Category Archives: Libraries

Old School Tech

I use LibraryThing to track my reading and connect with a community of readers. I joined soon after it began in late 2005. The site has grown and changed with the times–including recently adding AI search–but at its base, it uses a wiki, built on MediaWiki software (think Wikipedia), for community collaboration. Groups use it to track members as well as communal reading. And, I was reminded recently by a friend, individual users are welcome to create pages.

Turns out I had done so in 2010…and, as with many of those experiments, I wrote some text as proof of concept and then never returned. I didn’t have a purpose in mind.

Today, however, I went back and considered ways I might incorporate those wiki pages into my reading life. I started by creating a page where I could track the various series I read. Like many avid readers, I have started a variety of series, mostly mysteries, but then lost track of them, perhaps losing interest in the character or just forgetting about them as time goes on. There are a few that I do keep up with, something that is a bit easier to do by following authors and getting alerts when new books are coming. I have an analog day book where I have listed the various series but, in an effort to downsize generally, I’m moving the list to the wiki. I track my books on LT, and they have pages for the series that show which ones you have read. I was able to copy and paste those lists into the wiki page for easy editing. It also helps that I know html and wiki syntax.

I have an affinity for wikis, I think, because I was there when they started and have grown up with them, hosting a few on my own server, playing with early ones like pbwiki and wikispaces, watching Wikipedia become an international collaborative community. They can seem clunky with their old school code, but I think the stripped down format helps us focus on the important part: creating and collaborating largely through text. Again, that may seem old-fashioned in a world of multimedia, but at its heart, multimedia is text-based. Someone writes those words that are spoken, and wikis allow us to grapple with how best to put them together to express our communal knowledge and ideas.

Libraries for the People 2018

I have the honor of addressing two group of librarians later this week. The theme of the VAASL regional conferences this year is Libraries for the People. Simple and powerful…that’s what libraries are all about. As the librarians in the Libraries Will Survive video remind us: as long as there are patrons, librarians will find a way to serve them despite funding cuts and calls for their dismantling. Let me make this clear: librarians are needed more than ever.

I will be talking about how LibraryThing saved my social media life, providing a place where people come together around shared interests. It unites rather than divides. And, I will be spending time with the group exploring the Digital Public Library of Virginia and brainstorming ideas for using these kinds of digital materials.

Here are the slides:

I’m collecting all the links I mention here:



Primary Source Sets from Digital Public Library of America

Can’t wait to use my DPLA bookmarks in the books from my local library!

As a community rep for the Digital Public Library of America, one of my main roles is to get the word out about this amazing portal for research and learning. I came upon it as part of some reading I was doing about libraries in preparation for a presentation to a regional librarians’ group here in the state.

John Palfrey, author of BiblioTech, was one of the founders. His book was a rallying cry for libraries in general to continue to offer traditional services even as they find ways to expand their outreach and create learning centers for communities.

The Digital Public Library of America site is a thoughtful and powerful example of how we can use computers and networks to pull together disparate data in easily accessible–and sometimes quirky–ways. I wrote about the DPLA earlier this year, having fun with the search by color function.

The DPLA are actively curating materials for teachers and students as part of their primary source sets.  The sets are designed to help students in grades 6-12 and college develop critical thinking skills by exploring topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources. Each set includes a topic overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide. The sets are diverse in topics and people with collections related to everything from poets like Maya Angelou to the lives of women in the Civil War. In one of those lovely little serendipitous web events, I was surprised to find a set of materials organized around Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a book I just finished reading. The book is autobiographical and the materials, including excerpts from an interview with Alexie and photos of the Spokane Indian reservation, help provide some connections for readers. We tend to think about the reservation system as something in the past: Alexie’s book and these primary source documents remind us that many Native Americans still live on reservations, struggling to find the balance that Junior, Alexie’s hero, describes so eloquently with his own words and comics.



Sharing My Learning: Library Resources

A man whose body consists of books and bookmarks passes into the foreground underneath a green curtain.I had the chance to be part of two events last week: EdTech 2016 and the VAASL Rappahannock Regional meeting. At the latter, I provided a short keynote around the theme of “Librarians on the Edge.” The event provided me with a huge learning opportunity…I read several books, browsed lots and lots of library related websites and explored the world of contemporary librarianship. It was fun and fascinating all at the same time. You can check out the slides as well as the various resources I collected in Coggle and Diigo here. I used the image on the left for my opening: The Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

I also have a new volunteer job that arose from this research: I am part of the newest group of community reps for the Digital Public Library of America. I wrote about the DPLA earlier this year and can’t wait to continue to spread the word about this amazing resource.

The Narrative Of Obsolescence OR Everything is Dying

It seems as though everything from Twitter to higher education to libraries is dying.

Twitter seems to be having trouble keeping leadership and rumors abound of changes that will turn it into something non-Twitter. But in a recent commentary in The New Republic, Navneet Alang argues that while Twitter the company may go away, Twitter the practice will remain, engrained as it is in our culture. I felt a little better.

Alang begins the essay with this observation, “The tech press is obsessed with calling things dead.” I’m not sure it’s just the tech press; everyone seems a bit obsessed with what our networked digital world is going to kill.*

Face to face universities have been dying for a long time now: killed off by online education and MOOCs. But in his reflection on a recent higher ed conference, Joshua Kim suggests that there is a disconnect between the narrative of dying and what is actually happening on the ground. There are challenges, he says, but there are also innovations that are making higher ed better than ever:

The multitude of small innovations and experiments within our colleges and universities seldom get attention.  An active learning classroom redesign here – a new program for first generation students there – these initiatives seldom cohere into a larger narrative.But all these small innovations add up.

I’m getting a similar sense of a disconnected narrative from the reading and research I’ve been doing around libraries. Who needs a library in the age of Google? John Palfrey works on answering that question in his book BiblioTECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google and I’ve been having a blast exploring all the examples of library innovations that he describes. I spent more time than I’d like to admit listening to the Wyoming Toad, just one of the fascinating items that can be found through the Digital Public Library of America interface.

And physical libraries are also innovating, changing to meet the demands of their particular constituents. From makerspaces to computer classes to seed lending, libraries, like higher ed, are pushing back against the narrative of their demise.

*A quick thank you to Jon Becker for sharing this article via Diigo.