ALA 2008: Social Software Showcase

I got more out of the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase than any other session at ALA this year.

Regular sessions at ALA have to be planned so far in advance (often a year) that they are very rarely about cutting edge topics. The showcase sidesteps that issue nicely by basing itself on the relatively new ‘unconference’ idea: a bunch of people show up and talk about what they’re interested in. I believe the agenda of what topics would be focused on wasn’t finalized until a week or two before the event!

Each topic had a featured coordinator, who claimed a table or area of the room. People then rotated around, dropping in and out of discussions as they liked. Offhand I can remember a partial list of topics, the ones I gravitated to: APIs, facebook, and streaming video. The format lends itself nicely to a more conversational approach than most conference events – everyone had something to share, and and asking questions flowed much more naturally into the setting.

The room was sized to seat about 75 people, and more than 100 showed up! I have a feeling this will be an even bigger deal next year in Chicago.

ALA 2008: Distance Learning Panel

My presentation is online here:

It may not mean much without my accompanying narration, but I wanted to put it up anyway.

The panel went well! We had some great speakers and the audience was really engaged and asking questions. I came away with a much deeper realization about how important adapting to distance learning environments is to the future of our profession.

Lauren Pressley, one of the panel’s organizers, posted a few notes about my talk:

Speaking in Anaheim

Things have been quiet on the site lately, but I wanted to point out that I’ll be speaking on a panel at ALA’s annual conference in Anaheim this weekend:

If We Don’t Call it Distance Learning, Does it Exist?
8:00 AM – 12:00 PM on 06/28
Location: Disney’s Paradise Pier in Redondo

In particular, I’ll be speaking about my experience as a solo distance learning librarian and what I learned from it when I worked at UAH. Hope to see you there! The lineup of speakers is a great one.

My inner Disney geek is mostly just excited that I get to be in one of their hotels on official business. 🙂 I’ll of course be around the rest of the conference too, and am really looking forward to it.

E-Info Global Symposium 2007

One thing I’m really bummed about missing at UAH once I leave is this December’s second annual E-Info Global Symposium. Last year we had great feedback from everyone who attended.

This year Stephen Abram has generously agreed to be program chair. (His welcome is here) He and Jane Dysart have pulled together an amazing list of speakers. And not to sound too much like an ad, but registration is just the low low price of $99! (Keeping it affordable to attend has always been one of our main goals) We’re currently working out arrangements for free registration for current MLS students and librarians from NAAL member institutions.

The conference will be December 6th and 7th, 2007. The most up to date info on speakers is on the symposium blog. So far topics like Transformation Leadership, Five Weeks to a Social Library, Social Tools on a Shoe String, Gaming in Academic Libraries, and other cool stuff are filling up the docket.

Here’s the official Symposium site: link

Changes: Chapel Hill-Bound!

Starting November 5th, I’ll have a new job – “Reference Librarian for Emerging Technologies” at UNC Chapel Hill – Davis Library! The full position description is online here for now.

The decision to leave UAH was a hard one, and I’ll genuinely miss working with everybody there – I’ve learned an immeasurable amount from them all and was able to get experience in just about any area you can think of. But this is a good move for me, and I can’t pass up the opportunity.

So, it’s going to be a busy couple of months 🙂 I’m really looking forward to getting started.

UAH Library LAN Party – Done!

That went really well! I lost count of the number of positive comments we had from students, including “This is the best campus event I’ve ever been to!” Of course, there are some things that I’d do differently next time, but for first timers I think we did pretty well.

I think the main thing I’d do differently is spread out the console games around the room. We held the whole event in one large open room that usually have reserved for quiet study. For ease of keeping an eye on things, the console team (myself and one other person) had the three 42″ HDTVs lined up in a row. One was Guitar Hero 2, another was Halo 2, and a third was random open play on an Xbox 360 or Wii. Once the tournaments started, a sizeable crowd grew around each one and it was really hard for lots of people to see the screens at once. Putting one TV in each corner of the room, or maybe back to back, might have worked better.

I also learned that laying out specific rules for every possible eventuality is a necessity. I thought the rules I drew up based on other examples of tournaments were very clear, but the participants found many holes to poke in them and I had to make a lot up on the fly 🙂 Thankfully everybody was very good natured about it and I heard almost no complaints at all. Above all, be consistent with the rules. Don’t start making exceptions, and it’ll all work out.

IMG_1900I also learned a little bit about game selection. While we had it available for free play, we did not have an organized Smash Brothers tournament. But people were asking for one constantly. Two different groups of students even brought their own TVs and gamecubes to play it on. So next time, we will definitely schedule that in.

Here’s the full Flickr picture set. At this point we are thinking of doing it again in the spring, or maybe sooner. But the setup was killer – we had to borrow tables and chairs from a church in town, which they very generously offered to us. But hauling them in and out of the U-Haul and the second floor of our building almost killed us. Next time I’d like to do the physical setup a day or more in advance if at all possible. I had a student ask if we could do it again next week, and my muscles instantly started aching.

I’m really, really happy with how successful this event was. Thank you to all our staff who were so willing to help set up, pick up, and stay until midnight.

UAH Library LAN Party (update) – 8/30/07 from 5pm-midnight

I’ve forgotten to post an update about this until now – oops!

Our inaugural LAN party at the library is coming together very nicely for this thursday night! Note that the time has changed slightly.

On the PC side we’ll have an organized Counterstrike: Source tournament. On the Console side we’ll have organized Halo 2 and Guitar Hero 2 tournaments. Each of these will have a cash prize (the exact amount is still being worked out). Free play will also be available on these games, with some Wiis and other random games around to play too.

Plus, feel free to bring your DS or PSP! Signups for the tournaments will be on site that evening only. Full tournament rules will be made available in the next day or so on the official site:

We’ll also have representatives on hand from the US Army’s “America’s Army” game, which is developed right here in Huntsville. I’m told they’ll have free copies of the game and other swag to give away. A representative from their development team will be presenting about how gaming is useful in the real world, and Dr. Richard Petty will provide a counterpoint to that argument with his own presentation in one of our computer labs.

I’m really excited about this! Assuming it goes well, we’re going to seriously look at making it a regular event at the start of every semester.

And again, the official site has a full schedule and more information. There’s also a Facebook event page.

(and we will of course have free food!)

UAH Library LAN Party – 8/30/07 from 3-11pm

We’re still in the early planning phases, but on August 30th we’ll be holding our first LAN party at work! It’s part of our “fall frolic” series of events. The party will sort of be two separate events – an organized PC gaming tournament (exact game TBA), and a collection of console games – DDR, Guitar Hero, and various Wii games are the top candidates so far. Plus we’re hoping for a lot of pick-up DS gaming 🙂

As we get more planning done, we’ll have online registration for the tournament. Our space is a bit limited due to the building’s electrical limitations, so be sure to register. We’ll provide food and prizes. And this isn’t limited to just UAH students either! All are welcome.

Here’s the Facebook event:

E-Info Global 2007

I am very, very pleased to point out that the website for the E-Info Global Symposium 2007 is live!

Last year’s inaugural symposium went amazingly well, and this year promises to be even better – Stephen Abram is our Conference Chair! His welcome message is here. And as with last year’s, our goal is to keep the event very affordable – registration was $99 last time, and we’re aiming for something similar again. Stephen and Jane Dysart are working on pulling together a group of speakers, and I’ll be sure to point out more info as it becomes available. But in the meantime, save the date:
December 6th and 7th, 2007

I’m really excited about this 🙂

Decline of the Reference Desk

I meant to comment about this back when the article first appeared, but let it slip a bit. The Chronicle recently published an article called “Are Reference Desks Dying Out?”

Even with my limited experience working the desk (a bit over 18 months now), there’s a lot in the article I can immediately agree with. Our stats for questions answered are dropping, especially when you look at how many in depth questions are asked. Most that remain are simple yes/no answers, overhead issues like the location of the bathroom, or quick directions to where a certain source is on the shelf. There are still some questions that require full length reference interviews, but it isn’t uncommon for me to go a full desk shift without encountering one.

One place I don’t see this dropoff is in our virtual reference system. Right now we only accept questions via a web form or e-mail. I haven’t analyzed this mathematically, but I have no doubt that a much higher proportion of e-questions involve extensive research than their in-person counterparts. As frustrating as answering questions this way can be (for both librarians and the students), I find it interesting that students do prefer this method for asking in-depth questions. I think it’s mostly a matter of convenience.

An interesting side effect of accepting questions this way is that we tend to get questions from an entirely different set of users than we would otherwise. We were recently able to help a researcher in New Zealand get access to one of our special collections online, for example.

I don’t think the reference desk will completely disappear in our lifetimes. But like anything else, it won’t stay static either – the service is in transition.