Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thing 25... blogger's toolkit

Okay, okay, I admit I'm losing interest in this blogging "thing." It's hard to keep your mind on anything but being outside when it's spring in Minnesota, especially if you like to garden as I do. I'm probably not going to meet the extended deadline of June 20th to complete my 23 More Things On a Stick. I've got a bad attitude, I know, but what are you going to do when the warm weather finally descends on the Great White North? Carpe diem!

I looked at the widgets and gadgets that are available to make your blog more interesting to others. First of all, I don't assume to know anything that would be of interest to anyone else so why would they read what I have to say. I'm a private person. Why do I even want them to read it? I need a bigger ego, I guess. In addition, I'd rather not have other people commenting on whether they like or don't like what I say, do or believe. Maybe I need a bigger ego and a thinner skin.

Secondly, why do I care if my blog has an exploding special effect or a YouTube video of my cat attached to it? It seems to me that the majority of these widgets and gadgets are just bling for bling's sake.

One thing I did find that would be helpful is how to add a favicon to your blog's URL. I have both the original 23 Things On a Stick site and 23 More Things On a Stick site bookmarked on my computer. Because of the favicon-- the little icon to the left of the bookmarked site-- I can easily tell the two apart without even reading the title of the site. I remember that the original only has the blogger logo as a favicon but the 23 More website bookmark has an icon with a wedge of something (pizza?) to the left of the site's name. (Actually, I just noticed that the favicon has been changed to "PB.")

Having said that, I was totally freaked out about inserting my own html text into my blog in order to have a favicon attached to my blog. I'm used to having some software that interfaces with the html text that will do scary things like that for me. The other problem for me is... where do you get the artwork for a favicon? I'm not a graphic designer, and I couldn't find anything I liked at PicApp. Can you just lift something from someone else? (I stole the icon to the left from my county's library website.) Even if that is okay, you need something so simple in design that it will still "read" when shrunken down to the size of a pencil eraser? Can you see it now or even tell what it is?

I'll have to revisit Thing 25 when I'm in a better mood, I guess. My garden awaits!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Doing my own "Thing"

It may not be a "thing" on the list of 23 Things or 23 More Things, but it could be. In 2005 I created and continue to maintain the website for my high school alumnae association. Our Lady of Peace High School , St. Paul, Minnesota, operated from 1954 to 1973 and was run by the Sisters of Charity, BVM out of Dubuque, Iowa.

Yesterday I spent some time updating the website so I'm blogging about it... because I thought I'd do my own "thing." Check the site out at www.olpalum.com. I created it using a free PC software called Yahoo! Sitemaster. One of their stock layouts worked perfectly since it was blue and gold, our school colors.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My dream job...

Yesterday I actually got to volunteer at the Lake Elmo Library, my idyllic library, about a half mile from my home. It was as wonderful as I thought it might be. There was only one librarian, a library clerk and me. Patrons' ages ranged from toddler to 90+ I would guess. The librarians seemed to know at least half the patrons by name.

By Washington County's standards (think growing suburbs), it's a very small library (see photo with personal profile on upper right side of blog page). It's maybe 1,800 square feet tops.

There are two rooms. One room holds the adult collection with comfy upholstered chairs and a table and chairs in the back where patrons can sit and enjoy the nearby magazines and newspapers. Another table and chairs also sits in the bay window alcove at the front of that room.

The other room houses the childrens' collection with one entire wall of sunlit, mullioned windows overlooking the main street of our little village... with window seats of course. The childrens' room spills out the side through french doors onto a stone patio beautifully landscaped with a flowering crab tree, shrubs and greenery. A stone ramp crosses over a patch of grass and leads to the parking lot in back. When the weather is nice, Friday morning story time is held outside.

The best thing is I get to go back today and tomorrow. The regular volunteer, a gentleman in his 80's named Bernie, is off doing something else this week... so I get to experience what it would be like to have my dream job... being a librarian in my small village of Lake Elmo.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thing 24 - Review your blog

I first stumbled across the website 23 Things On a Stick last fall when I began pursuing my Minnesota Volunteer Library Certification. The time had passed to participate on their timetable, but I thought I'd give the 23 Things a try on my own. I only got as far as Thing 1-- setting up a blog. Here's a recap of my experience.

The powers that be at 23 More Things on a Stick recommended using Blogger to set up the blog. The first thing necessary is to have a g-mail account. I had already set one up a few years ago primarily to back up information. I use yahoo for my main e-mail account, but, at the time, they didn't offer unlimited storage space whereas g-mail did.

The biggest problem I initially had with the blog was trying to decide on an available name. Many names such as Shelf Elf, Aquarian Librarian and Dewey Readmore (from the book Dewey) had already been taken. Since I live in the little village of Lake Elmo outside the Twin Cities of St. Paul/Minneapolis that has a quaint library where I would love to work someday, I chose Lake Elmo Librarian for the name of my blog.

I decided to go with a classic blog format with a white background. It's very clean looking, and I thought the type was much easier to read than if it were white type reversed out of a black background. For the purposes of setting up the blog with a photo of my idyllic, hometown library, I “borrowed” a photo of the exterior of the building from the county website.

Since Blogger gives you the option on your blog to link to other blogs, I did search some other librarian blogs and decided to “follow” The Shifted Librarian and Annoyed Librarian on my blog. Later, I added The Bubble Room, a blog that has since been picked up by the Library Journal's website. There are many really interesting library websites out there that I intend to add as time goes by, and I have more time to explore.

It’s rather intimidating (at least to me) to put something in writing and publish it out there on the Internet. Since the whole idea behind 23 things on a stick is to dig into new technologies and learn by trial-and-error, it’s even more difficult for me to write about my middle-age failings when working with new technology. Plus, who could possible be interested! Since it’s part of the learning process though, I will document my technological shortcomings for all to see.

I have also signed up for accounts with Facebook, Twitter and Delicious in anticipation of documenting my future bouts with technology. I have already faced resistance from my 16-year-old who doesn’t want to be my “friend” on Facebook. (He's the one on the left in the photo-- my 26-year-old on the right did accept my Facebook "friend" invitation.) The technology may be difficult for me, but the bridge over the generation gap may be even more challenging.

Back to blogging... out of our nine library branches in the county, there are only two blogs with which I'm familiar. The childrens' librarians in our northern Forest Lake branch maintain a blog for the younger generation. The other blog is maintained independent of the library by a book club that operates out of our southern Cottage Grove branch. I think both of these are great uses of blogs.

There are two other uses of blogs that I think would work well for our county libraries. One's purpose would be marketing. It would highlight a weekly "featured service" that the library offers. This blog could be linked to the home page of the website. We had a reading program this past winter called "Hot Reads, Cold Nights" where patrons read a book and wrote reviews recommending their book to other patrons. The reviews were kept in a 3-ring binder at each branch. A blog of these reviews would have been a great way to provide a "reader's advisory" produced by our patrons' peers.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

46 Things On a Stick

I missed signing up for the original 23 Things On a Stick (both times), but I did sign up in January 2009 for 23 More Things On a Stick to be completed by May 20, 2009. It's May 9th now, and I'm never going to make that deadline.

Most of my effort and spare time this winter went into the two online continuing ed classes I took through UW-Madison. The Public Library Administration class ended at the end of March. The other online class, Basic Reference, just ended May 2nd.

Originally, I hoped to focus all my attention on 23 More Things once May started-- doing at least one thing a day-- to meet the deadline. My plans changed when we acquired a new puppy on May 3rd, so I'm just going to do all 46 things on my own schedule. If I do two "Things" a week, I should be done by the end of the year.

Right now I'm a bit overwhelmed by looking at the list of all 46 Things. I'm middle-aged and a "digital immigrant." I once heard that term in reference to those of us that didn't grow up with computers. My 26-year-old son, born in 1983, is probably on the leading edge of that part of the population referred to as "digital natives." For the record, here are all 46 Things I need to learn.

The original 23 Things On a Stick:
  1. Set up a blog
  2. Share your thoughts about Library 2.0
  3. Learn about RSS
  4. Explore Flickr
  5. More fun with Flickr
  6. Play with an online image generator
  7. Try using Web 2.0 communication tools
  8. Share slide decks, photos or presentation slides
  9. Learn to collaborate on documents and presentations
  10. Wikis
  11. Tagging and Delicious
  12. Social media sites13. Online productivity tools
  13. LibraryThing
  14. Libraries and games
  15. Assignment Calculator and the Research Project Calculator
  16. ELM (Electronic Library for Minnesota) productivity tools
  17. YouTube and other video sites
  18. Explore podcasts
  19. Facebook and MySpace
  20. Explore other social networks
  21. Keeping up with Web 2.0 and Library 2.0
  22. Complete online evaluation and blog about your
  23. Things On a Stick experience
The 23 More Things On a Stick:
  1. Refresh your blog from the first 23 Things
  2. Explore the bloggers' toolkit
  3. Join the 23 Things Ning
  4. Twitter
  5. Customize your home page
  6. Play with Google tools
  7. Try out more ways to use RSS and Delicious
  8. More Twitter
  9. Work with Google maps and mashups
  10. Explore Travel 2.0
  11. Explore online answer sites
  12. Play with Books 2.0
  13. Generate some fun and comic relief
  14. Photo Tales
  15. Screencasting
  16. Digital storytelling
  17. Mashup the web
  18. Mashup your life
  19. Music 2.0
  20. Online TV and video
  21. The economy
  22. Cloud computing
  23. WebJunction Minnesota

Friday, May 8, 2009

Why am I here?

I have been a volunteer at Oakdale Community School (elementary/middle) and the Oakdale Public Library, a branch of Washington County Libraries, since last fall. I also am in the process of obtaining my Minnesota Volunteer Library Certification and have taken a number of seminars in the past eight months. In addition to the Minnesota certification, I'm working toward my Class II Wisconsin Library Certification and just completed two online classes through UW-Madison.

The reason I'm blogging is to record my progress in 23 Things on a Stick and 23 More Things on a Stick. The Minnesota library certification program I'm enrolled in cites 55 competencies that must be demonstrated. One category of competencies centers on technology skills. I'm hoping to learn 46 new "things" as I progress through the lessons on "library 2.0" at my own pace.

Becoming a librarian is a mid-life career change for me. My husband and I sold our sports enthusiast magazine to a publishing company in Milwaukee, so I am taking this opportunity to do something I really enjoy. I already have a 4-year degree and am hoping to avoid the $25,000 price tag of acquiring a MLIS degree, hence the certification programs and volunteering. Unfortunately, virtually all libraries in the Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin seem to have a hiring freeze that won't be thawing any time soon.

The name of my blog (Lake Elmo Librarian) refers to my library in the little village of Lake Elmo where I live. I will begin volunteering there next week and hope some day to work there as a paid librarian.