Not going to cave

Well, it’s been 5 days since I became a Twitter quitter. Withdrawal has been minimal, maybe even non-existent. My staff is quite amazed that there is something 2.0 that I haven’t dived into, and if the truth be known, they’re most likely relieved that this something I haven’t tried to cajole them into. Life is good, and I haven’t felt the least bit left out.

That is, until this afternoon. I received an invitation to an online webinar, sponsored by Polaris entitled Consider the Source: The Integrated Library System Marketplace. I filled out the online registration, and there it was, the last data field “Twitter handle.” OUCH.   Good thing it wasn’t a required field.

Twitter quitter

I just deleted my Twitter account, and I feel great. I’ve made a valiant attempt to Twitter for well over a year. I’ve been a fairly early adapter in almost everything 2.0, and I have found many tools very useful. Other tools I’ve cast aside, but my judgment has pretty much paralleled that of others. However, while the world is ga ga for this Twitter thing, it just isn’t me. I’ve tried – honest. But every time I get another E-mail that someone is following me (most of them, other Twitterers with sleazy sounding names) I get the creeps.

My daily life is pretty dull, a lot of the mundane stuff of management. Other more interesting stuff that I could write falls under privileged information that I don’t even tell my walking partner, and she’s a furry yellow lab. And as for my daily life, it’s just plain boring. . . bought flowers, planted flowers, tried to run over rabbit that ate my flowers.

I’ve tried following some people. During the political campaigns (were they only a year ago?), I tried following candidates to learn something about them. All I got in my Twitter collector was well-crafted sound bites, probably written by staff members. And tweets from other lesser known folks are definitely TMI! As for other tweets, at best, I just plain don’t care. While I’m looking for something professionally, or even culturally enlightening, I find out that “the cat threw up.” Ewwwww.

So, I guess for now I’m just not one of the hip or cool kids. But, just in case I have a change of heart, I followed Twitter’s directions for preserving my name ;^) And maybe I’ll be back.

Now, if I could just find a support group for casting off Twitter guilt.

I Quit – and it’s OK

April 2008 will go down in my personal history as memorable not because of something I accomplished, but because of something I quit. I’m a high-energy person, thriving on conquering challenges. But I’m also a nurturer to those around me, advocating for taking care of yourself, all things in balance, setting reasonable limits, yada yada yada.

I even wrote about quitting (or not) last August, when I reviewed Seth Godin’s book The Dip. So, it was to that blog post I returned when I found that my latest journey to 23 Things on a Stick wasn’t working out the way I planned. In the book, Godin talks about slogging through the long dip between the excitement of starting and the triumph of finishing. He talks about the light at the end to which you power toward when you’re in the Dip.

So it was in January, when I signed up for the 23 Things along with over 1,000 other library folks in Minnesota. I pumped it up and was overjoyed when many of the staff in our regional library took the journey with me. There were warning signs that this was destined to be my first big failure (oh, there have been others I suppose, but I forget). In the first place, I wasn’t willing to garbage up (my perception) this, my real blog, with 23 Things posts. So I created another blog. Secondly, I barely signed up in time to participate, and only managed 3 Things for the month of February. Thirdly, I should have known I was a little too over-zealous when others around me didn’t want me to know that they were doing the program, lest they disappoint me. What a crock!

Well, that inner voice inside me kept getting louder and louder. Real life intervened as I moved into a new house and learned how to install baseboard trim (including staining and finishing). Days at work were long: dark in the morning, dark at night. And I only did 3 Things. And frankly, my posts about those 3 were way below even the *good enough* standard I promised myself I’d satisfy for.

So, I dug out the blog post. This is one book I didn’t buy, and boy, am I sorry. Here are some of the review points I wrote with my very own paws, and my personal eye-openers as they related to my lack of success with 23 Things:

  • If you can’t be #1 or #2, get out (ala Jack Welch) yup, my posts weren’t #1 or #2 in quality or quantity
  • It’s easier to be mediocre than it is to confront reality and quit. Mediocre is not part of who I am or ever will be – and I like it that way.
  • If you’re not able to get through the Dip in an exceptional way, you must quit. I neither had the strength or desire to get through the Dip. The light was invisible to me.
  • The opposite of quitting isn’t waiting around, it’s rededication. There was plenty I should be excelling at, and 23 Things wasn’t one of them. (Stop by some time and see my baseboard, curtains, etc.)
  • It’s OK to quit if the project isn’t worth the reward at the end. I anticipated 2 rewards: new knowledge (I knew most of this stuff) and a flash memory stick from the sponsoring organization (I have gazillions of them around the house.)
  • Pride is the enemy of the smart quitter. yup that hit me where it hurt. Especially when other librarians across the state e-mailed me about my lack of posts. ouch.
  • Decide in advance when you should quit. While I hadn’t done this, my lack of commitment was certainly evident.

April 16th was the last day to win a prize. About the 1st of the month I thought about ramping it up, like some of my friends did. Just about then 2 events in my family climaxed and sapped my attention and energy. So, here it is today, April 17th, and I’m a 23 Things quitter. Ugh.

But wait . . . . I may be a quitter, but I’m not a failure. I started the program, so did lots of others. I did learn one new thing – I created an avatar. It never interested me, and I’m sure I’ll never do it again. Lots of people didn’t get to magic #23. But everyone tried something new and acquired familiarities with something different and potentially valuable. There’s the value.

I’m fairly bursting with pride for the 8-10 librarians in my region who did finish (haven’t got the final report yet). Hip hip hooray. And I fairly whooped when I opened our library blog this morning, and saw one of my colleagues’ appropriately used new trick. She said it was one of her 23 Things. No, she didn’t finish either. And we’ve agreed that we’re going to walk through it together on our own time, recognizing our successes and forming our own support group. Anyone want to join us?

Digital TV and Seniors

It’s December 1st, and the holiday shopping advertisements are deafening. A great many of the ads are for HDTVs (high-definition television). Advertisers would have us believe that, unless we buy an HDTV, and preferably now, we will not be able to see any television after February 17, 2009 when the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 takes effect Well, that’s not exactly true – although the way we hook up our TVs may be different in just over a year.

I am particularly worried about some of the most vulnerable people in my community as this looming change in television occurs. Among the vulnerable are senior citizens, who have lived through the evolution of television from click-clicking channel changers, through the discernment of which programs are in “living color” to remote controls. Senior citizens have endured changes in entertainment and room arrangement brought by the televisions that have come into their homes. They struggle to translate bundled cable service bills and Dish network telemarketers who promise features that in truth if they installed they’ll almost surely never learn how to use. My octogenarian family members still can’t understand why they could not watch their favorite Green Bay Packers when their Thursday night game was hijacked by the proprietary NFL network.

The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act will require full-power television stations to cease analog broadcasts and switch to digital after February 17, 2009 and will free up much needed spectrum for advanced wireless broadband services and interoperable communications among emergency first responders. Television viewers will benefit because digital television provides consumers with a clearer picture and more programming options.

In order to watch “over the air” programming and realize a clearer picture (of negligible benefit to many), all consumers will need to make one of three choices:
1. Purchase a TV with a digital tuner (not affordable to many)
2. Subscribe to a cable or satellite provider and comply with any special appliance or hook-ups that the provider prescribes (not required by many who live near broadcasting stations)
3. Purchase a digital converter for the analog TV they currently own

The Digital TV Act authorizes the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) of the Commerce Department to create the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, administer distribution of the coupons, and carry out consumer education. The Act provides that each household can get up to two $40 coupons to be applied to the purchase of digital converter boxes.

So, while even my eyes glaze over as I ponder the realm and advisability of the possibilities, I am afraid for senior citizens, who are still trying to choose among and cope with complicated drug insurance programs. I fear that many with limited income will fall victim to over-zealous charlatans and buy televisions or appliances that they can neither afford or learn to operate. Still more will just give up on the televisions that provide them with diversion and entertainment in often limited or lonely environments.

As I’m pondering this dilemma on a snowbound afternoon, I am considering how libraries can partner with senior organizations to provide the information that seniors as well as all our customers can use to navigate through these new circumstances.

While I think many are woefully ignorant of this pending change, I expect that libraries will step up to provide valuable information and help community residents get through it. After all, we did survive Y2K!

Free Beer or Kittens?

Freeware isn’t free. Nor is open source software. Yet, I often use those terms in describing social software solutions to libraries as cost-effective communication, marketing, or customer service tools for their libraries. I (as well as others) am intrigued by the implementation of open source library automation software by some pioneering library system, most notably the Georgia PINES (Public Information Network for Electronic Services) library system, which migrated in September 2006 from a commercial ILS system to an in-house developed, open-source platform, named “Evergreen.”

Wow, it’s so cool to be able to access or download software like Blogger or pbwiki (“make a free wiki as easily as a peanut butter sandwich”) and in a short time display a product that simulates the online presence of big library technology gurus. Trouble is, we’re seldom cognizant of the true cost in development and customization time involved in getting the product on the virtual street.

Open source software refers to an application that is derived from a freely accessed basic code and developed through a collaborative effort by multiple users in an environment dispersed both through time and space. Note: no record is kept of the value of the time of all those IT gurus (not insignificant).

Karen Schneider draws a really relevant metaphor in her posting on ALA TechSource, IT and Sympathy.

. . . remember nothing is “free,” even if it didn’t come with a price tag. Second Life isn’t “free.” Instant messaging isn’t “free.” WordPress isn’t “free.” (In fact, that sucking sound you hear may be your RSS feeds dragging down that server hosting your blogs.) Or, more correctly, all of these technologies are “free” as in “free kittens,” not free as in “free beer.” They come with maintenance and deployment issues, from opening ports on a secure network, to how much bandwidth they will use, to how much time IT personnel need to devote to deploying and maintaining the “free” software.

Gulp – no Dewey?

As we strive to make libraries more relevant, some libraries are experimenting with arranging books, CDs, DVDs, etc. like they do in bookstores. A new library to open soon in Arizona claims to be the first in the nation to be arranged entirely independent of the Dewey Decimal System. The Perry Branch of the Maricopa County Library District in Gilbert will be organized in 50 sections, then subsections, from sports to cooking, gardening to mysteries, according to the Arizona Republic. Librarians are quoted as saying that people are defeated in their searching because “they don’t know Dewey.” The article further states that people want to search for books by subject. Hmmmm . . . . I thought Dewey was by subject.

The Perry Library is relatively small, 28,000 square feet, and will have 24,000 items. It is a joint use facility located in a school.

Several Minnesota libraries are experimenting with parts of their collections displayed as they are in Barnes and Noble. I have attended several conference programs on space arrangement and marketing, and whole-heartedly endorse the efforts to merchandise the materials in a more attractive manner than shelving everything so that all that is visible are long rows of dull-looking spines.

The article is unclear as to how the items will be arranged. What will happen when someone wants a specific book; is there a numbering or other classification system to assist in quick location? Are they using RFID? Certainly, library automation systems are capable of keeping track of just about any coding system they devise to designate location.

My most recent experience with finding something in my local Barnes and Noble bookstore ended in a fruitless search for a specific title. Even the salesclerk couldn’t find it (even though the B & N computer said they had several copies). I finally came home and ordered the book online.

The Maricopa innovation will be interesting to watch. Maybe I should take a field-trip to Arizona to research it first hand. ***smile***

Silence is golden

I take notes on my notebook computer whenever I can – so almost always take it to meetings. I also am often sliding in at the last minute before a meeting starts. So I push the “on” button to my computer (the computer through which I was running my MP3 player before I popped it from its docking station) and bingo – Windows music sings forth as it starts up – often really loudly. How embarassing! I know, had I been more foresighted, I would have muted the computer before I downpowered it — ain’t gonne happen.

I guess more than a few others have been victim to the tuneful boot up sequence. Thanks to colleague Donovan for pointing out the oh-duh solution on Lifehacker. Plug into the headphone jack with a pair of ear buds, and no more disruptive noise. Now, why didn’t I think of that. Of course, this presupposes that I will remember to bring the earbuds to the meeting.

Equally embarassing is my Motorola cell phone, which chimes as I turn it down to vibrate. Now, if I didn’t want it to be silent, I wouldn’t be pressing the volume down control, would I? Have to do the plug in thing on the phone, too. Oh, the noise pollution our electronic toys create.

Why be Library 2.0?

Lately I’ve been part of a variety of conversations that, in essence, question the value of participation in all things library 2.0. The talk ranges from “I have no use for 2.0 technologies” to “I have no use for anyone else who does use 2.0 technologies.” While I am a professed technology junky, limited only by hours in the day to try everything I’d like and $$$ in my bank account to buy the toys I’d like, I don’t fit in the category that has no use for anyone who doesn’t share my interests. However, I have serious concerns for those who will not acquire any 2.0 knowledge or skills.

I’ve heard a great many excuses for not developing a 2.0 familiarity: I have no use for a blog; It’s a waste of time; I’m retiring soon; My community doesn’t want a technology centered library; A particular staff member takes care of all the computers; I didn’t become a librarian to run computers; It’s a fad that will go away, just like all the rest of them.

I suggest that there are at least 3 reasons why library information professionals should make the effort and the time to develop familiarity and skills with at least a representative few interactive, communicative technology tools.

  • Using 2.0 technologies stretches budget and outreach. Most of the tools are available as open source, free-ware, or at really low cost (you can’t beat $24.95 a year for a Flickr account.) With minimal investment of time reading help screens or using tutorials (especially on WebJunction) or even attending one of our classes and time practicing, a librarian can put together a website or an online newsletter with blog software – and postage cost is $0. Pictures posted on Flickr thrill most everybody – a lot of us still haven’t gotten over the ego trip of seeing our picture published.
  • Developing 2.0 tools produces training opportunities and models. I may develop a blog or podcast that is of value to very few if any people. However, in doing so, I’m acquiring skills that I can relate to someone else who has a need to develop that tool. I can also use the tool I created as a model or demonstration project. With some experience, I may adapt the tool in a useful way to promote my library.
  • Be in the know. The librarian is the town “smart” person. Where else can the average citizen go to get baffling questions answered — and nothing is more baffling than technology. By positioning oneself as the go-to expert on everything from how to get that picture out of the e-mail to how to understand and even take a look at MySpace, where one’s kid is seemingly spending a lot of time, the librarian can be established as a trusted information source. While working with one of our public libraries on strategic planning, I was impressed by the committee’s sincere desire to endow the library with a goal of being a leader in cutting edge technology.