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One New Thing
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
One New Thing: Looking before I leap

I know there is heaps and heaps of information available on the topic they are studying: but from now on I won’t let them know my expectations until I know how many websites they need, how many journal articles they have to get that have to be more than a certain number of pages long, and how many books that aren’t textbooks (their textbook? anyone’s textbook? a picture book, not one with words?) that they should look at. Any librarian can tell you there’s stuff in books that’s not on the web and vice versa: so it’s strange to be looking on the web for something you know is better found in journals, because students are expected to show by their references that they can use several kinds of sources…

This is an example of what I call the Librarian Challenge, when you perform the sorts of tasks you might be more likely to do in a game show rather than in real life, in order to test your librarian skills. (My last go at this game was when we got the Blaster worm on the catalogue computers, and the Librarian Challenge was to look up the catalogue and find the books before the computer rebooted itself. “You have twenty seconds remaining…!”)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
One New Thing: Persistence can pay off!

Journal article text isn’t in the database I was led to believe it was, but since I had the time and inclination I checked the amazing lifesaving JAKE and discovered another database we had access to that ended up having the required article in fulltext. Score!! :)

Quite honestly, normally if I didn’t have any indication that we had something in fulltext in a database I would leave it at that and not attempt to look for it in other databases just on the offchance (unless the patron looked really disappointed!). I guess it’s not always going to be an effective use of my time, but if the time is there and it will help the patron…

Monday, March 29, 2004
One New Thing: So that’s what an annotated bibliography is!

Thanks to this page on preparing an annotated bibliography from Cornell University at least now I know what I’m talking about when someone asks me to find one!

Friday, March 26, 2004
One New Thing: The word “counselling” comes with either one L or two.

And how alarming that spelling has been a barrier (even if a small one!) to finding information more so of late. At one stage in a former life I was studying to be a teacher, and one of the things we discussed once was that spelling isn’t vital for communication, used in written essays etc., and that spelling change is a major factor responsible for the evolution of language (which is why you don’t write in Shakespearian English, even if you can understand what he writes).

But I wonder how that concept can mesh with that of doing research using a spell-checked electronic medium?

For this week’s Friday link, I’d like to toss in a relevant spelling link. Read (carefully!) and consider the ideas of the Simplified Spelling Society.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
One New Thing: Importance of knowing libraries local to yours

I was trying to assist a patron in finding biographical information about someone who lived reasonably locally and was reasonably well-known in their time, which was about 80 years ago. However our collection has no need (at this stage at least) to support this kind of research, so referral to a library better equipped was a better option than sending someone away completely empty-handed. So I’m glad that I am aware of what other kinds of libraries are around here. What’s even more useful is that through various conferences or meetings or mailing lists I’m actually getting to know people who work in these various libraries. What better way to learn what’s available in a particular library than by asking an expert?

By the way, you're right if you think I didn’t post yesterday: it was one of those days where the time and opportunity to sit and type it didn’t happen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
One New Thing: Federated Searching

I believe federated searching, that is searching more than one database through one search interface is something we are all going to be working with in the near future, because it makes sense, of sorts. ResourceShelf pointed to an article from TechNewsWorld on federated search interfaces that answers a few of my questions about how it would all work. Factors such as different databases having different search features, duplication of results (even ProQuest will display duplicate results within itself if the same article was published in different publications), sorting by relevancy, and ease of use are some of the aspects to consider. And of course the costs…when you consider that the product you buy doesn’t have content itself, it’s just another way to access the content you’ve already paid for.

I would imagine that advanced searches in particular would be very difficult to manage – seeing as truncation and wildcard characters vary wildly indeed between databases.

But if I had the opportunity to make suggestions to the people who create such tools, how about we solve one long-standing issue and incorporate something to the differences in spelling from country to country – speaking as someone who works for an organisation, not an organization, and who has tyres, not tires, on their car...

Monday, March 22, 2004
One New Thing: Keyloggers security risks

LISNews pointed to this article on Bibliofuture about keyloggers last week. I wanted to know what to watch out for so I took a look at the links on that blog. They're so small, and obviously being on the back of the PC I can envision these posing quite a security risk in some libraries. Should we add checking PCs for these to the duties we already perform whilst on the desk?

Update: The broken link should be fixed now. That was just a test to see if you could research and find it on your own. ;)

Friday, March 19, 2004
One New Thing: Your collection supports your user’s needs…

…and if something is being taught at your institution you need to have materials to support it. I’ve just finished reading an article from the latest issue of the Journal of Academic Librarianship:

Dilevko, J. and Gottlieb , L. (2004). “Selection and Cataloging of Adult Pornography Web Sites for Academic Libraries”.
The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 30 (1): 36-50.

I’ve always believed that it is definitely not appropriate to exclude items from a collection because they are controversial, and since the social and cultural aspects of pornography are studied at universities these days, pornography in the collection is no exception. (And yes, this is the material itself, not material that just talks about it). This is a great article that explains how you can develop a collection development policy for pornographic materials, including websites.

I admit that although I wouldn’t resist putting this sort of material into a library collection should there be a requirement for it, thinking about what sort of meaningful access points could be used was quite daunting…but there are some great suggestions in this article, including using the headings that Yahoo uses in its directory, such as "fetishes as sociocultural constructs" and "pornography as everyday objects", so you can be a little more specific about what type of material you are looking for when searching.

I’m not going to look at all the websites they point to as examples in this article because, um, I’m at work. But a site called Girl Tech was mentioned because of their information to parents/mentors about their Girl Powered Search Engine. Have a look at this as a Friday distraction – or better yet see if you can find the whole article as cited above. It will certainly make you think.

P.S. I'd like to find out if anyone reading this has experience with cataloguing this sort of material. Please leave a comment if you have anything you'd like to add.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
One New Thing: Spelling that can make or break a search

The PubMed citation definitely said that the journal was called “Psychooncology”. I thought it was an odd but kinda catchy name, and was commenting on it whilst I was discovering that no one seemed to have access to it. Of course if I had a health-studies-oriented brain I might have realised straight off…luckily the patron had such a brain, and said it must be named for studies in oncology. Oh. Maybe we’re looking for Psycho-Oncology?!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
One New Thing: Many problems can be solved by copying and pasting a whole essay into a new document.

Which problems I hear you ask – well if you have one, experiment and discover!

Interesting point came up on NewGrad today – if you don’t work somewhere (like say a library) that gives you access to library industry journals, how do you read significant articles?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
One New Thing: Technology can provide us with amazing tools.

Like ghosts.

I’m a bit behind on my reading, so it’s taken me a while to notice Slashdot’s pointer to the DELCA project. This is absolutely fascinating. This project is about developing Disembodied Location-Specific Conversational Agents, artificially intelligent agents that have a physical presence. It seems to me that these are much like the chatterbots that you find on webpages, except a DELCA ghost hangs about in one particular physical area and will pop out to help when necessary – sometimes with a visible appearance and sometimes just as a disembodied voice.

It seems that the ghosts are expected to make their debut on location at IT-University (Copenhagen) in September 2004. The working paper (pdf) states that: “Our hope is that the ghost takes away some of the artificiality of interacting
with virtual agents by deliberately creating a fictive universe with alternate rules.” It’s a very, very interesting idea, and I can’t wait to see how it will all work!

Monday, March 15, 2004
One New Thing: CSS and HTML tips that are fun, if not incredibly useful!

I found this page about using CSS filters after coming across a text effect on someone’s blog that I didn’t know how to make. And once I started experimenting of course I ended up making pages with all the other things I discovered, like how to make the cursor look different on the page or using entities that would be quite normal in the right context as decorations in the text. Why use a plain <hr> tag when you can have a row of cool-looking symbols? :)

Friday, March 12, 2004
One New Thing: Voluntary Collective Licensing makes sense to me!

I saw this link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Neat New Stuff. The filesharing issue is one I have been watching with interest, as it does seem to me that there have been plenty of user-pays models around that would alleviate the copyright concerns: and this is one such example. Filesharing has already proven to be popular and successful; why ignore the potential this technology offers by trying to dissuade people from using it, instead of working to make it work better?

And as a Friday distraction, try looking at Spooky Librarians.com Bits of it currently seem to be offline for maintenance, but you’ll get the idea. Creepy in more ways than one! :)

Thursday, March 11, 2004
One New Thing: Reference interviews will work much better when both parties know what is being discussed…

I’m sure I’m not the only librarian who begins a reference interview, then after a few false starts is handed an assignment outline as a way to try and better work out what the person is looking for. Problem is I personally have only studied a few disciplines, and even first year assignments in some things have concepts in them that are beyond my understanding, as well as being new to the students in question.

And I thought students in the health sciences were tricky with their questions about medical terms I just couldn’t spell!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
One New Thing: How to get rid of an annoying Runtime error box.

A Runtime error has occurred. Do you wish to debug? Well, no, I didn’t make the webpage with the script error on it, why would I want to debug it? This box is supposed to be turned off by default, but it seems that if you have Windows XP and use Windows Updates the options for displaying scripting errors can be switched on in Internet Explorer. Tools-Internet Options-Advanced, and switch off your script debugging to get rid of the annoying box.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
One New Thing: Almost how to make a PDF file.

I say almost because I don’t actually have the Acrobat Distiller program yet, but at least my exploration into the mysteries of PDF files taught me a bit about the whole confusing process of needing print drivers and making PostScript files.

PostScript format for documents apparently used to be quite common but has now been succeeded by PDF format (I never ran across *.ps files until about a year ago personally). And I guess the fact that PDF, like PostScript, is a stack-based language is why PDFs occasionally print a Stack error?

I ran across a page today that outlines steps for making a PDF file using GhostView and GhostScript rather than Distiller, but I don’t think I’ll experiment with it just yet…

Monday, March 08, 2004
One New Thing: Some printers won’t print a Powerpoint slide if it contains an image that runs off the page.

However I only ran across that possibly useful tip whilst trying to work out why I could print a presentation from my PC when all the others that were trying couldn’t print it.

I offer my usual explanation: Gremlins. There’s been more and more of them around the busier it gets…

Friday, March 05, 2004
One New Thing: What patrons can copy in a digital world…

…the same as when we just had photocopiers. Patrons can legally use whatever copying /storing technology they have access to in a library to make copies of information, as long as they comply with Fair Use. Scanners, digital cameras, whatever they happen to have.
And the copyright warning sign, that libraries must have accompanying any technology of this nature that they provide to customers, is to prevent the library being held responsible if a person does get prosecuted for breaking copyright law by using the library’s technology.

Friday again…haven’t had much time to poke around online this week, so I’ll show you something I found fascinating a few weeks ago. The next time someone brings you half a poem or a whole page of text and needs to know the author, perhaps you could narrow the query down using the Gender Genie!

Thursday, March 04, 2004
One New Thing: Working with file types – or is that “ile types”?

According to Greg Notess’ article “Fiddling with File Types” the filtering search engines do of non-HTML files on the web, particularly PDFs, can lead to the interpretation that the first letter of a word is separated from the remainder of it. So you should search firstly the keyword, and then the eyword. ;)

I can already imagine the looks patrons are going to give me when I’m helping with queries and I pull that one out!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
One New Thing: Windows-ese for “your file is open so I won’t let you drag-and-drop it onto your CD-R” is, more or less, “Windows encountered an error trying to copy this file. What would you like to do – Retry or Cancel?”

I wonder when real-life computers will begin work the way they do in the movies, and pop up an error message box that actually tells you what’s wrong?
Perhaps it’s a matter of users being capable of making an infinite number and type of mistake, because they don’t know what’s wrong…

Tuesday, March 02, 2004
One New Thing: Prioritising!

Part of this was learning that there are going to be days where thinking about personal projects like this one is just not possible: librarians are in the business of customer service and when the customers all come back from holidays together and land in your library, they come first. So that’s why no post yesterday, and also why you may find me a bit sporadic the next few weeks. I will do my best!

I have however learnt a whole lot more the past two days about things that are relevant only in my workplace, which obviously I can’t post on a blog and won’t help most of you to know anyhow. But I can say that having an opportunity to learn new things is really exciting for me (well I guess we knew that already!), and even if what I learnt isn’t something that would help in another job, or in the librarian bit of my current job, I do feel that knowing I can pick up new knowledge and be comfortable using it makes it easier to be confident when I am faced with something new. (An angle to consider when you’re thinking about doing some training or something perhaps?)