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One New Thing
Monday, August 30, 2004
One New Thing: More web stuff.

I’ve been playing with websites again the past few days. I’ve worked out I should use Dreamweaver for the cutting and pasting stuff, and for putting in images, then go through the code by hand to work out all the weird stuff. ;) I put some basic javascript stuff in a page the other day, but I have to admit that for all the times I’ve started with javascript I’ve always ended up a little bewildered – even those fantastic w3schools people haven’t been able to de-confuse me. It seems that you can do heaps with javascript once you work out what it is capable of doing…but how do you work that out if you have absolutely no experience with the code? Maybe I should be trying to work out what WYSIWYG programs are about that will generate the code for me, then I can see how it works?

Saturday, August 28, 2004
One New Thing: Communication in reference interviews.

Well here’s a first – a Friday link and an actual learning experience all in one! I saw this article pop up on Libref-L: Oranges and Peaches: Understanding Communication Accidents in the Reference Interview. It analyses occasions where misunderstandings occur between librarians and the client asking the question, and examines what strategies librarians can use to help the user elaborate on their query without looking like they’re prying – so sort of getting the client to accidentally tell you more. You will laugh at some of the stories!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
One New Thing: Thoughts on information preferences.

I remember reading something, months ago now, about how RSS aggregators were so great because you could scan one page containing all the headlines from websites you wanted to read. Which is definitely more useful than looking at all the different pages. Earlier this week I realised that because I was subscribing to a large number of library-related blogs, and they all came up on one page, I was avoiding reading them because I would open the aggregator and think, oh no I don’t have time to read 200 items, I’ll do it later (when it would become 400, then 600 items…).
So I’ve re-sorted them into individual folders, because as with most things, I feel I can handle small chunks (14 items here, 23 there, 5 here). I do feel like I’m going against the whole grand plan of having all the information in one place, but now I don’t read library stuff during work hours like I used to (when I worked in a library), I’m realising much more how important it is to have information presented in an efficient way, because otherwise I know I won’t bother reading it. I think being aware of this will help me with some of the stuff I’ll be taking on in the future, doing user documentation and the like. I mean, I signed myself up for all those blogs – imagine coming from a user perspective, checking a website or something, needing a specific piece of information, and being presented with 200 when you’re only interested in 10?

Monday, August 23, 2004
One New Thing: How to search a subdirectory with Google.

I wish I’d looked further into this in the past, so I could have put one of these search boxes on the NLRP site! You can search with Google using the syntax “inurl” to limit your search to a particular word in the URL. e.g. the phrase site:www.google.com “search box” inurl:help gets you all hits on the term “search box” on the domain google.com that have the word “help” in the URL. This will work brilliantly for all the purposes I would like a search box for, because I’m using pretty distinctive terms. There’s an example of how to use the inurl syntax in a search box on this Yale University site, Using Google to Search a Subdirectory.

Friday, August 20, 2004
One New Thing: Dreamweaver again.

Well I’ve been trying to use it, like I said I would: and I think I’m ok with it…but I still don’t like it! It put < h3 > tags around my images?? And I can’t work out how, in the WYSIWYG view, you get rid of extra table rows – I can delete the content, but the rows? I’ve learnt to use the code view if I can't work it out otherwise…

I think it’s just too late on a Friday to try and work these things out. :)

Friday link time: well I haven’t done a lot of library-humour type surfing this week, but I have one from a few weeks ago I don’t think I ever posted. Did everyone catch the piece on Seattle’s new library as the Killer Library? Taking health and safety concerns to the extreme!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004
One New Thing: The importance of timing in teaching and learning.

We had some people presenting at work yesterday about study and research they had done in the infolit area, and several of them pointed out the importance of giving instruction at the time it is needed, and of making it relevant to real life. I was thinking of this concept in relation to the way that I do things with this blog, and there are definitely a lot of things I’ve learnt in the past 8 months that I would not have learnt (or remembered) had there not been someone around to teach me what I was looking at and how to deal with it at the right time.

With students though that is problematic – until you see them sitting at a library catalogue terminal, in the library itself, looking confused, no one might ever realise that a group of students has completely missed any information literacy instruction. Having supportive academic staff who will plan with library staff to fit infolit into the curriculum is great: then of course you will get some students with library instruction happening in multiple classes, and others with none. I guess what I’m wondering is: do individuals come to library staff if they have not had structured classes; or maybe, if they prefer to wing it and cope with what skills they have, should we worry?

Monday, August 16, 2004
One New Thing: Fix: then test.

Valuable advice: if you change something (like say the code in a form on a website), and you think it’s fine, don’t trust it until you test it. Really, I should know this. How many times have webpages told me my form hasn’t been submitted when it has, amongst other things?

By the way, I set up a gmail account today so I can see what all the fuss is about. Email me if you like, lynette15@gmail.com I have a gigabyte of space to fill and a spam filter to test…do your worst. :)

Friday, August 13, 2004
Happy Friday 13th! :)

One New Thing: Fixing something and not knowing how.

Is that something you learn, or something that just happens, I wonder? I fixed (or perhaps disguised) a bizarre Win 98 problem by changing the boot order in the BIOS away from CD-ROM, where it seemed to get stuck – but trying to find out why that worked I’ve discovered all BIOSs are so completely different to one another there’s not much online in the way of generic instruction, other than “read the instructions on the screen”. So still completely in the dark…but if the PC’s fixed…

Friday this week I’m putting up two links, since I originally saw them together and they work nicely together. From Ubergeek, take a look at the animation Switch to Linux. And then check out the grainy but funny video going by the name Mac Killed My Inner Child. Both of these have been floating around work lately: it’s good to know I’m learning such useful stuff there. :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
One New Thing: Thoughts on librarian training.

I skimmed through some posts from the NexGen list yesterday (I would read them properly, but wow people, there’s a lot of posting on this list!). Some people were discussing how more specialised undergraduate degrees (biological sciences was one I think) is a definite advantage in getting a librarian position. (I would imagine this is because more librarians seem to come from humanities-type backgrounds – at least they do in my experience, I hope that’s not a rogue generalisation!)

Anyway, I was wondering to what extent it would be useful for a new librarian with no background in the area they were working to actually go and study in that discipline: a science librarian to go and study science, a law librarian to do some law study, etc. I imagine there would be a point where the time, cost and effort of study would far outweigh the benefits and opportunities for career development, so doing a whole degree is probably taking the idea too far. But I can see that an understanding of how the subject is approached, and what resources are used and how, could be really valuable.

(One of my undergrad majors was in French – I still remember every one of the too-few times someone has come to my counter for help in looking up books with French titles!)

Monday, August 09, 2004
One New Thing: OK so maybe Dreamweaver can be useful!

I have a loathing for any program that tries to do things for you while you’re working – like correcting your capitalisation, adding your equations, or being presumptuous with your HTML – but I can see that there are going to be situations when Dreamweaver is better, because you can copy and paste text into it much easier than into plain code (where you then have to mark it up), there’s less typing to get your image links in place, and that thing where it checks links work for you is something Notepad has yet to master. So I guess I start learning to do some tricks in Dreamweaver from tomorrow.
(Although if I catch it changing things without telling me…!)

Friday, August 06, 2004
One New Thing: A few interesting things.

Finally getting the time to get back to reading library blogs (as opposed to having no time to read blogs at all!) I’ve come across a few interesting things.
Via Library Stuff: Messaging Tool Taps Social Nets, a short article about how researchers are developing a messaging tool that will help you find someone who has the knowledge to answer your questions. I wonder if that will work, if chatting with librarians doesn’t – seeing as that sounds kind of like a libarian job to me? Hopefully it will be a little more reliable and fast than people say chat software has been.
Via Librarian in Black: What, Me Register? is a great little expose of sorts on the phenomenon of having to complete registrations before you can read newspapers and other publications online. It seems completely pointless, from a customer service perspective, to me – considering I know how many snowboarding spinsters there must be out there. ;)

For a Friday link, you might like to browse through the Forbidden Library, which is an interesting tour through the reasons why books become challenged or banned.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
One New Thing: Tab delimited text in Excel.

Once again playing with my gform – that’d be the one from last week – I made it output to a tab delimited text file, which displays in the browser. It seems that if you then want to use that data in Excel or something, you can’t copy and paste it and keep the tabs, you have to save it as text and import it into Excel.

I see the logic. Kinda! Looks like my data collection and handling skills are going to get a good test over the next few weeks!

Monday, August 02, 2004
One New Thing: Thoughts about learning new things.

Some aspects of the role I am currently working in make me feel like I’m back in high school – people log support calls, I look at them and simply can’t work out what is going on even after I’ve had it explained to me. I’m pretty sure it’s not because I’m particularly slow or anything, it’s just stuff that’s hard to fathom. So after several explanations, we moved on to drawing diagrams to work out what was going on. Now I know why every office needs a whiteboard! More to the point, I’m also working out what ways work best for me to learn new things. This, I think, is important knowledge to have.