Library Snapshot Day

This afternoon I listened to a free ALA webinar about Library Snapshot Day. Before viewing/listening to the webinar, I was familiar with Library Snapshot Day only through the implementation of it planned for April 13 by the ALA Student Chapter (ALASC) at Simmons: the ALASC is asking library students to take photos of the libraries in which they work and volunteer. This is a great event on a local scale, but Library Snapshot Day is a scalable event – the webinar outlined statewide events in New Jersey, Maine, and Kansas.

One of the main ideas behind Library Snapshot Day is to use the statistics that librarians are so fond of collecting (or which they are mandated by state and federal governments to collect) for advocacy purposes. These stats can be helpful in getting legislators on the side of libraries, and they can also have a positive effect on library patrons. As Rob Banks of the Topeka and Shawnee Public Library said, “My personal belief is, a lot of the people who use libraries are also voters.”

As far as printed materials, the really effective format seemed to be a photo of people in a library, paired with a quote from a library patron, accompanied by a powerful statistic, such as the number of people who use the library each day (or year), the number of materials (books, movies, music) loaned out, or the number of people who use computers at the library or receive job search help from library staff. (A great source for library statistics in Massachusetts is the Mass. Board of Library Commissioners site.)

Happy Library Advocating!

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The Morgan Library

It is a tad bit embarrassing for me that I lived in New York for almost three years and never went to the Morgan Library. I remedied that this past weekend, and it was absolutely wonderful – I highly, highly recommend it to all book people.

It is a good size for a library-museum; you can see pretty much everything in under two hours without rushing. (Everything on display, anyway; there are treasure troves in underground vaults.) One room had a small Shakespeare exhibit, with early portraits of Shakespeare and a First Folio(!). The Diary exhibit upstairs was also wonderful; it featured quite a range of famous literary people, and showcased their tiny handwriting, inscrutable shorthand, and beautiful sketches.

Most of all, though, the library itself was stunning. On display was one of three(!) of the Gutenberg Bibles in the collection; music manuscripts from Mozart and other composers; beautiful illuminated manuscripts with jeweled covers; and early editions of every major work of fiction you could think of: Chaucer, Dickens, the Brontes, Shakespeare, Jonson. These were locked away, not on display, but the spines are visible behind glass.

As far as I know, Morgan did not spread the literary wealth the way that Carnegie did, but if you do have a chance to visit the Morgan Library, go!

Version Control Saves Lives!

March has been a workshop-rich month: today I attended “Git for Fun & Profit, or How Git May Save Your Life,” presented by Mark Tomko in the GSLIS Tech Lab. He designed this workshop recently with the Digital Libraries class in mind, and it was a great overall as well as practical intro.

In plain English, version control systems (VCS) allow users to keep track of changes to a set of files and directories. For example, if you’re working on a website and you break something but can’t figure out what, you can always revert to a working version and start over from there. VCS also allows multiple users to read and modify the same files simultaneously. Git is available to download for free, and there are lots of web resources for users.

Drupal and UX

The GSLIS Tech Lab offered a follow-up to last week’s CMS workshop in the form of a hands-on Drupal workshop. Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch we weren’t able to do an installation (though we were promised a video tutorial in its place), but we did create sites using Drupal Gardens and learn the basics. It seems a lot less confining than WordPress, and correspondingly a little more complicated, but Drupal 7 is leaps and bounds better in this respect than previous versions, I hear. I look forward to playing with it some more.

This evening was another ALA Brown Bag lunch (offered both during lunchtime and in the evening now, so more people can attend). This time we had a guest speaker, GSLIS alum (’05) Khalilah Gambrell, who is currently a User Experience Senior Requirements Analyst at EBSCO Publishing. Having a guest speaker there focused the discussion a bit more and gave current students a chance to ask questions of a recent grad with experience in the field. A few resources that Khalilah recommended on the topic of user experience (UX) were the book Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug and the sites Mashable, Read, Write, Web, and Boxes and Arrows.

CMS and Random Library Fact

This morning I attended the CMS program at Simmons sponsored by NEASIS&T. First we heard about WordPress from Theresa Maturevich, who used WordPress to build the Beverly Public Library site, which won the Massachusetts Library Association’s Public Relations Award in 2009. Next we heard from Michael Witwicki, who spoke about ExpressionEngine; then Steve Sanzo, who spoke about Drupal, and finally Anna Burke (a Simmons GSLIS grad!) and Talia Resendes from Springshare, who presented LibGuides. All of the talks were interesting, especially considering that of the four CMS we heard about, only two – ExpressionEngine and Drupal – were designed to be CMS; WordPress was designed as a blogging tool, and LibGuides was a web platform for subject and research guides. These last two retain their original functions in addition to expanded ones, but it’s a case of the people behind the software adapting the product in response to the (unintended/unforeseen) way(s) people were using it.

Now for the random library fact: it’s not hugely surprising, but I read in G. Edward Evans’ Developing Library and Information Center Collections that library books shelved on the top and bottom shelves have lower circulation rates than those shelved on the middle shelves. This makes sense, because the books on the middle shelves are closer to most people’s eye level; no one has to crouch or stand on tip-toe to see them. It’s a compelling argument against using the lowest and highest shelves at all – if you have the space. (Bookstores, in comparison, tend to use their highest shelves for overstock.)

Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems (CMS) don’t belong solely to the library field, but they’re welcomed, because they come with an acronym, and librarianship is the most acronym-happy profession I know. (Then again, I have never worked for the government.)

Obviously I have been using WordPress (which is a CMS) for some time now, having switched over from Blogger back in November 2009. However, I thought I would take the opportunity to learn about other content management systems – Drupal, Joomla, etc. – some of their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, and what they might be good for. The workshop today in the GSLIS Tech Lab was a good start, and it convinced me to register for next week’s mini-conference, sponsored by the New England chapter of ASIS&T and co-sponsored by the Simmons student chapter (of which I am a member).