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February 28, 2008

An Alternative to SharePoint

The launch of Google Sites may mean stiff competition for Microsoft's SharePoint. MPOW uses SharePoint 2007 and I have been less than satisfied with its performance. Here's the link to today's news.

February 21, 2008

Reed Elsevier to Buy ChoicePoint and Sell Reed Business Information

Bloomberg news reports that Reed Elsevier is buying ChoicePoint for over $3.5B. Reed publishes Library Journal, School Library Journal, and many other trade publications.

Combining Alpharetta, Georgia-based ChoicePoint with the LexisNexis Risk Information and Analytics Group will create a risk-management business with $1.5 billion in sales, Reed Elsevier said today.

Reed Elsevier said it will sell Reed Business Information, which publishes Variety, Publishers Weekly, New Scientist and Australian Doctor. The unit depends on advertising revenue and tracks the ups and downs of the economy, while the company is trying to move to more subscription-based businesses, Reed said.

More news here.

February 19, 2008

Wikileaks forced to shut

wikileaks forced to shut
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.


February 17, 2008

Under Development - the new iMac computers for kids

kiddieland screenshot
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

We currently have four children's computers in every branch library at MPOW. At this time they're all PCs but we just purchased four new iMacs and have been working to roll them out to one branch in the next month or so. This is a screenshot of the new interface we're developing for the iMac. Craig, one of my IT techs, crafted this carousel for the new "kiddieland" iMac computers.

Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

Several thing stand out in this excellent article on anti-intellectualism and the need for better education in America:

...Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.

Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters....

...In part, she lays the blame on a failing educational system. “Although people are going to school more and more years, there’s no evidence that they know more,” she said.

Ms. Jacoby also blames religious fundamentalism’s antipathy toward science, as she grieves over surveys that show that nearly two-thirds of Americans want creationism to be taught along with evolution.

Ms. Jacoby doesn’t leave liberals out of her analysis, mentioning the New Left’s attacks on universities in the 1960s, the decision to consign African-American and women’s studies to an “academic ghetto” instead of integrating them into the core curriculum, ponderous musings on rock music and pop culture courses on everything from sitcoms to fat that trivialize college-level learning...

...For all her scholarly interests, though, Ms. Jacoby said she recognized just how hard it is to tune out the 24/7 entertainment culture. A few years ago she participated in the annual campaign to turn off the television for a week. “I was stunned at how difficult it was for me,” she said.

The surprise at her own dependency on electronic and visual media made her realize just how pervasive the culture of distraction is and how susceptible everyone is — even curmudgeons.

Link to full article.


February 15, 2008

Insights from the Front Line

From 2/15/08 Library Journal, Insights from the Front Line, by Michael Stephens and Michael Casey.

This column is directed to front-line librarians and staff, who deliver customer service and have damn good ideas for what can be done to improve things. It's often a hurdle to get library administrators and managers to listen to your concerns and views. But there are ways. And we believe this advice holds true for everyone on the desk, from reference librarians to support staff.

Be vocal but not obnoxious. You know the story probably better than anyone as to how your users perceive the library. You know how they use (or don't use) the catalog. You know what questions they ask. You know how they react to policies instituted by management.

Link to full column.

February 13, 2008

Naive Questions

Via Mark comes this good post on the usefulness of naive questions:

One of the grand challenges of life — one that’s magnified in the business world — is to see old things through new eyes. We work long and hard to build up our expertise, and it can be hard to let it go; among other things, our pride likes to get in the way...

...Good naive questions ought to have the potential to embarrass you. No one enjoys the discomfort of embarrassment. Many of us can’t even bear to say “I don’t know” or to admit that decisions made in the past might not have panned out as we had hoped.

Still, it’s FAR better to ask and answer naive questions ahead of time, before you’re blindsided by problems that may be hiding in plain sight. And if you keep it up, you might find that the steady practice of answering naive questions builds up your own maturity and the maturity of your organization.

Full blog post.

February 11, 2008

It's About Me, and You

It’s easy to complain about what the other person is saying. It’s easy to sit back and say that it’s the other person who speaks badly about staff or who fails to give the right level of internal customer support. But it’s not just them. It’s me, too.

This piece was going to be about the “others” – those people I speak to and hear about every day. But after some reflection I realized that it needs to be about me, and about all of us as individuals, because we’re the ones that make the change. We’re the ones that sit in those meetings where we say nothing (or preciously little) as another staff person berates an entire class of our fellow workers. We’re the ones – individually – who must speak up and make the change that needs to happen.

I have grown weary hearing from so many people in so many libraries about the utter lack of respect and understanding regarding our frontline staff. I hear, over and over, about administrators or bureaucrats who sit in their offices pouring over numbers or receipts or purchase orders and do nothing but undermine and question-to-death the good intentions of the library frontline. Those walled individuals who have never worked the desk, or have not worked it in so many years that their memories have become sick with the we-knew-best disease.

This is not a new subject for me. I’ve written about it both here and in Library Journal. But it just seems to continue, unabated, at so many levels within libraryland (and, I am certain, outside of libraryland). I hear from branch staff that just wants administrators to listen, to simply acknowledge their concerns and needs. And I hear from library management who wants the numbers crunchers and penny-pinchers to realize that they do more each day than sit behind a desk and answer emails. Being heard and having a voice is one of the keys to feeling successful in your job.

But what frontline staff does not need to hear – never, ever needs to hear – is that they are being spoken ill of, that they are being treated with condescension and a lack of trust by those who provide their services at the administrative level. Once this mistrust slips into the equation the morale plummets and frontline staff feels abandoned.

Yet we all sit in meetings almost every day where someone offers up a blanket criticism of some class of frontline worker – the equivalent to a bigoted stereotype that few of us would stand for – and no one says anything.

This simply cannot be allowed to go unchecked. We, individually, must address each remark, each comment head-on and with the force it deserves. And we need to continue to give a voice to the frontline. We need to continue building our vertical teams, asking questions of those who serve our customers, listening to their requests and ideas, and including those staff in our regular daily rounds.

Morale is built and buttressed from both directions – from the bottom up and from the top down. We worry so very much about how friendly and customer-service orientated our frontline staff are to our external customers, but we give precious little weight to the level of friendliness or service our internal workers show and give to each other. That must change.