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One New Thing
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
 
One New Thing: Reflections on research etc.

It’s conference season in my part of the world at the moment, so I’ve been lucky enough to have attended some presentations from some very experienced librarians, as well as watch what sorts of comments are being made about the conference experience and librarianship as a profession on the mailing lists. There’s a lot of discussion from all angles on how important it is for individuals to get involved in research related to the industry, finding ways to improve the ways we do things, and presenting at conferences etc - with several people reminding us that it is individuals who make up the professional bodies that have the power to implement change. For myself, as a newgrad (I graduated 4 years ago), this all seems like a fairly great challenge – but it’s good to know that I belong to a profession where there are so many people openly interested in hearing new voices. :) At some point I’d like to get a hold of Walt Crawford’s book, First Have Something to Say, to find out…well, where you might start about first having something to say!

Monday, September 27, 2004
 
One New Thing: Computer and online voting.

It turns out that in recent elections in Canberra, their have been trials of voting by computer. I see this as a fairly big step forward in the use of technology, because this is one situation where you simply have to trust that the computer is not making the connections between a person and their vote – that the information is truly anonymous. (There’s a lot of assurances that this is the case in the FAQs on that site.) I was reading the information on how voting via the Internet could be on the way, and wondering about all the librarians who are going to be pressed into service helping people submit their votes online. It’ll be like those situations where patrons ask for help with their email: and insist on telling you their password. Not to mention offering chances for talkative patrons to try and involve you in discussions of political opinion. :o

Friday, September 24, 2004
 
One New Thing: Some cool things I saw on Wednesday!

Yes, I learnt these Wednesday and it’s now Friday, but you know it’s the learning that counts. :) At the tradeshow at ALIA Biennial, we got to see firsthand some of the cool new toys that are available for libraries these days – like the RFID tags and a returns chute designed to be used with them (you dump in the books in a stack…and it reads all the tags and checks them all in, and will print a returns slip if you want!). I asked about patron ID cards and patron privacy, and it turns out that for 3M stuff, the security tag and the RFID tag are two different beasts, and the gates read the tag as a book exits the library the same way they do currently – they can’t read the books’, or the patrons’, details. There were some more great ideas, but I’ll wait till I have time to go through my pile of brochures to make sure I get all the details right. ;)

Friday link: I know this is a few weeks old too…but if you haven’t already, download and have a listen to the Jonathon Rundman song, Librarian. Even if you’re on dialup and it takes an hour, it’s worth it! Do we start playing this at conferences yet? :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
 
One New Thing: SSL, certificates and keys.

These are words I’ve been hearing for years and vaguely understood, but it’s always useful to understand more. SSL, according to Webopedia, stands for “Secure Sockets Layer”, and that is a protocol that enables data to be transferred securely over the internet. Generally the URLs that begin with https:// instead of http:// are using the SSL protocol. The certificate that you are sometimes asked to accept when you are submitting data is so that you know who you are submitting information to, and also that you are sending back your data encrypted.
I’m not entirely sure I understand the public keys and private keys mentioned in the linked definitions, except that they are used in encoding and decoding the information – but that can wait for another time. I’m posting earlier today so I can get to bits of ALIA Biennial this afternoon - mostly the social bits! :)

Monday, September 20, 2004
 
One New Thing: Tutorials and their uses.

My RSS feeds have been doing some odd things in my aggregator of late, so despite having seen it before back in August this PubMed Tutorial reappeared (via ResourceShelf). I like this tutorial a lot: it’s very straightforward, and has a format I find really easy to use. Thinking about it, most database publishers have some sort of great tutorial for their products which I’m going to check out more when I get the chance: definitely be worth having a database refresher course before I go back on the ref desk!

Friday, September 17, 2004
 
One New Thing: Privacy online – no not your patrons’, yours!

LISjobs' September 2004 Recommended Resources included a link to this article: Interviewing: Beware Blogging Blunders. It’s not specifically about blogs, as it covers the importance of maintaining a careful balance between personal and professional representation in job applications and interviews, but there are reminders throughout that anything you should choose to do online (under your real name) is public and could be searched by a potential employer. It’s definitely a point to consider when you are writing a blog, posting to a library mailing list, posting to a non-library mailing list, leaving comments on guestbooks, running or being associated with any website…there are definitely positive aspects to using a nickname to get through your online personal life!
Friday link: I ran into this article whilst searching for something else yesterday, and it is certainly worth a read. There are several moral aspects to this story which could get you thinking: but if nothing else, it’s a curious story. It’s called Turn Back the Spam of Time.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004
 
One New Thing: Cellspacing and Cellpadding.

A little trick of HTML I somehow missed learning in the past:
Cellpadding is a value that adjusts the space in a table cell between the text and the edge of the cell. This I use all the time, so the text doesn’t run into the table border or the text in the next cell too much. Cellspacing I hardly ever used, although I knew it was the distance between the cell and the next cell over – although I never worked out why you would need it, since all my cells came with cellpadding. Now I’ve discovered that if your table has a background and no borders, and you want the background to be a solid block, you have to define the cellpadding as “0” because browsers (well mine anyhow!) doesn’t automatically display with 0 cellpadding (that is, no space between cells) if you haven’t mentioned your cellpadding at all: when I naively thought it would. All these things I never knew I never knew!

Monday, September 13, 2004
 
One New Thing: Computer privacy.

LibrarianInBlack.net pointed to an article from WebJunction titled Protecting Patron Privacy on Public PCs. I picked up one or two tips from here that I didn’t know about security and privacy on computers, such as the difference between first-party and third-party cookies. There are some good points about paper records and privacy implications too – in an electronic world, it’s easy to forget that sometimes the things we write down might be just as sensitive. Just as an example, how many times when on the phone do you scribble a patron’s name, phone number, and query, then once you’ve responded to them, add the piece of paper to a pile somewhere and forget about it…?

Friday, September 10, 2004
 
One New Thing: Web design and layout in Photoshop.

OK now is the time to confess: up until now, any time I made buttons for websites, I made them in Word then copied them into Photoshop to save them as gifs. It worked, but wasn’t terribly pretty! Today I spent some time checking out some online tutorials on using Photoshop for web graphics and layouts. And it was atually quite easy to pick up. It’s just a matter of adding some shapes and text then playing with all the image tools to see what happens – well until you learn what they can do, and then I suppose you could apply effects deliberately. :) Adding the graphics to web pages is quite easy too, it’s just using tables and frames and CSS to control how your text sits over and around the images. A site I found a lot of useful information on was Pegaweb Web Design & Photoshop Tutorials so if you want to try, I would recommend starting there.

For a Friday link: This is an entertaining look at how one person set about cataloguing his private library, entitled Why Alexandria Burned. Isn't it true that books multiply once you remove them from their shelves then try to put them back?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004
 
One New Thing: Bias in the DDC system.

Seems like everyone yesterday was linking to Why Dewey's Decimal System is prejudiced from The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization. I used to notice this as a library patron before I even thought of taking up librarianship: mostly because finding HTML guides pretty close to the occult literature in the 000s made me a little nervous as to their content. But I can see that although the world today is not the one DDC was designed to classify, it would be a little inconvenient to rearrange it too much now. I wonder if there a future possibility of “outgrowing” existing classification systems altogether…?
In hunting about for some more info on this, I came across an article from Library Trends, Mapping Beyond Dewey's Boundaries (1998). This is not exactly light reading, but it describes an interesting experiment in using a mapping technique to reveal biases and approach classification from a different viewpoint to help alleviate those biases.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004
 
One New Thing: Cursors in Forms.

You know when you open a webpage that has some sort of form on it, and the cursor automatically jumps into the first box so you don’t have to click in it? Today I found out how to do that – it’s just a small piece of javascript, and you can see it at this page about Building Forms. In fact I’d like to point out that this whole site, How do they do that with HTML?, is pretty good! Without getting too complex or long and in-depth it goes a little past the basics of making a webpage and goes into some of those neat little tips and tricks you never realise you want to know until you find them on someone else’s homepage!

Monday, September 06, 2004
 
One New Thing: Preparing for interviews

ResourceShelf pointed to this list of Interview Questions from Indiana University Libraries. I imagine the list is there as a resource to pull interview questions from, but as I was reading over it and wondering how I would answer some of those questions, I thought, this would be a great place to start preparing for an interview you were going into as the interviewee. These are the sorts of questions you could sit down, think about, write responses to, find ways to link what you might be asked with work samples and the like, and go into an interview confident that you have thought about what you might be asked.

Friday, September 03, 2004
 
One New Thing: Technology and learning

The role I am in now is in the area of online learning, technology and learning, etc. Having studied in the field of Education in the past from a secondary, classroom-based perspective it’s fascinating to come and be involved with products that can enable the whole of a tertiary-level subject to be taught online to very remote participants using online group spaces for chat and file exchange, amongst other things. Typically of course I’m wondering how this sort of approach could be applied to increase the involvement of remote library users in a similar way: but except in the case of infolit classes, I’m going to have to continue thinking. Hmmm, has anyone ever conducted a “How to search the library catalogue” course via chat, to remote users?

Anyway, Friday Once Again, and we might as well make a fun one since last week’s was serious. ;) Find yourself some .jpg images online…then convert them to ASCII text using JPG 2 ASC. The results will amaze!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004
 
One New Thing: It resizes!

OK this is a fairly basic thing to learn really…but I was resizing a picture in Word today, holding down the Shift key to keep it in proportion. Except I was accidentally holding Ctrl instead, and it resized in proportion on all 4 sides instead of 2 sides. An accidentally useful trick!