Monday, July 31, 2006

Another librarian blog

This is the subject of an email I received this morning from my friend and fellow former ALA Exec Board member Jim Rettig. Jim has joined the blogging world of librarians with "The Twilight Librarian."

His first posts are from this past weekend. Jim is a great writer and for many years wrote Rettig on Reference which was a column of reference book reviews for Wilson Library Bulletin whose cessation many of us still mourn. Keep an eye on Jim. He is one of our professions solid thinkers and great writers.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Social Networking

A large number of the posts in my Bloglines blogroll talked about DOPA, the dopey law which passed the US House of Representatives last week. While there are issues in how some folks use social networking software, I want to share one of the cool aspects of it.

I have a Flickr account. (Who doesn't, these days....and I think I talked my elder son to updating his icon.) One of the things which Flickr can do is to show you recent photos posted by your contacts. Yesterday I checked my account, and there were a bunch of new photos. Among the first I looked at were from Jessamyn West. She had gone to the Barre Homecoming celebration. I wandered through more of the new photos from my contacts and there were new photos from Meredith Farkas, who also lives in Vermont. There were photos of the same parade, but from a different perspective!

I wondered...did Meredith and Jessamyn see each other there? I know that they "know" each other electronically. After all, they are both icons as librarians who are articulate and vocal about making the best possible use of technology. And then....the best! A photo of Jessamyn eating an ice cream sandwich. I found it heart warming.

My guess is that 10 years ago, these two wonderful folks may not have even known each other, and certainly would not have met at an event like the Barre Homecoming celebration. Neither lives in Barre, and the library circles they move in are very different (other than the technology part). For me, this is just a small example of the benefits of social networking software.

On an even more personal level, I am looking forward to meeting one of my Flickr contacts at the Library Boot Camp East in September.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Michael Golrick - Librarian Trading Card

I did the Trading Card at last. This appears to be the 250th Librarian Trading Card, although there are 293 members of the group!

Enjoy. This is post-beard. The suit dates from the early 1990s (although the photo is July 24, 2006). I have finally lost enough weight to wear some of my old clothing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Broadband arrives

It works!

I'm writing this post sitting on my bed on the 2nd floor using the WEP key protected wireless network which was a part of the DSL package. I also checked my email from the sunroom. Life is good!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Downsizing and Broadband -- Bragging too soon

Last weekend I bragged about my weight being down to 218. Well, I also celebrated with a couple of drinks. Monday's weight wasn't bad, but by Tuesday, I was struggling to keep it under 225. I feel like 220 is my current barrier. It took discipline most of this week to get back to be regularly close to 220. At this stage, it is turning into hard work. Of course I am about 2/3 of the way to my goal, and with weight loss that is expected.

I also bragged about how I'd have broadband at home. Well, that was what sales promised. The promised that by the end of Saturday, I'd be good to go. Based on that I cancelled the phone line we use exclusively for dial up. (That is why you can call my house and talk to someone even when we are on-line.....and that is another story!) The confirmation phone call came about 36 hours later saying that the live date for DSL would be MONDAY. So, on the phone I go, and the nice folks at my local telco/long distance telco/ISP conglomerate pushed back the cancel date for that phone line. Friday the box of stuff arrived, it sure looks simple to install. Wish me luck on Monday night. (This is definitely not a "before work" project!)

Friday, July 21, 2006

PWCL (huh?) -- Being at the Table

I spent a chunk of yesterday working with a group which is focused on providing services to Parents with Cognitive Limitations (PWCL). The UConn A. J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service received a planning grant to work on a "one-stop" center for this population.

Inspired by Kathleen de la Pena McCook (A Librarian at Every Table), I started attending the meetings something over a year ago. This was a service group which I had never thought of. I imagine it is a group that most of us have never thought of. These are the folks who have one or another kind of learning issue, or problem who are now parents. We know that having successful children requires parenting skills. As a society, how are we going to ensure the success of the next generation? Part of it involves helping current parents.

PWCL have many issues. If individuals have not been identified prior to the age of 18, the State of Connecticut does not provide any services -- unless there has been traumatic brain injury. Also, these are the folks who are least likely to have had good school experiences (so reaching out through the schools is usually not successful). Many have various reading issues, which means that notices sent are often unanswered. It is a challenge.

I don't have the official notes, but we had a very spirited discussion on values, vision, and mission. I am looking forward to continuing to work with this group as we craft a grant proposal to provide more seamless services to a part of the community.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Broadband coming home

Finally we bit the bullet. With our local telco (Southern New England Telephone, bought by SBC) now merged with ATT, who happened to be our long distance carrier, and the convergence with our dial access provider (ATT Worldnet), we are getting a bundled package of services starting Saturday. I guess I know what I am doing on Saturday! We are dropping our sencond line (theoretically also the fax line) and the cost will be less than what we had been paying. We are lucky enough to live close to a CBO and will be getting the highest speed.

Best of all, we can have more than one machine connected at a time. We'll see how well the wireless router works in the bunker we call home, but that is the theory.

This has become critical with the return of #2 son who, while he is gainfully employed to do something with transmissions at Sikorsky (helicopters) still has not received the first pay check, or the signing bonus. He will be with us for a bit. [One of the good news portions is that his room has now been painted, leaving just one more room for the first treatment.]

Skills for the 21st Century Librarian

I was checking my Bloglines Feeds this morning, and found the post from Jessamyn West pointing to this incredible post by Meredith Farkas on what is needed for a 21st Century librarian. As I noted in a comment to Meredith, she has written some great stuff before, but this is absolutely the best. It is well thought out, cogent, and on target. And even though both Jessamyn and Meredith have much more traction in the blog world than I, I want to highly recommend reading it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Free Text v. Keyword Searching: The Battle Continues

Back on July 5, I commented specifically about Google and the use of thesauri for structured searching. Today, I opened the July issue of Library Journal, and there as the Backtalk column is a discussion of metadata. Jeffrey Beall does a great job of outlining the issue. What I like even better is the way that the editors of LJ used three key subheads in the article:
  • Battle plan
  • Institutionalizing imprecision
  • Defend metadata
That sums it up. Keyword searching seems like the answer. To those of us with experience, it is not only NOT the answer, but is incredibly frustrating when it is the only option to look for a known source.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Long Tail: Libraries and Associations (ALA)

I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered on my way back from the store this evening, when the story about Chris Anderson and the Long Tail came on. It was a fascinating discussion, and gave me better insight about what this phenomenon is all about.

One of the thoughts that occurred to me is, that large urban public libraries have been serving the long tail, many years before the concept was articulated. In my main building, we stock about 750,000 items. Most are one of a kind. They include fiction, childrens' books, research works, journals of all types, basically anything that anyone from any niche market would need. Need an article from a helicopter society journal? I found just what a friend of mine needed in our collection. (The irony, he was one of the authors.) Looking for last year's best selling novella by Steve Martin, Shopgirl? I returned that this morning. It is all there. That is the business that some of us have been in.

What I am wrestling with is in the other part of my life: associations. How does the long tail play out for associations like the American Library Association, or even state associations. One of my colleagues posted to the ALA Chapter Relations Office list that the state association is undergoing an examination of its structure. I think we will see more of that.

Suggestions on further reading on associations and the long tail are appreciated as I try to wrap my head around this. I guess that Chris Anderson's book is in my near future.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Downsizing - In a good way

Some of you who saw me at ALA in New Orleans realize that I have lost some weight. And, if you talked to me, you know that it was on purpose. After Midwinter, I saw my physician, and he yelled at me...well as much as he has ever done. I weighed more than I ever had in my life, and about 20 of those pounds were between August 2005 and February 2006.

He put me on the right path.

No more seconds. No more snacks. Almost no more alcoholic drinks. Drink at least a liter of water every day (preferably before about 2 pm) ... my Nalgene packed with ice each morning helps. Smaller portions, too. Instead of a whole chicken breast, 1/2 of one for dinner. Am I hungry? You bet! But I drink water, and that helps.

Since February I have gone from almost 270 pounds down to .... [drum roll please] 218 pounds. That was after today's bike ride. A little more than a week ago, I started the exercise portion. I purchased bike shorts, and am riding several miles on my "street bike." It was the top of the line when I bought it in the spring of 1976 (to replace one which was three years old and was stolen at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign). It is a Raleigh Grand Prix, ten speed, and it works just fine, thank you. [The model name is still used for a road bike. Here is what it looks like now.]

I looked up the BMI (Body Mass Index) charts from one of the NIH sites, and find that after all that work, I have merely gone from "Obese" to "Overweight." My goal...."Normal" which for me is 194. That's only 22 more pounds!

One benefit became clear this week when my wife brought up from the basement some suits which I had "outgrown." I now have a great tan cashmere sports coat (waiting for fall) and two new suits. When I looked at the label of one of them, I realized that the last time I wore these was in about 1992! That's when G. Fox became Filene's (which is now Macy's).

Look out world, here comes a skinnier me. And you know what? It has not really cost me any more than having a couple of suits altered--to be smaller. No fancy diet foods. No health club memberships. Just pure common sense. I'll drink to that...if it is water!

[Links added Monday 7/17 10:30 am]

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Haven Brothers on NPR

I'm in Pennsylvania for my goddaughter's senior recital. As I was driving down last night, there was a story on NPR about the Haven Brothers Diner in Providence.

Since one of my great-great uncles was Mayor of Providence in 1896-98, and both of my grandfathers, and my parents, and I all went to Brown, along with my son, I know the Haven Brothers trailer well.

I was surprised that they did not talk about the other "lunch wagons" around the City. There is one which has traditionally parked at the corner of Brown and Thayer Streets (right outside the Wriston Quadrangle). While that one does not have a sit down section, it has served many generations of Brown students.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Customer Service, the Up-Side

Home Depot sucks! Maybe you gathered that from the prior post. Here is how I resolved the issue, and it includes three businesses who provided great service, and only one of whom made a sale.

After the disaster at Home Depot, I headed the local lumber yard, Bridgeport Lumber. They could not have been nicer. The clerk knew exactly what I wanted, but said that they would have to order it. He suggested a flooring company. I bought some needed sandpaper, and left. Gelb's Flooring was my nest stoop. The nice woman clerk also knew what I wanted, but said that it would be a special order, would take a week, and would be a 96 inch strip. (I needed less than 36 inches.) She suggested (bless her heart) that I go to Barnum Hardware.

Down the street I drove to Barnum Hardware. Sure enough, they had bins of various kinds of oak reducer strips in varying styles. I was a happy camper. I have done business with Barnum Hardware before, and they could not have been nicer.

Brian's room is almost done. The carpeting is down, I sealed the reducer strip last night and will glue it in tonight (as well as trimming the door to fit). Just some touch up paint, and the trim on the door. Photo progress is shown in the set on Flickr (if you care). That site is subject to additions over the next several days.

Back to customer service philosophy which started this tirade. A new to me blog, Blog About Libraries, has a great post on 20 points on excellent library customer service. [And Michelle Boulle (aka Jane) picked up on it and reminded me to add those links here. She is right, of course.] But the personal stories help to remind us why it is important.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Customer Service -- How bad can it get at Home Depot

I admit it. This is a rant. But they deserved it! I have to acknowledge, that I was spurred on by Rochelle's post today called Don't Assume. While she takes more of the "blame" than I think she should, customer service is the bottom line here. On to my story:

With my younger son moving home (temporarily, post college, starting a "real job" next Monday, and with a drivers' license test on August 22), he has been working diligently to improve his bed room. It is one of two rooms in the house which had not yet had TLC since we moved in.

First he scraped the ceiling. It's original color (ca 1930) was pink! He primed it, and gave it two coats of white ceiling paint. Then he went to work on the woodwork. He stripped it to the wood. (That is multiple layers...original color: green!) Next he washed the walls and painted them. That's where things where upon my return from New Orleans. Time for refinishing the doors (see my Flickr set for July 4), and carpeting.

We went to the nearest Home Depot, some scouting having already been done. We looked at roll carpeting (and did really bad math, loosing a decimal point!), and carpet squares. We found some squares we liked, and then hassled with the staff and got different answers from different people about whether they were in stock, and if they were ordered would there be any additional charge. Finally, the third clerk offered to see if any nearby stores had inventory of what we wanted....sure enough, Derby and Winsted had enough. Derby is about 15-20 minutes from Bridgeport, and the store is right off Route 8 (limited access highway). While Winsted is further, I was going there the next day to take kids to camp. So, off to Derby we went. [Non-sequitur alert: It was during the drive that I broached the subject of becoming clean shaven.]

We appropriately acquired the squares, and headed home. Brian unloaded them, and Saturday AM, we emptied his room of the remaining furniture before he and his sister headed to camp.

Assorted stuff happened on Saturday evening, Sunday was the Parade, Monday was work and a City Council meeting. So, after stripping -- doors, although clothes would have been good -- I started laying the squares. I almost finished, and completed the job last night.

[Start of Rant] Only thing missing was the transition in the doorway. The booklet suggested several options. So I headed to Home Depot, again. I was looking for two items: a new closet rod (preferably wood, less than 36 inches) and the transition strip. First clerk in Home Depot sent me far, far away from the wood to the "organizing section in Aisle 7." He neglected to mention that it was in the far back of the store, not the front where I spent 20 minutes.

From there I headed to where the carpet was sold. Was there anyone there? No way. I wandered for 15 minutes, found the Pergo transition strips, the metal carpet transition strips, and just about everything else except for what I wanted. There was another young lady looking for help to purchase some roll carpet, and we finally got a clerk to call for help. When the guy came, he could not have been less interested in my problem. He showed me the Pergo strips. I showed him the booklet....for the product manufactured EXCLUSIVELY for Home Depot. He said "We don't carry that. Good luck." I was steamed. It was probably a good thing that I had not yet found the "dowel" which is what I wanted for a closet rod (oak, four feet long, just what I wanted!) or I would have hit him over the head.

Then came check out. Line was long, and rather than scanning one item and counting how many, the clerk individually scanned the five or six different types of plumbing connectors (15-20 of EACH kind) both plastic and copper, for the two guys in front of me. It was interminable. I walked out of there is such a foul mood. [End Rant]

It is the daily customer service exchanges which I have which remind me of the importance of the front line library staff. I am blessed that my staff is generally great. When they err, it is usually in favor of the patron. I am proud of that.

Post #111 - First Anniversary

Little did I know a year ago, on my younger son's 21st birthday, that I would have been able to become so captivated with blogging as to keep this up.

Here it is, the first anniversary, and over 100 posts later.

Thanks Jessamyn, Rochelle and Karen for encouraging me, and teaching me what to do. I owe you guys!!

The next post.....a serious rant!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Public Libraries Re-considered -- Notes on a talk by John Seely Brown

This post also has had a long gestational period. Way back on June 5, I attended a talk at the Westport Public Library given by John Seely Brown. Mr. Brown was the Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and the Director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He was deeply involved in the management of radical innovation and in the formation of corporate strategy and strategic positioning of Xerox as The Document Company. Today he calls himself Chief of Confusion, helping people ask the right questions. There is some great stuff on his web site.

He was talking about the role of the public library in this new century.

Here are some of my notes in a sketchy outline:

  • The world is not flatter, it is spikier
  • There is a social life of information

Andrew Carnegie's goal was to open free public libraries. To get a library grant, the community needed to provide a site and to commit to operating funds. From 1895 - 1923, there were 1,681 public libraries opened.

  • The community library is a safe social space for informal learning.
  • Learning is social, our understanding (not knowledge) is social.

We need to re-conceive the library. We need to focus on the play of imagination, and we need to help be a guide.

What constitutes meaning for kids born digital?

  • Building, tinkering, and sharing
  • Blurring of social life with academic life
  • Re-mix culture = Open Source Blogs
  • Rise of pro amateur class; niche passions

The importance of game playing:

  • Pattern recognition & sense working
  • Continuous decision making
  • Conquering immense complexity
  • Immediate feedback
  • Joy from mastery of skills
  • Bottom line: scores matter

John spent some time talking about the World of Warcraft which is a MMOG (Massive Multiplayer Online Game).

  • Guild-master: leadership skills = management skills
  • Lessons from virtual worlds are powerful tools
  • Collateral worlds; not analogies -- metaphors

  • Commercial world moving from supply/push to download/pull
  • Education is currently based on the factory model.
  • Long tail: 50% of Amazon income is from the long tail (i.e. niche markets)
  • A new learning model: Libraries as places for learning-to-be by making and tinkering with stuff; coupled to "guided" productive inquiry

  • Schools need to develop a core curriculum, teach critical thinking skills, and provide certification
  • Computer world worships search, misses serendipity; the library represents serendipity
  • Games can be addictive

Finally, here is my huge take-away message, and the "aha" moment I experienced:

Old value: Identity is what I own

New value: Identity is what I create and share

Keyword v. Controlled Vocabulary - Why Google is NOT the answer

I've been composing this post in my head for several weeks now. It was partly inspired by the discussions in ALA Executive Board conference calls [for some reason, only the agenda is here] about the Library of Congress announcing its discontinuance of series authority work. The current issue (on my desk) of Library Journal (6/15) quotes from the EB statement: "Keyword search is not an adequate substitute for authority-controlled series access, especially over time as variants and name changes proliferate and as errors enter even the best databases."

Later in that same issue of LJ is an article about e-resources. One line there caught my attention:

One day she came over to show me a wonderful new online tool she'd discovered that let her search through thousands of scholarly articles and print out the full text. She was referring to Google Scholar. "Isn't this great?" she asked happily, as the titles of thousands of articles scrolled across her screen. I pointed out that almost none of the pages she'd retrieved actually provided the full text for free, that she couldn't search by subject terms or in the article abstracts, and that she could search by author but not sort articles by author or date. She was undeterred: "But this covers so many sources! Where else could I find this much in one place?" she exclaimed. I showed her the hundreds of online sources available at the Yale library web site, including an African American newspapers database and historical databases for national newspapers. She had never seen or used any of these before.

How these two items resonate with me! I will be the first to admit that I was part of the EB letter. However, it was catalogers on the Exec Board who pushed the issue. [That would be Janet Swan Hill and Michael Gorman.] But the rest of us certainly concurred.

Even in the days of the text web, I remember my frustrations with the search engines. Remember Alta Vista?

I learned to search in the days when time was literally money. With the old TI-745 (earmuffs, and thermal paper) searching the New York Times cost something like $300/hour PLUS the connect time charges of up to $1/minute. When you were receiving at 120 baud (and most of us can read faster than that) creating a search structure, and planning out your search was critical. Searching, and revising on the fly, just did not make it. It was great when, by the mid-1980s you could type in your search to the PC, and run it as a script, capturing the results as it streamed back at first 1200 baud, the 3600 baud, and finally at 9600 baud. It was cool, search costs came down.

With a thesaurus and controlled vocabulary, searching becomes very efficient, even when you are not searching for a known item. I guess that is what frustrates me most when using Google. or Ask (I used to use Teoma, now part of Ask). While the results are "ranked for relevancy" when I am searching for a known item, I often do not find it in the first couple of pages. Theoretically the items are de-duplicated, but that has not been my experience.

I admit, I don't work a reference desk any more, and have not in about a decade. I think I would quickly become frustrated. Perhaps it is time for me to hit the floor again and find out how to do reference in the 21st Century.....or not.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Originally uploaded by Michael Golrick.

Saturday afternoon, I shaved off my beard. This is the only the third time since 1976. The other two times were in 1979, and in 1991. My daughter (who did not know I was doing this) was shocked and surprised.

We will see how long this lasts.

Books coming off the side bar

Here are the books coming off the sidebar. They are the less significant titles which I have read between the first of the year and now:

*This Heavy Silence: A Novel by Nicole Mazzarella

*Chosen by a Horse: A Memoir by Susan Richards

*Madman: A Novel by Tracy Groot

The Broker by John Grisham

No Applause -- Just Throw Money: The Book that made Vaudeville famous by Trav S. D.

NNNN by Carl Reiner

The Train Now Departing by Martha Grimes

A Year in the Merde by Stpehen Clarke

*Free Advance Readers Copies from PLA

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Founders' idea of liberty still holds true today -- And blogging issues

This is the title of a wonderful editorial in today's (7/2/2006) Connecticut Post [the local daily newspaper for Bridgeport]. I have met Jim Smith a number of times, including when I booked him to speak to the Bridgeport Rotary Club. He also knows a number of my staff. I am pleased to say that I did not prompt this editorial. I will be sending him a letter of thanks.

Over the past couple of weeks I have not posted much for two reasons. One is that I had to work hard just to keep up with email while I was in New Orleans at ALA. The other is that on those few occasions when I had time, I had issues getting into the system to post.

I have one long post almost composed (some editing needed still), and two others mentally composed. I hope that over the holiday, they all can get posted.

Other notes: Look for a new photo soon! Also for those who do not actually visit the blog (but read in an aggregator), the bio will be edited since my term on the ALA Executive Board ended with the adjournment of Council III in New Orleans. I am now a Councilor-at-Large.