Thursday, June 19, 2008

MySpace and Facebook - Illegal?

ABC has Aftab talking about keepings kids safe online. I am a mother and I am all for keeping mine safe. I am also all for snooping into my kids life. Hey! my mom did so and I turned out fine. I was mad at the time but now I am thankful she was watching me.

It is only harder for parents these days as there are too many social sites. Finding which one your kid is on is your first challenge, then getting into that site and tracing your child and his/her activities is just too much work for any parent today. In some cases, parents themselves are busy socializing on sites and they themselves don't know any better.

But what got me in this article was the reference to MySpace and Facebook being illegal for kids? Is that advertised somewhere or is the author just guessing this? If it is illegal, public libraries are in trouble. To throw in my 2 cents worth social sites should not be illegal to anyone. Humans should only be taught online socializing skills just as we were taught critical thinking and literacy skills and many others I can't bother to remember now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Regulars and Irregulars at the Library

When we open the doors at 10 a.m. they rsuh in to get to the computers. Some yell and fight to get THE computer they want. Once settled they play online games, browse some crappy sites which occasionally includes porn, check their emails, blog, bebo, orkut, chat and after booking a computer for the next day or two, leave. This is the morning routine at our branch. It is the same faces, same issues, and same questions. These are our regulars.

There are other regulars who drop in or call just to chat. They’ll start with a serious question of course – on politics, criminal codes, or any current event that is happening. Then they tell you what they think about those issues, ask you for an opinion. In my case I might have an accent and of course look different so the conversation expands to where I might be from, how long I’ve been here and anything else you can ask an immigrant.

Then there are some who come to flirt with staff. One of our staff members was asked out for coffee by a middle-aged bald guy with an accent. She is a happily married wife and mother of three teenagers and whatever made him think she would be interested in him we would never know. After many appeals to her for a coffee date he suggested that she watch Bridges of Madison County. I guess he doesn’t know that it is also a book. Isn’t there a free club in town where guys like him can hang out?

What about your library? I'm sure you get these fun types visiting you too?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Amazon and Salwar Kameez

This cloud computing service that Amazon is doing is mostly amazing but…. I have seen some clothes being sold on Amazon but was really surprised to see ethnic clothes being sold too. I found Salwar Kameez. They also have African ruppa, kaftan, Dashiki, among other things. I didn’t’ even consider looking for this on Amazon. Actually I was Googling for Salwar Kameez patterns and Amazon showed up.

To me Amazon used to mean the online book store. Not any more. Actually not for a long time. But why? Why does everyone want to be everything? Why is there no focus? Is it really helping the customer or is it just about marketing and profiting. I am slightly put off by this and don’t know why. I have to think harder. Maybe it is because these major cloud services put small businesses out of business, maybe it is the monopolization, maybe it is because I am mentally prepared only to buy books from this store like I am mentally unable to buy bread from Walmart or just maybe I have had bad patrons today.

Libraries are following this same pattern. We want to be Starbucks, information kiosk, computer cafĂ©, and whatever else is out there. I guess we are keeping ourselves in business too. We have been asked why we don’t have fax services, postal services, coffee vending machines, diapers for kids, offer free printing services, and a few other things that I can’t think of now. At least no one has suggested we sell clothes or may be they did and I just don’t know it yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for going with the flow and doing whatever a library should do to keep up with our patrons’ needs. I am a virtual reference librarian and am happy to be one. But I really hope we don’t go tooooooo retail oriented – even in appearance.

By the way Amazon, I buy books from you. I will not buy a cotton salwar kameez for $80 from you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Google Docs

I know! I know! Some of you librarians do not like Google. I disagree. Unlike our patrons, I use it as one of the sources not as my only source.

I started playing with Google Docs – another of Google’s collaboration tools. I hadn’t seriously used it yet when one of my colleagues also brought it to my attention. That made me think about it seriously and wonder if I should design a class to teach our patrons. Think about it! You don’t need to buy Microsoft Office, can access it from anywhere on a computer and share your documents to be seen, worked on and edited at the same time from anywhere in the world. I recently published a paper on Google Co-op with a friend who lives in a different province. Check under My Publications. If you are co-writing a paper with a friend or colleague like I did, and you and your friend happen to live in two different parts of the world this would be a great way to collaborate. You could work on the same paper at the same time.

Panorama Software has partnered with Google to offer new capabilities to Google docs in terms of analytics, reporting and visualization process. You can analyze your data on spreadsheets using panorama’s pivot table. Click here for more on how to use Panorama Pivot Tables for Google Docs.

The three applications currently available on Google Docs are Documents (similar to Word), Presentations (similar to Powerpoint) and Spreadsheet (similar to Excel). You can share any of these withothers (or not) by inviting them as collaborators or just viewers. One important requirement is that you and your collaborator have a gmail id. Talk about marketing!

Your work can be saved and exported in any of these formats: DOC, XLS, CSV, ODS, ODF, PDF, RTF and HTML. From my previous posts you know I am also an indexer. Indexers are quite often asked to export their material in RTF format. If your old MS Office doesn’t have RTF, Google Docs does.

With my little exposure to this I have found that Documents lacks some of the features that MS Word has such as: a smaller tool bar, fewer font options, grammar check (Not that I use it much). I still haven't figured out how to present parts of the slide in a certain order with thier Presentation. The whole slide shows up at once. I want each sentence to appear one at a time as it can with powerpoint. I'll keep working.

Alright, I am beginning to sound like a free advertisement for Google Docs. So I’ll stop now and let you take a look.

Pearl Growing

  • This is another technique that many searchers use sometimes unconsciously.

  • Start with the original idea and go from there.

  • Pearl growing involves false drops and precision.

  • When you send your query to a database you get hundreds and sometimes thousands of results. Not all of them are relevant. The non- relevant ones are called false drops. The relevant ones are precision.

  • You use the relevant articles (your precision results) to find more articles. This could mean you are using citations from the relevant articles (Citation pearl growing) or you are using more words and concepts, subject headings, descriptors from the relevant articles to grow your search further. Either way your pearl is growing.

“Site-ation pearl growing: methods and librarianship history and theory” by Sheryl L. Ramer is an interesting article on pearl growing search for medical information