families for whom having a computer isn't a reality?* How do the life prospects of those kids differ from the ones who spent a vacation week completely plugged in? That's where the library comes in, even if the kids are only using the computer to check MySpace or play MMOGs, especially if the kids are only using the computer to check MySpace or play MMOGs. They're still playing catch up technology wise to those other kids.

*Internet Adoption and Trends at PEW - according to these statistics are shrinking, but not in my community.

ALSC 21 Things for 21st Century Kids

Ok, so everybody hit the refresh button. (If there's anyone that still has this blog linked in their feed reader.) I'm going to be participating in the ALSC 21 Things for 21st Century Kids. Yes, I've done similar challenges in the past and even helped run one, but I've never seen one designed for people who work with children. I'm excited about that aspect.
Also, come fall I'm going to have my staff repeat some (if not all) of these challenges.

I've also blogged in the past about KidLit, food, tech challenges, crafts . . .
Often I have considered the logistics of creating a blog for the children's departments and the parents and teachers we serve, but haven't yet followed through on this line of thought. I love the idea of using blogs to keep staff in the loop. We have one in our system, but think there's a lot more potential in the large system I work in.

I'm looking forward to this challenge and hope to gain some ideas and inspiration for using technology with children.