Hiding Out From Online Friends

January 31, 2007

I have been reading (with great interest) the blog posts from the Five Weeks to a Social Library online course currently taking place. One of the participants, Alisia Wygant wrote a very interesting post this week called Work Social Life. In the post, she discusses the problem of having created an identity in Facebook while in college that may not really be the type of presence one would want in a professional capacity. Do those friends from college really belong in one’s professional network? Alisia cancelled her Facebook account, but ponders what would happen if she hadn’t: “. . . would I be forced to live an online double identity–ducking into virtual telephone booths and putting on my uniform?” This image of having to hide behind virtual walls when one has one virtual hat on in order to remain hidden from inappropriate friends in rather comical. Steve Lawson from See Also points out that “With blogs, it is easy enough to have more than one, and keep the siliness on LiveJournal or Vox or whatever, but a site like Facebook seems like it might be more problematic to maintain multiple personalities.” I have to agree.

I find it extremely difficult to maintain all of my online identities, accounts, spaces, etc. I have at least 6 email addresses. Although I don’t use them all, I do actively use 4 – and trying to remember which one I use for which purpose is maddening. I hate creating new accounts or logins – and have very mixed feelings about having signed up for Facebook. Keeping track of online relationships and/or friends must be even more difficult – especially if one has to compartmentalize. I’m not really the type to post material online that I would need to “hide” from people, but then again, I’m fairly new to all of this online identity stuff. I won’t really post anything that I am not comfortable with everyone I know seeing. However, I can see how this could get complicated and even messy for some.

Toward a Brave New World

January 31, 2007

Rebecca Hedreen, the Distance Education Librarian, at the Buley Library at Southern Connecticut State University left a comment on my Some Thoughts on Online Education at the Halfway Point post. In the comment, Rebecca was responding to my points that SCSU doesn’t really have any online communities for its distance students (along with making some other very salient points). At the end of her comment, she expressed some interest in working with me if I wanted to try to create some type of online group. We discussed the issue a bit more via email, and Rebecca made some suggestions for creating an online community using Facebook, Yahoo Groups or groups within the student portal system at SCSU – MySCSU. Rebecca and I had briefly discussed this same subject back in early September 2005 when I had emailed her about some of my concerns. I will say that I thought quite a bit about this back in early fall – but work, school and life took all of my energies.

Ultimately, this seems like a good time to try to put something together. I’m not entirely sure how successful it will be. Part of me really thinks that online communities created on commercial sites could be very useful, but I really believe that the school needs some sort of official place for distance students. I definintely see a need for a place that distance student can ask questions, find out about the school and get official information that is pertinent to distance education. But, one has to start somewhere. So, I created a Facebook account last night. Rebecca mentioned that she knew many students already had accounts so this might be a good place to create an environment. I don’t have much there other than my SCSU email address and some vague mention that my graduation date is 2012 (which I think is when I have to be done – I’m hoping to be done by the end of 2008). My plan at this point is to just play around with different sites to see what they offer. Fortunately, I invited Rebecca to be my friend, and she accepted (I find this to be such an odd concept). It seems that one can’t really test out some of these social software sites unless they participate in them. This can be difficult for those like me who may be inherently unsocial. Of course, I have 9 million other things to do, but feel compelled to make an effort to effect some type of positive change. Here’s hoping!!

The Problem of Technology

January 29, 2007

As a systems librarian, I know quite a bit about technology in libraries – and conversely about how technology has the potential to be our biggest problem. Currently, all of SCSU’s web sites are inaccessible – their email system, their web site and the course management system. Everything has been down for several hours (all seemed to come back up about 9PM est). As a student, I cannot do anything at all (other than read printed material). In my role as a systems person, I understand how much of a disruption it is when systems go down. At my place of work when systems do fail, it is my responsibility to do absolutely everything in my power to restore them for use. Nothing takes precedence over system failures – absolutely nothing. I like to think that because I am responsible for such problems, I have some understanding for problems when they happen elsewhere. Although I am extremely frustrated because I can’t access any of my course materials, I understand that no one at SCSU decided this would be a good idea. I also have some sympathy for the plight of those in IT working to correct the situation. But this makes me think – from a user perspective system failure has to be the ultimate frustration.

Technology has become our biggest point of weakness – and we do not have enough redundancy built into our technological infrastructure. In my library, nothing has more power to clear the physical building than system failures. The biggest problems include print server backups, internet outages, library system crashes and of course, the biggest one of all, electrical outages. When the power is out, there is absolutely no way we can function. There is nothing more frustrating than inaccessible systems. Fortunately, most outages are of a short duration – and now that SCSU’s course management system is back online, I must go do some homework!!

ILS560-College & University Libraries – An Overview

January 28, 2007

Course Description:

Organization and administration of academic libraries. The role of librarians in research and the relationship of academic libraries to curricula, students, faculty and administration.

Course Work:

There are four major assignments for the class – an annotation exercise, a benchmark exercise, a facilities paper and a term paper (no final this time, YEAH!!!). For the annotations assignment, we are supposed to volunteer to lead the discussions one week. The topics relating to academic libraries to choose from are their history and context, standards, faculty status and personnel issues, technology and technical services, access services and security, reference and instruction, collection management, serials and the serials crisis, management and budgeting and the future of academic libraries. I just sent an email to the professor asking to lead the discussions for the history and context lecture (my second choice is faculty status and third is technology and technical services). We shall see what transpires. Once we have the topic, we are supposed to pick six articles or book chapters to read and annotate – and we probably will be working with another student in the class. The assignment is actually due the Friday before the discussion starts so that we can share our annotations with the class.

The facilities paper requires that we research a physical aspect of the modern academic library. We are supposed to reasearch the topic and then visit several libraries to compare their spaces. This assignment is due on February 18th which means that I need to do some serious thinking about it.

For the benchmarking exercise, we are supposed to prepare a statistical comparison for an academic library according to ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education. The point is to compare a target library with its peer institutions. This exercise is due on March 25th.

The term paper which is due on April 23rd is a research paper. For this one, we get to choose one topic that is of importance to academic libraries, research that topic and write a 10-12 page paper.

My Take:

All in all the workload seems to be fairly reasonable. I’m trying to plan out my timetables and due dates so that I have a better handle on my workload this semester than I did last fall. Several times during the fall, I actually mixed up my due dates. Fortunately, I did not actually miss any due dates. However, I do not want this to happen again. I’m making a concerted effort to keep myself organized and on top of my assignments. So far, so good!!

ILS656 – Information Architecture – An Overview

January 28, 2007

We are a week into the semester, and I am still pretty excited about this IA class. Since, a couple of people expressed some interest in the class, I thought I would post a bit more information about the class. 

Course Description (from syllabus):

An overview of the concepts and practices of information architecture (IA). Students will develop an understanding of the concepts of IA through reading the existing literature related to IA and we will reinforce those concepts by building complex web sites for real organizations that reflect our best understanding of the organizations mission, processes, goals, clients, suppliers. Students will form IA teams, identify a client, and design and build a web presence for the client.

Course Objectives (from syllabus):

Upon successful completion of this course students will to able to:

  • Author web pages, and design web sites
  • Verbalize the mission of a web site within the context of the organization it serves
  • Use research methods to better understand the environment within which a website will be created or revised
  • Develop navigation systems, labeling systems, and taxonomies for web sites
  • Articulate and apply the principles of information architecture
  • Coherently discuss the meaning of the term, “information architecture”
  • Apply the principles of information architecture to a real situation
  • Create a report describing and making recommendations for web site design.

Course Work:

We have one main project during the semester – to work in teams to create/redesign a web site in accordance with the principles we learn in class. We will prepare a midterm concept report that details an overview of our team’s project and then implement the web site for the final part of the project. The teams and projects have yet to be determined. The professor asked us all to evaluate our skill set – based upon The Nine Pillars of Successful Web Teams by Jesse James Garrett – and make some suggestions about ideas for projects. Based upon our input, the professor plans to put together a spreadsheet with suggested teams and projects.

In addition to the team projects, we are required to lead the discussion with one of our classmates during one week of the semester. I think that this will be a major part of our grade for participation within the class.

So Far . . .

When I registered for this class, I didn’t actually have a web site in mind to work with. I was surprised that many of my fellow students actually did. My only thought was that SCSU (or the ILS department) could use some type of web site with information specific to distance learners. I am a bit unsure how this whole project is going to work, but am interested to see how it all plays out.

I volunteered to lead the discussion during the week of April 2nd when we will be studying content management systems. I think I would have preferred to lead the discussion earlier on in the semester, but I am really interested in the topic of content management systems (we are finally getting ready to implement one at my place of work).

Week one has gone well – here’s hoping the rest of the semester goes the same way!!!!

Some Unrelated Thoughts and Commentary

January 27, 2007

Inspired by a post by Sarah Clark over at The Scattered Librarian, I decided to clean up my saved posts a bit. Some are things that I have been meaning to write about and some are things that I have found important.

Helene Blowers, from Library TechBytes, discusses the concept of project management in libraries in a post called Explaining the napkin . . . (aka project management & libraries). Helene discusses a visual project management tool which has three points. The points represent three concepts that control every project – the resources, the time and the scope. She writes:

When the triangle gets out of balance, it’s the PM’s responsibility to make adjustments. For example, if the scope changes and additional deliverables are added, you’ll need to either adjust your resources (as in add more bodies to the tasks) or increase the the project duration (using existing resources) to keep the project on track. Each of the three constraints always has an effect on each other, and good project managers know how to juggle these constraints well in order to achieve the planned results.

What a great way to think about project management – and the role of an effective project manager. More accurately, however, she explains that within the library world “I have come to the conclusion that for the most part we really don’t [do] projects . . . but we do have a lot of initiatives.” I think she has an important point. I agree that we don’t really do much project management in the library world – and that is one of my big frustrations.

Karen G. Schneider wrote a great post, IT and Sympathy, over at the ALA Techsource Blog. Often times, there is a tension in the relationship between the library and IT. Librarians and techies don’t seem to speak the same language. I think part of the reason can be explained by the fact that systems people (whether they work in the library or in IT) feel the need to protect their resources (hardware and data) from the users while librarians believe that the only reason to have hardware and data is to help the patrons. These goals can be seen as diametrically opposed. I believe that a big part of my role (even though it isn’t officially part of my job description) in library systems is to bridge the gap between our library needs and goals with the tenets and principles of our IT department. In this vein, so many of Karen G. Schneider’s points are right on target. She suggests that librarians talk to IT and find out about their plans, schedules, etc.; that they do their own IT planning (see information on project management above); that everyone remember nothing is ever “free”; and lastly that it helps to share plans with IT. I agree that all of these ideas will help develop a good working relationship with the tech folks. Schneider doesn’t specifically say it, but open lines of communication with IT departments are invaluable. After all, similar projects may be in development in other departments. Nobody needs to waste time reinventing the wheel. Techies are people too. Sometimes they may talk in overly technical terms, but they generally appreciate people who show interest in their concerns.

In a post entitled My Top-ten Library 2.0 “No-brainers” for Public Libraries, Ryan Deschamps lists 10 simple ways to start implementing Library 2.0 in public libraries. The ten ideas are

  1. Install Mozilla Firefox
  2. Add del.icio.us extensions to Firefox
  3. Use RSS feeds for library news and programs
  4. Have straightforward blogging guidelines
  5. Use content management system for staff information sharing
  6. Have a public blog and encourage participation
  7. Collaborate with partners using Google Docs and Zoho
  8. Have a Flickr page
  9. Allow all popular social software on public computers
  10. Engage teens with technology

This a great post that focuses on practical suggestions to bring Library 2.0 into the library. We are at the point where we need to start moving beyond the debate and acting on these things. I think it is worth noting that most of these suggestions can be adapted to any type of library, not just public ones. Ryan writes:

All in all, there are a wide range of Web 2.0 applications that are not risky or costly to implement, and at the same time they are bound to be effective. Even a “costly” web 2 service such as creating a video blog is not that costly in the end (a few thousand for equipment & software and some time to edit the movies). The point here is that you do not have to blow people’s minds to be L2.

Walt Crawford Says Take a Vacation . . .

January 25, 2007

and I’m listening. In February’s Cites and Insights, Walt Crawford gives some great advice about how to find some balance: deep breathing, contemplation, unitasking and ultimately taking a vacation – a real vacation which for Crawford means “being away for at least a week,” “being somewhere and doing something that discourages thoughts of work,” and “turning off” or unplugging. Do you know what? I definitely need a vacation – and not just from work, but also from school. I guess a break from blogging couldn’t hurt either. I need a true library-free zone. While, I have been away within the past year (a two week trip to St. Maarten), I wasn’t truly unplugged. Because I was taking a class, I had to bring my laptop – and as such, I read my email (school and work), answered questions from coworkers, wrote a paper, participated in class discussions and read class assignments. So, I’m not that counts as a real vacation. These days, everywhere I go, I’m thinking about libraries: what are they? what are their problems? what can we do to make them better? etc., etc., etc. If I’m not careful, I’m going to find myself experiencing library overload – which from what I hear is quite a painful condition.

Anyway, my husband and I are thinking about taking a trip to Las Vegas in early June for a cousin’s wedding. Although visiting Las Vegas has never been one of my must-dos, I think it is too good of an opportunity to miss. Plus, we should be able to get to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon – two things that I have always wanted to do. I’m going to go home tonight and tell my husband that we have to go. Walt Crawford says take a vacation – and I’m listening.

And The Semester Starts Tomorrow . . .

January 21, 2007

Although I had intended to spend my last weekend before school started doing any that wasn’t school related, I spent most of today going over information for both classes. My professor for ILS656-Information Architecture had already posted the syllabus and class readings. I noticed that the professor for ILS560-College & University Libraries (or Academic Libraries as called by the professor) opened up this class today. I printed the syllabus early this afternoon along with the readings for this week. And, so of course, I started doing the readings.

Anyway, both classes look great. I guess I’m a bit more excited about ILS656-Information Architecture because it is something I haven’t studied. I work in an academic library – and while I certainly have more to learn about them, I’m very familiar with them. Last semester, I found ILS565-Library Management to be a bit painful because the subject matter was too real. I’m thinking the same might be true for ILS560-College & University Libraries. The good news is that although I expect both classes to be challenging, I think the workload will be manageable (famous last words, huh?).

I’m Not Sure What This Might Mean, But I’m Afraid

January 17, 2007

For some reason, this week I have been having the most bizarre and vivid dreams. They wake me up – and then I lay in bed unable to get back to sleep. They aren’t really nightmares – they are just extremely odd. I don’t remember most of them when I wake up in the morning. Well, last night at about 12:35AM I woke up from a deep sleep – a bit disoriented. I had been dreaming. While I do not remember the entirety of the odd dream, I do remember a particularly wacky detail. I was telling a family member a story about one of our second cousins who had just been picked to be on a new reality tv show. This reality show was going to be a joint effort by the Discovery Health channel and the Food Network (I guarantee you won’t guess where this is headed). First, the stars would have surgery to remove some organ. The surgeries would be documented on one tv show. Once recovered, the person would then do his/her own cooking show where they would cook the organ that had been removed with some special, fancy recipe. The best recipe would win the overall prize. Hmmm. . . . . . . What could that possibly mean? I think I might be scared. Prior to this, the oddest dream that I remember was one in which my best friend and I were going to a party. I was at her house waiting for her to get ready (which took a long time). When she finally came down the stairs – several hours late, she was dressed as Hamlet. It wasn’t a costume party. Hopefully, my dreams will go back to normal now.

On an unrelated (and less odd) note, Mythbusters is doing a show about pirate myths tonight. I can’t wait! Ahoy, Matey!!!

I’m Looking Forward To This Semester

January 17, 2007

Yesterday, my ILS656-Information Architecture professor sent a general email letting us know that classes start on the 22nd of January – and giving us instructions for logging onto the class. It seems that SCSU made some changes in its policies for accessing online course material over break. From what I understand, all schools in the Connecticut State University system shared one course management for distance education programs (at one time called OnlineCSU). Each university also had an additional CMS portal for traditional and hybrid classes. I always wondered why there seemed to be so much confusion among students accessing online classes. However, I can see how students taking both traditional and online classes at the same time would get confused by having two separate systems with different usernames. I guess the CSU system decided to disband the OnlineCSU system – and now we all log into SCSU’s WebCT portal. The big difference is that we no longer log in with some 8 digit number, but use another log in (a more traditional username that is some combination of our names). It took a while to figure this out – but fortunately, I was able to figure it out with some help from fellow graduate students via the ILS listserv.

Once I finally logged onto the system successfully, I was able to poke around in the course site for ILS656-Information Architecture. The professor has already posted all sorts of material. I probably should not have been surprised. This professor has her own web site with information about the courses she teaches, projected courses with tentative schedules and syllabi. She also includes the texts for these classes. I can’t stress how wonderful it is to have this information when registering for classes. I so wish other professors would do the same. Anyway, this all makes me very excited about this class. I think it will be a wonderful learning experience -albeit a challenging one. I’m also looking forward to ILS560-College & University Libraries. I have already taken two classes with the professor teaching this class – and so far he has been my favorite professor.