Monday, August 31, 2009

Music Monday: September Gigs Galore!

September seems to be a popular month for fantastic gigs in Edmonton*. If you're local, check out some of these awesome musicians, and if you're from away, check out their sites for locations near you! All the bands have myspace pages with audio samples if you're unfamiliar with any of the names (Google is your friend).
September Gigs Galore:
I'm going to see The Hip and The Deep Dark Woods, and would love to see Mike Plume and Amelia Curran, but alas I have to work those nights. And I'm not made of money, but that would be nice too. If you want to come see The Deep Dark Woods, let me know and I'll give you the ticket 411 (very cool tickets by the way!).
*Gig list is not exhaustive, and only reflects artists I might like/know of. Please feel free to comment on other suggestions.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fun At The Corn Maze


Today was my (annual) trip to Edmonton's Corn Maze! This year, in honour of the Olympic Curling Trials to be held in Edmonton in December, the corn maze was designed to look like a local curler, so I took a trip through Kevin Martin's head today. Very exciting!


Despite the drought we've had this summer, the height of the corn is perfect.


The view from the bridge. That's a lot of corn!


Which way?


Getting lost is the best part!

On site, they also have picnic areas, a hay bale mountain to climb on, pedal carts, and a mini farm petting zoo with a couple sheep, some goats, a calf and a donkey:

It was good fun. Like I said last year, it would be a great place for a date, or to take kids, or just generally have a great time with some friends. It should be open thru October, so I hopefully will go again before then. It was so fun last year at night, so I think I'll try get out again near dusk!
Follow the corn maze on twitter for updates, and visit the website for coupons!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Messed Up Priorities

Lately, the news has informed me that 'we' (and when I say 'we', I mean Edmonton, Alberta, and the government in general, and since 'we' - not me mind you- voted for our Conservative government, then I believe 'we' applies rather nicely) have rather screwed up priorities.
Follow along...
Yet...
  • The Alberta Health Services President is going to get a $144,000 bonus (on top of his $575,000 salary) once the health care system is fixed (ie. once 3000+ jobs are cut??).
  • Some rich guy is going to spend $1 billion+ (of taxpayers money??) to build a new downtown hockey arena.
Seriously.
I like hockey just as much as the next Canadian, but I like health care and education more. Maybe Daryl Katz should partner with that guy who runs our province and work out a deal. Maybe instead of causing parking chaos downtown with my tax dollars, some rich guy could give some money to some local children who can't afford school supplies or some seniors lodges who can't afford to give out H1N1 shots? Maybe that guy who is supposed to run our province could try, just a little bit, to not send our province down the crapper like King Ralph did.
It just doesn't seem fair.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pre-Sale CD...

...or the one where I get ahead of a good thing.
Recently, my favourite used CD store on Whyte Ave, Southside Sound, shut down. I liked it because it was cheap and unpretentious and my favourite section was called 'Folk & Twang' or something like that (come on, it's a cool title). Nevermind though, it's gone (something about people downloading music illegally or giving all their business to iTunes??).
So my new favourite used CD store on Whyte Ave is called Blackbyrd Myoozik. It's a bit more pretentious and cool. Whenever I go in, the employees are always more interested in talking to the cool bohemian hipster flipping through the vinyl than ringing up my order. I suppose I am rather unfashionable and uncool, so why would they bother to say 'thank you' after I just paid their wage. Nevermind though, it's cheap(ish) and they have a big(ish) folk/country section.
I was there buying a bunch of gig tickets on Tuesday, and couldn't resist picking up a couple alt-country CDs. I've already listened to them, and have decided they were worth the cash.
Imagine my surprise then when I found out today that one of the albums doesn't come out until Tuesday. Curiouser and curiouser!
I'll leave you with an interesting quote from my pre-sale CD musician, Amelia Curran:
"What is frustrating is that ‘singer-songwriter’ has become a genre. That is pretty irritating because singer-songwriter as a task or a trade should be able to sound like anything, but in the market it is ‘girl or guy with guitar, or piano’, mostly ballads and a couple funky numbers, and that is ‘singer-songwriter’. I fit in there too and that’s fine, but it’s frustrating that the trade has become a genre."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dear CurlTV

Dear CurlTV.com
Thank you for replying so promptly to the email I sent notifying your tech support team of the 404 error appearing instead of your latest news video. It is nice to know there are actual people working behind the scenes of your great site.
It was nice that you fixed the error so quickly, because I was super curious about what was voted the #1 shot of the year. The result was not overly surprising though - double double anyone? I think it was probably the best shot I've ever seen, and the second best moment of the 2009 Brier, right behind the collaborative last shot of the Howard v. Howard game.
Thank you again for keeping me up to date with the curling news.
Sincerely,
Cute Curling Fan From AB
PS. Could we have more live coverage of events this season? That might entice me to become a paying member instead of a 'Free Friday' lurker. If you covered the Provincials I would buy in for sure. Just a suggestion.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Music Monday: Great Lake Swimmers

From the 'what I am listening to obsessively right now' category, here's a great Canadian band you *need* to listen to...
Though I had heard the buzz about Great Lake Swimmers, I had never actually heard them before this year's Folk Fest. I'm sorry I didn't jump on the bandwagon earlier.
And now, through the magic of Youtube, you can relive the exact four minutes when I went from "these-guys-are-good-i-am-glad-i-stayed-for-the-concert" to "whoa-i-love-this-band-and-will-now-buy-cds-and-listen-to-them-non-stop-because-they-are-so-freakin-amazing":
Yeah. Fantastic. I was in the second row at that show that ended too soon.
Seriously, they are amazing though. From Ontario, the band has apparently been around since 2001, in one form or another. Tony Dekker's voice is haunting, yet eerily romantic, and the instrumentation with the violin/viola and/or banjo adds to the unique style they have developed. I don't even know how to describe their sound, as I am still in awe of their amazing-ness.
The newest album, 'Lost Channels' is well worth a listen or two, or two hundred. Check them out, I guarantee you wont be disappointed.
You can find them at:
If you like Great Lake Swimmers, you might also like:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Floating Down The Pembina

Last summer I had a blast floating down the Elbow River in Calgary.

Yesterday I had even more fun floating down the Pembina River!

Saturday morning, three friends and I packed up my car and headed west to Entwistle (about an hour out of Edmonton). Though I browsed their website, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Pembina River Tubing, a local company that operates tubing tours. After only one wrong turn, we quickly found the small collection of sheds that were obviously PRT headquarters (Entwistle is a super small town, so you could see the tubing company pretty much as soon as you turned off the highway).

We signed a waver, paid $20 for a tube/life jacket each (plus $2 for tube ties, definitely a must for groups) and then enjoyed a wonderful picnic while waiting for our turn on the shuttle. About an hour (and two missed shuttles because us girls were being slow pokes) later the van pulled up, our tubes were loaded and we hoped into the shuttle. The shuttle stops twice, once up river for the long ride (3-3.5 hours of floating fun), and once closer to town for the short ride (2-2.5 hours: we opted for the short ride, which did take about 2.5 hours).

We then hiked along the gorge to the river. I never knew the Pembina River was a gorge, nor did they tell us how long the hike would take. Have you ever hiked down a gorge carrying a large inflated tube? It was super pretty, but quite an unexpected part of the trip. Unfortunately, the mosquitos were biting pretty good in the bush, and today my ankles are swollen twice their normal size because I am apparently allergic to mosquito bites. Lovely.


View of the gorge from our hike

Eventually we reached the river. We distributed our gear (snacks, water bottles, life jackets, and my stupidly annoying camera in a baggie), tied our rafts together and set off. It was super fun! We spent the next 2.5 hours leisurely drifting down the river, sometimes running over small rapids, sometimes getting stuck on rocks when the river was too shallow, sometimes running into the shore, but mostly just snacking and chatting. Good times...

The two bridges

A train running over the 100 yr old bridge

Another view of the gorge

Four of us were able to tie our tubes into a diamond shape. Back rests and a cooler would've been welcome additions!

My feet, trying to avoid the rocks!

Floating past the beach

After we floated past the provincial park beach, we spotted the PRT sign and left the river. The shuttle picked us up again and drove the short distance back to town. We changed into dry clothes, and headed back to Edmonton. I'm quite sad that it's the end of summer and we wont have time to go again, but I'm sure we'll make it out to Entwistle more than once next summer!

How do you follow up a perfect day of river tubing? By sitting around a fire, roasting hot dogs, and making smores of course! My friends also demonstrated their awesome poi skills, which I'd never seen before so it was pretty neat. You can read more about poi how they got into it here.


Gosh it was a great day. I can't wait until next summer!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good (Curling) News

I just learned a few curling/olympic/tv gems of goodness from this article (via @curlingzone).
  • CBC wont be televising the Olympics in 2010, instead, CTV will. This probably happened long ago but I never knew, of forgot, or haven't watched an Olympics in Canada since 2002. Screw tradition, it's all about money I guess. CTV better air the Olympics 24/7 like CBC used to, or I shall have to write a grumpy-old-woman letter to the appropriate authority. Brian Williams will still be a host, so I bet it'll be all good. And better than the poor coverage I had to watch in 2006 in England regardless.
  • During the Olympics, CBC with air a new series based on 'Men With Brooms', which will be directed by Paul Gross. How exciting is that!! Seriously, it's happy-dance worthy! Thank you CBC for mixing my favourite things together! Hopefully it wont suck, like CBC's last curling pilot (It was a good concept, just slow and boring. Not even a one-liner from Jennifer Jones saved that one).
  • Starting October 4, CBC will air 'Battle of the Blades' which is "a reality competition series that pairs top female figure skaters with retired NHL players in a skating pairs competition. The hook is the women teach the pro hockey players, including former NHL enforcers Tie Domi and Bob Probert, how to dance with grace and emotion on ice." 'Skating with the Stars' was entertaining (well the British version anyways, I was abroad for the American one), but this one could go either way. It'll be worth watching the first episode though. They're going hardcore with the promo though, you can watch a video at CBC's page, join the twitter feed or fan it on Facebook. The cast is actually pretty stellar. I hope it doesn't suck.
I'll leave you with some music-y goodness: the CBC Radio 2's Summer Roadtrip Playlists for Colleen Jones and Kurt Browning (who has great taste in music!).
(I wonder if Paul Gross will let me be an extra? I can't curl very well, but am a big fan so my heart's in the right place. I mean come on, I once watched 'Men With Brooms' just to make a list of famous curlers/musicians on the ice. I could get your coffee Mr. Gross. Will that be a double-double?)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do You Wanna Date My Avatar?

Perhaps you've missed the biggest video event since Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog?
Well, then you'd better check out The Guild's video called 'Date My Avatar':
What! You've never watched The Guild? The Guild is nerd-tv at it's best! It's a quirky web-show by Felicia Day about a group of people who play an online game together, and follows what happens when they meet in real life. Quick, go to The Guild's website and get caught up.
I'll wait.
Ok, so watch the music video now. Make sense? (You get bonus points for looking/listening for Dr. Horrible alumni.)
Follow this link to learn how to download or buy the video/song, and support a cause worth supporting. And don't forget to Twitter the video using the #datemyavatar hashtag. Sometimes it's fun to be trendy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lack of Good Canadian Music Blogs = Music Mondays??

It's been one week since Folk Fest and I miss it. Consequently, I've been thinking a lot about music lately.
I am a bit of a music junkie - it has always been the sun that drives away the grey clouds of my life. Besides annual adventures at Folk Fest, I tend to go to at least a concert or gig a month. I still buy CDs (shocking, eh) and actually own a few music DVDs.
Plus, to keep on top of things, I subscribe to Penguin Eggs, a fantastic Canadian folk/roots/world magazine. It's a super awesome magazine that contains news, reviews, interviews, articles, and all the latest about what's going on and what's up and coming in the world of folk music. I also love the Canadian perspective (we Canucks are quite fortunate: our music rocks!). It makes me happy when I see it in the mailbox. The problem is it only comes out four times a year.
I'm a blog addict, so my goal for the weekend was to find good Canadian music blogs that would keep the news junkie part of me occupied until the next Penguin Eggs arrived.
Finding appropriate Canadian music blogs proved to be quite difficult. Eventually I did stumble upon a plethora of quality music blogs, but very few met my criteria. There is a lot of stuff coming out of the States, but I'm only interested in Canadian blogs as that tends to be what I listen to. There's also a lot of stuff coming out of Toronto in particular, most of which was too locally based for my liking.
And then there is the issue of what 'genres' of music I actually listen to, and thus want to read about.
In order to better understand what I listen to and what kind of blog I'm looking for, I present to you a 'short' summary of my musical journey. Read it, as it explains a lot about why I am the way I am, and why I have a 'twisted' taste in music.
I grew up on country music, and actually didn't realize there were other radio stations besides CISN Country, or other music video channels besides CMT Country Music Television until I was in high school. Riverdance came out around that time, so I made the natural progression into Celtic music and became a fiddle freak for awhile, devotedly listening to mostly East Coast or Irish music (ask me how many times I saw Leahy between 1997-2001, go on, I dare you...). Due to a constant stream of teasing from classmates, and two good friends who happened to be Metallica fans, I rebelled against my roots and started listening to The Bear and rock music, the harder the better. I also dabbled a bit in oldies after I got a job in a pharmacy who's radio could only pick up AM channels. Notice the complete absence of pop music from my radar.
Actually that's a lie. I did jump on the Backstreet Boys bandwagon at one point...
Anyways. I spent some time in Montreal and realized I loved traditional Quebecois music. This lead me to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival for the first time in 2003. The festival brought the world of folk music to my attention and I haven't looked back since. Then I moved to England. While there, I clung to anything Canadian, even if it meant becoming an Avril Lavigne fan. I also was introduced to really good Christian music. And I discovered English folk music.
One summer while I was back in Canada for a holiday, someone asked me if I had heard 'The Truck Song' by Corb Lund. This innocent question started my alt-country devotion. When you think about it, it's the perfect genre for me. It brings together the good parts of country music (the twang, not the slutty pop crap of new country), uses fiddles and other instruments popular in the celtic scene, and often contains rockin' guitars. Some of it is even a bit gospel-y, so I reckon God approves.
The other strange thing about me is I don't like female singers. Now, I am a fan of Jann Arden but the list of female singers I will willingly listen to is maybe only a dozen or so names long. I really only like male voices (and hot guys who played any sort of stringed instrument but that's a post for another day).
I also am not a fan of 'lyrics'. Admittedly, there are certain songs and songwriters I appreciate and love for their meaning and message, but on the whole, I'm in it for the musicality. This is probably why I'm also a big fan of 'music-sung-in-a-language-other-than-English'. It's not necessarily about what they are saying, but how they say it. Needless to say, I have little use for singer-songwriters or guy/girl-and-guitar-only acts, but like I said, do appreciate the odd lyrical gems.
So, there has always been this county-celtic-folk-rock struggle on my CD player. Currently I wake up to CISN country music radio as my alarm and listen to CMT country music videos while I get ready in the morning. I'm a big fan of specific radio shows as well (perhaps also a post for another day). I listen to The Bear rock radio or CDs in my car and I currently only buy alt-country CDs. I keep iTunes and my iPod on shuffle to get the best of all worlds.
Right. So find me a good Canadian blog for that, eh?!
I did find a few (more general ones) so you can check out my blogroll for the ones I've subscribed to. I'm sure as time goes on I will likely refine this list, so don't be surprised to see that music blogroll diminish (or possible disappear?). I was quite disappointed I couldn't find a Canadian music blog that matched well with my music tastes. As I talked to a few people about this, the consensus became "Stop whining and write a blog about the music you like!" I'm not going to lie, I did think about it, but I don't really have time to make a super stellar music blog (there's a lot of really well written music blogs out there). I also don't know enough about music or the scene to write quality reviews or articles. I know what I like though.
*insert blog crisis here*
If I start a music blog, do I also have to start a curling blog? And a librarian blog? Or an Edmonton blog? And give up this random-mash-of-rants-and-stuff personal blog?
That class I took recently about web 2.0 really got me thinking about niche blogging. My problem is I don't have a niche: my blog doesn't really have much of a theme (besides being really fun and cool and informative! Right? Now I sound like I'm in high school). Should I stick to blogging about one thing? Can I do it all at once and still be a credible blogger?
I am quite happy not having a niche or theme, as this blog serves my purposes quite nicely, although I am worried about what sort of audience my blog has. Do people like the randomness? Would more people follow if I had a theme? Do I care if more people follow or am I happy with my loyal reader base (I love you, dear readers!). Personally, I tend to follow niche blogs. Would I follow this blog if I wasn't writing it? Is it time to stop journaling and start writing more complex, thoughtful posts suitable for a grad student or a wider audience base?
*blog crisis temporarily dispelled*
Really, I am happy at the moment maintaining this random blog as is. If you're (still) reading this (this has turned into a long ramble), you must be happy with this random blog too (?). But I do think maybe I might start writing a 'Music Monday' post. Head Tale does it, and I respect him as a blogger and a librarian, so why shouldn't I do it?
Your turn. Would you appreciate a regular 'Music Monday' post? Keep in mind what 'genres' I would write about. I do realize not everyone appreciates fiddles, accordions and banjos quite as much as I do. You might learn something though, maybe even discover a new band you like?
And learning and discovery is what this blog is all about.
So prepare for a 'Music Monday' post next week. That is, if I remember that I'm supposed to write a 'Music Monday' post next Monday - I might forget and stick up a link to National Geographic instead...

The Apple Store Kid

Here's a cool link via @bingofuel about what goes on in Apple stores:
Seriously, you have to check out this Apple Store kid's videos, he made them all by lip syncing at an Apple store in NY. And this woman wrote her entire novel at an Apple store.
Oh to be so young and carefree. Check out the other shoppers. Too funny.
Kuddos to you kid, keep it up!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Web 2.0: Final Thoughts: What Did I Learn, and Where Do I Go From Here?


Note: This is my LAST post created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries. Aren't you excited?
My library 2.0 journey for EDES 501 has come to an end. What have I learned? And what role will web 2.0 play in my future?

And The Award Goes To...
This class exposed me to many new web 2.0 tools I had never before used, tools that I will definitely use again!

The best new technology I started using because of this class was Twitter (you can read my initial Twitter post here). As a news junkie, I excitedly (and nervously) followed Twitter during the Storm of the Summer in July, and throughout the drama that unfolded at the Big Valley Jamboree. Since I follow a lot of news feeds, I often hear about local (and world) news that happens before it gets in the paper or on TV. I also tweeted my own local news while I attended the Edmonton Folk Music Festival recently, when I used the #efmf tag to send posts from my cell phone for the first time ever. I plan on continuing to use Twitter after this class has ended, and would gladly use it in a library setting to keep patrons up to date with library news.

I also really enjoyed using Animoto (you can read my initial multimedia mashup post here). It was very easy to use, and produced quite visually stunning results. I would also not hesitate to use it in a library setting to promote books, services, programs or to showcase patron created projects. These photo/music mashups would definitely spice up a library's website! I recently created a project for my Folk Fest photos, so now you can all enjoy the best four days of the year!


I have also used my new found video making skills recently. I discovered my digital camera could record video, so I recorded a few from my favourite Folk Fest session. I once again used iMovie to edit and compress my video, as per my initial post on videosharing (read it here). I also discovered that instead of uploading a video to YouTube, and then embedding it on my blog, I could just upload it straight into Blogger by using the video upload icon (next to the photo upload icon). Though it took a long time to load, I like this function because I can now upload and share video with my blog readers, without making it public to the YouTube community (which is often not my intension). Here is one of the videos I created at Folk Fest (Warning - if you don't like bagpipes, don't click play!):

video

Perhaps I am on my way to becoming a video star just like my favourite librarian video presenter at ASU's Library Minute?


Besides integrating these three new technologies into my life, I also learned more about other web 2.0 tools I used previously. While I had experience with web 2.0 technologies before taking this class, I did learn many new tricks, tips and applications of these tools.
I never before considered using a photosharing service as a backup tool (read my initial post here). Over the past month or so, I have been looking into the different photosharing sites, hoping to find one that I could upload all my travel photos too, in order to keep them safe. So far, I have been disappointed. All the photo sites I have checked out have an upload limit (usually 1024MB), which is too small for all the photos I have. Thus, it seems that my only option would be to pay $25 a year for a Flickr Pro account. I am going to hold off on this for awhile, and keep a close eye on the photosharing sites to see if they open up their limits.

I also have a renewed 'appreciation' for podcasting, which I previously have stated is a dead technology. While I still believe this, I have found a new local podcast to follow, but hope this hasn't started a trend in my RSS feeds, as I really do not have time to follow podcasts (so please don't fill up my comment stream with lot's of super fantastic library podcasts...). I recently came across a cool idea though, from the Concordia University College Library. They have created a tour podcast which is meant to be downloaded to an iPod or Mp3 player and listened to as the student walks around the library. I plan on trying this out when I visit the library later this month. It sounds like a really neat idea!
So I now appreciate photo sharing and podcasts more than before, and I will probably use video sharing, multimedia mashups and Twitter in the future. I will also continue to use the social networking and bookmarking services I belong to, my beloved Google Reader RSS aggregator to read blogs and am plotting my return to wiki editing. While I do not plan on keeping up this library 2.0 blog, I plan on maintaining my personal blog, which will hopefully showcase more web 2.0 trends. Web 2.0 certainly has made a lasting impression on my life!


What I Learned From Others
This was my first ever online class, and though I found actual human contact lacking, it was an interesting learning experience nonetheless.

I found the online discussions to be quite helpful. I am quite stubborn, so it was nice to have my opinions swayed and altered as I read what other classmates had to say on a particular topic. Though I am not naturally the type of person who thrives in discussion or debate environments (nor am I usually one to participate in forums or comment on blogs), I thought the structured nature of the discussions allowed for many opinions to be heard. What I did find lacking in this online discussion environment was instant rebuttal, and dealing with the lack of body language in the written environment was also challenging. I am not sure I would jump at the chance to participate in an online discussion again, but I did gain insight from our topics. Here are some random, anonymous, quotes from various people in our discussion group that I found helpful:
  • "One does not need to be a complex blogger to be an active part of the blogosphere."
  • "There is a time and a place for everything."
  • "Taken together the results of these two studies indicate that openness to new experience and neuroticism predict blogging." and that "women high in neuroticism were more likely to maintain a blog."
  • "Maintaining a library blog for the sake of potential career benefits without an interest in blogging about the profession could become a chore to the blogger as well as increase the amount of noise in the library blogsphere."
  • "The voice definitely trumps content. I would rather read about nothing and be entertained than read about something important and be bored to tears."
  • "In many cases, to be relevant, you have to express opinion and sometimes you have risk opposing someone or challenging your audience."
With regards to reading classmates blog posts, I appreciated the opinions of the already established (aka graduated and employed) librarians or there abouts. I enjoyed hearing about how these web 2.0 technologies were being used in libraries, and about how they could be used in a real world context. I also think these different perspectives added to the 'life' learning of us students. One of my favourite pastimes is picking the brains of current librarians to learn about the profession, so I definitely learned a lot from these two bloggers.

It was also interesting to read about web 2.0 from the teachers' (or teacher-librarian's) perspectives. I used to be a teacher, and can see the link between schools and libraries, so was glad to read about these exciting web 2.0 technologies being used in classrooms. It brought a real life context to our learning since, as students, a lot of us can not implement such knowledge quite yet in real world libraries, but the teachers are already planning and using what they have learned. It was very inspirational!
Finally, I am so thankful I got to participate in this class with my fellow SLIS students. Each week, it was fun to read about what they had created to show their learning, and I loved how the used humour and personal experience to create web 2.0 projects. I learned a lot from their blogs, but also enjoyed bonding over a common situation. Thanks for the support ladies!


And In The Future?
To keep up with web 2.0 trends, I will continue to follow a number of library and technology blogs. Even in the past week, there have been numerous interesting blog post that have come through my RSS feeds about topics we have previously posted on. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about Facebook acquiring FriendFeed, so it will be interesting to see how that affects social networking. Also, Stephen Abram posted a link to a great graphic depicting and categorizing web 2.0 tools. I also came across a great list of posts from ReadWriteWeb that led to an hour of link surfing, from which I learned a lot about the semantic web and the best trends of the present. Finally, the Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian recently posted this video of a library director doing a Monday Library Minute for his staff and patrons. What a great way for the big boss to show involvement and support for his library!


Personally, I believe following blogs is the best way for me to keep up with current trends. However, doing scholarly research for this class has shown there are peer reviewed articles being written about this topic, and I think it will be worth checking out what is being published in the journals too.

I was not much of a blog commenter prior to this class, but since I was 'forced' to, I think I will perhaps keep that up. I appreciate that commenting is a great way to start and continue discussion, as well as a networking tool. I am going to try come out of my shell and comment a bit more on professional content. I will also continue to use Twitter and Facebook to help network with other professionals, and hope to start attending conferences as well (stay tuned for the Animoto and live blog or video from my first conference, ha ha ).

I think it is important to keep up with these technologies, and to implement them in my life, prior to implementing them into the library I may end up working at. However, this all comes with a cost, and time is certainly an issue I will need to consider. There is just not enough time in the day to keep up with all the new developments occurring in the web 2.0 world. Huwe (2004) comments that keep technologically up to date should not be a luxury that is the first to be dropped because we are too busy. We need to evaluate how we spend our time, and actually make time to study technology. Huwe (2004) suggests taking classes, reading up on trends and spending actual dedicated time keeping up with technological change. We need to incorporate these trends into our perception of library work, and work hard on incorporating it into our daily routine. As mentioned in my last post, web 3.0 and the new semantic web is upon us, and we will only be able to understand and use the new complex technology when we, as librarians, have mastered the basics. To this end, continuous learning is key (Huwe, 2004).

It is my goal, as a library studies student, to try to understand and be able to use up and coming technology because it will help me help patrons in their own information searching quest. Taking this class was one step, and I will be taking more technology classes as well - though they may be challenging, I believe the benefits outweigh the stress of getting a C. As quoted in Dewald (2006), it is only through professional development that we can become technologically skilled librarians who can provide the services that the our clients need and deserve.

After all, assisting our patrons is what librarianship is all about.

References:
Dewald, N. (2006, October). Future Voices in Public Services. Public Services Quarterly, 2(4), 119-125.
Huwe, T. (2004). Keep Those Web Skills Current. Computers in Libraries, 24(8), 40-42.
"Learning Online: Reflection." (2006). Ed: The RMIT Learning and Teaching Journal. http://emedia.rmit.edu.au/ed/Issue/2006a_Spring/Tech/article1_pg1.html

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Web 2.0: What Comes Next? Using This Knowledge And Preparing For The New Wave of Web Technology

Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

We have just spent the past five weeks experimenting and researching web 2.0 tools. So what? What does it all mean for libraries, and what do we do next?

The benefits of web 2.0 technologies are clear: they are "about poviding a platform for users to contribute their unique voices and perspectives to the web; they’re also about affording end-users the ability to get social with each other around that content, whether that content is text, a link, an image, a video clip, or just about anything else you generate in digital format" (Etches-Johnson 2008).

Anderson (2007) writes that web 2.0 technologies are about:
  1. Individual production and user-generated content.
  2. Harnessing the power of the crowd.
  3. Using data on an epic scale.
  4. Fostering the architecture of participation.
It was also mentioned that librarians are in the perfect position to influence what technologies are being developed by demonstrating their use in libraries (Anderson, 2007). Libraries have to embrace and use this technology, because if they do not, they will be left behind and users will go elsewhere to find other ways to get information (Sperring, 2008). Thus, librarians must experiment and take risks with web 2.0 tools, as they are instrumental in driving the voice of the people.

The questions that need to be asked and answered now are what technologies are best used in a library and how can a library keep the web 2.0 momentum going.


If I Am Ever In Charge...
Jones and Stephens (2008) advocate that the library needs to have a presence outside of the actual building, and in addition to the library's website, as this presence further assists patrons with the act of finding necessary information.


King (2009) suggests the best web 2.0 tools to incorporate into a library are blogs and a Facebook page, and I agree. A Facebook page will reach a diverse audience, as Facebook is used by a variety of demographics. Library blogs are a fast, easy and inexpensive way for libraries to deliver news, and promote services and resources to patrons while creating a conversation about the library that allows for community participation (Jones & Stephens, 2008). Kajewski (2007) also recommends the use of blogs as an information service, library service, feedback tool, and professional awareness tool, citing that blogs are still used 22% more than wikis.

I also believe that blogs are fantastic tools for libraries. I would not hesitate to take over or implement a blog in the library where I work. I believe a news blog (which could be hooked up to Twitterfeed) is vital, and does not take a lot of time, skill or cost to produce. And despite my dislike for Facebook, libraries must be where the people are, or they will go elsewhere for their resources (Sperring, 2008). Facebook, it seems, certainly is where the people are, and its network grows everyday. While I believe other web 2.0 tools have certain uses at certain times, I do think libraries should try to maintain a main presence on a blog and Facebook to let patrons know what is going on and to showcase the other web 2.0 tools. When I am in charge, that is what will happen. Hopefully. It is hard to pinpoint the specific challenges I will face when I am employed in a library, but I hope my knowledge and enthusiasm about web 2.0 technology will motivate my first employment opportunity after graduation.


Barriers To Implementation

Unfortunately, good intentions are often not enough to make a difference in a library's web 2.0 presence. There are always barriers or problems when attempting to implement new technology. One must consider the time, effort and cost factor, as well as staff and patron motivation, and institutional support (or lack thereof).
King (2009) suggests libraries have trouble implementing web 2.0 technologies because they did not:
  • Set strategies and goals.
  • Assign more than 1-2 people to do it.
  • Focus on a target audience.
  • Considered it as part of their everyday tasks.
  • Use it as part of their annual review
  • Make it a priority for the individual or library
  • Write appropriate and well crafted, spelling and grammar mistake free, content.
Farkas (2009) echos these points and adds that while web 2.0 software is easy to set up, libraries often do not consider the time and effort necessary to keep the content up to date or participatory. She also notes that staff are often reluctant or untrained to handle the technology, and that in general do not have the time to devote to these projects (Farkas, 2009)

There are further problems besides staff concerns. Libraries often do not consider the privacy and copyright implications of user generated content, and may indeed find themselves in legal trouble (Byrne, 2008).

With all these problems and issues, how can libraries properly implement and efficiently use these new technologies?


Keeping the Momentum Going
Librarians should be excited to use these new technologies in their library. Enthusiasm goes a long way to making the project a success. The projects must be seen as a priority, and tied to institutional goals (for example, the Wisconsin Library Technology Strategic Plan), while planned for in staff timetables. Training opportunities must also be provided for staff so that they are comfortable with using the technology (Byrne, 2008; Farkas, 2009). Projects need to be collaborative so that if a staff member leaves the organization the project is not abandoned (Farkas, 2009). If the projects are part of the instiution's mission, and library staff are properly trained and enthusiastic about helping their patrons, all member will likely be on board.

Most importantly, King (2009) notes that first and foremost, we must only implement what technologies our patrons want and need. Not every technology, program or tool will work for every library (qtd in Washburn, 2008). Libraries must know what the population needs, which can then be translated into clear goals for implementation - technology should not be used just because it is trendy (Farkas, 2009).

Byrne (2009) advocates for answering these questions before implementing a new technology:
  1. Who are your users? What are their needs?
  2. Who isn't using your service, but should be? What are their needs?
  3. What information does the library offer? How can the web 2.0 service add value to it?
  4. What opportunities are there for using web 2.0?
  5. How can user generated content, tagging, and participation be included?
  6. What are the library's long term plans?
  7. What vendors/products will be used?
  8. What resources are available? (staff, skills, infrastructure)
  9. Whose support and assistance do we need?
  10. How can we promote the web 2.0 services?
After a tool is implemented, Farkas (2009) suggests asking:
  • Do the users know it exists? - Marketing is important.
  • Is it meeting user needs? - Evaluations both pre and post implementation are important.
  • Are there barriers to using the technology? - Remove all obstacles for users.
  • Is it difficult for users to contribute? - Make it easy for users to participate in the content.
Byrne (2008) also suggests libraries know the legistaltion and regulations surrounding privacy policies, and take provisions to comply with these rules, notably by creating disclaimers and policy documents.

Not only are librarians web 2.0 implementors, they also hold the responsibility of educating their patrons (and reluctant staff!) about these web 2.0 tools. Greenwood (2009) offers teaching suggestions such as: offering IT support on the service desk, using teachable moments, and offering gaming sessions to get patrons more comfortable with the technology. Libraries can also use subject guides, blogs (like theUniversity of Waterloo Library), tutorials (including videos, screencasts or podcasts), and offer teaching and learning courses or sessions (note this example from the Manhattan Public Library). Web 2.0 skills are certainly part of information literacy skills, and must be considered when producing and delivering information literacy programming. Plus, these web 2.0 technologies are a lot of fun, and this can most certainly be translated to fun, upbeat sessions. Additionally, a library could hold a contest (similar to what the Eden Prairie Library did) or post patron created web 2.0 projects on their website or blog. Once again, to create and maintain enthusiasm, all staff member must be on board with the project and the patrons should need and want the new technology - when patrons are excited, it is infectious and will lead to high staff and other patron involvement. After all, web 2.0 technologies are about creating a strong community.

Considering all these factors prior to, during, and after implementation will help a library create a fun, usable and exciting tool for their patrons to use. We need to remember that we are implementing these technologies to help our users, not just so that we can ride the wave of web 2.0.


What Comes Next?
Web 3.0, also known as the Semantic Web, is looming on the horizon. Wikipedia defines the semantic web as "an evolving development of the World Wide Web in which the semantics of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the web content." Abram (2009) linked to a collection of Web 3.0 presentations that are worth looking at in order to familiarize yourself about what is coming next. Click the following image to acquaint yourself with the different types of webs.

MacManus (2009) defines the new web as one that links everyone to everything everywhere, and which makes the whole world wide web potentially smarter. Web 2.0 is currently about user generated content and social applications, but web 3.0 will be more about open and structured data. We can currently see elements of the new semantic web in content filtering, real-time data and personalization of web space, as well as the growing importance of linked data. Simply, web 3.0 is the consolidation of web 2.0, in a more open environment. The possibilities are endless.

Regardless of the what comes next, it is safe to assume web 3.0 will not solve information overload or the issues of web 2.0. Thus, if we don't embrace and effectively learn about web 2.0, will we not be able to cope with web 3.0. That is why learning about multimedia mashups, photosharing, podcasting, social bookmarking, social networking, videosharing, wikis, blogs and RSS is so important. Kajewski (2007) notes that to meet the needs of our current patrons, as well as our future patrons, we as librarians need to "take the responsibility to understand and adopt the new and inexpensive technologies available and to present conventional library services using these emerging tools to connect with the community." When we, as librarians, embrace and use these technologies to benefit our users, we live up to the responsibility of being an 'enabling profession'.

What do you think is coming next? How can libraries prepare for the new wave of web technology? How can libraries keep up with this new wave of web technology?

References
Abram, Stephen. (2009). Web 3.0 in Plain English. Stephen's Lighthouse http://stephenslighthouse.sirsidynix.com/archives/2009/06/wb_30_in_plain.html
Anderson, P. (2007). All that glisters is not gold: Web 2.0 and the librarian. Journal of Librarianship & Information Science, 39(4): 195-198.
Byrne, A. (2008). Web 2.0 strategy in libraries and information services. Australian Library Journal, 57(4), 365-376.
Etches-Johnson, A. (2008). 2.0: Are We Done Yet?. Access, 14(4): 30-31.
Farkas, Meredith. (2009). It’s not all about the tech – why 2.0 tech fails. Information Wants To Be Free http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2009/03/14/its-not-all-about-the-tech-why-20-tech-fails/.
Greenwood, B. (2009). Ask a Librarian. Computers in Libraries, 29(3), 33-33.
Jones, M., & Stephens, M. (2008). Welcome to Web 2.0: Rounding Up New Technologies. Serials Librarian, 53(4), 185-193.
Kajewski, M. (2007). Emerging technologies changing our service delivery models. Electronic Library, 25(4), 420-429.
King, David Lee. (2009). Starter questions for Ultimate Debate 2009. David Lee King Blog http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/07/15/starter-questions-for-ultimate-debate-2009/.
MacManus, Richard. (2009). Understanding the New Web Era: Web 3.0, Linked Data, Semantic Web. ReadWriteWeb
Sperring, D. (2008). Libraries, the Internet, Web 2.0 and Library 2.0. One-Person Library, 25(2), 5-6.
Washburn, Sarah. (2008). Web 2.0...for your patrons! Techsoup for Libraries http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/blog/web

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fan-freakin'-tastic: Folk Fest 2009 Wrap Up


Oh Folk Fest, how I love thee.
Like I wrote last year, even when I'm freezing cold or scorching hot or tired or grumpy or dirty or hungry, even then it's always the best four days of the year.

While the Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2009 was not without the usual grumbles, it still was a super awesome five days! The music was great, the people friendly, and the weather cooperative. Who could ask for anything more?

It was really hard to come up with a top 5 this year. While all the music was really, really, really good, there were few stand out acts. I think the main problem was scheduling. The talent was there, it was just a bit, well, mellow on the main stage. The sessions were great as usual, but the main stage showcased a few too many 'singer-songwriter with guitar' musicians. The peppy, exciting acts were on during the afternoon, or last, which led to a loss of momentum. On the other hand, I did get a bit more sleep than usual.

Anyways, my top 5:

1. Oysterband - I've been a fan for years and years, and they did not disappoint. I always love chair dancing and singing my heart out on the hill. I'm also certain the bass/cello player, Chopper, is Jim Cuddy's English twin (and we all know Jim Cuddy is my #1).


2. The Pipers - Usually I stalk the Quebecois boys, but as there were none this year (boo!), I stalked a piper. Because he used to play for the Oysterband, I have also been a big fan of James O'Grady, an uillean piper, for years and years. Maybe 'fan' is an understatement. He was playing in Cara Dillon's band, so was a surprise addition to the program. For one particularly fantastic session, he was joined by the boys of Breabach. Picture a couple guitars, an upright bass, whistles and flutes, a set of uillean pipes and two highland bagpipes. Magic, sweet, funny, beautiful, magic. *sigh*

video
video

3. Great Lake Swimmers - I wasn't going to stay and listen to their concert, but didn't feel like giving up my front row spot at stage 4 post-pipers, or walking all the way across the venue to stage 1 (sorry Fred Eaglesmith, maybe next time). I was pleasantly surprised by the Great Lake Swimmers though. They will likely be my one (or two) CD purchase of the festival. (Every year I am allowed one, although usually I don't buy any, then decide I want something particular, then spend three months trying to track down the obscure CD, then buy it off the internet, whining all the while. This entire process has been named a "Mary Gauthier" by our star tarp runner).


4. Hanggai - What's a Chinese/Mongolian folk band with weird instruments and throat singing doing at Folk Fest? Creating a buzz, that's what. They were the band I heard everyone talking about this year. I managed to catch a session, and they were excellent.


5. The Idan Raichel Project - This multicultural band from Israel was one of the few acts to get the hill rocking. They were really good, hard to describe, but I quite enjoyed the show.


The Swiftys almost made the list, as did Chumbawamba. I missed them doing 'Tubthumping', a right rarity, but did see a video. That would've been awesome live, but I was busy ogling pipers on the stage next door. More pictures are on my Facebook page, or from the official gallery, which is a little light on pipers if you ask me.

If last year's festival was about meeting old friends, then this year's festival was about meeting new friends. The whole line up lottery is quite complicated for the uninitiated (see 'When Do The Gates Open'), and we've got it down to a fine science. This year we made friends with a group of people over a common dislike: the 'Walmart Guy'. I'm not going to explain the line up, but basically you have to get there mega early, then you get a coloured/numbered ticket - they call the tickets and that's the order you go in. Well, there's always this one guy with a clipboard and like 50 tickets and we've always wondered how he gets them. Our new friends told us that 'Walmart' runs some sort of pyramid scheme whereby people give him their tickets and he sorts them out in some sort of predetermined order (we assumed he gets in first). We all started joking that we should start our own scheme. I believe the guy in the orange shirt promised to draw up a contract for next year's line. I certainly will be looking for them in the corral next year, we had a good thing going.

I also met these two women in the line up, and randomly saw them every day before the tarp run, so got to chatting about this and that. One woman was from Australia, so we talked a bit about accents and Kasey Chambers. So. On Sunday, I was standing in the line for the porta-loo before the gates opened, and the Australian lady comes up to to me and says "I was hoping I'd see you today." Ok. She then goes on to tell me she's a psychic and proceeds to tell me what she felt she needed to say to me. In the line for the toilet. I'm not making this up. The thing is, she wasn't one of those hippy folk festers or anything, just a regular grey haired lady from Australia who I happened to randomly meet four days in a row in line. It was kinda weird. She said something along the lines of "You're in a chair, in your safety zone. You have to step out of the chair and leave your safety zone. If you don't leave your safety zone, you will miss opportunities. Trust your abilities. Not everything has to be done to perfection. You are better than you think." Yeah. So that's kind of spot on. My friends think it means I should go speed dating (I am not going speed dating) but I think it applies more to career/life stuff. I'm not saying I believe in random Australian psychics, I am a progressive Christian afterall, but I've heard that advice before so it was nice to hear it again. Weird, but nice. But weird. I also randomly ran into my Australian psychic and her partner in the shade tent much later that day. As we said our final good byes, she also said "Remember, don't settle for second best." I told them I would give them an update in next year's line up.

Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up.

Folk Fest is always about being friendly as part of a community. I will talk to anyone at Folk Fest (see above). I'll chat to people in lines, during sessions at the side stages, on other tarps on the hill. It's not like I'm unfriendly in the real world, it's just that Folk Fest just inspires friendly chatting. I had to leave for a bit Saturday afternoon for a family function, and while there I just randomly started chatting to two ladies in the dessert line. I actually got a bad vibe from them, like they were weirded out because I was randomly talking to them. I hit me that I wasn't in the friendly world of Folk Fest and I immediately wanted to leave the function and go back to the hill. It's hard to explain, but there certainly is a sort of vibe or spirit or whatever that threads through the event.

And this friendly community spirit, combined with the awesome music, is why I will go back year after year after year. After all, it always is the best four days of the year. 359 days...

(All photos and video are mine, except for the last photo which was taken by one of my tarp mates from the top of the main stage hill.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Guess What Time It Is?


It's that time of year again...it's Folk Fest time!!
The Edmonton Folk Music Festival is always my favourite four days of the year. This year it's extra special because Sarah McLachlin is playing a special fundraiser show tonight. And a band cancelled so Oysterband is playing the main stage after all. That makes it the best five days of the year.
I'll probably be tweeting a bit from the hill, follow me or the #efmf hashtag on twitter.
And I'll see ya Monday!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Web 2.0: Blogs and RSS: Librarians and the Blogosphere





Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

It is hard to remember what the internet was like before blogs. Now, I am not sure what I would do without them...

What are blogs and RSS?

Blogs
Blogs are easily to created webpages (also called weblogs) used to display and share ideas and other information like links, pictures or videos. Blogging does not require a web server, or HTML knowledge. Blog sites are easy to use and provide a simple publishing interface, as well as a professional looking main page. They can be written on any computer with internet access, allow for archiving of posts, the ability organize posts using tags or labels, and can be personalized with widgets (eg. Twitter, blogroll, label list, search box, RSS subscription tool)

The most popular free blog sites are Blogger, Wordpress, Livejournal, Tumblr, Typepad, and Moveable Type.

It has been suggested that there are 3 main types of blogs:
-Personal / Point-of-View - reports of events and impressions
-Practice / Purposeful - links to useful info and new resources
-Philosophical / Polemical - explorations and discussions of big ideas
The following is an excellent summary of various blogging styles and types of blogs.

Blogs offer the people "the freedom to share, voice an opinion, and conversing
with others about a common theme" (Draper & Turnage, 2008, p. 16) and are an incredible creative outlet. Blogs may have started off as personal diaries or journals, but are now " a powerful tool for communicating timely information" (Black, 2007, p.6). You can find blogs for any topic using helpful search services like Technorati or Google's Blog Search.

There are of course disadvantages to blogs. They can be biased, inaccurate, and unmediated, thus the content is not appropriate for all information uses, such as homework assignments or the inclusion in scholarly papers. They can also be deleted at any point, which makes blogs hard to index.

Blogging statistics are available from Scribd, which states that in 2008 there were 184 million bloggers, and 346 million blog readers world wide. So while some critics claim blogging is a dying art, the fact that Blogger grew 68% last year refutes this claim. More statistics are also available from The Future Buzz.

RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication' or 'Rich Site Summary' (Black, 2007) and is used to read blogs. It is a protocol (often using XML) that lets users subscribe to online content using a feed reader or aggregator which checks the web for updated content. Users do not have to go to each website they like regularily, instead they can just read the updated content through their reader. Feed readers and aggregators offer filtering and organizing capabilities. Free RSS feed readers include Google Reader, Netvibes, and Bloglines.

Unfortunately, not all sites offer RSS feeds. Most blogs do offer RSS functionality, but static webpages often do not. Also, if you just use a reader, you miss other changes to a website, and the visual effect of looking at the homepage. RSS also has other uses besides feeding blog content. RSS Specifications lists many other uses including real estate listings, job postings, auction items, airline delays, events calendars and search terms (Black, 2007).

For more about RSS, please see the How To Use Google Reader Tutorial Series, the tutorial for using RSS from the Southern Ontario Library Service, or the tutorial linked to from the Edmonton Public Library.

If a library has a blog, they need to enable the RSS functionality so that users can keep up to date with their content. Also, for professional development purposes, librarians should use a feed reader or aggregator to organize their feeds and stay up to date with content from the blogs they choose to follow.


My Experiences
I started to follow blogs in 2007. I started following blogs for personal interest, but quickly developed a long list of library related professional development blogs to read. Initially, I used the aggregator Netvibes, but at that time found that is was very slow to load and would affect the loading time of other applications on the internet. Once I switched my email account to gmail in early 2008, I became aware of the RSS reader Google Reader. I love Google Reader, it saves me so much time. The interface is simple to use and very intuitive. It is very easy to add RSS subscriptions, and to categorize them by subject or other label. I also have an iGoogle homepage, and there is a widget on my homepage which shows me what new blog content is available. It is as simple as clicking the link, and then I can view the new content right from my homepage.

Recently Google Reader has begun to implement social networking functionality. I can 'follow' other people who use Google Reader, and can view the content they choose to share. I do not like this option, as it clutters my RSS feeds with content that my friend might think is interesting, but more often than not I do not find it interesting, nor do I appreciate these rogue feeds cluttering up my list. Currently I subscribe to about 100 blogs, and am constantly adding to and deleting blogs from my list. To view my complete blogroll, please see the right column of my personal blog.

I read a variety of types of blogs. I like following library/librarian blogs because they keep me informed of trends, new technology and events. These blogs offer suggestions and best practice examples which will be useful as I progress throughout my career. They also provide humour, fun stories and networking opportunities.

The following is a list of useful Librarian blogs:
  1. iLibrarian: This blog always links to other interesting content, usually about Library 2.0 technology. iLibrarian sums up the important points of a topic, and then links to the main page. I have used iLibrarian posts throughout this class, as they are up to date and relevant to current technologies.
  2. Stephen's Lighthouse: Stephen Abram's blog usually links out to web 2.0 and other library trend news. He also blogs about conferences, presentations he has given, and other fun or interesting library news or ideas.
  3. ACRLog: Reading this blog from the Association of College and Research Libraries is a great way to keep track of what is going on in academic libraries, and offers a lot of advice and helpful best practice suggestions. The posts are written in a more professional scholarly manner and are always relevant and timely to academic library topics.
  4. Rethinking Information Careers: This blog gives a lot of tips and insight into finding, and doing well in library jobs. While it is not updated all that often, the posts always provide insider knowledge and tips about job searching, or about what it's like to be new in the career field.
  5. Swiss Army Librarian: Sometimes personal, sometimes thought provoking and often humourous, this blog is quite varied. It is a true reflection about what goes on in libraries. He also posts a reference question of the week, which can be funny or thought provoking.
Please check out my blogroll for more excellent librarian blogs.

I have been a blogger since 2005, and currently maintain a travel blog and a personal blog, in addition to one for this class assignment. For more information about my blogs, and about why I chose Blogger, please see my Introduction post.

A couple weeks ago I became aware of the Blogger in draft after noticing an advertisement on my Blogger dashboard (where I can see my blog content and editing options). Blogger in draft is a special version of Blogger that allows bloggers to try out new features before they are released to everyone. It is like a sandbox, or a place to try out new functions and leave feedback. Currently they are working on geotagging, a new post editor, star rating functions and search boxes. I decided to try out the new post editor.

The draft editor has many new functions. There is an undo and redo button (as often the browser undo/redo does not work), a strike-through text option (previously only available through HTML code), a highlight text option, quote formatting (also currently only handled by HTML code), and remove formatting. I can see how all of these new options would be very useful, and I would personally make use of the quote and remove formatting option. They are also changing the way the schedule posts (which often does not work) and are adding more HTML options.

Here is the post I wrote to test the new functions:

I really like some of the test functions, especially the quote button. Blogger in draft will allow a user to switch their dashboard permanently to the test post editor, so I tried that, but once I returned to this post to edit it, all the formatting and pictures were all messed up or missing. Also I noticed a spelling mistake on my test post (see above picture, oops!). I went back to edit it, but now the formatting has changed back to regular Blogger, and the highlight text function does not work (it has instead reverted to a pink text colour. I hate pink.). You can compare the above picture, to the converted formatting by viewing the post here. Apparently Blogger in draft and regular Blogger do not play nice with each other yet.

So while there are some really neat options in Blogger in draft, I am content to wait until the changes make their way to regular Blogger. I am going to use Blogger in draft occasionally though. I like the new functions, and also like being aware of what changes are coming. I appreciate that Blogger has this new draft service.


Blog Uses in Libraries and for Librarians
Library Blogs
If a library does set up a blog, they must consider the audience they are trying to reach, and produce appropriate content for that audience (Fichter, 2003). A library could use a blog as a forum for sharing:
The Edmonton Public Library produces blogs for subject guides, customer reviews, events and job postings. A blog could also be used as a homepage, and by students in the case of school libraries. They can be effective forums for obtaining feedback about services, programs and facilities (Draper & Turnage, 2008). Draper & Turnage (2008) also report 70% of libraries use blogs to market the library to patrons and the community; mostly this is accomplished by providing a link to the library's homepage. Most importantly though, a blog should encouraging community discussion. A list of library blogs can be found here and here.

Gilman 2008 offers numerous suggestions for library blogs. First, the blog must have a purpose, as in there is no point in blogging just for the sake of using trendy technology. The library must also know their technical limitations, for example is there a firewall that prevents viewing the content, or has a filter blocked blogs in general. The blog must be kept up to date and consistent attention must be made in order to keep it relevant. Also, the blog should reflect the voice of the library, since readers will respect and expect authenticity.

Librarian Blogging and Professional Development
Schwartz (2007) offers a list of why librarians should blog:
  1. Blogging keeps you current.
  2. Blogs are advocacy tools.
  3. Blogs build community.
  4. Blogs showcase your unique image.
  5. Writing is a form of creative release.
  6. It's easy!
Librarians can blog to:
  • document personal and/or professional expression of ideas
  • share about conference, seminar or workshop attendance and participation
  • keep in touch with acquaintances, friends and colleagues
  • share with others best practices and what they are doing (Library Day In The Life Project)
A list of librarian blogs can be found here, here, here, here, here, here and here. A simple google search for 'librarian blogs' will being up many, many more. There certainly are a lot of librarians in the blogosphere! Laning et al. (2005) also offers a list of popular librarian blogs, as well as a discussion about the history of library blogs. For a scholarly review of librarian blogs, please see the Bar-Ilan (2007) article. They have included many links to more librarian blogs, plus I highly recommend viewing table 1, which lists numerous topics covered by bloggers ranging from library awareness to politics to patron stories. This table provides many more types of content librarians and libraries could use in their blogs.

Regardless of the type or why a librarian blogs or reads blogs, they do provide current information about trends and other topics which can be useful for our professional knowledge base. Schwartz (2007) suggests "by visiting the blogs of other librarians, you gain the perspective of others working in your field, confronting similar issues and exploring solutions. You also experience the wonderful diversity of opinions, perspectives and personalities that make up our field."

Recently there was some controversy when the Annoyed Librarian became employed by Library Journal to produce a blog. The controversy stems from the publishing of an entire academic journal written by this blogger (who's identity has not been released), thus it lacks all peer-reviewed academic integrity. You can follow up on this controversy here, here and here. While I agree that bloggers should be free to write about what they want, and think it is exciting Library Journal has employed a blogger, I also think LJ has 'sold out'. Demeaning academic integrity of a journal by turning it over to an anonymous blogger does not impress researchers or academics, nor does it promote our academic content to other professions. One column by a blogger in a journal is a fantastic idea - giving the whole journal to a blogger, not so much.

Gilman 2008 notes a variety of benefits of using blogs for professional development. As mentioned previously, they allow for instant distribution of content, and thus enable quicker adoption of new technologies and practices. They offer the ability to comment on and discuss ideas without abusing email inboxes. Blogs can link library professionals from around the world, as they share best practices and knowledge. They have the ability to disseminate and advocate for legislative and professional change, and give users the ability to view multiple blogs at once through RSS readers. Thus, blogs are an effective way for librarians to meet and stay in touch with other professionals, while they share, debate and change elements of the profession.

Libraries or librarians who blog must be actively engaged with their readers, respond to comments, ask questions, and encourage discussion and communication. Only then can we say blogging has been used to its full potential.


A Major Issue To Consider
Blogging about certain information may get a blogger in trouble.

Herzog (2009), a librarian blogger, recently discussed personal blogging by library employees. Librarians can get in trouble (ie. lawsuits brought against them) for what they write, and must be mindful about this, whether they are writing a blog for their library, their own professional blog or a personal one. You must think before you publish, because even though you can delete posts, there are always ways to view old content (using a cached copy of the page for example. Thus a blogger must get permission before using names, or be vague about who they are referring too. A personal website should have a disclaimer disassociating it from the library or even town where the blogger works or lives. The blogger must be respectful of patrons, colleagues and the institution. Employers and other agencies can search blogs and read content or view images, thus the blogger must endeavor to portray their library, and themselves in a professional manner.

Herzog (2009) also believes "it might be a good idea for libraries to create some sort of guidelines for staff who publicly use the library’s name online...basic guidelines might help a well-meaning library employee avoid awkward situations they might not have otherwise considered." A blogger should check for existing policies for provincial/municipal/insitutional employees regarding content creation. The post also offers numerous links to useful websites regarding social networking policy (eg. Sample policy for companies, and Massachusetts Regional Library System Policies). Other social software policies from libraries are available from another librarian blog at What I Learned Today.

It is evident that "blogs will continue to play an important role in the exchange of ideas and in the growth and development of library practice, services and technology" (Gilman, 2008). Are you a blogger? What professional blogs do you follow? Does your library have a blog? How do you use RSS feeds?

References
Bar-Ilan, Judit. (2007). The use of weblogs (blogs) by librarians and libraries to disseminate information. Information Research, 12(4) http://informationr.net/ir/12-4/paper323.html.
Black, Elizabeth L. (2007). "Web 2.0 and library 2.0 What librarians need to know." In Nancy Courtney (Ed.), Library 2.0 and beyond: Innovative technologies and tomorrow's user, (pp.1-14). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Draper, L., & Turnage, M. (2008). Blogmania: Blog use in academic libraries. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 13(1), 15-55.
Fichter, Darlene. (2003). Why and how to use blogs to promote your library's services. Information Today Inc, 17(6): http://www.onlineinc.com/mls/nov03/fichter.shtml.
Gilman, I. (2008). We're content creators, too: Libraries and blogging. OLA Quarterly, 14(1), 14-28.
Herzog, Brian. (2009). Library policy about personal blogging. Swiss Army Librarian http://www.swissarmylibrarian.net/2009/07/14/library-policy-about-personal-blogging.
Laning, M., Lavallée-Welch, C., & Smith, M. (2005). Frontiers of effort: Librarians and professional development blogs. Journal of Library Administration, 43(3), 161-179.
Ryan, J., & Pankl, E. (2006). Shhh! librarians blogging. Louisiana Libraries, 69(1), 7-10.
Schwartz, Greg. (2007). Blogs for libraries. Webjunction http://www.webjunction.org/technology/web-tools/articles/content/430713.
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