August 2008 Archives
It looks like Amazon is acquiring another book-focused property, Shelfari.
As you may recall, Amazon also acquired AbeBooks about three weeks ago. What can we discern from this for the library world? Well, clearly, despite those periodic naysayers predicting the demise of books in a digital world, books are still big business. And, we’re probably going to see a lot more consolidation in the market as more smaller, niche social sites become integrated with more larger players.
So how do we keep libraries visible in the face of such consolidation? It seems to me like it’s up to us to help grow and nurture the sites we love, regardless of their size. When you find a great book and want to tell a friend about it, where do you typically go to get a link you can share? If you’re like most people, I’m guessing it’s Amazon. But Amazon doesn't have to be the only place. In fact, as we’ve seen, there are a myriad of interesting book-related sites out there to connect to. Or why not link to WC.org and promote library usage? The great thing is, we’re all in this together, and we have the power to drive the usage and visibility of the sites and applications we care about.
What do you think? Any predictions on other acquisitions or ideas about keeping libraries visible?
p.s. If you're wondering about ways to share things from WorldCat.org, this may be helpful:
From a detailed record:
From a list:
This story on the reported banning of arts and crafts groups in a Canadian library district has been making the rounds over the past week.
What I find most interesting is this comment:
“The history of programming in the SDG County Library has been, however, to offer programmes with only the making of a craft as its focus, e.g. build a bird house, make cards, decorate eggs, etc. This has drawn patrons in for the craft, who have left without “experiencing” the Library.”
Isn’t using the library space to engage in an activity as a community part of the essential experience of the Library? I’d hate to think that the sole viable experience of your local library is checking out books. And wouldn’t it be a simple thing to inject some “literacy-focused” activity into these programs? “Here’s a list of available items on knitting.”
What do you think? Where would you draw the line between what are appropriate activities/events/gatherings for the library space and what might distract from the library experience?
My husband works for a Japanese based company, and I had the pleasure of going to visit Japan with him for a short while a few years back. Walking around a foreign country and not being able to communicate with or understand anyone was an eye opening experience for me. Even trying to order lunch was a challenge. And ordering my crazy and complicated Starbucks coffee was an absolute disaster. In a moment of Starbucks withdrawal, I promised myself that I would learn how to speak Japanese before I made another visit to the country.
I've gotten the itch to go back sometime in the near future, and I started looking around at some "teach yourself" software packages that are out there. I know someone who used Rosetta Stone and thought it was really effective, so I checked it out on Amazon.com and got sticker shock! It costs around $400+ to purchase the first three levels. Of course, I looked it up on WorldCat.org, and I suprisingly found that there are a few WorldCat libraries that actually hold this item. I also found several similar items that would work for me too, all owned by libraries just waiting to be borrowed. Next step is to see if anyone will interlibrary loan it to me!
I think I just got $400 closer to my next trip to Japan!
Wikipedia is clearly being used by a bjillion people as their chosen reference site of first resort. But, of course, many people do not end their quest for knowledge at Wikipedia. In some cases, it's the first step in a long road of discovery. A road that can logically lead to libraries.
Some recent data from Hitwise shows that almost 10% of the downstream traffic (where people go when they leave a site) from Wikipedia goes to "educational" pages. 10% might not seem like much... but the top 1,000 Wikipedia pages (from the English site) get more than 35 million hits per day. Which means that more (probably many more, considering the Long Tail) than 3.5 million people per day leave Wikipedia in search of "educational" information.
Segue to WorldCat Identities. In case you haven't heard me singing the praises of the Identities service before, please take a sec and go check it out. It's an amazingly cool way to get lots of information about a person, group or character in a small amount of space/time.
There's a natural connection, I believe, between services like Wikipedia and WorldCat Identities. Both are providing good, solid, reference information on a subject-specific basis. Many of us here think that a link from a Wikipedia page to the appropriate Identities page makes perfect sense. Actually, so does Tim O'Reilly, who said:
I'd really love to see this tied in programmatically to wikipedia. There ought to be an automatic link to this site for every identity in wikipedia!
So would we! Unfortunately, it's currently impossible to do something like that at a programmatic level.
How do links get added from Wikipedia to valuable resources like WorldCat Identities? Well, since Wikipedia is a user-built site, the best way is, well... YOU!
There's an easy way for you to add an Identites link to Wikipedia using a fancy-dancy template. Basically, you find the Identities "number" for a person you're interested in. For example, Samuel Phillips. His number is the last portion of the Identities URL. In this case: lccn-n85-221132
Copy that number for the Identities page you're interested in, then go to Wikipedia and find the page on the related person. Click to "edit" the external links section (usually at the bottom of the page) and add the following:
Substituting the actual number for "IDENTITIES_NUMBER." Leaving, in the case of our example:
That will create the following line in the actual Wikipedia article:
Here's my hope: that those of us interested in both particular subjects and promoting library services will take the time to make this connection. We know that there is a ton of great stuff in libraries that folks coming to Wikipedia would benefit from. And, I belileve, WorldCat Identities is a fun, appropriate way to get folks to take the next step.
So... think of your five favorite authors, characters, groups and singers... anybody with a name. And make the connection to the Identities from Wikipedia. Then pass the idea on to five friends who love libraries and learning.
As far as memes go, it's not funny or silly and doesn't involve exposing your personal feelings or comparing yourself to spices or superheroes. But maybe a meme can be a little fun, and also a little helpful.
Thanks in advance for your participation.
Note: more information on the WorldCat Identities template for Wikipedia is here.
The WorldCat team is working on developing appropriate merchandise such as WorldCat t-shirts, mugs, etc.--so that you can show the world how much you love finding things online in libraries. It's a project in process, but you can start to see the results in Flickr. Bob and I had some fun at a recent library conference in California with Goofy Lost and Found. We're definitely still working out the kinks at this point, but we've started a WorldCat group pool--and we'd love to have you join us.
If YOU have a penchant for t-shirt design and have a cool idea you think might be worthy of WorldCat wear, let us know! We always love seeing clever creativity connected to our favorite online library catalog.
I am a gamer. At 42-years-old, I calculate that I've been playing video games for about... 34 years. I had the first Atari 2600 system, a TRS-80 computer (on which I learned to make my own games in Basic), a ColecoVision machine... and a bunch of other platforms over the years. Everything from the same computer I do work on, to my phone, to an XBox 360 and a Wii. I now play with my 8-year-old son, who kick's my... scores... in Super Mario Galaxy, Star Wars Battlefront (1 and 2) and BoomBlox. He's just started playing the XBox version of Sid Meier's "Civilization," and I couldn't be prouder. It's a hard game, with lots of reading, and a lot of elements that are absolutely required for strategy games.
Yes. I'm proud of my son's gaming abilities. For years, computer/video games were the social and cultural equivalent of, well... something nasty and bad. I don't even know. But when I'd talk to non-gamers (just about everyone) back in the 80's, I got blank stares. By the time I was in college, video games were clearly "here to stay," but were also something adults talked about as being bad for kids in the same sentence as drugs, booze, partying and "that rock-and-roll music."
Sigh. Oh, well. Part of being into a fringe activity is being misunderstood, I suppose.
Now, however, games are clearly big business, and a big part of the cultural and social landscape. And libraries are getting into the act.
This is not new news.Jenny Levine (here, not here) has been doing library game stuff forever. In fact, I found my way to an article on library gaming in my home town paper, the Columbus Dispatch, from a post on her blog, the Shifted Librarian. It's a good post, and a good article, and explains many of the benefits of gaming in libraries.
The best quote of the piece, which Jenny also highlights [stop taking my blog fodder! ;-) ], is, I think, the following: "Gaming is storytelling for teenagers."
Except I haven't been a teenager since Regan was president, and gaming is storytelling for me, too.
Years ago, I was asked by a non-gaming friend to explain the attraction of gaming, specifically playing MMOs. "It just makes no sense," she said to me. "Why do you want to pretend to be someone else, in a made-up place, with a bunch of other people who are pretending to be someone else?"
I remember shrugging and saying, "I don't know, exactly. You read novels, right?" She did, and nodded. "Well," I asked, "What's the attraction of reading something that came from someone else's imagination, that is explicitly untrue, and that only ends up existing in your head?"
She smiled and said, "You got me."
I'm not saying playing games is the same as reading. And I'm not saying that doing one in any way replaces doing the other. But there are stories in games. And there is imagination, strategy, thinking, creativity, fun, friendship and community. Those are all things I hope my son can find at every library he encounters.