in General, Libraries/Info Sci

Computers in Libraries 2005 – Day 3

When: Thursday, March 17 2005
Where: Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
My Role: Attendee
Day 3… really energizing!

No pictures that came out very well, sorry.

Keynote: Bruce James, CEO of the U.S. Government Printing Office.

“Perpetuity is a long time.”

James gave a rather by-the-book, step by step talk on his experience at the GPO. Still very interesting, though.

He was brought in and put in charge two years ago to, as he said, bring the GPO from the 19th century to the 21st. There’s been unique problems: floors of concrete 3 feet thick were built to support printing presses, not run ethernet cables.

James seems like a very common sense manager, which I appreciate. He concentrated on recruiting “the true talent” which had been languishing in mid-levels of his own organization and moving them up to management.

Today, more than 50% of government documents are born digital. I’m surprised it wasn’t higher. 256 thousand documents from the back-catalog have been digitized to date, and only 3 million to go… Eventually plans are to phase out government document printing entirely.

Social Software 101 – Matthew Dames

As a side note, Dames is also a DJ which I found cool.

A lot of stuff I already knew covered here, but it was great to see it all synthesized. And there was some new knowledge too, like I’d never considered gaming as social software before – but it makes sense.

5 categories of social software were covered:
Enabling, Messaging (e-mail, IM), Contextual (searching), Community (blogs), and Analysis. The middle three are sort of the core and were covered more extensively.

Dames’ idea of blogging system back-ends replacing HTML-coded sites with customized front-ends was very intriguing. I don’t see HTML going away, as it has a very low barrier to entry that’ll appeal to the masses for a while yet. But I do admit to loving the relatively simple yet complex customizability that WordPress provides.

3 Future Directions for Libraries:
-Community – we do it well
-Context – we provide it

I felt like standing up and applauding at one of his closing topics:
Tools that seem to get people out of libraries can in fact bring them in. Example: IM. There are statistics to back it up that I unfortunately forgot to write down… d’oh.

Linux-Based Public Workstations – Issues & Application – Perry Horner

I was hoping for a more step-by-step explination of the exactly what system was implemented here, and unfortunately didn’t get it. Mainly a promo session for Linux, which I’ve heard before. A couple interesting quotes though:

“Games are what drive technology.”
-Horner made the point that once major games start appearing for Linux people will have more of an excuse to use it. He predicts they’ll show up in ’07.

“The end user doesn’t care what the OS is.”
-Many of Horner’s users still thought they were using Windows. If the OS does what they need it to, that’s good enough.

Collaboration & IM: Breaking Down Boundaries – Aaron Schmidt, Michael Stephens

Of course I’m partial to these two speakers as fellow bloggers and people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. But I still greatly enjoyed the presentation.

27% of Americans are on IM, and 7 billion messages are sent each day. Mind boggling!

Interesting point: Make any logging of reference IM sessions (useful in review) transparent to the user or disable it entirely. It avoids difficulties later on.

Best practices for using IM in libraries:
-Make it part of your tech plan
-Promote screen name & chosen service
-Administration at the library should be messaging too
-Train & encourage staff to use IM at their desks
-Add IM name to your business card
-Use a multi-network client
-Use away messages, and keep them updated
-Go for speed over perfection in typing in a reference transaction
-Use abbreviations
-Use online sources only if that is the best available answer
-Don’t panic

Can’t really argue with any of those!

Anybody know what ‘aam’ stands for in IM lingo? It was in a sample conversation Aaron showed, and nobody in the audience could decipher it.

Optimizing Technology in Libraries – Michael Stephens, Jeff Steely

I got the feeling some of the crowd wasn’t entirely behind what was said here, though I didn’t have a problem with it.

Tech is a tool, and must fit with a vision. Avoid technolust for its own sake. But yet, tech can still be transformative and waves of change are set to come.

I didn’t take as many notes here as I got swept up in Michael’s enthusiastic presentation in particular, but here’s a bit of stream of consciousness:

Why not use IM instead of costly virtual reference systems that don’t always work?
Related: Don’t be afraid to cut off what isn’t working, even if time and money are invested in it.
Also related: Be aware of and recognize mission creep. Don’t overextend your reach in a tech project.

LISNews – Collaborative Blogging – Blake Carver

Blake gave a great overview of his experience running, a sort of Slashdot for the library world.

He sees comments as perhaps the core element of the site, which I agree with. Discussion is the whole point.

Interesting, the “Save the Children” stories are the most popular on the site. Censorship of content for them and such.


The reception was unremarkable tonight. I had a number of vendors try to sell me circulation systems and database access, and they were utterly uninterested in talking about job prospects and such. But they’re in sales, not HR, so what did I expect? Free wine and cheese and other munchies were good again as expected.


I went to the “Library Blogs, Collaborative Communities & Wireless Applications” dine-around tonight. We had to relocate to Bucco di Beppi due to size of our party, and I’m sure I’m botching that spelling.

Merryment was had by all, though I admit we touched on the assigned topic only for brief periods at a time. I was struck by my utter youth when compared to everyone else there. But all were very friendly and fun to talk with. Our waiter found the notion of a large group of librarians out together hilarious and was good fun.