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One New Thing
Sunday, February 27, 2005
One New Thing: SQL Joins.

I’ve gotten the hang of looking up data in individual tables (well that’s not too hard, the program I’m using drops in most of the syntax for me!) and I can do simple adds and deletes without too much trouble. Now to start heading into joining tables, with the help of W3Schools SQL Tutorial:
Since their example is pretty straightforward, referring to two tables isn’t as hard as it looks when you are trying to return more than 2 columns (which I’ll have to work on doing later). The query is just
SELECT column1, column2
FROM table1, table2
WHERE table1.primarykey1=table2.primarykey1
Whether or not I will be able to get what I want from that query will have to wait till tomorrow. Next I’ll have to get into sorting and removing duplicates and other fun things. :)

End-of-week link: This is a very funny piece from a blog called Complete Tosh, about the interaction of people and their toys: "My iPod has a personality!" No, really. It doesn't.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
One New Thing: Look online where you think it should be.

Trying to find a list of Australian government jobs classification levels tonight, I Googled for every phrase I could think of and came up with nothing useful (well except for salary information on the ALIA website, strangely enough) I eventually decided that really where I should look is on the Australian Government website, and there was the link on the front page. Silly trick to forget!! (Google – no, I am not feeling lucky this time.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
One New Thing: Plugging in drives.

I think I am almost getting to the point now where I would be willing to try opening my computer case and changing CD-ROM or floppy drives or adding RAM sticks on my own – I’ve watched someone else do it a few times, and it isn’t as mysterious as I always suspected it might be, having not seen the interior of a computer until I acquired one of my own a few years ago. You just have to know what plug to put where, and for the most part all the plugs are sized and shaped only to fit the bit that is supposed to plug into them. I think they are, anyway. It might be a good idea for me to start on old broken computers and work my way into still-functioning ones. :)

Sunday, February 20, 2005
One New Thing: SHN – Shorten audio format.

I noticed that on the Live Music Archive page, many of the downloads are available in .shn format. According to the Shorten entry for Wikipedia, it’s a lossless method of compressing CD quality audio, quite common for live show tapings (which is what you will find on the Live Music Archive if you go there. If you’re a music fan, go there as the end of week link!).

Here is A Small SHN and MD5 FAQ which is pretty useful, and most people on forums are pointing to Etree.org for answers and software.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
One New Thing: Doing things the Macintosh way.

The first computer I ever learned to use was a Mac: I was about 9 years old, and we used it for playing some sort of maths game. Then I think I mostly ignored all computers, until I decided to become a librarian and couldn’t avoid them. Now, I support people who are using both PCs and Macs, so I have had to become aware of what the differences between them are. After using a PC, many things on a Mac seem odd…but I’m told that to Mac users, many things on a PC seem odd! The Macs I have been playing on lately have been using PC mice, so I haven’t had to be confused by the right-click / ctrl-click issue. I’ve established that the little traffic lights you use to minimise/ maximise/close programs are on the opposite side to what you think they are, and that when you minimise, programs don’t disappear into a void – they are also just on the opposite side to what you think they are, and then are subtle icons not rectangular boxes. And I managed to install a browser – after I dragged the icon from the desktop around and around for a bit, I found the Applications folder and dragged it there, and it installed! A small step maybe, but quite exciting for me. ;)

Monday, February 14, 2005
One New Thing: Wiki making!

Thanks to the SeedWiki people, I can now learn what happens when I try to make a success of having a Wiki. I’d like to open the New Librarian’s Wiki to anyone who wants a stab at playing with a Wiki…and perhaps help me (and anyone who uses it) with my sadly-neglected-of-late Resource Page. I wrote a little instruction page to the Wiki once I worked out what was going on, so please, go forth and create!

Sunday, February 13, 2005
One New Thing: Short jobs.

I think I might start making one day or half day a week my niggling-little-things day, and set it aside for doing all the really easy simple things I’ve been thinking I ought to do – those things that you know will only take an hour, and aren’t urgent, so you put them off for a few days, weeks, months etc. It’s nice to get to the end of a day and tick multiple items off a to-do list!

End-of-week link: I can’t remember if I have posted this one before, but this is a very addictive (and vaguely library-related!) game: Bookworm

Thursday, February 10, 2005
One New Thing: Blogs as research notepads.

Kept Up linked to Academics give lessons on blogs, an article describing how some academics and students are starting to use blogs as a way of recording and distributing information about and keeping track of their notes on their topics of interest. I’ve posted before on how useful personal pages kept by experts can be – the ease of publishing of blogs will probably make this more apparent, I think. So I hope academic librarians at institutions that support their staff keeping blogs are adding these to their library catalogues, particularly if they are hosted on non-institutional servers. I’d like to think that if librarians can be aware of information and resource sharing trends like these that are likely to grow, at least in the short term, that we can keep track with them as they develop. Imagine having to rely on Googling for a blog on a topic, then having no information on who the author is to judge whether the information they are blogging is reliable?

Monday, February 07, 2005
One New Thing: Knowing what people know.

I may have written this before: but I’d just like to point out again how difficult it can be when you don’t know how much people know about something when they ask you a question. It’s particularly noticeable via email questions – they ask, you ask what they are asking, they rephrase what they are asking, you ask them to clarify what they are asking…

Sunday, February 06, 2005
One New Thing: SQL querying.

This may sound odd, but I’ve discovered that doing things via SQL is actually easier than it looks – the syntax is pretty simple. Perhaps this is the librarian in me being accustomed to using endless conditions in a search string to try and find that one perfect article. ;) Of course there is still the challenge of wrapping your head around a big complicated database with an unexpected number of primary keys to overcome, but I expect that will get easier with practice…well, I hope so!
There’s a W3Schools SQL tutorial which I am intending to go through when I have a chance, but since I have real techie people around me to do the hardcore techie stuff, I’m just picking it up as I go for now.

End-of-week link: Jessamyn pointed to this one a week or two back: Wacky and Weird Subject Headings. Surely the list can be made much longer (and weirder) than this? :)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
One New Thing: Where they are asking the questions.

I read an article called “The fact finders” in the Icon liftout of the Sydney Morning Herald (written by Nicole Manktelow, published Jun 19-20 2004). It discusses three services that people can use to have tricky questions answered: Vodafone 123, the NLA’s Ask Now, and MoJoKnows.
(Read the PDF of "The fact finders", archived on the MoJoKnows site.)

Rather than discuss the actual article, it’s my own librarian reactions to it that I’d like to write about.

First thing I noticed: the people on 123 and MoJoKnows “aren’t necessarily librarians”.
My reaction: what?? How then do people know they are getting the quality and reliability of service that librarians concentrate so much on?
Thinking further: I realise that these are sort of quick-answer services. The impression I get is that they are asked mostly ready reference-style questions, which anyone with a telephone, a decent amount of Internet savvy, and training could answer in a few minutes of searching. (I do also wonder if the quote means some of them *are* librarians.)

Second: MoJoKnows is a service anyone can use - questions are sent via SMS, and if you are willing to pay $3, they will reply within 15mins.
My reaction: that’s a lot for one question. Do people not know public libraries will answer for free?
Thinking further: But people will pay for the convenience. Mobile phones are everywhere: sure, you can be surfing the web (or perhaps making phone calls?) on your phone as well, but if you’re arguing with a friend over the name of an actor in a movie you saw years ago, do you ever think, “Well, here’s my mobile phone, I’ll call the library?” I don’t!

Third: It’s pointed out in the article that with the Ask Now service, people have usually already gone online and done a bit of searching themselves, so the questions people ask via the chat service tend to be a bit more in-depth.
My reaction: Reading about it, and looking at the website, Ask Now looks pretty boring - something you would only use if you were doing an assignment or a thesis.
Thinking further: It’s a service that comes across as geared more towards researchers, not regular people who just have a question they want answered. I imagine I would use it and love it if I were sitting at my computer and working - it looks very useful, but it doesn’t look fun.

Is “fun” is a word that people are comfortable using to describe reference desk services? As soon as I read the article I felt like sending a message to MoJoKnows just to see if they could answer, because it sounds like fun. And next time I’m in a café with friends trying to remember something and failing, I might do that!