Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Work With the Web, Not On It

my daughter drawing on my with chalk

This is me. (And my daughter [she's using me as a chalkboard]) Unlike so many others, I don't work on the Web.

I work with the Web.

I live and work in Davenport, IA. Both libraries I work at are behind the times in adding technology to their libraries. I work at a college without a proxy server so we have to hand out user name/password sheets to students and hope they don't lose them. I work at a public library that doesn't see the need to learn social software. In both cases I believe we are doing a disservice to our patrons/users. I also run a small publishing company that would not exist without the Web.

I use the Web everyday in my work: in addition to the ubiquitous e-mail and IM for communication, I use the Web through databases to assist students in finding articles for class; I've posted photos on Flickr of library events; I've used LibraryThing to create online reader's advisories; I attend webinars to learn more about database features and ILS features; I have a website for my magazine; I also have FaceBook, MySpace, Blogspot (since 2001), Twitter, and etc. accounts which I use to promote my publishing/librarianship and reach a wider audience; I sell magazines, etc. online so that people can read what I publish; I belong to Google Groups so I can have discussions with people who don't live anywhere near me; I read LOTS of library and publishing oriented blogs so I can keep abreast of what's happening in those respective fields; and I generally am online all the time at work, doing something.

I use the Web everyday in my life: I post photos on Flickr and Videos on YouTube of my daughter for family in Denver and Arizona and elsewhere; from looking up who's that actor to finding recipes to getting driving directions to weather forecasts to sports scores to buying foodstuffs I can't find where I live, there's a lot of information I get online that, while available through other means, is not as convenient through other means.

I use not-the-Web everyday in my work: I talk to my staff every day, face to face; I answer questions from students at the reference desk; I walk patrons to the stacks and help them find their books (I never point); I attend conferences to learn more about specific aspects of librarianship and to network with other library professionals; I attend conventions (science fiction) to meet authors, editors, fans, etc. and to promote what I publish; I meet with colleagues and staff to talk about concerns and plans for the library; I mail out lots and lots of magazines, etc. to people who purchase what I publish; and I do mundane things like check out and check in books, send faxes, make photocopies, accept fine payments, place books on hold for patrons, sign time sheets, and so many other things I don't keep track of.

I use not-the-Web everyday in my life: as evidenced by the photo above, the most important thing I do everyday is spend time with my family; I love to cook; I sit on a couch and read a book; I take care of my house; I watch tv with my wife; and so many other things that don't involve the Web.

I don't know that I could work without the web (i.e., this morning I sent a story collection to a writer in Serbia so he can write the introduction and also sent it to an artist in MA so he can create interior artwork; pre-Web days this would have been impossible), but there is work I do that does not and cannot involve the web. They are not exclusive of each other, but I do not do only one or the other. I feel that the Web enhances the most important thing I do: provide service to my patrons.

(inspired by Michael and the Annoyed Librarian)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hi Seth, They're Called Librarians

From Seth Godin (this is actually the entire post, but the blog is SO informative you must go there):
It's easy to be wowed by what a magical job the search engines do in finding you just the right needle in the haystack.

The fact is that search engines are very good at fairly simple searches, and very good at finding information about single products, services, people and ideas.

But they're terrible at connections, at rankings, at horizontal results. They can't help me find the 25 most important up and coming artists in the United States. They can't help me find six products that are viable alternatives to something that was just discontinued. They can't help me rank the service of four accounting firms.

There's a giant opportunity. (Many opportunities, actually). It's to collate and slice and dice and rank domain-specific knowledge and surface it. There are some areas where this is done extremely well (restaurants, for example), but in most cases, it's not done at all.

Organizing the world's information is a laudable goal. But we're only an inch down the road.
Um, isn't that what we do every day with reader's advisories, displays, handouts, and other whatnot?

So, what are you doing to let your community (aw heck, the world) know that you've organized some information in a particular way? Are you optimizing your website so that people will find it in their searches?