Tag Archives: library

Tech Games: The Home Stretch

It is the last couple of weeks for the Tech Games. I admit I have worked ahead a bit so I completed most of the exercises a few weeks ago. But, now is the time to sum up the experience.

First: Social networking. This seems to be an underutilized free resource. It is great that we tested it out ourselves, but for future games, it might be worthwhile to give participants additional goals or tasks with them. For example, in addition to creating accounts in Facebook or Twitter, maybe we could interact a little by finding other users who have liked or followed the library.  Maybe a goal could be getting a user to come to the library for an event by communicating with them on Facebook or Twitter.

eBooks are interesting. As a kindle owner, it is a relatively painless activity. After a few clicks (though, this seems like a lot of clicks) the book is delivered wirelessly to my device. For all others, you have to use Adobe Digital Editions on your computer, attach your device and manually transfer the book. WHY?! eBooks should be painless. Any added complexity is a disincentive. Actually, there is an easier solution if you own a tablet or the new Nook HD: the Overdrive APP. With the Overdrive app a user can search the catalog and download a title directly to their device. They also read it using the Overdrive app. If one is not a Kindle owner and has a tablet, this is the preferred method.

The county’s list of online learning courses is pretty extensive and I look forward to learning a few new software programs. Also, the final list of web apps and sites wer very interesting. I picked up a few I hadn’t seen like EarlyWord and Instructables. Instructables is especially fascinating as it is a website of instructions for just about everything. Looking forward to wasting a lot time here.

Overall, techgames was a good experience and worth the time spent dedicated to learning new skills and brushing up on some old ones. I appreciate the Library using games as an incentive for training. I look forward to more.

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Managing Life Online

The other day I had a reference question that reminded me of the importance of digital literacy and how this may be becoming more important than written literacy. An older gentleman came to me and asked if I could help him pay a bill online. This began an odyssey of locating various websites, accounts and password resets. In my own life I navigate these waters pretty effortlessly, but one could say I was born digital and spend a good amount of time on a computer. Managing my life online is near second nature and I barely give it another thought. However, this encounter put me out of this comfort zone and into the maddeningly complex world of the Internet.

I have had conversations with people who lamented that it was difficult to do anything these days without being online. There is a certain truth to this. It is nearly impossible not to be online. Just about every aspect of our lives must be managed online. As one example, my apartment complex a few months ago let its residence know that they could no longer pay rent in person or check. They had to do it online. I understand that for the apartment this streamlines their processing of rental fees, but for the residents it could present problems. Besides yet another online account vulnerable to attack with a password that needed to be remembered it possibly made life less convenient for them. If they do not own a computer or subscribe to the internet, they now had to find Internet access instead of just dropping off the check.

With managing your life online comes further complications. There is no international standard for online account user interfaces. Just about every bank, phone company, credit card company, etc. has their own unintuitive interface that users must learn to navigate and interpret; as opposed to justing writing a check and sticking it in the mail. For most users, I would wager they only visit these sites once a month. Unless you spend a majority of your time on the Internet, paying your bills online may be like traversing the same complex maze once a month. It feels familiar but you are still lost. Indeed, I felt this with the user I was helping.

I have heard discussions of digital literacy as part of the library mission, but had never experienced it in a such consequential way. Libraries play a role in not just showing where the information is, but teaching people how to manage their lives in the new digital world. Perhaps there is a certain generation gap but I am also willing to bet that there is demographic gap; the so-called digital divide that is much discussed in library circles. Can we really say that all children are getting the computer literacy skills they need in school? When they graduate will they be able to manage every aspect of their lives from the Internet?

The user left happy but I expect similiar questions in the future.

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Reflecting on Tech Games, thus far

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t claim I am learing a lot, but it is good to get a refresher on some things. As stated before, the Tech Games is about half social networking, half county technological resources. As I have blogs, twitter and Facebook accounts, and have tried almost every RSS reader, these activities have been little more than reviewing. The two wrinkles being: 1) most social networks are blocked on county computers, and 2) county computers are equipped with IE 8, which was released in 2009, ancient history in Internet time, and can’t render some of these websites correctly. But one makes do. NewsBlur has been an interesting learning experience. I am a Google fan and I use most of their products, including Google Reader for RSS. NewsBlur was able to pull my feeds from Reader without much hassle. I can’t say that I am impressed. Reader is still a better reader than NewsBlur on the interface side and the fact that NewsBlur only allows you to have 64  feeds (Reader has no limits) is a big turn off. After trying NewsBlur for a couple weeks, I can’t say that I will switch but it has its place.

Where I am learning is with the county’s technological resources. Learning to scan, email, and fax on county equipment is important. Taking the time to learn these things now will save me from figuring them out when I am in a rush to get something done.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see the Channel 16 library video. It was well produced and informative. I was a little disappointed to see that it was the only video from the library and wondered if a regularly updated video highlighting new library resources and services would be beneficial to users.

Tech Games has five weeks left.

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Books constitute capital…

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.” — Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorite founders, partly because of his love of books, but also because he had a large hand in guiding the course and development of the United States. He also left his large library of books to help reestablish the Library of Congress collection after the British burned the capital building in 1814, which is an awesome legacy in its own right.

This quote is not directly about libraries. Though Jefferson mentions a “library book,” I have a feeling he means books as part of a collection and this is reinforced when you look at the quote in context; Jefferson is appalled by some tax being levied on books.

However, the spirit of the quote is applicable to libraries and I believe that books as capital is an apt perspective to take when looking at a library collection.

To own a book is to have that knowledge on the ready when ever the need arrives and this is an investment in the future. To have access to a public library would be access to a large amount of capital. This access cannot be underrated: life long learning, job training, job searching, hobbies, health information, etc. As Jefferson mentions, this is sometimes the only capital people have. I have often thought of this as one of the primary values of a public library. If people are to invest in their lives and take responsibility for their future, they must have access to the basic resources that would make that possible. Shutting knowledge behind pay walls makes attempts at self-reliance all but impossible for those without the financial means. When I hear that the library is no longer needed because people can get books from other sources I shudder. If all the library were was a place to get books they might have a point. However, books are not like other commodities; they hold information. Information that can be used in education, innovation, training, and personal well being. This places books and libraries in special consideration for a community.

I wonder how Jefferson’s language could be used in the advocacy of libraries. How would it sound if libraries pitched themselves as intelectual capital investment?

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Blogging, Tech and Games

A new job. Training. A new blog. I recently startred in my new library position in Fairfax County and have been immersed in county training for several weeks. Now, in the midst of my training, the library has started Tech Games, a series of trainings to help aquaint library staff with the basic technology they will encounter in their work, but also introduce some of the latest social networking trends, such as blogs. Thus, I have started a new blog. I have a perosnal blog already which has fallen into disuse, so I am viewing this as an oppurtunity to start blogging again and to write about what I hope well become a burgeoning career in librarianship.

The games are a great idea and incorporate a lot about what has been discovered about how we humans learn: play, competition, achievement, and reward. I also like how it is capitalizing on the recent trends in social gaming where just about everything we do becomes a game. Google tried to do this with its news feed by giving badges for articles you read. I think that may have been a bit of an over kill and they have recently discontinued badges. However, Tech Games has the real potential help library staff learn about and grow comfortable with technology while having fun. I hope this becomes a yearly activity.

Tasks in the games include updating this blog, so stay tuned. Perhaps by the end of the games this blog well have a clear focus and topic.

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