eight things

Having missed out on the five things meme, I’m picking up on the eight things one. Blame it all on Josh, who tagged me.

    1. On Friday I found both my father’s and my grandfather’s World War II military papers–a registration card for my grandfather, and the enrollment data for my father–via Ancestry.com, which is making these records available for free through D-Day.

    2. Yes, you heard that right–my father and grandfather. My father was born in 1923 and his father was born in 1896. My father was a lot older than my mother, which is why he was trying to get into the army in WWII instead of out of it in Vietnam.

    3. Actually, my father probably wouldn’t have been trying to get out of going to Vietnam. How he ended up with me for a daughter is kind of a mystery.

    4. I dislike grass. Partly that’s because I’m allergic to it and partly it’s because of the amount of energy it requires–in this part of the world it usually has to be watered, which diminishes our already scarce water, and almost everywhere it has to be mowed, which, unless you have a push mower, uses up either gas or relies on coal or nuclear energy for electricity.

    5. The other day I learned that 80-90% of the water used in the West is used for irrigation, which does make it seem like taking shorter and less frequent showers maybe isn’t the solution to our water problems.

    6. I am a bad librarian and don’t have a source for #5, but it’s a statistic I have encountered in several places.

    7. Yesterday I went to the shortest graduation I’ve ever attended. Everyone here said it was actually really long, since there were so many seniors here this year. For “so many,” read sixteen. I live in a very small town.

    8. Today is the feast of Pentecost this year, which is my favorite of the major Christian holy days as, unlike Christmas and Easter, it lacks any commercial component. I read the lesson from Acts (chapter 2, verses 1-21),* which I used to sometimes read in Greek at my old church, where we tried to have it read in as many different languages as possible, simultaneously. It’s much easier to read in English.

There. In my generally verbose fashion, I’ve managed to tell you far more than you wanted to know. Go thou and do likewise, if you are so inclined.

*Actually, I read this text, from the New Revised Standard Version, but I like to provide multiple translation options. It seems in keeping with the spirit of the day, and also in keeping with my nature as both a Classicist and a librarian.

tag cloud mania

Jenny Levine imagined a library with tags.  Dave Pattern made one (read more about how).  A year and a half later, I had an idea.

I was playing with Director’s Station and thought, “I wonder if I could do something like that, but with search data.”  I played around and made (with the assistance of tagcrowd.com) a little cloud of search terms.  I wrote about it on Twitter, and today mir_b made a little cloud of authors.

As mir_b notes, it’s a fair amount of work to do something like this, and it’s probably not feasible to do so on a regular basis, but it provides a fascinating glimpse into what patrons are actually entering in our catalog search boxes.  You see a lot of titles entered starting with “the” and a lot of authors (in the keyword search terms I used, at least) entered “first name last name.”  Depending on your point of view, that goes to show that libraries have a lot of teaching to do to get patrons to enter things the right way, or that catalog vendors have a lot of catching up to do to meet what have, by now, become current search standards.  I’ll let you decide.

graduation pictures

In the year or so that I have been at the Meeteetse Branch Library, we have done a lot of good things. We’ve had summer reading programs for both kids and grown-ups. We’ve had authors visit. We’ve relabelled all the children’s books and almost all the adult fiction in order to get rid of the wretched Cutter numbers. We’ve acquired more books, movies, audio books, and CDs. We’ve had story times for preschoolers and book discussion groups for adults. We’ve had classes on digital photography. But nothing, I repeat, nothing has been anywhere near as successful or as popular as our current bulletin board.

Yeah, you heard it: bulletin board.

Every year the school does a bulletin board featuring pictures of the graduating seniors from various points in their lives. (There are 16 graduating seniors this year, which is a pretty big class for around here.) This year, we at the library thought it would be neat if we did a bulletin board featuring senior pictures from faculty and staff. We collected the pictures (many of them we got from old Meeteetse schools yearbooks that we have here in the library), scanned them and resized them so they were all the same height, and put them up on the bulletin board outside our door.

They’ve been up for a couple of weeks now, and though traffic has died down somewhat, you still have to make your way through a crowd some times if you want to get from the library to the office. Eavesdropping around the bulletin board provides no end of entertainment: “Dude, Miss Linda was hot!” Kids stop by to look in between classes, as do teachers. Public library patrons (we’re a joint school/public library) often wander over to take a look, too. And everyone talks–about the hairstyles, about the clothes, about how much (or how little) everyone has changed.

That’s the crux of it, I think: we have simultaneously changed enormously and not changed a bit. Some were born here; the rest of us arrived in Meeteetse through some hidden mechanism of decision or fate. It is rich and strange and quite wonderful. You should be able to pick me out without too much difficulty.

mensch for hire

Because most people are more timely bloggers than I am, and because I occupy a small corner of the ecosystem, I don’t expect anyone reading this in libraryland doesn’t already know that Walt Crawford got the boot from OCLC and is available for hire

I do wonder if there isn’t some weird underhanded Walt Crawford for Roy Tennant trade going on, but Walt has assured me that’s not the case.  And that brings me to what I really want to say.  When I heard the news, I e-mailed Walt to say, “what the heck? did they trade you for Roy Tennant?” and Walt wrote back.  I’d like to echo Rochelle’s sentiments:

Aside from his general laudableness (honest, that’s a word), Walt has distinguished himself to many of us through his collegiality and generosity.  Distinguished and influential don’t always translate into accessible, but Walt has been a good friend and sparring partner to many of us not-so-luminous front-liners. . . . We owe him no less and wish him the best.

Yeah.  What she said.  Good luck, Walt, with whatever comes next.

research library, rural library: a trip to yellowstone

Thanks to Jessi at the Yellowstone Research Library for a few corrections and updates!

There are a lot of great things about being a librarian in Wyoming. (To begin with, you get to live in Wyoming, although I recognize this is not everyone’s idea of a Great Thing.) You get to be part of a (relatively) well-funded state library network. You get to have Craig Johnson come visit your library for the price of a six-pack of Rainier Ale. You get to be proud to be from the same state as Mabel Wilkinson. And, once in awhile, you get to go to meetings in Yellowstone National Park. (Note to the National Park Service: consider hiring an information architect. Really. Your websites are horrid to navigate.)

I got to do just that last week. Region 2 of the WYLD network had a meeting at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, and we stayed over night at Mammoth Hot Springs. The Research Center used to be at Mammoth, in the Wyoming part of Yellowstone, and so even though it moved to new spiffy quarters a couple of years ago in Gardiner, Montana, the library part is still considered to be part of the Wyoming library network.

I arrived a bit late for the full tour, but I got to see a few Thomas Moran water colors, with his notes on how to expand them into full fledged paintings, and I got to see the library. The library consists of books that are all related in some way to Yellowstone, from environmental impact statements to novels set in the park; vertical file materials of all sorts; a map room with lots of nifty maps; and an archive with all kinds of papers related to the park, including many decades worth of log books and 296 linear feet of papers related to the 1988 fires.

Two librarians staff the library, though they occasionally also have volunteers or an intern. If I’m remembering this correctly, the Yellowstone Association runs the building and the librarians work for the National Park Service, but I might have that backwards–it’s a confusing amalgam of responsibilities. There was at one time an archivist, but his position wasn’t kept after he retired. Because the library is so short-staffed, a lot of the collection is languishing–not decaying, but not getting fully described and cataloged, much less digitized.

Correction–in fact, I did have it backwards: the NPS runs the building, the librarians work for the Yellowstone Association. Also, the didn’t retire; he left to take another position. The Park has yet to decide whether or not to replace him. [Another note to the NPS–hire archivists!]

I am in many ways lucky, I know. There aren’t many towns the size of Meeteetse (pop. 351, elev. 5797) that have a library of 25,000 with internet access and a wide array of electronic resources that’s open 44 hours a week. Gardiner, Montana, by contrast, has a population of 851 and a public library that’s open 11 hours a week and has one computer (at least according to this Chamber of Commerce newsletter–scroll about a third of the way down). It wasn’t open while we were there. The vagaries of library funding tend, quite frequently, toward the depressing.

On a less somber note, we did see deer, antelope, elk, bison and baby bison, a mama black bear and a black bear cub, and two coyotes in the park. I don’t have any pictures of the wildlife, but a few shots of the park, the libraries, and the general environs are up on Flickr.

let my audio go!

Amazon plans to roll out DRM-free music later this year.  Publishers Lunch wonders if DRM-free audio books can be far behind (sorry, no link for the story, which is in an e-mail newsletter from Publishers Marketplace–I highly recommend it though–the free version, which I get, is still full of fascinating publishing news).  Librarians like me fondly wish for the day.

with a little help from my friends

Between the Library Society of the World and Michelle’s post today and the general DIY awesomeness of the biblioblogosphere, I’ve been getting a distinct “we could get a barn and put on a show!” kind of a feeling, albeit mostly about the virtual world. And that in turn has made me think it’s about time I posted about my latest project.

As anyone who has ever looked at the code behind my website will know, I taught myself html in 1999 and had forgotten most of what I learned by the time I got around to recreating the site sometime in 2004. Taking Internet Fundamentals and Design last summer brought me somewhat up to date, but there are still wide gaps in my knowledge. (Someday I promise to go back and fix all my horrid tags and add metadata and, oh, update my ancient resume and. . . well, someday.)

But I never like to let ignorance stand in the way of getting things done accomplished. (Just think, if Columbus had done so–well, I guess fewer people in the Americas would have died from imported illnesses, which would be good–never mind.)

A few weeks ago I decided I was sick and tired of our current county library website. And I was sick of the general inertia about changing it (should we hire someone? what should it look like? should we form a committee? [actually, no one ever suggested that–but you get the idea]). So I thought, the hell with it, I’ll mock something up using wordpress.com, which I also used to make the cap tax website (though in that case we never used its blogging capabilities). I showed it to a few people, and they said, hey, cool. I showed it to my director, explaining that once I had an actual WordPress installation, I could do a lot more. I’d been expecting to ask forgiveness for my general impudence, but instead I was given permission to proceed.

I did, with a lot of help: I got my friend Mitchell to do a WordPress installation for me, since that is one of many things I don’t really know how to do. (Actually, I got him to install WordPressMU, because I was having delusions of aadl.org like grandeur.) Aaron Schmidt pretty much inspired the whole idea. Steve Lawson answered approximately 900 stupid questions (and may get a few more). Dorothea Salo pointed out (via Twitter) that my faceting on the research page was, to put it mildly, nonexistent. Marc Stratton from the Wyoming State Library sent many e-mails clarifying how to make links to the catalog. A random stranger from Publib whose name I’ve forgotten whose name is Don Yarman and who works for the Delaware County Library in Ohio showed me how to make links to various EBSCO databases. I stole some bits and pieces from websites here and there. Remaining mistakes are, needless to say, my own.

Now it’s about ready for the alpha masses. I’ve got a few things yet to do:

  • add metadata
  • actually learn CSS (going through the CSS file and randomly changing colors until you get the background you want is not really the best way to get stuff done)
  • decide how to incorporate the del.icio.us account I’ve made for the Meeteetse school
  • figure out how to use the MU part, if I decide to go that route (though I’m thinking at this point that that’s overkill)
  • get the header image to look better
  • I’m still not really happy about the Research page, but who is happy about the way they present their databases?
  • surely there’s more

Today my director showed it to a Thomson Gale person who was supposed to be giving us information on how to create direct links to our Virtual Reference Library (me: “uh, actually, I already did that”), and he was apparently impressed. The biblioblogosphere, though, is a tougher audience. So, have at it: here’s the site. There’s not much there yet, but you should get the idea.