Some useful sites

January 6, 2009

A Big List of Sites That Teach You How to Do Stuff” – a list of instructional/tutorial sites from ReadWriteWeb

Eight Handy Tools in Microsoft Word You Probably Don’t Know About” – from 

Ten Social Networking Tips for Librarians” – from librarianinblack

Wordle – Create your own “word clouds”


MLA 2008 Conference Report

November 13, 2008

The 2008 Annual Michigan Library Association Conference was held in Kalamazoo this year on October 22-24.

Shaping your community’s yesterdays for today and tomorrow: building your library’s local history collection – This presentation highlighted many useful tips about establishing or promoting a library’s local history collection.  Kris Rzepczynski, Michigan/Genealogy Coordinator at the Library of Michigan, presented the viewpoint from a large library with an established collection.  Sara Wedell, Adult Services Librarian at the Delta Township District Library, presented the viewpoint of a library just starting out with their local history collection in a new building. Things to consider when creating a local history collection are the scope, what neighboring libraries are doing so as not to duplicate services, whether to circulate materials, and access vs. preservation.  Establishing contacts, such as libraries, historical/genealogical societies, newspapers or churches, within your community is also important.  Resources available to local history librarians include the MeL Genealogy Gateway (which includes HeritageQuest), Michigan County Histories and, soon,, an online collection of historical collections.

Tech Tools for Reference: a Public and Academic Library Perspective – This was a very informative presentation about all kinds of useful online tools.  Holly Hibner, head of Adult Services at Salem-South Lyon District Library presented some tools from the public library perspective and Christine Tobias, Reference and Technology librarian at Michigan State University showed the audience tools that could be useful in an academic library setting.  A link to their presentation is available here.

Get the Point Across with a Wink – Glenn Fischer from the Genesee District Library presented about a software tool called WINK which is a free way to record computer screen activity, annotate the recording with text or voice, and export the recording in a number of formats.  At DALNET, we have already begun experimenting with this tool for training purposes.

Catalog Records of Tomorrow: Cataloging Rules and Standards in 2009 – This presentation discussed RDA: Resource Description & Access and the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control report.  The portion of the presentation by Lisa Robinson, Head of Cataloging and Metadata Services at Michigan State University, is available here.  Amy L. Ranger’s presentation can be found here.

Michigan Evergreen Project: Michigan’s first open source group catalog – Representatives from the Michigan Library Consortium and the Grand Rapids Public Library discussed the Michigan Evergreen project, an open-source shared system available to Michigan libraries that was launched in 2008.  Currently, the system includes Circulation, and Cataloging, and OPAC, with Acquisitions and Serials slated for 2009.  Libraries that have already migrated included Branch District Library, Grand Rapids Public Library, and Niles District Library.  For more information, see the Michigan Evergreen blog and wiki.

VUFind: an Open Source ILS Independent OPAC – Presentations about VUFind were made by representatives of both Western Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University.  WMU’s presentation can be found here, while the presentation by Jackie Wrosch, Systems Librarian at EMU, can be found here.  VUFind does not replace your ILS, but it can be an improvement on the OPAC supplied by your vendor.  Jackie discussed the improvements that were possible with VUFind, such as the ability to customize, better keyword searching, and integration of outside content, and also the areas that did not quite reach expectations, such as holds/requests, online renewals, and tagging.  Plans for the future include improving the functions they need, comparing VUFind with their vendor OPAC and developing in-house support.

[Report by Kristy Wells]

Friday Fun: Virtual Bookshelves

August 15, 2008

Click to read the NPR “All Things Considered” story: “Websites let bibliophiles share books virtually

or click to listen to the story:    

 The article mentions such “virtual bookshelf” sites as LibraryThing, Shelfari, Goodreads, aNobii and BookJetty.

Web Tips

June 27, 2008

The College @ Home blog has some good web tips and tricks this month, including:

1. 100 Useful Niche Search Engines You’ve Never Heard Of 

2. 57 Useful Google Tools You’ve Never Heard Of

3. 100 Places to Find Free Webinars and Tutorials

4. Twitter for Librarians: the Ultimate Guide

MLA’s Academic Libraries Day Report

May 15, 2008

The 2008 Michigan Library Association’s Academic Libraries Day was held on Friday, May 9 at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI. The theme was “Virtual Libraries/Virtual Learners: A Matter of Perspective”.  There were approximately 80 attendees.  Debbie Morrow from Grand Valley State University Libraries, ARLD Chair, did a wonderful job organizing this event.

Roy Tennant, presently the Senior Program Officer for OCLC Programs and Research, was the keynote speaker. Prior to his current position at OCLC, Tennant worked in academic libraries his entire adult life with a majority of it being at the University of California-Berkeley.

He stressed that it is important to know about our users and where to find them. According to OCLC’s 2006 report titled College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources: A Report to the OCLC Membership very few begin their search at the library’s web site. A majority begin their search using a search engine such as Google. Also this report states that the library brand identity is books. Tennant stated that this should concern us.

Tennant brought up the term “satisfice” coined by Herbert Simon. “Satisficing” means deciding what constitutes a satisfactory outcome and then looking for ways to achieve it. For any given task the user is willing to go through some pain to get results, but users have different tolerances, and our library users may have a low threshold for pain. Many view our library catalogs and systems as painful. He gave an example of the University of California-Berkley online catalog. He stated that it is a home grown system that UC Berkeley made for UC Berkeley librarians, not for students or faculty. And its search terminology did look painful! He added that librarians need to remember that not everyone likes the search as most of us do; users like the find, not the search.

The integrated library system is still needed but a new kind of finding tool on the user-end for searching must occur, Tennant said. He referred to next generation library search engines such as Primo from Ex Libris and Encore from Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III). Open source systems Tennant mentioned were VUFind from Villanova University and Koha from LibLime.

WorldCat Local from OCLC offers a customized view of which is the OCLC database open to the public. Presently WorldCat has over 1.25 billion holdings. WorldCat Local puts local items first which differs from the ranking of The ranking in is based on the number of libraries that own the item—the more that own the item the higher the ranking. All of these systems use faceted browsing.

He asserted that searching will happen anywhere such as from cell phones and it will be more disaggregated. The library needs to be where the user is; we need to build a search around them, not around us. And the user is on virtual spaces such as Facebook, Flickr, Meebo, etc.

Our goal needs to be to get users to what they need as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Tennant states that open url resolvers are a good start, but we need to do more. The Getting Users to Full-Text (GUF) Project at the University of Rochester is like a “link resolver on steroids” according to Tennant. This is a move in a positive direction for our users, he believes.

One of the best points Tennant made was showing the audience a picture of very intricate plumbing. Most of us do not care about plumbing unless it doesn’t work and then we call a plumber. He equated it with our catalogs. Our users do not need to see the guts, they just want the catalog to work.

He acknowledged the following barriers: lack of resources, lots of bad data, lack of appropriate vendor solutions, institutional inertia, and staff skill, with the latter being solved by retooling our staff. He viewed our opportunities as follows: working collaboratively, reallocating resources, creating agile institutions, using the library as a user would, and being in physical as well as virtual spaces.

After Tennant’s keynote, there were morning and afternoon breakout sessions. The titles follow:

  • Research Help Now: Virtual Reference Service with a Multi-Library Arrangement
  • Embedded: Librarians in the Online Trenches
  • E-Books: Issues, Perspectives and the Future
  • Navigating the Stream with a Paddle: Video Streaming Applications and Management

I attended two of them and found both very informative. Dr. Richard Cochran, Dean of the Library at Ferris State University, was excellent at facilitating the discussion and wrap-up of the day. The last presentation was from Russ Knopp of Traverse Management Resources. He spoke about the MLA restructuring, transitional leadership, and communities of practice.

This was the first Academic Libraries Day I have attended, and I found it enlightening. The Park Library at Central Michigan University is spectacular!

(Report by Cathy Wolford)

New way to search Wikipedia

May 14, 2008

From Powerset’s About page: “Powerset’s first product is a search and discovery experience for Wikipedia, launched in May 2008. Powerset’s technology improves the entire search process. In the search box, you can express yourself in keywords, phrases, or simple questions. On the search results page, Powerset gives more accurate results, often answering questions directly, and aggregates information from across multiple articles. Finally, Powerset’s technology follows you into enhanced Wikipedia articles, giving you a better way to quickly digest and navigate content.”

Report from the MLC Technical Services Conference

April 21, 2008

April 15, 2008

Karen Calhoun, Vice President – OCLC WorldCat and Metadata Services, was the first speaker.  Her presentation was entitled “We are all Connected: Metadata Before and After the Web (2.0).” Calhoun encouraged libraries to surface their collections – to make them available to the online community.  OCLC through WorldCat wants to help in this endeavor.  A WorldCat widget is available for Facebook and Google Book Search results have a “Find this book in a library” option which links to WorldCat.  WorldCat in turn will drive users back to their local library’s collections.  Calhoun also suggested that libraries embed their presence into course management systems like Blackboard and WebCT.

The next speaker was Tim Spalding, the founder and lead developer of LibraryThing.  LibraryThing is a social cataloging site where users can catalog their book collections, join online groups with similar interests, and see who else shares their taste for books.  LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) is available for library catalogs.  Fifty libraries so far have subscribed to this service where other editions, reviews, similar and recommended books, and tags can be seen for a title.  Danbury Public Library, King County Library System, and Seattle Public Library (a Horizon library) are some of the libraries currently using LTFL. 

Nancy Fleck, Assistant Director for Technical Services and Information Technology at the Michigan State University Libraries, next presented about Encore from Innovative Interfaces, Inc.  She discussed the reasons that MSU decided to go with Encore and the features that they liked, such as relevancy ranking, tag clouds, facets, and a Did You Mean? feature.  Here is a link to see how it looks:  click here.

The next speaker was Christine Oliver of McGill University, who discussed RDA: Resource Description and Access.  She is the chair of the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing and chair of the RDA Outreach Group.  She gave a thorough explanation of what RDA is and the background of it.  Oliver also discussed the relationships between FRBR and RDA, and AACR2 and RDA.  The projected timeline is for a complete draft of RDA to be available for review in July 2008, first release in early 2009 and implementation by the end of 2009.  Also available will be a “crosswalk” to AACR2.  For more RDA information, please visit the Joint Steering Committee’s website at:

The final presentation was entitled “Cooperation, Communication, and Collaboration: The 3 C’s of Workflows at the WMU University Libraries Technical Services Department.”  Sheila Bair, George Boston and Randle Gedeon of Western Michigan University shared information about the relationship and workflow between the cataloging, acquisitions and serials and electronic resources areas of WMU’s technical services department.