November 26, 2006

Librarian Comedian

Dan, former GSLIS student, librarian, and comedian has a video of a recent show up on YouTube.

I haven't seen him live myself, but some parts of this clip made me laugh out loud.

See also (heh heh) Dan's page, danthelibrarian.

November 24, 2006

Treating Dog Cancer

Today's New York Times has an article about dog cancer. Seems some dogs are participating in clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of cancer treatment in humans and animals. Boomer, c2000Those in which the treatment succeeds are indeed lucky dogs.

If only there were such treatment for those suffering from cat cancer, like Boomer.

Business: In Trials for New Cancer Drugs, Family Pets Are Benefiting, Too
November 24, 2006
Dogs are receiving groundbreaking drugs or other treatments
for cancer, a leading cause of death in older dogs.

November 22, 2006

Face Blindness

Fascinating article in the November 2006 issue of Wired magazine about Prosopagnosia or face blindness.

Prosopagnosics cannot recognize faces; they are otherwise usually quite functional and can recognize people using auditory or contextual cues. They sometimes don't even recognize themselves in the mirror. The article does a nice job of explaining the problem from the perspective of several different sufferers, as well as a biography of a researcher who is very interested in the topic.

Neuroscientist Brad Duchaine wanted to work with prosopagnosics but he thought they would be hard to find; it was previously believed that the disorder only occurred in stroke victims or others who had been shot in the brain. Luckily, he was referred to Bill Choisser who had started a Yahoo! Group for other folks suffering from this disorder. (It started as a Usenet group that has since morphed into a Yahoo! group). Now that Duchaine had some sufferers to interview and study, he was able to conduct some research. He works the Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Harvard University and University College London; see his list of publications (many in pdf).

What was most helpful to me was the photographs which gave a sense of what face blindness must be like to those 2% of Americans (or 6 million?!) who suffer from prosopagnosia. Here's another image (from Choisser’s book Faceblind) that illustrates the problem.

You can read more about prosopagnosia from the Wikipedia or browse the material at the Prosopagnosia Research Centers’ research page .

November 21, 2006

Google Calendar

Playing around with Google Calendar for my class next semester.

Fast-forward to February 2007 to see anything even moderately interesting ...

What do you think?

November 19, 2006


Just read about a new search engine called ChaCha on Stephen's Lighthouse.

It does search (they say it's real-time) and there are ratings / collections from various human guides on the results page.

What I really like about it is the live guide feature. You can do a search or you can click on [search guide] and chat with a "guide" (someone paid by cha cha; probably not a librarian ...) who will help you with your search and even "push" sites to you.

Shouldn't we be doing this?! I want to implement this in our database search engine! And wouldn't it be swell in federated search?! This + meebo = really innovative library service.

2 Clicks 2 Stuff

I'm listening to Roy Tennant's keynote at the Access 2006 Library Conference. He's terrific, as usual, and what I'm really struck with is his suggestion (challenge?) that we get our users to "stuff" within 2 clicks.

A good example he gives is a Google search for the book Before Taliban. First link is the book online in full-text. When you click on that link (click count = 1), you are at the book's table of contents, from where you can see any of the book in full-text (click count = 2).

Two clicks to get to the full-text. How happy would that make your users?!

Compare this to ... oh, just about any search in any OPAC for either an e-book or a conventional print book. In my catalog, it's 2 clicks to find out that we own the item; this also gives us the call number, and several steps (literal) to actually get the book. Good for us! In another catalog I've known (but don’t yet love), it's 4 clicks to search and discover the call number. Plus more literal steps to actually find the book. And that's a book with a relatively unusual title that's in the 6 college catalogs I checked. It would be more clicks to find a book with a more common title (I dare you to find whether MHC owns the Economic Report of the President in print -- search their new catalog & see)

And then compare this to finding just about any full-text article from any library database. If you're lucky enough to a) do a good search and b) the database you're in has the full-text, you can probably do it in 2-3 clicks. But if you have to use a link resolver like SFX or Serials Solutions, it's going to take at least 2 extra clicks to get the full-text. This makes me want to enable direct linking from the SFX button directly to the article whenever we can. Might be a hard sell internally, but it's better for the user.

Download Roy's talk & listen! (there are lots of other good ones, too ..)

November 17, 2006

Teens @ Your Library

Heard a great podcast of a SirsiDynix webinar on Engaging Youth on their Own Terms: Instant Messaging and Gaming in Libraries. The presenters were Sarah Houghton-Jan (Librarian in Black) and Aaron Schmidt ( They talked about how important it is to get teens into your library -- not because someday they'll be adult patrons but because we serve everyone in the library. (Remember Ranganathan's 2d law, "Every person his or her book" ?!)

They shared some useful examples of actual chat sessions they've had with teens -- reader's advisory becomes very important in chat, as does, well, chatting about nothing in particular.

Aaron in particular talked about having game nights in the library for teens -- we have knitting groups for the 50-somethings, so why not game night?

And how about Meebo ...

The collation tool segment is not to be missed, as is a useful set of library pix from flickr.

You can listen to the mp3 audio via iTunes, or watch the video (PC only, I think), or download the PowerPoint as a pdf. The PowerPoint is worthwhile for screen shots of cool technology implementations.

kthx bye

November 11, 2006

Library Systems Too Complex!


A few months ago, I started the Libraries for My Friends blog, in which I try to help my friends use their local library. I'd send this to some non-library friends, and one of them just asked if I could help her brother find audio books in his library.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Especially for a super-librarian such as myself? (modesty mode OFF). You'd be wrong if you thought that.

First, I found the list of Oklahoma's libraries. Not intuitive for someone not from OK. I browsed around to see if I could find a list of databases available statewide; preferably something that included Overdrive or maybe even an Audible account.

Nope; had to do an reference interview with my friend to find out where in OK her brother lives. Answer: Oklahoma City. Back to the list of OK libraries to find the Oklahoma City Library page. Since it's called the "Metropolitan Library System", I am not positive I'm on the right page, but I'll take it on faith.

Poke around to see if I can find a list of databases, preferably something that lists audio books. No such luck. Go to their catalog link. Wha ... ??

Gamely click on "logon anonymously". Again I said "wha ..." ? Clicked on "catalog" at the top and said the now-familiar "wha ...", sighed, and went back to he Metropolitan Library System home page. Searched for "audio" and found some tips for finding audio items in the catalog (under resources for the visually impaired).

You can read the uncensored version of the instructions at the L4MF blog.

But really: why does it have to be so darn hard? Libraries I actually work in are not much better; I really don't mean to pick on OK City. It's no wonder our patrons don't come to us for help -- it's so much easier to go to Google, buy from Amazon (if we're lucky to have $$) or do without.

Chickens, Dinosaurs, and Wikipedia

This is my student Erin's idea, but it's so funny I wanted to share it more broadly:

Great dinosaur cartoon about vandalism and Wikipedia. The dinosaurs want to take over the chicken entry in Wikipedia and vandalize it -- that way, all other Wikipedia entries will be safe, and hey, everyone already knows about chickens, so it's ok to vandalize that entry.


Erin also points us to the actual Wikipedia entry for chickens, which suggests that perhaps dinosaurs *have* visited the Wikipedia chicken entry after all.

Definitely a great teaching moment.

November 07, 2006

Evaluating Health Information

I’m going to post this on my other blog, Libraries For My Friends, but I thought some of you might like it too:

MedlinePlus offers a great set of material on how to evaluate health information online. It includes links to …

A votre sante!

November 06, 2006

Chomsky to speak in support of the Endangered Language Fund

Noam Chomsky is giving a lecture in New Haven on November 15th. This is a benefit lecture for the Endangered Language Fund, to raise money for the documentation and revitalization of nearly extinct languages.

His talk is entitled "Why Are There So Many Languages? Diversification From An Underlying Unity."

Full event information

(thanks again to Ross for the info)